U.S. & World Coin News and Articles

Collecting Barber Coins

Chuck D'Ambra: "Jack, I'd like to ask you a few questions about collecting Barber coins."

Jack Beymer: "It's something I kind of specialize in. It specialized in me actually."

CD: "How's that?"

JB: "Well, I went to work for a coin dealer who specialized in Buffalo nickels named J.R. Hollinger, up in Portland, Oregon. I saw that his business was general U.S., and I saw that he specialized in Buffalo nickels. So I thought when I started advertising that I set up at coin shows in the middle '60s, '64 on up, I should probably consider specializing in a certain area. Well, I had my collection of coins that I was advertising: a Lincoln set collection, an Indian head set, Buffalo nickels, Mercury dimes - fairly modern U.S. material. So I thought I really should specialize in some area, but I had no idea, because I liked the whole general range of U.S. coins.

"I was at a coin show about 1968 in San Jose, California, and a guy sold me some semi-key and key Barber dimes. He was a breastpocket dealer, and that was some of the things he had in his stock. I bought those coins, and I ran an ad in just general U.S. and included, of course, these new purchases of Barber dimes. Lo and behold, that was the one area that sold! Almost everything this guy had sold me I sold. Well, that's interesting...maybe I'll go out and buy some more Barber coins and see what happens. I advertised a whole run of coins, and again this was an area that was selling. For some reason, there must not have been very many people selling them, or there was a collector need out there for these coins. So I said well, maybe I should specialize in Barber coins.

"So, it was the market that told me what to do, not me and my interest telling myself what I should do! Because of it I got involved in stock, and I'd just buy tons of Barber coins for people."

CD: "What do you feel is a good grade of Barber coins to collect?"

JB: "The collector has to decide maybe ahead of time. If he can collect uncirculated coins, that's fine. But he has to realize that each and every coin is going to cost him a lot of money. It depends on the patience of the collector. If the collector feels that he can do this over a span of time, and he can be happy to get one coin occasionally, then that's fine. Some people aren't happy with that. Some people just want to buy it and fill up the book and move on to something else. There's just all sorts of things involved and all sorts of varieties of coins."

CD: "What are the key dates in each of the series: dimes, quarters, and halves?"

JB: "Dimes, of course, 95-O is the key date and, of course, 95 Philadelphia, 96 New Orleans, 97 New Orleans, 96 San Francisco, 01-S Barber Dime.

"Barber Quarter, of course, there's three keys: the 96-S, 01-S and 13-S.

"Halves, there is quite a few of them, of course the 92 O and S, 93-S, 96-S, 97 O and S, 04-S, O1-S. Some of the key coins in high grade aren't key coins in low grade. The O4-S Barber Half is a very easy coin to find in low grade but extremely difficult to find in very fine or better. The 98-O Barber Half is easy to find in good condition but very difficult to find in very fine or better. The 01-S is the same. The 05-O is another date very difficult to find in very fine or better grade but not that difficult to find in low grade. So it depends on the grade that the person's collecting."

CD: "What are some of the key points to look for in grading Barber coins?"

JB: "Well, the Liberty on the obverse, of course, and the wing tips on the eagle on the reverse. Generally, the Liberty is the most important thing. For example, generally a coin graded very good should usually have at least three full letters of Liberty. Some people add up these little parts of the letters all over the place that add up to three full. I usually like to have three full letters of Liberty for very good. Fine, I like to have all the letters complete - slightly weak in a spot or two but mainly complete. Very strong Liberty on a very fine, and a strong Liberty with the headband complete above and below for extremely fine."

CD: "How are prices now compared with historic levels?"

JB: "They seem to be higher now than they have been in the past. It's been a series that has been collected fairly heavily in the last five to six years."

CD: "Would you recommend the collector go out and buy the keys first?"

JB: "Oh, definitely, because they are the ones that seem to go up the most."

CD: "What are some references you would recommend?"

JB: "Anytime anybody's buying and collecting any series - it doesn't matter whether it's Barbers or what it is - they should buy books that give them some ideas of someone else's ideas about a series. David Lawrence issued some books on Barber dimes, quarters and halves. They're kind of an overview. They're not really in depth books, because they don't cover all the varieties, but its a start. Walter Breen's book, Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins is an excellent book that has varieties listed that are not listed other places for all the U.S. Series. It's really a good book for entire series from colonial to gold, and it has some varieties that are collectible that people might not know exist. For example, one of the really rare coins in the Barber Half Series is the 1892-O micro 'o' half dollar. I don't think it's listed in the red book or anywhere, and the average collector may not even know it exists, yet a coin in good condition is probably worth six, seven hundred dollars. That's certainly worthwhile knowing, if you happen to find one!"

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