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William T. Gibbs

Bill’s Corner

William T. Gibbs

William was appointed the managing editor 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. 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.

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Archive for 'December 2015'

    Coin World improved website navigation and content in 2015

    December 30, 2015 11:51 AM by

    During 2015, Coin World and its corporate business, Amos Media, focused a great deal of attention on our website at www.coinworld.com.

    When Coin World was founded in March 1960, computers were still in their infancy and played no role in newspaper publications. Writers wrote their stories on manual typewriters, editors edited them by hand on paper, and typesetters composed the stories using hot lead compositors. Once an issue was printed, it then went into the mail for delivery, and depending on how far the subscriber lived from our headquarters in Sidney, Ohio, the latest issue was received within a few days to a week or more. And that delivery schedule was fine; the world, including the coin community, moved at a slower pace in those days.

    That has changed, and readers now expect to get their news within minutes, not days

    Our website allows us to do that and more, and over the years, the editors, the IT staff, and outside developers have worked at making our website better and easier to use, filled with useful, up to date information

    Tom Klausing, Amos Media’s director of digital media, highlighted for me some of the recent improvements to our website:

    For one, we improved design and navigation for both desktop and mobile devices (the growth in use of tablets and smartphones makes this function vital; now you can get all of the latest news virtually anywhere on your phone).

    We made navigation better by condensing our former “News/Headlines/Insights” all into one “News” section. This section is then broken down by topic: U.S./World/Paper/Precious Metals. Topics are clickable and will intuitively show news from that topic. Our editors will continue to write the same way they did. The big difference is that content is now presented differently, in this improved manner

    New or improved features at the website include related, recommended and trending news. On the CoinWorld.com homepage, we’ll continue to have news all over the page, and on articles you will find a “Recent News” section to the top right of each page. Also on each article page, after the end of the article, we add three related articles, chosen by editors.

    Another change is the addition of “Blog” (formerly “Voices”) prominently to the navigation.

    We hope that you find the new navigation is much more intuitive. 

    From an editor’s perspective, our website grants us the ability to post breaking news within minutes of our receiving it, thus fulfilling readers’ desires to get important news quickly. It also affords us opportunities to post news that occurs after we have closed out a print edition but before it has mailed or been released in its digital edition form (that happens pretty often; the United States Mint often releases information on Friday afternoon, after we have closed that week’s issue).

    Let us know what you think about our website, and what other improvements you would find useful in the future.

    Social media outreach prompts Treasury to buck the system

    December 23, 2015 12:52 PM by
    Of all the news stories covered in Coin World in 2015, one probably caught us a bit off guard.

    It also showed the strength of social media and it received massive coverage in the mainstream press.

    I am referring to the decision of the U.S. Treasury Department to place a portrait of a woman on the next generation of $10 Federal Reserve note, to be unveiled in 2020 and released into circulation sometime afterward.

    As I write in my article recapping this important story, members of the public had advocated for a woman’s place on our paper currency in the past, but none of those initiatives ever gained any traction, thanks to a reluctance by Treasury officials to change the persons and themes depicted on our paper money. In 2015, a new powerful force flexed its collective muscle — the strength of social media to drive news coverage and to persuade federal officials that the old party line had to go. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, at almost every press conference he gave, found himself asked about depicting a woman on a note, and others wrote to President Obama about the topic. Once the president said the idea was a pretty good one, Lew had his marching orders.

    Of course, the original movement, to get rid of Andrew Jackson, now seen by many as all that was wrong with some of our forebears, was sidelined by reality. Since the next note to be redesigned is the $10 note, the change will be made on that denomination and not the $20. The public gained some insight into the slow pace of paper money design, something regular readers of Coin World are more knowledgeable about. Still, I suspect that Old Hickory’s years appearing on the $20 note are numbered.

    Still, the haste with which the Treasury Department said that it would start depicting women on U.S. paper money caught even me a little bit off guard. I was skeptical and expecting the old party line.  Kudos to Jack Lew for doing the right thing.

