Value Check on Widow's Mite

Question: I have in my collection an authentic Widow's Mite. I understand there are many of them in existence. Would you please tell me how much my Widow's Mite is worth?--A.T.W.

Answer: The Widow's Mite is an ancient Judean coin. I saw one for sale at a recent show for about $17. It was graded extra fine and showed considerable wear. Yours is probably in the $5 to $15 range. Remember, there is a bid, ask price on coins. Dealers buy at bid, sell at ask. The margin of difference, which is legitimate, is the profit margin. Different dealers work at different margins, which is why it pays to shop.

Q: We have four Una lira Italian notes. They are rather small (1 1/2 by 3 inches). They're dated 20 Maggio 1935 and 23 Novembre, 1944. Could these be of value as curiosities, considering the present value of the lira?--K.A.

A: Sorry, but your bills have little or no collector value.

Coin News

New designs now adorn the British gold sovereign, which is marking its 500th anniversary with a commemorative frosted proof gold 5-pound coin, a double sovereign, sovereign and a half sovereign in 22-karat gold. The new obverse and reverse (pictured) is the first major design change in more than 170 years. The sovereign was discontinued in the early 1980s when 1-ounce gold pieces were adopted as an international trade standard. Britain is represented in the bullion market by the Britannia. The 1989 sovereign features designs based on the original 1489 coin of Henry VII. A four-coin set is $1,595; the double sovereign is $475; the sovereign is $260 and the half sovereign is $150. Order from the British Royal Mint, P.O. Box 2570, Woodside, N.Y. 11377; telephone (800) 221-1215.

Collectors may now order uncut sheets of series 1988 currency with the signatures of Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady and Treasurer Katherine D. Ortega. Currency from two different federal reserve districts will be sold each month, the first from Boston and New York. Orders will be accepted through March 30 for 32-note sheets at $47, 16 notes at $28 and four notes at $10.25. Specify Boston or New York. Order from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Public Sales Room 602-11A, 14th and C streets S.W., Washington, D.C. 20228.

Coin Letter

From Steve Alpert (no relation): "The answer to your Spade Guinea mystery (Feb. 16) is that the piece is a gambling token, known as a spade guinea game counter. Hundreds of varieties of these counters were struck in England in the mid-19th Century. They were used in playing card games, just like poker chips are used now. Spade guinea counters are very common and worth about $1 each. The 1701 date is OK, as many pieces were backdated, and some state: 'In memory of the old days.' Others carry advertisements."

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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