Category Archives: US Coins


1996 Four Queens Casino $10 Silver Strike

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This token is a Silver Strike from Las Vegas. These medallic pieces were struck in proof, and were packaged in clear plastic protective capsules in roughly the same way as contemporary American Silver Eagles. They were not meant to be … Continue reading

1952 Booker T Washington Carver Half Dollar US

This coin is in uncirculated shape, and I’d tentatively grade it between MS61 and MS63. I bought it at a “We Buy Gold” bullion dealer in San Diego along with a handful of other commemorative half dollars.

US 50 Cent 1952 Booker T Washington George W Carver

US 50 Cent 1952 Booker T Washington George W Carver

The obverse shows two faces in profile, looking to the right. More than half of the area is filled with text, arranged in two rings around the inside of the rim. From 9:00 to 3:00, the outer ring reads clockwise “* United States of America*” From 9:00 to 3:00, the outer ring reads counterclockwise “In God We Trust * E Pluribus Unum”. The inner ring reads clockwise from 7:00 to 5:00 “George W Carver Liberty Booker T. Washington” and counterclockwise from 7:00 to 5:00 “Half Dollar”. The date (1952) is horizontal, between the W and the C in Carver.

On the reverse, there’s a map of the lower 48 states with “U. S. A.” across the state dividing lines. The legend clockwise from 8:00 to 4:00 reads “FREEDOM AND OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL” and counterclockwise from 8:00 to 4:00 “**AMERICANISM**”.

US 50 Cent 1952 Booker T Washington George W Carver Reverse

US 50 Cent 1952 Booker T Washington George W Carver Reverse

Identification code: KM-200

Date: 1952

Mint Mark: n/a (Philadelphia)

Mintage: 2,006,000

Country of origin: US

Composition: 90% Silver, 10% copper

Size: 30.6mm

Weight: 12.5g (0.3617 oz ASW)

Other details: 3 coin sets of the commemorative Washington-Carver coins with mintages of roughly 8k to 12k each were produced every year from 1951 through 1954, with large quantities struck of the 1951(P), 1952(P), 1953-S and 1954-S coins for sale individually. When the program expired in 1954, not a lot of people were upset. Long series runs of commemoratives had exhausted collectors, and many felt that such multiple-year runs were a money grab by the mint. In this case, it ended up being unsuccessful and losing money – and this was compounded by financial improprieties in the society working on building memorials.

As a result, there was a long gap until commemoratives were again struck by the mint (resuming again with the 1982 George Washington Half Dollar). The Booker T. Washington and Washington-Carver Halves were among the least desired, with many thousands returned to the Mint for melting. Thousands more were sold to speculators at just slightly above face value. The banks that had bought them from the mint for distribution liquidated most of their holdings by 1965.

Estimated Value: $20 in MS61 with silver at ~$19/oz.

1830 Small Bust Dime United States

This coin is in rough shape. But, at nearly 200 years of age, I can only hope to look as good! I would grade this as a G4, with the reverse possibly meriting a VG8 (that could just be wishful thinking). The obverse seems to have old residue, possibly from a piece of tape.

US - Dime - 1830 Bust Disme Obverse shows a woman wearing a turban looking to the left. This coin is worn so that all the letters are only barely visible.

US – Dime – 1830 Bust Disme Obverse

The obverse shows a woman facing to the left. She wears a cap with the legend “LIBERTY” on the band, and has a rather sharp profile formed by a practically straight line down her forehead to the tip of her nose. Her hair is long, with curls that gather at her neck both towards her chin and behind her. The top of a toga is visible. Seven 6-sided stars are to her left, with six more stars to her right. The date is at 6:00.

US - Dime - 1830 Reverse

US – Dime – 1830 Reverse

On the reverse, an eagle with it’s wings spread clutches olive branches in it’s right talon (on the left side) and arrows in it’s left talon (on the right side). The eagle’s chest is covered with a heraldic shield, and scrollwork over it’s head carries the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM”. From 8:00 to 4:00, the legend reads “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”. The denomination “10C” is at 6:00.

Date: 1830

Mint Mark: n/a (Philadelphia)

Catalog code: US KM-48

Mintage: 510,000 (PCGS estimates the coin as having an R5 of 1,000 or less surviving in all grades)

Country of origin: United States of America

Composition: 89.20% silver

Size: 18.5mm diameter

Weight: 2.7 grams (for an ASW of 0.0774 oz)

Other details: The Redbook lists 3 major die varieties: 1830 Large C, 1830 Small C, and 1830 30 Over 29 (overdate). There are also 8 varieties identified as JR-1 through JR-8 (I’m still working on learning what sets those apart still to attribute this particular variety).

For an interesting history of the dime in US coinage, check out NGC’s post on early dimes (other proposed names included a disme, deci, or tenth).

