Bill Gibbs

Bill’s Corner

Bill Gibbs

William T. Gibbs, managing editor, was appointed to the post effective May 1, 2015. He joined the Coin World editorial staff in 1976 as an assistant editor for "Collectors' Clearinghouse" and later became a senior staff writer before being appointed news editor. As managing editor, he manages the day-to-day editorial operations for Coin World, both print and online, and leads the editorial staff. He also serves as chief copy editor for all Coin World publications, including for all books published by Coin World since 1985. He has been project editor of mulitple editions of the Coin World Almanac. He was named recipient of the Numismatic Literary Guild's highest honor, the Clemy Award, in 2015. Bill began collecting coins at the age of 10 and soon discovered Coin World. As a teen interested in numismatics and journalism, he identified a writing position on the staff of Coin World as a dream job, which was realized shortly after he graduated from Bowling Green State University with a major in journalism. He collects store cards and medals depicting Adm. George Dewey of Spanish-American War fame.

Visit one of our other blogs:

    Whodunnit: Mystery can add to a coin’s ‘value’

    August 24, 2015 3:58 PM by
    You have to love a good mystery, whether it’s Sam Spade and the Maltese Falcon, or Nate Heller investigating the Lindbergh kidnapping, or a numismatist trying to uncover the truth behind the issuance of a 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin, an 1884 and 1885 Trade dollar, or a restrike 1804 Draped Bust dollar.

    It’s no mystery that these coins have fascinated collectors ever since they were first discovered and sold by a dealer to a well-heeled collector. Each of the coins is rare, and when one appears on the auction block, all eyes are on the auctioneer. The pedigree of any of the coins invariably reads like a list of the best-known collectors of all time. But what do we know about them?

    Our cover feature this issue by Bill Eckberg tells some of the “shady stories” behind these great coins, or as Bill would insist, “coins.” The quote marks are essential punctuation because, he writes, “it’s easy to forget that some of the rarest, priciest and most ‘significant’ rare coins aren’t really coins at all.” The four coins described earlier were all issued without sanction or authority, many numismatists believe; they certainly were not struck for circulation. But for most collectors, that lack of an official stamp doesn’t matter; these are great coins, and just about anyone reading this piece would love to own any one of them.

    Even if a collector can’t afford to own one of these coins, there is enjoyment in just looking at them. The just concluded American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money had many great rarities on display at its Museum Showcase, which never wanted for an audience of collectors eager to catch a glimpse of the ANA’s 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin and 1804 Draped Bust dollar (and other great rarities as well).

    The mysterious origins of coins like the Class II and III 1804 dollars (the restrikes) and 1913 Liberty Head “nickels” enhance each coin’s value. Some other U.S. coins are rarer than the 1804 dollar (which has a sizeable population of 15 counting all three classes), and yet they bring lower prices because they lack the same level of “mystery.”

    More-modern coins also have an air of mystery surrounding them, like the quarter dollar/dollar mule of 2000 (how could the Mint make three different die pairs of these coins?), that someday may rank right up there with the older rarities.
    So, what is your favorite mystery? 

    Repeat performance: Collectors angry over Eisenhower sellout

    August 17, 2015 10:10 AM by
    Collectors are not happy with the superfast sellouts of the first two Coin and Chronicles sets for 2015. The Dwight D. Eisenhower set sold out within approximately 15 minutes on Aug. 11, according to U.S. Mint officials. The rapid sellout was a repeat of the experiences with the Harry S. Truman product, which also sold out in about 15 minutes when it went on sale June 30. 

    Within 15 minutes of the sellout, I received a phone call from an upset reader who was unsuccessful in obtaining one of the sets. His experience, he said, was enough to lead him to decide to not even bother attempting to purchase the remaining two 2015 Coin and Chronicles sets. Shortly afterward, the email began to flood my Inbox. The email did not stop; it seemed like every time I opened my email on my iPad while attending the ANA World's Fair of Money, another one or two emails about the set awaited. Not a single email was 100 percent positive; most were 100 percent negative.


    Several broad points were made repeatedly in the emails: (1) The 17,000-set edition was too small for the demand. (2) Many collectors experienced website difficulties, with some customers making it all the way to checkout at the Mint's website only to be denied their set. (3) There's a perception among many collectors that a few dealers snapped up the bulk of the sets in order to resell them at huge profits; several readers cited claims they say were made by a television retailer of coins that the firm had acquired 6,000 to 7,000 of the sets. (4) Customers are tired of a system that to them seems to prefer deep-pocket dealers wanting thousands of the sets to small-time collectors wanting one or two sets.

    Interest in the two sets was clearly driven by the Reverse Proof Truman and Eisenhower dollars, both of which are unique to their respective sets. The Presidential dollar program has its followers in the collecting community, and since the mind-set of many collectors is completeness, the popularity of the coins is not surprising.

    In establishing an edition size, the Mint’s marketing team has to walk a tightrope between two potentially uneven towers — one tower representing demand and another representing edition size. If the towers are too unbalanced, the tightrope walker will also be unbalanced and fall. Making sure the rope is balanced between towers of equal height is important.

    For the Truman and Eisenhower Coin and Chronicles sets, the edition size was clearly too small. The Mint could easily have sold additional sets without clogging the marketplace with sets no one wanted.

    The Mint also got household limits wrong, in the view of many collectors. They tell us that the limit should have been one per household from the start, and not five or even two.

    For some collectors, sales like the two Coin and Chronicles sets are enough to make them question their loyalty to the United States Mint. Mint officials need to remember that risk when contemplating future product offerings. 

    Over the weeks to come, we'll revisit the subject and offer some suggestions on how future programs might be improved.

    Smithsonian Institution exhibit reviews the concept of money

    July 24, 2015 1:19 PM by

    ​The National Numismatic Collection is one of this nation’s great treasures and its new exhibit “The Value of Money” showcases items that trace the concept of money from its earliest origins to today’s digital currencies.

    The concept of money is a powerful one, representing as it does the idea that various media are considered to hold value, whether that value be based on some imagined intrinsic value or simply faith in the issuer of the money.  For those of us in the collecting community, money takes on special meaning as something to be collected for artistic and historical worth.

    The word “money” itself is ancient, believed to have originated in a temple to the goddess Juno, situated on Capitoline, one of Rome’s famous seven hills. A Juno Moneta temple at Rome is believed to have been a mint. Roman coinage, of course, counts among the earliest coins, preceded by the first true coins issued in Lydia and by the earliest Greek coins, plus various coin-like objects issued in China.

    The new exhibit of the National Numismatic Collection at the Museum of American History helps explain money — what it is, how it arose, how different cultures view different things as having value, of being “money.”

    The concept of what has value can differ among cultures. Take a simple thing like a rock.

    If you show someone who grew up in a Western culture a round piece of rock with a central hole and tell him that it that it is money, he’s likely to scoff and say that it’s just a rock. Show the same Westerner another rock and point out the threads of gold running through it, and he’ll probably agree that this rock has value, simple because of the mineral running through it. On Yap Island in the Pacific Ocean, the results would likely be reversed. The resident of Yap would prize the round stone as money and very possibly view the rock containing the gold as having no real value.

