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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 'March 2016'

    Unique 1907 gold pattern could be at the same risk as aluminum cent

    March 24, 2016 1:52 PM by

    The 1907 Indian Head gold $20 double eagle is arguably one of the greatest U.S. patterns ever struck. The coin bears a variation of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Liberty portrait eventually adopted for the 1907 Indian Head gold eagle married with a version of the artist’s Flying Eagle design used on the adopted reverse of the 1907 double eagle. The date appears in Roman Numerals at the bottom of the reverse (not the obverse), and LIBERTY is the sole inscription on the obverse, boldly positioned below the portrait. The pattern is unique, entered the marketplace from the estate of Charles Barber (chief engraver of the U.S. Mint when the pattern was struck), and today is in a private anonymous collection. It last sold at auction in 1984 for $467,500.

    So is this 1907 pattern permitted to be in a private collection? After all, the sole 1974-D aluminum cent was just returned to the U.S. Mint by a coin dealer and a second man whose father was given the cent as he retired from a long-held position at the Denver Mint; even the son agreed the Mint made a compelling case. Similarities between the two pieces are striking. Both are unique, both were struck during a period of experimentation at the Mint, and both surfaced in the marketplace from the estates of U.S. Mint employees.

    To many outside the collector community and even for some within it, Barber’s keeping of a historic pattern would not pass the smell test. A current Mint employee would be prosecuted for keeping a modern pattern, justifiably so. Remember, also, that just a few years after the 1907 pattern was struck, the Mint fought hard and successfully to force a private collector to return two unique 1877 gold $50 half union patterns (today, they’re national treasures).

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    Well, according to the U.S. Mint in a March 23 statement in response to my inquiry, the 1907 pattern could be a target for its return. The Mint’s Tom Jurkowsky said this: “If at some point we become aware of specific conclusive information that the 1907 Indian Head Double Eagle experimental piece is United States Mint property that came to be in private hands without proper authority, we will take the appropriate next steps to retrieve it as well.”
     
    Hobby leaders have worried for years that cases like the Langbord 1933 double eagles could spread unwanted attention to other great rarities. It is a fact that some great coins fall into a gray zone of legality. For example, the five 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coins were unknown to the hobby until some years later when they surfaced in the hands of a newly retired Philadelphia Mint employee. Collectors have long speculated that this employee struck the coins without authority and then spirited them out of the Mint, waiting until after his retirement to reveal their existence (he even bought an advertisement seeking these coins in The Numismatist, and — surprise — a few months later he announced that he had acquired five examples through his ad). 
     
    Now, new light is being shone on some questionable coins. Some collectors and dealers are certain that requiring certain rare coins to be turned over to the government is wrong, and it is easy to take that point of view. But again, these are gray areas. 
     
    How many would disagree today that those 1877 half union patterns, now in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution, are national treasures that should be owned by the American people, especially given their background? They were thought destroyed by the Mint for their gold content, but Col. A. Loudon Snowden, superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint from 1879 to 1885, apparently spirited them out of the Mint and sold them to a dealer, with the coins eventually sold to the collector who revealed their existence in 1909.
     
    Interestingly, that collector, pattern specialist William H. Woodin, would become secretary of the Treasury in the early administration of President Franklin Roosevelt and thus in charge of the Mint. While Snowden deserves credit for apparently saving the patterns from destruction, can anyone honestly say that as the man in charge of the Philadelphia Mint, he had the authority to take the patterns from the government and presumably profit from them personally? 
     
    We likely have not seen the last of Mint action similar to that involving the 1974-D aluminum cent. We will watch with great interest in the months and years ahead, as other great rarities surface and draw attention, some of it unwelcome.

    A bold recommendation for American Liberty

    March 18, 2016 10:55 AM by

    Liberty, that icon who has graced U.S. coinage since 1793, appears poised to have a new face that reflect the nation’s growing diversity.

    During their reviews of designs provided by the U.S. Mint for the 2017 American Liberty, High Relief gold coin and silver medal, the two federal panels that advise the Treasury Department on coinage and medal designs went for the same bold choice. Both panels chose to emphasis the first word of “American Liberty” and to thankfully abandon “traditional” concepts, by selecting a portrait of a woman with distinct African-American features to be the new face of Liberty.

