Coin collection value worries local man

January 17, 2008 7:26:53 PM PST
A lot of people collect coins-- some for fun, others for investment-- or maybe a bit of both. If you have some special coins, what are they worth? It might depend on the package they come in.

Here's a case where solid gold and silver coins might have lost value because of a piece of paper, as a local coin collector found out that can be quite an ordeal.

Homer Leonard of Los Gatos began buying commemorative coins years ago.

"For my grandkids to get interested in saving money and understanding a little bit about the United States," said Homer Leonard.

Since then, his collection has expanded to include all these gold and silver coin sets direct from the U.S. Mint.

"They have a higher value now than when I bought them," said Leonard.

He was pretty happy with his investments, until the day this commemorative coin set arrived. it had the "wrong" certificate of authenticity.

"Without the certificate of authenticity it doesn't mean anything because the person you're selling to can't verify exactly what it is," said Leonard.

What Homer actually bought was the American Eagle 20th anniversary gold and silver coin set worth about $850 dollars.

What the certificate said he bought was an American Eagle gold coin set. All gold -- worth about $2,600 dollars.

"When you have the certificate with the proper set it means a lot," said Leonard.

So Homer called the U.S. Mint and asked for the correct document.

"They're out of stock and when we get them we'll get back to you," said Leonard.

A whole year went by, and no document. Homer worried his coins might lose value without that piece of paper.

He called 7 On Your Side and we consulted with San Francisco coin dealer, Dean Witter.

"Maybe it would be worth $25 dollars $50 less because of the lack of certificate but in the long run the value wouldn't have anything to do with that certificate. They're either genuine or they're not," said Dean Witter from Witter Coins.

Dean says coin dealers examine the coins, not the certificate. But packaging can be important if you're trying to sell coins on the open market.

So we contacted the U.S. Mint and folks there said this was a rare mistake.

They did send Homer another certificate and again, it was wrong. On the third try, Homer did get the correct paperwork.

The U.S. Mint says it's tracing how those mistakes happened, and it said the certificates are only good if they come with the right coin set, so no one should be able to misuse them.