Clock’s Value May Be Just Sentimental

Question: For our silver anniversary, my mother gave my husband and me a special clock in which the numerals were replaced by coins. Each coin represented pertinent dates in our lives, such as birthdays and anniversaries. My mother has passed on and I am wondering if I should insure the clock. Could you please tell me if these coins are valuable? U.S. dimes: 1887, 1889, 1898, 1923; U.S. dollars: 1922.--M.H.S.

Answer: Coins make wonderful gifts. United States mint sets and proof sets can help commemorate births, weddings and various anniversaries. For the most part, they are relatively inexpensive unless the dates are in the early ‘50s, ‘40s and down to 1936, where you’re talking big bucks.

Similarly, gold coins are often given as gifts because of the dates. They can be given in presentation cases or fashioned as jewelry. Keep in mind that coins made into jewelry will likely lose their numismatic value due to wear, so only circulated pieces should be used for that purpose.

The same thing holds true for your anniversary clock. I’m sure a lot of thought went into the clock as a gift. But the dates of the coins you mentioned in their denominations are considered common. Also, they probably have been damaged to a certain extent by the way they’ve been handled. So, as far as your question concerning insurance is concerned, I doubt that it’s necessary.


There’s only one way to know for certain, however. Coins must be seen to be accurately graded and appraised. Take your coins to a local dealer or professional numismatist. If insurance is warranted, they’ll let you know by the value they place on your anniversary clock. I suspect, however, the sentimental value will outweigh any collector value.

Q: I have a 3-cent piece dated 1853. On one side are the words United States of America and the date. On the other is a C and III with a bunch of stars on the perimeter. The coin is in fair condition, worn but everything is legible. Could you let me know what it’s worth?--G.H.R.

A: Three-cent silver coins were issued from 1861 through 1873; there are also 3-cent nickel coins from 1865 to 1889. Your coin (the silver type) is worth about $5.

Q: Thanks to one of your columns last year, I went through my collection of quarters and found five stamped 1964, one dated 1776-1976; plus a $1 stamped 1900. I am a little excited and wonder what the value of these coins might be.--M.P.M.

A: Well, now, just simmer down. Your 1964 quarters are worth about $1 each, the 1776-1976 is a Bicentennial commemorative worth face value; and the silver dollar is $8 to $10 and up, depending upon condition.

Q: In 1976, the Royal Canadian Mint began issuing a commemorative gold coin once a year. So far, 12 such coins have been issued. The 1985, commemorating the Canadian National Parks, has what I believe to be the lowest mintage, 59,745. Now, the $5 gold Statue of Liberty uncirculated has a mintage of more than 90,000 but commands a higher premium than the lower-mintage Canadian piece. What’s even more surprising is that the Statue of Liberty has only about a quarter of an ounce of gold, while the Canadian coin has exactly half of an ounce of gold. In your opinion, would you consider this 1985 Canadian gold coin a rare item with good investment potential?--R.K.

A: You’re getting into a very speculative area, and I don’t like to speculate. Especially on modern issues. But 59,745 is not rare. It is perhaps scarce, but then only if 59,746 collectors are interested.

The market will be determined by supply and demand. It is also dominated by Americans who primarily buy American coinage. You have to decide what your goal is in collecting. If it’s for profit, you’re in a highly speculative area. But if you like these modern coins because of their designs and the history that surrounds them, then by all means be a buyer. With any luck, enough people will agree with you and the profit potential will follow.


Coin News

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day is a commemorative marking the 1,000th anniversary of the establishment of Dublin and the liberation of Ireland from the Vikings. The 5-ounce silver piece (pictured) designed by Ceasar Ruffo depicts a battle scene on the obverse and Dublin’s motto, Baile Atha Cliath (the Town of the Hurdle-Ford) on the reverse. No more than 5,000 of the proof pieces will be minted. The commemoratives are $95 from Putnam Mint, 100 Putnam Green, Greenwich, Conn., 06830; telephone (800) 227-1205.

The lavish 473-page catalogue for the Four Landmark Collections is now available. The auction will be held in seven sessions at the Vista International Hotel in New York from March 27 to March 31. Among the highlights is an 1824/4 overdate $5 gold piece, one of only two known. For catalogues, contact Bowers & Merena, Box 1224, Wolfeboro, N.H. 03894.

The proliferation of grading services in the last few years has generated a whole new industry. So-called slabbed coins (sealed in plastic and graded by a neutral entity) have taken many collectors by storm. The Professional Coin Grading Service, one of the leaders, recently certified its millionth coin. For information, contact PCGS at P.O. Box 9458, Newport Beach, Calif. 92658; telephone (714) 250-1211. Also popular is the Numismatic Guaranty Corp. of America, which has added a hologram to its holders, a security measure. NGC has a dealer network. For information: P.O. Box 1776, Parsippany, N.J. 07054; telephone (201) 984-6222.


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.