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'S' is For Sucker?
August 25, 2010



Seeing what goes on in the hobby as others see us or as newcomers might see us is always a difficult challenge.

This is not a "walk a mile in my shoes" issue, but an exercise in history and motivation. Where the hobby is today and how we hobbyists behave is the result of how the hobby evolved and how our attitudes and actions have been shaped by our experiences in it.

A newcomer asked me a question and it was posed in such a way that it was both funny and tragic.

The question involved proof clad coins and proof silver coins. The dimes, quarters and half dollars in the clad proof set have an “S” mintmark as do the silver dimes, quarters and half dollars that will be in tomorrow’s 2010 silver proof set when it goes on sale.

Basically the question implied that the “S” mintmark on the clad coins was somehow placed there to perpetrate fraud on the unsuspecting who really want to buy silver. We as longtime collectors know that silver proofs arrived in fulfillment of long-held collector dreams.

Apparently the questioner thought all proof coins were silver. Where he got that idea, he did not say.

How could he tell the difference, he asked for the quarters he was particularly interested in?

I responded that clad “S” proofs have been made since 1968 and the “S” silver versions arrived in 1992.

If the quarters in question were out of the original packaging, I wrote, and you cannot tell the difference by color, the next step is to weigh them. The clad version is lighter, 5.67 grams versus 6.25 grams.

That certain things in the hobby might not be logical to an outsider is a given. That suspicion of fraud should arise so soon in the process of learning about coins does not bode well for that hobbyist’s future.

It also points out the need to buy the basic reference books. If you don’t do that, whether you are suspicious of others or completely trusting, you won’t do as well as a collector.





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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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