Looking at the Hobby-or-Profit Issue

Question: I am interested in numismatics chiefly from an investment point of view--coins that will appreciate steadily over the next 20 to 30 years. What would you recommend? I am interested in gold coins that will appreciate at least 5% per year. What do you think of the new gold coins being minted by the United States this fall? Would they be a good investment?--J.S.T.

Answer: First, I believe beyond all else that coins should be collected as a hobby. You can make a lot of money with your hobby, but as an investment you can do as well in Las Vegas. I say this not because coins aren’t a good investment--they are--but because no one knows what the future will bring. Will there be inflation? Deflations?

Coins are a good investment because there is a scarcity factor. And coins are a good investment because they have intrinsic value. You have to know coins, you have to study them, you have to collect coins before you invest in them.

If I were to invest in coins as you suggest (and many stockbrokers believe they belong in every portfolio), I would find a dealer I trust and could work with. I’d buy the finest quality coins I could afford. I’d diversify my collection, concentrating on gold and high-quality silver with a mix of coppers and perhaps some bills to touch all the bases. I’d include some bullion (that’s where the new U.S. gold--due in October--comes in), and I’d become as knowledgeable as possible.


I don’t know what it might all be worth in 20 to 30 years. It might not matter. You might not want to sell.

Q: I have an 1872 10 Chilean pesos gold coin and a 10G Koningrijk-Wilhelmina gold coin. Can you tell me the value?--N.N.

A: Your gold pieces are worth $75 each.

Q: I have three 100 yuan notes sent to me by a friend who was in China during World War II. My friend wrote on them, which probably destroyed any value, but I’m not sure.--H.V.M.

A: Your 100 yuan notes, dated 1936, are worth about $1 each in their present condition.

Q: Recently, you mentioned that David Ben Gurion was being honored with a limited-edition bronze medal at the centennial of his birth. I have a pretty heavy, either solid copper or bronze round medal with a side view of Ben Gurion. It has a date of 1966 on it with something in Hebrew above the date. On the reverse there is something in Hebrew as well plus the words “The Destiny of Israel Lies in Her Might and Righteousness.” Can you tell me what I have here, since it seems to be much like the medal you discussed?--M.N.

A: I’m not familiar with the medal you possess. Many medals are produced, and there are many medal collectors. Some, like coins, gain value because of rarity, beauty or interest. To have your medal evaluated, show it to some dealers. Interest in the Ben Gurion centennial medal might help the value of yours.

Q: I have inherited 20 or so ancient coins. I can’t find anyone who even wants to talk on the subject. I have coins from the Roman, Greek, Kashmir, Palestine, Constantine and Justinian eras. What can I do?--R.W.H.


A: Take your coins to a major show. Many people collect and deal in this field. However, it is specialized. Most neighborhood dealers are not well-versed in this area (nor should they be), but many experts exist. You just have to seek them out.

Coin News

The Royal Canadian Mint is releasing the fifth and sixth coins (pictured) in its Olympic coin program. The 10-coin sterling-silver set commemorates the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic Games. The two newest coins in set feature cross-country and free-style skiing. The four coins already available are downhill skiing, speed skating, hockey and biathlon. The last four coins will be released in 1987 and feature figure skating, curling, ski-jumping and bobsled. The cross-country and free-style skiing coins sell for $30 each. Write to the Royal Canadian Mint, P.O. Box 346, Station A, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1N 9L5.

A yearly subscription service is finally being offered by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The service will permit collectors to order seven souvenir cards without ordering separately. The seven souvenir cards, which honor various numismatic and philatelic shows, sell for $28. The seven cards with postal cancellation are $31.50. The seven cards with a 125th anniversary card are $38. Seven cards, postal cancelled, and the anniversary card are $41.40. The 125th anniversary card alone is $10 while a portfolio commemorative folder is $5. To subscribe, write the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, 14th and C Streets S.W., Souvenir Card Subscription, Room 533M, Washington, D.C. 20228.


A two-session auction of more than 1,200 coins will be conducted in New York Sept. 17 and 18. The Autumn Sale of United States gold, silver and copper coins will feature a complete date proof set of Shield nickels, 1866-1883. Catalogues are $10 from Stack’s, 123 West 57th St., New York, N.Y. 10019; telephone (212) 582-2580.

Due to an editor error, incorrect dates were listed last week for Superior’s auction of large cents. The auction will be Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 at Le Bel Age Hotel. For information, telephone (213) 278-9740.

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.