Monday, October 01, 2007

Coin Show

Last weekend’s annual Fall coin show seemed to be a success. I don’t know how things were on Saturday, but Friday went well, for the time I was there. I worked from the time it opened, at 10:00 a.m., until 1:00 p.m., at the front table. We handed out name tags to dealers, prompted visitors to put on name badges, and sold raffle tickets.

There were about fifty dealers and eighty tables, and the venue was spacious. I could have spent much more time and money if I’d had either. As it was, I spent 1 ½ hours and $20.

I had to return in the afternoon after work to take back one of the coins I purchased, for I became convinced that it was a counterfeit. I wish I’d taken a picture of it so that I could show people what I was talking about. I was a little excited when I first found it: In one dealer’s binder of world coins, he had a couple of pages of 18th and 19th Century reales and half-reales. I’ve been looking for such a coin from the 1730s, because that’s the kind of coin that would have been in common usage in the Colonies when the first Tablers came over during that decade. I spotted a 1737 half-real for $18.95, and the dealer said he’d let me have it for $15. It wasn’t in great shape, but that was a good price, so I purchased it.

When I got back to work I looked at it a few times, and became troubled. The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that this was a replica. Finally, I became sure that it wasn’t just a fake, it was a poorly done fake that screamed “I suck.”

The details on the coin were poor. There was metal between the bars on many of the letters. Importantly, there were bubble-like raised nodules of metal, which is what would occur if the coin were cast in a mold that had bubble-holes in it that had formed when the mold-making material had set. Most damning, there was a broken flange of metal protruding from the top edge of the coin from where the metal had been poured into the mold.

At least, this is what my eyes told me. (For anyone reading this who doesn’t know, all those hints of the coin being cast in a mold are important because legit coins are not cast in molds.)

I took the coin back, explained to the dealer my concern, and handed it to him. He looked at it with his loupe and mentioned something about the quality of the coins at that time varying considerably, and then he gave me my money back. So I have no problem with this dealer, except that I think it was a seriously problematic coin that he himself should have caught. There were a few other world coins I bought from him that I’m satisfied with.

The best deal of the day: In found a 1960 Franklin half in nice shape marked with a price tag for $10.00, and a 1971 Eisenhower dollar that was sort of worn, marked at $2.00. However, both of these were in a bin marked “half off,” making the Franklin half = $5.00 and the Ike dollar = $1.00. I thought, “A dollar for a dollar? I’ll bite.” I took both of them over to the dealer, and he said, “I’ll just take five for both.” So, essentially I got the Franklin for $4.00, which is significantly below today’s bullion value for the silver in the coin.

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