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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 '2015'

    In breast cancer awareness coin, U.S. struggling to keep up with Canada

    July 14, 2015 10:42 AM by

    ​The United States in 2018 could issue three Breast Cancer awareness commemorative coins, including the first U.S. coin struck in “pink gold.”

    Collectors of Canadian coins could be excused for thinking, “haven’t we done this already?”

    Even if Congress passes the legislation as it exists now, the program will be just another instance of America playing “catch up” with its neighbors to the north.

    Canada issued a circulating breast cancer awareness coin — with pink ribbon, no less — in 2006, and a coin with pink gold in 2012.

    The 2006 circulating 25-cent coin was the second colorful circulating coin issued by Canada (and in all the world), and since then the process and practice has been repeated numerous times.

    The list of innovations and “firsts” for Canadian numismatics is a tremendous one.

    The world’s first pure gold bullion coin? Canada, 1982. Since then Canada has also issued the first .99999 fine (or “five nines”) gold bullion coin as well. 

    Between Canada and the U.S., which nation removed its small denomination paper money first? That would be Canada, in 1987.

    Here is America, the $1 Federal Reserve Note is still stuffed in our wallets and purses (thanks, Crane & Co., and Massachusetts politicians!)

    In 1998, Canada issued a ringed bimetallic coin for circulation (the $2 coin, or “twoonie”). Down here, we’re still waiting.

    Canada in 2011 began issuing more durable, anti-counterfeit polymer notes, launching five denominations across two years.

    Like the Maytag repairman, America is still waiting.

    Which of the two nations has eliminated the cent coin?

    You know the answer (the Habs dropped the small coin in 2012).

    A cynic would argue that there is hardly a theme the Royal Canadian Mint hasn’t celebrated on coinage.

    A realist would acknowledge the technological strides made by the RCM with circulating, collector and bullion coins.

    Canada is not hamstrung by a political body whose approval rating rivals that of used car salesmen and IRS agents.

    The U.S., on the other hand, is boxed in to two commemorative coin programs annually.

    Many collectors of Canadian coins would surely welcome the practice of a limited number of themes per year.

    But in America, this limit is too restrictive, since so many U.S. commemorative coin programs have been co-opted by organizations searching for pay dirt in the parlors of power.

    Instead of seeking coins that elevate and honor the nation and its glorious history, proponents of new American coin programs seek surcharges and treat collectors like ATMs.

    Somewhere in between, there’s a happy medium. At least the Canadian coin program allows collectors a choice.

    Take it or leave it, that’s something all collectors should be able to agree on.

    Measuring modern world coin explosion, by the book

    July 2, 2015 2:12 PM by
    There may be no better illustration of the explosion in modern commemorative coins than the growth in the catalog that tracks them.

    The famous multi-volume Standard Catalog of World Coins series by Chester Krause and Clifford Mishler in modern times features the research and analysis of Tom Michael and, until January, George Cuhaj.

    The series tracks worldwide coin issues, a century at a time, from 1600 to the present.

    In 2005, the publishers launched the first edition of a reference cataloging coins of the current century. In that time, the book has grown rapidly as the pace of issuance of new collector coins has only intensified.

    When the 2016 editions of the 1901-2000 and 2000-present catalogs arrived at Coin World last week, the abundance of new coins was immediately apparent — the books are almost equally thick.

    The page counts, though, differ significantly.

    The 1901-2000 catalog has 2,352 pages, while the 2001-present catalog has only 1,344 pages.

    However, consider the number of pages per decade covered, and the 2001-present catalog far surpasses the 20th century edition.

    Measured that way, it takes 235 pages to cover each decade of coins from the 20th century, but the book for the modern century requires 896 pages per decade, and that’s with only some of the 2015 coins included, since more continue to be produced daily.

    It’s a startling tell on the glut of modern issues in the market.

    For purists, the Collecting World Coins book is also regularly updated, focusing on coins issued with the intent to circulate and rejecting the collector-oriented products.

    Mints clearly are adopting a “Long Tail” approach to the business — issuing an increasing number of coins targeted at narrower and narrower niches — but the resulting outpouring certainly keeps collectors, the marketplace, and even catalog editors, scrambling to keep up with it all.

    Making money with Jefferson nickels

    May 22, 2015 3:18 PM by

    If someone told you that you could make a 20 percent return with absolutely no risk of losing money, you’d probably think you were talking to a would-be Bernie Madoff.


    But, the reality is, that prospect exists with Jefferson nickels.

