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What a List Can Tell You
July 25, 2011

I was given a list of coins by a woman in Iola and I was asked if I could give her some idea of the value of the coins on it.

She had gotten the coins from her father and she had no idea what they were worth.

The list was my idea. When she first approached me, I suggested she put down the denominations and dates she had from her father as a first step.

She has no numismatic background. She didn’t really know why her father had the coins in the first place.

The quantity of coins was not large. Unusually for someone who doesn’t have a hobby background, she said the coins looked worn to her when I asked her opinion of their condition and whether they were stored in any kind of special holders or albums.

What did the list tell me?

The father had some method to his madness.

Most of the coins were of the Barber design.

There neatly laid out for me was a progression of dates.

Though there were some duplicates, it appeared the father was putting together a date set of Barber coins, dimes, quarters and half dollars.

The early years of the series were uniformly missing. However, the 20th century dates were there.

The father also did the same thing with Liberty Head nickels.

He also had four silver dollars with the dates 1904, 1922, 1923 and 1924.

After looking at her list, I was able to tell the woman that it looked like her father was a collector to some degree and we would have to take a look for the coins’ mintmarks to nail down a final answer for her.

But silver value alone puts a price of over $600 on the coins, which astonished her.

Where did the coins come from?

Did her father pull these coins out of his change? Barbers were pretty well gone by the late 1940s to early 1950s. Or did he buy them one at a time?

If he was just an accumulator, he would have had quantities of some dates and none of others. The nice date progressions for all three Barber designs show he was working on something.

But we will probably never know why he started collecting, or why he stopped.

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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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