Ten Great Holiday Gifts
By Mark Benvenuto
The holidays are
closing in again, faster than many of us could
have thought possible and that means time to do
some holiday buying. Whether you have a huge
list of friends, or just a select few to shop
for, I'll cut right to the chase and give you 10
ideas of coins that have got to please someone.
I've skipped a few of the obvious ones, but I've
put a few on this list that many collectors may
not have thought about too much.
Pandas, or Other
These non-circulating, legal-tender pieces, or
bullion coins, all have one thing in common -
they're big. And let's face it, there's a bit of
the raven in all of us, with the desire to
collect shiny things for the glitter alone. So,
if you have people on your list for whom you can
think of nothing at all, why not try a silver
The prices of these coins are tagged to the
price of silver. That means most of them will
cost less than $20 today, especially if you buy
a piece that isn't in proof. Pandas historically
cost a little bit more, but that's because the
Chinese mint tends to keep the mintages rather
lean. Silver American Eagles fall in line with
most of the other world silver, which mean $20
can net you just about any, except perhaps one
of the earlier scarce dates.
Peace Silver Dollars.
If you want a big piece of silver that was
minted about a century ago, try a Morgan dollar
- and then add a Peace dollar to it. These two
are another duo within the many U.S. coinage
series that just plain catch a person's eye.
That friend, co-worker, or family member doesn't
have to be an avid numismatist to appreciate the
beauty of a Morgan or Peace dollar. These two
are coins that simply demand some attention.
Prices of Morgan and Peace dollars are also
attention getters, or at least the prices of the
common pieces are. For example, the 1881-S, with
more than 12 million to its total, runs about
$50 in Mint State-60. Certainly, that's not the
best of the best, but it can often be a very
attractive coin. Shop around a bit for a good
When it comes to attractive coins, Peace
dollars, sporting Anthony de Francisci's design,
have even more to offer. The 1922 can be had in
MS-60 for around $25, as can the 1922-D, the
1923, and the 1924. Not only is that a good
price for a fine-looking coin, but also, in the
case of the 1924, it's something of a bargain.
You see, the 1922 is the most common date of the
series, with 51.7 million minted. The 1924 has
11.8 million to its total, but the same price
attached to it, at least in lower mint-state
grades. If you really want to make someone
happy, there are also scarcer dates that can be
3. An Uncirculated
Walking Liberty Half or
Franklin Half Dollar.
Walking Liberty half dollars are perennial
favorites among collectors and a
handsome-looking example of this half could be
the spark that creates a new collector. For the
Walking Liberty halves, several of the dates
toward the tail end of the series can be had for
$35 each, usually in a grade such as MS-60.
At this point, a person might claim that coins
in MS-60 are pleasant to look at, but not truly
eye catching. Well, for the Walking Liberty half
dollars at least, a small increase in price can
get you some pretty good coins.
What I mean here is that all those dates that
will cost $35 in MS-60 will generally cost only
$75 in MS-64. No matter how you look at it,
MS-64s are very good looking items. What it
comes down to in making a choice like this is
simply whether you have that level of budget for
the people on your holiday list.
You should also take a look at the proofs. For
those who don't collect this series, there were
proofs issued from the Philadelphia Mint every
year, starting in 1950. By the last few years of
the series, even the proof mintages had gone
more than 1 million coins per year. You may be
surprised to find that your $20 to $40 expense
nets you a Proof-65 or even Proof-66 coin. Now
that's a neat gift!
United States Proof Set, Plus a
from a Foreign Country.
OK, proof sets as holiday gifts are something of
a mainstay. They work well if someone in the
family has had a baby that year, or even as the
gift that's just wrapped and waiting for that
unannounced party guest. They generally cost
less than $50, and they always look good.
But try a new twist this year. Add a proof set
from another country into the mix. Is your
family proud of its English heritage? Well then,
why not a set from the British Royal Mint? These
sets are rather royal looking themselves and can
be purchased from many sources.
But you don't have to have a family tree that
runs to a certain country to add a foreign proof
set to your gift list. Do you have a friend who
was stationed overseas, either in war or in
peace? There are proof sets from the countries
that came out of Yugoslavia, from the many
different nations of Europe, or even from South
Asia and the Far East.
Crown-Sized Piece from a European Country
That Has Converted to
While I'm on the subject of various world coins,
why not look at the wide variety of crown-sized
silver coins from the nations of Europe. Germany
is a nation with a particularly rich heritage in
crown-sized silver coins. Those from the
smallest of the German states might cost a bit,
but coins such as the five-mark pieces from
Prussia and Bavaria can often be found in near
uncirculated for $50 or less.
