Booker T. Washington Issue Popular

Question: Recently I've come into possession of a 1946 Booker T. Washington half dollar in very good, but not mint, condition. Although I'm familiar with the exploits and contributions of the great black educator, heretofore I'd never known of the coin's existence. Could you give me a brief history of the coin, its numismatic value and where someone like myself, who knows very little about coins and their value, might sell the coin?--J.K.

Answer: The Booker T. Washington half dollar is a United States commemorative coin, part of a series of commemoratives that started in 1892 with the Columbian Exposition and continues to this day with the current Statue of Liberty issue. In between, all sorts of events and persons have been honored.

Commemoratives are a popular series with numerous collectors, and they have an active trading history. They are often highly promoted and many are quite costly. However, the Booker T. Washington issue is not particularly expensive individually, although three-piece sets from the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco mints can command respectable prices.

The Booker T. Washington half dollar was issued from 1946, the date of your coin, continuously to 1951. Relatively few were issued in 1948 and 1949, accounting in part for price variations. The purported purpose of the commemorative was to support the Booker T. Washington Birthplace Memorial Commission in Virginia.

The hoped-for tourist attraction never materialized. Its promoter, S. J. Phillips, was blamed by many for its failure. Nevertheless, Washington's legacy is actually the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, not a failed private promotion. And certainly the coin is a fitting tribute to a great American.

Single Booker T. Washington halves, such as yours, are worth about $8 or $9 each in circulated condition. Uncirculated versions are in the $13-to-$15 range.

As for selling your coin, almost any coin dealer, I'm sure, would be a buyer.

Q: Please tell me the value of the following: 1907 Liberty-head nickel; 1900 and 1903 Indian-head pennies; 1950 Series C and B $20 bills with the words In God We Trust omitted. Also, a copper coin with the Statue of Liberty, 11 stars, the date 1886 and the word Liberty on front. On the reverse there is the Liberty Bell with a crack, the date 1776 on the bottom and the words Liberty Bell.--A.G.

A: Your nickel and Indian-head cents are worth 50 cents each and up. Your $20 bills have no collector value because these bills were made both with and without the In God We Trust motto. Your Statue of Liberty piece is probably a medal with little or no collector value, although there may be some interest in it at this time, because the new Statue of Liberty commemoratives could attract some buyers.

Q: My grandfather, who died in 1914, was cashier of the Nephi National Bank in Nephi, Utah. I have a circulated $5 bill (about 7-by-3 1/8 inches) signed by him and the bank president and dated Nov. 21, 1906. Benjamin Harrison is pictured, and there is a red seal. The family has a second bill with a blue seal. Are either one of these bills worth more than the $5 face value? My mother, a bank employee in the 1920s, remembers cutting the sheets of arriving currency with long scissors.--N.C.P.

A: Many small banks went into receivership in the 1930s, but bills issued on their name are collected by some paper money fanciers. Your bills do have some collector value, although probably not too much. Check around with some bill specialists for a precise figure.

Q: I have a 1913 nickel with an Indian head and Liberty on one side, a buffalo on the other side and a Denver (D) mint mark. It is in what I think is real good condition. Is it possible to place any value on this coin? Also, there's an 1853 2 1/2-D gold coin, no mint mark.--A.H.

A: Yes, I can place a value on your coins. But all values are just guesswork. I try to estimate what a dealer might offer you and tend to be a bit conservative on the amount. Only a hands-on inspection can give you an accurate figure, since condition is all-important. Your 1913-D Variety I Indian head nickel is in the $5-to-$10 range; the 1853 quarter eagle is in the $200-and-up category.

Q: I have an Indian-head penny. The date is 1874. It looks like it is 100 years old. I think it would be very valuable if it could tell its history.--M.L.

A: I agree. That's what makes coin collecting so much fun. One thing your cent could tell you: At one time, there were 14 million others just like it. No one knows just how many have survived. Your cent, after all these years, is now worth about $3.

Q: I have a question I haven't seen addressed in your column. I have a $20 U.S. gold piece, 1916-D with a design under the date; seems to be in good condition. All the stars and letters on the edge are raised and legible and few surface scratches are visible under a magnifying glass. Would it detract from the value of the coin if I put it in a bezel and use it as a pendant?--N.S.

A: Uncirculated gold coins should not be used as jewelry. It's difficult to tell from your description whether your coin is circulated. Get the opinion of a professional numismatist. If it's circulated you won't damage its value by putting it into a bezel; if it's uncirculated, leave it alone.

