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A Nice Letter from K.R. about "The Guide Book of United States Coins"

A Nice Letter from K.R. about "The Guide Book of United States Coins"

By Q. David Bowers, Chairman Emeritus

Author: Q. David Bowers/Wednesday, April 9, 2014/Categories: From the Desk of Q. David Bowers

Recently I received a nice letter from K.R., from which I quote below:

“Dear Mr. Bowers:

“I read your article in the March 15, 2014 Coin World about the 1859 J-228 cent and I totally agree with you.  This coin should be listed and priced in the Red Book  just like the 1856 Flying Eagle cent and the 1836 Gobrecht dollar, to mention just a few.

“Before I talk more about that I wanted you to know a little more about me since we have talked in the past.  First and most important, you are my hero!  I have been following your career, reading your books, articles and buying coins from the companies that you owned or were associated with since 1962!  I have most of your books and many you were kind enough to sign for me.  I fell in love with coin collecting in 1962.  I was nine years old.  I was at my friend's house and he showed me his Lincoln penny collection in one of those old folding Whitman folders.  I thought it was very cool but what really got me excited was when he showed me a small bag full of Indian Head cents that his grandfather gave him. I had never seen any coin design other than what was in circulation! I was hooked! From that point over 50 years ago I have been studying and collecting coins.  What a great hobby!  I have given away hundreds of Red Books to kids and schools just to help do my share to expose others to this wonderful hobby and study of history. 

“In 2008, I saw a need, after talking to hundreds of kids and many adults about coins, to do a better job explaining the 1943 ‘copper’ cent! Young collectors were confused and older collectors, especially the ones with WW2 experience or fathers with WW2 experience were upset that this coin, the most expensive and certainly one of the most storied coins in the Lincoln cent series, was not given a proper role in the Red Book. 

 “I wrote you in 2009. You suggested that I ask around and ‘test the waters’ as they say!  I did. I sent a survey to 52 well-known collectors and dealers and several Red Book contributors -- Eric Newman, the Goldbergs, Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin -- to mention just a few.   50 of the 52 responded. 48 strongly thought it was time to list and price the 1943 bronze cent in the Red Book. Two were opposed.  You were one of the two!  

“We exchanged several emails. While I did not convince you to ‘list and price’ this coin, you and the folks at the Red Book did expand coverage of this coin, which did a much better job of explaining this coin to the public.  For that I thank you and your efforts. I also must say how much I enjoyed our email exchanges.  

“Now getting back to the 1859 ‘J228’  cent.  I think you are totally correct on this.  In all my studies I see this coin much like the 1856 Flying Eagle cent.  However, unlike the 1856 Flying Eagle cent, I would also argue against this being a pattern. They made 36 million 1859 cents without the shield; then they made a thousand or so 1859 cents in Mint State with the shield. Like the 1913 Buffalo nickel, where the mound was changed to a thinner straight line, the 1859 with shield should be listed. Another example, is the 1917 Standing Liberty quarter, first issued with the breast exposed and then covered. 

“This is not a ‘pattern’ in the truest sense. It is a mid year design change that should be listed and priced in the Indian cent section of the Red Book! 

 “To tell you the truth, I never thought of it till I read your article.  I did some additional research and I totally agree with you!  This coin is a sleeper.  It should be listed in the Red Book right after the 1859 ‘no shield’ cent as the 1859 ‘with shield’ cent.  

“Mr. Bowers, stay well, keep writing and thank you so much for all your years and dedication to numismatics!”



I sent a reply thanking K.R. for his nice remarks.


As to what should be included in the Guide Book of United States Coins and what shouldn’t be admits of no strict rules.  A lot depends on “tradition.” The 1856 Flying Eagle cents are strictly patterns. I love them dearly, by the way, and it is always exciting to offer them for sale. However, this design was not officially adopted until the Act of February 22, 1857. Accordingly, their pattern status is unquestioned. Similarly, the 1879 and 1880 $4 gold Stellas listed in the Guide Book are strictly patterns. None were ever made for circulation. However, the unusual denomination has always been appealing to collectors and they have been listed among regular issues for many years. Few people would want to change that. The 1836 Gobrecht silver dollar was thought to be a pattern for many years, but in recent generations new research has shown that the majority of them were struck and placed into circulation at the time of issue. So, these can be called regular issues as can be 300 strikings of Gobrecht dollars dated 1839. All of the other Gobrecht dollars, including in off metals and all of those dated 1838, fall into the pattern category.

Returning to the 1859 Indian Head cent with Oak Wreath Reverse (the reverse of 1860), it seems that 1,000 or more of these were made in circulation strike format -- with lustrous surfaces. My Coin World article stated that these probably should be listed among regular issues. Whether that will happen is up to all of those who edit the Guide Book, particularly Ken Bressett, editor; Jeff Garrett, valuations editor; Dennis Tucker, publisher, and me. I vote for it but that does not mean that it will be listed.

With regard to the 1943 bronze cent, these are Mint errors, not regular issues, and I felt that listing them would open a can of worms, as there are thousands of other Mint errors, including on wrong planchets and the like. However, popularity trumped my opinion, and today everyone enjoys seeing the bronze cents listed, and they have become part of the numismatic mainstream. There is a lingering question about certain of them. In the late 1950s Lee F. Hewitt, publisher of The Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine, stated that it was his long term experience that there was no such thing as an authentic bronze 1943 cent. Today, a couple dozen or more have been bought and sold. Likely some of these are very deceptive forgeries made by using high impact  methods to drive a 1943 zinc-coated steel cent into a soft steel blank, hardening it, then making a die to strike such pieces. Fakes can be very sophisticated and there has been some controversy as to whether a cent dated 1959, the year that the reverse was changed to show the Lincoln Memorial, but in this instance having the old wreath reverse, is genuine. An example surfaces some years ago and opinions were divided.

It is always interesting to contemplate various numismatic situations, logical or illogical, but all interesting.


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