Independent reviewer, numismatist, and author Jeffrey P. LaPlante submitted this review of a recent book on error coins, the second edition of Strike It Rich with Pocket Change by Brian Allen and Ken Potter. Thanks!
If I'm correct, most of the folks reading this article began collecting coins in the early sixties or early seventies. In those years you could still find many wheat back cents in circulation and every once in a while a silver coin would turn up in loose change. Those were the days of mail order stamps and coins. Baseball cards were attached to bicycle spokes and Willie Mays would be ripped to shreds in about two city blocks. Yeoman's Red Book was about the only coin book on the planet. At least as far as anyone on our street knew, and what R.S. said was written in stone.
It took me a long while to put my first Lincoln cent collection together. I lived in the east where S-mint pennies are next to impossible to come by, and the coin shop was two hours by Schwinn. Fortunately, there were the cousins in California and we would trade through our Grandfather who traveled in the winter to see them, and in the summer to see us.
When I was about thirteen this girl became very interesting and the coin collection was put away. There was baseball, and girls, then later still cars and other responsibilities. Eventually I came back to collecting and to the Lincoln cent as I think most of us will do. It seems that folks always return to what they love, and upon returning I found a whole new ball game, as maybe you did too.
I learned terms like doubled die, repunched mintmark, reverse counter clash, and some foreign language called brockage, which I thought was some kind of intestinal disorder. It was a pleasure to discover varieties having completed the regular Lincoln cent series. I was told there are thousands of varieties of the Lincoln cent and other coins, hundreds for some of the years. So being the curious collector I decided to study up on these interesting anomalies. In my collection a small number of coins had been set aside in 2x2's with question marks penned on the outside. It was time to finally do some serious research on these coins.
Having asked around, I was turned on to Strike It Rich with Pocket Change by Brian Allen and Ken Potter. This was a great decision because one of the coins with a question mark turned out to be a 1969-S counter clash. It was worth a couple hundred dollars. This coin was very hard to nail down and the only place I could find any definitive information was in Strike it Rich with Pocket Change.
Having obtained the book, I found many more examples of strange and unique coins that had been set aside years ago. In the old Whitman folder a 1968-D doubled die reverse had been lying in wait for years. I always wondered how the United Sates mint could make so many mistakes but never really thought they would become highly prized specimens.
Most folks are unaware of what they carry in their pockets, and even then, when they learn it, are mystified that a coin could earn them more of a return than stock in Johnson & Johnson! Think about it - one cent into two hundred dollars is an increase of 20,000%. If anyone can tell me where you can get that kind of a return I will invest straight away. I will thank you all the way to the bank.
There is a copper, nickel, and zinc mine in the free flow of our nation's currency and Allen and Potter have gone in and cleared away the brush. They have put a plan together complete with hundreds of black and white photographs which may lead you in the direction of that mine. The instructions are clear with arrows which show you how to determine which of the rocks is a gem.
It is not simple though, and mining is not easy; if it were, everyone would have a Hummel. It would be very pretty, but nevertheless an over produced product that nobody wants. Allen and Potter have weeded out and narrowed it down to those coins that are unique and obtainable. Strike it Rich discusses methods, and details most of the varieties and errors that you or I would find in our pockets. They don't waste your time with unobtainable coins.
It is also true that not all coins with strange markings or designs are valuable. Allen and Potter discuss ways for you to avoid those pitfalls and educate you in ways to look for more information on the topic. In the back of this volume are appendices which lead you further in your journey - you will find there are more gems yet to be discovered. This is the real fun of the hobby of coin collecting.
Allen and Potter's Strike it Rich with Pocket Change does have a complete and up to date price guide but it does not have a totally up to date price guide. What is this nonsensical statement, you may ask yourself? Well I can answer by saying what the writers intended and what all numismatists should understand, a guide is a guide and all coins that are sold are subject to free market conditions. Which in a nutshell means a coin will only sell at what the market will bear. Besides, there is a lag time between when a book is written, when it actually goes to print and then ends up at Amazon. This I do know from experience and you will find this out upon discovering a coin in the book and looking up its price; and when you try and sell it on eBay. The coin may only realize about fifty percent of its book value, no one knows for sure. Exasperating yes; but still a very tidy profit if that is what you are after.
Strike it Rich with Pocket Change, Second Edition will take you on a journey into the world of variety and error collecting, it will explain the die making process without a need for a degree in metallurgy. The chapter on the various types of coin doubling is well worth the read. Perhaps intended for the beginner this book will prove over time to be a savior to the seasoned collector. How many times have you the collector found a strange looking coin…and wondered what it's worth, if anything? Immediately you think of the other books available. But then it becomes apparent that most standard coin guides do not have the information you seek.
This book is the perfect antidote for those issues not covered by the other volumes. Strike it Rich with Pocket Change is aptly named; most of us numismatists know that striking it rich is a little more difficult than it sounds. But money can be made and the art of coin collecting will be educational and entertaining, and that is the value for me. If you are interested in varieties, have a collection already and would like to see if that one coin you possess is in fact an error coin, then Strike It Rich with Pocket Change, Second Edition is your book.
Strike it Rich is to-the-point and will explain in general terms the basic terminology of variety and error coin collecting while dispelling some of the myths that surround the hobby. The coins which are represented in the volume are those which you would expect to actually find in pocket change or at your local financial institution, coins which do have collectible value above and beyond their intrinsic worth.
Ever since J.N.T. Levick published a price survey of United States large cents in 1868, dealers and collectors have been trying to wrestle with the historical importance of a coin versus its value, with value in the form of price lists winning the fight each and every time. Allen and Potter have produced this updated second edition of Strike it Rich with Pocket Change to meet those demands and also to meet the continuing demands of the coin error and variety collector. Well for my two cents I think they have done an outstanding job.
Strike it Rich with Pocket Change, Second Edition is written by Brian Allen and Ken Potter; it is published by Krause Publications, a subsidiary of F + W Media, Inc and can be found at http://koinpro.tripod.com/bookofmonth.htm and your local retailer.
To read the original publisher's press release, see:
Strike It Rich With Pocket Change, Second Edition Now Available
Wayne Homren, Editor
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