[audio:https://westchestergold.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Tradio-2-7-14.mp3|titles=Steve Duke Presents Tradio Gems:  Strange Things bought quiz  with Steve Duke of Westchester Gold and Diamonds]

Steve Duke:          … that I’ve bought at Westchester Gold in 40 years.

Ken Lovejoy:       Wow! I’ll bet you’ve been approached with a lot of weird stuff.

Steve:                    Here are three of the items, and one would be an answer… a dinosaur.

Ken:                      Wow! A full one or just a…

Steve:                    A full dinosaur.

Ken:                      Wow.

Steve:                    A full-sized black panther.

Ken:                      Taxidermy?

Steve:                    Yep, or a 1957 Silver Don Rolls-Royce.

Ken:                      Ooo!

Steve:                    What would you choose on that one?

Ken:                      Why would… again, it’s probably like the previous question, all three is probably what you’ve been there, but the Rolls…

Steve:                    That’s see… that’s true.

Ken:                      But I could see someone, PGI, you know? Coming up in a, you know, hitting the skids. [Laughter] Got to get rid of stuff, so they bring you the Rolls and see what you’ll give them.

Steve:                    The answer is actually I bought all three.

Ken:                      Really?

Steve:                    … at different points of time in my career.

Ken:                      Tell us about the Rolls.

Steve:                    It was a 1957 Silver Don Rolls-Royce, a beautiful car. I mean, it was just sweet, and at the old shop we had a big warehouse in the back, and at that time I used to drive a 1967 Corvette, and a Rolls was a large difference from that.

Ken:                      The beast, yeah.

Steve:                    And I remember being out in the back, and we had them open the door so I could pull the Rolls in, and those things are huge! They’re massive, and I’m trying to make that turn to get into the warehouse, and I go boom! And I ran the Rolls-Royce into the metal frame of the sliding door, the warehouse door.

Ken:                      Sliding glass door?

Steve:                    And I went, “Oh no!” and I jumped out. I didn’t even put a dent in that bumper.

Ken:                      [Laughter]

Steve:                    Those bumpers were just indestructible! But it was a left-hand drive. It was a very cool car.

Ken:                      Yeah, I’ll bet.

Steve:                    I’d called a friend of mine up in Tampa who’s a big watch dealer, and I told him what I had. He came down here, and he was so excited he was going to buy this Roll from me. And Jeff is a large fella, 300 plus pounds, and he couldn’t get behind the wheel, and that queered the deal!

Ken:                      Yes!

Steve:                    But I’d wound up…

Ken:                      He couldn’t get that…

Steve:                    No.

Ken:                      Because he couldn’t get behind the…

Steve:                    He’s a big boy.

Ken:                      Wow!

Steve:                    And but that was a Silver Don that I had, and that was a neat thing, and a lot of people say, “You know, what do you buy at Westchester Gold & Diamonds?” I buy everything. I mean, you know, if it’s something neat, I always love to take a look at that stuff.

So like I said, we’ve had everything from full-sized black panthers, probably 11-12 feet long, full mounted black panther to a dinosaur skeleton, which we have in the shop right now, to 1957 Silver Don Rolls-Royces, so that’s a little background on me and the shop.

Now, some of the questions I’m going to ask now are things that we’ve gone over, usually, at 9:30 we talk about. What are dimes, quarters, and half dollars made of if they were minted before 1965: aluminum and brass, copper and chromium, or 90 percent silver?

Ken:                      Pennies, too?

Steve:                    No.

Ken:                      Oh, just nickels.

Steve:                    Dimes, quarters, and half dollars.

Ken:                      Dimes, quarters… I would go with “C”.

Steve:                    Ninety percent silver?

Ken:                      Yes.

Steve:                    And that’s correct. A lot of people have these coins lying around, and they’re kicking around… they may have inherited them from their folks or their grandparents and stuff. They’re lying around, and they’re going, “You know, I’m just too lazy to roll them up and take them to the bank.”

Don’t do it if they’re printed before 1965, they’ve got silver content. They’re 90 percent silver.

Ken:                      What’s a 1944 ‘50s half-dollar go for?

Steve:                    Right now, I don’t know what silver is doing today, but it’s worth about between six to seven dollars.

Ken:                      What!

Steve:                    Just for the silver content.

Ken:                      Wow, that’s cool.

Steve:                    So, I mean, a lot of people don’t realize.

Ken:                      Because you’re embarrassed.

Steve:                    Yeah!