    The power of the public to makes its voice heard is growing. Coin World’s own social media and online platforms — Facebook, Twitter, and its website — also afforded our readers more opportunities to offer opinions on the various news stories covered during the year. Before, when the Mint website and phone lines crashed with the opening of sales of a hot new product (like the 2015 Coin and Chronicles sets) we would get a lot of phone calls from angry collectors. This past year many instead chose to voice their frustrations at our Facebook page. Granted, some readers still called me when the first two Coin and Chronicles sets sold out in minutes (and many of them voiced their suspicions that the Mint colluded with dealers to sell marketers the bulk of the sets), but the numbers were smaller than they would have been in the past. They just went to our Facebook page to vent their anger and make their allegations. 

    The times are changing.

    Readership metrics results

    In leading up to our selection of the year’s top stories, I asked Coin World editorial staff members for their choices. Joe O’Donnell, Amos Media’s Chicago-based content producer, is a leader in our online initiatives — at our websites, on our Facebook pages, and behind the scenes in getting our word out to the world at large. Not surprisingly, he took a somewhat different approach to selecting his choices for our top stories, saying:

    “Like last year, I’m going to bring a metrics-based approach to my Top 10, just to show what went viral for us. ... (I had to include No. 11 just because I definitely think it’s a top 10 story.)”

    Here’s his list of individual stories that brought the biggest online readership:
    (1) Gold Prospector Unearths 87-Ounce Nugget In Australia.
    (2) Federal Government To Return Millions In Liberty Dollars.
    (3) Goal Of Bill To Change Silver Alloy In United States Coins.
    (4) Mint Releases Mock-Up Designs For Gold 2016 Centennial Issues.
    (5) Court Rules In Favor Of Langbord Family In 1933 Double Eagle Case.
    (6) Israel’s Largest-Ever Gold Hoard Discovery Reported.
    (7) Limited Edition 2015 March Of Dimes Special Silver Set May 4.
    (8) 2015 High Relief Gold Coin Becomes 100 Dollars Face Value.
    (9) California Dealer Discovers Fake Krugerrand In Fake Holder.
    (10) Federal Judge Rules Against Government In 1974-D Cent Case.
    (11) Enhanced Uncirculated Native American Dollars In Demand. 

    The strong reader interest in these stories does not surprise me. Coin World’s editors have long recognized that treasure stories are big draws; who has not dreamed of finding something rare and valuable, like the lucky Australian who found an 87-ounce gold nugget or the finders of the gold coins in Israel. While these stories may not have the same lasting impact on the hobby as some of the other stories, these kinds of treasure stories are popular with readers.

    Similarly, the stories about the government’s efforts to confiscate coins from American citizens elicit strong feelings from readers. Our readership is by no means 100 percent united behind the Langbord family and its claims on 10 1933 double eagles, and similar claims by several dealers on an apparently experimental 1974-D Lincoln cent struck on an aluminum planchet. However, a strong anti-government bias exists in such cases, with many readers feeling that the government has no business confiscating the coins. 

    Similarly, the decision to return Liberty Dollar medals to Americans caught a lot attention from those who have followed the government’s long legal case against Bernard von NotHaus, creator of the Liberty Dollar who in 2011 was convicted of counterfeiting U.S. coins, a decision that some hobbyists thought was prompted by von NotHaus’ longtime crusade against the Federal Reserve. The Liberty Dollar medals had been confiscated by the government in 2007 at the beginning of legal action against their issuer.

    Of course, a number of our stories involve the U.S. Mint, which is the biggest coin dealer in the world. No surprises there.

    I am looking forward to 2016. 

    Legislation has unexpected consequences

    December 17, 2015 3:04 PM by
    Call it bad timing, bad planning or the law  of unintended consequences, or maybe a combination of all three factors. The Mint has announced that it will not offer the previously announced 2015 Limited Edition Silver Proof set — not because the coins aren’t available, and not because the packaging issues that led the Mint to postpone its intended Nov. 23 release can’t be resolved, and not because the Mint has reservations about issuing a 2015 set in 2016 (the 2014 set wasn’t released until 2015).

    Mint officials instead made the decision to not issue the 2015 Limited Edition Silver Proof set because of the five-year $305 billion highway bill that President Obama signed into law on Dec. 3.

    Why would a transportation bill lead the Mint to cancel what was becoming an annual set?