    Both cultures have identified different rocks as having value, as being money; it’s all a matter of perspective about a particular physical object.

    However, money no longer has to be a physical object — a coin, a Federal Reserve note, a piece of Yap money or a gold nugget. Increasingly, digital forms of money are growing in acceptance.

    Consider Bitcoin, a form of money or exchange  that exists primarily in the digital universe. Bitcoins are nothing more than bits and bytes, and yet they are now being used as money. Bitcoin is the logical next step in money, the child of credit cards and online payments through your bank; none of these involve physical exchanges of a coin or note to complete a transaction, and yet most of us are perfectly content with using such payment methods as money.

    The Smithsonian exhibit, of course, has a lot that appeals to traditionalists — 1804 dollars, gold coins and paper money, and more. For the noncollector, “The Value of Money” exhibit helps viewers understand the many concepts of money, from a Yap Island stone, to a traditional coin, to a credit card.

    More from CoinWorld.com:

    Images of gold coin hoard discovered in Germany released by museum

    Collecting gold dollars: Q. David Bowers

    United States Mint releases approved designs for 2016 America the Beautiful quarter dollars

    Metal detectorist discovers Nazi-era gold coin hoard

    Household ordering limit set at 50 for American Liberty, High Relief $100 gold coin

    Keep up with all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by signing up for our free eNewslettersliking us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter. We're also on Instagram!

    ANA World's Fair of Money: The center of the collecting universe

    July 22, 2015 12:49 PM by
    The summer hobby doldrums should end with the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, Ill., Aug. 11 to 15.

    The late spring and early summer are often quiet times in the collecting community: many take vacations starting after the end of school, and in families where the collecting gene wasn’t passed along to the children, collecting pursuits are left at home. Hobby business can drop off for some firms and the auctions and shows conducted during this period are usually smaller affairs. Collectors, however, whip out their loupes and update their want lists as the ANA’s annual summer show approaches.

    Rosemont will again become the center of the numismatic universe for a full week, with abundant opportunities for collectors and dealers alike. ANA officials have anchored its summer convention at this northern suburb of Chicago in recent years, viewing the centrally located site as a good one, with easy airport access, sizeable convention center space, and ample hotel accommodations.

    If you’ve never attended an ANA show, you really should consider treating yourself. Here’s what you can expect this year:

    There’s the hobby business that will be contracted at the convention, of course, on what is traditionally the largest numismatic bourse of the year and at the many auctions to be held in conjunction with the show. Chances are excellent that you will find something for your collection.

    Then there are the many educational opportunities. The ANA and other clubs conduct numerous educational forums, most of which are free and open to the public. Topics this year range from “Aksumite Coinage” to “Lincoln in Numismatics.”

    Many mints private and government will be on hand to showcase their numismatic collector products and even sell their latest creations. However, don’t expect the U.S. Mint to have a major show release like the 2014-W Kennedy gold half dollar issued to great excitement and disruption in 2014.
    Finally, there’s the social aspect of a large coin show, where friends can gather to share their hobby experiences and renew acquaintances.

    Much of the Coin World staff will be present at the show. I will be there from Thursday through Saturday; please stop by the Coin World booth and say hello.  

    The saga of the 1933 double eagles is our Jarndyce v. Jarndyce

    July 9, 2015 4:44 PM by

    The ongoing legal tussle between the federal government and the Langbord family is starting to feel like the celebrated Jarndyce v. Jarndyce case that is the focal point of the novel Bleak House

    Charles Dickens’ fictional lawsuit involves a large inheritance, not unlike the case involving the 1933 double eagles, though the case in the novel lasted generations before its conclusion. In contrast, the current case involving the 1933 double eagles is merely 12 years old, starting in 2003 when the Langbords revealed the discovery of 10 of the coins and the Mint announced that it was keeping them.

    Still, Coin World has been reporting on legal cases involving ownership of 1933 double eagles for more than a generation. In 1996, one of the coins was recovered from a British coin dealer in a sting operation. The dealer and the government fought a legal battle until 2001, when both parties agreed to a public sale of the coin with the proceeds to be split 50–50 between the two; the sale occurred in 2002.

     

    And several decades before that, collectors, dealers, and the government fought over 10 other 1933 double eagles sold into the marketplace by the now-deceased father and grandfather of the three Langbords involved in the current case. The earlier cases began in 1944 and did not end until 1952, when a ninth coin was surrendered by its owner, and 1954, when the 10th coin, purported to be the piece sold in 2002, was withdrawn from the collection of Egypt’s King Farouk and went into hiding.

     

    If one considers 1944 as the true starting date for the current battle, it truly is becoming the hobby’s Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. 

    Underestimating demand for sets frustrating to Mint’s customers

    July 2, 2015 12:13 PM by

    ​When the U.S. Mint underestimates public demand for one of its products, collectors are quick to feel frustrated. When it happens twice in less than a week, the frustration doubles, not only for the collecting community but for Mint officials as well, as evidenced in back-to-back public comments by the Mint.

    Collectors were first frustrated on June 25 when the Jackie Kennedy First Spouse gold coins went on sale and were quickly placed in back-order status. Then sales began at noon June 30 for the Harry S. Truman Coin and Chronicles set, and ended after 15 minutes. When sales ended,16,780 sets had been sold from a maximum edition of 17,000 sets.

    The popularity of both products clearly caught United States Mint officials off-guard.

    In a June 30 statement, officials addressed the Jackie Kennedy First Spouse gold coin: “The Mint underestimated the initial demand for the 2015 First Spouse Series One-Half Ounce Gold Coins – Jacqueline Kennedy and, unfortunately, the products went on back order very quickly after sales started.”

    A day later, the Mint publicly commented on the Truman set (which contains the first-ever Reverse Proof Presidential dollar), noting that the edition size of 17,000 was based on sales of prior sets (lacking a Reverse Proof coin). The Franklin D. Roosevelt set, which went on sale Dec. 22, 2014, “had sold only 13,255 units as of June 29, 2015,” out of a maximum edition of 20,000 sets, the Mint noted in its comments. In contrast, the Truman set sold a “total of 16,780 sets ... in approximately 15 minutes.”
     
    Predicting the popularity of a future product can be difficult, and basing maximum mintages on past sales of similar products is a reasonable approach — usually. However, the addition of a Reverse Proof Truman Presidential dollar, a significant change, made the Mint’s prediction of those sales lacking.
     
    It is also reasonable for the Mint to factor in the popularity of a coin’s subject or theme. Mint officials did predict that demand for the gold coin depicting the popular Jackie Kennedy likely would be greater than for the other 2015 First Spouse coins and increased the maximum mintage to 30,000 (the other 2015 coins have maximums of 10,000 each). 
     
    One has to feel for Mint officials, having to face customer criticism twice in such short order. However, officials can use these experiences in any future product planning. 

    More from CoinWorld.com:

    Policy by eBay exempts some numismatic items from Confederate flag ban

    1970-S Lincoln, Small Date cent discovery a keeper: Found in Rolls

    Where did the Proof Jackie Kennedy coins go?