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    Mint artists over the years have interpreted the concept of Liberty in different ways, but until recently, all of the renditions of Liberty were influenced by classical Greek and Roman art, with Liberty represented by a white woman. Sure, James Barton Longacre depicted Liberty masquerading as a Native American on his cent of 1859, but his Indian Head cent shows a woman with a classical profile wearing a Native American headdress. Bela Lyon Pratt and James Earle Fraser later depicted authentic male American Indians on their classic coins, but it wasn’t until 2000 that Glenna Goodacre’s Liberty portrait on the Sacagawea dollar showed a female Liberty who wasn’t white.

    Not long after the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and Commission of Fine Arts made their decisions on the 2017 American Liberty designs, some collectors began to object to the panels’ choice for Liberty. A few of those objecting simply said they didn’t like the portrait, but others trotted out that tiresome phrase “politically correct” in voicing their opposition to the idea of an African-American Liberty.

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    The entire idea of the American Liberty program was to highlight a changing America, and the proposed 2017 design does a better job of that than the design on the 2015 American Liberty coin. It’s a fact that national demographics are changing. The U.S. Census Bureau said in 2015 that by 2020, “more than half of the nation’s children are expected to be part of a minority race or ethnic group.”
     
    Our nation’s coinage, and its paper money, needs to keep pace with the changing faces of Americans. The new face of Liberty is a welcome addition. 

    Boy, do We miss Frank Annunzio and Mike Castle, who did it right

    March 4, 2016 12:24 PM by

    ​Does the investor market really need a palladium bullion coin? That question had been answered but Congress in its “wisdom” has overridden hard data to require the United States Mint to issue such a coin anyway.

    Congress in 2010 authorized the Mint to issue a palladium bullion coin but required Mint officials to study the matter first to determine whether the idea was viable. The Mint released its findings on March 1, 2013.

    As Coin World reported then, “The palladium market study was completed by New York City-based CPM Group under provisions of the American Eagle Palladium Bullion Coin Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-303). CPM Group is a commodities market research, consulting, asset management and investment-banking firm.”

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    The findings were clear. CPM Group researchers found that demand would be insufficient to profitably sustain a palladium bullion coin program.
     
    Here’s what Coin World’s Paul Gilkes reported after reading the 2013 study: “CPM Group outlined a 10-year demand forecast, suggesting 150,000 troy ounces in total sales the first year — 100,000 ounces in bullion coins, 33,333 ounces in Proof coins and 16,667 ounces in Uncirculated pieces. Demand is projected to slip to 40,000 ounces the second year — 20,000 in bullion coins, 13,333 in Proof pieces and 6,667 in Uncirculated coins. By the 10th year, demand is projected at 4,500 ounces — 3,000 in bullion coins, 1,000 in Proof coins and 500 in Uncirculated coins
     
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    In general, the study found that a bullion coin program likely would not be profitable on its own though a collector-based program could be. Since 2013, Mint officials had not entirely abandoned the possibility of an American Eagle palladium coin program, but the project was not a high priority.
     
    Well, whether it needs one or not, it appears that an American Eagle palladium bullion coin is in the nation’s future.
     
    Legislation passed by Congress in December 2015 has rendered the 2013 survey moot. The Mint must move forward with a 1-ounce .9995 fine palladium bullion coin, no matter if the program will not be viable.
     
    Congress’ action is all too typical when it comes to coin- and bullion-related legislation. Ignore facts and go ahead anyway. So what if an in-depth survey suggested that a bullion program might not be financially wise.
     
    Gone are the days when Congress had a legislator who was keenly interested in the hobby and who actually conducted hearings on important legislation. Today commemorative coin and congressional gold medal legislation is passed when enough co-sponsors sign on to move it to the floor of the House and Senate for a vote. No one actually seeks outside expert opinion on the legislation as in the good old days when legislators like Frank Annunzio and Michael Castle really cared about numismatics and actually legislated by scheduling hearings from hobby and industry leaders. Today it is merely who can line up the votes.
     
    We miss those days, those wise legislators.