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Jeff Starck

Starck Contrasts

Jeff Starck

Jeff is a senior editor and was Coin World's 2003 Margo Russell intern and joined the staff in 2004. Jeff has been a collector since childhood and fondly remembers the challenges of completing Whitman folders by pulling coins from circulation and searching rolls from the bank. His current collecting interest focuses on Missouri-related numismatics and exonumia. He is the primary writer for the World Coins section in the monthly Special Edition and is responsible for Coin World's coverage of world coins and weekly International page. He graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from Webster University in St. Louis where he was editor-in-chief of its weekly student newspaper.

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Archive for 'October 2014'

    ​So you want to make your own coins?

    October 24, 2014 2:59 PM by
    ​So you want to make your own coins?

    It’s not as hard as you may think

    Anyone who pays attention to the modern new issues market quickly becomes aware of the outpouring of commemoratives, often from far-flung tropical island nations or war-torn African countries, but also from national mints like the Royal Canadian Mint and the Mint of Poland.

    Private issuers abound, with European and Asian and even American companies directing programs intended to capture segments of the market.

    Maybe you want to cash in on that craze by issuing your own coins, with a theme of your choosing? But invading a country is too dangerous, and buying a sovereign island outright is too expensive.

    So, you could always partner with a mint that already has a relationship with an issuing authority like Palau, the Cook Islands, or Somalia. Let’s assume that you will coordinate the program with the Mint of Poland, which issues coins for the National Bank of Poland as well as several other partners.

    A popular size for the many noncirculating legal tender coins struck by the Mint of Poland is a silver, crown-size coin measuring 38.61 millimeters and weighing 28.28 grams. This is a fairly standard size among the Mint of Poland and the Pobjoy Mint, among others.

    Mintages have been getting ever smaller as the market explodes and competing issues clamor for attention. A recent issue for the gold-plated 2015 $1 coin for the Year of the Goat had a mintage of 1,500 pieces.

    Back of the envelope calculations indicate that 1,500 coins, at $17.27 per ounce (the closing London market price on Oct. 22), would have a base precious metals cost of $21,789 U.S. That price doesn’t account for any special technology like gold-plating, color or embedded jewels, some favorite embellishments at the Mint of Poland.

    That price doesn’t include the die-making or manufacturing costs, since artists and other employees have to be paid to do the work. And it also doesn’t include the cost for a license.

    You need a license to drive, but why do you need a license to issue coins?

    Well, in this case, the sovereign privilege of striking coins comes at a price. Each nation is responsible for its money supply, and commemorative coins, though unlikely ever to be cashed, are in accounting-speak potential liabilities to the bottom line. 

    Whether it is Niue or Armenia or Belarus or any other country you want to officially issue the coins, there is a cost that must be paid. Issuers are always quiet about this relationship, but recent news reports about the New Zealand Mint suggest that the company alone pays about half-a-million dollars U.S. every year for the dozens of coin programs it issues under that island’s name.

    Suddenly this proposition seems a little pricey, huh?

    Well, maybe that means you want to consider a different route, without involving national mints and all that legal rigmarole. Next time we’ll explore what it takes to issue your own “coins” for a place that might not be found on the map.

    Relic medal for USS Constitution; putting hands on history

    October 2, 2014 2:36 PM by

    ​If someone told you that you could legally walk around with a piece of the oldest warship in the world in your pocket, would you believe them?

    In one sense, the USS Constitution is owned by every American, but in another, the number of folks who can own a piece of the ship, as preserved in a relic medal, is severely limited.

    Relic medals are medals that are struck containing metal or other substances recovered from, flown in or on famous ships, spacecraft or important historic artifacts, or from historic sites. Many relic medals are decades or centuries old, and signify famous American events (like the 1871 Great Chicago Fire or the 1898 Spanish-American War). On a trip to Boston this summer, I stumbled upon a modern relic medal with major importance.

    The USS Constitution is the world's oldest commissioned warship. The ship, known as "Old Ironsides," was launched Oct. 21, 1797, as one of the first warships authorized by Congress. It currently is docked in the Charlestown (or Boston) Navy Yard.

    Visitors may take a free tour to hear the exploits of the sailors and the ship. The ship received its name from the thick wooden hulls that repelled cannonballs during the War of 1812.

    To mark the bicentennial of its greatest moment, and those who have served aboard the ship in battle and in peace, the USS Constitution Museum commissioned the striking of a medal using copper removed from the ship's hull, and a total of 6,000 medals were struck in 2013 by an unnamed Providence, R.I., company.

    On the obverse of the medal is an image of USS Constitution under full sail with its name and nickname. The image is borrowed from an oil painting by Marshall Johnson that is part of the museum's collection.

    On the reverse side is a design inspired by the sea bag of Gunner John Lord who served on board USS Constitution between 1824 and 1828; the sea bag is also part of the museum's collection.

    Each medal measures 1.52 inches and weigh approximately 20 grams.  Each comes with a certificate of authenticity.

    The medal is sold for $29.95, and is still available through the museum store both at the site and online.

    This is actually not the first time a relic medal has been made from copper recovered from the USS Constitution, as an earlier medal issued in 1999 was struck from metal recovered in 1974. Numerous other medals (not struck with recovered metal) celebrate the USS Constitution, and these may sometimes be found in dealer stock or in online auctions.

    Relic medals literally give collectors affordable ways to put their hands on history, and in the case of this medal is another example of the adage that “the hobby can be found everywhere.”