Most interesting to me – the engraver who created the Bust pattern (John Reich) came to the US as an indentured servant and was freed when his contract was paid off by an unknown benefactor at the US mint. He later became “2nd engraver,” junior to Chief Engraver Robert Scot. It is possible that Scot (who is not remembered for being a particularly talented engraver and who was going blind in his elder years) paid off the contract in order to keep his prestigious title while letting Reich do the actual work, but Reich’s benefactor is unknown. Others have speculated that Mint Director Robert M. Patterson may have paid off his indenture.

What is known is that Reich was prolific & redesigned practically every coin in circulation at the time. From 1807 to 1817, he labored at very modest income & reworked the half cent, cent, dime, quarter, half dollar, $2.5 dollar, and $5 gold pieces. John Reich resigned from the mint in 1817 after 10 years of work without any promotion or raise in pay. His salary ($600 per year) sure puts the contemporary value of these coins in perspective!

At the start of the 19th century, the dime was still unfamiliar to most Americans. Even though a Congressional Act in 1792 had called for a decimal system based on the dollar, they were some of the last coins introduced by the mint. Dimes were also made in very low quantities because merchants who paid the mint to convert silver into coinage often preferred larger denomination coins which were easier to securely store and transport by ship or stagecoach.

Spanish silver and coins from Mexico circulated widely in the US at the time. The Spanish real (1/8 of a Spanish pillar dollar) was treated as a 12.5 cent piece, and paired well in making change for US quarters (aka “2 bits”). Another coin that circulated at the time was a Spanish coin of lower silver alloy struck in the 1700’s. Though these were called two reales, the lower inherent value meant that these “pistareen” coins were treated as having a face value of 20 cents. The dime first gained widespread use making change for pistareens.

US - Dime - 1830

US – Dime – 1830

US - Dime - 1830 04

US – Dime – 1830 04

Estimated Value: $20-25 with silver at ~$16/oz (silver price doesn’t really affect these due to their high numismatic value)

1829 Bust Half Dollar O-114

This coin has been seen a lot of history. I only hope that I look as good going into my second century! I’d grade it a G4 or a VG8 on a generous day. There’s a large X scratched into the reverse that significantly harms its eye appeal.

1829 Bust Half Dollar Obverse 04

1829 Bust Half Dollar Obverse 04

The obverse shows lady Liberty facing to the left, with a lot of cleavage showing. She wears a rather crushed looking liberty cap, and has curls of hair down to her shoulders.  She is surrounded by 13 six-sided stars; 7 run from her bosom at 8:00 to her temple at 11:00 and 6 run from the back of her head at 2:00 to her back at 4:00. The date is at 6:00.

1829 Bust Half Dollar Reverse 03

1829 Bust Half Dollar Reverse 03

On the reverse, an emblematic eagle sits on a nest of arrows. The eagle has a shielded chest, a rather serpentine neck (facing to the left) and spread wings. The legend “United States of America” runs from 8:00 to 4:00. A banner scroll reads “E Pluribus Unum” between the legend and eagle’s head from 10:00 to 2:00. The denomination “50 C” is at 6:00.

Date: 1829

Mint Mark: n/a (so Philadelphia)

Mintage: 3,712,156

Country of origin: United States

Composition: 89.24% Silver, 10.76% Copper

Size: 32.5mm

Weight: 13.48 grams

Other details: The dies on these are all attributed by Overton. I don’t know all the differences between varieties, but they mostly have to do with the spacing of letters on the reverse. On some, the “I” in Liberty is further to the left or right of the “T” in United States.

1829 Bust Half Dollar Reverse with Overton attribution to O-114

1829 Bust Half Dollar Reverse with Overton attribution to O-114

I was told that this is an O-114 variety. Overton varieties start with 001 and were numbered based on their order of discovery. Typically, this means that the higher Overton numbers are scarcer. In this case, the O114 variety is rated as a R3 (which I believe is based on the Sheldon rarity scale below):

R1 is common (1000+ pieces known)
R2 is Slightly uncommon (501-1000 pieces known)
R3 is Scarce (201-500 pieces known)
R4 is Very Scarce (81-200 pieces known)
R5 is Rare (31-80 pieces known)
R6 is Very Rare (13-30 pieces known)
R7 is Extremely Rare (4-12 pieces known)
R8 is Unique or nearly so (1-3 pieces known)

Estimated Value: $60 to $90 with silver at ~$21/oz


Coin & Medal Grading Scales

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Grades are used to describe the condition of both coins and medals. They are a numeric value, usually ranging from 1 to 70, with 1 describing a coin that is badly worn and barely identifiable to 70, which describes a … Continue reading

90% Silver JFK Half Dollar Coin – 1964

This coin is in excellent shape, as are many of the first year JFK half dollars. Most saw little or no circulation and were kept as mementos or hoarded when the US moved away from silver coinage (by removing silver from dimes and quarters while reducing the fineness of half dollars from 0.900 to 0.400 in 1965). I would grade it in EF40 condition.

