As a young and active collector of Early Half Dollars, I often attend local shows to find coins that I judge “suitable” for my growing albums. Many know that the Early Halves are most desired for their die varieties noted by Al C. Overton in Early Half Dollar Die Varieties: 1794 – 1836. In fact, that is what initially drew me to the hobby. I have recently discovered that some malicious coin dealers have attempted to take advantage of this and have tried to falsify die varieties. Recent Coin World articles have brought to my attention that many dealers, now more than ever, are looking out for themselves; not so much the buyer.
Coin dealers may try to attract your eye with a flip mislabeled as a rare variety type. For example, while in search of an “1824 over 1” Capped Bust Half Dollar – O102, I recently observed a dealer who tried to sell me an “1824 over 4” – O110. He pointed out the “recut 4” and tried to convince me that it was a 1. As a result, I whipped out my Whitman Red Book and assured the relentless con artist that it was in fact a recut 4 and also observed the price difference. I was expecting an “Oh yeah, you’re right…”, but instead, the fraud grabbed the coin out of my hand and moved on to another potential “sap”.
Die markings on the Early Halves are characteristic of many variety types because of the inaccurate “hand pressed” process by which early coins were minted. However, if you are seeking types with these traits, do not be fooled by dealers who attempt to pass off scratched or damaged coins as pieces worthy of becoming part of your collection. At another recent show, I came across a predator who had informed me that the coin I was analyzing had some prominent markings that were the result of engraving errors. Intrigued, but skeptical, I called for some assistance. I asked a friend/dealer to critique the coin. He found that those “engraving errors” were actually deep scratches the coin had acquired over the years.
In light of my recent encounters with scheming coin scammers, I have some advice for all collectors. Most importantly, knowledge is power! Make sure you have a vivid understanding of the various markings, errors, or recuts that may be present on a coin of your collected series. If you are collecting variety type coins, then you had better have some accurate resources at hand to reference. Finally, do not be afraid to ask for help. It is definitely beneficial, especially now, to have a coin dealer that you trust so that you can ask him or her for assistance if you are unsure about something. Collecting coins is considered to be “the hobby of kings”. Do not be overthrown by some treasonous underlords!
By Anthony Burdo.