Toned Coins together Head toning vs tarnish

Tarnishing Vs. Toning: What is the Difference?

A quick google search for tarnish defines “lose or cause to lose luster, especially as a result of exposure to air or moisture”. CoinNews describes toning as “the discoloration or light patina that forms on the surface of coins due to oxygen and chemicals in the air acting on the metal”.

Toning and tarnishing both happen from the same process of metal reacting with water, oxygen, and/or chemicals in the air to change the surface of the metal. But for a coin and precious metal collector, when is a coin tarnished and when is it toned?

The Eye of the Beholder

Much of the decision for whether a coin is tarnished lies in the viewer. Some collectors hate any changes in color to pure silver and will refer to any chemical changes as tarnished. Other collectors love toned coins and seek them out.

In general, toned coins will have an even and attractive coloring. Many collectors will refer to the “eye appeal” of a coin. This means that a coin, although tarnished, looks arguably better because of the change in color.

Benjamin Franklin HAlf dollar PCGS 1
A 1958 Benjamin Franklin Half Dollar From PCGS: Toned or Tarnished?

You can artificially tone coins; an experiment I have catalogued several times on American Coin Stash. If you are interested in artificially toning coins you should look at this article, where I toned coins with liver of sulfur gel, or this one where I toned coins with food from my kitchen.

If you hear a collector refer to a coin as ‘tarnished’ they are probably not impressed with the look of the coin. The coin may have uneven coloring, blemishes, fingerprints, or milk spots.

Quick Reference:

  • Tarnishing
    • Unattractive
    • Uneven
    • Fingerprints
    • Blemishes
    • “Milk Spots”
  • Toning
    • Attractive, “Eye Appeal”
    • Nice Colors (blue, purple, rainbow)
    • Can Be Faked

Coin Denomination Matters

Certain coins are more likely to have attractive toning than others. Any coin with a high silver content which was circulated very little is more likely to have an attractive an even toning. Morgan and Peace silver dollars are coins which can often be found with toning. Since they have a high silver content, the silver reacts with oxygen and water often resulting in blue and purple hues. And, since the coins were rarely circulated, the toning comes out even across the coin since there were less hands to interrupt the process.

Toned Morgan Silver Dollar PCGS toning
A Toned 1892 Morgan Silver Dollar From PCGS

Coins that will develop less attractive toning or tarnishing are pennies and nickels. Pennies, composed of copper and zinc, are circulated too much to often have an attractive level of tarnishing on them. Nickels, composed of nickel and copper, usually only darken in color, rarely changing to the blues, purples, and reds people seek out in toned coins.

Not that it is impossible for any coin to develop an attractive tone. I have seen pennies turn really fantastic shades of blue and purple.

Final Thoughts

In the end, whether a coin is toned or tarnished, there is no clear line. Toning has become more popular in recent years which has driven the price of toned coins much higher.

With the increase in popularity, fakes have become more common. It can be hard to spot the different between natural toning, and toning that has been induced in a lab or kitchen. In fact, this is a great debate for collectors, “When does a coin become artificially toned?”

A coin collector could induce toning by leaving a coin in a hot attic for months or years, if done intentionally, does that count as artificial toning?


What do you think about toning? Share a comment below and vote in our poll!

2021 morgan peace silver dollar CC S O Privy Mark

US Mint Begins Release of 2021 Morgan And Peace Silver Dollars

Today was the first day of pre-ordering for the 2021 Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars. At 12PM Eastern Time, the US Mint opened two of the 2021 Morgan Dollars.

The first one to sell out was the 2021 Morgan with a “CC” Privy Mark honoring the Carson City Mint. This Morgan Dollar was not minted in Carson City, but in Philadelphia.

The other coin released today was another Morgan Silver Dollar with an “O” Privy Mark to honor the New Orleans Mint.

Why did the Carson City Mint Dollar Coin sell out first?

Carson City coins are especially rare since the mint was only sporadically open for operation. The mint produced coins from 1870-1885 and from 1889-1893. The Carson City Morgan silver dollar is the first coin minted with a “CC” mark in 128 years.

Keep in mind though, this coin was not minted in Carson City, but minted in Philadelphia and has a privy mark for Carson City. (Also remember that most coins made in Philadelphia have no mint mark.)

Can I still get 2021 Morgan Silver Dollars?

Yes! Here is the release schedule for 2021 Morgan Dollars: Here was the intended release of the 2021 Dollar coins:

2021 Morgan Dollar “O” Privy MarkMay 24, 2021
2021 Morgan Dollar “CC” Privy MarkMay 24, 2021
2021 Morgan Dollar “S” MintJune 1, 2021
2021 Morgan Dollar “D” MintJune 1, 2021
2021 Morgan Dollar (No Mint Mark, Philadelphia P)June 7, 2021
2021 Peace Dollar (No Mint Mark, Philadelphia P)June 7, 2021
Release Schedule for 2021 Morgan and Peace Dollar Coins

*UPDATE*: Read the update below! The US Mint has delayed the pre-orders for the upcoming Morgan and Peace silver dollars!

