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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 'October 2016'

    As current coin series end, what should the Mint do in the future?

    October 31, 2016 2:22 PM by
    The introduction of the State quarter dollars program in 1999 changed how we collected coins from circulation, in a good way. After decades in which coin designs remained static, collectors finally had five new designs to look for in circulation every year. The program was a huge success. At its peak, as many as 140 million individuals were collecting the series, many of them noncollectors who had previously shown little interest in collecting. I remember acquiring rolls of each new design and then sharing them with noncollectors who eagerly awaited each new release.

    The method of distribution for the series made it easy to find each new issue. The authorizing act required the Mint and the Fed­eral Reserve to work in tandem to ensure any bank in the country could order quantities of each new issue. Once local banks recognized the level of interest from their customers, most made sure that they kept their clients happy by ordering each new design.

    The follow-up quarter dollar programs  did not fare as well since no provisions were made to make it easy for banks to order specific designs. Similarly, the program featuring four different cents in 2009 to celebrate President Lincoln’s 200th birthday was only a moderate success, and the Presidential dollars series was a circulation failure since few Americans want to use a dollar coin in commerce. Which brings us to the present and the U.S. Mint’s Oct. 13 Stakeholders Forum in Philadelphia.

    The Presidential dollar series is now done. The America the Beautiful quarter dollars program will run through 2020, with one coin scheduled to be released in 2021. However, the legislation authorizing the America the Beautiful quarters program gives the Mint authority to do a second series if it chooses.

    At the Oct. 13 forum, Mint officials asked a team whether they should issue a second series of quarters, and the team made several recommendations.

    One was a return to the original designs at the end of the first series. However, the legislation authorizing the America the Beautiful series requires the Mint return to the original obverse and a new reverse showing Washington crossing the Delaware River at the conclusion, so the Mint’s options are limited.

    An American Innovators theme was discus­sed (legislation before the current Congress seeks an Innovators dollar coin program) but the team warned against the danger of showing double-headed designs (President Washington on the obverse and an inventor on the reverse), suggesting instead a series showing inventions and not inventors.

    Finally, the team suggested using the Kennedy half dollar for any future multi-design, multi-year series. Team members felt that such a series could help the 50-cent coin circulate, which it does not do now.

    No matter what the Mint does, the key to the success of any program is Mint promotion of the series beyond the numismatic community. That means advertising in general media and making it easy for collectors and noncollectors to find the coins at face value in circulation. Otherwise, the public may not even know a new series of coins exists. 

    Mint forum participants look to the future and call for circulating historic designs

    October 21, 2016 10:46 AM by
    In the United States, the coin collecting  hobby and the United States Mint are in­extricably intertwined, each deeply de­pendent on the other, and while each would survive without the other, both benefit from this symbiotic relationship. That closeness was on display Oct. 13 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia during the Mint’s Stakeholders Forum.

    Approximately 60 hobby “stakeholders” — collectors, dealers, officers from clubs both big and small, and members of the numismatic media, including me — participated in the day-long event at the bank, located a block away from the Philadelphia Mint. The Mint had a full schedule for the day, starting with introductions from Mint officials; in the weeks ahead, I’ll be writing more on some of these topics in our print issues and in my blog.

    This week though, I want to focus on one part of the program. During the afternoon, participants split into teams to discuss such topics as Mint packaging, the setting of mintage maximums and household limits for products, and historic design reproduction, the team of which I was a member.

    Members of this team largely agreed that reusing historic designs can be a good thing for the hobby, but that legal restrictions imposed on the Mint by federal law severely hamper the effectiveness of programs like the 2016 Centennial coin series to draw in new collectors. The Mint struck the three coins, originally issued in silver 100 years ago, in gold because it has broad authority to issue gold coins without seeking congressional approval. However, issuing those coins in silver would have required an act of Congress, literally.

    Many of the team members would like the Mint to issue historic designs in their original specifications for collector sale, and in current compositions for circulation. Furthermore, we liked the idea of issuing the circulating versions in fairly small numbers, randomly salting them among modern designs, and then encouraging young collectors to search for them aided by an app on their phone, as in the recent Pokemon craze. This, however, would require changes to federal law, to give the Mint more leeway than it now has to issue coins. Such changes are possible (for example, the hobby drove passage of the Hobby Protection Act of 1973 and the Bicentennial coin redesign of 1975 and 1976 through concerted lobbying efforts of Congress). However, such changes will require a collaborative effort by many in the hobby. Are we up for that?  

    Sharing some thoughts on the state of U.S. coin grading today

    October 18, 2016 9:45 AM by

    The columns by John Kraljevich, Q. David Bowers and Beth Deisher this week all address the same topic — the grading of coins. 

    Although they are from different generations, John and Dave both became numismatists at very young ages. Each is a talented researcher and cataloger, and they know a thing or two about grading. Beth, on the other hand, came to Coin World as an editor in 1981 with no knowledge of coins but a keen instinct for reporting the news.
    In his column this issue, John examines the concept of grading as a specialist in early American coinage — those issues of the Colonial and Confederation periods that predate the 1792 founding of the federal Mint.

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    “If you’d like to build a collection full of lustrous gems, each perfect and beautiful, Colonial coins may not be for you,” John begins, adding, “Various Colonial coin series, or even individual varieties, appear with their own typical, endemic flaws that help explain how they were made.”
    Because of these natural flaws, “Problems inherent in the production of Colonial coins used to be judged more leniently [by] specialist collectors. Today, however, “in the era of certifi­cation, ... coins are now judged by an uncomfortable standard,” which he explains in his column, lamenting that “many die varieties are lumped under an identical heading.
    While perfection may be elusive in early American coinage, that is no longer the case with coins struck by the United States Mint, “With literally millions of coins encased in plastic holders today bearing the grades MS-70 and Proof 70,” as Beth writes. Perfection was not reached among even modern coinage until 30 years ago, when “Page 1 of the July 30, 1986, issue of Coin World announced the earthshattering news” — that the first coins to ever be awarded a Proof 70 or Mint State 70 grade were revealed, though to “say that the perfect grade raised some eyebrows is an under­statement,” she adds.
    Even today, with “perfect 70” coins common­place, some collectors still “raise their eye­brows” when they point to examples of “perfect 70” coins with no­ticeable flaws, wondering how these coins can still receive 70 grades.
    Finally, in his column, in which he has been writing about the evolution of grading for the past month or so, Dave writes, “The seeming precision of num­bers as compared to adjectives in coin grading has opened the gates for countless thousands of coin buyers. Many, if not most, hope for quick investment profits, then leave when such do not materialize.
    For many of the readers who correspond with me, grading remains an area of great concern, whether it be the specter of “grade­flation,” in which long-established standards are ignored by third-party grading firms, or the high prices charged for coins with lofty grades. 
    They are looking for answers where there may be none, at least for now.