Louis Golino

Modern Numismatics

Louis Golino

Louis Golino has been a collector of American and world coins since childhood and has written about coins since 2009. In addition to writing about modern coins and other numismatic issues for Coin World, he also has written a regular column for CoinWeek.com since 2011, writes a monthy column for The Numismatist magazine and has written for other coin publications. In 2015, for his CoinWeek column “The Coin Analyst,” he was presented with the Numismatic Literary Guild's award for best online column. He is also a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum. 

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    World Bullion Coins in 2017

    October 21, 2016 10:14 AM by Louis Golino

    2017 is already shaping up as an exciting year for modern bullion coins.

    From the new Pegasus series to the first-ever silver Krugerand and a modification to the design of the Britannia silver bullion coin, among other developments, there is a lot happening in the coming months.

    First, the Pegasus silver coin, a well-designed reverse proof silver coin from Pobjoy on behalf of the British Virgin Islands.  In seems like a replacement for the Angel series the mint produced for Isle of Man for the past couple decades, which ended with the 2016 silver and gold coins since Isle of Man cancelled its longstanding contract with the mint.

    The design shows two figures from Greek mythology, the white-winged Pegasus horse with the Greek goddess Athena next to it, and the mintage is just 50,000 coins, a small number for a bullion issue.  Considering it is the first year of the new series, a low-mintage reverse proof, and that is can be purchased for just a couple of dollars over melt, I think these coins are a smart buy.

    On the occasion of the Krugerand gold coin’s 50th anniversary, the South African Mint is introducing a long-awaited silver version that sports the same iconic image of a springbok and has a “50” in a circle privy mark.  The plan is to issue a half million “premium uncirculated” finish coins plus 15,000 proofs, and to make the silver coin an ongoing series.

    The mint also plans to issue a platinum proof for the first time plus new sizes of gold coins to supplement the existing 1 oz., ½ oz., ¼ oz., and 1/10th oz., including 1/50th oz., 1/20th oz., 5 oz., and a whopping 50 oz.

    Then there is the Royal Mint, which is adding cool-looking radiating lines to the background of the popular silver Britannia, and this design modification is an anti-counterfeiting measure like the similar lines the RCM added to its Maple Leaf coins a couple years ago.  

    Initial reports suggested the change might only be on the lunar privy mark version of the 2017 Britannia, but APMEX has posted an image of the new design on its site (www.apmex.com).

    Plus the second 2-oz. silver coin in the very well received Queen’s Beast series is coming soon.  The new coin will depict a griffin.  There are also reports (unconfirmed but appear to be from a reputable source) that the ¼ oz. gold version will no longer be made, so the lion coin of that size will be a one-year type.  The 1 oz. gold coins are expected to continue.

    The RM also recently launched its 2017 Year of the Rooster silver and gold coins.  These are bullion pieces, and there is also a plethora of commemorative rooster coins, many of which are already or will soon be released.  Some more notable ones are those from the Perth Mint, which so far include the bullion, proofs, and color proof, and the Niue 5-oz. silver selectively gilded coin and Cook Islands 5-oz. silver with large red mother of pearl inlay.  Both are higher-end coins that are not cheap.


    Photo credit: Modern Coin Mart (www.moderncoinmart.com)


    Second Reverse Proof Libertad Released

    October 14, 2016 11:04 AM by Louis Golino

    Readers of this column and my articles in the magazine know that the Mexican Libertad series, especially the various silver coins, is one of my favorite modern world issues.

    This is a series that has so much going for it from one of the very best designs ever to appear on a modern coin to coins issued in a wide range of sizes in both business strike and proof and of course, the amazingly low mintages of many of the coins.

    In recent years a number of special sets and other innovations have also been added to this impressive mix.

    For example, the 7-coin proof set that began in 2014 and includes each size of silver proof Libertad packaged in a convenient, slim wooden box remains popular and continues to sellout quickly.  Those sets come with a numbered certificate of authenticity, which is important to Libertad collectors.

    Last year the first reverse proof coin was introduced and had a total mintage of 1500 pieces, which were sold in two sets.  One was produced for APMEX (www.apmex.com) and limited to 500 sets and included the reverse proof and regular proof, while the second was made for employees of the Banco de Mexico and also included the regular BU coin.  Those sets were limited to 1000 units, and many of them made their way into the U.S. and other foreign markets via eBay and dealers.

    At the beginning of October, the 2016 reverse proof was released starting with the same type of two-coin set for APMEX, but this time there are 1000 of those.  Sold initially for $250 per set, they are now going for about $20-30 more.  The Coin Shoppe in Canada (www.thecoinshoppe.ca) is selling them for $268.99. 

    Though I expect them to eventually reach a higher price point, that is a less substantial increase than last year’s sets saw, especially during the initial period after their release.

    I have heard that a second Banco set, possibly the same three-coin set issued last year, is coming soon, perhaps in the next couple of weeks.  But the number of sets is not known at the present time.

    Assuming the sets from the Banco are again limited to 1500, the total mintage would be 2000 for the 2016 issue.  That is still a very low number and would make it another low mintage key to the series.

    I have seen the 2016 coin, and it looks great.  It will be interesting to see if the Mexican mint continues to issue a reverse proof each year, or does something different next year.  Given its track record of changing things up regularly, almost anything is possible. 



    Will Teddy Roosevelt Coins Sell Out?

    October 6, 2016 12:30 PM by Louis Golino
    Today the U.S. Mint is releasing what is surely the most eagerly anticipated coin of the America the Beautiful 5-ounce silver series of coins with a “P” mintmark that are aimed at collectors and feature a matte finish.

    The coin, which is the 34th of the “P”-series, is the Theodore Roosevelt National Park issue that features a gorgeous design by Joel Iskowitz that depicts President Roosevelt riding a horse as he surveys the terrain near Little Missouri River.

    There is also a bullion version of the coin that is already available from bullion and coin dealers around the country.  That coin went on sale to the Mint’s network of Authorized Purchasers on Aug. 29, and as of last Friday, October 2, 30,500 of the coins have been sold.

    The P version has an authorized maximum mintage of 30,000 units, while the overall maximum for both versions is set at 150,000 coins.  In theory that means the bullion coin has a maximum of 120,000 coins, but of fewer than 30,000 of the collector version are sold, the mint can make more than 120,000 bullion coins if there is sufficient demand.

    Most sales of both coins tend to occur early on soon after they first become available. 

    Sales of the bullion coin do seem to be unusually low given the huge popularity of President Roosevelt with coin collectors because of his critical role in creating the nation’s most beloved gold coins, especially the Saint Gaudens $20 gold double eagle, which was part of the renaissance in American coinage that he launched in collaboration with Saint Gaudens.

    In addition, the design of the coin has been very well received by collectors.

    With spot silver prices having dropped dramatically this week to under $17.50 an ounce, the bullion coin can be purchased at the moment for around $110 or less.  I suspect that we will see stronger sales for this version in the coming weeks if silver stays at about these levels.

    As for the “P” puck, as collectors often refer to the version sold directly by the Mint to consumers, I expect it to be a strong seller, but whether or not it achieves an actual sellout remains unclear.

    Some collectors predicted very strong initial sales, and to avoid disappointment they purchased the coin through the Mint’s enrollment program.  I confess to being one of these nervous nellies, who did not want to take any chances.

    And keep in mind that a sellout is not a guarantee that the P version will sell for an especially high premium.  A very quick or instant sellout usually has that effect, but it is often only temporary until those coins reach the secondary market, depending on how many dealers bought for resale and how many went to collectors to keep.

    No matter what happens in terms of current sales, this issue in both versions will undoubtedly be one of the most popular of the series over the long term, which should help it to garner a premium over other releases.

    But I doubt they will emerge as series keys, which are typically the lowest mintage coins.  That honor seems set to remain with the 2012 coins.

    30th Anniversary Deserves Much More

    September 29, 2016 5:15 PM by Louis Golino
    I have never been a fan of the rampant bashing of the U.S. Mint that takes place regularly in letters to the editors of numismatic publications and the blogosphere.  Often collectors venting their frustration about some issue of another simply do not have all the facts, or they allege some kind conspiracy between the Mint and the “big boy” dealers to prevent regular collectors from buying their coins at issue price. 

    But there are times when constructive criticism is warranted, and this is one of them.  The Mint delayed releasing the 2016-W proof and uncirculated versions of the American Silver Eagle for most of the year while they re-tooled their dies to enable them to add incuse edge lettering to the coins noting that this year is the 30th anniversary of the world’s best-selling and most widely traded silver coin.

    These coins are usually one of the first products released by the Mint early in the year, and this year buyers had to wait until September 16 to purchase them.  But having seen the coins in hand, I and every other collector I know who has also seen them is underwhelmed by the edge lettering with many using that same word to describe their reaction. 

    For one thing, it is hard to see inside the capsule because the lettering is not very distinctive and appears rather faint.  It is hard to understand why it took most of the year for the Mint to produce these pieces, whose edge lettering requirements were part of last December’s FAST Act.

    Moreover, if this is all the Mint is planning to do to mark the 30th anniversary of the Silver Eagle, that will be an enormous source of disappointment for most collectors, who are expecting some kind of special coin or set for this important occasion. 

    Collectors have been quite clear about this in the years leading up to this one with most saying they wanted to see the first high or ultra high-relief coin of the series.  With the decision not to issue the recent American Liberty silver medals in high relief, those coins would be the first silver issues produced by the Mint with greater than normal relief since the 1921 Peace Dollar.

    I know the Mint regularly surveys its customers and also know that many collectors have specifically requested the high relief eagles in those surveys.  With this year also being the 30th birthday for the American Gold Eagle, a two-coin set with a high relief version of each coin would be a huge success.

    Even if the high reliefs fail to materialize, some kind of special coin set or sets with at least one unique coin is an absolute minimum.  Different finishes and mintmarks have been done, which is why something more different like a high relief would be such a hit.

    There is still hope when you consider that the 20th anniversary set was issued in October.  Perhaps the Mint will reveal something at the upcoming forum it is holding at the Philadelphia Mint that month.

    Innovators Coin Program: Issue Quarters, Not Dollars

    September 21, 2016 2:38 PM by Louis Golino
    In December 2011 the Obama administration announced that it was immediately halting production of the Presidential $1 coins except for coins made for collectors and sold at a premium because this would save taxpayers $50 million a year in storage and other costs.

    But that overlooked the fact that because those coins cost about 30 cents to make, a seigniorage profit of 70 cents accrues for each coin, which means ending their production resulted in a net loss of $300 million per year, that could go toward reducing the Federal debt.

    But years after this had already been done, members of congress continued to propose legislation to end wasteful spending on dollar coins no one seems to want (which they won’t as long as paper dollars continue to be made), even though they last so much longer, which saves money.

    Anyone who is familiar with the state of modern coin collecting in our country knows that after the 50 state quarter program, which was followed by the national parks quarter program, and the Presidential dollar coin program begun in 2007 that ended with this year’s Reagan coin, collectors are weary of long-running series, though if done right, they could still work.

    So along comes legislation introduced on September 14 by Rep. Jim Himes (D- Conn.), the American Innovation $1 Coin Act (H.R. 6025), which proposes a 14-year program with 4 coins per year starting in 2017 of coins that honor innovators and pioneers from each state.

    To be clear, the coins proposed in this legislation would not be for circulation.  They would be numismatic issues, made for collectors and sold at a premium.

    With the end of the presidential program, it is perhaps inevitable that legislators would seek to create another such program, and there is certainly nothing wrong in principle with the theme.

    But I do not have the sense that collectors are at the moment interested in another series of $1 coins not made for circulation.

    Also, the legislation would not impact the Native American $1 coin program, which would continue.

    I think the Native American issues are sufficient for dollar collector coins, and their designs are widely admired.  To me it would be better to start thinking about the quarter dollar program, which will be ending in a couple years.

    In fact, the proposed innovation coin series would be better suited to a quarter program, and its plan to issue coins honoring innovators from each state would parallel the state focus of the current and previous quarter programs.

    Plus, this kind of program works best as a circulating one that has the potential to bring in new collectors the way the state quarters did, and it is great for kids too. 