    We’re not talking about the ones with full steps. You don’t need to buy Bernard Nagengast’s The Jefferson Nickel Analyst book to study the series. The reward is for something as easy as hunting for examples issued before 1960.

    Dealer Wayne Herndon in Virginia is one buyer willing to pay six cents for pre-1960 Jefferson nickels. Certain key dates and the silver examples net a higher return, of course. But Herndon’s offer stands for even the most common years and Mint marks.

    I first learned of Herndon’s offer through Wayne Homren, editor of E-Sylum. In the March 15, 2015, edition of the weekly newsletter, Homren recounted a story heard at a recent gathering of collectors in the Washington, D.C., area.

    Herndon explained to Coin World his offer to pay 20 percent above face value for these relatively common coins.

    “I’m a dealer, and like most dealers I am constantly offered collections, accumulations, etc.  ... Like bags of wheat cents, there is a market for bags of pre-1960 Jefferson Nickels.”

    Herndon sorts the coins into bins. After a bin gets full, he’ll run coins through a counter and assemble bags of 4,000 coins ($200 face value).

    “Most of this stuff is wholesaled in my case and I have customers who from time to time will ask for bags of pre-1960 [Jeffersons],” he said.

    He doesn’t search them for varieties or even date/mintmark combinations that are better, as that is rarely worth the investment in time.

    The E-Sylum discussion sparked a memory for me. When I was in high school and college, I worked at a national pharmacy chain found at the corner of happy and healthy.

    As a cashier and photo clerk, I soon gained confidence of managers to search through multiple cash drawers daily to buy any coins or paper money of interest.

    At some point during my employment, I began harvesting pre-1960 5-cent coins, though my memory is foggy as to the exact reason I fixed on that date for the search. My reasoning then was, these are 35+ years old, and if I wait another few decades, they’ll be even older. The investment cost was certainly the right price — I could always cash them in and not lose any money.

    I amassed thousands of these coins, many of which came with me to Ohio when I started at Coin World full-time in early 2004.

    The discussion on E-Sylum, and an already fertile desire to winnow down my holdings, sent me searching into the collecting closet, where I found the pile.

    I finally sorted through it recently, and tallied the haul.

    What remained of my collection (I sold some of the coins when I was in college to pay for my education) totaled $78.95.

    A lone 1938-D coin, graded Very Fine+, was part of the tally.

    The hoard did net one full 40-count roll of the silver wartime nickels, but there were no other key dates, like the 1939-D, 1939-S or 1950-D.

    Herndon is not alone in offering a premium for the older coins. Nagengast, a local coin club member, pointed me toward a local dealer who pays seven cents for each pre-1957 coin.

    So, I was able to take the $76.90 face value accumulation of common Jefferson 5-cent coins and turn that into $107.66.

    That 40 percent return looks less exciting considering that inflation has risen by 43 percent since 1996 (about the first year I started collecting these coins).

    Nevertheless, the exercise provided a reminder of my early days as a collector, while offering plenty of exercise in lifting the heavy piles of coins. It also freed up more room in my collecting closet to begin hoarding these coins again.

    And if you want six cents for each pre-1957 Jefferson nickel, I know just the buyer!

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    Will the U.S ever issue a colorful circulating coin?

    April 28, 2015 10:42 AM by

    American collectors looking at the successes of colorful circulating coins in Canada and Australia might yearn for the day that their pocket change features more than the monochromatic steel-gray of copper-nickel or clad metals and the fool’s copper of the mostly zinc cent.

    Will the United States ever issue a colorful circulating coin like several other countries have done with success?

    Don’t bet on it.

    Innovation is a hallmark of the Royal Canadian Mint, which was the first mint in the world to issue .999 fine and .9999 fine bullion coins. The RCM was also the first to issue a colorful circulating coin.

    And, RCM scientists developed the process for minting multi-ply plated steel coins that have become popular around the world as metal prices have risen the last decade.

    The Australian Mint claims some other innovations of its own, being the second mint to issue a convex/concave coin, after the technique was developed by the Monnaie de Paris.

    While the U.S. Mint has joined the “curved coin” bandwagon with its 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame coins, it made the technological leap only because Congress said it must do so.

    The U.S. Mint should rightfully be praised for extending the technology to copper-nickel-clad coinage for the half dollar (a world first), but the minting floors in Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco and West Point aren’t noted for groundbreaking innovation.

    For Americans, it may be hard to swallow, but America hasn’t been first on coinage technology fronts.