    Legislation calls for commemorative coins celebrating 50th anniversary of Apollo 11

    2015-W American Liberty, High Relief $100 gold coin goes on sale July 30

    Keep up with all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by signing up for our free eNewslettersliking us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter. We're also on Instagram!

    It is rocket science: Honor Apollo 11 with commemorative coins

    June 26, 2015 12:27 PM by

    Ever since the rebirth of U.S. commemorative  coinage in 1982, Congress and the United States Mint have created both winners and losers in the various programs and designs they have served up to collectors. For every American Buffalo silver dollar program with its fast sellout, there’s been a Girl Scouts of America program that sold so few coins that surcharges could not be paid out. For every beautiful Dolly Madison silver dollar, there’s been an unimaginative Seoul Olympiad silver dollar.

    The keys to a successful commemorative coin program are twofold. First, select a subject sure to capture the imagination of the coin collecting community; that’s the responsibility of Congress, which authorizes the coin programs. Second, create designs that are gorgeous and innovative and exciting; the U.S. Mint is chiefly responsible here though Congress can also play a major role.

    H.R. 2726, the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act, could be one of those wildly successful programs. The subject matter of the program — commemoration of the 50th anniversary of mankind’s greatest technological achievement, landing men on the moon — is an obvious choice. Failure to issue coins commemorating the Apollo 11 astronauts and the thousands of men and women at NASA and the many private contractors who ran the Apollo program would be a grave disservice.

    The program could also be a winner in terms of designs as well. As Coin World editor-at-large Steve Roach writes in his Page One article, one of the bill’s provisions calls for “super-sized silver commemorative coins” — a maximum of 100,000 Proof 5-ounce .999 fine silver dollars struck on a 3-inch-diameter planchet similar to the 5-ounce America the Beautiful quarter dollars. “In addition, the bill calls for the program’s coins to use curved surfaces similar to coins from the U.S. Mint’s popular 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative program,” Steve writes.

    Furthermore, the legislation requires the coins to “be produced in a fashion similar to the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame 75th Anniversary Commemorative Coin, so that the reverse of the coin is convex to more closely resemble the faceplate of the astronaut’s helmet of the time and the obverse concave, providing a more dramatic display of the obverse design.”
     
    The U.S. Mint has shown it is capable of producing a 3-inch 5-ounce .999 fine silver coin and striking coins with concave and convex designs. A marriage of the two achievements could yield incredible results.
     
    Let’s start the countdown clock to 2019 now. T-minus four years and counting. 

    More from CoinWorld.com:

    Policy by eBay exempts some numismatic items from Confederate flag ban

    1970-S Lincoln, Small Date cent discovery a keeper: Found in Rolls

    Where did the Proof Jackie Kennedy coins go?

    Legislation calls for commemorative coins celebrating 50th anniversary of Apollo 11

    2015-W American Liberty, High Relief $100 gold coin goes on sale July 30

    Keep up with all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by signing up for our free eNewslettersliking us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter. We're also on Instagram!

    Coins and notes as snapshots of history

    June 22, 2015 9:56 AM by
    Coins and paper money are snapshots in America’s photo album, capturing turning points and other events in our history. That’s the message in Coin World senior editor Jeff Starck’s cover feature the July Coin World Monthly issue. It’s also part of the message in the article by our paper money contributor, Art Friedberg, on a decision to depict a woman on the $10 federal Reserve note in 2020.

    Art writes about the decision by Treasury officials regarding the $10 Federal Reserve note: “Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew decided that the new $10 note should feature a woman who was a champion for our inclusive democracy. The note is scheduled to be introduced in 2020, in time to mark the centennial of the passage of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote. In a new twist, the Secretary is asking for the public’s views to help guide the design process.”

    As readers of Coin World and the general media know, advocates of depicting a woman on the $20 note to replace Andrew Jackson have been very vocal this year. And while Lew’s decision affects the $10 note — already scheduled for a design upgrade in 2020 — and not the $20, it appears that democracy is alive and well, as men and women, boys and girls, all came together to change history. We don’t yet know who will appear on the note that now depicts Alexander Hamilton, but it will be someone who did much to change our shared history.

    Coins serve in the same manner, as Jeff writes in his feature: “Coins not only serve as a medium of exchange, but as a record of a nation’s growth, and American coinage, when viewed in the proper context, can tell a fascinating story of the moments, milestones and turning points that help define this nation. In this sense, coins can serve as a lens to focus on American history.”

    Those of us who share a love of coins and paper money and all things numismatic can appreciate the beauty of the things we collect.

    But we can also appreciate the lessons these objects teach. Coins tell stories if you will only listen. So does paper money; so do medals and tokens.

    As you collect, take time to listen to what these records of our past are saying. Think about the times reflected in the dates on the coins and the eras depicted. Appreciate these snapshots of history.

    Summer vacation doesn't have to mean leaving collecting fun behind

    June 12, 2015 1:48 PM by
    Summer is nearly here, and for collectors, that can mean a brief relaxation of their collecting activities. 

    Longtime collectors and dealers know that the hobby often takes something of a breather in the early summer. Families, with the children out of school, often use this time for vacations.

    The marketplace can also take a breather

    This year, like many years, the appearance of important auctions, while not completely halted, has slowed somewhat. Conventions and coin shows, too, are on something like a break, with the Whitman Baltimore Expo in July merely whetting the appetite for the larger American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money near Chicago in August, when the hobby and marketplace should resume its normal pace.

    Still, collectors taking vacation in the weeks ahead need not take a complete break from their hobby. Vacation destinations often offer the collector in the family ample opportunities to sate their collecting needs.

    Collectors visiting the nation’s capital, for example, have several hobby-related sites that even noncollectors can enjoy. 

    The Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s main facility in Washington, D.C., offers a tour taking in the production of Federal Reserve notes; tickets to the tour often are snapped up fast, so families should plan their stop at the nation’s money factory early. (And if your vacation takes you to Texas, the BEP’s Western Satellite Facility, also offering public tours, is located outside Forth Worth.)

    The Smithsonian Institution in Washington offers numerous different museums; a family could easily spend a week at the Air and Space Museum, the American Art Museum, the American Indian Museum, the African American History and Culture Museum, and the American History Museum. This last museum should really appeal to the collector, since that’s where the National Numismatic Collection is housed. Better yet, starting July 1, the new Gallery of Numismatics and the inaugural exhibition, The Value of Money, opens at the museum, making the museum a must-stop for visitors to the District of Columbia.

    Visitors to other cities will often find hobby-related stops beckoning as well. In the City of Brotherly Love, the Philadelphia Mint offers public tours. Visitors in Colorado will find both the Denver Mint and the ANA Museum in Colorado Springs well worth the stops.

    But when August gets here, the nation’s numismatists will head to the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Ill., where the ANA will hold its World’s Fair of Money from Aug. 11 to 15. An amazing bourse floor with numismatic collectibles of all kinds will await showgoers, as will educational events and exhibits, and more.