    But that said, it is critical that coins be widely distributed by Federal Reserve banks.  This has been a problem with the America the Beautiful coins, which are hard to collect from change.

    The quarters worked and were a boon to numismatics because they really did circulate widely.  

    New Book Covers Modern U.S. Dollar Coins

    September 12, 2016 12:23 PM by Louis Golino
    Q. David Bowers, A Guide Book of Modern United States Dollar Coins (Whitman Publishing, 2016)


    As serious collectors, numismatists, and researchers know well, Whitman Publishing’s Official Red Book series of guides to specific coin series are an indispensable resource.  Whether your interests lie in one of the many popular classic coin series like Morgan and Peace dollars or Double Eagle gold coins, or a modern series such as Franklin and Kennedy halves, this is the go-to reference series for those who require information about each individual coin in a series and a detailed overview of the series.

    Most of the books in the series follow a similar approach, and that has a lot to do with the fact that most, though not all, are written by numismatic legend, Q. David Bowers, often called the dean of American numismatics because of his incomparable impact on the hobby, industry, and literature of numismatics.

    Modern dollar coins, those issued since 1971, include: Eisenhower, Susan B. Anthony, Sacagawea, Native American and Presidential dollars.  As former U.S. Mint Director Edmund Moy says in his foreword to the book, these coins are “underappreciated” compared to many other U.S. coins and deserve a closer look, and no other modern coins “have undergone so many versions in such a short period of time,” including different sizes and even shapes, various metal alloys, themes, and surface finishes. 

    Both are these aspects make dollar coins a source of endless fascination for modern coin collectors.  And unlike most coin series, assembling sets of modern dollars is very affordable unless you require one of the rare varieties, error coins, or a super-high grade example.

    Covering over 200 coins in depth and with over 800 color photos, no other book brings together anything coming close to the wealth of information contained in this remarkable volume.  Bowers’ own research was coupled with assistance from longtime collectors and dealers, U.S. Mint officials, and hobby groups such as the Ike Group to provide everything from the history of each series and current events and the coin scene for each year since 1971 to mintages, die varieties, grading standards, the keys to assembling a high-quality collection, and market analysis. 

    In addition, there are several appendices including one on error coins, an overview of the Eisenhower series from Charles Morgan, and a gallery of designs for the Native American dollar series that were proposed for coins issued from 2009 to 2016.

    This is a book that deserves a prominent place in the libraries of modern dollar collectors, and it is one to which you will return again and again, each time learning something new, or being reminded of an important detail you may have forgotten. 

    Keep in mind that ANA members who order the book from Whitman receive 10% off, and that you can also borrow it from the ANA’s library.  

    Eternal Sculptures: Cupid and Psyche

    September 6, 2016 5:21 PM by Louis Golino

    This week I would like to bring to your attention the third release for 2016 from Power Coin (www.PowerCoin.it), the Italian coin company that has partnered with Coin Invest Trust and B.H. Mayer to issue some very impressive and original world coins under the authority of the Pacific island nation of Palau.

    This one is the first of a new series called “Eternal Sculptures,” that will showcase important works of sculpture, starting with the famous piece, Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, which was made in the latter years of the 18th century and is masterpiece of neoclassical art by Antonio Canova.  It shows two lovers in a moment of great passion and emotion, and it resides in the Louvre Museum in Paris. 

    Considered perhaps the greatest neoclassical artist ever, Canova (1757-1822) was an Italian sculptor who produced amazing marble sculptures.  Although he viewed his art as above politics and greatly valued his independence, he eventually agreed to receive commissions from Napoleon Bonaparte, who admired his work, after pressure from the Vatican, though he had spurned similar offers from Czarina Catherine II. 

    New application of SmartMinting: “flip and see from both sides”

    Made of two ounces of silver but with a diameter of 38.61 millimeters, this piece utilizes the extra thickness in combination with CIT’s SmartMinting technique to allow the coin to show the sculpture from both sides in high relief.

    In addition, the statue on both sides has been treated with the marble paint that is also on the Guy Fawkes coin and also has the same black proof background as the other coin, which creates a more distinct contrast between the design devices and background than would be possible with a regular mirrored silver finish.

    The result is a beautiful coin, the first ever to show this particular work of art, and the first to my knowledge to show a statue on a coin from more than one perspective.  The date is inscribed in roman numerals, as it would be on the statue itself, and other inscriptions are done in a way to minimize their intrusion on the design.  Plus, the Palau shield is kept small, and there is an ornate inner border that complements the composition of the coin’s design.

    Only 999 of these coins will be made, and they are expected to ship around late October.  The piece can be ordered directly from Power Coin, or from The Coin Shoppe (www.TheCoinShoppe.ca) or First Coin Company (www.FirstCoinCompany.com), for 229 euros or the equivalent in other currencies. 


    Here is a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wThU5Xa-8Zo




    Guy Fawkes Coin Highly Original

    August 29, 2016 11:12 AM by Louis Golino

    Guy Fawkes Coin Highly Original


    Power Coin, a major Italian numismatic distributor based in Rome, announced during the August World Fair of Money in Anaheim, California that it is releasing two new silver commemoratives this fall. 

    Previous coins created at the initiative of this company include the Hamsa coin I discussed recently and the Ceilings of Heaven series that uses nano chips.

    These coins were produced through a collaboration involving Power Coin, which provided the original concept, Coin Invest Trust (CIT) in Lichtenstein, which then developed the idea into a coin, and B.H. Mayer of Germany, which actually minted the coins.

    I will be covering the first coin this week, and the second next week.  Both are very original coins.

    First up is the visually stunning Guy Fawkes mask, $5 1-oz. silver proof coin, issued under the legal authority of the Cook Islands. 

    This coin uses CIT’s revolutionary SmartMinting technology to create amazing high relief coins, but it also uses a special paint that creates a porcelain effect on the main design device, a stylized depiction of the mask of Guy Fawkes.

    The mask design, which is based on the creation of illustrator David Lloyd for the 1982 book, V for Vendetta, which also became a film in 2006, shows Fawkes with an oversized smile, large, black eyebrows, black eyes, a moustache upturned at both ends, and a thin, pointed beard. 

    The new coin is also the first ever “black proof” coin, which makes the background more distinctive. 

    Who is Guy Fawkes?

    Fawkes, also known as Guido Fawkes, the name he adopted while fighting for the Spanish, was a member of a group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605.  That was an attempt to blow up the House of Lords.

    The mask has emerged as a powerful modern cultural symbol of protest and has been used by groups protesting against politicians, banks, and financial institutions, and as symbol of the online hacktivist group Anonymous.

    This coin is significant primarily for its originality in both concept and appearance that make if very different from anything else released so far.

    With so many world commemorative coins being issued today, to be successful a coin must have something other coins do not, and this one fits that bill very well.

    It also nicely blends old and new by focusing on someone from the 16th century who has become a modern symbol of resistance to powerful elites. 

    The Fawkes mask also blends old and new by adding certain modern flourishes to the original design such as a hoodie and the leaves from the United Nations symbol.  The signature of Fawkes is also included.

    Only 999 of these coins are being issued, and the coin should be available in October.  They are housed in a high quality, lacquered wood display box.

    You can purchase the Fawkes piece directly from Power Coin (www.PowerCoin.it) and it is also available from other companies, including First Coin Company (www.FirstCoinCompany.com) and the Coin Shoppe (www.TheCoinShoppe.ca). 

    If you get it from First Coin, the company will send a free Anonymous Head mask along with the coin.

    Chateau-Renard: New Meteorite Coin Landing Soon

    August 22, 2016 9:02 AM by Louis Golino

    A cool new coin is coming in September from the MCI Mint on behalf of African nation Burkina Faso that uses a meteorite that landed in France 175 years ago.  The meteorite fell at Chateau-Renard in Montargis, which is near the Loiret Valley in France on June 12, 1841. 

    Meteorites mostly come from comets and asteroids, and since the majority of them are used by scientific labs to study the origins of the universe, those remaining pieces of meteorites that make their way into the marketplace are very rare and expensive.  Meteorites are also millions of years old.

    The current price of 1 gram of the Chateau-Renard chondrite meteorite runs around $300, so even a small fragment is worth a lot. 

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    This 1000 Franc denomination coin that is struck from 1 oz. of silver with an antique finish uses the fragment of the Chateau-Renard meteorite as part of its stunningly reverse attractive design that uses what is called photorealistic coloring.  The meteorite is shown against a blue sky as it is about to land in Montargis with gorgeous architectural details of the surrounding buildings included.

    The obverse features the national coat of arms of Burkina Faso.

    Only 750 of these coins are being made, which is a small number for a coin of this type.

    As readers of this column know, I am a big fan of coins about space and astronomy-related issues. 

    And as I have written here and in my bi-monthly feature in the magazine on world coins, these coins continue to have a loyal base of collectors, which is why they have tended to hold their value better than coins about many other subjects that may not have as wide appeal.

    The coin comes with two certificates of authenticity, one for the coin and one for the meteorite fragment, and is housed in a wooden display box.

    The coin’s authenticity and allure is enhanced by the fact that we know the story of how the meteorite was discovered.

    The meteorite’s fall was published in the American Journal of Science and Arts, Volume 42, as reported in the New York Observer on August 14, 1841: “Galignani’s Messenger mentions that at a late session of the French Academy, a communication was received from M. Delavaux, stating that on the 12th of June, (1841,) between one and two o’clock in the afternoon, the sky being without a cloud, an explosion was heard at Chateau-Renard, in the department of Loiret, louder than several pieces of artillery firing together.  He suspected that this must have proceeded from an aerolite; and ongoing to the spot where the noise had been loudest, found there the marks where the aerolite had struck the earth, as well as several fragments of such a body, lying about.  Most of these fragments were small, but one weighed thirty pounds, and another six pounds.”

    Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa surrounded by Benin, Togo, and four other countries.  As a former French colony, its uses the CFA franc, which is the Central African Franc, a currency used by six countries in Africa that is guaranteed by the French Treasury.

    In 2015 a 3-oz. silver coin was issued for Burkina Faso that depicted a solar eclipse.

    The issue price of $159.90 for the new piece is certainly not cheap, but one must consider the cost of the meteorite as well as production and other costs.  And don’t be surprised to see the price increase.

    The coin is available from California dealer First Coin Company (www.FirstCoinCompany.com), The Coin Shoppe in Canada (www.TheCoinShoppe.ca), and Powercoin (www.PowerCoin.it) in Italy



    Apollo 11 Coin Legislation: Senate Support Urgently Needed

    August 17, 2016 3:11 PM by Louis Golino

    As I discussed earlier this year, a bill to create a program of curved silver, gold, and clad commemoratives honoring the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing has been gaining congressional support since its introduction in the House in June 2015.

    That bill (H.R. 2726) now has 300 co-sponsors, an impressive achievement that means the bill can be put to a vote, where it would easily pass since that is well over the 218 votes needed to do that.

    However, in the Senate, where a companion bill (S. 2957) was introduced just three months ago, there are just a paltry four co-sponsors, yet 67 (two-thirds of the Senate) are needed for the bill to be brought for a vote.

    With only 43 legislative days left in the current Congress, it is imperative than another 63 Senators sign on to the bill in order for this important effort to become a reality.

    Without the necessary Senate support by the end of the year, the legislation will die when the 114th Congress ends, and it would be necessary to start all over.

    With a new president coming in January, the Congress will be very busy with other matters, and there is also competition from bills to create coins that benefit the baseball and football hall of fames.

    But Michael Olson, an Iowa banker and former member of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, who was the first person to suggest this program in 2014 when he was on the CCAC, explained that the public can help this effort by calling or sending emails in support of the legislation. 

    Mr. Olson said that when contacting your Senator’s office, tell them about the role that constituents in their state have played in the space program; the enthusiasm for these coins in the numismatic and space communities; and that the House bill already has 300 co-sponsors.

    The Senate goes back to work after the summer recess in September 6, and the calls and emails are needed by September 15.

    Mr. Olson also said that while support in the numismatic community for the Apollo 11 coin programs “far outstrips” the two sports-themed “proposals by a long shot, circumstances can change rapidly in D.C., especially near the end of a congressional session, so space enthusiasts need to join the fight now to put our Apollo 11 coins over the top.  When I think about what this country accomplished by putting men on the moon and the national pride involved in doing so, it drives me to do all I can to make these coins a reality.” 