    Modern ringed-bimetallic coins have been in use for more than 30 years, with Italy issuing the first such example in 1982. To put it another way, ringed bimetallic coins were already in use in a major European country before Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was even born.

    However, though hundreds of millions of people in Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan and the eurozone (to name but a few) use ringed-bimetallic coins every day, the closest the U.S. Mint has come is its issuance of a collector coin in 2000, in precious metals.

    Changing coin design has become the norm, thanks to the State Quarter program, the Westward Journey 5-cent series and the Lincoln Bicentennial cents, but it’s fair to say the design merry-go-round goes little noticed among the citizenry.

    Adding color or making coins with multiple parts (ringed bimetallic pieces) would be a radical, more obvious jolt to American sensibilities.

    Given the political challenges involved with something as simple as eliminating the 1-cent coin (a feat already achieved around much of the world, including in Canada), the prospect of adding color to American coinage seems downright impossible.

    For my money, there’s a better chance that Uncle Sam shows up at the Fourth of July parade singing “O Canada.”

    An ace in the hole

    March 23, 2015 1:46 PM by

     One of the reasons I love this hobby is that it intersects with so many disciplines.

    Because numismatics involves so many facets of American history, art and culture, connections to broader stories may be found everywhere.

    Consider a recent visit to an antique mall not too far from Amos Media headquarters in Sidney, Ohio. There I found a playing card from the 1933 and 1934 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago, Ill.

    What does a playing card have to do with our hobby?

    Well, in this particular case, the ace of spades shows both sides of the exposition’s official medal, as designed by Emil Robert Zettler, a sculptor who headed the Industrial Art Section of Chicago’s Art Institute.

    Zettler’s Art Deco design features on the obverse a male figure of energy and action, representing an intellectual arch between man’s resources and man’s work, with RESEARCH and INDUSTRY (the fair’s theme) in the field.

    An aerial view of the 400-acre fairgrounds along the city’s southern shore of Lake Michigan graces the reverse of the medal.

    Several versions were created, included one that qualifies as a so-called dollar. So-called dollars are a fascinating area related to coin collecting, with many of these medals sharing themes found on U.S. commemorative coins or having been created by famous artists, including some designers of American coin.

    Coin World shared images of the playing card with Jeff Shevlin, the “so-called guy,” an expert on so-called dollars. Shevlin was unfamiliar with the card, but noted that many of the collectibles related to expos and “world’s fairs” such as this piece aren’t cataloged alongside the medals themselves. A total of 39 million visitors attended the Century of Progress Exposition, and many souvenirs were created to feed demand from the crowd.

    The card is from several different decks issued for the exposition, and online auctions readily offer up examples of cards individually and complete decks. The $1 I paid is a fair market value for one card, and much cheaper than the medal itself.

    In 2012, when Heritage Auctions sold Shevlin’s example of the medal (graded Mint State 65 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp.), it sold for $109.25.

    Though the playing card is no ace in the hole, it is a perfect accompaniment to or substitute for the medal.




    Pocket change memory

    February 19, 2015 2:15 PM by

    There’s still something alluring about finding an old “wheat penny” in circulation.

    As I started my day one morning recently, I grabbed the change from the previous day’s travels and discovered that an old Lincoln cent with those familiar ears of wheat had somehow slipped in without notice.

    Usually observant of my coins, I must have been harried as I slipped the change into my pocket the day before, and been too tired at the day’s conclusion to pay attention to the antique artifact.

    Like many coin collectors, one of the reasons I love this hobby is the ability to be transported through time to when the coin was issued and consider where it has been, and who has used it as spending money all this time.

    That task is a bit harder with this particular coin, since the date is essentially illegible. Both sides of the coin are worn pretty smooth.

    The first two digits — the obvious ones — are still discernible. It’s those last two digits that prove the most vexing. The dates that my mind sees the most end in 23, 25 or 28, but that could be a mirage.

    The Mint Mark, however crude, indicates that the coin was struck in San Francisco.

    I’d like to think that the coin was struck in 1927, the birth year of my maternal grandmother, who played a large role in my early collecting journey.

    My only “three-cent nickel” came from her, when I was maybe 12 years old. Knowing that I had been bitten by the collecting bug, she allowed me to rummage through a pile of wheat cents and other strange coins that I had never seen outside of the “Red Book,” picking out ones I needed to fill an album or build my nascent cache.

    “What do you want for them?”

    “Just give me face value,” she offered.

