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Coin Tales: My Eyes Hurt
By Dr. R.S. "Bart" Bartanowicz
February 12, 2014

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine.
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“You told me to look at a lot of Morgan dollars. I browsed the Internet the other day, and I’ve looked at everything here at the show. I’ve found a couple of coins I really like. I’m ready to buy. Would you go with me and take a look at the coins?”

“Sure. Where are we going?”

“I found two dealers,” the protégé responded. Both men were friendly, and they asked what my interests were. I explained that I was going to put together a type set of five Morgan dollars with one from each mint. They both had the S-mint Morgan dollar I was looking for. One fellow has about a dozen Morgan dollars that are especially nice. The other gentleman had a case full of Morgan dollars loaded with toned coins.”

They started with the dealer who had the fewest Morgan dollars. The protégé pointed to two coins and asked, “Can I see these Morgan dollars again?” The dealer smiled and handed them over to the protégé. The dealer looked at our numismatist and asked, “What’s your role? Are you the expert consultant?” Our numismatist smiled, “You know me, Bill. I’m just the sidekick.”

The protégé spoke up, “I’m torn between these two coins. They’re both certified as MS-64 and the price is the same. I like the toned coin, but the white one is really nice too.”

The dealer spoke up, “The coin you’re looking at has rim toning, which provides a nice contrast to the rest of the coin. This toning usually comes from coins being housed in an old coin album where the chemicals in the cardboard interacted with the coin, which causes the toning. For what it’s worth, I have both rim toned and white coins in my personal collection.”

The protégée turned to our numismatist with a questioning look. “You can ask Bill if he would mind holding on to the coins for a few minutes while you go look at the other table so you can make up your mind.” The dealer responded, “I can hold the coins for a bit while you go look. Just let me know if you decide to buy elsewhere so I can put them back in the case.”

They went over to the other dealer, named Jeff. The protégée looked at two similar Morgans, saying to the dealer, “You have a lot to choose from. The toned coins are terrific. I’m not sure how to assemble a collection of toned Morgans.” The dealer responded, “A lot of folks go for maximum diversity, ranging from partial to full toning. Some specialize in specific colors or patterns. I try to have a full range of toned offerings as well as white coins.”

The protégée responded, “I’m impressed, but I think I’ll pass for right now.” The dealer didn’t seem bothered by the rejection. “That’s fine. I’m here at this show twice a year. You’re more than welcome to come back. I always have something new in my Morgan inventory.”

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Walking back to Bill’s table our numismatist asked, “So, my friend, have you made a decision?” After a pause the answer was, “I like Bill’s coins better. Either coin fits the bill. I need to see how much he will take.”

The protégée approached the dealer’s table and started the negotiations. “I like both coins. Is there one you can give me a better price on?” The dealer looked at the coins and checked his dealer’s code on the stickers and said, “Tell you what, the price is the same for either coin, but I will discount each coin an equal amount.”

“Wow, you’re not making this easy. I’ll take the toned Morgan. I love the rim toning and from what I can see I’ll have a better chance of finding rim-toned Morgan dollars that sort of match each other.” Our numismatist nodded, saying, “Excellent choice.”

Saying goodbye, the dealer said, “You’re friend may not need you anymore. He knows what he likes and he’s careful about what he buys.” Our numismatist said, “Yep, I think you’re right.”

And this concludes another coming of numismatic age story. If you’re a newcomer or an experienced collector, it’s good to have a mentor or someone who is familiar with what you’re collecting. With our story, the coin of choice is the ever popular and venerable Morgan dollar.

The Morgan dollar series offers many collecting possibilities. Collectors love these large silver coins. The collecting of the numerous Morgan varieties is a popular pursuit.

Morgan’s can have spectacular, and sometimes not-so-spectacular toning. Because they are pricey, especially in mint state, you should always look at a lot of coins before embarking on a project. This will sharpen your skills and also let you decide how or what you want to collect, be it varieties, toned coins and so on. This will also help you establish a budget.

My suggestion is to start out with a smaller set such as the five-coin type set discussed in our story. Oh, by the way, do I like toned coins? Yep, I do like some toned Morgan dollars. My favorite is bluish rim toning. I also like white coins. It all comes down to your personal preferences. Just remember to look a lot of coins and bring along some eye drops when you start.

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