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Great coin stories!!!

25 posts in this topic

Since you have all made me feel so welcome here, I thought I would share a couple of stories that any coin buff should get a kick out of.


As I said in my first post, my father recently passed away. During his 81 years on the earth he had an expansive career which, including 50 years in Radio and TV, he ran 2 Coin Shops.


These 2 stories are from those days. If any part of the story is confusing, please understand that this was written by me for posting on his Memorial Websire that we created for his fans. So the story may assume that you may know the man.






Back when I was just a small boy, maybe 7 or 8, before we left New Bedford Massachusetts for Utah, my father was an announcer on WBSM’s “Open Line”. Most know that about him. But what a lot don’t know is that that was a morning show, live 9am to 1pm. He had other duties at the station but it still left a good deal of the day unoccupied with radio duties.


During these years, my father also owned a small coin shop called Cape Cod Coin Shop. It was in the lower floor of an old 3-story Cape style house on Water Street in Mattapoisett. He was open from 4 or 5pm until 10-11pm, most nights. My father always had a love of coin collecting and this was a way to build his own collection as well as introduce others to the joy of collecting.


There are two fun stories that come from this little store. The first began on a weekday evening, the store very quiet.


A frumpy man (as my father would describe him) came in in tattered clothes, obviously alone and down on his luck. He asked my Dad if he bought “weird” money. My father didn’t know exactly what he meant by that and asked what “weird” meant. The man pulled an old handkerchief out of his pocket, all wadded up and unfolded it to reveal a 1936 Buffalo Nickel. But what made the coin unique, ie; “weird” was that it was a mint error… a double strike. For those who don’t know this term, here’s a layman’s lesson on minting coins: A blank planchet, made of mostly nickel, with some copper is polished and then place in carved dies, 1 at the top of the press and 1 at the bottom, respectively stamping the obverse and reverse design of the desired coinage. In a normal strike, the press comes down, making the imprint and then the coin is ejected from the press. But once in a while, the planchet sticks to the die and sometimes causes the coin to be re-struck. In this particular instance, the coin was re-struck with most of the coin outside the dies causing a perfect strike of just the date area on the edge of the coin. The end result was a 1936 Buffalo Nickel with TWO PERFECT dates, one in the normal area and a small round bump along the edge of the coin with another perfect date.


Now my Dad, Hal, had a few error coins in his own collection and he always liked these little gems. But he honestly didn’t know if this was anything special. Most errors, because they are just that, errors, don’t carry any real premium. There are a few errors, ironically when they happen in the thousands, that do carry a premium such as the 1955 double-die Lincoln Penny. The ‘55 penny is worth several hundred dollars now, and there are many of them. But because the ’55 double-die happened to, say, 30,000 out of several million strikes, they are well known and collectable. But what about a single small error that no one knows about? Is there any market for it? These were questions that Hal just didn’t know the answer to.


Hal told the man that he liked the coin but really didn’t know what to offer for it as it wasn’t in any of the current books or guides to coin collecting. The man, frustrated, grabbed up the coin and quickly left.


Several evenings later, the man returned and said “Well, I’ve been to every other crook in this town but I started with you so… $15 bucks, take it or leave it“. Hal didn’t know if he was paying too much or not, but the coin intrigued him, so he took it.


After several months of showing the coin to other dealers and getting virtually no interest or advise as to it’s worth Hal decided to send it to Coin World Newspaper, the then, and current, authority on U.S. Coinage.


Hal heard nothing for along time. Finally he went to the shop one night, stopping to pick up his mail from the mailbox on the front of the shop. And there, on the cover of the most prestigious publications in all of coin collecting, is a full-page story and picture of a 1936 Buffalo Nickel with TWO PERFECT dates!


Hal was flabbergasted. No one ever called him, no one ever mentioned that they would be doing a story. But here was Hal’s little $15 coin, smack dab on the front of a newspaper with a circulation of well over a million copies a week, even in 1964.


Thenl came the calls. Hundreds of calls, from collectors and dealers and reporters. Coin World sent the coin back, spending well over it’s $15 value on certified postage and insurance.


I’d love to tell you that my father made a huge, instant, profit on the coin. But, as those of you who know Hal, he thought it better to keep the coin. I heard that there was one offer of $50,000 but I can’t confirm it. My father was very proud to be the owner of the only Buffalo Nickel, in existence, with TWO PERFECT dates. He had a special holder made for it, stating it’s unique qualities, and proudly displayed it there and in his coin shop that he would open later in San Mateo, CA. He held onto the coin until just recently when he told me that he finally had to part with if for need of funds when he semi-retired. I think he got $5,000. Still a pretty good profit, even for 40+ years!