    *Image courtesy of NASA

    U.S. Mint: American Liberty Medals Are Not High Relief

    August 11, 2016 11:59 AM by Louis Golino

     When it comes to setting mintages and household and product limits, there is simply no way the U.S. Mint can make everyone happy.  No matter what they do, there will always be people who are not happy.  And there is also no way to predict in advance how particular limits will impact sales, accessibility for the average buyer, and secondary market values.

    It is significant that the Mint is factoring into its latest decisions the concerns of many buyers who felt the limits for the Gold Centennial Mercury Dime were too high at ten, which many of them feel enabled dealers to procure a large portion of the mintage of 125,000 coins.

    The Gold Centennial Standing Liberty Quarter, which will be released in September 8, will have a household limit of just 1 coin and a mintage of 100,000 pieces.  Some buyers feel one per household is too low, and that the mintage limit is too high, making a sell-out less likely.

    But demand may be higher than those individuals think it is, and a one per household limit could produce an even bigger frenzy, as happened when the limit for the Presidential Coin and Chronicles set was lowered to one.  The difference, though, is that the quarters will cost about $500 each based on current gold prices, while the chronicle sets were about $60 each. 

    As I have suggested before, something in between one and ten would probably work best, and two is what the limit will be for the American Liberty silver medals coming on August 23, which also have a product limit of 12,500 but no mintage limit.  It is possible that some type of set will also be offered that includes the medals, hopefully one paired with a special American Silver Eagle proof coin only available in the set, as suggested by the CCAC, or in some other set perhaps for the 30th anniversary of these coins.

    Those sets would also help the Mint to sell more proof American Silver Eagles, whose release has been delayed due to the requirement to add incuse edge lettering marking the 30th anniversary of the program.  Those coins will begin selling on Sept. 16.

    The Mint confirmed to me that the 2016 proof coins can be sold next year and beyond unlike the 2015 coins, which could only be sold until the end of last year, but no information has been released about any sets with the medals, which may not be issued.

    The medals, which will use the same size of planchets as those used for American Silver Eagles (40.60 millimeters), were originally planned to be struck in high relief like the 2015 American Liberty gold coins of the same design, which they are intended to complement. 

    However, the product description the Mint posted this week does not specifically state that the medals will be in high relief, though it mentions the 2009 Ultra High relief gold double eagles.  So I contacted the Mint, and Michael White in the Office of Public Affairs who confirmed that the medals will definitely not be in high relief and will feature a proof finish.  They will also be issued with two different mintmarks, “W” for West Point and “S” for San Francisco.

    That will be disappointing to many collectors, who were eager to see the modern liberty and flying eagle design (respective obverse and reverse) in high relief, which would have been the first silver high relief product from the Mint.

    Mr. White also said that the Mint’s Principal Deputy Director, Rhett Jeppson, will be attending this week’s ANA World Fair of Money in Anaheim, CA but will not be doing a forum with collectors and the media as has been the case at some past shows.  That would have been a great chance for the Mint’s customers to discuss these issues with him.


    Valkyrie: Second Legends of Asgard Coin Launched

    August 4, 2016 10:13 AM by Louis Golino

    A year ago I wrote in this column (http://www.coinworld.com/voices/louis-golino/2015/08/tokelau_odin_coinus.html)about a new series of Nordic mythology coins called Legends of Asgard from anew private mint, Choice Mint (www.choicemint.com),which is a division of Choice Bullion (www.choicebullion.com),a U.S. dealer in modern coins, which began with what many collectors considerto be the best of the several Odin coins issued.

    That coin was notable both for its format, three-ounces ofantique silver, rimless, and a new type of ultra-high relief that Choice callsMax Relief, which achieves a depth of 3.5 millimeters, and for its impressiveartwork, which stands out compared to other coins of this type.

    The format is also notable for serial numbers that are etchedonto the edge of the coins that match those on the certificates of authenticity,the classy wooden presentation box, and the use of only the name in terms ofinscriptions on the reverse, which frees up the planchet so the art is notobscured by other elements.  And a mere1500 coins were issued, which sold very quickly.

    Now Choice has finally launched the long-awaited second coinin this series, Valkyrie, which has been in production for much of the pastyear.

    The new coin has been widely and eagerly anticipated bynumerous collectors.  It was expected tobe released earlier this year, but several delays were encountered during theproduction process, which were mainly a result of Choice’s commitment toexcellence and its refusal to compromise until the final product met its veryhigh standards.

    The final product is truly stunning and breathtaking, a coinyou will not forget when once you see it. 

    Valkyrie is shown on the reverse of the coin wearing awinged helmet and with her large wings spread as she grasps a large sword. 

    The design features exquisite details that bring outValkyrie’s combination of strength and sexuality.  The detail on the wings is especiallyimpressive, and there is also a village in the background. 

    Because the coin is issued under the legal authority ofTokelau like its predecessor, the obverse features the usual Ian Rank-Broadleyeffigy of Queen Elizabeth II with an ornate chain around the inner rim. 

    Valkyrie is a supernatural figure associated with fate.  In Nordic mythology she is a female figurewho chooses those who may die in battle and those who may live.  In modern culture Valkyries have been thetopic of works of art, music, poetry, and even video games.

    The Asgard series will span 12 coins altogether, and you canexpect future issues to come out much sooner than the year in between the firstand second coins now that Choice has moved to an all-digital process. 

    The new coin is being sold by Choice’s authorized dealers,which are listed here (http://choicemint.com/dealer-locator/).

    I expect Valkyrie to sell out quickly and for prices toincrease in short order, both of which occurred with Odin.  Many world issues see a drop in values afterinterest fades, but I do not expect to see that with this coin, which is likelyto be even more well received than Odin was.

    Pre-orders are being taken now, and the coin is expected tobe delivered in about a month.

    Hand of Hamsa Coin Coming Soon

    July 29, 2016 4:29 PM by Louis Golino

    Powercoin (www.powercoin.it)is a major modern world coin dealer based in Rome, Italy and is owned byAntonello Galletta.  The companydistributes many of the leading series from various world mints such as theMint of Poland, Royal Canadian Mint, Perth Mint, and many others. 

    And as is the case with some other leading numismaticcompanies, it also sometimes commissions coins to be issued on its behalf.  The first of three new coins coming fromPowercoin is an intriguing piece called the Hand of Hamsa, or Hand of Fatima,that is now available for pre-order with coins expected to ship in late September.

    Designed by Coin Invest Trust in Lichtenstein and minted bythe German private mint, B.H. Mayer, both highly regarded in the numismaticworld for their quality work, the Hamsa coin depicts the very popularpalm-shaped amulet that represents the hand of God and is seen throughout theMiddle East and North Africa.

    Hamsa is spelled Khamsah in Arabic and means “five, or “thefive fingers of the hand.”  It has otherspellings in Hebrew and other languages. 

    Tracing its origins to ancient Carthage, an open right handis supposed to ward off evil.  It is asign of protection in all faiths and is supposed to bring happiness and goodfortune to its owner.  It is seen allover the world in tattoos, pendants, keychains, etc.

    Issued under the legal authority of Palau with a $10 facevalue, the coin is made of two ounces of pure silver and struck in proof.  It uses CIT’s remarkable Smartmintingtechnology that I have covered before to get the maximum effect out of itshigh-relief striking and also features a blue Swarovski crystal that isintended to represent the eye-in-hand that protects against the evil eye.  Only 999 of these intricately-designed coinsare being issued.

    Mr. Galletta told me that he has seen a sample coin that hesaid looks amazing and that the pictures do not do justice to this beautifulpiece, the first coin ever issued about this popular amulet.  The hand has countless small artisticflourishes on it, and the coin is a work of numismatic art that is not quitelike anything I have ever seen.

    In addition to being sold by Powercoin for 200 euros, thecoin is also available from First Coin Company (www.firstcoincompany.com) in theU.S. and the Coin Shoppe in Canada (www.coinshoppe.ca)for $217.90.  The owner of the CoinShoppe told me sales have been strong, especially from American buyers. 


    Be sure to click on the main image to see additional pictures of the coin.

    Change Coming for Pobjoy Mint and Isle of Man Coins

    July 22, 2016 10:26 AM by Louis Golino
    Pobjoy Mint Ltd., a private mint in the UK, issues both numerous commemorative coins and some circulating one for various countries. 

    For the past 40 years it has been the official minter for the Isle of Man, a self-governing island located in the sea between England and Ireland.  It is a British Crown dependency and is well-known in the numismatic world for the numerous collector coins it issues, such as the cat coins, which were discussed in the July cover story by Bill Gibbs.

    Taya Pobjoy, managing director of the mint, issued the following announcement this week: "Pobjoy Mint Ltd would like to announce that as from March 2017 they will no longer represent the Isle of Man as the official  minter  of Isle of Man legal tender products.
    Recently, the Isle of Man has announced a reduction in the number of themes that can be produced in any year.
    This will mean that many Isle of Man coins will no longer be made and we urge our customers to order existing Isle of Man products while stock last.
    We will continue to produce high-quality coins from our six other issuing authorities and look forward to showing our customers the new and exciting products we have for the balance of 2016 and into 2017.
    Pobjoy Mint Ltd has had a long and fruitful relationship with the Isle of Man that has lasted for over 40 years; we wish them well for the future."

    One implication of this news is that the popular Angel bullion coin, which has been issued since 1984 in silver and gold, will likely no longer be issued.  And the reverse proof Angel with a mintage of 100,000 coins that was issued this year will definitely no longer be issued.

    For 2016 a proof version of the same coin was issued in a special two-coin set with the reverse proof and a mintage of just 500 coins. The proof is only available in the set, which retails for about $150.  The single reverse proof coin can be purchased for a little under $30.

    If you collect Isle of Man coins, you may want to obtain those pieces you need in the near future.  SM Coins, an eBay coin dealer that specializes in modern world issues, has an extensive selection of these coins: http://www.ebay.com/sch/m.html?_odkw=&_osacat=0&_ssn=son-montuno&_nkw=isle+man

    Update on 2016 Britannia proof coins: The 5 oz. silver coin has sold out, and the 1 oz. silver coin and 6-coin silver set are close to sold out as well.  In addition, the first-ever reverse proof version has been released by APMEX in a 2-coin set with the regular proof. Only 500 sets were issued, and the reverse proof is only available in the set.  They were announced yesterday, July 21, and are selling quickly.  

    Patience Helps in Modern Numismatics

    July 15, 2016 3:20 PM by Louis Golino
    There is a not so secret fact when it comes to modern numismatic products, especially those from the U.S. Mint, that it often pays to wait to purchase what you want rather than buy when interest in that item is peaking and dealers are promoting the new issue to retail customers.

    There are of course important exceptions to this advice, and an experienced collector can usually tell whether it is better to strike quickly, as as with last year's American Platinum Eagle proof coin that had an unusually low maximum mintage of 4,000 coins and sold out in 7 minutes.  It was challenging for sure, but most people I know who were ready to go at the time of launch were able to place an order if they were prepared and moved quickly.

    But there are many other times when those who wait do very well such as items that fall below issue price, which happens a lot in certain segments of the market such as modern commemoratives or proof and mint sets.

    Or perhaps you failed to order your 2016-W gold centennial dime before they sold out from the Mint, or you wanted to have one graded but did not get it in time from the Mint to have it graded with first strike and early release labels.  

    This is why energy expended on studying the market is better than all that kvetching about the Mint, which stresses you out anyway. Instead, astute collectors quickly saw that the gold dimes were grading at a high level with most coins getting 70's from both NGC and PCGS.  In fact, the last time I checked the rate of 70's was much lower at NGC, which has not been the trend in the past with many modern issues.

    So I decided early on that rather than submit any of my coins for grading, I would wait until the excitement abated, check around for a good deal, and buy an already graded coin.  And in fact I was able to purchase an NGC SP70 early release example for the same cost as the issue price plus the grading fee without any of the related expenses or hassles or the risk the coin would come back as a 69.

