Medals and Tokens Draw High Historical Interest

Question: Recently you answered a query about Columbian half dollars. In some family memorabilia I have found one, along with what I take to be commemorative medallions and tokens. I would like to find someone who can identify the items. I've heard there is a Token Collectors Society in the Los Angeles area, but have been unable to locate it. Any information will be appreciated. --L.S.T.

Answer: There is, indeed, such an organization, just as there are all sorts of specialty clubs and mainline numismatic groups. It should be made clear at the onset, however, the Columbian half dollar you mentioned is a coin, not a token.

There is a considerable difference between coins, medals and tokens. Coins, essentially, are issued by governments and used for commerce. Medals or medallions, while historically having monetary value, are more often considered to be presentation pieces of historical interest. Tokens, on the other hand, can represent value or coins but literally fall into dozens of categories. Its intrinsic value is always less than its stated value.

So, you can see how broad and varied these diverse areas of collecting can be. Medals, particularly, can be a challenge. There are many books and catalogues on the subject. And, there are devoted followers.

The group you're interested in is called the California Assn. of Token Collectors. Its next meeting will be Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. in the Mercury Room at Mercury Savings & Loan, 22939 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance. For information contact Steve Alpert (no relation) at (213) 478-7405.

Q: I have a silver dollar dated 1879. I would like to know if it is of any value other than just a dollar. --C.S.

A: Your dollar is in the $6-to-$8 range, depending upon condition. There were 14.8 million dollars minted in 1879. However, there were only 756,000 minted at Carson City. Those dollars have a CC mint mark and are worth considerably more than the dollars of the same date minted in Philadelphia. If your coin has a CC on the reverse, have it appraised by a coin dealer or submit it to a grading service for an unbiased opinion.

Q: I have a half dollar silver coin--American--dated 1905. What is it worth? --M.S.

A: Your 50-cent piece is known as a Barber half, named after its designer, Charles E. Barber. Prices begin at about $5 unless the coin is damaged. Really nice specimens can be worth $1,000 and up.

Q: I have a new paper $20 bill that I received at the bank with the ink smudged across the middle. Who would be interested in something like this? --P.G.

A: You have a fairly common error. Most likely your bill is worth only face value, but it would have to be seen to be accurately appraised. Most coin dealers are qualified to judge paper money. Get several opinions, although in this instance it may not be necessary.

Q: While helping my soon-to-be-mother-in-law get ready for a move, we came across an old penny bank. There we found what appears to be a 1 cent, 1910, from the Philippines. Any information would be appreciated. --D.K.M.

Coin Books

"The Standard Catalogue of Encased Postage Stamps" by Michael J. Hodder and Q. David Bowers, the first specialized reference on this subject, is now available. The book (pictured) not only serves as a price guide but also calls attention to this obscure and little-known area of numismatics. Encased postage stamps came into being during the Civil War when coins were hoarded and change was scarce. So, stamps were pressed into service but enclosed in a plastic-like container with advertisements on the back. These cases are collected both by the denomination of the stamps and by the various advertisers. Soft-bound books are $19.95; hard-bound are $27.95 with $2 for postage and handling. Order from Bowers & Merena, Box 1224, Wolfeboro, N.H. 03894.

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