    The 2015 Limited Edition Silver Proof set was to have contained a Proof 2015-W American Eagle silver dollar and 2015-S examples of the Roosevelt dime, all five America the Beautiful quarter dollars, and the Kennedy half dollar. All of the coins were available and the Mint was attempting to solve “packaging issues” for the set. The Mint could have resolved those “issues” and then released the 2015 set sometime in 2016.

    However, the transportation act that was signed into law included several provisions related to the nation’s coinage. Among them is a requirement that all Proof and Uncirculated American Eagle silver dollars issued in 2016 must have a special edge inscription recognizing the 30th anniversary of the coin. The key word in the provision is “issued.” Mint officials have interpreted this as meaning that even the existing 2015-W American Eagle silver dollars cannot be released in 2016 because they already are struck and have a reeded edge. It doesn’t matter that the coins would be dated 2015 — they can’t be issued in 2016 because they don’t meet the edge lettering requirements outlined in the legislation.

    Had the Mint not experienced “packaging issues” that delayed the release of the set, it could have gone on sale Nov. 23 and then been taken off sale on Dec. 30, possibly creating a modern rarity for those fortunate to have purchased one or more. However, with the passage of the transportation bill, this set will apparently never be released.

    Unintended consequences, indeed. 

    A few predictions on the the U.S. Mint and its 2016 programs

    December 14, 2015 10:13 AM by
    A few weeks ago, in the Dec. 14 issue of Coin World, I noted that the editorial staff was beginning to think about its selections for the “Top 10 Stories of 2015,” the latest installment of a long-running annual series in our pages. Well, we have pretty much wrapped up that list and you should see the results in the Jan. 11, 2016, issue. It’s a pretty interesting list and I’ll also share some observations from what readers saw as the most interesting stories of the year.

    In the meantime, it seems fitting that as 2015 comes to an end, we look forward to what 2016 will bring for the collecting community by making some predictions for the year. While we could visit many areas, we’ll limit our “predictions” to those involving the largest coin dealer in the world — the United States Mint.

    The sales record for the American Eagle silver bullion coin will fall (again): 

    This is a pretty safe prediction. Since 2008, sales of the American Eagle 1-ounce silver bullion coin have set a new record every year but 2012. 

    In 2007, sales of the coin totaled 9,887,000 pieces (please note that calendar sales may differ from mintages; in some years, sales included coins of two or three dates). In 2008, that sales figure more than doubled, to 19,583,000 (mintage for the 2008 coin, 20,583,000), breaking the old sales record of 10,475,500 coins in 2002. From 2009 to 2015, a new sales record was established in every year but for 2012, and even that year, with 33,742,500 coins sold, the total was more than triple the 2007 sales figure. This year’s total so far, with one more week of sales left for calendar 2015, is 45,786,000 coins.

    Silver demand has been rising across most categories — silver, jewelry, bars and ingots, coins — for several years. Silver coins have proven to be an increasingly popular investment during the last decade, showing impressive gains worldwide. Thomson Reuters noted on Nov. 17, “Coin demand should account for 12% of physical demand this year, up from 10% in 2014 and just 4% ten years ago.”
    The United States Mint has done an admirable job meeting demand, going from striking a little more than 9 million coins in 2007 to striking more than 45 million coins nine years later. Likely the Mint could be striking and selling even higher numbers if not constrained by a worldwide shortage of silver coin planchets.

    Will that trend soften in 2016? We’ll see this time next year, but don’t be surprised if we report the United States Mint sets a new American Eagle silver bullion coin sales record next year.

    The United States Mint will anger collectors somehow, somewhen: 

    As good a job as the Mint does meeting demand for the American Eagle silver bullion coins, it has a history of making stumbles. In 2009 it was the decision to not strike Proof versions of the American Eagle silver bullion coin, to focus all attention on meeting demand for the bullion versions. Collectors hated that decision because it left them with a one-year gap in their collections for the first time since sales began in 1986.

    In 2015, the Mint sales and marketing team made a series of blunders, seen most vividly with sales of the Harry S. Truman Coin and Chronicles set as part of the Presidential dollar program. The Mint sorely underestimated sales of the Truman and Eisenhower sets; both sold out in minutes, and many collectors were unsuccessful in placing orders by phone or at the Mint website. The Mint made some changes when offering the Kennedy and Johnson sets, making the sales of those two products much smoother, but the damage had been done; a lot of collectors who were unsuccessful in buying the first two sets suddenly found that their sets of Presidential dollars were incomplete.

