Question: Please explain the history of proof-set packaging. I have a 1954 proof set that has each coin housed in its own pocket of a plastic "baggy" with a staple in the center sealing the coins in. The coins are heavily tarnished due to the way they were packaged. I know proof sets today are housed in thick, hard plastic display cases. How was the first proof set packaged in 1936? What is the value of my proof set? --T.M.
Answer: It's true that packaging of coins has changed through the years. Early proof sets came in a box. From 1950 to mid-1955, they were packaged in individual cellophane envelopes. From 1955 to 1964, when hard plastic packaging became popular, proof sets came in soft plastic flat packets. The fact that your coins are tarnished is not necessarily a negative, although some coins have been damaged by the stapling.
Tarnishing is a natural action that especially happens to silver, although copper can react in this fashion. Many collectors, in fact, prefer attractive tarnishing (also called toning) when damage has not taken place.
Many proof sets have been removed from the original packaging and placed in attractive holders. These holders offer better protection for the coins and make them easy to display.
It's important to handle proof coins as little as possible. Fingerprints can greatly diminish the value of proofs. For that matter, all marks show up more on proofs than on regular strikes, and once there, it's like a work of art has been defaced.
Your 1955 proof set, one of 378,200 sold, is worth about $75.
Q: I am interested in knowing if there is any value to $5, $10 and $100 bills, marked Series 1934-A. It has a darker green ink on the back and doesn't have In God We Trust on the face. The usual 100 figure over the crest is in large numerals. It's also stamped Federal Bank of New York. It is signed by Henry Morgenthau Jr., secretary of the Treasury.--A.B.
A: The bills that you describe have no collector value. They were made with and without the motto. Most bills circulated after 1928 have little or no collector value.
Q: I would appreciate your evaluation of a 1916 Mexican Border Service medal with a gold insert with a rifle man on the front and the Lord's Prayer on the reverse.--W.L.
A: I wouldn't attempt to evaluate your medal. Numerous books pertaining to medals are available, but price lists are something else. There are many active collectors and dealers. Your best bet would be to attend a large coin show and negotiate with as many dealers as possible.
Q: Can you help identify the coin I found recently and determine its value? It's a 5-centavos piece from the Philippines dated 1904 and marked "United States of America" with an eagle perched on a shield.--J.O.
A: When the Philippines was a United States possession, coins were issued from 1903 to 1919 from the San Francisco and Philadelphia mints. They were struck at Manila from 1920 on, but because of World War II, the 1944 and 1945 coins were also minted in the United States. Your 5-centavos coin is worth from 50 cents to about $10, depending on condition.
Q: I am interested in purchasing coins from the Liberty Coin Program. Could you please give me the address of the Philadelphia Mint?--M.J.
A: Contact the United States Mint, P.O. Box 8666, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101-8666.
Q: I have a $2 bill, series of 1917. It's about 3 inches by 7 inches. I also have a Liberty-head nickel in mint condition dated 1883. Any value? --L.A.
A: Your bill is probably worth about $20 or $25. Your nickel is worth $5 and up.
Q: I recently came into possession of a 1943 copper penny. I know a few copper pennies were struck in error as this was the year of the steel penny. Does this error penny have any value? I judge its condition to be MS-63. --S.M.
A: You would be surprised how many people write to tell me that they have a 1943 copper cent. To the best of my knowledge, no such original cent has ever been authenticated. Unless you can substantiate the fact that your coin is genuine, it's only worth 1 cent.
Q: I have a $10 bill signed by either M.A. or W.A. Julian, treasurer of the United States. It's a Federal Reserve Note, series of 1943-A, also signed by Henry Morgenthau Jr. On both sides the word Hawaii is printed vertically. Can you tell me about this bill? Does it have any value other than $10? --W.C.
A: Despite the date, your bill was actually emergency wartime money (World War II, that is) and was overprinted to thwart its use in case it fell into enemy hands. These bills retail for about $15.
Q: What is the approximate value of the following gold coins? A $20 1926 full-length Liberty and an 1899 $10 Liberty head. --G.H.E.
A: Gold coins are nice to own. Their value almost always holds up, especially those of great rarity or those in pristine condition. Your double eagle (the $20 piece) is worth $525 and up, depending upon condition. The eagle (the $10 piece) is $200 and up. Rarity is not a factor with either coin, since 1.2 million eagles and more than 500,000 double eagles were issued.
Q: I have a 1911-D gold quarter eagle in extra fine (XF) to almost uncirculated (AU) condition. Since proceeds from the sale of this coin are to be divided among four children, what is my best option for obtaining top dollar value? --B.S.
A: Your 1911-D Indian-head type $2 1/2 gold piece is of a relatively low mintage, with only 55,680 issued. In the condition you describe, it's in the $700-to-$800 range. Offer it to more than one dealer in order to get the best price.
Q: I am writing in regards to a coin I have had for years and years. I would like to know its value. It is a penny with 13 stars and a Liberty head. On the other side is United States of America and the date 1849. --M.M.S.
A: Your coin is a large cent. More than 4 million were produced in 1849. Yours is probably in the $3-to-$5 range although superior specimens could be worth $200 or so.
Q: I have the following paper money: a $5 bill, national currency, Bank of America; a $50 Federal Reserve Note with an L issued by the Bank of San Francisco; a $1 bill with Silver Certificate across the top, and some $2 bills. Do any of these bills have any special value? --M.F.
A: Sorry, but your bills all appear to be worth face value.
The people from Hutt River Province just won't give up. This unrecognized principality, supposedly located in Australia, seems to exist primarily for the purpose of issuing coins. The latest offering, cashing in on the popularity of U.S. Statue of Liberty commemoratives, is a Hutt River version in 1-ounce and 6-ounce silver and quarter-ounce 22-karat gold. The 1-ounce, $25 denomination piece (pictured) will be limited to 25,000 units and sell for $37.50. The 6-ounce $100 piece, limited to 2,000 units, will sell for $145. The gold sovereign, with a maximum of 10,000 units, is $235. Order from Philip Wing, P.O. Box 38351, Cincinnati, Ohio 45238.
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.