    Summer is here and the collecting is fine (or Extremely Fine). 

    What summer hobby activities do you have planned?

    Rolling Stones concert surprise source of half dollars in change

    June 8, 2015 4:01 PM by

    Coin World senior editor Paul Gilkes’ recent blog about receiving a Kennedy half dollar in change at a concession stand at a rock concert and his news article in this issue about increased circulating coinage production are connected, however tenuously. 

    Paul writes in his blog (http://goo.gl/DQSZrC), “Despite being Coin World ‘s senior editor for U.S. coins, I haven’t seen a Kennedy half dollar in circulation or received one in change for years. That is, until May 30, in, of all places, Ohio Stadium, home to the national champion Ohio State Buckeyes football team.”

    He wasn’t attending a Buckeyes game (wrong time of the year) but a concert given by a bunch of old weathered guys in a little rock n’ roll band that you may or may not have heard of before — the Rolling Stones.
     
    The musicians weren’t tossing the half dollars to the crowd, exactly, as Paul explains about his encounter at the concert concession stand.

    “All of the food and drink items were priced in even dollar amounts or in 50-cent increments,” Paul writes, adding, “I was actually slightly dumbfounded when the concession worker handed me a well-circulated 1972 Kennedy half dollar in change.”

    Paul is always the reporter so he asked the cashier why they were using half dollars; the worker explained that because all of the food and drinks sold at the concession stand were priced in 50-cent increments, all change was handed back in half dollars.

    A niche market for half dollars doesn’t get any “nich-ier” than a Rolling Stones concert concession stand in Columbus, Ohio.

    The Kennedy half dollar has been a niche coin for decades, used increasingly infrequently in circulation. As Paul explains in his news article at the top of page 5 this week about the Denver and Philadelphia Mints rising up to meet increased circulating coinage demand, half dollars are no longer struck for circulation. In fact, that last happened in 2001 when the Rolling Stones was a boy band, when Mick and Charlie and Ron and Keith were mere youths in their late 50s.

    During their current Zip Code tour of North America, the Stones have been selling out and rocking the house with their classic tunes, including 1968’s “Sympathy for the Devil” and the lament, “Who killed the Kennedys,” about the hoarding of the half dollar; and 1969’s gold digger tune, “You Got the Silver.”

    And the Stones didn’t forget their trio of classics about the woes of cracking out half dollars for resubmission to the grading services: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Tumbling Dice” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

    Finally, they brought the house down with tunes from the days when they dabbled in questionable personal forms of coin alteration: “Under My Thumb,” “Paint It, Black,” and “She’s a Rainbow.”

    Seriously, though, the half dollar still can serve commerce even in these highly specialized transactions. You may even get one in change some day; time is on your side.

    More from CoinWorld.com:

    How one group is putting $100,000 in dollar and half dollar coins into circulation

    Donald G. Partrick Collection auctions postponed at consignor's request

    Collector discovers new variety for 1896 Indian Head cents

    Stack’s Bowers Galleries announces coins to be offered in Pogue II sale in September

     Rolling Stones concert surprise source of half dollars in change

    Keep up with all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by signing up for our free eNewslettersliking us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter. We're also on Instagram!

    It’s the Golden Age of Numismatic Literature, so Go read a book

    June 1, 2015 8:59 AM by

    Joel Orosz’s “Numismatic Bookie” column this week poses an interesting challenge: “This month, let’s play ‘Desert Island Numismatic Book,’ and choose a single volume we’d cherish if washed up on Gilligan’s Isle.”

    Given some time to think about it, we’d all likely be able to select one book to take with us while stranded on a desert isle. 
     
    Which brings us to this important point.
     
    In all of the excitement over auctions of major named collections like Partrick, Newman, Gardner and Pogue, or the scramble to acquire the United States Mint’s latest must-have limited edition offering, it is easy to overlook what is arguably one of the most important segments of our community: numismatic literature.
     
    Numismatic books, auction catalogs, price lists and price guides, Mint reports and other forms of literature all play vital roles in telling the story of our hobby. And recently, numismatic literature has soared to new heights. If 1907 to 1921 was the Golden Age of  U.S. Coin Design, the last decade or so has been the Golden Age of Numismatic Literature. 
     
    As I look at the bookshelves in the Coin World offices and reference library, and my own personal library at home, I marvel at the breadth and depth of hobby literature today.
     
    Researcher-writers like Joel Orosz, Q. David Bowers, Roger Burdette, Philip Mossman, Fred Reed, Roger Siboni, John Howes, A. Buell Ish, John Adams, Anne Bentley, Leonard Augsburger and a host of others have produced a remarkable body of work in this century.
     
    And then there are the catalogers who have produced incredible catalogs for dozens of auctions of collections big and small. 
     
    Traditional publishers like Whitman and auction firms such as Heritage and Stack’s Bowers Galleries, too, deserve credit for publishing books on increasingly specialized series: If you collect only Peace dollars, there’s a book for that series. How about a book on the 1822 Capped Head half eagle or Draped Bust half dollars of 1796 and 1797?
     
     
    Yes, they exist.
     
    If you will excuse me, I need to go read a book.
     

    More from CoinWorld.com:

    American Buffalo bullion coin sales lagging behind previous years

    Heritage announces sales of Rudman Colonial Mexican coins collection

    New Russian notes bear hammer and sickle symbol of former Soviet Union

    1893 commemorative coin found in roll 122 years after issue

    The one that got away: Rare coins used at face value

    Keep up with all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by signing up for our free eNewslettersliking us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter. We're also on Instagram!

    Mega-collection auction catalog offers more than just rare coins

    May 27, 2015 2:07 PM by
    The first auction of the D. Brent Pogue Collection is now history and collectors are beginning to review the results for the 128 silver and gold coins sold May 19.

    The auction brought more than $25 million — that’s an average of about $195,000 per coin.

    Of course, not all of the coins sold for six-figure prices. Some of the coins sold for well under $10,000, and one for less than $5,000. Still, for many collectors, even these prices exceeded their annual collecting budgets.

    Should a collector on a limited budget feel marginalized when so much attention is focused on mega-collections like that assembled by Brent Pogue with mega-coins bringing mega-prices? Absolutely not.

    The auction catalog created by Stack’s Bowers Galleries and Sotheby’s for the auction is a well-researched, well-written work of numismatic literature, and it is available free as a download at http://goo.gl/wzMVDV

    Every collector should seek out the Pogue catalog and make it part of their library. It will offer many hours of reading pleasure.

    You will discover, for example, the cataloger explores the concept of a “Specimen coin” in writing about the second coin offered in the auction, a gorgeous 1794 Flowing Hair half dime. In just 100 words or so, the catalog deftly reviews what collectors and dealers have long known — that a few 18th century coins show signs of being struck with special care, or in the words of the cataloger, “that particular forethought must have been involved in their creation.” The catalog is filled with insights like this on virtually every page.

    Yes, most of us can’t afford a six-figure coin, but we can all enjoy reading about them and learning something new and exciting. 

