A Rooftop Connection on Coins

Posted on 3/15/2018

Amid the snow, finding a fellow collector building a quarter eagle set.

As I pondered this week’s column, here in New England we were in the midst of the third Nor’easter to strike here within the last 10 days! Amazing – and more than a bit disillusioning –as “spring” is officially arriving next week, at least according to the calendar.

However, after another visit to my roof to clear off mounds of snow, it quickly dawned on me that weather and coin collecting do share a common bond.

There are few things which universally affect everyone equally. One of them is the weather. If you are a Fortune 500 CEO or greeter at Walmart, major storms, the likes we are going through, play no favorites. All have to fight the elements, and if you reside and work here, you will have to plow or shovel your way out of your abode.

Similarly, coins travel through all our collective hands, everywhere every day; there is common familiarity. You don’t have to be a numismatist to recognize the sound of quarters being dropped in the slot of a vending machine or the clinking heard when Mom is salting away spare change from Dad’s pockets in a piggy bank for little Bobby.

Since our early childhood, we all learned to count and make change. Coins were instrumental through all of our formative years (For some like yours truly well beyond). I mean one of the fascinating things to me is just where did the coins tucked away in my pocket travel from and whose hands could this coin resting in my palm have visited? It was and is a very personal connection.

My earliest recollections with coins were those given to me by Mom and Dad, which I dutifully put back into commerce – usually to facilitate the purchase of sundry toys at stores like Woolworths, Newberry’s or W.T. Grant.

Soon though, that novelty of giving my coins away to local merchants waned. The impetus? Receiving a flashy Franklin half dollar from my dad as a token of appreciation for washing the family car. I recall the excitement of getting that freshly minted silver coin and how very soon it was those exceptionally shiny or toned coins I received in change supplied me with more sustaining interest than the alternatives.

I often talk to hobbyists about collecting and what the hobby means to them, and how and when they were introduced to coins in the first place. You never know when you will run into a budding collector.

Just yesterday, as I was up on the roof shoveling off about a foot of snow, I noticed that my neighbor had the same idea, but instead of enjoying the process, he had hired someone to do the shoveling for him. I could hear the ladder being placed on the opposite side of my neighbor’s home, and soon, two heads appeared just over the roof’s peak. I greeted them with a wave of my right hand, and the two fellows reciprocated.

I was just about half finished with my roof when I heard one of the guys shout out to his co-shoveler. “It’s going in five minutes on eBay.”

He had his cellphone out and was obviously tracking something quite intently. However, as soon as I heard him say “Quarter Eagle” my radar went into overload, and I was compelled to shout out “Liberty or Indian?”

Without missing a beat, he said “Indian.” He then glanced up quickly from his phone and asked: “You know about coins?”

I said: “Sure do, but finish with your auction first.”

1925-D Indian Quarter Eagle, graded NGC MS 62 (acquired for $376 on eBay).

My fellow shoveler’s name is Kevin, and he is the proud owner of a 1925-D Indian Quarter Eagle graded NGC MS 62, which he captured for $376 on eBay.

As we were conversing across the rooftops, I asked if he was putting together a gold type set or collecting by series.

Kevin informed me that he is attempting to put together a nice matched MS 62 set.

“I want to keep the coins as uniform in appearance as I can.”

I asked brilliant or lightly toned.

Kevin said: “Lightly toned; I like a bit of orange-copper toning. Like the 1925-D that I just bought. Hey, I’ll send you the link so you can look at it.”

I took a look, and told Kevin: Nice coin! Very pleasing and pleasant original toning.

“I can afford some of the coins in MS 63, but the tougher dates are just priced out of my budget right now.” I told Kevin, I agree that MS 62 is a nice way to go for value and eye appeal. You can get some decent-looking coins in the $400 range.

Kevin concurred and said: “Yeah, it’s a short series, and other than the 1911-D I hope to have the entire set together in a couple years.”

I then asked him if he was familiar with the NGC site and he said: “Yeah I’m always looking at it: the Price Guide and the articles.”

I told Kevin: Well, if you don’t mind, you’ll be in one of the articles this week.”

Kevin responded with: “What do you mean?”

I said to take a look at the NGC Weekly Market Report. I could see him grinning on the roof when he said, “No way, really?”

Over the past generation, the third-party encapsulation and grading model of NGC has revolutionized the way the hobby and business of numismatics is now conducted. Much of the mystery as to what is truly scarce versus that which is readily available has been ironed out with census reports and ongoing auction results, which can be viewed online any hour of the day from the comfort of a favorite chair, the office or … yes … on the rooftop.

Until next time, happy collecting!

Jim Bisognani is an NGC Price Guide Analyst, having previously served for many years as an analyst and writer for another major price guide. He has written extensively on US coin market trends and values.

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