If you missed the release, don’t worry because you can always try on eBay or another third party seller. Check in with your local coin store to see if they managed to get some to sell.

I expect the two most popular of the series will be the “CC” mint mark and the “S” mint. If you want to order either of those, make sure to be on the website as soon as pre-ordering becomes available to ensure you can grab one.

What is the difference between a mint mark and a privy mark?

A mint mark indicates where a coin was minted, meaning where the coin was produced. A privy mark is meant to honor a certain time or place in history. We call these different names because mint marks help keep track of where coins were from and potential errors.

Privy marks, on the other hand, hold sentimental value and can increase the value of the coin. They do not tell you where a coin was produced or when.

US Mint website keep crashing when trying to buy or pre-order?

If you have tried to buy coins from the US Mint the day they are released you have probably felt the frustration of trying to checkout and having the session timeout due to problems connecting or a “bad gateway” error. These are due to the US Mint website servers not being able to handle the number of people ordering all at once.

Here are my tips to ensure a successful pre-order from USMint.gov:

  • Be ready on time.
    • Coins sell out fast so make sure to be ready as soon as they become available.
  • Have your payment information saved.
    • By creating an account and saving your payment information, you can save time by not having to input your full address and credit card whenever the server times out.
  • Ask friends to help.
    • More people trying increases your odds of getting a coin from pre-ordering. Of course, you may end up with more than one, so make sure you can afford to buy more than one if both you and your friend make it to checkout.
  • Keep trying!
    • It took me 23 minutes before I could get my order into the United States Mint to order the 2021 “O” Morgan Silver Dollar. Thankfully I kept trying, because I was very worried after 15 minutes. Keep refreshing until it says they are sold out!

Other than that, it is mostly luck! Keep your lucky penny or pocket piece handy!

Buy Gold and Silver

Will 2021 Silver Dollars Increase in Value?

Who knows!?

Unfortunately, this will depend not only on the price of silver, but investor interest and scarcity. The mint made 175,000 of each Morgan Silver Dollar and 200,000 of the 2021 Peace Dollars. Although a fairly low mintage, it is nowhere near the scarcest the mint has produced.

Many numismatists I have seen have predicted a short term price increase ranging from $100-$400, and then a stabilizing over the next 3 years as the collector frenzy wanes.

Overall, I wouldn’t purchase a 2021 Silver Dollar if your goal is to profit in a time frame greater than one year. Buy one because you enjoy them and want to be part of the first people to get one!

Those who buy directly from the mint and resell on eBay immediately will probably make a decent profit as collectors experience FOMO due to the perceived scarcity.

Why is there a charge of $4.95 from the US Mint on my card?

You may be surprised to see a charge on your bank statement for $4.95 from the US Mint. Don’t be alarmed!

It will say “Purchase US Min Coin Washington DC Card####” Merchant Name: US Mint Sales-DR.

The US Mint is not charging you extra nor did they charge you the wrong price for the Silver dollars. $4.95 is simply the cost of the US Mint’s budget shipping option. You may see a larger charge from the US Mint depending on what type of shipping you selected at checkout.

Remember, the coins are currently being listed for pre-order, meaning they are not being purchased when you complete your payment. You have simply ordered one from the mint to be shipped to your address once the coins become available.

Update May 27th:

The US mint released an email today announcing that they would delay future pre-orders in order to improve their website. Read the full email here:

Dear Valued Customer, 

The United States Mint is committed to providing the best possible online experience to its customers. The global silver shortage has driven demand for many of our bullion and numismatic products to record heights. This level of demand is felt most acutely by the Mint during the initial product release of numismatic items. Most recently in the pre-order window for 2021 Morgan Dollar with Carson City privy mark (21XC) and New Orleans privy mark (21XD), the extraordinary volume of web traffic caused significant numbers of Mint customers to experience website anomalies that resulted in their inability to complete transactions. 

In the interest of properly rectifying the situation, the Mint is postponing the pre-order windows for the remaining 2021 Morgan and Peace silver dollars that were originally scheduled for June 1 (Morgan Dollars struck at Denver (21XG) and San Francisco (21XF)) and June 7 (Morgan Dollar struck at Philadelphia (21XE) and the Peace Dollar (21XH)). While inconvenient to many, this deliberate delay will give the Mint the time necessary to obtain web traffic management tools to enhance the user experience. As the demand for silver remains greater than the supply, the reality is such that not everyone will be able to purchase a coin. However, we are confident that during the postponement, we will be able to greatly improve on our ability to deliver the utmost positive U.S. Mint experience that our customers deserve. We will announce revised pre-order launch dates as soon as possible. 