    Transitions are always occurring, but one thing remains constant

    May 11, 2015 1:54 PM by

    Life is all about transitions. We all undergo changes in our lives.

    I have been thinking about transitions a lot recently. The cover feature in the May Coin World Monthly was about the Coinage Act of 1965, ushering in the transition of silver coinage to clad coinage. I started collecting then, and have fond memories of searching through change at every opportunity — through the library fines paid to me as a volunteer in Margaretta Middle School by fellow students and at my first paying job, at the K&S Dairy Bar across the street from the entrance to the world-famous Blue Hole in Castalia, Ohio.
     
    More recently, I have thought about all of the transitions I’ve experienced during more than 38 years as a Coin World staff member. Margo Russell, the editor who called me to offer me a job interview in the fall of 1976, passed away in January. I recently met with her two daughters and we had fun reminiscing about those long-ago days and the many talented people who worked on the editorial staff decades ago.
     
    A few days ago, Margo’s successor as editor, Beth Deisher, stopped in to use the library to research an upcoming “From the Memory Bank” column. We discussed how the 1980s, when U.S. commemorative coins were reborn, is now ancient history to many younger collectors. Many of those collectors weren’t alive and don’t recall the era when the United States Mint sold collectors an annual Proof set and an annual Uncirculated Mint set and maybe a few medals, but nothing more.
     
    I also thought of the many changes Steve Roach, our editor-in-chief who just stepped into the editor-at-large position — a step that will enable him to continue writing for us while at the same time pursuing new opportunities — helped bring about in moving Coin World from a print-only publication to a digital one. 
     
    Through all of the years I’ve spent here at Coin World, one force has driven everything that all of us here share — a love of coins and numismatics, a love of writing and editing and reporting.  
    Transitions will always be underway, but that love for the hobby will be undying.

    Commemorative coins honoring Mark Twain long overdue

    March 6, 2015 4:39 PM by

    What would Mark Twain think about being depicted on the 2016 commemorative coins that will honor him for his immense contributions to American literature?

     

    I think he would be amused, and he was vain enough that he would also be a bit pleased.

    Twain is the first American chosen for depiction on U.S. commemorative coinage to receive the honor because of his literary contributions.

    SEE THE COIN DESIGNS: Part 1: Gold obverses — Part 2: Gold reverses — Part 3: Silver obverses — Part 4: Silver reverses

    Congress has honored dozens of politicians and military leaders and athletes and Civil Rights advocates on our commemorative coinage, and some of them made their own literary contributions. But never before has Congress honored anyone whose primary claim to fame is that he was a writer.

    And what a writer.

    Twain was the quintessential American writer and humorist. His Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is considered one of the greatest works of American literature; it can be read on multiple levels (I first encountered it as a very young child, and have read it multiple times since, gaining new appreciation every time). Life on the Mississippi beautifully captures the river that played such a major role in Twain’s life. Roughing It includes his hilarious experiences as a prospector and miner in the Nevada mining region (he failed spectacularly, and had to turn to writing to survive — fortunately for the literary world). His time travel story, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, predates H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine by many years, and is so much funnier than Wells’ dystopian tale.

    His shorter works, too, are often wonderful, including “The £1,000,000 Bank Note,” which tells of the troubles resulting from disputes over ownership of a very high denomination Bank of England note.

    Twain’s influence on American humorists cannot be overstated. All modern humorists owe a great debt to him. If he were alive today, he would likely have his own television show like Stephen Colbert and John Stewart. He would be just as biting and funny as any of these modern-day commentators. And like those two very funny men on their TV programs, Twain, when he was a reporter, blurred the lines between facts and fantasy. His early newspaper writings, what turned Sam Clemens into Mark Twain, would fit right in on Saturday Night Live’s news brief, or the monologues read by Colbert or Stewart.

    In addition to being amused and maybe a bit proud at appearing on a coin, Twain would also recognize the irony of depicting him on coinage bearing the national motto “In God We Trust.”

    Twain said this about the motto’s use on coinage, in a speech he gave May 14, 1908:

    “Some years ago on the gold coins we used to trust in God. It think it was in 1863 that some genius suggested that it be put on the gold and silver coins which circulated among the rich. They didn't put it on the nickels and coppers because they didn't think the poor folks had any trust in God. ... If I remember rightly, the President required or ordered the removal of that sentence from the coins. Well, I didn't see that the statement ought to remain there. It wasn't true. But I think it would better read, ‘Within certain judicious limitations we trust in God,’ and if there isn't enough room on the coin for this, why enlarge the coin.

    On the basic facts, Twain’s comments were a fairly accurate recapitulation of the history of the motto’s use on coinage.

    He was a little off on the date, of course. The motto’s origins trace to an 1861 letter from a minister to the Treasury secretary and it didn’t appear on a coin until the release of the bronze 2-cent coin in 1864. But he was pretty close otherwise.

    The president being referenced was Theodore Roosevelt, and Twain was right; TR demanded that the motto not be used on the new gold coins designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens for issuance in 1907. Of course, about the time Twain was making his speech, Congress was overriding Roosevelt’s decision by ordering the use of the motto on the coinage. And the lesser coins mentioned by Twain — the nickels and coppers — they, too, would gain the motto a few years later as new designs were issued to replace the old “godless” coins.

    Twain’s appearance on American coinage is long overdue. And it is very welcome.

     

     

    Change sometimes seems unfair if you're on the wrong side of it

    February 20, 2015 3:18 PM by
    ​A pair of telephone calls I received from readers recently brought to mind how much the coin marketplace has changed in the more than 38 years I have spent on the Coin World staff. I am not talking about changes to grading standards nor about the massive increases in products offered by the United States Mint. I am referring to changes in how coins are bought and sold.

    The phone calls were similar in nature. One reader described seeing what, as best as I could determine, was a privately “enhanced” American Eagle silver bullion coin being sold by one dealer. The other caller was interested in a medal offered by a private minter. Each caller wanted a phone number for the merchant offering the item he was interested in purchasing. For each caller, I dutifully ascertained who they wanted to contact and then went online to search for the merchant’s phone number. That’s when the same problem arose twice.

    The dealer offering the enhanced American Eagle operated a store through Amazon. The private minter similarly has a Web presence where he sells his creations. In neither case could I find a telephone number for the caller. Both companies appeared to transact all business online; neither operated a brick-and-mortar shop and neither took orders over the phone, at least from what I could tell through my quick searches online for the readers.And that was a problem for each of the two readers, because neither has personal online access.

    When I joined the Coin World staff in 1976, most business between dealer and collector was conducted in person at a coin shop or at a coin show; or through the mail or by a phone number appearing in an ad (by the way, some of the earliest coin dealer ads bearing phone numbers date to about 1911). Collectors ordered their annual Proof set or Uncirculated Mint set by mail, paying by check and using the form the Bureau of the Mint mailed to them as Mint customers.

    The introduction of the World Wide Web changed all that, as coin dealers and the U.S. Mint began conducting an increasing amount of their business at their new websites as the 20th century closed. While some collectors quickly embraced being able to order coins online, many of Coin World’s readers hated the change.

