By Daniel Goevert
One day back in 1985, I received an unexpected phone call at
office from a man named Gordon Carl (not his real name but
whose real name Ill never forget). The thing that initially
struck me the most about the polished Mr. Carl was his heavy
New York accent, like something you might hear in a gangster
movie. The purpose of his call: to offer me a great deal in
rare coins. As a result of that conversation, I agreed to
purchase five 1943 Walking Liberty half dollars Mr. Carl
described as MS-65 specimens. Furthermore, he guaranteed that
his firm would buy the coins back from me at any time of my
choosing, paying 5% less than the Grey Sheet bid price. As
unmarried yuppie (now theres a word you dont hear much
anymore), I calculated that I could afford the $1375 required
to make the purchase. Perhaps more than anything, greed
my judgment, and like a fool, I trusted Mr. Carl and dropped a
check in the mail the next day.
Later in 1985, Mr. Carls company changed names. Rather than
interpreting this as a flashing red warning signal, I eagerly
sought to add more coins to my portfolio. Being a gregarious
sort of fellow, I attempted to establish a friendly rapport
with Mr. Carl and his associates. Looking back after all these
years, what has irritated me perhaps more than anything is how
this shyster must have smirked every time he heard my voice,
for what a gullible, willing dupe I was.
In 1989, I decided it was time to cash in my coins, so I
Mr. Carl. Not surprisingly, the company was operating under
another name. I couldnt get through to Mr. Carl, but ended up
talking to his brother, Maurice, with whom I had never spoken.
I informed him that I wanted to liquidate my Walking Liberty
half dollars in accordance with the buy-back policy under
I had purchased them. Much to my disgust, he coldly declined,
indicating his organization was not affiliated with those
earlier companies, and was under no obligation whatsoever. In
fact, he insinuated that he had never even heard of these
outfits before, despite the fact that his brother, Gordon,
factored prominently in these businesses. At that moment, the
fog was finally lifted from my eyes: I had been scammed! Not
knowing what else to do, I politely said goodbye, and hung up.
I sat there, staring at the phone for what seemed like an
eternity, in stunned disbelief.
Several days later, I took my 1943 Walkers to a local coin
dealer, the first step in submitting them to a third party
grading service. I didnt expect them to grade out as MS-65,
but if they came back as MS-60 or MS-63, I could at least
there to cut my losses. The dealer studied a couple of the
closely under magnification, and then sadly declared the coins
were damaged due to improper cleaning. He advised me not to
have them professionally graded, because the cost of grading
probably exceeded the value of the coins. With few options
left, I put the tainted Walkers in storage, vowing never to
repeat this experience.
Lets now flash forward to the present time. Normally, I dont
like antagonizing myself, so it was with some reluctance that
fired up the computer to play the game What If? That is,
if I had spent my $1375 with a reputable dealer in 1985 to
purchase Walking Liberty half dollars? What kind of value
increases would I be enjoying today had I been smarter back
then? To answer this question, I first retrieved the historic
value trend tables I researched in late 2005 for Walking
Liberty half dollars. For each date, mintmark, and condition,
noted their values in 1985, and placed them next to their
corresponding values in 2005, for a before and after
comparison. In all, there were about 450 such comparisons.
Next, I calculated an annual compounded percentage return rate
for each data pair, and sorted them from highest to lowest. I
then listed the top 20 for closer examination:
The Walker with the best return since 1985 is the 1917-D (MM
Obverse) in MS-65 condition. At $3000, it was well beyond the
$1375 available to me to spend on numismatics in 1985, as were
all nine MS-65 coins appearing on the above Top 20 list.
However, the remainder of the Top 20 represented coins in
circulated grades, and all were within my price range. Had I
directed my hard-earned cash toward the purchase of a
legitimate example of each of these coins, I would have spent
$1421, just barely above what I forked over to Mr. Carl.
those same Walking Liberty halves are cumulatively worth more
than $7000. In pure financial terms, this increase computes to
an annual compounded return rate of nearly 8.00%. If only I
Take note that all 11 of the Walkers that I wish I had added
my collection in 1985 are recognized as key and semi-key dates
in the Walking Liberty half dollar series. The fact that they
are for well-circulated specimens (typically not the object of
affection for promoters and speculators) suggests that what
propelled these coins to ever-increasing heights over the
is fueled by consistent collector demand. We can expect to see
similar patterns in the future. If I were to conduct this same
study in the year 2025, comparing retail values then to what
they were in the year 2005, the Top 20 would probably strongly
resemble the Top 20 in 2005.
What became of the 1943 Walking Liberty half dollars Mr. Carl
suckered me into buying? Well, I still have them, squirreled
away in a bank deposit box. I havent even looked at them in a
decade or so. As I was writing the final words of this
it finally dawned on me to ask one more question: how would my
investment have performed had these been bona-fide MS-65
specimens? Taking the same body of data used to derive the Top
20 above, I started thumbing down the list
going down, down,
and down some more. Finally, I came across the 1943 in MS-65
condition, on line 419. The annual rate of return of this coin
since 1985 is a dismal -2.13%. Thats a NEGATIVE 2.13%.
Ironically, even had Mr. Carl been an honest businessman, it
still would have been a lousy investment for me.
There are two lessons to be learned here: (1) If interested in
seeing your coins increase substantially in value in the years
ahead, purchase coins that have already demonstrated a long
record of consistent price advancements, which usually are the
key and semi-key dates for a given series, and (2) Deal only
with reputable people.
So what ever happened to the slimy Mr. Carl and his band of
thieves? Well, perhaps there is some justice in this world,
after all. In late 1989, about the time I discovered I was
being victimized, the United States Postal Inspection Service
began an undercover sting operation of the company.
I wasnt the only unhappy customer, but my losses were minimal
compared to the sums bilked out of others. In February, 1991,
postal agents stormed the boiler room outfit, executing a
federal search warrant based on a complaint involving the
alleged fraudulent selling of coins through the mail. Mr. Carl
and others were arrested and led away in handcuffs.
Postal authorities publicized that anyone with grievances
against the company was encouraged to contact them, to help
bolster their case against the defendants. Since I kept
meticulous records, I had no trouble assembling incriminating
documents and forwarded everything to the Inspectors office,
tied together by my personal story. I never heard exactly how
the case was resolved, but it seems almost certain these
crooked telemarketers got what they deserved. As for me, I won
a small measure of satisfaction, knowing that I provided
evidence to help expose them. Now, if I could just figure out
what to do with those defiled 1943 Walkers...
About The Author: Daniel J. Goevert is the webmaster of
in coin value trends and listing bullish US coins. The site
also includes detailed coin collecting advice and an
illustrated history of the US Mint.