Circulating Coins

Collecting Flying Eagle Cents For Their Monetary Value

June 16th, 2014  |  Published in Circulating Coins

The Flying Eagle Cent was only produced by the U.S. Mint for two years in the mid-19th Century and is an unusual design. Individuals who are collecting Flying Eagle Cents might have their hands on a fortune in pennies.

Its history begins with the design of a flying eagle adapted by James Longacre from a sculpture. This stands out because most U.S. coins depict an unmoving eagle. On the other side, ONE CENT is seen encircled by a wreath. The value of Flying Eagles soared almost as soon as the first pattern pieces were distributed. Unfortunately for contemporaries, later larger batches struck to meet huge demand brought down the value of these coins for a short while. In fact, Coin Resource writes that there were almost 50 million in reserve by the time the design gave way to the Indian Head, which was much easier to strike. The Flying Eagle design led to many weak stampings in 1857.

At the time of its conception, the director of the U.S. Mint, James Snowden, was trying to replace all Spanish money with American money. There were long line-ups of individuals eager to replace their Spanish coins with the American ones, known at the time as ‘nicks’.

Today’s collector could fetch thousands of dollars for a single penny, even though they are not especially rare. They have always been sought after, leading to hoarding and some examples of fraud, so collectors should have alleged discoveries checked out by experts before paying any money.

The Slow Decline of the Half Dollar Denomination

April 13th, 2012  |  Published in Circulating Coins

The slow decent of the usage of the half dollar denomination within circulation can be seen by the declining mintage figures for the latest series to bear the mantle. Launched in 1964, the Kennedy Half Dollar was originally struck in 90% silver. For the first year of release demand was high as members of the public wanted a memento to their fallen leader. The US Mint facilities at Philadelphia and Denver would strike more than 400 million coins on a combined basis.

Mintage of the denomination continued in the following years, but in a composition of 40% silver. The total mintage never reached the amount of the initial year, until 1971. At this time, the composition was switched to copper nickel clad and more coins were needed to replaced the silver versions which were being withdrawn from circulation. The mintage this year reached more than 450 million.

For the next few years, production levels subsided until 1976. Coins bearing this date feature a special bicentennial design and were actually struck during both 1975 and 1976. These coins reached a mintage of more than 500 million, which would prove the peak production for the entire series.

The Kennedy Half Dollar mintage levels declined in the following years, never exceeding the 100 million mark at any particular mint. In 1987, the coins were struck in quantities of less than 3 million, since they were not needed for circulation but only struck for government issued mint sets.

Although this might have seemed like the beginning of the end, the US Mint continued to strike the half dollars for circulation in small quantities for more than a decade. The curtain finally closed in 2002, when production was once again restricted to government issued sets and special bags and rolls that were also sold at a premium. Since this time, no half dollars have been struck for release into general circulation.

Barber Redesigns Three Denominations

June 21st, 2011  |  Published in Circulating Coins

Charles E. Barber was the sixth chief engraver at the Philadelphia Mint. He had assumed his position in 1879, following the passing of his father, who had been the previous chief engraver. Charles Barber is credited with many circulating coin designs of his era, as well as commemorative coins, and a number of important patterns. For a period of 25 years, his designs dominated the smaller silver denominations.

When Barber took his position, the designs for the dime, quarter, and half dollar featured the same image of Seated Liberty, which had been in use for forty years. The public was expressing some dissatisfaction for these design and many wanted an update. In the following years there would be efforts to create new designs, although Barber’s intention always seemed to create the designs himself.

The Director of the Mint opened a public competition to solicit new designs and received about 300 drawing. A panel judging these drawings, which included Barber, did not find any satisfactory enough for use. The Director told Barber to prepare the new designs, which is what he had wanted all the time.

For all three denominations, a large head of Liberty appears, facing right. She wears a cap with a wreath composed of an olive branch including thirteen leaves. The word “United States of America” appeared above, with the date below. The Barber Dimes featured an agricultural wreath on the reverse, which was not very much different than the one found on the previous series. The words “One Dime” appeared within the wreath.

The Barber Quarters and Half Dollars featured a heraldic eagle on the reverse. This image was newly created and included thirteen stars above and the eagle held an olive branch and bundle of arrows. A ribbon in the eagle’s beak included the motto “E Pluribus Unum”. Additional inscriptions included “United States of America” above and the denomination “Quarter Dollar” or “Half Dollar” below.

The first of the new dimes, quarters, and half dollars were produced in 1892. The public’s response was rather tepid, as the designs lacked any unique artistry. After a period of twenty five years, once again there were calls for new designs. This time the results would be decidedly different.

Schlag Wins the Competition

April 4th, 2011  |  Published in Circulating Coins

Even though the Buffalo Nickel is very popular with collectors today, apparently it was not viewed as such by official of the United States Treasury Department. At the time, the law provided that the designs of circulating coins would be eligible for redesign after a period of twenty five years. After exactly that duration, a competition was announced to create a new design for the five cent piece.

The stipulations for the design were that an authentic portrait of Thomas Jefferson was to appear on the reverse and a representation of Monticello would appear on the reverse. The prize for the winning design would be $1,000. A total of 390 different designs were judged by US Mint Director Nellie Taloe Ross and three sculptors. The winning design was by Felix O. Schlag.

His obverse design featured a left-facing bust of Thomas Jefferson, and the reverse featured an angled view of Monticello with some shrubbery and trees visible. The Fine Arts Commission did not approve of his reverse design and replaced it with a front view of the building without any trees. The lettering on the obverse was also changed from a stylized font to a more formal one.

The Jefferson Nickels would first be issued in 1938. Schlag obtained 150 brilliant proof examples of his work and put them into plaques that were numbered, autographed, and notarized.  The plaque also included images of his original reverse design. He managed to sell surprisingly few of the special plaques, but gave a few away. Every now and then one of these original plaques will come onto the market and generated significant collector interest.