The second story is even more fun. Late one night he received a phone call from a woman asking if he bought coin collections. He, of course said yes, and asked her to bring the collection by. She told my father that it belonged to her recently passed husband and that she was too sick herself to leave the house. Hal made an appointment to go to her home later in the week.


My father dragged my mother along, much to her dismay. She didn’t like the coin shop as it kept Hal away from her most evenings. But he explained that this little old lady might feel more comfortable with her along, so she went. When they arrived they found a wonderful, sweet, white-haired woman, well into her 60’s. She offered my parents coffee and brought it out with cookies.


After some small talk, my father asked to see the coins. She drug out a few well-worn, blue Whitman coin books, familiar to some of you. These were the poor man’s way of collecting with each book designed for one type of coins, like Lincoln or Indian cents, and individual holes cut into the pages with dates and mint marks stamped in the book for each respective issue.


Hal opened the first book, one for Lincoln Cents, and was horrified to see that although it was basically a complete set, every coin in the book had been cleaned with Comet (or Babo as my Dad used to call cleanser). Each book he looked at contained the same disturbing views.


He tried, with the gentleness he always displayed, to let this nice woman down easy. He told her that although the sets were complete, the cleaning of the coins had rendered them, virtually worthless. Rare coins are usually only valuable in Mint State condition, meaning uncirculated. There are a few key dates that are valuable, even if circulated, but these are few and far between. The real money is in Brilliant Uncirculated, right off the mint floor.


She said to my father…. “They were so dirty, I thought that they would be worthless in that state so I cleaned them”. After a short pause, she said “But there’s a whole bunch that I didn’t get around to cleaning, would you like to see those?” Hal’s heart lifted a bit in hopes of giving her some good news.


She brought out 2 shoeboxes, filled almost to the brims, with various coins, mostly un-wrapped pennies.

My mother chatted and drank coffee while Hal went through the slow process of sorting and stacking the coins on the dining room table. After several hours of this, Hal finally neared the bottom of the box when he saw 2 paper wrapped rolls on the bottom of the box. As he reached in to pick up the first roll, the paper literally crumbled in his hand. He carefully, wearing thin cotton gloves, pulled out the rolls and laid them on the table for inspection. What he saw made his jaw drop. Here, laying in front of him, in this little shabby home of a little white-haired widow were 2 original, mint wrapped rolls of 1856 Flying Eagle Cents, in perfect Mint State Condition.


Well, for those of you who don’t know, this is the “Grand-Daddy” of all U.S. Penny mintage. There were only 1,000 of these coins minted in 1856. To give you an idea of how rare this was, in the following year, 1857, there were, 17,560,000 pennies minted. But here, laying before Hal were 1/10th of all the pennies ever minted in 1856, and all were MS-65 or better. That is about as close to a perfect strike as the mint can make. MS-60 is considered Uncirculated, MS-70 is a perfect Proof coin with no flaws.


Well any other dealer would have tried to pull a fast one here. But, as most of you are well aware, my father was as honest as any man I’ve ever known. He told this woman… “I have to be honest with you, I can’t buy these from you. I simply can’t afford them”. He quietly explained how rare the coins were. The nice lady got very pale, as my Dad would tell it later. He offered to take the coins and sell them for her. He told her that he was sure he could get at least $20,000, if not more, and he would do this for a 10% commission. As you might expect, the lady agreed and as Hal was leaving she said, “You know, if you offered my $300.00 for the whole lot, I’d have taken it”. My father smiled nodded and said “I know”.


Well, you can’t just announce to the world that you just found 10% of a particular coin issue, so he secured each coin in a special plastic case and drove all over New England selling 1 only, to every dealer he could find for an average price of $300.00. All told, he netted this nice lady a bit over $30,000.00, which turned out to be a nice little nest egg for her “Golden Years”. Remember this was 1964. That was a lot of money back then. And Hal Peterson made a nice healthy $3,000 commission for his trouble. But more importantly, he didn’t rip off this vulnerable old lady. He was a honest gentleman then, as he was all his life.


By the way, for those of you interested in this sort of thing… one of those coins sold last year at auction for $56,500.00. Can you imagine… today those 2 rolls would be worth more than $5.5 million!


Well, that does it for the first of these great stories I hope to bring to friends and family of Hal. Many more to come. I’ll try to be diligent in writing them often. Stay tuned!



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Here, laying in front of him, in this little shabby home of a little white-haired widow were 2 original, mint wrapped rolls of 1856 Flying Eagle Cents, in perfect Mint State Condition.