Ken:                      Fifty cents for pitcher of beer! [Laughter]

Steve:                    Exactly, right. A lot of people don’t realize what their coins are really worth. You know, they say, “Well, they’re dirty, and they’re probably not worth anything.”

The stuff before 1964, your dimes, your quarters, and your half dollars have silver content value, plus they can be valuable because of what they are, the condition, and there’s a couple… there are some rare dates in there, too.

Ken:                      Hm!

Steve:                    And believe it or not, the half dollars from 1965 to 1970 are actually 40 percent silver, so they’ve got value, as well.

So, you know, if you’ve got a bunch of stuff you’re getting ready to take to the bank, don’t do it. Bing it in, we’ll go through it real quick for you. We’ll whip through that stuff, and tell you if you have anything that’s got any kind of value to it. Will, all U.S. coins have a face value?

Ken:                      Will all U.S. coins have a face value?

Steve:                    Will they have printed on the front or the back of that coin?

Ken:                      Yeah.

Steve:                    The answer is… yes! Lots of times back in the 1850s — 1840’s, 1850’s and 1860s — California gold coins were printed, and there were also souvenir California gold coins, and the way we determine whether it’s a genuine California gold coin, a lot of them were actual fractional currency.

It was a little gold coin, but it was worth 25 cents, or it could have been worth 50 cents, or it could have been worth $1.00.

And the way you can actually tell the genuines from the souvenir pieces — because all U.S. coins have to have a denomination on them to be legal currency — it will say the word either “dollar” written out or the word “DOL.”  The abbreviation for dollar.

So, if you’ve got a little gold coin like that and you’re not sure if it’s genuine or not, the souvenir pieces will have a bear on the back of it. Generally, they will not have any kind of a denomination, so this is the way that you can tell what you’ve got there.

And here’s another question: Is there a tax on gold or silver coins? When you go to buy them from a coin dealer, should you have to pay tax on those?

Ken:                      Well, he’s selling you.

Steve:                    Correct.

Ken:                      He’s making a sale.

Steve:                    Yeah.

Ken:                      I don’t know. I mean, all the laws and legalities.

Steve:                    Well, you know, I’ve been in stores where I’ve watched people come in and they’re coin collectors, you know, and they’ll buy coins, or some of them invest in gold and silver.

And a lot of times when they’re investing in gold and silver when gold and silver were really high, the coin value was usually less than what the bullion value was, the gold content was. They had a lot of people who would buy, and even still today, they buy what we call “bags of silver,” which is a $1,000 in face value of silver coins, and these are traded on a stock exchange.

But if someone wants some hard assets, they want to take their basically worthless paper currency and put it into something that’s going to have value forever, then they buy a lot of silver coin.

So they can buy $1,000 in face value: they can buy one dollar in silver. You know, I’ve got people who come in and whatever their budget is that week, “this is how much I want to spend with you,” and I’ve watched dealers say, “Okay. Well, you know, this is $10,000 and you’ve got $700 in tax”

So my question would be, “Is there a tax on gold or silver coins?” Well, there’s a tax, but the vender keeps it, or the State regulates it. Or no, it’s considered “the coin of the realm,” and the third answer is your correct answer.

You shouldn’t be taxed on those things because it’s what we call “coin of the realm,” and as long as it has denomination on it, there is no tax. This is why lots of times people will come in and buy just silver bars, and a vendor will say to them, “Well, you know, it’s $20 plus the sales tax.”

If you came in and bought the silver Eagles.

Ken:                      Silver coins.

Steve:                    Which is a new coin the mint has come out with. It has a one-dollar denomination on it. Now, it’s certainly worth more than one dollar in silver, but the reason they do that is because it’s what we consider the coin of the realm, and there is no sales tax on it.

So, if you’re out there and you’re trying to buy silver bullion or coins that you want to put away, make sure that the seller does not charge you the sales tax, as long as it’s got a denomination.

Ken:                      That’s cool.

Steve:                    Does the size of a gold coin dictate how much it’s worth, yes or no?

Ken:                      Well, yes. Size would indicate weight, so… and size has always been… Well, no not really because a dime is smaller than a nickel, yes it is, so no. [Laughter]

Steve:                    Very good. The answer would be “no,” and the things that are generally going to dictate what it’s worth is the condition, the rarity, and the province, and we’ve talked about province before. You know, does it have a history? Who owned it?

You know, was it passed down from who-to-who because there have been coin collections sold over the years; whereby, there are only three or four of these coins known and the fact that there were only three or four of them known certainly affected the rarity of it.

But the fact that it came from a particular collection, and a collector back in the early 1800s had it in his collection — it was sold to another dealer/another collection in the 20s, and then sold again in the 1990s — we have a chain of province.

