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!

Reddit Coin Sub r/Coins Raided By Spammers

(Written March 11, 2021)

A few hours ago, r/Coins was “raided” by spammers. These spammers posted dozens of coin memes each, flooding the sub with memes.

Although some of the posts were funny, being shown in quick succession they were altogether annoying. What made them particularly annoying was that they flooded genuine posts to r/coins.

What was the purpose of the spam?

Who knows!

Definitely one goal was to get people riled up. And I guess it worked because I’m here writing about it.

One user u/coincollector9199 even made a subreddit r/coins_refugees. Although intended to be a safe haven while the mess at r/Coins ensued, it was quickly found and flooded with memes.

One of the popular memes being posted was the phrase “do you know who quidward is?”

A spammer posting on Reddit.

Thankfully, mods at r/Coins were quickly able to stop posts and delete all the offending spam. Thanks mods!

Post describing the cleanup. Plus this comment.

Some of the spammers tried to blame stamp collectors over at r/stamps for the raid, but I think they are unlikely to be the culprit. I saw r/stamps was also invaded with similar memes by the same accounts. Likely this is just an attempt to stir up drama between the subs.

(Coin collectors and stamp collectors can live in peace! Check out my article on other hobbies for coin collectors!)

A meme on r/stamps.

One of the most confusing parts of this “raid” was the fact that some of the memes were funny and seemed to be thoughtful. I think a lot of them would be genuinely like by members of r/coins.

It just goes to show, you never know how people on the internet get their kicks.

Share a comment below with your thoughts or any screenshots!

Selling Coins Header smaller

Ranking of The Best Places to Sell Your Coins, Silver, and Gold

Selling coins can be difficult and tedious. After sorting through your coins and deciding which to sell there is the daunting task of deciding how to sell.

This is a ranking I would recommend, but it may depend on your circumstances and what you plan to sell. In this article I will refer mostly to ‘coins’ but I think this ranking works well for gold and silver bullion as well.

1.) A trusted coin dealer

There is a reason I differentiate between a coin dealer and a trusted coin dealer. A coin dealer is someone who makes money by buying and selling coins. They may have a brick and mortar shop, an online store, or work by word of mouth.

A trusted coin dealer is someone you know and have done business with before. You trust that they have your best interest at heart as well as their own. They can help you find deals you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get.

Even if a coin dealer can’t get you the top price for a specific purchase or sale, it may be worth it to do business with them to build rapport in hopes of better future deals. They may also alert you if a coin comes in that you are looking for.

If you have inherited a collection and do not know the value of your coins, definitely go to a coin store if you do not want to learn how to value coins yourself. There are many tiny details that can make a coin more or less valuable. If you try to sell the coins yourself online you will not know how to describe the coins in the best way to sell them.

2.) Ebay

Ebay has been my go-to for selling coins. The benefit of eBay is that there is the potential of your coin being seen by millions of people.

Auctions can drive the price of the coin up to well beyond what you thought it was worth. The problem with selling on eBay, is that you are dependent on eBay algorithms for who your post gets shown to.

You can get around this by adding descriptive keywords into your eBay post, but even that may not be enough. I have sold coins on eBay that sold for less than they were worth simply due to eBay not showing my listing to enough people.

If you plan to sell on eBay, do not start by selling valuable coins immediately. Buyers are very suspicious of buying fakes from online dealers with few reviews. Start by selling other items or low-valued coins. Watch out for eBay fees and shipping costs as they can eat into your profit!

3.) A coin dealer

Not everyone has a local coin dealer they see regularly. It is no surprise given the ease of shopping online. It is worth going into your local dealer and asking what they would offer you for your coins.

Even if you don’t think they are giving you the best deal it may be worth it to sell to them to build rapport, or avoid the hassle of selling yourself. Many people looking to sell online forget the added cost of shipping.

Some online dealers will pay your shipping costs. If you want to know more about buying and selling from large online distributors, Money Metals Exchange has a good article on it here: “Selling Gold, Silver, Platinum & Palladium to Money Metals Exchange”

If you haven’t been to a coin store much and have some anxiety about what to expect, check out “What to Know Your First Time in a Coin Store”.

4.) Reddit

Reddit has a great community of coin collectors, coin dealers, and precious metal enthusiasts. There is a dedicated subreddit called r/PMsforsale where redditors sell precious metals and r/Coins4Sale where redditors sell coins.

I have used reddit to buy coins and have a lot of trust in many of the sellers on Reddit. Here are things to be aware of if you are selling coins on Reddit.

  • Age of your account
    • Currently, neither sub has explicit rules on how old an account must be, but Redditors are less likely to trust new accounts.
  • Trustworthiness of the buyer
    • People aren’t scammed on these subs often, but it has happened. Some Redditors do not pay, or request a refund after the items are received. All of the responsibility is on the buyer and seller to complete a transaction.
  • Shipping Cost
    • You should discuss the cost of the item and shipping before you sell someone your coins or precious metals. Make sure you have an idea before you post on the maximum shipping could cost you and how much you are willing to spend.

5.) Pawn Shops

A pawn shop is my least-preferred place to sell coins. Most pawn shops know a little about coins, but not often enough to give detailed prices. Usually, pawn shops are looking to turn a profit on items as fast as possible, so a pawn shop will rarely offer above the spot price for precious metals and coins.