    That became very clear with the Mint’s sale of the 2001 American Buffalo commemorative silver dollar. The program sold out in two weeks, and a popular set containing one of the coins sold out in a matter of hours. Some readers accustomed to waiting for their Mint catalog or order form to arrive in the mail, so they could order the commemoratives by return mail,found that the coin had sold out before they could even place their order.

    Of the many phone calls Coin World received, a common thread was heard in many of them. Readers without online access — many of them longtime Mint customers who had happily bought Mint products by mail for decades  — said it was unfair that they were shut out of being able to acquire the coins just because they lacked online access.

    Today, much of the numismatic business is conducted online.Collectors and dealers can bid on auction lots online, and order coins at dealer or Mint websites.

    Some dealers, as we have seen, now transact all of their business online, whether it is through Amazon or eBay or at their own websites.They do not offer potential customers an alternative means of purchase.

    Collectors today without online access are in the same predicament that others found themselves in when on the traditional side of technological change. Farmers who relied on horse-drawn equipment could notwork their fields as quickly and efficiently as farmers using tractors, whether powered by steam or internal combustion engines. The Pony Express lasted just a short while, its once fast delivery of letters overtaken by telegraph wires that stretched from coast to coast and to every city, town and village.

    Change may seem unfair sometimes. Some collectors cannot afford a computer or smart phone or tablet with online access; others may feel they are too set in their ways to embrace the new technologies. Because of the lack of access, the two recent callers to Coin World may find themselves unable to purchase the coin and medal they wanted.But change happens, and very often, it benefits those who embrace that change.

    More from CoinWorld.com:

    New doubled die obverse confirmed on 1919 dime exciting collectors

    Polish mint goes global with groundbreaking coin shape

    200-year-old Baltimore time capsule believed to contain coins

    Israel's largest-ever gold hoard discovery reported at ancient harbor

    Mint marks in error on gold American Eagle coins, only two different coins have them

    Please sign in or join to share your thoughts on this story.

    Keep up with all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by signing up for our free eNewslettersliking us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter. We're also on Instagram!

    Mint to issue another Reverse Proof coin

    February 12, 2015 7:43 AM by

    The U.S. Mint caught the collector community off-guard Feb. 6 when it announced that it would be issuing two special 2015 Roosevelt silver dimes as part of a set to contain a Proof 2015-W March of Dimes silver dollar. 

    The Reverse Proof 2015-P Roosevelt dime to be in the set is a first for the denomination and the ninth Reverse Proof U.S. coin overall. 
     
    A collector could fairly easily create a mini-set or exhibit of Reverse Proof coins, though many are made from expensive platinum and gold. The mini-set contains (so far!):
    • A 2006-W American Eagle 1-ounce gold $50 coin.
    • A 2006-P American Eagle silver dollar.
    • A 2007-W American Eagle half-ounce platinum $50 coin.
    • A 2011-P American Eagle silver dollar.
    • A 2012-S American Eagle silver dollar.
    • A 2013-W American Eagle silver dollar.
    • A 2013-W American Buffalo 1-ounce gold $50 coin.
    • A 2014-W Kennedy silver half dollar.
    Mint officials have also said that collectors should expect additional Mint products with Reverse Proof coins in 2015, including a Reverse Proof set or sets to mark the 50th anniversary of the production of Proof coins at the San Francisco Mint. 
     
    The other silver dime in the March of Dimes set — a Proof 2015-W Roosevelt dime — is special, too. Until now, all standard Proof Roosevelt dimes were struck either at the Philadelphia Mint (1950 to 1964) or at the San Francisco Mint (1968 to date). The West Point Mint has struck Roosevelt dimes before, though: a 1996-W copper-nickel clad version included in the 1996 Uncirculated Mint set. 
     

    Is it Liberty, or is it Wonder Woman?

    January 22, 2015 2:49 PM by

    The United States Mint unveiled a slew of designs for its 2015 High Relief gold $75 coin on the afternoon of Jan. 22: eagles in various poses for the reverse and images of Liberty for the obverse.

    As Coin World’s Washington correspondent Bill McAllister has reported, the Commission of Fine Arts in its Jan. 22 review of the designs recommended two different obverse designs displaying the allegorical figure as Liberty, one showing a Liberty Head and the other a nearly full-length Liberty figure.

    The various Liberty portraits submitted for review encompass a wide range — some gorgeous and others that were much less attractive; some simple and others intricate.

    Some designs stand out above others.

    Two striking portraits of a Liberty Head figure depict her with decidedly African-American features — a bold choice in this increasingly diverse nation, and one which is recommended by the CFA. She wears wheat strands in her hair in both portraits, and both show her in three-quarters view, with one design showing a fraction more of her face than the other.

    Many of the depictions show standing portraits of Liberty,some from torso upward, with others showing the full length of her body. Depictions of flags, flaming torches, various plants, wings, shields and swords help support the central Liberty in her various portrayals. Think of Liberty as botanist, or Liberty as patriot, or Liberty as angel, or Liberty as peacemaker,or Liberty as the potential warrior.

    And then there’s Liberty as Wonder Woman. Yeah, Wonder Woman. The Mint’s 14th design shows a virtually full length portrait of Liberty, her hair held in place by a helmet, armor covering her torso, a sword in her right hand and a union shield being supported by her left hand. The design shows Liberty as Warrior Queen, or an Amazonian princess. Like I said,Wonder Woman.

    The design is clearly modeled after the Statue of Freedom that stands as guardian atop the U.S. Capitol dome, though somewhat modernized.And yet the figure also throws off this Wonder Woman vibe. True, she’s not wearing Wonder Woman’s classic costume (Google “Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman” if you’re uncertain of what that looks like).However, the character of Wonder Woman is sometimes shown in the comics wearing flowing robes similar to those worn by women in ancient Greece and Rome, and thus looks a lot like the design reviewed on Jan. 22.

    These comments should not be construed as criticism. Far from it, as the many Wonder Woman statues and figures and busts that grace the geek shelves of my home prove.

    To Americans, the allegorical figure of Liberty can represent many things. Why not Wonder Woman, who wears the red, white and blue of her adopted country?​

    Finding patterns in the Top 10 Stories of 2014

    December 31, 2014 12:18 PM by

    The year 2014 is now officially past, and Coin World tradition means that it is now time for the editorial staff to present to you its annual recap of the Top 10 Numismatic Stories of 2014.

    As in the past, editorial staff members met in mid-December to vote on the Top 10 stories they had covered in the past year. Everyone had an opportunity to present his or her choices, and then we voted on what we believed were the year’s most important stories. For the most part, the votes were not even close. Stories such as the release of the 2014-W Kennedy gold half dollar and the National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins were universal choices — no one on the staff disagreed that they were among our top stories for the year. 

    It should be noted, however, that we did not rank the stories from 1 to 10 in terms of importance. That is for our readers to decide.