We know where that coin — all the particular important collections where it’s come from, so that in turn is also going to have a lot of bearing on the fact, besides it’s a rarity, who owned that coin, as well.

A one dollar gold piece is about the size of a little bit bigger than your pinky fingernail, and a $20 gold piece is probably the size of about a half dollar. Right now, there’s about $1200 worth of gold in this $20 gold piece.

But depending on the date of that $1 gold piece — which might have about somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 in it — it’s going to be much, much more expensive coin than the $20 gold piece.

So size doesn’t always matter when it comes to gold coins. Can a copper coin be more valuable than a silver or gold coin?

Ken:                      Depending on the size, how much copper is in it, isn’t it Steve? Unless it was stamped and our country that was having a face value for it.

Steve:                    Well, believe it or not, regardless of how much gold that coin is going to have in it, again, it depends on the condition, the scarcity or the rarity of it. You know, just recently a 1793 large cent sold for almost $200,000.

Ken:                      Wow!

Steve:                    And that’s just a penny! That was an old 1893 penny, which at that time was about the size of a quarter.

Ken:                      Wow!

Steve:                    So the metal content, again, when it comes to some coins, has nothing to do with anything — it’s the condition, the rarity/the scarcity of it.

I have people come in with silver dollars, and they go, “I’ve got silver dollars from 1878!” Well, that was the first year that they made Morgan silver dollars. There were different types of silver dollars before that, various types.

But the first year they made Morgan type silver dollars was 1878, and they made millions and millions of them, and they’re still around today. What distinguishes that?

There were a lot of different varieties. Some of them they made with — there’s an Eagle on the back with its wings spread — and believe it or not they did different dies when they printed it.

Some of them have an eagle with eight tail feathers. Some have an eagle with seven tail feathers. Some of them have a crack in the die, which showed eight tail feathers over the top of seven tail feathers, and all these are different varieties.

Again, the condition is the most important, and then again the scarcity becomes much more important. You know, there were some silver dollars that were made in the Carson City Mint in Carson City, Colorado, and on the back of the dollar, there will be a little “cc.”

That dollar can be all beat up compared to a regular silver dollar, same date, and cc is — because there were a lot fewer of them printed at the Carson City Mint, as opposed to the Philadelphia or the New Orleans or a San Francisco mint, even though it’s worse condition, it’s a more scarce date.

It’s a rarer coin, so condition is the most important thing when it comes to coins like that.

What were the large paper bills or currency called, the ones that they started printing around 1860, 1861? Were they called “rags’? Were they called “horse blankets”? Or, where they called “tobacco rollers”?

Ken:                      Hm… probably say, based on time, tobacco rollers.

Steve:                    Eck!

Ken:                      Huh?

Steve:                    They were actually called horse blankets.

Ken:                      Horse blankets! They were that big? [Laughter]

Steve:                    Well, they were probably close to six inches long, believe it or not.

Ken:                      Wow!

Steve:                    When you had a wad of those, you had a…

Ken:                      A horse blanket. [Laughter]

Steve:                    A wad of cash in your hand. You had a horse blanket.

All right, so we’re going to skip from coins to another thing we’ve talked about over the years… you’re doing pretty good, actually.

Ken:                      Yeah? All right.

Steve:                    Glad to see you were awake sometime.

Ken:                      [Laughter]

Steve:                    When looking at a pocket watch that has the cover on the face, what is it called: a railroad watch, a surveyor’s watch, or a hunting case?

Ken:                      Hm… I’ll go with hunting case.

Steve:                    Final answer?

Ken:                      Yeah.

Steve:                    Hunting case is correct.

We’ve talked about this before. When we came out with pocket watches all the way back in the 1700s, they found that they had a piece of glass or what we call a “crystal” over the top of the face of the watch.

One of the professions or one of the things that was important back then, men wanted to know what time it was, and they were out hunting. And if you carried it in your pocket and a branch or something hit it, it would break the crystal, which, at that time, was extremely expensive to cut glass like that.

So, what they found was if they put a metal cover over the top of it, it would protect the watch, the integrity of the watch, and that became known as a hunting case.

Ken:                      Hm!

Steve:                    Will a pocket watch with a picture of a train on it be called a railroad watch, a conductor’s watch, or none of the above?

Ken:                      I think “none of the above.”

Steve:                    Really?

Ken:                      [Laughter]

Steve:                    Okay. The answer is “none of the above.”

Ken:                      [Laughter]

Steve:                    The fact that it has a picture on the cover has no bearing whatsoever about what kind of watch that would be.

