Northeast's Blog

There's the Rub New!

The following was written by Brian.

We recently purchased a large group of coins from a longtime customer of ours and the group included about fifteen 1937-D “3 Leg” nickels, many of those of which were in high XF and upper AU grades. There is little doubt as to the immense popularity of this particular numismatic rarity; it ranks right up there with the 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent, 1955 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Cent and the 1942/1 Mercury Dime.

Upon examining some of the higher end non-MS examples I noticed that many of them were close to qualifying as Mint State and without doubt would have been sliders back in the days of the Wild Wild West (pre-TPGCs).

The Buffalo Nickel series may indeed be the most difficult type to grade and an important distinction (among all coin types, really) is if the coin has seen circulation or if it is Mint State. Grading coins often begins with the obverse of the coin, but with Buffalo Nickels it should start with the reverse and in particular, the hip bone/flank area. As we know, many (if not most) issues in this series were poorly struck and because of this, some coin features are difficult to discern in terms of wear vs. weakness. For instance, you can have a well struck Mint State coin with a clearly defined and well-rounded hip bone area.

Conversely, you can have a weakly struck mint state coin with the hip bone/shoulder area not nearly as well-defined.

Again, neither of the above coins has wear, but due to striking you can see a big difference in the definition of the hip bones and this can really become a big factor when determining upper AU and lower Mint State examples.

When Buffalo Nickels have been circulated, the wear on the hip bone and flank underneath it is known as the “mesa affect”. In Spanish, mesa literally means table. In essence, that area flattens much like a table and it will be accompanied by a dullness in color. Here’s a sold XF example where you can clearly see the mesa affect on the hip bone and also rub on the upper shoulder area.

Here, however, is an example of a coin graded AU58 by NGC. Notice just the lightest hint of wear in the aforementioned areas. As Willie Shakes would say, “ay, there’s the rub.” This is another good reason to keep the loupe on hand and use it. 

After looking at the reverse for the telltale signs of wear, be sure not to ignore the obverse as it can confirm your analyses.

The Pitts! New!

The following was posted by Brian.

Key Denson Pittman (September 19, 1872 – November 10, 1940), a democrat from the state of Nevada was elected to the US senate in 1913 and served until his death in 1940. Among his notable legislative contributions included the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937. He also served as president pro tempore and chairman of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee. Although many pieces of legislation bore his name, it was the Pittman Act of 1918 that is often noted as greatly affecting the numismatic hobby to this very day.

The Act authorized the conversion of “not exceeding 350,000,000 standard silver dollars into bullion and its sale or use for subsidiary silver coinage, and directed purchase of domestic silver for re-coinage of a like number of dollars”. In addition to the melting of silver dollars, under the act, an equal number of Silver Certificates would be eliminated and the certificates would be replaced by the new Federal Reserve Bank Notes. The new notes would include for the first time $1 and $2 bills. A grand total of 270,232,722 silver dollars were hence melted and converted into bullion; the majority of which was sold to Great Britain. The main reason for the act was in fact to finance the war in Europe, however American mining companies benefited greatly since every coin melted needed to be replaced one-for-one by a new silver coin. The resumption of Morgan dollar production in 1921 as well as the new Peace dollar up until 1934 would be sufficient to fill this need.  

The Pittman act would of course have a great effect on the rare coin market. ‘Survival estimates’ is a term used to describe approximately how many coins are extant today. The Pittman Act although certainly the largest conversion to bullion was in no way the only time in American history that coins were melted down for one reason or another. There have been many issues along the way that suffered this fate, most often due to the American populace’s response to new (usually fractional) coinage. The Pittman Act, however, did not account for which dates and in which numbers those dates were melted. We can make guesstimates based on current population reports from the third party grading companies and researchers, but unfortunately it will forever remain an unsolved mystery as to truly which ones and how many were melted.