    Read all of the Top 10 Stories of 2014 that have been posted so far

    Some patterns emerged this year, as they often do in each year’s list. Of the 10 stories deemed the year’s most important, four directly involved 2014 programs and initiatives of the United States Mint: the 50th Anniversary Kennedy half dollar program, the Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins, another record year for sales of the American Eagle 1-ounce silver bullion coin, and the Mint’s successful launch of its new website. Since most of our readers collect modern U.S. coins issued by the Mint, it should be no surprise that so many of our top stories have a close Mint connection

    Three other stories involved found treasure connected to the California Gold Rush: the Saddle Ridge Hoard of gold coins and the discovery of the 70-ounce gold Butte Nugget, both finds made in Gold Rush country, and the resumption of recovery of gold ingots, coins and more from the shipwreck of the SS Central America, which carried tons of California gold in its cargo bays when it was sunk in 1857. Treasure stories are always popular with readers and with the editorial staff, so it is rare when our annual recap of a year’s news does not feature one or more treasure stories.

    A seventh article has links to both treasure and the U.S. Mint: the revelation that a 1974-D Lincoln aluminum cent had been discovered (no one, including U.S. Mint officials, was even aware any of the experimental aluminum cents had been struck at the Denver Mint). 

    The remaining two articles are market driven: one is about the amazing number of major collections entering the marketplace in 2014 or being announced as coming to market in early 2015, and the other top article is about a series of record prices being set for ancient and more recent world coins.

    As with any “Top” list, room for disagreement exists. What do you think of our choices? Did we miss any major stories? Let us know your thoughts by emailing cweditor@coinworld.com and by commenting on our Coin World Facebook page.

    More from CoinWorld.com:

    £1.3 million 11th century coin hoard discovered by metal detectorist in England

    Gold 50th Anniversary 2014 Kennedy half dollars draw crowds: Top 10 Stories of 2014

    When are they going to open the Boston time capsule and see what's inside?

    U.S. Trade dollar series remains one of the most heavily counterfeited among U.S. coins

    U.S. Mint making Proof 2015-W silver American Eagles available for more customers during FUN Show

    Keep up with all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by signing up for our free eNewslettersliking us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter. We're also on Instagram!

    A Thanksgiving surprise: U.S. Mint releases ‘humdrum’ set that isn’t

    December 8, 2014 5:04 PM by

    Twenty years after the U.S. Mint issued a set with a 1994-P Jefferson 5-cent coin bearing a special finish, and not revealing that the coin was special until after the set sold out, the Mint has done something remarkably similar.

    Coin World Senior Editor Paul Gilkes reports in this issue about the Mint’s surprise “sleeper set of the year”—the 2014 American $1 Coin and Currency set with an Enhanced Uncirculated 2014-D Native American dollar.

    RELATED VIDEO: An exciting end for 2014 Mint products

    When the Mint announced details of the set Nov. 13, it noted only that the coin had an “uncirculated finish." As one collector said, “Yawn. Someone tell me why this set exists.” 

    However, as collectors started examining Mint images of the set packaging, they noticed the words “Enhanced Uncirculated,” and when they started receiving their sets after sales began Nov. 20, the special finish was confirmed in the accompanying certificate of authenticity.

    The failure to announce ahead of the set’s release that the coin had a special finish was a rare misstep by the Mint’s Sales and Marketing staff, which in recent times has done a good job in promoting coins with special features.

    After Mint officials released additional details about the finish on the morning before Thanksgiving, Coin World and other media quickly published news of the coin’s nature. Customers then placed so many orders that by Dec. 1, the set was “out of stock” for several days before sales resumed.

    A 50,000-piece sales limit makes the Enhanced Uncirculated 2014-D Native American dollar the likely key date in the series. 

    In deciding whether to buy the 2014 set, collectors might want to look at current values for the aforementioned Matte Finish 1994-P Jefferson 5-cent coin and a similar Matte Finish 1997-P 5-cent coin. Both coins are among the highest priced pieces in the series since 1968.

    After a busy year with such exciting issues as the Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins and the Kennedy gold half dollars, December looked to be rather dull for the Mint. With the release of the new set, however, the year will close out on a high note. 

    Who says collecting modern U.S. coins can’t be exciting? 

    More from CoinWorld.com:

    Federal judge sentences Liberty Dollar creator Dec. 2 to probation for 2011 conviction

    U.S. Mint announces Dec. 5 maximum mintage of 75,000 for gold half dollar

    2014 American $1 Coin and Currency Sets: Sales resume, again, on Dec. 4 after brief period of sales Dec. 3

    Collectors love finding coins bearing the 'CC' Mint mark from the Carson City Mint

    Reader wonders if a 'gold' medal he bought on eBay for $74 could be worth more

    Keep up with all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by signing up for our free eNewslettersliking us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter. We're also on Instagram!

    U.S. Mint confiscates 1804 dollars — in the 19th century

    September 30, 2014 3:47 PM by

    It's a nightmare scenario for many hobbyists. U.S. Mint officials contact owners of rare 1804 dollars and demand their return, and upon receipt of the coins, destroy most of them.

    Some observers of recent Mint litigation involving 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagles and a 1974-D Lincoln cent struck in aluminum warn of such a nightmare scenario. They say that if Mint efforts at confiscating these coins are unchecked, classic rarities produced under less than official circumstances, such as the 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin and 1804 Draped Bust dollars, could be next.

    The fears of a broadened wave of confiscations are likely overblown, but those voicing such concerns can cite historical precedence. The Mint has already confiscated 1804 dollars, and by some accounts, destroyed them — a century and a half ago.

    For longtime collectors, the back story of the 1804 Draped Bust dollars is a familiar one. No 1804 dollars were struck in 1804. The so-called Originals were struck circa 1834 for use in diplomatic Proof sets to be presented to foreign heads of state like the Sultan of Muscat and the King of Siam. When collectors became aware of the coins' existence, a few favored individuals were able to acquire some of the circa 1834 strikes from the Mint. Years later, at the end of the 1850s, Mint employees began striking new 1804 dollars (Restrikes, as they are sometimes called) using the same obverse die and a different reverse die, and selling them to dealers and collectors — without official authority to do so — to meet new demand for the coins. 

    These unsanctioned sales were quite the scandal in the numismatic community in the 1860s, and many collectors were outraged that Mint was selling such pieces to a select few. In November 1861, members of the Boston Numismatic Society wrote James Pollock, director of the Mint, calling to his attention the fact that Mint employees had been abusing the system by striking pattern coins and other rarities, and offering them to dealers. Pollock was pretty noncommittal in his response, about whether abuses truly had occurred and whether he would stop them.

    Some years later, William E. DuBois, the curator of numismatics of the Mint Cabinet — the Mint's collection of coins that was the basis for today's National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution — wrote in the numismatic press that Mint employees had sold five 1804 dollars in the category that modern collectors call Class II. These coins, struck circa 1858, have a plain edge and a different reverse than the 1834 Originals, which have a lettered edge along with a distinctive reverse.

    In an apparent effort to clean up the mess some Mint employees had made, Mint officials requested that the owners of the five Class II coins return them, according to DuBois. Four of the coins were returned (no evidence exists of a surviving 16th example, however; just 15 known 1804 dollars survive of all classes), with one retained and three destroyed. Today, the sole Class II coin known rests in the National Numismatic Collection.