    Each case will be a little different, and that is why it pays to do your homework in modern numismatics.

    Update: Last week I discussed the new 2016 Britannia prof coins.  I ordered a set of the silver coins and have already received them. They look great in hand, and even better than the pics.  

    New Britannia Proof Coins Launched

    July 7, 2016 11:36 AM by Louis Golino
    Right around this time of the year, late June to early July, every year since 2013 when the program began, the Royal Mint (www.royalmint.com) launches its extensive range of silver and gold Britannia proof coins.  

    Unlike their popular bullion counterparts, which since 2012 have carried the same design each year, the proof coins feature a new rendition of Britannia each year.

    Britannia is the British equivalent of Lady Liberty, the female personification or allegorical representation of Great Britain and the enduring values for which she has stood for centuries.  The practice of representing nations as women dates to the Roman Empire, and over the years Britannia has emerged as a "warrior queen," wearing a helmet and carrying a shield.

    That is how she is portrayed in the new design, which appears as always on the reverse side of the coins since the obverse must feature the latest effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.  For 2016 Britannia is seen with the British lion at her feet, a pairing seen on memorial plaques issued after the First World War, a national symbol of courage and protection.
    The new coins called "Courage at her command" show Britannia holding her trident in one hand and the shield of Britain in the other with a British lion at her feet.  The addition of the lion is something that was seen on memorial plaques after World War I and is a national symbol of courage and protection.

    The 2016 design is the work of Suzie Zamit, the only woman who has designed Britannia coins, and this is her second one.

    Initial reaction to the design from collectors has been quite positive, though nothing issued to date compares with the 2014 Britannia proof design by Jody Clark that was also used in the 2015 50 pound BU coin that is still available from the Mint.  The 2016 design is perhaps the best one after the 2014.

    Those interested in acquiring the coins have many options from a single 1 oz. silver piece to a six-piece silver proof set and 5 oz. silver coin as well as various gold options from 1/40th oz. to 5 oz.  Only the 1 and 5 oz. versions in both metals are available individually. The fractional coins are only issued in sets.

    Britannia proof coins carry low mintages esp. compared to our own proof coins, and they tend to sell out and do decently on the aftermarket after that.  Those who own any of the 2014 proofs know what I mean.

    Finally, keep in mind that due to the Brexit vote, the British pound is at a 30-year low of about 1.3 to the U.S. dollar, which makes these coins more affordable than  in the past.

    FinBriIfInBritannia is the female personification of Britain, embodying the changing ideals and values of our country throughouhistory. She has often been said to reflect powerful women through the ages, and, in the case of certain British queens, the events and attitudes of their reigns.

    The practice of portraying nations as idealised women dates back to the Roman era and, over the centuries, Britannia has developed into a ‘warrior queen,’ wearing a helmet and carrying a shield

    Britannia is the female personification of Britain, embodying the changing ideals and values of our country throughout history. She has often been said to reflect powerful women through the ages, and, in the case of certain British queens, the events and attitudes of their reigns.

    The practice of portraying nations as idealised women dates back to the Roman era and, over the centuries, Britannia has developed into a ‘warrior queen,’ wearing a helmet and carrying a shield

    Palladium Eagles Should be Proof Only

    June 30, 2016 10:50 AM by Louis Golino
    During this week's meeting of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee held in Colorado Springs in conjunction with the American Numismatic Association's summer seminar, which I followed via telephone, the U.S. Mint's Ronald Harrigal provided an interesing update on the Mint's forthcoming program for an American Palladium Eagle coin program.

    He explained that the plan is to issue both bullion and proof coins struck in high relief once the Mint can secure a sufficient supply chain of palladium planchets and work out some other details such as the diameter of the coins.

    As a result of these issues, it is highly unlikely the Mint will be able to begin the program this year, and Mr. Harrigal also said the priority is for the bullion coins.  It is possible that in 2017, if the program does start then, that the Mint will only issue bullion coins that year, and the proofs would come the following year.

    But this is a mistake in my view, though to be clear one the Mint is doing because it is mandated by the U.S. Congress to issue both versions.

    It is unlikely that there will be very much demand for the bullion coin other than for the first year of issue because collectors tend not to be very keen on palladium as a metal, which is what the 2012 feasibility study on these coins revealed.

    Besides, as I noted recently in regards to the 2016 high relief Liberty medal, high relief coins look so much better in proof than they do in business strike.  

    This is why the world mints that specialize in high relief issues produce them in proof, including especially the Perth Mint and the Mint of Poland.

    The palladium program is far more likely to be a hit with collectors of coins with limited mintages and top-notch designs as opposed to bullion coins, which have not fared very well when other mints produced them.  In fact, palladium tends to be traded far more often in bar form than as coins.

    The U.S. Congress would do well to consult with the numismatic community when it crafts legislation about coins to avoid producing pieces that will prove to be unpopular, which has certainly been the case with many recent commemorative coin programs and would likely be the case with palladium bullion coins.

    Precious Metals Up Sharply After Brexit Vote

    June 24, 2016 9:53 AM by Louis Golino
    Early Friday morning when the world learned that the British people had unexpectedly voted in a referendum to leave to the European Union, popularly known as Brexit, the price of gold and silver shot up to the highest level seen in two years.

    In fact, the Royal Mint, which sells bullion directly to consumers, reported today that visits to its precious metal trading platform were up 550% compared to yesterday, and new accounts were up 200% for the same period. 

    Investors are seeking refuge in gold from all the economic and political uncertainty surrounding the British move, which immediately sent the value of the British pound down very sharply against other currencies and roiled the world’s equity markets with futures in several countries down more than 10%.

    Gold was up $70 from its level on Thursday, reaching $1340, and silver touched $18, but the strength of the dollar masked the fact that in non-dollar currencies gold was up even more.

    Metals had already been doing well this year, up around 25% compared to the four-year low reached late last year, making them one of the best-performing asset classes of the year.

    Gold analysts in particular have been arguing for some time that the yellow metal was due for a substantial correction higher because of fundamental factors such as record demand and tight supplies and the increased role of China in the gold trade, which includes a new gold exchange and their own version of the daily London gold fix. 

    But they key factor underpinning the move higher, and one of the main reasons it is likely to continue, has to do with interest rates.  With sluggish growth and heightened economic uncertainty due to geopolitical tensions, problems in China, Brexit, and the prospect of a potential Trump presidency producing a trade war and economic recession, rates will continue to remain close to zero and central banks will continue their policy of quantitative easing.

    This is the perfect environment for precious metals, so analysts who specialize in this area see higher values going forward later this year and continuing into the future, especially as the high levels of debt in most countries reach the point where governments may not be able to afford to continue paying the finance costs to service their debt, which could produce an even greater global economic crisis at some point than the one that began in 2008. 

    It's never a good idea to put too many eggs in the same basket, but what is happening now is a good reminder that diversifying one’s assets by including some gold in your portfolio offers helpful protection in an uncertain world.  

    High Relief Medal Beautiful in Proof

    June 16, 2016 5:29 PM by Louis Golino
    11 months ago, on July 13, the U.S. Mint announced (http://www.coinworld.com/news/us-coins/2015/07/united-states-mint-nixes-high-relief-silver-medal.html ) that it would not be producing a companion high-relief silver medal to go with its $100 American Liberty high-relief gold coin, which sold out of its entire 50,000-coin mintage. 

    As I explained in a column last year, this program was the brainchild of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee under the leadership of former Chairman Gary Marks, which envisioned an ongoing series of high-relief gold coins and silver medals of the same design with the theme of modern images of Liberty.

    The Mint decided to use the 2015 design for a 2016 silver medal, which still has no release date.  But today after my colleague Paul Gilkes published a story (http://www.coinworld.com/news/us-coins/2016/06/american-liberty-high-relief-silver-medal-on-horizon.html) about production of the medals at the West Point and San Francisco mints and photos of the medal, Gary Marks said that he is “super excited” about the 2016 silver medal, and that he worked “hard along with members of my committee to revive images of "Liberty" on U.S. coins and medals. This silver medal is the result of our efforts.”

    “I am super excited now because it was so difficult to make this happen and there were numerous times I was almost certain we had failed or that the program was headed in a hopelessly wrong direction. I am most excited that Mint leadership finally followed the Committee's recommendation to produce this medal as a silver proof (rather than an uncirculated version). I am very pleased also that plans to produce another silver Liberty medal are in the works for 2017. Hopefully these Liberty medals will become an annual series (also a Committee recommendation). It is my further hope that collectors will support this program with strong sales as a demonstration to the Mint's leadership team and key Members of Congress that "Liberty" does indeed sell.”

    “Ultimately I want Miss Liberty to be restored to our circulating coinage. A successful medals program might help give that challenging goal a much needed push. Congratulations are in order to the following artists who together created the artwork for this medal: Justin Kunz, obverse designer; Phebe Hemphill, obverse sculptor; Paul C. Balan, reverse designer; and Don Everhart, reverse sculptor. Outstanding work all!”

    In correspondence with Gary, I told him I really feel the design works so much better in the proof format than the business strike used on the 2015 gold coins.  This is because the contrast between the frosted design devices and the mirrored background fields work much better than the matte finish of the business strike gold coin in translating Paul Balan and Don Everhart’s excellent designs into stunning high-relief medallic art.     

    And he agreed, responding: “These designs were meant for proof. From the beginning the Mint folks saw the Liberty program as a book end to the 2009 UHR St. Gaudens which had the business strike finish. I was disappointed to see last year's gold Liberty coin follow the same route. CCAC members kept pushing the idea that a proof finish would make the difference between a well-received program and a super-charged success.”

    “With these silver medals now in the works with proof finish with "S" and "W" mint marks I will be curious to see how many sell. I hope the Mint takes the same approach as they did with the 2011 National 9/11 Silver Metal and offer these Liberty medals for a defined time period for sales rather than with a capped numerical limit. A mintage cap would be a big disappointment since it would deny all of us from seeing how popular the program might be if allowed to seek its own sales level.”

    I would add that a lot of people who said they did not like the design last year are very likely going to have a different view when they see the new medals.  These truly are modern classics, and as Gary said, let’s hope that this program helps to encourage new circulating Liberty-themed coins, another proposal of the CCAC under his leadership. 


    Artificial Intelligence Coin Looks to the Future

    June 6, 2016 9:40 AM by Louis Golino
    A new series is being launched by the Mint of Poland on behalf of Niue called "Code of the Future," which deals with cutting-edge advancements in science and technology of recent years and decades such as virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics, among others.

    The first coin, which is expected to be released in July, is called "Artificial Intelligence," also referred to as AI, and sports a very unique design as well as a number of special features.

    The reverse shows a human head superimposed with the inside of a computer (the motherboard), and a robotic arm that holds the earth in its grasp.  The background is an endless series of computer codes, i.e., 1's and 0's. 

    The obverse has a reduced-sized effigy of Queen Elizabeth by Ian Rank-Broadley and a very futuristic design with more computer codes, including towers of code with a human head on top and various futuristic structures.

    The coin carries a $2 denomination, has a mintage of 500 coins, an antique finish, and is made of two ounces of pure silver.  It has a diameter of 50 millimeters and a weight of 62.2 grams.

    Of special interest is the application of fluorescent ultra violet (UV) coloring on the head on the reverse that makes it glow in the dark.  It is best to put the coin under a light source for 30 seconds and then place it in the dark to see it glow.

    The serial number is on the coin and the certificate of authenticity, and the coin comes in a luxurious wooden box and a colorful shipper.

    The AI coin is being sold for $224.90 by First Coin Company (www.firstcoincompany.com) in California with free worldwide shipping. As always if you live somewhere where they charge any import duties or fees, First Coin Company will reimburse them. Here is a link to the listing: https://firstcoincompany.com/S/niue...016-fluorescent-uv-effect-antique-finish-2-oz

    You can use the code "THANKYOU" for a 3% discount.


    Future coins in the series are expected to deal with topics such as personal robotics and virtual reality.

    This unusual piece is a fitting tribute to perhaps the most important field of study and knowledge of all time, one on which the future of the human race depends, according to Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and Space X, who believes that we actually already live in a world of artificial intelligence.  In Musk's view there is only a one in a billion chance that we are not living in a computer simulation, and idea that many people may find hard to grasp.