Further complicating matters is the fact that though over 270 million dollars would be melted, this number represented probably 50% of the total of silver dollars in vaults at the time. This means that many millions of silver dollars would eventually be released by the bag for sale  – but not until the 1950’s and early 1960’s! Before that, a tough date could mean that it had been melted or it had simply not reappeared yet. For many dates, this resulted in the ‘rare yesterday, common today’ phenomenon. For example, a few New Orleans dates, most notably the 1898-O, 1903-O and 1904-O were all tough. Assumed to be casualties of the Pittman Act, these would be key dates at the time. However in 1962, bags of these dates (especially the 1903-O) began to emerge from the Treasury and thus rendering them as somewhat common.

There are of course many other dates affected and countless theories as to which ones and how many were melted. Perhaps we’ll explore that at another time, but as this is a blog and not a book, I’ll close this chapter and thank you for reading!

Counterfeit Series - Copying the King New!
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The following was written by Brian.

In my last post, I discussed the 1914 $2.5 Indian and we learned that the most common way to fake this coin is via die transfer. For those that did not read the last post, you are of course encouraged to do so, but in essence, the die transfer method is done by taking an original issue coin and transferring the details onto the counterfeit die, which is then tooled to hide the sins and eventually used to strike the fakes.

The 1914 $2.5 Indian had a mintage of 240,000 however, which makes the availability of a quality original to work with possible. But when the size (diameter-wise) of the coin goes up and the mintage goes down, sometimes the die transfer just isn’t the best (or easiest) way for these lowlife counterfeiters to make the fakes.

This brings us to #3 in our series; the 1893-S Morgan Dollar. Easily one of the most recognizable key dates in numismatics, the 93-S Morgan had a mintage of a scant 100,000. Many consider the 93-S Morgan dollar the true “King of the Morgans” due to the simple fact that the 1895 proof is A) a proof issue and not a business strike, and B) basically unobtainable by all but the very wealthy. Mix these factors together along with the potential for massive profits and you have a recipe for counterfeits. Indeed, much like the King of Rock and Roll - Elvis Presley, this king also has its throngs of copycats.

The counterfeit 93-S Morgan $ is a bit different than the aforementioned 1914 $2.5 in that it employs an added mintmark. 1893 Philadelphia Morgan Dollars, while a lower mintage in their own right, are most often called into service for making of a 93-S.

As usual, I’ll show you a very nice authentic 1893-S Morgan Dollar.

Now let’s take a bit of a closer look at the mint mark of a genuine, since that is one of the tells.

Since there were two reverse dies, you’ll see these two very slightly different mintmark orientations.

Here’s an altered mintmark

While the mintmark above itself doesn’t look horrible, you can see discoloration around the ‘S’ and that is a dead giveaway. Any time we’re moving metal, there will be some slight discoloration.

The date alone (thankfully) is not the only marker of a genuine 1893- Morgan Dollar. The “rabbit ears” in left foot of “R” in LIBERTY and the die scratch in top of the “T” in LIBERTY are seen on all but the lowest grade authentic pieces.

Lastly, the date is another giveaway with counterfeits. A genuine 93-S will have the ‘1’ directly over the denticle and the date is slightly tilted to the right. Here’s a good one.

Ok, so now you’re loaded for bear! But as always, my advice is to buy only NGC or PCGS graded pieces when it comes to purchasing rare and expensive dates. Don’t get burned!

Created by: davidrhorer on 08/01/2021

Always interesting, Brian.

FUN Show Report New!

The following was written by Chris.

Last week I attended a coin show for the first time in nearly a year and a half. The 15th Annual Summer FUN show was held in Orlando. While there are probably more preferred places to be in the middle of the summer (H-O-T), I was excited to finally go to a show. It was probably the largest summer FUN I’ve attended, full of other dealers desperate to attend a large, non-regional event.

Both Brian and I were planning on attending, with Brian’s main efforts to have been focused on getting as much of our limited inventory as possible in front of other dealers. Unfortunately, Brian was sidelined with major knee surgery, so I flew down by myself with the goal of buying as much as possible. The show did not disappoint.

