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39th President's Letter by Chris Pilliod

I am going to start out this 39th President's letter with best wishes for a fruitful and healthy 2011. First off, a little club news. Our membership ranks have grown to 423 active members, after hitting an all-time low of 317 four years ago. Thanks to heritage for the publishing of the Ledger pro bono, our membership once initial dues are paid are renewed at no charge, which will be the case once again this year. Financially, our treasury is stable as most of our costs our shipping related and are nominal in nature. Once again, I would petition all members for material for the Ledger, including those original members who have 20 years of membership under their belts, or any new members that would like to share their tales of Indian Cent adventure-possibly the first Indian cent you found or bought as a kid, any special or different Flying Eagle or Indian cent you relish, any great find you'd like to share, and so on.

The FUN Show Tampa is now behind us and I have to say it was a nice break from Orlando. Seems like the weather in Orlando the past few FUN shows has not been very cooperative. Tampa greeted us with warm and very friendly blue skies; and as I took off Interstate-4 in my rental car I opened the windows and was met with a fresh cool breeze on Interstate-4. I could almost taste the salt in the air off Tampa Bay.

Before I go into my numismatic discussion, I'd like to share with you what I did in my extra day after the FUN Show ended. This year I had arrived an extra day early to play some golf and called an old friend who lives in nearby Lakeland, Florida to see if we could hook up for a round or two. His nickname is "BK", and in his senior year at University of Iowa he was 1992 Big Ten Golf Champ, so he could really move it around the course in his day. He went on to play the Nationwide Tour for a couple years, and actually qualified to play one US Open-at Southern Hills in Tulsa Oklahoma in 2001. Man, you can't imagine how difficult it is to just qualify for a US Open.

BK's the same age as Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker and went up against the two numerous times in his career. Especially Stricker, who attended the University of Illinois. And although he was usually second fiddle to them, he had beat them both in more than one tournament. "In college," BK said, "Stricker was tougher to beat."

He is still a journeyman knocking it around on the Junior tours, Monday qualifying for this event and sponsor exemptions for that event, and so on. It's been 20 years of trying to live a dream that has yet to materialize. I have the distinction of caddying for him in his first Nationwide event shortly after he turned pro in 1992. It was in our hometown at the time, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

It was the middle of an extremely hot July that year and as the second round was mercifully drawing to a close our scorecard had more bogeys scribbled on it than birdies-- and as such there would be no winnings for our effort. As I slugged up the hill on the 17th hole he asked for directions getting out of town… it was apparent he was not going to make the cut.

"What do I owe you for caddying, Chris?" he asked. I knew his folks back in Iowa; salt of the earth, real nice, a typical blue-collar family in Keokuk. BK had just graduated from college and drove over from Iowa City in a rusted Ford LTD from the 70's. I knew he couldn't have had two nickels to rub together, let alone hotel and food money, so I invited him to stay with us. I was just married, but we didn't have any kids at the time and so he was grateful to have the accommodations, and hot meals from my wife (a great cook), a phone (this was still pre-cell phone days), and some company. BK is an extremely friendly guy and actually had a lot of questions about coins.

"Nothin'," I said. "I just wish we could have made the weekend." It's a adrenaline rush to caddy on tour, even if it is just the Nationwide Tour, and I was disappointed he didn't make the cut.

"Next time we will," he replied. But after 20 years there's never been a next time for me. So when I called just ahead of the FUN Show for a round of golf, I asked if he was "ready for a good old-fashioned butt-whoopin'".

"I don't see that happening', he replied quietly. To read about our match, the highlights follow the numismatic discussion.

The FUN show is becoming a convention where all the good material is in the Heritage Auctions, or if it is on the floor it is priced beyond retail. So for the most part what I find on the floor is typical eBay quality or if I'm lucky something I'd like for my collection that I don't mind paying too much for. So over the past couple years I have had opportunity to discuss a topic I had posed to a number of Indian Cent luminaries over the past couple years and kept notes as to their answers. Namely, after the strong run-up in prices realized for key date/high-grade Flying Eagle and Indian cents in the past ten years, are any issues left in the Flying Eagle/Indian Cent series that are underrated or undervalued? This question led to an interesting discussion.

Personally, after a lot of years of searching for choice fully original, problem-free mint state Indians that are brown and red-brown, I think 1871's are underrated in difficulty and price guides. I feel they are considerably more difficult than 1872 issues but are listed at price levels below the '72. Also, surprisingly I find nice red-brown examples of 1896 to be sneaky tough and I gobble up nice ones whenever I can at anywhere under retail prices. They tend to be softly struck, and go hand-in-hand in finding well-struck 1886 Type II issues. If I am looking for a well-struck 1857 Flying Eagle my eye always looks for the 1857 issues struck on obverse styles of 1856. These almost always are of the highest striking quality-perhaps because they were the first dies produced, and rarely do they exhibit the strike doubling often observed on these issues.

On the more esoteric end of the collecting horizon, Indian Cents errors offer a unique combination of availability and affordability for the specialist looking for a nice example of a 19th Century error coin. No other series offers the chance to own an eye-appealing error such as a double-struck Indian Cent for $1000 or less. If you were wise enough in the past 40 years to pick up choice errors, especially Indian Cents struck on an off-planchet like a gold piece or silver dime, you have quite a nest egg today.

