The elusive treasure

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Chances are good that somewhere in your home there is a box of old coins you have collected and have been hoping, someday, might be valuable. In my case, the coins came from different sources, including some Canadian fifty-cent pieces that an elderly aunt once gave me.
Also among my coins are some intriguing ones including three U.S. half dollars commemorating JFK, a U.S. silver half dollar minted in 1881 and a worn 1821 Nova Scotia penny. Back in 1964, I bought a silver proof set consisting of an uncirculated penny, nickel, dime, quarter, 50-cent piece and a silver dollar—a unique memento of our son’s birth.
I have since purchased several more and also a number of circulated Canadian silver dollars. What I have most treasured are some 1976 Olympic silver $5 and $10 coins. I have always hoped they might prove to be a good investment.
Recently, I decided to have the collection appraised. I chose the Citadel Coin Shop in Halifax. Owner Gerard Feehan has an excellent reputation and owns the only coin business in Halifax that qualifies as a Royal Canadian Mint Distributor.
My first memorable moment at his store was discovering why it’s so important to have an “expert” appraiser. This was immediately clear because when I had asked my bank about the fifty cents pieces I had “hoarded.” I was told they were almost worthless but if I brought them into the bank, they’d kindly give me 50 cents for each of them. Fortunately, Feehan told me otherwise. He said the coins can still be used and five of mine contained silver worth $25, not $2.50.
And, then there were my prized Olympic 1976 silver dollars. He told me I could only expect to receive the value of the silver they each contained—about $30 for the $10 coins—$15 for the five-dollar version. (I didn’t sell them!)
I left with $240, which wasn’t the fortune I’d hope for, but not a disappointment, either. And I learned that if you want to do well at coin collecting, you need to get serious about it. Educate yourself and don’t look at coin collecting as potential treasure hunt. Valuable coins seldom turn up in pocket change or at flea markets. And be wary of buying coins that are mass-produced for special events—they rarely appreciate in value. And finally, a bit of advice from my years as a consumer reporter: find a good, reliable coin expert to appraise your collection.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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