This isn’t true for all pawn shops however, and it may be worth it to go in and ask what they would offer you for coins or precious metals. The benefit of a pawn shop is that they are easy to find, have lots of connections, and will give you a price quickly.


What is your preferred way to sell coins, silver, gold, and copper? Vote in our poll and share a comment below!

Coin Phrases and MEanings Header image Morgan Dollar Idiom

Coin Phrases and Their Meanings

For centuries people have used coins every day. It is not surprising that many coin related phrases and idioms have made it into everyday speech.

Here’s a list of the most common phrases and their meanings. If I forgot any, add a comment below or reach out to me on my Contact Page!

“Nickel and dime”

Meaning: When a person or entity is trying to get all the money they can from a transaction. Often used when something feels expensive, especially when people have no choice but to pay.

Example: If someone is charging a lot for an item you might say “They are nickel and dime-ing me.”

Squeeze a nickel

Meaning: Refers to someone holding tightly onto all their coins. Meant to imply that someone is cheap or not willing to spend money.

Example: “My mom only buys thrift store clothes; she sure knows how to squeeze a nickel.”

Similar To: Penny Pinching

“Penny pincher”/”Penny pinching”

Meaning: Someone who holds tightly onto every penny. It is used when someone is being cheap or unwilling to spend money. It is often a criticism.

Example: “Harold’s penny pinching ways paid off when he could finally afford a trip to Disneyland.”

Similar To: Squeeze a nickel

“A penny saved is a penny earned”

Meaning: Saving money is as important as earning money in keeping wealth. This is often used as advice for people who are overspending.

Example: If your friend was working extra shifts to make ends meet, but often spent money eating out you could tell them, “a penny saved is a penny earned.”

“Accept a wooden nickel”

Meaning: This refers to someone being conned. A ‘wooden nickel’ refers to a fake coin. If you accept wooden nickels it means you are easily fooled.

Example: If you lend a friend money and they always promise to, but never pay you back, then you are accepting wooden nickels.

“Chasing nickels around dollar bills”

Meaning: Used when someone is focusing on saving small amounts of money. Oftentimes, it is used when someone is spending money on a big purchase, but frets about smaller expenses.

Example: If your friend buys an expensive dinner, then complains about the cost of a soda at the restaurant, you can say they are chasing nickels around bills.

“Coin a phrase”

Meaning: Honestly, I always thought this was ‘coin OF phrase’. ‘Coin a phrase’ means to invent a new saying or expression. The phrase is usually used sarcastically, when someone is using a very common phrase.

Example: “That test was, to coin a phrase, a piece of cake.”

“Cost a pretty penny”

Meaning: Means that something is expensive.

Example: “By the glittering of the rhinestones, Paige knew Claire must have spent a pretty penny on the dress.”

“Earn an honest penny”

Meaning: When someone earns money in a legitimate way through hard work.

Example: John earned an honest penny by providing medical care to all the elderly residents of the town.

“Heads or tails”

Meaning: Refers to a coin flip.

Example: If you want to challenge someone to make a bet or pick a side you might say “Heads or Tails?”

“Can’t make heads or tails”

Meaning: Refers to someone who can’t understand or figure out something.

Example: “Rhonda couldn’t make heads or tails of the legal jargon on her rent agreement.”

“In for a penny in for a pound”

Meaning: Means that someone can’t be in halfway. Often used to signify someone’s intent to complete something no matter the barrier. (A pound is comparable to a dollar in the US.)

Example: “Although James had already sunk hundreds of dollars into the business, if he was in for a penny he was in for a pound.”

“Penny for your thoughts”

Meaning: Used to say that you will listen to how someone is feeling. Used instead of asking directly how they are feeling.

Example: “You look troubled. Penny for your thoughts?”

“Penny wise, pound foolish”

Meaning: Used to describe someone who is frugal on small purchases, but spends lots on big purchases.

Example: If you buy cheap toilet paper, but drive an expensive sports car, then I would call you ‘penny wise but pound foolish.’ (But I’m not a car person.)

Similar To: “Chasing nickels around dollar bills”

See a penny, pick it up all day long you’ll have good luck”

Meaning: From an old rhyme promoting the good luck that comes from picking up pennies.

Example: Often chanted when seeing a penny on the ground.

“Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves”

Meaning: This means that someone who gets good at managing small financial transactions will become more financially stable.

Example: If you are saving for a cruise, I may advise looking at your everyday expenses by saying, “Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves.”

(Great advice for someone who is penny wise and pound foolish lol.)

“That and a nickel will… get you a ride on the subway”

Meaning: This phrase is used to call someone’s idea worthless. Most commonly people just shorten the phrase to “that and a nickel.” The idea is that this phrase was invented when a subway ride was actually a nickel. 0 + .05 = .05

Example: “Shannon told me about her new aromatherapy business, I told her, ‘that and a nickel will get you a ride on the subway.'”

“The other side of the coin”

Meaning: Means to look at the other side of things.

Example: “When I complained about how long it took to get my latte this morning, my mom told me to look at the other side of the coin and see how busy the employees were.”

“Pay someone back in their own coin”

Meaning: Seeking revenge by treating someone the same way they treat you.

Example: “When my step mother stopped inviting me to family events, I decided to pay her back in her own coin and didn’t invite her to the baby shower.


Can you think of any other coin idioms and phrases? If you have a better example or definition, share it in the comments below!