Constable: The 'Big 4' at Schaumburg coin show are quite a cache

  • The "Big 4" at the Central States Numismatic Society convention in Schaumburg have a face value of $1.16. But those coins are actually worth $19 million, says Ian Russell, president of GreatCollections Coin Auctions.

      The "Big 4" at the Central States Numismatic Society convention in Schaumburg have a face value of $1.16. But those coins are actually worth $19 million, says Ian Russell, president of GreatCollections Coin Auctions. Burt Constable | Staff Photographer

  • As president of GreatCollections Coin Auctions, Ian Russell deals with many antique coins valued in the millions of dollars. But he also represents the owner of this 1000 Bitcoins physical coin, who bought it in 2011 for $4,905. Now it's worth $40 million.

    As president of GreatCollections Coin Auctions, Ian Russell deals with many antique coins valued in the millions of dollars. But he also represents the owner of this 1000 Bitcoins physical coin, who bought it in 2011 for $4,905. Now it's worth $40 million. Courtesy of GreatCollections

  • This 1804 silver dollar was minted as a gift from President Andrew Jackson to the sultan of Muscat (the capital of Oman) in 1835. On display at the Central States Numismatic Society convention in Schaumburg, the coin is now worth $9 million.

    This 1804 silver dollar was minted as a gift from President Andrew Jackson to the sultan of Muscat (the capital of Oman) in 1835. On display at the Central States Numismatic Society convention in Schaumburg, the coin is now worth $9 million. Courtesy of GreatCollections

  • Purchased for less than $5,000 in 2011, this physical Casascius 1000 Bitcoins piece is now worth $40 million, making it the most valuable bitcoin in the world.

    Purchased for less than $5,000 in 2011, this physical Casascius 1000 Bitcoins piece is now worth $40 million, making it the most valuable bitcoin in the world. Courtesy of GreatCollections

  • The Central States Numismatic Society convention in Schaumburg draws 800 dealers and several thousand coin collectors, says Larry Shepherd, convention manager. He encourages people to bring in old coins to have them appraised.

      The Central States Numismatic Society convention in Schaumburg draws 800 dealers and several thousand coin collectors, says Larry Shepherd, convention manager. He encourages people to bring in old coins to have them appraised. Burt Constable | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/28/2022 8:20 AM

For its 83rd annual convention in Schaumburg, the Central States Numismatic Society features spectacular collections of gorgeous and rare antique coins whose values haven't been tied to whatever billionaire Elon Musk tweets about them.

"You're not going to see coins like this on the internet," says Larry Shepherd, convention manager for the society of coin collectors, who happens to be standing in front of a display for the "Big 4."

 

GreatCollections Coin Auctions of Irvine, California, is hosting the display.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these four coins together," says Ian Russell, GreatCollections president

Russell holds an 1804 silver dollar that was minted as a gift from President Andrew Jackson to the sultan of Muscat (the capital of Oman) in 1835. His GreatCollections.com represents the owner, who purchased the coin last August for $7.68 million and now insures it for $9 million.

"This is the king of American silver dollars," Russell says. "It's the rarest silver dollar in the United States."

That coin shares the spotlight with three other rare finds.

In 1913, the U.S. mints changed to nickels featuring an Indian head on one side and a buffalo on the other, but a few coins were minted featuring a Liberty head.

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"There's only five coins known, and this is the finest known," Russell says of the near-perfect nickel, valued at $7.5 million and on display at the convention.

One of the finest of nine known dimes struck in 1894 at the San Francisco Mint, the 10-cent piece in GreatCollections' display is now worth $2 million.

The fourth coin is a 1943 Lincoln penny mistakenly made of bronze instead of the zinc-coated steel used during World War II. It's worth $350,000.

"It was found in change," Russell says of the rare penny in near-perfect condition. "We sold a second example that was found in a gumball machine in Philadelphia in 1976."

Ordinary people can buy collectible coins for less than $10 at the convention, and some have brought in rare and valuable coins they found in an old coffee can or in a collection that belonged to a grandparent, says Shepherd.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Every once in a while it pays off," Shepherd says. "Dealers refer to it as, 'This just walked in the door,' as if the coin has legs."

But just because a coin is old doesn't mean it's valuable or rare.

"Nobody throws a coin away," Shepherd says. "If they made a million in 1850, there's still probably 999,000 of them."

One coin under the representation of Russell and GreatCollections is unlike all other coins.

"My client purchased it for less than $5,000 in 2011," Russell says of a 1000 bitcoins Casascius physical coin made out of an ounce of gold with a hologram and private key on the back.

"It's now worth $40 million. It has to be the best investment in collectibles ever."

The buyer "didn't really know what it was at the time," Russell says.

When he read about bitcoins soaring in value, he rummaged through a desk drawer and found it. That his original purchase is now worth 8,000 times what he paid for it, and the buyer doesn't want to sell now because he thinks it will go even higher, says something about the cryptocurrency market, Russell says.

Many traditional coin collectors are adding cryptocurrency to diversify their collections, he says.

But he notes that the old coins are "art" with "history." "The reputations of these coins have been going on for 2,000 years," Russell says.

"If Elon Musk tweets negative about the 1804 silver dollar, I don't think it would have an effect," says Russell, who encourages @elonmusk to jump into the debate. "I don't think they (coin collectors) would buy the coin if they cared about Elon Musk tweets."

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