AG/47

I’m getting over 800% returns on my investments in 2017

I’m not lying with that headline. I actually did get a return on investments between 800% to 1,000%. It only took me nearly two decades… Actually the truth is it took between 50 to 58 years to get that rate of return, but my investment was only 15 to 20 of those years.

What exactly is my investment? A whopping 20 cents. Two Canadian dimes actually. Yes, the 10 cent coin, and a 1959 and 1967 minting to be specific. If you account for inflation, 10 cents in 1959 and 1967 is now about 85 cents and 73 cents respectively. The Canadian government’s CPI calculator shows that is an average return of 3.75% to 4%. Not that bad considering an average low-risk investment in Canada would give you the same rate of return!

But these aren’t any ordinary dimes. You see, before 1968, all dimes had some amount of silver in them. The oldest dimes were sterling silver (92.5% silver and 7.5% copper). Then the government changed to 80% silver (remainder copper), and the final year switching to 50% silver and 50% copper sometime in 1967 (which also happened to be Canada’s 100th year of confederation). I happen to own two of these dimes, one minted in 1959 which will be 80% silver, and the other in 1967 which could be either 80% or 50%.

The coin on the left was the centennial issue dime with a mackerel fish instead of the famous Bluenose schooner on the right.

So why do I have these two dimes, and what’s the story?

Ever since I was a child, I took a liking to old things. It probably started when I was in St. Columba’s School in New Delhi and collecting postage stamps became all the rage. Yes when I was a child we didn’t stab each other over Pokémon cards or iPhones, we collected stamps. Except, I had no stamps because I had no money, and meanwhile classmates were buying sheets of them. So I began taking an interest in stamps and probably asked family members for old stamps. At one point my grandmother must have noticed my interest and she gave me her entire stamp collection. I became somewhat of a legend overnight because my stamp collection was unique, from all over the world, and some stamps were old. I remember a classmate saying something along the lines of “His stamp collection is proper because it wasn’t bought.”

I remember being particularly interested in the stamps from the UK, because they had a bronze, silver or gold effigy of the Queen. I had no idea what they meant, but I figured there must have been some importance.

So when I moved to Canada in 1995, that same interest went wild when I realized all the coins have the same effigy on them. The penny was bronze, the nickels, dimes, and quarters were silver, and the loonie ($1 coin) was the gold! I started to collect these coins and look for every unique one I could. This was Pokémon’s “Gotta catch ’em all” for real nerds. I soon realized that the Queen was different depending on the year of the coin. So my stamp collection became old news, the latest rage in 1995 was collecting coins!

On the right is the 1959 dime with the first effigy of Queen Elizabeth II. The 1967 dime was minted with the second version of a slightly older Queen. The coins read: Elizabeth II, By the Grace of God, Queen.

I had no real reason to collect these coins. To me they weren’t worth anything, but it was harmless and fun. I would be fascinated with the dates, the mint marks, the Latin writing, and metal composition of the coins. I even once bought a jewelry cleaner from a garage sale to try and clean the coins. It worked to some degree. The penny was the most rewarding as the old patina would come off and reveal this stunning copper beneath which gave this warm orange glow when clean.

My obsession with coins reached a point where my dad and sister would even let me search any change they got to see if there was anything of interest, and let me keep whatever I found. I continued to collect coins, quarters, nickels, dimes, loonies, but the penny was my favourite because they were prolific and it didn’t bother people if I took their pennies. In fact the penny was so common that on any given day you could find a dozen on the ground at school, at the mall or on the street.

That was 20 years ago, but for the last decade my coin collection has also become old news. I stopped collecting coins in 2005 when I went to university. Recently however I started to take an interest old silver Indian 1 rupee coins because the British India coins contain the same effigies of the British monarch on the obverse. I really like these old coins, but I realize you’re paying for the numismatic value, not the value of the silver, which is what I’m really interested in. I don’t like buying coins. Just like my stamp collection, I didn’t buy any of my coin collection until I started on these silver rupees. To be fair to myself, they’re not in circulation so I can’t exactly collect them the same way.

Now my interest in coins is coming back because not only are these silver rupees made of silver, they’re also old coins! That triggered a brainwave. I know pretty much the whole world used silver and gold in standard circulation before so almost any coin was made of a precious metal. What if there were some old silver coins hiding in my own coin collection? I went to my storage unit last week, found my coins and dumped them all. Lo and behold, two were silver! I didn’t know much about Canadian coins, but I could just tell they weren’t regular coins. Silver has a distinct look to it (I wear enough to know the difference). I threw the rest back whence they came, and went home happily with my two silver coins.

So that’s the story. But why care so much about silver? I’ll leave that for another post, but the short version is: Over the last five or six years, my interest in silver has gone from wearing lots of jewelry, to purchasing bullion for myself, as well as gifts for people. Every time my sister gives birth (she’s on her third now), I give the children silver. I recently gave a friend silver for her wedding gift. Silver has cultural value for Indians, it looks beautiful, and is much more accessible for the general public because it’s  inexpensive. One troy ounce of silver can cost you about $25-$30 CAD, where the same quantity of gold will cost you at least $1,700.

Arguably, silver can be an investment. Investors will tell you that precious metals are a waste of money as an investment as they don’t even match inflation. And really, if I really was getting 800-1,000% on my investments, I wouldn’t be writing a blog telling you how to do the same, I would be (figuratively) minting money! I will talk about silver as an investment in another post.

The bottom line is the melt value of the coins are between $0.70 to $1 roughly. The face value of the coins are still just 10 cents, but the numismatic value is about $1-$2 on eBay right now… And climbing.

I find it all just fascinating.

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