Except for some hotel room coin buying before the show, nearly all my business occurred within a twenty-foot radius of my table. I was fortunate enough to have first/early shots at some wholesalers’ inventories, so my first two days were non-stop buying. Only near the end of the second day was I able to venture to the first aisle of the bourse, where I picked up a handful of newps. That was as far as I made it. My third and final day was abbreviated (I was flying out that afternoon), so that was spent back at the table doing some more buying and taking care of paperwork.

I was not the only one there for the sole purpose of buying new inventory. A few other dealers who normally bring significant inventory to coin shows only showed up with their checkbooks. Despite the competition, I was able to pick up three double row boxes of newps. (These will start hitting our site next week, so stay tuned.)

This “new” coin market we are in remains quite strong, with coins bringing levels we have not seen in over ten years, and it’s not just Morgan Dollars. If you showed up with nothing more than a Greysheet, you likely went home with almost nothing to show for your efforts.

I know many dealers, ourselves included in the past, like to incorporate their dining experiences into their show reports. I would do so here, but that would have meant I actually ate. Aside from some lemon drops I brought and some beef jerky that a coin dealer friend of mine hooked me up with, I went sans food during the show hours. The evenings consisted of hotel food in my room, so I’m sorry to disappoint in this aspect of the report.

We have the ANA World’s Fair of Money coming up in Chicago in August, and Tom, Brian (on a scooter), Frank, and I are looking forward to attending!

p.s. I flew from Orlando to NOLA to visit my family, and I more than made up for the disappointing dining experience I had at the show. Anyone who has been to New Orleans knows how amazing the cuisine can be.

Counterfeit Series – 1914 $2.5 Gold Indian New!
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The following was written by Brian.

Next up in our continuing series of counterfeit detection is the 1914 $2.5 Gold Indian. There is no debate that this issue is a key date as it has the second lowest mintage (second only to the key date 1911-D) in the entire series. The 1914 $2.5 is only slightly less rare than the lower mintage and much higher priced 1911-D.

It probably goes without saying at this point, but I will stress once more that a collectors’ best protection against purchasing a fake is buying only certified coins graded by the top tier third party grading companies. I will repeat this advice in every blog post regarding this topic until I’m told to stop.

The 1914 $2.5 falls into the “Outright Counterfeit” group, as it is produced from a counterfeit die (as opposed to say, an added mintmark or altered date counterfeit). Only 240,000 pieces were struck, and that makes the 1914 Gold Quarter Eagle quite the desirable piece. Unfortunately, with that kind of rarity comes the scourge of counterfeit coins.

Here is an authentic 1914 $2.5.

Perhaps it is the incuse design that gives collectors and even some dealers problems with identifying fakes. Most counterfeit quarter and half eagles were made using the die transfer process. This is a process in which the details of an original coin are transferred to the counterfeit die. This is not a perfect process; the “original” counterfeit die will always have some issues – those issues being literally any contact mark or defect that transferred from the genuine model coin. This is why tooling becomes the next step in the process. Tooling is done to the die itself with the objective of “correcting” the issues (again, contact marks or defects) on the original model. This sharp tool, however, will cause raised (not incuse) lines and depressions on the surface of the resulting counterfeit coin. And that’s a major diagnostic of detection.

Here is a counterfeit example.

This close-up shows the tooling lines at the base of the neck.

Here, the counterfeiter tries to cover up a known depression in 1914 $2.5 fakes.


Here are a few typical diagnostics:

1) Look for tool marks in the recesses at the back of the Indian's neck.

2) Heavy toolmarks which can look like raised spikes are often detected around the perimeter as well.

3) Weak details.

4) Depressions - one common depression can be found above the 4 in the date. Note: you may see tooling marks where the depression was if the counterfeiter tried to ‘fix’ this.

Hopefully this will leave you armed with enough info needed to keep yourself from being duped. But as always, if there are ever any doubts (and even some of the most skilled and seasoned numismatists have them), the third-party grading company route is always the best, safest way to go. 

Created by: Panda on 06/23/2021

stack two coins, compare their edge reeding: if they don't perfectly match (e.g. the edge teeth counts), then one is fake!