Hello, and welcome to the June edition of CoinWeek FAQ’s Q & A with Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker! ……….
Each month, we take some of the more interesting questions from the reader mailbag and answer them in our unique, analytical way.
If you have a question for us, email us at email@example.com
I bought a 1956 Proof Set with a really nice Cameo Franklin half dollar… Problem is, it’s in a Lucite display case. Is there any way to get the coin out without ruining the coin, or is it already ruined? ……… George, Maryland
No George, it’s not necessarily ruined, but you definitely want to get it out of there.
“Kristal Kleer” Lucite holders reached the peak of their popularity in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and adverts were commonly found in numismatic periodicals of the time. Companies like L & S Plastic offered Poly(methyl methacrylate) coin holders as novelty items and paperweights, and amazingly, they even advertised that the product “permanently protects valued coins against discoloration, scratches or other damage.” Thankfully, the Lucite craze died down, but every now and again you’ll find a block of silver coins in the dubious material.
The saddest things we’ve ever seen in a Lucite holder has to be Fugio Coppers, which the Bank of New York encased and handed out to VIPs as gifts or awards. Your entombed cameo coins don’t quite rise to the level of malpractice as that does, but we certainly understand your frustration.
The best advice we can give comes in the form of two distinctly different approaches. The first requires proficiency with a band saw or circular saw. If your piece is large enough to use one of these tools on it, cut as close as you can to the coins and then submerge the Lucite with the coin in it [I’m assuming here…] in a jar filled with acetone and close the jar. Be sure to do this in a well-ventilated area, and for Pete’s sake, use the proper precautions when you operate dangerous tools. After a number of hours, the acetone will begin to dissolve the outer layers of Lucite, which should allow you to file the acrylic down into smaller and smaller shapes. Keep filing until you can dislodge the coin. Be warned – the color of your coin may be effected by this method.
The second approach has you freeze the block of Lucite and then take a hammer to it. You might want to put a cloth underneath the Lucite in case the dislodged coin falls onto the floor. The shape of the holder may add a degree of difficulty to your task.
We wish you the best of luck retrieving your coins and hope they look as nice as they do now once you get them out!
Is there any point holding onto bags of State Quarters? I’ve had these since they came out but it seems like there’s no demand for them? …….. Aaron, Tucson
Aaron, you’d have to have some pretty special coins in those bags to get real money for them now, and even then it’s a pretty small market for ultra high-end state quarters. There is, however, a way to look down the road and reap a profit from your investment. It means some time commitment on your part and an additional investment.
What we recommend is this: Buy Dansco or similar style coin albums – you can even buy generic blank quarter pages with the plastic slides. Then go through each bag and hand select the most attractive specimens you have. Set them aside. Don’t let them touch each other, and try to keep them free of fingerprints. Once you’ve separated the wheat from the chaff, put the nicest coins in the quarter album(s) and lock ‘em away… for years.
The natural reaction to the environment will cause some of the coins to tone over time. It’s tempting, but don’t try to speed up the process. You’ll just ruin your coins (and besides, that’s coin doctoring). If the coins develop attractive coloring, you’ll have a premium quality coin that will net you a nice return on your investment.
As for the rest of the quarters, sell them in rolls, deposit them in the bank, or put together State Quarter sets to sell. This way you can get some money back now and have a stash of winners to sell down the line.
Q. Why doesn’t the government let private companies make a one cent copper coin? If someone can make money producing pennies, it sure ain’t the government. ……. Ruth, North Carolina
That’s actually a great idea, Ruth.
Pennies haven’t had any purchasing power for a long time. What’s kept the Lincoln cent in production has been politics, politics, more politics, and lobbying by the coin’s suppliers. If Congress passed legislation that defined what a “private” cent was in terms of dimensions, weight and composition, which motifs and inscriptions would be legally required, and allowed companies to produce their own (as advertisements, circulating commemoratives, and so forth), then we think the public would accept them. Coin collectors would be ecstatic!
The legal tender status would have to be ironed out. We’d say, cap private cent-tokens at $1.00 and begin the extraction of pre-1982 copper cents from circulation. The government could melt those coppers and turn a tidy profit, while the rest of us begin our transition away from the one cent coin.
© 2013 Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker