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Attracted to copper rounds
By Mike Thorne, Ph.D.
October 06, 2017

Have you ever encountered an interesting coin or coin-related object where you least expected it? That happened to me recently on a trip to Alaska with my wife.

With some others from our ship, we had just finished a walking tour in Haines guided by a woman who has been a resident of the tiny town (population 1,713) for many years. Among other things, she told us that one of the hardest things to do in Haines is to make money. She further confessed that she has seven different jobs, one of which is guiding tours.

My wife’s ears pricked up when our guide said that another of her occupations is making jewelry. Hearing this, my wife asked her where some of her jewelry is for sale. Our guide pointed to a nearby shop, and off we went.

At this point, I must note that my wife has almost never entered a store, particularly one with jewelry, without making a purchase. While she was perusing the case of items made by our guide, I spotted a display that caught my eye: a number of copper rounds. As they were priced at only $3 each, I decided to buy the most coin-like examples. My wife was happy with this because she wanted to buy a fairly expensive piece of our guide’s jewelry.

As I recall, there were about a dozen different copper rounds on display. Some of these had a political bent, such as advocating Second Amendment rights and touting slogans such as “Don’t Tread on Me.” The ones that appealed to me, however, were those that look remarkably like coins in my collection.

The rounds are about 38 mm in diameter, which is the size of a large silver dollar. Indeed, one of the rounds I purchased bears the obverse design of a Morgan dollar without a date. The reverse, by contrast, differs completely from the real thing. In place of the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST,” the Morgan round has “COPPER .999 FINE” and a flowing American flag. Below is a very stylized eagle or eagle’s wings, with a shield in the middle and rays all around. Under the shield is “USA.” Below these devices is a date (2012) and the words “One AVDP Ounce.” The “coin” is reeded, and the finish appears proof-like.

Another round looks like a Walking Liberty half dollar on the obverse, without a date. The reverse is a match for the Morgan dollar round described above.

The third round and the one that really caught my eye is the spitting image of a Mercury dime. The date on my piece is 2013. Unlike the other two rounds, the reverse at first glance appears to be a match for the real thing.

The differences involve the lettering, not the central design elements. The fasces is well defined as is the olive branch behind it. Despite an otherwise sharp strike, the center band is completely flat. No split bands here.

On this copper round, “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” is replaced by “.999 FINE COPPER,” and instead of “ONE DIME,” it reads “ONE AVDP OUNCE.” Otherwise, the round appears to be a dollar-sized, reddish-hued Mercury dime.

Naturally, after paying $3 apiece for the rounds, when I got home I went online to check what they are really selling for. Of course, at only $3 each how badly could I have done?

A Google search of “one ounce copper rounds” produced 4.7 million results, which convinced me that these things aren’t scarce even though I had never seen or heard of them. The next time I searched the same words, I got 13.5 million hits! Obviously, they’re becoming more common by the minute.

Most of the listings on the first page of Google hits were for major bullion suppliers, such as APMEX, JM Bullion, and Provident Metals. Amazon and eBay also list people selling copper rounds.

The first seller I clicked on, APMEX, sells a large and diverse array of copper rounds, some of which are copies of at least one side of U.S. coins. From them, for example, you can purchase copper rounds bearing the obverse of a Buffalo nickel (they have another round with the reverse design), Indian Head cent, Flowing Hair dollar, and Barber half dollar. The reverse on most of these rounds is like the Morgan dollar reverse I described above.

APMEX also offers copper rounds featuring both sides of popularly collected U.S. coins. For example, you can purchase rounds that depict obverse and reverse of Lincoln cents, Indian Head $2.50 or $5 gold pieces, and Peace dollars.

So, did I pay too much for my $3 copper rounds? APMEX advertises prices for rounds “as low as $0.99,” but you have to buy at least 500 pieces to get this price. For single rounds, the price is $1.49 plus a shipping charge if your order is for less than $98.

To get an idea of the price for single copper rounds, I looked at eBay sales. There were 163 results, which, for single one-ounce rounds were priced from $2.40 with free shipping to $12.50 plus $2.79 shipping. The least expensive item was a round depicting both obverse and reverse of the Walking Liberty half dollar.

The most expensive round was one with “The Kraken Queen,” which had a figure looking like an octopus with the skull head of a queen. On the reverse, there’s the right facing skull of the queen, with the motto, “KEEP CALM AND SLAVE ON.” The seller noted that the purchase of this item is “A great way to start a copper round collecting hobby.” I’m not so sure that I agree with this statement, as who would want a copper round showing “The Kraken Queen”?

I can see collecting some of the other one-ounce copper rounds, however. Personally, I would want only the ones showing both sides of popularly collected coins.

Will this be the beginning of a new collection for me? Only time will tell.

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