Thank you for a being a United States Mint customer.


Did you manage to get one? Share your story of the US Mint website crashing in the comments below!

Bicentennial Coin Header 2 Little Drummer Boy Coins

What Are Little Drummer Boy Quarters?

If you have seen these quarters floating around, it’s pretty obvious why they are called little drummer boy quarters. The little drummer boy quarter is the 1776 bicentennial quarter pictured below:

It is called the “Little Drummer Boy” Quarter because it has a soldier drumming on the back. The name is a joke about the Christmas song about the little drummer boy. The bicentennial quarter does not actually depict the little boy in the 1941 Christmas song.

When was the little drummer boy quarter released?

The quarter was minted from 1975 to 1976, but every coin has the 1976 date on it, even if it was minted in 1975. (That means there are no 1975 quarters!!)

Why does the quarter have 1776 on it?

Anyone asking this should have paid a little more attention in history class. 1776 was the year the US declared independence from England!

The bicentennial anniversary of independence day was celebrated with the 1976 quarter.

Was the little drummer boy quarter the only bicentennial coin?

Nope! In fact, the US mint released a bicentennial half dollar and dollar coin as well. (Unfortunately, dimes, pennies, and nickels remained the same for the year.)

Above is the half dollar coin. It depicts Independence Hall in Philadelphia where the Declaration of Independence was signed!

Are Little Drummer Boy Quarters valuable?

No, not really. Since the bicentennial quarters were the only big change to the quarter design from 1932 to 1999, even non-collectors would pick the coins from circulation.

Some collectors still hoard them in hopes the value will rise in the future, personally I see so many in circulation that it is hard to imagine the prices rising much in my lifetime. If you see one in near mint condition it may be worth it to save.

Do bicentennial coins come in proof sets?

Yes! All 3 bicentennial coins come in the proof sets. The interesting thing about these proof sets is that the dollar, half dollar, and quarter were the same for 1975 and 1976!

Do people actually call them “Little Drummer Boy Quarters”?

I almost always call these bicentennial quarters, but I do occasionally see them referred to jokingly as Little Drummer Boy quarters. It’s a cute name.

Bah-rum-bah-bum-bum!


Do you keep bicentennial quarters you find? Vote in our poll and leave a comment below!

Next Year Coin Ideas Numismatics Header Image

Top 5 Things Collectors Want to See on Next Years Coins

If anyone reading this knows someone at the US Mint, please send them this list along with my resume.

1.) More Real Women (Lady Liberty does not count!)

I’ve complained about it before, and I will complain about it again. We need more real women on coins!

As much as I love all the Lady Liberty designs, she seems to be the default woman to put on coins. Any real woman that gets on a coin is put on the rarely circulating dollar coins.

Susan B Anthony Dollar Coin

Did you know the Roosevelt dime design has been the same since 1946? Maybe it’s time to retire old Roosevelt and think of an influential woman in US history.

2.) Animals

The 2020 American Samoa quarter with the two bats on it was a huge hit with the public! I even heard non-numismatists talking about how much they loved that design.

2020 american samoa bats quarter covid
The 2020 American Samoa Bat Quarter (Photo Courtesy of US Mint)

After the National Parks Quarter series ends, the Mint should consider doing a series on animals of the US. It would be a great way for kids and adults to learn about different animals across the country.

3.) Deeper Relief

For the past several decades, the United States Mint has been lessening the relief on coins. The lower relief is most obvious with quarters and nickels, although it is noticeable on almost all circulating coins.

This is due to changes in the way coins are minted. It is likely cheaper for the mint to produce coins with less exaggerated reliefs.

Having a high relief would mean the coins details could last longer depending on the type of wear they are under. It would also make it easier to identify coins by feel as well as sight.

4.) Continuing West Point Mint Marks

Since the West Point mint marks began in 2019, I have found only 3 West Point quarters! Adding the West Point mint mark to quarters made quarter collecting an exciting pastime for me again.

West Point Quarter Obverse Front
West Point Quarter Obverse

Finding silver in quarters has become so rare, that it feels not worth the time looking these days. Knowing that I now have a chance of finding a “W” Quarter or a silver quarter when I am coin roll hunting has really invigorated my passion for CRHing quarters. (Not familiar with coin roll hunting? Click here to learn!)

5.) Creative Proof Sets

I absolutely adore proof sets. It feels very special to have coins in pristine condition that are stored safely. However, I wish proof sets were better built for displaying.

Proof sets are much better quality now than they were several decades ago, but they are lacking some of the creativity. My favorite years of proof sets, from 1973-1982 had a built in stand for displaying.

1973 Proof Set in Display
Proof Set With Built in Stand

If you want to learn more about proof sets, head over to the “US Proof Set Buying Guide” by American Coin Stash.