    AI is commonly understood as the idea of creating computers that mimic the cognitive functions we associate with the human mind, such as learning and problem solving.  AI has already been used to create computers that can beat professional chess players and self-driving cars.

    As was suggested back in 1968 in the film, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which featured a computer called Hal that took over the spaceship, the challenge of AI is to create machines that make our world better rather than going against humans and potentially destroying the world.  At the same time, as Musk argues, unless we keep advancing, civilization will destroy itself. 


    Little News from the U.S. Mint

    June 3, 2016 10:07 AM by Louis Golino
    It's shaping up to be a rather quiet summer in terms of numismatic releases from the U.S. Mint despite the fact that so many of the issues of greatest interest to collectors have not yet been released, or even listed with a date on the Mint's online product schedule.
    June's highlights include the launch of the Harper's Ferry quarters and companion 5-ounce silver coin as well as the 2016 Native American dollar coin and currency set and the 2016-W American Platinum Eagle proof coin.
    Last year's platinum eagle sold out in minutes and as i suggested here before its release, it has turned out to be a big secondary market winner and has definitely held its value.  The 2016 coin sports a gorgeous design of Lady Liberty in a neo-classical style, but no details have been released about the coin's mintage or household limit.
    Later in the summer the Nancy Reagan gold first spouse coin will be issued, marking the end of that series.  It will likely be a popular issue.
    But here we are almost halfway through the year, and there are still no American Eagle Silver proof coins with special edge lettering for the 30th anniversary or any news about some kind of special set for the anniversary, or one for the same anniversary of the American Gold Eagle program.
    And fans of the centennial gold tribute coins are puzzled that the Standing Liberty gold quarter does not have a release date, yet it was displayed at a coin show in late April, which suggests the coins have been struck.
    And not a word about the Walking Liberty gold coin.
    There are certainly reasons why the Mint needs to wait to release certain information about its programs and coins, but this situation seems very puzzling.
    Buyers need advance notice so they can figure out how to budget for several expensive coins that interest them, and the coin media can help the Mint get out the word about these issues.  But all that requires a specific plan and a lot more information from the Mint. 
    If nothing else, perhaps the officials at the Mint could provide an explanation for the lack of information such as a restructuring of staff or management.

    Mars Meteorite Coins Landing Soon

    May 23, 2016 9:53 AM by Louis Golino
    Coins on space and astronomy themes, as I have noted in the past, are increasingly popular with modern coin enthusiasts.

    Right on the heels of the new Mercury coin I discussed recently, there is another issue coming soon about Mars that was made by the Mint of Poland. 

    First Coin Company (www.firstcoincompany.com) in California is the official USA and worldwide distributor for a new Niue legal tender coin called "Martian Meteorite NWA 6963," which comes in two sizes.

    There is a $1, 1 oz. silver coin, which has a mintage of 500 pieces, and a $50, silver kilo coin with a mintage of a mere 99 coins. Both are produced with a premium, handmade antique silver finish and struck in high relief and of course come in an attractive wooden display box.

    The design features a stunning color image of Mars and rock formations typical of the planet.

    The 1 oz. version is being sold on a pre-order basis for $219.90, and the kilo is priced at $2,749.90, but the company is accepting best offers on the larger coin.  Or you can get $650 off the kilo coin with the code 7SKU.

    All orders ship free worldwide and if you are assessed any import duties or taxes, those will be refunded by First Coin Company.  The June is expected to be available to ship in June.

    The most exciting part in addition to the design, which depicts Mars, the red planet, is that these coins include fragments of NWA 6963, which is a meteorite that came from Mars. There is a separate certificate for the meteorite fragment.

    A Martian meteorite, or shergottite, is a rock that formed on the planet Mars and was then ejected from Mars by the impact of an asteroid or comet and finally landed on the Earth.

    NWA stands for Northwest Africa, which is where this particular meteorite was found.  According to the Meteorological Bulletin: “In September, 2011, a Moroccan meteorite hunter found the first pieces of NWA 6963 and sold it to AHabibi without giving the exact provenance. The hunter continued collecting pieces in the same area for about 6 months. In mid-May, 2012, the NWA 6963 locality, near the river Oued Touflit, became widely known and hundreds of meteorite hunters went to the area searching for more pieces. Pieces ranging from 100 to 700 g have been recovered, as well as a few small pieces (3-10 g), most of them are broken and partially covered by a thin fusion crust. The total mass may be as much as 8-10 kg.”

    Mars is the second-smallest planet in our solar system after Mercury and was named for the god of war. The iron oxide on its surface gives it a reddish appearance. The planet also has seasonal cycles similar to those of the earth, and like in earth its seasons are produced through tilts.

    The timing of the release of these coins is excellent as Mars has been in the news a lot recently. In addition to the current plan for volunteers to at some point go to Mars and live there for the rest of their lives and last year's hit movie with Matt Damon, The Martian, which won Academy Awards, there is brand-new research about the surface of Mars. 3.4 billion years ago when a large asteroid hit the planet, it triggered tsunamis that covered several hundred thousand square miles of the planet with water that has been frozen in the years since then.

    **Please note that to see additional images you need to click on first one. 

    Queen's Beasts Secondary Market Prices Too High

    May 20, 2016 3:58 PM by Louis Golino

    Back at the end of March when the Royal Mint announced the launch of its 10-coin Queen's Beasts silver and gold bullion series, there was a lot of enthusiasm about the new coins.  This had a lot to do with the top-notch artwork of the first issue, which is designed by Jody Clark, who has created some of the best modern British coin designs.

    There continues to be a lot of interest in these coins, but I find it troubling that prices for the 2 oz. silver and 1/4 oz. gold pieces have gotten as high as they have.  

    While the 1 oz. gold continues to be available from many bullion dealers in the U.S. for as little as $38 over spot recently from one company, the quarter-ounce gold, which seems to only be available from some eBay sellers, has sold recently for about $550, or a huge markup of 75% over its gold content value.

    Connect with Coin World:  

    And the silver 2 oz. coins, which have only been available also mainly on eBay and from some non-Americans sellers in Europe and Canada, has sold for as much as $90, though at the moment it can be purchased for $65 on eBay.  That is still a 100% mark-up over silver value.  The only better prices I have seen were from The Coin Shoppe in Canada (www.thecoinshoppe.ca), which as of this writing was $51.34 plus shipping.

    What is strange is that no major U.S. bullion dealer such as APMEX, MCM, etc. is carrying the silver coins, and when I asked some of them, they said they did not plan to carry them.  

    A-Mark, a wholesale precious metal company, is the Royal Mint's American distributor.  What is not clear is to whom A-Mark is selling, or whether they even have the coins, since the eBay sellers and foreign dealers appear to be getting their coins directly from the Royal Mint.

    The Royal Mint does sell directly to the public (https://www.royalmintbullion.com/Products/Queens-Beasts), but it is quite daunting to open an account from what I have heard as a lot of documentation is required that some U.S. buyers may not want to provide.  In addition, the silver coins sold out of their initial allocation very quickly, and the coins are on order.

    This situation has kept prices for the silver coins at what I believe is an artificially-inflated level that does not bode well for buyers, or really for the long-term success of the series.  For the first issue buyers seem willing to pay 100% and higher mark-ups, but will they continue to pay this much for 9 mire coins, especially when if you think about it, there is no real upside from these prices unless silver were well over $100 an ounce at some point?

    A friend of mine has been considering purchasing directly from the Royal Mint, which provides price breaks for those who purchase a number of tubes, or rolls, at a time, which brings the cost down quite a bit into the mid-to-high-$40-range.  But that is not a very practical option for the individual buyer who just wants a coin, or a couple of them.

    It is my view that the Mint and the public would benefit from a better distribution arrangement for these coins.  

    RCM Launches Huge Star Trek Tribute

    May 13, 2016 3:06 PM by Louis Golino

    On September 8, 1966 NBC launched the original Star Trek television series that ran for three seasons and inspired decades of successor television series and big-budget films that have developed a cult-like following from its fans, known as Trekkies.  

    The first tv series' main character was Capt. William Tiberius Kirk, who commanded the U.S.S. Enterprise for the Starfleet command during the 23rd century.  Kirk was of course played by Canadian actor, William Shatner, who became a household name from this series.  The other best-known character was Spock, half human and half Vulcan, played by Leonard Nimoy, who passed away last year.

    There are all kinds of Canadian connections to the original Star Trek series such as a town in Alberta called Vulcan to other actors in the series besides Mr. Shatner who were Canadian such as James Doohan, who played Scotty, and others.

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    To mark the golden anniversary of this beloved series the Royal Canadian Mint on June 13 launched a series of 11 coins.

    These include one of its $20 face value silver coins depicting the U.S.S. Enterprise; a four-coin set of half-ounce colored silver coins depicting the most well-known characters from the series; another four-coin colored silver set in this case weighing one ounce each that depict some of the most popular episodes such as "The Trouble with Tribbles"; a coin and stamp set with a base metal quarter showing the spaceship from many different angles; and finally a half-ounce gold coin in the delta-shape of the insignia worn by crew members.  The two four-coin sets begin now with the remaining issues coming every three months.

    It's an impressive line-up of coins for sure and one that will have considerable appeal for Trekkies and for coin collectors, especially those in their mid-50s or older who watched the first series as a child like myself.  By the time I was watching it with my friends in the late 1960s it was already in syndication.  And the combination of living at the time in the same neighborhood as both William Shatner and Neil Armstrong and being a young boy in the era of Star Trek and Apollo 11 has left a soft spot in me for the series and for space travel and science fiction in general.  I will never forget meeting Mr. Armstrong as they were packing up to move to Ohio.

    And for those collectors who really love Star Trek these coins will go nicely with their set of 10 issues from the Perth Mint plus the gold latinum slip that was released recently.  And more coins are rumored to be coming later from Perth for the 50th anniversary of the first series.  Beam me up, Scotty!  

    On Monday, May 16 the Canadian Royal Mint announced that 70% of the 11,500 mintage of the first of the colored 1-oz. proof coins have been sold since Friday.

    Will Collectors Buy a Pink Coin?

    May 6, 2016 5:13 PM by Louis Golino

    There has been surprisingly little reaction so far from the coin collecting community to the announcement that the U.S. Mint will issue the first pink gold coin ever in 2018.  The coin will be part of a set of three coins to mark breast cancer awareness and the legislation, which was first proposed in 2013, was signed into law on April 29 by President Obama.

    As usual the law calls for up to 750,000 clad halves, 400,000 silver dollars, and 50,000 pink gold $5 coins.  The designs will represent the fight against breast cancer and will be selected through a design competition.  The legislation also opens the door to producing the dollar with a higher silver fineness than the usual 90%.  It also stipulates that the pink gold coin will contain at least 75% gold with the balance consisting of copper and silver, which are used to give it a pinkish color.

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    There are few causes that have the widespread support that this one does, and these coins could introduce new people to numismatics.  This program will also be an important test of how far the innovation envelope can be pushed on U.S. coins.
    The potential problem is that the gold coin is likely to cost the same amount as other $5 gold commemoratives, or about $420, and more if gold is higher than $1300 in 2018.  The savings from the smaller amount of gold will likely be offset by production costs.  In recent years $5 gold commemoratives have continued to see decreasing sales numbers, and to sell more than the usual 6,000 or so coins, a lot of non-collectors would need to be willing to spend over $400, especially since depending on the design some regular buyers may not want the coin.

    One collector has proposed that it would be better to issue a dollar coin with selective pink gold plating, as was done on the 2012 Canadian farewell to the penny coin that was clearly an inspiration for the breast cancer gold piece.  It would be priced at a level that is much more accessible to a broader range of buyers, which means the coin would raise a lot more money than the gold coin is likely to. Perhaps a simple pink ribbon against a silver background, or even a pink silver coin created with alloys, as a collector-friend suggested.

    A selective pink plated dollar could be a big seller, but it is not clear how it would be received by regular collectors.  Younger ones might like it, but I can just imagine the traditionalist middle aged ones saying "we don't need circus coins," which is how some of them have reacted to the pink gold coin idea.