Q: I have a gold coin from the Panama Canal Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915. Is there a market for this type of coin? And does it have any value other than its gold content?--N.N.

A: The Panama Pacific Exposition produced both silver and gold commemorative coins. Unfortunately, the tracing you made of your coin does not resemble the official government releases. These coins are quite valuable. What you have seems to be a medal. You'll have to get it authenticated and have the metal content tested before any value can be placed on it.

Q: I have a $100 bill, 1928-A Federal Reserve, Wood and Mellon. Printed on the face is: Redeemable in gold on demand at the Treasury. Is this of any collector value and is it redeemable in gold?--J.M.G.

A: No to both your questions. The United States went off the gold standard in 1933, making U.S. currency fiat money.

Q: Please tell about the 1920 coin of Mexico that seems to be gold with the Mexican symbol of an eagle with a snake on one side and on the other Dos Pesos with an M at the bottom.--E.C.M.

A: Your 2 peso gold piece is worth about $20. It's essentially a bullion piece and fluctuates in value with the market price of gold.

Q: I have three Eisenhower uncirculated 40% silver dollars sealed in plastic, dated 1971. Do they have any special value?--V.G.

A: Your Ike dollars are worth about $6 each.

Q: I have a $5 gold 1880 coin and a $2 1/2 gold 1928. Both have been circulated. What would be their worth? I also have a gold $50 Mexican coin 1945 (37.5 grams) in good condition. What is this worth?--H.T.

A: The two United States gold coins, although different denominations and dates, are worth $150 each and up, depending on condition. The 50 peso (not dollar) gold coin, essentially a bullion piece, is worth about $420. Value here is determined by the daily spot price of gold.

Q: I think that I have a toughie for you. As coin dealers cannot help me, hopefully you can. Enclosed is a photocopy of a bill that has been in my possession for 55 years. It's in good condition. All the signatures are signed in indelible ink. Could you tell me its value and/or who may be interested in purchasing it?--J.W.

A: Your $10 1800 National Currency note (second charter) is worth about $35. I'm surprised that you've had trouble finding a purchaser. It's true that not all coin dealers are versed in all aspects of paper money, but many are. Try calling other dealers in your area. If you don't have any success there, attend a coin show where many dealers will be present, and you'll be able to choose from more than one and accept the best offer.

Q: I have a Canadian 1984 dollar in memory of Jacques Cartier and another, Edmonton 1904-1979. Also, I have a 1927 penny (the size of a silver dollar) with Georgius V Dei Gra Britt Omn: Rex Def Ind Imp. Could you please tell me how much these are worth?--H.S.

A: If your Canadian commemorative dollars are regular circulation pieces, they have little or no collector value. The Edmonton dollar, incidentally, was issued in 1983 commemorating the World University Games. The 1979 dollar commemorated the first voyage of Great Lakes by a commercial ship. Somewhere, you've mixed up the dates and events. Uncirculated and proof pieces have nominal value. The British penny, I'm sorry to say, also falls into that category.

Coin News

Three separate sales will be conducted at Auctions by Bowers & Merena in conjunction with the 30th Annual Metropolitan New York Coin Convention, Vista Hotel, at the World Trade Center April 10-12. Featured will be the collection of Stuart C. Levine, emphasizing United States half dimes by die varieties. Also included is the finest-known specimen of the 1794 starred reverse Sheldon-48 large cent (pictured). Also, there will be the sale of the Julian Leidman Collection of Hard Times tokens and the David W. Dreyfuss Collection of Indian peace medals, assay medals, inaugural medals and the like. Levine, Leidman and Dreyfuss catalogues are $10 each from Auctions by Bowers & Merena, Box 1224, Wolfeboro, N.H. 03894.

Coin Calendar

Saturday and Sunday--The Bakersfield Coin Club is sponsoring a coin show at the Casa Royale Motor Inn, 251 S. Union Ave., Bakersfield, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be door prizes and exhibits plus buying and selling of coins. Telephone (805) 327-3333. Admission is free.

Sunday--An auction of more than 600 lots will be held by Michael Aron Rare Coins at Van Nuys Masonic Hall, 14750 Sherman Way, Van Nuys, beginning at 12:30 p.m. Viewing of the lots begins at 10 a.m. Sales prices are expected to range from $10 to $1,000. Aron holds auctions semimonthly. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 3316, Granada Hills, Calif. 91344; telephone (818) 368-5159.

Don Alpert cannot answer mail personally but will respond to numismatic questions of general interest in this column. Do not telephone. Write to Your Coins, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.

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