    Obviously, the Mint can’t please 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time (to steal a phrase), but some decisions seem to really, really hack off large numbers of collectors, even when that anger is misdirected or based on an erroneous conclusion. We hope that the Mint’s marketing team will make better decisions in 2016 but we don’t like the odds on that.

    The 2016 gold centennial editions of the Winged Liberty Head dime, Standing Liberty quarter dollar, and Walking Liberty half dollar will be a hit with collectors (but not as big a hit as silver versions would be): 

    Collectors are understandably excited about the Mint’s decision to issue 2016 versions of the Winged Liberty Head dime, Standing Liberty quarter dollar, and Walking Liberty half dollar in gold to celebrate the centennial of the introduction of these three coins in 1916.

    All three designs are celebrated for their beauty and it can be said that each design is the best ever created for its respective denomination. All three coins were designed during the period known as the Golden Age of U.S. Coinage Design. Many of the designs from that era — 1907 to 1921 — have been resurrected on modern U.S. coins: the Indian Head 5-cent coin and the Saint-Gaudens gold double eagle among them. The obverse of the Walking Liberty half dollar was resurrected in 1986 for the American Eagle 1-ounce silver bullion coin and has been used on that coin ever since. The “Mercury” dime and Standing Liberty quarter now join that list of designs taken from the Philadelphia Mint’s vaults, dusted off, and reused for a modern purpose

    The coins should sell well, but the program would be even better had the Mint been able to issue the centennial coins in silver (the original composition of the 1916 coins) in addition to gold.

    However, while provisions in the U.S. Code give the Treasury secretary broad authority to issue certain gold coins without congressional approval, the office lacks similar authority for silver coins. Issuing the centennial coins in silver requires an act of Congress, and no such legislation is pending.

    With gold coins priced above the budgets of many collectors, sales of the centennial coins will be well below what they could have been had the Mint sought and gained congressional approval for the silver coins.

    The U.S. Mint will issue an exciting new product that is on no one’s collection radar screens: 

    The Mint does a great job of developing a new product and springing it upon collectors with little advance notice. In recent years that has included new treatments like the Reverse Proof finish and Enhanced Uncirculated finish, and coins like the American Liberty, High Relief gold coin.

    Will the Mint surprise us and excite us and maybe upset us in 2016? We can’t wait to see. 

    Some coins should be off-limits to collectors

    December 9, 2015 3:46 PM by
    When should a particular kind of coin be untouchable, off-limits to collectors?

    Sometimes an answer to a question you haven’t thought about for a while can come when history, current events and coins all converge at the same time unexpectedly.

    Freelance contributor Gerald Tebben provides always insightful articles for Coin World through his column “Coin Lore” and features like his cover article on patriotic printers in the November 2015 issue of our monthly magazine. He also blogs for us with his “Five Facts” blog, with his latest series focused on men who committed mass genocide in the past who happen to be depicted on coins that many people collect.

    Two days after his last blog was published on Nov. 11 on Leopold II, Belgium’s king who killed millions in the Belgian Congo, came the horrors of the Islamic State’s terrorist attacks in Paris that killed nearly 130 people and injured hundreds more.

    In September, the Islamic State (also known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL) released a movie (which I haven’t watched) announcing its new series of gold and silver coins. According to news accounts, Islamic State leaders want to ruin the economies of the world powers and especially that of the United States by encouraging the replacement of the U.S. dollar with gold. An article published by The Economist on Sept. 3 gives three reasons why the Islamic State’s financial plans are doomed to failure; you should read the article.

    But what about the Islamic State’s coins? Are they something collectors should pursue as collectibles? While Coin World rarely takes a stand against collecting a particular series of coins, this is one time we’ll abandon that principle. Don’t do it, for one good reason (many others exist): providing financial support, even indirectly, to an organization whose sole purpose in life is to foment terror and murder and enslavement is morally wrong and probably illegal.

    Men like Leopold II, who killed millions, are long gone; their coins are part of the historical record and thus are collectible if you have a desire to.

    But not the coins of the Islamic State.