I may have titled this article “Top 5 Things Collectors Want to See on Next Years Coins”, but a better name might be ” Top 5 Things I Want to See on Next Years Coins”. Anything you disagree with or want included?

Add a comment below and vote in our poll!

credit union sign

Banks or Credit Unions: Which is Better For Coin Roll Hunting?

A coin roll hunter is someone who goes to a bank to get rolls- or even boxes -of coins to search through in hopes of finding rare and valuable coins. Is a coin roll hunter more likely to find valuable coins at a bank or a credit union?

First, let’s look into the differences between the two types of banking systems. A bank is a business like Wells Fargo or Chase which has customers and is owned by its shareholders. A credit union on the other hand, is owned by the “customers” who are referred to as members.

Credit unions are usually smaller than banks, but are also insured (by the NCUA instead of the FDIC). Credit unions, as smaller institutions, can have more flexibility in their rates and promotional offerings, although large banks may be more willing to take steep losses.

Whether or not you bank with a bank or a credit union, which is better for coin roll hunting?

The benefit of a regular bank is that they likely get a lot more traffic. A bank probably has more members coming in each day to deposit and take out coins. This can be good for a coin collector because they can be reasonably sure they are going through different coins.

The negative of more traffic is that it increases the likelihood another customer also collects coins. Plus, a larger and busier bank will have more employees (and bank tellers are notorious for buying the good coins out of the till.)

Bank Imagery



A smaller credit union will have less coins coming in and out each day. This would make a credit union a bad place to check regularly, as many coins would be the same. A smaller bank will also have less coins on hand if you want to search through boxes

The benefit of a small bank or credit union is that it can be easier to develop a relationship with the tellers and managers. It’s great to build up a relationship so the employees can let you know if any interesting coins or old bills come in.

The Winner?

If you can pick only one, I would say a bigger and busier bank is the way to go. This way you can get a wider variety of coins each time you go in. Of course, there is no reason you can’t have more than one bank account.

One thing to consider is that credit unions often offer free savings or checking accounts. You could always open an account and keep a few dollars in there to buy coins every couple of weeks. Coming in regularly for coins is a good way to build rapport with the employees and hopefully they can let you know if any interesting coins come in.


Share your comments below and vote in our poll!

Scottsdale Mint Bar 100 Troy Ounces

Bars vs. Rounds: What is the Best Way to Buy Bullion?

Some precious metal collectors prefer rounds and others swear by bars, but what makes one better than the other?

Rounds got their name from their round shape. They look like coins, but are usually bigger depending on the weight. (Coins usually refers to metal backed by a government for circulation.)

Bars are rectangular blocks of precious metals. Picture the classic image of bars of gold, although bars are made for copper, silver, and palladium as well.

Rounds

Pros of Buying Rounds:

Rounds often come with attractive and intricate designs. These designs and to the eye-appeal of the metal, and also add to the security of the coin. It is harder for forgers to replicate intricate designs.

Cons of Buying Rounds:

Although rounds are attractive, the extra work needed to design and polish the coins makes rounds more expensive to produce than bars. Rounds usually carry a premium over the spot price, thankfully, they will also sell for above spot.

Bars


100 Oz Silver Bars

from: Money Metals Exchange

Pros of Buying Bars:

The best part about bars is that it is a much cheaper way to buy silver in bulk (usually). The premiums on silver rounds drive the price up when buying in bulk.

Cons of Buying Rounds:

Rounds are fake fairly often. Since they are so expensive, I would make sure to purchase from reputable dealers.

Buyers Guide:

I would recommend choosing between bars and rounds based on how many ounces you are looking to buy. If you are buying a couple ounces of silver at a time, then I would buy rounds. For larger purchases, I would buy bars.

Here is what I would recommend for each weight:

Less Than 1/2 Oz: Bars


1 Gram Gold Bars

from: Money Metals Exchange
  • These are just adorable little bars. They are really cute, but carry huge premiums!

1/2 to 5 Oz: Rounds

  • 5 ounces is the cut off point for where I would decide between bars or rounds. A 5 ounce round is a very satisfying and hefty coin, whereas a 5oz bar feels lacking.

Greater than 5 Oz: Bars


10 Oz Gold Bars

from: Money Metals Exchange
  • Larger bars have a really satisfying feel and can be cheaper than buying that many ounces of rounds. Plus, bars are more compact for storing.

Final Thoughts

Of course, like any hobby, there is no right or wrong answer. Many people prefer one or the other just for the looks. Most people have a mix of both. Personally, I buy whatever is cheapest!

Interested in becoming a silver stacker? Read “What Is A Silverbug? How To Start Silver Stacking!”


How do you prefer to buy bullion, bars or rounds? Add a comment and vote in the poll below!

I’m an affiliate with Money Metals Exchange through Share-a-Sale. Any purchases made through links help support my site. Thanks!