    The confiscation and destruction of the Class II coins was not the end of the 1804 dollar story, and the Mint's notorious practices were resumed, if they were ever stopped in the first place. Some time after the end of 1850s and early 1860s (no one today knows for sure), additional examples were struck with a lettered edge and the second reverse. These later dollars are the Class III coins. Other great rarities also slipped out the Mint's doors, even into the 21st century.

    DuBois' claim that some 1804 dollars were destroyed in the 1860s, if true, could cause owners of 1804 dollars today to worry at least a little about future Mint actions. Today, it is impossible to know whether the Class II 1804 dollars were truly destroyed, or whether they were converted into Class III coins with the addition of edge lettering, and then sold back into the marketplace.

    It is unlikely that existing 1804 dollars will be confiscated in the future. However, coins rest in collections today that the government wants to confiscate, and the Treasury Department has an inconsistent history on what it consider legally collectible. Never say never.

    Publisher’s dilemma: what to add to standard price guides

    September 2, 2014 10:35 AM by
    As Coin World’s resident error coin specialist, I get a lot of phone calls from readers about coins they’ve found. A call I received the other day was typical, and unfortunately for the caller, so was my response.

    The caller was excited about a coin he had owned for some 40 years: a 1971 Eisenhower dollar that was missing the letters OL in DOLLAR on the coin’s reverse. The owner expressed surprise that after all those years, the coin had not been listed in any publication, including the “Red Book” — Whitman’s venerable A Guide Book of United States Coins — and was hopeful that it could be listed in standard references.

    Now, I can’t speak for Whitman, but as the principal editor for Coin World’s own annual Guide to U.S. Coins, Prices & Value Trends for more than a quarter century, I’m qualified to discuss why a few “odd” coins make the listings but most do not.

    I explained to the caller that, for his coin, the most likely explanation is that some foreign matter, maybe “grease,” filled incused portions of the die. The grease impeded metal flow into those letters of the die, thus the OL was not formed on the coin. Such pieces are common, though collectible, with minor examples usually bringing very low premiums.

    References like the “Red Book” and the Coin World Price Guide do not add such coins to their listings for a very good reason. The error was temporary — once the grease wore away after a few strikes or was manually removed by a Mint employee, the die would have returned to striking normal coins. It is also of a very common type. 

    What standard price guides incorporate into their listings is a selection of die varieties (and die stages and states), and even then, just a tiny fraction of varieties that are produced are included. Granted, a few outliers have made their way into general works like the "Red Book" and Coin World's price guide, including the 1922-D Lincoln, No D cents. These errors are not die varieties in the technical sense; they fall into the category of die stages/states, since the changes that resulted in the missing D Mint mark occurred after the obverse die was placed into production, and not during the creation of the die itself.

    Collectors who don’t understand the differences between errors, like the struck-through coin owned by the caller, and die varieties, like the 1955 Lincoln, Doubled Die Obverse cent (which the caller repeatedly referred to as “double stamped”) don’t enjoy the broad exposure to errors and varieties both great and small that we at Coin World and Whitman enjoy. They also don’t face the dilemma we publishers face of deciding what legitimate varieties to add to our respective products.

    Generally, varieties are added to a standard reference when they are collected not only by specialists but by general collectors as well, or have gained wide popularity in collecting circles. That’s why the prime Doubled Die Obverse variety for the 1955 Lincoln cent is listed in standard references while the other multiple Doubled Die Obverses for the same date are found listed only in highly specialized references.

    There is another reason a coin may not have been listed in any reference, even a specialty one devoted to Eisenhower dollars that goes beyond true die varieties — the coin may never have been reported to a specialist and confirmed. The caller had owned the coin for some 40 years but I got the impression that he had never contacted anyone in the publishing field about the coin previously; he was waiting for someone else to do so, apparently. And even when a variety has been reported to a specialist and confirmed, the find may not be reported to the broader numismatic community, even in this age of online chat rooms, forums and websites devoted exclusively to error and variety coins. 

    The caller’s coin sounded like an interesting error, especially being on a large dollar coin, and would be a nice circulation find. However, it just doesn’t qualify for a listing in any standard price guide.

    When is an error coin not an error? (Part two)

    June 2, 2014 11:45 AM by

    Last week, I previewed an attractive, desirable error coin offered in a recent Heritage auction —  a mated pair of 1973-S Washington quarter dollars. I noted that while most error collectors would love to own the coin, some concerns had to be noted.

     

    In the 1970s, Proof coins were struck on planchets that were individually hand fed into the press. After each coin was examined by the press operator, it was then delivered to the packaging facilities to be inserted into the hard plastic cases used for Proof sets in the 1970s. Error coin experts state that it would have been impossible for (1) a coin of this type to have been struck by accident and (2) to have left the San Francisco facility legitimately. By all evidence, these pieces fall into the categories of intentional and assisted error.

    So what happened?

    It is well known within the error coin community that during the 1970s, employees of the San Francisco facility were deliberately producing error coins using Proof dies, and then selling them into the collector marketplace. Many of the coins were grossly misshapen, like the mated pair described here. Some were struck on unusual planchets or scrap. They were well publicized in the numismatic community.

    Eventually, Mint investigators working on a tip from the error coin community discovered that the intentional errors were secreted within the oil pans of fork lifts used at the San Francisco facility. When the fork lifts were shipped to an outside firm for service, a confederate removed them from the oil pans and cleaned them with a degreasing agent. From there, the coins entered the marketplace.

    Mint officials shut down the unofficial minting. However, some of the Proof coin errors produced during this time remain in the marketplace, generally unmolested by authorities.

    The mated pair of quarter dollars in the Heritage auction brought a winning price of $4,553.13.

    When is an error coin not an error?

    June 2, 2014 11:20 AM by

    Coin World contributing writer Mike Diamond addressed the concepts of “assisted error” and “intentional error” in his May 12, 2014, “Collectors’ Clearinghouse” column, where he defines the two categories of coins. In short, intentional and assisted errors are given “help” by mint employees. These employees are the spiritual descendants of the 19th century U.S. Mint employees who unofficially produced 1804 dollars, patterns and other rarities for sale to favored collectors and dealers. Such practices continued well into the 20th century, as a lot in a recent auction suggests.

    Heritage Auctions’ April 23 to 27 Central States Numismatic Society sale offered a small number of visually appealing, desirable errors. Among them was lot 5200, a mated pair of 1973-S Washington quarter dollars. The Glossary of the Combined Organizations of Numismatic Errors of America defines “mated pair” thusly: “These coins were struck together in the coining chamber. They fit together perfectly.”

    Most error collectors would love to own the pair of quarter dollars in the Heritage auction. They are visually striking and would be the centerpiece of anyone’s error collection. However, a thin cloud shades this pair of coins — a shroud no commercial dip can remove. Look at the date and Mint mark. The two coins are Proofs, bearing the S Mint mark of the San Francisco Assay Office, and they are all wrong for this kind of error.

    We look at what makes this piece somewhat questionable next week.