Pardon me for being more than a bit skeptical of your story, but I certainly am!


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The FE cent find does sound outlandish, but it would help to explain the fact that PCGS and NGC combined have graded 169 MS 1856's, which is astounding considering only 1000 coins were minted...

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I swear on his life, my life and whatever else... This is a true story! I was only 7 at the time but he told it often. Years later, he told it on his radio show and it was a huge subject for many weeks. Even today, people approach my brother and I about this, and other stories (he was on the air live at the time of J.F.K.'s assaination, Roswell, etc) when we are in the New Bedford area. He was known as a very honest man. He would not mention a story like this on the radio if it weren't true. I'm sure many made him confirm it.


I have no explanation for the lack of PCGS and NGC graded examples except to suggest that many are tucked away in the N.E. area. He said that the highest price paid was $500. Redbook at the time was around $1,200, from what he had told me. He would toss the coin on the counter in coin shops from Boston to NY, and say "what'l you give me for it?". Most wouldn't actually make an offer. So he would usually say "Give me $300?" Scoop up the cash and out the door. I would venture a guess that the majority of them went into the private collections of the dealer's biggest clients. In my father's shops, he always had 1 guy that would buy the cream of the crop. My Dad would always keep things put away in his safe until he came in. It's likely that "the richest of the rich" in the N.E. area sucked up most of these. I would have no idea, perhaps dealers here can enlighten, would these be likely to turn up or just get passed on and on?


I have never researched the story beyond his telling it. But he never lied about anything. I'm sure this must have caused a reaction in the numismatic community during the time. I will see if there is any confirmation in C.W. or other papers that will lend some creedence. Perhaps, if any of you know how, there might be a way to find auction listings for 1962-65. I'm not sure of the exact year of this but we left MA in 1965 so it had to be in the 3-4 years prior.


This is the story as it was told to me, hundreds of times, over 40+ years, and with many others hearing it. My father was not the type of man to make things up. He WAS a great storyteller, but I've never known one case of embelishment!

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The FE cent find does sound outlandish, but it would help to explain the fact that PCGS and NGC combined have graded 169 MS 1856's, which is astounding considering only 1000 coins were minted...


The first time I read your response, I read it wrong (as most of the responses were disbelievers) but I just re-read it.


That is a large % of total coins minted. Is that 169 MS examples?

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The 1963 Redbook shows no amount on the line showing the 56 F.E.


In the description of the type, they mention "it is believed that about 1,000 were minted."


The 1978 edition shows 1,000 on the year in parenthesis.

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Here is a link to Coinfacts and more specifically the section on the 1856 Flying Eagle cent...


1856 FE Cent


It shows 750 Business strikes and approximately 1,500 hundred proofs struck. This would further hinder the believability that uncirculated rolls were found in the 60's as I don't believe I have ever heard of Proof Cents being stored in paper rolls....but....it is unlikely that anyone will ever learn the truth about what really happened and any new evidence either way does little to deminish the story as passed along to you. A Good story and one that was passed down through your father to you and nothing can change the conection between the two of you. (thumbs u

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The FE cent find does sound outlandish, but it would help to explain the fact that PCGS and NGC combined have graded 169 MS 1856's, which is astounding considering only 1000 coins were minted...


The reason so many exist in high grade is because the coin is a pattern that was distributed singly at the mint to showcase the new small cent design. Because of its popularity, it was restruck and sold singly to collectors.


It never circulated, it was never struck in circulation quantities, it never existed in rolls at the mint. The mint didn't even roll coins then.

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From Heritage Auction Galleries Press Release May, 2001





{{Toward the end of 1856, the Philadelphia Mint produced several hundred 1856 Flying Eagle cents for distribution to Treasury officials, Congressmen, and other VIPs in the federal government. Many more examples were made in 1858, 1859, and 1860 from 1856-dated dies. The exact number of 1856 Flying Eagle cents produced is still debated, but we do know that both business strikes and proofs were produced. In his 1992 book Flying Eagle and Indian Cents, Rick Snow estimates that 1,050 proofs and 500 business strikes were produced from 1856-1860. Since many of the originals were mishandled by the Washington notables who received them, and numerous restrikes have suffered similar fates at the hands of careless collectors, high grade representatives of this issue are understandably rare in today's hobby.}}






I'm pretty sure that my father said that they WERE NOT proofs, although my understanding is that PCGS gives all PF designation now. He always described them as GEM BU. The term "Mint Rolls" was my verbage. He said that they were in rolls. Obviously, anyone in possesion of 100 of these coins in the mid-20th century would likely have them in rolls, especially if he got them from re-strikes.