Ken:                      A lumberjack could own it.

Steve:                    A lumber watch… you could actually go in the Sears catalog, and they had ages where you could pick the kind of case that you wanted for it. You could pick a gold case, a silver case, one with a train on it, one with just a picture on it — a plain one, just engine turning, engraved.

And then you would take the movement that you wanted — and you could buy those separately — they would put them together for you, and then sell it to you, so the fact that it has a picture of a railroad on it really has no bearing on what that watch would be.

Now, what would make a pocket watch be considered a railroad model? Who carried it, the size of it, the movement and the way you set it?

Ken:                      The movement and the way you set it.

Steve:                    You’re on this thing. I…

Ken:                      [Laughter]

Steve:                    And I thought you were sleeping the whole time I was out here!

Actually, a railroad watch had to have certain things about it, and the two most important things was the fact that number one it had at least 21 jewels, and when we say jewels, it’s not like they were diamonds or something like that.

They were actually, most of the time, they were little slivers of ruby that were set into the watch so that the movement, all the moving parts, would have less friction. The less friction on a moving part the more accurate that watch would become, so it had to have 21 jewels.

Also in order to set it: Normally, on most pocket watches, you’d pull the stem out and then turn it so that the hands would adjust.

Well, on a pock watch that was a railroad grade, you had to actually unscrew the front of the cover, and around the two o’clock number, there was a little lever, and you would have to pull that out. Then you could set the hands, put the lever back in, and then screw the face back on.

This prevented it from — if by chance, it fell out of a conductor’s pocket and hit, it couldn’t effect the time: it couldn’t change the hands. Because at that time it was very, very important that your watch be accurate, so you knew what time the train would arrive.

And that’s the name of that tune.

Ken:                      [Laughter]

Steve:                    We’ve got one more for you, but next week I’m coming back with more of them.

Ken:                      Oh, boy!

Steve:                    So you might want to study up.

Ken:                      It’s Tradio…

Steve:                    Quiz time.

Ken:                      Schoolastic.

Steve:                    [Laughter] If a pocket watch had the word “coin” on the inside of the case, what time period would it have probably have been produced? Eighteen-sixty, 1920, or 1950 to 1964?

Ken:                      It had coin?

Steve:                    It said the word coin. When you took the back off of it, so that you could see the movement in the back side of it, it would have the word “coin” impressed into the metal back of it.

Ken:                      I don’t know. I’d go with “c.”

Steve:                    Nineteen-fifty to 1964?

Ken:                      Yes.

Steve:                    Okay. That’s wrong.

Ken:                      [Laughter] I can’t get them all right.

Steve:                    The reason we find that the word coin was impressed into it was because during the Civil War, right around that period of time most of the hollowware — the utensils and things, the flatware, especially watch cases — what the manufacturers would do, rather than alloying it with copper, which is how we get sterling silver…

It was easier for them, rather than trying to alloy everything and get something that was what we call .925, which is the standard of fineness the sterling silver is supposed to be, it was much easier to just take silver coins and melt them down because then they knew everything would be 90 percent silver.

So, what we find is that a lot of the watchcases will say “pure coin” or “coin silver,” or just the word “coin.”

Ken:                      Hm!

Steve:                    And when we see that, generally the watch is a much bigger watch than you world normally think. You know, they were honkers when you put them in your pocket.

Ken:                      Yeah.

Steve:                    And the word coin would be on there so when you just look at that watch and you see the word “coin,” it’s probably going to be produced somewhere in that 1860s period. From 1860 to 1869, right in that timeframe, that’s when we see a lot of coin silver jewelry and hollowware and things like that being made.

Now, how much silver content would a piece that was marked “German silver” have: Thirty percent, 50 percent or 92.5 percent?

Ken:                      I’d go with 92.5.

Steve:                    Erh! When you see the word “German silver,” there’s absolutely no silver content in it whatsoever.

Ken:                      Cheap bastards!

Steve:                    It’s made out of nickel, copper, and zinc alloy, and it had no silver content in it whatsoever. Sometimes you’ll see the word, “Alaskan silver,” silveroid, to allude to the fact that you ain’t getting no silver.


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Westchester Gold and Diamonds is one of the largest buyers of gold, silver, diamonds, Rolex watches, antique and estate jewelry in southwest Florida.

As the premier jewelry store in Port Charlotte since 1974. We do custom design and we are able to duplicate many designs that you may have seen in your travels; often at a fraction of the price.

We accept your old diamonds and jewelry in trade, the same as cash.