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Big picture of collectible and precious metal coins

Posted by John T. Reed on

The heavy bag of coins my wife gave me to figure out what to do included a bunch of foreign coins from the expatriate lives of my wife’s parents and her father’s parents. Initially, I despaired of being able to make heads or tails out of them. Many contain no Latin letters or Arabic dates (Those are the letters and numbers Americans use.) But it was fairly easy to figure out what each and every one was on the Net.

For example, one seemed to be Chinese or Korean with a picture of a man on one side and a junk sail boat on the other side. So I Googled Chinese junk coin. Bingo! It was a Sun Yat Sen 1934 Junk Dollar. The year was written in Chinese characters, and based on a Chinese calendar which called 1934 Year 23. They have photos of both sides of the coin on line so it is unmistakable when you find it.

The word “Junk” in this case refers to the boat pictured on the coin, not the sort of junk referred to in the American phrase “junk silver,” although the coin is also that too. It is 88% silver and a large heavy coin—26.7 grams—same as a U.S. silver dollar. Non-mint condition version are worth about $15.50 to $23. The melt value is about $12.

A Japaneses coin had no recognizable characters but it had some leaves depicted on the back. I Googled Japanese leaves coin. Bingo! It is a 1 sen coin from 1916-to 1938.

I sold the gold coins—at a slight gain. My wife’s basis in the inherited coins was their fair market value at the date of her sister’s death: January 2017. Gold then was worth $1,180. It was worth $1,200 when I sold it Friday. But as I said before, I think gold has been way overpriced for years.

I also sold the numismatic silver (worth more than melt value because of rarity) because I do not want to deal with all the complexity of collectibles nor do I want to speculate on numismatic value. Does that value continue to exist in the same proportions in a hyperinflation crisis or do people have better things to do. I expect the latter.

So I converted both the gold and the numismatic silver into junk silver silver coins that are worth their weight in the silver and copper that they contain, a.k.a. melt value. I own them as commodities. I prefer the coin form of this commodity because no assay is required when you sell it—and I pay a slight premium over, say, bars of silver. I expect to sell at the same slight premium as well, even in a hyperinflation crisis.

I am treating the non-numismatic foreign silver coins the same as U.S. because they internet now lets you show a prospective buyer their assay on line. In other words, I just kept them. I did not convert them into U.S. junk silver. Before the Internet, I would have converted them.

Finally, since I am not going to do anything with the foreign coins at this time, as I researched each on the Net, I printed out the fact sheet on it and stuck it in a ziploc bag marked “Foreign silver coins.” That is so my heirs will not have to redo the research and out of fear that they might just walk into a coin shop and sell them without researching them. If you are going to leave such to your heirs it would be nice for you to do the same with yours.

My late sister-in-law separated them by country which saved a step but I think the separation should be by those who have melt value and those that do not. (Okay, they all have melt value but the coin web sites do not bother with melt value on non-precious metals.) I must add she was a child in the 1950s when she separated them.

Generally, if the coin is brown or aluminum looking and light weight to the feel and has a low denomination, it has no resale value. In theory, such a coin could be valuable because of rarity, but I doubt looking each such coin up is worth the time.

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