Rick Snow, when queried mentioned the 1909-S Indian cent as being undervalued. With a mintage of 309,000 pieces vs the 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent with a mintage of 484,000 (56% higher) but the relative price targets are just the opposite, with the 09-S VDB enjoying substantially higher premiums. There are high grade 1909-S VDB's laying around every major coin show.

Rick also feels the 1858/7 Flying Eagle in crisp uncirculated and early die state is underrated. He compared it to the 1918/7-D Buffalo stating, "As far as rarity it is at least as rare as the Buffalo nickel overdate, but the prices listed for the 1918/7-D are much higher without reason." Both series enjoy immense popularity and demand is strong for each variety.

Snow added that he feels 1877's warranted current strong price demands since the true mintage is closer to 200,000 total versus the published Red Book mintage of 877,000.

In addition, many mint-state "RED" slabbed Indian Cents do not truly meet the criteria for a full red status, making those deserving pieces more valuable… "buy the coin, not the holder!" Also in the overvalued column, Snow notes that PF67 RED slabbed issues selling for over $15,000 on common dates is too much. Toned proofs selling for three times nice red-brown proofs is also overcooked.

Finally, Snow mentions circulated 1869/9's as being "abundant" and is perplexed by the premiums they achieve. But they are in the Whitman Books…

A fellow unnamed enthusiast of Connecticut, a long-time Indian cent friend Concurs the 1869/9 are "everywhere", although true mint state examples are tough. He went on to lay claim to the 1865 Plain 5 in mint state are underappreciated. It is a nice variety that goes unnoticed. It is same relative rarity as 1860 pointed Bust without the value added. "There's a lot of hype about 1857 Flying Eagles with Clashed 50c Obverse," he stated, adding "they are really abundant. Why aren't there more $20 Gold Clashes is what I don't understand." He continued that there are also some great errors in the Indian cent series, and loves the off metal Indians struck on gold blanks. "At the one time I could afford one, but I passed on it." Hey, the story of all our lives.

He did mention the one variety that just about every enthusiast agrees is really, really tough. The 1873 Open 3 Snow- with the 3/3 repunched strongly is extremely, extremely rare in mint state, or even XF. I have found this to be true as well.

Dan Templeman, one of the largest coin dealers in Idaho whose shop is Coin Exchange of Treasure Valley, also mentions his preference for early die state 1858/7 Flying Eagles, as the underdate shows so crisply. In mint state, the "7" shows boldly and represents one of the nicest overdates in the 19th Century US coinage. Even at current price levels he feels they are undervalued. He also mentions that finding 1897 "1 in neck" are becoming increasingly difficult to locate with full Liberty.

Vern Sebby and Glen Marhefka own two of the sharpest set of eyes in the Indian cent community. Glen mentions the 1871 as being underrated and surprisingly the 1873 Open 3 is much tougher in original high end unc than established grading pops would have you believe. 1874 and 1875 likewise are often overgraded in 65RB holders. 1867 is underappreciated, as is the 1894. The dies used for 1886 Type II well-struck are very difficult as the dies employed are often mushy and soft.

Vern Sebby quickly responded that any true legitimate MS65RB issue from 1886 and later are way undervalued. Grey sheet common dates are listed at just $120 for MS65RB, and should be close to double this. He feels well less than half of the slabbed MS65RB issues are truly this deserving. Actually 1909-P's are easier to find than the higher mintage years preceding it. They should be at least double this level. 1871 is tougher than 1872, Sebby feels. 1867 and 1876 are both very sneaky dates in nice uniform legitimate MS65RB.

Personally, Charmy Harker, The First Lady of Indian Cents, believes the early 1880's (1880, 1881, 1882) Indian cents are quite undervalued and underappreciated, especially in higher circulated grades like XF and AU. Since she is a dealer, I try to hunt down and keep in stock what her customers are asking for, and it seems like at every show she attends she is consistently looking for early 1880's, especially in AU. Their mintage isn't even that low (between 38 and 39 million) but for some reason Charmy's stock is always low in XF and AU grades. What is even more perplexing is that she has less problems finding these dates in nice uncirculated grades. I don't even have an explanation, but when she discusses this with other dealers, they agree that they too feel early 1880 Indian cents are indeed underrated. The appeal of the early 1880 Indian cent run may be the fact they are available in XF to low end UNC, often show up as fully original brown examples, and most importantly have the dual appeal of being well-struck and now almost 150 years old.

BK let me have the first tee as a good golfing friend should do with honor. After not touching a golf club for over two months I didn't know what to expect. But a solid par on the first hole, followed by a birdie on the second and another par on the third had me still owning honors on the fourth tee. "What's up with this???" I quizzed him with a smile. But a hard hook into the left bunker of the fifth hole cost me a bogey, and for the rest of the round I never whiffed honors again. After nine holes the match was C. Pilliod EVEN PAR, BK -1. And the humiliation continued on the backside; when the day was done the score stood at C. Pilliod +7, BK -5 to par.

I offered to caddy for any Nationwide events that took him up to the Pennsylvania area. So look for me on the Golf Channel, hopefully not giving directions how to get out of town as I'm sluggin' it up the 17th hole.

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