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Silver on Their Minds? Not
June 27, 2011

Silver is not on the minds of average Americans if my experience of yesterday is any guide.

I helped out at the Iola Historical Society’s appraisal area. It was the annual Strawberry Fest where the organization raises a little money selling strawberry shortcake and other refreshments while at the same time opening up the buildings and grounds to show the public what they are doing.

I collected money. The deal was the assembled experts would look at one item for $3 or three items for $5. The interpretation of what constituted one item was fairly loose on my part on occasion.

The current high price of silver and gold did not seem to be on the minds of the individuals I came in contact with in my four hours on duty. There was only one person with some silverware. Few individuals had coins. Mostly it seemed there were a lot of framed prints, books, guns and various old kitchen items.

One woman told me she had some coins, I asked how many she had. I was trying to figure out what to charge her. She pulled out four small plastic bags of loose coins. Two contained Lincoln cents, one had some Canadian coins in it and the fourth had a few foreign coins, but there was also a Mercury dime in it. I don’t know if the woman thought the Mercury dime was a foreign coin. She did not tell me.

When she showed me the two bags of Lincoln cents, I observed that they looked cleaned as she was handing them to me.

Why yes they were cleaned. She said she had spent a lot of time to make those cents look good. Besides, she couldn’t make out the dates without cleaning, I was told.

One bag had cents from the 1940s, she said. The other, with many fewer coins in it, had just earlier dates.

Though it did not take all that long to decide, I figured I would count the Lincolns as one item and each of the other bags as one item, making three items, so I charged her $5.

I figured it wouldn’t take long for Joel Edler to look at all he needed to see.

What was the outcome?

While the woman did not make a fortune, she came out talking about the lone Mercury dime and how much silver value it had. Apparently, silver value never entered her mind prior to her appraisal session.

How many other Americans haven’t noticed the silver headlines of the last few years?

From my experience of yesterday, I would have to say a lot.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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