    So all things considered it will be especially important that a great design be selected.  And the Congress really should consult more closely with the numismatic community on these programs to get a sense of what collectors are interested in and what will sell.  

    Good intentions have a way of getting lost with modern commemoratives, and if they sell poorly, they may not even cover all the production and associated costs, and then no funds will be raised.  Which is why commemoratives should not be about causes.  They should be about significant people, events, etc.


    Two More New Issues from the Mint of Poland

    April 29, 2016 2:41 PM by Louis Golino
    Spring is often when world mints roll out some of their best products of the year.  Already we have seen Coin Invest Trust begin to release an impressive range of coins for virtually every taste from the Great Tea Race coins to the new Tiffany issue and many others that were first unveiled during the February World Money Fair in Berlin.
    Now the Mint of Poland, one of the premier coining facilities in the world that specializes in producing top-quality issues for other countries, is doing the same.
    In addition to the intriguing planet Mercury coin I discussed last week, two other interesting high-end pieces were announced this week.
    The first is a 2-oz. high relief, antique silver coin issued for Niue about the famous Trojan Horse that the ancient Greeks used to secretly invade the city of Troy.  
    According to a Latin poem from the time of Augustus and of course in Homer's Iliad, the Greeks made a large wooden horse and hid some of their armed force inside it.  They then pretended they were sailing away after a decade-long siege but pulled the horse into the city and under the cover of night, the men in the horse came out and attacked the Trojans.  
    The coin features exquisite artwork and a real wooden inlay, and it is rimless with the serial number etched on the coin, and the number matches that which is on the certificate of authenticity.  It is also the first issue in a new series called Ancient Myths.  A mere 500 coins were issued, and the coin is sellout of fast pushing retail prices from $200 to about $260 over the course of the week.
    The other new issue is also a first in a new series called Evolution of Earth and features a bug called a Trilobite.  The coin is also made of 2-oz. of silver and is struck in ultra high relief with a relief of 3.7 millimeters, a mintage of 666 coins, and is plated with two rare metals- gold and ruthenium.  Trilobites were one of the first arthropods (an invertebrate animal with an exoskeleton) to roam the earth and managed to live for 270 million years.  These coins can be obtained from sellers who typically carry Mint of Poland releases such as the Coin Shoppe (www.thecoinshoppe.ca), First Coin Company (www.firstcoincompany.com), Powercoin (www.powercoin.it) and on eBay.  The Coin Shoppe has already sold out of the Trojan Horse coin twice.  

    A Different Mercury Coin

    April 21, 2016 11:06 AM by Louis Golino

    With all the focus on the release today of the 2016-W gold Mercury dime, properly called Winged Liberty or Liberty Head dime as numismatists know, collectors may not be aware that a different Mercury coin is also going to be released soon.

    It is the second release in the Mint of Poland’s solar system series, which debuted last year with the issuance of the popular 2015 moon coin.  These pieces are issued under the legal authority of Niue, and the 2016 coin features the planet Mercury, which is the smallest planet and the one closest to the sun.

    Like the moon coin the new issue, which is expected to be available in May, will be dome shaped and comes with an antique finish, but for the Mercury issue it will be a yellow-colored antique finish to resemble the color of the planet. 

    In addition, the Mercury coin is embedded with a small piece of a real meteorite like the moon issue was.  In this case it is the NWA8409 meteorite found in Northwest Africa, specifically in Morocco in 2013.  This particular meteorite is worth $3,000 for one gram, and the fragment on the coin is worth about $70.

    The reverse of the coin is convex-shaped and depicts the surface of the planet and has the meteorite fragment, while the obverse is concave and has a rather small effigy of Queen Elizabeth II like all Commonwealth coins as well as lots of surface details of the planet. 

    The mintage is just 666 pieces, and the coin comes in a wooden display box with a certificate of authenticity. 

    Coins depicting planets, meteorites, and other subjects related to astronomy and space have become very popular in recent years, as I explained in my article in the September issue of Coin World magazine (http://www.coinworld.com/news/world-coins/2015/09/space-themed-world-coins-more-popular-than-ever.html).

    While there is never any guarantee, these coins also have a rather solid track record with the best example being a 2009 Cook Islands moon coin that is now worth 10 times its issue price. 

    The Mercury coin is available from sellers such as the Coin Shoppe (www.thecoinshoppe.ca), a Canadian company that ships frequently to the U.S. via Niagara Falls, and on eBay.  The coin is priced at about $200 at the Coin Shoppe, while recent eBay sales have been about 10% higher at $220 and $230.  Don’t be surprised if the coin reaches higher prices in the coming weeks. 

    The next coins in this series will depict Mars in 2017 and the Earth in 2018.  With one coin a year and an impressive level of detail on these coins as well as their shape, low mintage, and rare meteorite fragments, the solar system series is shaping up to be a winner as well as an interesting and coherent set of coins. 


    Irish Central Bank Issues Coins to Mark Centennial of Easter Rising

    April 14, 2016 3:11 PM by Louis Golino
    On April 4 th the Central Bank of Ireland issued gold and silver proof coins to mark the 100 th anniversary of the Easter Rising, also known as the Easter Rebellion.

    That event, which played a key role in the establishment of the Irish republic, was an armed insurrection by Irish Republicans on Easter weekend in April 1916 to protest British rule of Ireland.  The protesters were killed by British soldiers.

    During the uprising, one of the activists, stood on the Central Post Office’s steps and read this proclamation: “We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people.”

    In addition to a 2-euro bimetallic coin already covered in Coin World, a 15-euro silver proof and two gold coins, one of them with a 50-euro denomination and the other 100 euro, were also issued.  The silver coin is sold individually and in a two-coin set with the smaller gold coin, which weighs 7.77 grams.  The larger gold coin weighs twice as much and was released as a stand-alone piece. 

    Both the set and 100-euro gold sold out almost instantly, but the single silver coin is still available from the bank, and in the U.S. from Royal Scandinavian Mint (www.rsmint.com), which offers buyers the option to obtain a certificate of authenticity signed by the designer of the coin, Michael Guilfoyle.  Their price is $67.50.

    The coins feature a gorgeous design showing Hibernia, the allegorical representation of Ireland (similar to Lady Liberty here, or Britannia in the UK), which first appeared in cartoons and drawings in the 19th century.  Hibernia was also known as “Britannia’s younger sister.” On the coin she appears in front of key phrases from the proclamation.

    The coins were minted by the Austrian Mint in Vienna, and carry mintages of 18,000 for the silver, 5500 for the 50-euro gold, and 1,000 for the 100-euro gold.



    Act Now to Make Apollo 11 Coins a Reality

    April 6, 2016 10:27 AM by Louis Golino

    Last year Rep. Bill Posey (R- FL) introduced a bill, H.R. 2726, calling for the issuance in 2019 of a series of four coins honoring the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon, one of the greatest achievements of our country and of mankind.  The coins include the usual three-coin set of a silver dollar, clad half dollar, and $5 gold coin plus a first for the modern commemorative program, a proof 5-ounce silver coin struck in the concave/convex shape used for the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame coins.

    Last June Steve Roach explained in Coin World what this proposed coin program would include.

    This program was first recommended in 2014 during a meeting of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, when Mike Olson made a motion for it that received a unanimous vote, and the proposal again received a unanimous vote in 2015.

    Since his term on the CCAC ended in 2014, Mr. Olson, an Iowa banker and former Army National Guard Lt. Colonel, has been working to promote this program, including meeting with members of congress from states that participated in the massive effort to land on the moon such as Florida, Texas, California, and Alabama.  He was last on Capitol Hill a couple weeks ago.

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    There is a lot of interest in these coins because of the huge significance of the event and the fact that it has never been commemorated on a U.S. coin, yet many world mints have already issued such coins. 

    To date H.R. 2726 has 63 co-sponsors, but it needs 290 to move the legislation forward.  So far most of those who have signed onto the bill come from the same states mentioned above.  In addition, a companion Senate bill has not yet been introduced.

    If the bill does not pass both houses by the end of the year, it will expire, and those who care about this program will have to start all over again.

    That is why time is really of the essence and why any collectors that want to see these coins issued should do what Mr. Olson recommended:

    Here is what coin collectors can do to make a difference and win the support of their members of Congress.  First, go to this link and see if your representative has cosponsored H.R. 2726.

    If their representative is not listed as a cosponsor, collectors should research contributions that companies or universities in their congressional district made or continue to make to the space program.   Almost every state had some involvement in the Apollo program, which was by design to ensure widespread support for this massive fiscal and human undertaking. With involvement now by the coin collecting community, this can also serve to generate pivotal support for H.R. 2726.  For example, Rockwell Collins, an Iowa company, played a key role by producing the radios that communicated between the earth and moon.

    The next step is to contact their representative's office in Washington DC via phone or email. You can find your representative’s contact information here. I suggest calling the Washington DC office of your representative and asking to speak to the legislative director. If they are unavailable, leave a message and ask for their email address in order to also send them some information, making sure to specifically reference H.R. 2726. Let them know about the key role that constituents in their district made to the space program, the enthusiasm in the numismatic community regarding this particular set of coins, and the fact that over 60 of their colleagues have cosponsored this legislation already. It would also be important to mention the worthy organizations which would receive surcharges from the sale of these coins: the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum's "Destination Moon" exhibit; the Astronauts Memorial Foundation; and the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, to aid its missions by providing college scholarships for the very best and brightest students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). 

    Dieter Jobe with Congressman Posey's office can also be contacted for those with questions on how they can support this legislation.  His contact information is:  Dieter.Jobe@mail.house.gov; (202)-225-3603.

    In addition to contacting their Congressman, collectors should also contact both of their Senators, who can be found by following this link

    There is currently not a bill in the Senate, however I am very hopeful and optimistic that a bill will emerge and making these contacts now will serve to generate  interest and support that will be needed later.

    If collectors want to see this happen, they need to act NOW, and get their friends and neighbors engaged.  It is very time intensive to get a commemorative coin proposal to this point and if this does not get passed by both houses before the end of the session this year, we will have to start over.  We only have one chance in our lifetimes to honor the Apollo 11 lunar landing on a significant anniversary and we owe it to the astronauts and the people who made it possible to complete this mission.

    Royal Mint Launches Queen’s Beasts

    March 29, 2016 12:54 PM by Louis Golino

    The Royal Mint of the United Kingdom (www.royalmint.com) has launched an intriguing new series of bullion coins called the Queen’s Beasts, “ten creatures that have featured throughout hundreds of years of British royal heraldry. The series will be introduced a ‘beast’ at a time, starting with the gallant Lion of England, by British coin designer Jody Clark,” according to a March 29 press release from the Mint.

    There are three versions of the first release, the lion, including the Mint’s first 2-ounce silver coin, which carries a 5-pound denomination coin; a 25-pound, one quarter-ounce gold piece, and a 100 pound, 1-ounce gold coin.  Mintages will be unlimited. 

    These coins will be sold by the mint’s bullion department (www.royalmintbullion.com) to UK buyers and by bullion dealers around the world.  U.S. dealer, A Mark, is a distributor for the coins, and I have seen them for sale at APMEX and JM Bullion as well as on eBay.   Other dealers will soon carry them too.

    So far only the gold coin has been released, and premiums are comparable to those for American Gold Eagles and other major world gold bullion issues. 

    Initial reaction from buyers has been very positive, especially because of the striking design of a growling lion on top of a heraldic coat of arms, which symbolizes “the various strands of royal ancestry brought together in a young woman about to be crowned queen. Each beast, used as a heraldic badge by generations that went before her, was inspired by the King’s Beasts of Henry VIII that still line the bridge over the moat at his Hampton Court Palace.”

    The inspiration for the series is a series of ten sculptures that are each ten meters tall created for the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth, which now reside in the Canadian Museum of History in Quebec.

    Since many buyers are unable to afford one-ounce gold pieces, there is considerable interest in the silver and smaller gold coins provided that premiums are reasonably low.  I expect all three to be popular in the UK and around the world.

    The designer, Jody Clark, is best known as the artist who created the current fifth effigy of the Queen that began to appear on UK coins last year, and as the designer of the widely-admired 2014 proof Britannia coins with an art deco kind of design that is without question the most popular in the proof Britannia series.

