Recently we published a post on buying coin rolls online, noting how eBay and Internet sellers bait hobbyists looking for purported uncirculated and/or unsearched so-called “shotgun” lots. Another type of coveted item is the double mint set, which the US Mint issued between 1947-1958 and whose packaging often tones coins in incredible rainbow hues, as in the Franklin half below.
In this post, again largely visual, we will show you what to look for and avoid when bidding or buying such items online or even at a coin show or dealer shop (although we hope the latter will advise customers accordingly on their purchases).
Sellers should provide photographs of the entire opened double set, individual boards for each mint mark (obverse and reverse), and closeups of the reverse of halves, dimes and nickels so that buyers can check for full bell lines, full bands, and full steps, respectively. Few eBay sellers provide all those photographs, but ones who do typically have nothing to hide by way of deception.
Below is an example of the entire opened set, which is important, so that buyers can check even toning on all coins as well as any envelope containing the sets. (Click all photos below to expand.)
Sometimes in showcasing full bell lines or other designations, sellers provide close-ups that suggest dipping. The reason is simple. Often these mint sets were stored in houses in which owners smoked cigarettes. Those sets not only toned ugly because of the smoke; the sets actually smell of tobacco. Below are photos of a tobacco-toned set and a close-up of the reverse of a Franklin half that may have been dipped.
Notice the blotched toning of this set, especially on the half dollars and dime:
Notice the grainy luster on this possibly dipped Franklin half from an eBay double mint set:
Deceptive sellers often purchased original double mint sets, selected the best coins for tone and designations, and replaced them with cheap non-mint-set years and mint marks. That’s why buyers must check for even vs. uneven toning on mint sets.
Here is an example displaying even toning for a 1958 board:
Here is a example displaying uneven toning for a 1958 board:
Tell-tale signs of seller deception include evidence of taping coins to the board, often because the holes for the coins may loosen over time. You also should be on the lookout for ripped or damaged holes in the flimsy paper backing responsible for the toning, an indication coins there have been replaced.
Here is a taped board with the tape missing, suggesting that the entire board was replaced with almost uncirculated or inexpensive replacements.
Here is the back of a board that has been torn by an owner extracting the coin and puncturing the paper:
Remember, these are double mint sets. You should get two of each denomination and mint mark in any given year between 1947-1958. But sometimes sellers only offer a P, D or S board. Often they note that in the description; sometimes, they do not. Also, some years contain mint marks for all denominations from all three US Mints (1949, 1951-54). Typically deceptive sellers extract the half dollar from some boards because relatively few buyers know which years contain D and S mint marks for that denomination. These years contain only P and D halves (1947, 1948, 1950, 1957-58), and these, only P halves (1955-56).
This eBay seller observes that he is only offering the D board:
This 1956 example correctly lacks halves for the Denver board:
Finally, the best and most complete double mint sets come in original Mint packaging, including mailing envelope.
This eBay seller maintains his is an original US double mint set, but displays it in non-US Mint packaging:
This conscientious eBay seller includes but blurs the address on the envelope, which contains stamps (another premium):
Before placing any bid, you want to double check the above factors when considering double mint sets online. Also, after your purchase, you may decide to send in select coins for holdering by PCGS, NGC, ANACS of ICG. If so, take care gently extracting the coins from the flimsy paper, which tears so easily. You will want to retain the board in case your coin is returned with a designation of artificial or questionable color (yes, it happens all the time, even when the toning is as authentic as your mint set).
If your coins slab, then you must decide what to do with the board. DON’T look for replacement coins and put them in vacant holes. You can keep your remaining coins in the boards or extract them for resale or rolls.