Coins like these are a great way to give a gift
that in turn gets a person curious. They now
have a piece of history in their hand, but have
to have a bit of fun in finding out just where
one of these states were, and why they are no
longer minted. It's a great present for a young
collector, but it can open a new door for a more
seasoned collector and friend as well.
Euro Proof Set.
If old and geographically odd is not the way to
go, how about going back to the idea of proof
sets as a gift, only this time look at euro
proof sets from any of the member states of the
European Union. Many collectors have commented
that the euros of Italy and Greece, as well as
those of France and Spain, seem to have become
instruments of national pride, at least for
those producing them. Undoubtedly, many of them
are lovely. When you do some hunting around for
those on your list, you'll most likely find the
prices are equally lovely.
Coin, no Matter How Tiny, from a Country
or State That is Remarkably Tiny.
How about Luxembourg, Monaco, San Marino,
Liechtenstein, Gibraltar, Vatican City, Hong
Kong, Lesotho, Tristan de Cunha, or Andorra. All
of these places, and quite a few more that I
haven't mentioned, qualify as very small and as
issuers of a lot of coins. These can be fun
gifts for young people and the adults on your
What is really amazing about the coins of some
of the lands I have just listed is that you can
find them in the junk boxes that some dealers
keep. The smaller coins of Hong Kong, for
example, often cost $1 or less and are fun to
collect. Dig a few out of some bargain bin, and
turn them into stocking stuffers.
Coronet Gold $5.
If you are trying hard to get gifts for everyone
on your list, and to do it on the cheap, a gold
coin may not be the way to go. On the flip side,
if you want a gold piece that is affordable and
has some serious history to it, Coronet gold $5s
are for you.
First minted in 1839, the Coronet design is the
work of Christian Gobrecht and was the design
used for that coin up to 1908, with only minor
alterations throughout all those decades.
The series saw some amazing highs and lows. For
instance, the first year of issue, 1839, sports
these gold $5s from the Philadelphia, Charlotte,
and Dahlonega mints.
The 1839-C mintage was only 17,205, which makes
it too expensive for almost anyone's shopping
list this holiday season. But by 1847, the
mintage total for the Philadelphia Mint was
915,981 coins, making this the most common coin
in the series for decades. At $375 in Very Fine,
it's not too tough on the wallet either.
To go one better, if the 1847 seems common, try
out the 1881, with 5.7 million pieces. This coin
runs around $235 in MS-60, which isn't bad for a
gold coin with that amount of history attached
Silver Roman Denarius and a Herodian
These two coins may seem an odd choice for a
gift, but both are pieces with religious
connections that resonate with some. The first,
the silver denarius, is said to be the type of
coin Jesus held up as an example when he told
the learned men to: "Render unto Caesar the
things which are Caesar's, and unto God the
things that are God's."
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the Roman
denarii today is the price. Since these coins
were made throughout the empire, there are
plenty available in the market. Some have prices
below $100, and all are bound to make someone
happy during the holiday season.
The second of my ancient coin choices, the
Herodian copper coin, which is said to be the
same coin as the small copper pieces the poor
widow put into the temple box, when Jesus
pointed out to the people that she had given
more than they had, because she gave all that
she had to live on. These small coppers are
coins that King Herod was allowed to produce,
even though he was subordinate to the Roman
They served a special function, because they did
not have a royal portrait on them. That lack of
portrait meant that these coins could be used to
pay the temple tax. A coin with a portrait on it
was considered a type of idol, and could not be.
When it comes to purchasing a Herodian piece or
two as a gift, you may be very pleasantly
surprised to find that these cost far less than
a king's ransom. Many of them were quite crudely
made, which helps keep the prices low. But even
well-centered pieces will often cost less than
Gift of Knowledge - a Subscription to
Coins, Coin Prices, or Any Other Krause
There is no going wrong with a subscription to
Coins or one of its sister publications. You get
the latest in coin prices, good articles, and a
host of dealers from whom you can buy excellent
coins to enlarge your own collection.
Plus, a knowledgeable collector is usually a
happy collector. The more you know about the
subject, the less you are going to overpay for a
new item. With all that going for one
subscription, it's a surprise that every
collector doesn't already get their mitts on
these magazines each month.
Well, there's a laundry list of items you can
give to family, friends, close relatives (or the
relative who only shows up around the holiday),
friends at work, or even to yourself. I've
included some of those big pieces that have a
great feel in the hand, some that have great
history attached to them, at least one piece
that is made of gold, and quite a few that will
have you scouring an atlas to find where they
were issued. Plus, I've planted the seed about
keeping this magazine, or others like it, coming
at you all year around.
Enjoy the holidays!