Coin Collecting, From Seashells to the Morgan Dollar and the Lincoln Penny

When the sea is too far away to take a daily or even weekly stroll along its frothy shore, people learn to make do. For instance, those naturally inclined to collect seashells have been known to turn to coin collecting in a sign of acceptance to their landlocked fate. Those who notice such things will even say that there’s an especially deep connection here: shells themselves were once used as coins, so, in a way, it’s another form of coin collecting!

But in all seriousness, the custodianship of metal currency has a fervent following. More than a hobby, it’s also a business, a form of investment, and an engagement with one’s history. At present, the American silver dollar and its bygone cohorts are highly favored among the collecting crowd. Given that people have been raving about precious metals pretty much since the beginning of recorded time, the tradition, unsurprisingly, continues till this day. No one can deny that the shimmery and reflective nature of gold and silver has been a sight to behold for millennia.

The Morgan dollar, a coin that’s 90 percent silver, saw its minting heyday during the bracket years of 1878 and 1921. Collectors are especially desirous of Morgan coins with rare dates, but the most common one to encounter is dated1921. Those who are a little sketchy on the presidential progression of this country might be forgiven for mistakenly taking “Morgan” to refer to some early Commander in Chief. But savant Samaritans can be counted on to correct the error: Morgan is the name of the coin’s designer, George T. Morgan. This exemplar is so popular that the only other coin outranking it in celebrity is the beloved Lincoln penny.

Now, coin connoisseurs are known for going to great lengths to add a specifically dated coin to their collection, but their dedication does not stop there. These folks, also, proudly devise and employ rigorous methods of testing and certification to determine coin value. Factors taken into consideration include: total number of examples thought to be in circulation; design; mint date; overall condition (is it mint condition?); and general popularity. The magnitude of the collector market also has a big effect on the final value. In certain circles, the Morgan and the Lincoln penny have been known to give even gold bullion coins a run for their money!

Sam Walters is a writer living in Los Angeles. Her writing appears in print and online.

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