Guides Along Road to Gold Investing

Question: I wish to invest in gold coins and have found "The Official Investors Guide to Gold Coins" by Hudgeons to be helpful. Commemoratives are recommended, particularly the $1 Louisiana Purchase/Jefferson. What is your opinion? Are there any other current books or helpful periodicals in the area of investing in gold coins? Can such coins be purchased on a discount or wholesale basis?--A.K.

Answer: As a rule, I try to shy away from the investment possibilities of gold coins and emphasize the hobby aspects of numismatics. But there's no getting away from the fact that many collectors have profit on their minds when making purchases. There has always been a fascination with gold, and when you add this to the historical aspects of coins you have a winning combination. This is especially true when there is an active bullion market, such as we have been experiencing lately.

I am not familiar with the investment guide you mention. Virtually every area of gold coinage is a good one, including commemoratives. The main things to remember are the rarity factor of the coin involved and its quality. For investment purposes, any United States gold coin that grades Mint State 63 or better has a very good chance of appreciating in value. A good reference book is "High Profits From Rare Coin Investment" by Q. David Bowers (Bowers & Merina, Box 1224-NR, Wolfeboro, N.H. 03894). It deals with the entire spectrum of investment-quality coins.

But you can only get so much out of any book. It's important to be able to grade coins yourself, to work with a reliable and knowledgeable dealer and to spot trends as they develop. The market is always changing on investment-quality coins. No one can predict the future, but low-quality coins will not suddenly improve with age. Buy the best you can comfortably afford. But don't expect bargains or discounts. Prices are pretty much fixed. Dealer-to-dealer prices are wholesale; everything else is retail.

While considering investment-quality coins, you might also want to add some of the new U.S. gold and silver bullion pieces to your portfolio. These pieces will be offered next month. To get on the mint's mailing list, send your name and address and a note requesting inclusion on the list to: U.S. Mint Customer Service, 10001 Aerospace Road, Lanham, Md. 20706, attention G. Stroemer.

Q: Please give me the value of the following United States gold coins: 25-cent California gold dated 1852, 1853 and 1855; 50-cent California gold dated 1855 and 1856; 1851 and 1856 $1; 1851 and 1853 $2 1/2 California gold; 1912, 1913, 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1929 $2 1/2 Indian head; 1854 and 1873 $3; 1834 $5; 1856 $10; and 1912 $20 uncirculated. All the gold coins are very good.--S.K.H.

A: Gold coins all have potential value, but condition has a lot to do with pricing. Unless your coins are damaged, here's the minimum you might reasonably expect to receive: $100 each for the 25-cent California gold; $150 each for the 50-cent California gold; $175 each for the $1 gold; $175 each for the $2.50 California gold; $150 each for the $2.50 Indian-head gold; $500 each for $3 gold; $175 for the $5 and $10 gold pieces; and $550 for the $20.

Q: We have some pinkish ceramic round objects that appear to be coins. All are dated 1921 and all bear the word Sachsen, which I interpret as being Saxony. There are 20-mark, 2-mark, 5-mark, 1-mark and 50-pfennig pieces. We have exhausted our local experts and libraries and hope you can give us some help.--A.L.B.

A: You have porcelain money worth between $2 and $5 each.

Q: Is there any value in an 1883 Liberty silver dollar in very good condition?--J.W.

A: Your Morgan dollar is a common-date issue. They're worth $8 and up, depending upon condition.

Coin News

There were 24 proof 1894-S dimes minted. Only 12 are known to exist. One of these rarities (pictured) will highlight the auction next Thursday and Sept. 26 marking the 25th anniversary of the Northern California Numismatic Assn. Pacific Coast Auction Galleries will handle the sale of more than 2,000 lots of United States, ancient and world coins. Catalogues for $5 are available from Pacific Coast Auction Galleries, 1013 State St., Santa Barbara, Calif. 93101; telephone (805) 962-3197.

The Albert O. Woods Collection Sale will be conducted in four sessions Sept. 29 and 30 at La Bel Age Hotel, 1020 N. San Vicente Blvd. Sessions are at 11 a.m., 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sept. 29 and 1 p.m. Sept. 30. Nearly 2,500 coins ranging from colonials to world gold will be auctioned. For a catalogue, contact Superior Galleries, 9301 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, Calif. 90210-5499. Telephone (213) 278-9740.

Three rare coin investment seminars are being scheduled in October by the Coin Street Journal. Presentations will be made by Joseph C. Battaglia, Barry S. Stuppler, Daniel A. Jefferds and Charles Surasky. Sessions will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 7 at the the Sheraton Universal Hotel, at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at Irvine Hilton Towers and at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Hyatt Palo Alto. Admission is $17. For reservations, call (818) 906-1017.

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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