    Clark explained his work on the news series this way: “I took inspiration from the original Queen’s Beasts, both the original versions in Canada and the Portland Stone replicas here that look out over Kew Gardens. They are very stylized and look imposing as statues, but the challenge was to capture this on the surface of a coin.”

    “I researched the origins of heraldry and coats of arms, and wanted to replicate the sense of strength and courage they were designed to convey. I created a sense of movement to make the beasts bold and dynamic, but the shields they guard still feature strongly as they are integral to the story.”

    This new series is the third major Royal Mint bullion coin series after the sovereign and Britannia coins, or the fourth if one also counts the Lunar calendar series.

    Lost Opportunities with Anniversary Coins

    March 23, 2016 9:59 AM by Louis Golino

    The U.S. Mint recently announced that during the upcoming Whitman Exposition in Baltimore, Maryland (held from March 31 to April 3) Mint Director nominee Rhett Jeppson will be there to talk to collectors and sign certificates of authenticity.

    It also announced that the 2016-W American Buffalo Gold coin, which marks the 10th anniversary of this program, will be released at the show.

    Perhaps worried about a repeat of the pandemonium that emerged in August 2014 when the Kennedy gold half dollar tribute coin was launched at the ANA’s World Fair of Money, there will be nothing special about this coin for the anniversary at least based on what has been announced.

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    So no special finish or design, nothing.  I can understand the desire not to change the design, but to mark the occasion they could have used a new type of proof finish called enhanced proof, or done something else such as a one-year only reverse proof fractional set.

    Collectors regularly lament the fact that fractional Buffaloes were only issued in 2008.

    The bullion version of this coin fills a niche for bullion buyers who want a one-ounce gold coin made to the world standard of 24 karart, four nines (.9999 fine) gold, but the proof coin, which carries a very hefty premium, has seen its mintage decline substantially in recent years.

    The 2015-W coin had sales of 16,591 as of December 2015 when it became unavailable compared to the previous low in 2013 of 18,599.

    Collectors love the design but are probably growing tired of paying large premiums for a coin that is the same year after year with the exception of the 2013-W reverse proof coin and the 2008-W uncirculated coins.

    Doing something special for this year’s proof, and perhaps also for the bullion counterpart, would have helped to breathe new life into the series.

    Similarly, during the March 15 meeting of the CCAC in Washington, DC, the Mint’s staff announced plans for the 20th anniversary American Platinum Eagle proof coin, which is to simply reissue the design of the first proof coin issued in 1997 that has appeared on all bullion issues for 20 years. 

    This is the case even though the product manager at the Mint in this area recommended three possible options: proof, reverse proof, or enhanced proof.  The second was used in 2007 for the 10th anniversary, so it would make sense to do the third, enhanced proof, especially if no new design will be used.

    This lost opportunity is especially glaring because the APE proof series has seen some of the best artwork of any modern U.S. coin series, and it is the only ongoing American Eagle program which has utilized the concept of changing reverses.  In the earlier years the half ounce coins had a different reverse each year, and more recently the one ounce proofs have done that. 

    The Mint will continue to lose market share to other world and private mints unless it becomes bolder and more imaginative with its coin programs, which it could do without losing its distinctly American character.    

    Will Collectors Embrace Black Lady Liberty?

    March 16, 2016 4:41 PM by Louis Golino

    On March 15 the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee recommended designs for the 2017 American Liberty, high relief $100 gold coin and silver medal during a meeting at the U.S. Mint headquarters in Washington, DC.

    Their mandate was to select an obverse design with a modern version of Liberty that reflects the racial and ethnic diversity of 21st century America, and a reverse with a contemporary eagle.

    Many of the design candidates the committee received were underwhelming artistically and some of the nicest ones were more classic than modern.

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    The design the committee recommended of an African-American woman wearing a crown of stars, as Paul Gilkes noted, is an homage to the Statue of Freedom that sits at the top of dome of the U.S. Capitol.

    As happened last year, when a multicultural liberty design was recommended, the new designs set off a firestorm of criticism of the obverse the committee selected. 

    Once again most collectors who expressed an opinion said they did not like the design, would never buy the coin or medal, and that it was all part of a politically-motived and politically-correct agenda, a parting salvo perhaps from the first African-American president in history, as some speculated.

    But the notion that this project is politically-driven, or that President Obama is behind a push for a black liberty, is patently absurd.  The mandate to reflect racial and cultural diversity reflects the fundamental ideals of our nation and is not some kind of directive from the current administration. 

    This would be, as far as I know, the first African-American liberty since she is normally shown as a white woman of European origin depicted in a Greco-Roman style as in the work of Augustus Saint Gaudens, or as a native American, as on the Indian gold eagles, half eagles, and quarter eagles, but never specifically black.

    Though I initially gravitated to some of the other candidates, upon further reflection I think it would work well in a high relief format because the coin will be the size of a half dollar.  With that format a simpler rather than busy design is much better, and the cheek bones will look good in relief, as one committee member noted.

    Plus the committee wanted a profile rather than another standing image like last year and as on most classic coins. My only caveat would be that if the idea is to show the true racial/ethnic diversity, then next time let's see a Hispanic or Asian liberty or something else.

    While most agree beauty comes in many forms, there is no point in trying to make someone else like your version of beauty if they don’t like it. 

    But given the fact that African-American women have only appeared until now on a couple of commemorative coins and never as liberty, why not a black liberty now?  And why is it that every time an African-American female design is recommended or selected there is a loud chorus of opposition from collectors?

    Many say why not stick with the classical representations of Liberty, but that ignores the whole point of this program, which is to move beyond those designs and depict a modern Liberty. 

    So the jury is out, to say the least, as to whether collectors will warm to the obverse design as many did last year, and at the moment it appears unlikely that many will embrace a black Liberty.

    I would also add that the Mint would do well to better communicate its plans regarding this series, which caught many people by surprise after hearing the Mint decided last year not to make this an ongoing series.

    It would have been preferable to have a gold coin and silver medal each year starting in 2015.  Instead, we had a 2015 gold coin, a two silver medals that could be proof or business strike coming later in 2016, and then a gold coin and silver proof medal in 2017, if the plans the Mint laid out yesterday are implemented.

    Collectors like continuity and appreciate advance notice and an explanation of the goals behind specific programs and the symbolism of the imagery in designs.

    Bowers Guide Book for the Three Silver Series that Turned 100 in 2016

    March 10, 2016 4:45 PM by Louis Golino

    In this column I like to periodically highlight significant numismatic reference books.  With the recent announcement by the U.S. Mint of the April 21 release of the first of its trio of gold coins (the dime) honoring the centennial of the three liberty-themed silver series that began in 1916, now is a good time to pick up a copy of Q. David Bowers’ excellent guide book to these coins. 


    The book is part of Whitman Publishing’s long-standing Official Red Book series of in-depth guides to specific U.S. and world coins series, which are indispensable sources for the collector or numismatic researcher.

    Like his popular guide to the Morgan dollar, this book, which was released in late 2015, provides all the key information someone interested in collecting one or more of these terrific classic silver coin series needs.

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    One of the many strengths of Bowers’ approach is the way he grounds each series in its historical context, explaining to the reader the genesis of the Mercury dime, Standing Liberty quarter, and Liberty Walking half dollar.  These coins, struck from 1916 to 1947, were issued during a tumultuous era in U.S. history that spanned two world wars, the Roaring Twenties, and the Great Depression.

    This is also the period when the U.S. became a global power on the world stage, largely as an outgrowth of its involvement in the two wars.  As historian Roger Burdette aptly says in his introduction, the new designs of 1916 “embody the aspirations and fears of an America that stepped hesitantly from behind her protective barrier and into the unknown of the larger world.” 

    Collectors, whether they built type sets or specialized in one or more of the series, or simply admired their fetching designs, have always loved these three depictions of Lady Liberty, whose symbolism is very important to a nation of people who love liberty and the pursuit of freedom.    

    Each was created to replace the unloved designs of U.S. Mint Engraver Benjamin Barber, and interestingly they were a product not only of a design competition, but also grew out of a grassroots approach that began with an influential coin club of the time, whose members encouraged the Mint to develop better coin designs.

    In addition to an overview of the origins of each series and a year by year review of important events in the country at this time, the book also provides a coin by coin and mintmark analysis, focusing on striking characteristics and other critical factors to look for in each coin.

    In addition, there is help to grade these coins, certified population and retail price information, buying tips, information on errors and die varieties, the artists, past Mint directors, pattern coins, and even a brief overview of the plan for the 2016 centennial gold issues based on what was known at the time of writing, which is really no more than we know today apart from the release date for the dime.



    Palladium Proof Eagles Need to Be Done Right

    March 3, 2016 11:18 AM by Louis Golino

    As Paul Gilkes reported recently, the U.S. Mint is surveying its customers about the possibility of issuing a series of palladium coins in the usual four sizes- one ounce, half-ounce, quarter-ounce, and tenth ounce.

    I think such a series of coins could be a nice addition to the product lines the Mint offers.

    However, there are several caveats.

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    First, if collectors are going to buy these coins the premiums will need to be lower than those suggested in the survey, which amount to 60%-65%, 72%-78%, 84%-88% and 90%-110% respectively.

    Those premiums are much higher than the ones the Mint charges for other precious metal coins like American Gold Eagle proof coins, and they would be a serious drag on sales.

    Second, palladium, like platinum, is not traded nearly as widely as gold and silver are.  In the past sales of American Platinum Eagles have tended to be sluggish with the exception of the one-ounce bullion coins when offered at competitive prices.

    So the Mint will need to make this offering as attractive as possible by pricing it at the right level and also by choosing the designs carefully and by limiting mintages rather than minting to demand.

    There is definitely a lot of interest in using the Adolph Weinman-designed proposed obverse based on the obverse of his Winged Liberty dime and the proposed reverse based on the eagle that appeared on his American Institute of Architects gold medal. 

    But if the series is to be ongoing, I think many collectors would welcome changing designs perhaps on the reverse side as has been done most years on American Platinum Eagle proof coins.

    Of course, the designs would need to be compelling.  Many possibilities exist such as different eagle designs, an area where the Mint has a lot of experience and a lot of designs that were considered but not selected for various coin programs.

    It would be helpful to survey customers on their interest in changing designs and what themes would appeal to them, but there is little doubt that liberty themes and eagles would be of strong interest to most collectors.

    Another consideration is making sure the Mint can secure sufficient supplies of palladium planchets.

    If done right, a series of American Palladium Eagle proof coins would be a nice complement to the Mint’s other American Eagle series.  With the coming end of the First Spouse gold coin series, it would also help fill a major gap in revenue from that development.



    U.S. Mint Can Learn from Other Mints

    February 22, 2016 4:04 PM by Louis Golino

    There has always been, as I have suggested before, a substantial difference between modern U.S. numismatic coins and the typical collector pieces issued by other world mints.

    The U.S. Mint tends to issue coins that are more traditional in appearance and does not follow all the latest fads and trends in advanced minting, although it does innovate and follows what other mints are doing.  For example, the enhanced uncirculated technique borrows from the Royal Canadian Mint’s pioneering of laser frosting to make certain elements of a coin’s design more distinctive.

    And as many collectors know our mint consulted with the Paris Mint and Royal Australian Mint to produce the award-winning 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative since those mints had experience producing curved coins that the U.S. Mint did not at that point.

    When it comes to some of the more unusual types of coins other mints produce such as odd shapes, or the use of crystals and other materials as inserts, the U.S. Mint has hewed to a more conservative approach that seems to suite most of its buyers just fine. 

    Another technique, namely, selective gilding, or gold plating, which is popular on world issues from other mints, may or may not prove popular with U.S. coin buyers, but one approach I know they do like is high relief striking, which has become very popular with world coin buyers because it gives coins the appearance of three-dimensionality. 

    Until now just two gold coins, the 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle and 2015 American Liberty High Relief $100 coin have been issued in high relief, and a silver medal version of the 2015 coin is planned for later this year. 