United States SIlver JFK 50 Cent Piece 1964 Obverse

United States SIlver JFK 50 Cent Piece 1964 Obverse

The obverse shows President John F. Kennedy in profile, facing to the left. The legend “Liberty” runs around the rim from 9:00 to 3:00. The date is written along the rim counter-clockwise from 7:00 to 4:00. And the motto “In God We Trust” is written horizontally from 7:30 to 3:30.

United States SIlver JFK 50 Cent Piece 1964 Reverse

United States SIlver JFK 50 Cent Piece 1964 Reverse

The reverse is dominated by the Presidential Seal – which had recently been redesigned for Pres. Kennedy. It shows an eagle holding an olive branch (peace) in its right claw and arrows (strength) in its left. During time of war, the symbols would be reversed (which does beg the question about why the pattern wasn’t changed in 2001). The thirteen stripes on the eagle’s chest represent the 13 original colonies. The horizontal bar across the top represents Congress forming one government from many. A banner above the eagle and between the eagle’s spread wings reads “E Pluribus Unum”. Fifty stars representing the fifty states encircle the eagle. The legend from 9:00 to 3:00 reads “United States of America” and the denomination, written from 8:00 to 4:00 reads “Half Dollar”.

Date: 1964

Mint Mark: n/a (Philadelphia)

Mintage: 277,254,766 (another 156,205,446 were minted with a Denver mint mark, so that Philadelphia accounted for 63.963% of the halfs produced in 1964). Here are mintage numbers for the entire series of JFK halfs.

Country of origin: The United States

Composition: 90% Silver, 10% Copper

Size: 30.6 mm / 2.15 mm thickness

Weight: 12.5 grams (0.36169 Troy oz ASW)

Varieties: The Accented Hair variety has sharply incised hair above Kennedy’s ear and is found only as a Proof. The Doubled Die obverse is available both as a circulation strike and as a Proof. The Doubled Die reverse is known only in Proof.

Other details: During his Thousand days in office, John F. Kennedy inspired millions of Americans – he was widely respected even by his political enemies. The Kennedy half dollar was first minted in 1964 and (as of 2012, when I am writing this), it is still being struck as the ‘circulating’ fifty cent piece of the United States. It was intended as a memorial to the assassinated President John F. Kennedy with a single year of mintage planned, but just like the Washington quarter (first struck for the bicentennial of his birth in 1932), it was so popular that the design replaced the older pattern.

The JFK half dollar was authorized by Congress just over a month after Jack Kennedy’s death. Use of existing designs by Mint sculptors Frank Gasparro and Gilroy Roberts allowed dies to be prepared quickly, and the first coins were struck in January of 1964.

Mint Director Eva Adams was a great admirer of Kennedy. She spearheaded the design of a commemorative coin for the fallen president. Gilroy Roberts wrote that Mint Director Adams had called him within hours of the assassination. He was at the Mint at the time, working, and they talked about the suitability of the Quarter Dollar, Half Dollar, and Silver Dollar. The Silver Dollar had not been produced in over 30 years, and while there were discussions going on about reviving the largest silver denomination (there were Peace dollars minted in 1964, but all were supposedly melted down without being released). The silver dollar was not seen as a viable option. First Lady Jackie Kennedy opposed replacing the Washington design of the quarter, and thus the half dollar denomination was chosen.

The previous design for the half dollar featuring Benjamin Franklin had been minted since 1948. By law, US circulating coinage designs must be used for a minimum of 25 years before new designs can replace them, but at the request of President Johnson, an exception was made in this case with congressional approval.

Shortly after the coin’s release, the Denver Mint began receiving complaints that the new coin was marked with a  hammer & sickle at the bottom of Kennedy’s neckline. In response, Roberts made public statements that the perceived Communist symbol was actually his monogram, a stylized “GR

The first year of issue was the only one where coin silver was used (planchets with a fineness of 0.900 or 90% silver). From 1965 to 1970, special planchets were used with a 40% fineness (the outer layers had a higher silver content, giving them a lighter/brighter finish than they would otherwise have). These 40% silver coins are often referred to as Silver Clad Half Dollars or SilverClad JFK Halfs.

In 1971, silver was eliminated entirely from the Kennedy 50 cent piece, although a few 1970 planchets are known to have slipped through in later years (primarily 1971).

A special design for the reverse of the half dollar was issued for the United States Bicentennial and was struck in 1975 and 1976. In addition to business strikes, special collector coins were struck for the Bicentennial in silver clad; silver proof sets in which the dime, quarter and half dollar were struck in 90% silver were first minted in 1992. Even though ample supplies of half dollars are now available, their circulation is extremely limited. Since 2002, Kennedy half dollars have only been struck to satisfy the demand from collectors, and are available through the Mint.

Estimated Value: $10.14 with silver at ~$38/oz

United States SIlver JFK 50 Cent Piece 1964 Obverse

United States SIlver JFK 50 Cent Piece 1964 Obverse

United States SIlver JFK 50 Cent Piece 1964 Reverse

United States SIlver JFK 50 Cent Piece 1964 Reverse