Conversion to Jewelry Lessens Value

Question: We have an 1856 $3 gold piece that has a gold band around its edge. Obviously it has been worn as jewelry; however, the coin itself is in excellent condition--no worn spots. Has the gold band detracted from its value as a collector item? Please give me your evaluation of the coin with the band on. And tell me what its value would have been if a band had never been applied. Also, I have 1857 and 1858 Flying Eagle cents. And Indian-head pennies, 1861, 1863, 1873 and 1877. All of the pennies are in good shape.--B.W.

Answer: The $3 gold piece was minted from 1854 to 1889. Collectors refer to this denomination as the Princess, because the obverse, designed by James B. Longacre, represents an Indian princess. It is believed that his daughter served as the model. These coins are quite desirable because almost all dates have low mintages. Only 26,010 were minted in 1856, for example, from the Philadelphia mint. That means the coin has no mint mark. The 1856-S (from San Francisco) had a mintage of 34,500.

It’s a pity that such low-mintage coins have been used as jewelry. There’s no way of assessing damage without actually examining the coin. Some bezels do little or no damage. But a coin can be damaged just by the way it is handled or mishandled. Just plain friction can cause problems that will greatly lower a coin’s value. If you wish to sell, you should have a professional remove it from the bezel. Then the rim and all other areas of your coin will have to be scrutinized. Right now, your coin is probably in the $400-to-$600 range. Really nice specimens can range from $10,000 and up. The difference between one coin and another might not seem like much to a casual observer, but the trained eyes of an experienced collector or dealer can easily detect quality or wear. It’s not a science but an art.

As for the two Flying Eagle cents, they’re in the $7-and-up range. The 1861 cent is $3, the 1863 is $2, the 1873 is $5 and the 1877 is $50. Mintages here figure in the price factor.


Q: I have a set of 10 Siamese porcelain coins purchased in Thailand several years ago. With them came the following note: “Porcelain Pees were originally used as gambling tokens in Siam. Until probably in 1737-1875, the Siamese government adopted them as her national currencies--in small changes. Their denominations were 1 solot, 1 att, 2 pies, 1 fueng, 1 salueng (25 satangs).” Could you tell me anything more about them and what value, if any, they have?--L.B.

A: Your explanation is better than any I could give. They’re worth about $3 each.

Q: I have silver dollars, 1921, 1922 and 1924 with eagles with spread wings and a 1971 silver dollar with President Ford. How much are these coins worth?--C.S.

A: Your Morgan dollars (1921, 1922 and 1924) are indeed silver and worth $10 each and up. The 1971 dollar is President Eisenhower, not Ford, and, if struck for circulation, it is not silver and just worth face value.


Coin News

A two-part, three-day auction will be conducted in conjunction with the Greater New York Numismatic Convention at the Omni Park Central Hotel in New York. Part 1 on April 30 and May 1 is the Lester Bernstein Collection, assembled over a period of more than 50 years and containing many “finest known,” “condition census” rare coins in 1,296 lots. Part 2 on May 2 features United States gold coins as well as foreign gold and silver coins. Two catalogues are available at $10 for the pair from Stack’s, 123 West 57th St., New York, N.Y. 10019.

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.