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Treasure Hunter: Questions Abound With the New Year

As so often seems to be the case, more collector questions come with the advent of the new year. Time to answer a few.

Dear Peter: Can you tell me why none of the new quarters for 2009 or 2010 find their way to the open market? Does some company get first crack and buy them all? As taxpayers who foot the bill to have them minted, we should also be able to get them for a quarter. Unless I want to pay a coin company $15 or $20 for one, it looks like I am just out of luck. Any thoughts? — A.L. Glenshaw, Pa.

Answer: I have a stack of mail with the same question as yours from readers in Alexandria, Va., to North Highlands, Calif. And for good reason. With the 50 State Quarters Series being such a massive success, the U.S. Mint opted to ride that train by following it with the "America The Beautiful" quarters featuring national parks. So far, the designs on the coins are great, but the tricky part is finding them.

It's a long process for the coins to go from the Mint to the Federal Reserve and then to the banks and retailers, etc. But when you consider that over 300 quarters are minted each year — and many of those circulate for many years — the new quarters are dwarfed in quantity by those already out there. So, yes, it may be a little while before they are in your change regularly.

I'd advise against the temptation of paying a premium from catalog companies. The markup isn't worth it, and just as it was with the state quarters, they will start appearing soon — I promise.

Dear Peter: Over 30 years ago, my mother gave me a dollar bill. She told me to keep it as it might be worth something someday. The dollar says "Silver Certificate" with a "1935" date. I am wondering if this is worth more than $1. Can you tell me? — J.E.D. Carmichael, Calif.

Answer: Yours is another question I get very frequently because there are so many of these bills still out there. The last issuance was in 1957 when silver coins still existed in our change. On the bottom of the bill under the portrait of Washington are the words, "One Dollar in Silver Payable to the Bearer on Demand." That's when we could actually trade one of the bills in for a handful of silver. Those days, they are gone, but the bills still reside in many drawers.

Collectors enjoy the notes for their history and beauty. (You'll note the seal on the bill is in blue instead of green.) But with so many still floating around in less than "mint" condition, most are worth only a dollar or a little over. Conversely, if the bill is in pristine "crisp uncirculated" condition (no creases, folds, tears or blemishes), the 1934 version can be worth $5 or $10. Printed in 1928, the first issue of the bill is another story. Some of those are VERY rare, and in top grade condition, they will easily bring hundreds or thousands of dollars.

I suggest you visit several coin dealers in your area and have them examine your bill. You may find its true value is sentimental and not monetary.

Dear Peter: In August, you wrote about the volcano in Iceland and stamps printed by that country, which contain actual ash from the eruption. You didn't list an address and I haven't been able to find them. Can you tell me how to obtain these before they are all spoken for? — M.S. Rancho Cordova, Calif.

Answer: Not to worry. The stamps you mention were silkscreen printed with very fine-grained ash (3 microns or less) that fell at Eyjafjallaj”kull (trust me on the spelling) on April 17, 2010. They were made for general circulation and should be available from some stamp dealers.

It's sometimes tricky and frustrating to order from overseas postal authorities, but the Postphil Iceland website isn't too bad. Right now, they are offering all three of the stamps for around five U.S. dollars. You can log onto their site at www.stamps.is. You'll see the stamps on the home page.

To find out more about Peter Rexford and features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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