    So, mistaking it for a dime, given its color and size, I paid 10 cents for the 1865 coin. That was the first year of issue, and the most common date, for the denomination and design type.

    Both numismatically and sentimentally, it’s worth far more than I ever paid for it. And I still have it!

    Though the date on the Wheat cent could very well be another year, I like to think it has special meaning, despite its wretched condition.

    In fact, the reverse of this newfound cent is worse than the obverse.

    The denomination ONE CENT is still visible, but the wheat? It’s almost completely harvested. The remnants of the legend E PLURIBUS UNUM resemble what you might hear someone say right after oral surgery.

    That might explain why it was still slipping by in circulation.

    So what is it worth?

    A cynic knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing, right? Well, maybe that saying should be flipped to say that a romantic values everything far beyond its cost.

    In commerce, the smooth cent is worth at least a cent, of course, but the value of a memory from my early collecting days can’t be quantified.

    What’s your story?

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    The 'hobby of kings' is also for peasants like me

    February 6, 2015 3:21 PM by

    The New York International Numismatic Convention, held Jan. 8 to 11 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, was notable for the tens of millions of dollars of items sold in auctions scheduled across eight days.

    For me, however, the show allowed expenditures that even a writer could afford. The “hobby of kings” is for the peasants, too!

    I’ve already written about a few of the pieces I brought home from the show, but one of the neatest acquisitions is a modern-day interpretation of a classic numismatic rarity.

    Jared Grove of Grove Minting stopped by the Coin World booth and showed and shared his 2013 half-ounce silver Amazonian pattern medal. Encapsulated by ANACS, the piece screams beauty and is actually obtainable to a broad range of collectors, unlike the originals

    It happens to be his favorite design so far, he told Coin World, and is just the beginning of big plans for the nascent Grove Minting company.

    Look for more issues coming from them, and a profile of the artist and his work in Coin World soon.

    Another item coming home with me from New York was the newest edition of Token Publishing’s Coin Yearbook

    The 2015 edition offers current pricing data and is a handy reference for the millennia of British coins, all packed into 362 pages.

    The book also covers coins of Ireland, Scotland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Chapters on various aspects of collecting are targeted for new and intermediate collectors, and so is the book’s price tag of £9.95.

    The final item gained at the show cannot be quantified.

    Every show is a chance to connect with readers, meeting old friends and making new ones, and this trip was no different.

    Several new dealers were on the bourse or in attendance, and many story ideas and friendships emerged from the chaos of the show.

    Look for Coin World at the next big show near you, and be sure to stop by and say hello.

    What I bought at the 2015 NY International Numismatic Convention

    January 27, 2015 1:11 PM by

    One of the great things about this job is getting to attend coin shows on a regular basis.

    Of course it is always great to greet fellow collectors and Coin World readers, and meet with dealers and discuss the state of the market. From a purely selfish reason, however, it is wonderful because it means another chance to buy coins.

    The New York International Numismatic Convention’s 43rd annual event, held Jan. 8 to 11, was no different.

    I came home with several noteworthy acquisitions, and all have special meaning to me.

    There is a romance and allure to the Lima series of coins issued in 1745 during the reign Britain’s George II.

    These coins, like the shilling that I purchased, were struck from metal captured by Admiral of the Fleet George Anson in defeating the Spanish. 

    Having just written about these coins for Coin World’s December monthly issue, I was delighted to find one, in relatively good condition, at a price I found acceptable. And that was within the first 15 minutes of the show!

    Another find was an ancient coin that I had never heard of, in a denomination worthy of a spelling bee.

    The 1.5 karshapana coin is often attributed to Pushkalavati (modern-day Peshawar) in what is now Pakistan, and was issued sometime in the third to second century B.C.

    It wasn’t the name that drew my attention, but the square shape and the elephant on the obverse.

    Who doesn’t love elephants? (Besides poachers, that is).

    According to coin dealer Bob Reis of Anything Anywhere, at the time Pushkalavati was controlled by what we would recognize as banks today, and these banks issued “a series of municipal copper coins that became the model for the square Greek bronzes after those guys conquered the region.”

    The reverse side shows a lion, though it is almost indistinguishable on the example I purchased.

    Though attributed to Pushkalavati, researchers suggest the coins might instead have been issued in Taxila.

    Regardless of its true origins, the coin dates to one of the oldest cultures, is square and, need I repeat, shows an elephant!

    Let’s explore three other notable finds at the show in part two, in the next Starck Contrasts.