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Rare As A Three Dollar Bill

Coin collectors have a couple different ways to evaluate their collection: there’s the collectible value, based on the market, but then there’s also the face value. What use is a collectible coin that’s worth less than its face value? I once knew a shrewd collector who talked a seller into parting with the entire contents of a coin collection for $500 cash. None of the coins were particularly old or rare… but their face value totaled almost a thousand dollars. Money can be tricky, like that thousand dollar coin could end up in the take-a-penny-leave-a-penny bowl at the gas station. What’s money really worth?

Now, let’s consider the collector who’s after the elusive three dollar bill. Granted, they’re usually mentioned as a joke, but $3 have been around, and they do go for a pretty penny on eBay. In the next few weeks, though, something odder than a $3 is coming up for sale: original printing plates for numerous currency notes are hitting the auction block, including a $3 from Texas. As we talked about last week, printers’ blocks are most valuable because they’re the only ones that exist. What could be queerer than the printing plates for a $3 bill? If the joke came about because nobody thinks a $3 bill has much value, they’d be a bit surprised to see the truth.

The statehood quarters require a closer look, though. While the Mint claims they’re not being minted for collectibility, many have found their way into specially designed albums and maps for collection purposes. The Statehood coin folder I have at home proudly claims that it holds $25 worth of coins when full; I don’t doubt that’s all I’m going to fit into it. Hopefully I’ll never have a lapse of judgement and sell the collection goldmickey.jpgfor less than that. Despite the purported low value, a cottage industry revolves around the dealing of these quarters, from pre-assembled sets to ones painted more realistically. One of the coins, however, has increased in value due to corn. Three different variations have appeared in the Wisconsin quarter’s corncob, causing collectors to pay upwards of $500 for a complete set. Unlike the $3 bill, however, there’s nothing to stop a coin collector from getting one of these as change, letting it pass through their pockets, finally handing it to a cashier when making a purchase, all without realizing its actual value.

Gold isn’t inherently collectible, but coins minted from gold–even bearing dollar amounts–are around for collectors. While ones from the US Mint are (for the most part) legal tender, they can’t easily be mistaken for pocket change. Non-collectors are interested in them for their investment value as gold, but numismatists, no doubt, would discourage melting down a finely minted, uncirculated coin just for its value as metal. The same applies to other gold collectibles, including one particular statue. This Celebration Mickey was commissioned in 2001: a solid gold, two foot tall Mickey Mouse statue. Unfortunately, the maker of the statue hasn’t found a buyer. The current owner is still waiting for the perfect Disney collector, one with both a love for Mickey and deep pockets, but they haven’t materialized yet. The appraisal of the statue comes in at over $4 million dollars, even though the statue only contains $1 million dollars of gold. If I ever thought I was crazy, it was by uttering the phrase “only $1 million dollars.” Gold speculators might be drooling over the amount of gold found in one spot, but the appraisal shows how important it is to keep collectibles intact.

Whether you’ve got extra corn husks on your quarter or a multimillion dollar Mickey in your closet, know that the main reason they’re more valuable than the metal they’re minted from is because they’re rarer than a $3 bill. Unless you have some of those lying around, too.


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lose inches not pounds Interesting article I totally agree with the comments above. Keep us posting. June 28th, 2010 at 4:40 PM

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