I am going to continue to research this, including contacting CW for possible access to issues from '62-'64. I think that if 100 of these hit the dealers, as the story is told, in a short time frame, proof of it would likely show up in some way in the pages of CW.


Maybe I'll make this the subject of my next book!





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BTW, I started wondering if maybe he found 2 rolls of 1857 F.E. and I just got the coin wrong. So I pulled out my copy of the 1963 Redbook that was in my father's collection.


The 1857's in BU went for $45

The 1858's in BU went for $80


These amounts are too small to be correct.


The 1856 F.E. in 1963 was $1,100 UNC and $1,450 proof (but I'm sure they weren't proof).


That would make the wholesale dealer price in the $300-$500, possibly a bit higher.


But he said he moved those coins in about a week. At $300 average, this would be about right.

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As I stated before.....it doesn't mater if others believe the story to be true......it absolutely could be and there probably isn't any way to prove it one way or the other so I would just enjoy your memories (thumbs u


I would say the story of one person owning (5) 1913 Liberty Nickels would be far fetched if we didn't all known the story behind what actually happened. If this little old ladies husband happened to have a family member or good friend working at the mint at some time prior to the turn of the century...there's no telling what they could have acquired? hm The fact that the coins were rolled doesn't mean they were rolled in 1856 as TDN pointed out......they could have been kept safe and then rolled anytime prior to 1964.....but I don't know when paper coin rollers were first made available? (shrug)


Good luck on your quest for knowledge....I did a preliminary search on the web for info and found no reference about Uncirculated FE rolls but that doesn't prove anything.

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Great stories there Moovyz. Whether there is 100% proof in them does not matter. These are stories from your Dad which are all added up to good memories. Thanks for sharing!!

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thank you for sharing..I thoroughly enjoyed reading the stories. I apologize for my fellow board members who immediately felt the need to challenge your wonderful memories, for whether they were an actual accurate recollection or a wonderful way of a father teaching a son the importance of treating people with respect and honesty--they were great.


I'd also love to read anyone else's stories of finding or discovering a nice coin or rarity....after all, isn't that why we still check our change after a cash transaction?

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I just spoke to a vey nice lady who is the Librarian for Coin World. Coin World began publication in 1960 and ALL of the back issues are on computer. She seemed very interested in both stories and she said she was going to spend the reat of today researching both. We talked about the posibility of an influx of 1856 F.E.'s appearing in dealer ads during the early 60's as well as possible articles that may have more direct relating of the incident.


She said she would call or email me anything she came up with.


I will update everyone here if she finds anything.


How exciting!

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Thanks for sharing the stories from your father's coin dealings.

He sounds like he was a fair and honorable man, which I am sure he was.


The two rolls of 1856 Flying Eagle Cents does push the story over the edge;

as it was mentioned that none were released for general circulation as they

went to Congressmen and dignitaries. These 100 - 1856 FE's might have

been "made-up" rolls - as alot of people would pull coins out of circulation

and roll them by date. They very well may have been AU's and lower end MS's.

That would have been more the case, as it was mentioned the Mint did not

roll coins then.


What I am most excited to see is the cover page showing the double date

1936 Buffalo Nickel. I subscribed to Coin World in early 1964 - and if memory

serves me right, that was close to the beginning of their publication.


Would you have a copy of the front page showing that coin - where you could scan

it for the rest of us to enjoy ? That'd be great !!


What's a 1856 inspired thread without an image ?



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The Librarian at COin World is searching th archives for infl on both stories. I will update you all if, an when she finds something. She said that all of the issues are on computer but the indexing is bad so searches were difficult.


I have no copies of the article of the 1936 DD Buffalo. If worse comes to worse, I may travel to Ohio to go through the issues myself. She said I would be granted permission, as long as I notified her in advance.


I think it would be a blast to go through back issues. If the 100 1856 F.E.'s were all sold in the N.E. in such a short time, I'm sure there would be evidence in CW. I think, at the very least, you would see a few pop up in dealers ads "all of the sudden".


I will keep you all informed of what I find. I know the story is hard to believe, but if you knew my father, there would be little doubt as to it's truth. He was just not the type of man to lie.


If anyone is interested, here is a link to his Memorial Website.



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Great stories!


A guy named John Beck from Pittsburgh once owned over 500 of the 1856 flyers (he died in the 1920's), and I believe someone before him had an even larger hoard. Don't know how the Beck hoard was dispersed, but having a hundred of them might not even be the 3rd largest hoard.

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