    But it is time for the U.S. Mint to also issue silver coins in high relief, perhaps starting with the 30th anniversary of the American Silver Eagle and extending to other programs as well.  In fact, a two coin set of high relief American Silver and Gold Eagles would be a nice way to mark the third decade of both programs.

    Until now it was necessary to make high relief coins thicker and with smaller diameters than non-high relief issues, but all that has changed thanks to a new technology called smartminting that has been developed by the prestigious private mint, Coin Invest Trust, in Lichtenstein.  CIT is well-known for producing gorgeous, highly intricate pieces like the award-winning Tiffany series.

    Smartminting allows high relief coins to be made with much larger diameters and makes it possible to produce coins with a depth of relief that was not previously possible. 

    At the recent World Money Fair in Berlin CIT unveiled a dazzling array of coins struck with smartminting that will be hitting the market over the next couple months.  For example, there are two versions of a coin commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Great Tea Race in 1866, a 2-ounce silver piece with ultra high relief in the billows of the ship, and an 8-gram version of the same coin with the diameter of a 1-ounce coin and considerable relief, which is impressive for a coin of that weight. 

    It would be a good idea for our Mint’s officials to consult with CIT about smartminting and with other world mints like the Perth Mint that have extensive experience issuing high relief coins.

    And this would not be anything new or unusual since as Jeff Starck wrote in the February issue of Coin World, the U.S. Mint has been inspired by the work of other world mints for a long time.

    ATB Demand May Not Reach New Maximum Mintage

    February 10, 2016 11:59 AM by Louis Golino

    Earlier this month I was surprised when a friend of mine told me he heard the mintages for the 2016 5-oz. silver America the Beautiful coins had been increased, according to someone who contacted the U.S. Mint about the issue.  So I made an inquiry to the Mint.

    On February 3 I received this response from Michael White in the Mint’s Office of Public Affairs: “The current authorized mintage limit for both numismatic and bullion 2015 America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Coins for Shawnee National Forest is 150,000 coins. An announced mintage limit of 30,000 coins has been set for the America the Beautiful Five Ounce Shawnee National Forest Uncirculated Coin.  However, based on demand, the United States Mint may mint and issue more than the minimum of 120,000 America the Beautiful Five Ounce Shawnee National Forest Silver Bullion Coins so long as the United States Mint does not exceed the 150,000 coin limit.”

    There seems to be some confusion within the numismatic media about this change since I have seen reports stating that the mintage for these coins has been increased to 150,000 coins, which is not accurate.  It is only the authorized maximum mintage that has been increased to this amount, which does not in itself mean that many coins will be produced. 

    The key point is that demand will determine how many coins are minted.  Depending on the level of demand, we could see mintages much lower than 150,000 for the two versions of each coin.

    In fact, I suspect that only one 2016 release in this program has a chance of reaching this level of demand and that is the coin that will honor the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which will be released in October.

    Collectors are concerned that minting so many coins will dilute the value of the 2016 issues, which will be true if so many coins are actually made. 

    But since this series began in 2010, only two coins, the 2011 Gettysburg and Glacier National Park coins, sold enough to reach this level with sales of the bullion versions were 126,700 plus 35,000 of the “P” version, or 161,700 total for those two issues. 

    Last year, for example, no bullion coin in the series sold more than 45,000 coins and the “P” versions have been averaging a bit under 20,000, so it is not clear why the Mint decided to raise the max to more than twice the level of sales of any coin since 2011.

    Perhaps it is because they are eager to sell more silver coins given the months-long delay in the release of the 2016 American Silver Eagle proof coin while the Mint re-tools its dies to add the 30th anniversary edge inscriptions.

    Collectors have reacted positively to the 2016 designs, and the series seems to have picked up steam over the years.  But with silver prices rising and many other coins coming from the Mint this year that collectors are saving for, I find it hard to believe there will be demand for 150,000 of any of the 2016 releases other than possibly the Roosevelt coin. 

    Sales of the first bullion issue of the year for Shawnee National Park have already reached 86,400 in a short period, though, so perhaps the Mint was right that there is demand for a lot more of these.

    And if I prove to be wrong, and there is demand for 120,000 of the bullion coins this year, that will of course make the previous issues, especially the lows from 2012, worth even more than they are now.  

    New Zealand Mint Launches Kings of the Continent Series

    February 2, 2016 9:46 AM by Louis Golino

    On February 3 the New Zealand Mint (www.nzmint.com), which produces a wide variety of modern world coins, launched a new series of silver proof coins called Kings of the Continent.  This series of coins will feature engraved and colorized designs of the largest of the African carnivores seen in their natural habitats. 

    The series debuts with the 2016 Lion coin that shows a color image of a snarling male African Lion standing proudly against a backdrop of southern African grasslands.  The color image is a close-up of the lion’s face.

    The term African lion is used to refer collectively to several subspecies of lions that are found in Africa.  They currently are found in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia, but previously were also seen in North Africa and Southwest Asia, where they became extinct.

    The male lion is best known for its long mane, and its face is one of the most widely recognized symbols of the animal kingdom.  Some male lions weigh more than 550 pounds, making them the second-largest big cat after the tiger.

    There are several other recent coin series that features lions, but the art work on the new NZM lion coin is an especially stunning and impactful contemporary design that really captures the strength and majesty of these amazing animals.

    Each coin is made of 1 ounce of .999 fine silver, is struck in proof, and has a diameter of 40 millimeters.  The mintage is limited to just 5,000 coins. 

    They are housed in a black display case that slides out of the outer packaging.

    The coins are issued under the legal authority of Niue, as are numerous collector coins produced by various world mints on their behalf.

    They can be purchased soon from The Coin Shoppe in Canada (www.thecoinshoppe.ca), which carries an extensive selection of the latest world coins and is a distributor for the Royal Canadian Mint, Perth Mint, and several other major world mints, and from other companies.  The Coin Shoppe ships to the U.S. from Niagara Falls.

    The New Zealand Mint is perhaps best known for its Star Wars and Disney coin series, which are popular not just with coin collectors but also have crossover appeal with fans of those franchises.

    The lion issue will likely appeal to animal lovers and modern world coin enthusiasts. 


    Mint Can’t Issue More 2015 Platinum Eagles

    January 23, 2016 10:56 AM by Louis Golino
    I would like to respond to the letter by Cornell Scanlon in the Feb. 8 issue of Coin World.   Mr. Scanlon suggests that he was unable to purchase a 2015-W American Platinum Eagle proof coin due to “the professional speculators’ computer-controlled entries” and that the Mint should reissue the coin this year when sufficient platinum planchets are available.   Finally, he suggested that buyers of the 2014 issue should have been given first crack at purchasing the 2015 issue.

    First, it was certainly not easy to place an order before sales ended somewhere around 4-7 minutes after they began.  But there is no proof that speculators grabbed the lion’s share of these coins, whereas there is considerable evidence that individual collectors purchased many of them. 

    Most dealers, even major ones, were only able to secure a handful of coins based on the small number of coins available for sale from those companies as far as I have seen.  Second, if speculators had indeed purchased a majority of the coins, the secondary market value would have by now either crashed or at least declined substantially by now.  Instead, values have held steady at around $2,000 for raw coins and $3,000 and up for 70-graded pieces.  This typically means the coins are in “strong hands,” meaning held by buyers who plan to keep them at least for now.

    I was able to purchase a coin and encountered none of the website issues I have seen in the past, and I have many friends who also got their orders in.  From what I have heard most people were so impressed with these coins in terms of the design and high quality that they decided to keep them despite the prospect of an easy payday.  I noticed the same trend in online coin forums.

    Second, the key point is the Mint by law cannot strike coins from one year in the following year.  They can sell them provided they were struck during the year that appears on them except for commemoratives, and whatever rules apply to stamps have no bearing here.  Besides, even if they could, this would be a dangerous precedent and would upset the market for these coins and of course the buyers too, who would see the value of their purchase decline after the mintage was increased.

    In fact, this is something the Perth Mint in Australia has done in the past, and it did not go over well with collectors.

    The U.S. Mint does try to focus on collectors and maintain an even playing field, but it also has other clients too, namely dealers, and it is not so easy catering to such a wide customer base.  As I have argued previously, there are certain areas in which it gives dealers the ability to buy in bulk at a discount, but that does not apply to all products and did not apply to this coin.  Moreover, most of the allegations one hears from Mint buyers about how they got locked out by the “big boys” turn out not to have any solid evidence.  They are based on issues such as how fast some dealers had their coins graded, which is often a function of how close they are located to the grading companies. 

    And keep in mind that virtually every other major world mint gives dealers huge advantages such as the ability to order coins before they are released to the public, which in the case of the Royal Canadian Mint often results in coins being sold out before the public can even order with the exception of members of their Master’s Club, which was revamped last year. 

    Finally, as far as giving priority to buyers of the previous issue, this is something some foreign dealers do, and perhaps the Mint could look into such an approach.  A first step would be to ask its customers if they would favor doing this. 



    2016 Lunar Skulls Coins Announced

    January 10, 2016 11:47 AM by Louis Golino
    Following the success their 2015 Lunar Skulls Year of the Goat proof and uncirculated silver coins, which sold out very quickly and was a hit with collectors, SM Mint and SkullCoins announced on January 9 the worldwide release of the 2016 Lunar Skulls Year of the Monkey coins.

    This coin series offers an unusual twist on the popular Chinese Lunar calendar theme, which is the largest modern world coin program ever in terms of countries issuing coins and the number of different coins produced.  With so many Lunar-themed coins being released, it helps to have an approach that is different from other series.

    As was the case last year, the proof coin will have a tiny mintage of just 500 coins, and the BU example will have a mintage of 2,000 coins.  Each comes encapsulated and has a serial number on its edge, which matches the number that appears on the accompanying certificate of authenticity. 

    While proof coins have been numbered before, this series may be the first to number BU coins.

    Last year’s release was issued under the legal authority of Ghana, but as a result of some issues encountered with the project management team for the 2015 release, the new coins are being issued under the authority of Palau and are being minted by renowned German private mint, B.H. Mayer, which produces coins for many countries, including the popular Tiffany Art series.

    In their press release, SM Mint noted: “After we experienced multiple issues from our hired project management team on the 2015 release and delays from the mint, we decided to hire a brand new team of the most competent professionals in the field to assist with our 2016 release.  In addition, we are releasing under Palau and minting with the world renowned BH Mayer in Germany, this combination has produced some of the most well-known, high quality award winning modern world coins today, such as "Tiffany Art.”  The release also indicates the capsules have been improved.

    There are also some other changes with the 2016 coins compared to those from 2015.  The serial numbers have been moved the edge of the coin to give it a cleaner design, the finish of the proof coins is slightly different than it was last year, and the finish of the BU coin is more of a traditional BU finish while last year’s was more of a matte uncirculated finish. 

    SM Mint said their plan is to retain the current format and finishes for the next 10 annual releases in the series and believes that collectors will be pleased with the improvements that have been made this year.

    The coins are being sold directly by SM Mint through its SkullCoins division at http://www.skullcoins.com/lunar-skulls/ as well as through a network of six authorized distributors, including five in the U.S. (APMEX, First Coin Company, ModernCoinMart, and Liberty Coin and Currency, Dazzling Coins in Canada, and Powercoin in Europe. 

    At the moment pre-orders are being accepted, and the coins are expected to ship in the middle of February.  Buyers can check SM Mint (http://www.smmint.com/) for updates and for answers to questions from collectors about the new release. 

    SM Mint is selling pairs of BU and proof coins with matching serial numbers for $169.  Prices are expected to move higher once the mintage of each coin has sold out from the network of authorized distributors. 

    To help to ensure a wide distribution of these limited issue, high-demand coins, SM Mint held a lottery in which the winners were able to purchase a pair of 2016 coins with matching serial numbers at a special price.  The lottery closed on January 8, and the winners were notified by e-mail.

    2016 Should be a Good Year for Coins

    January 2, 2016 10:42 AM by Louis Golino
    As the New Year begins I would like to offer a few thoughts about how I see the coming year in numismatics.

    The overall state of the coin market, which has been rather lackluster below the level of high-end rare coins in the past couple years, is likely to be impacted by how precious metals perform.

    Metal prices help shape the numismatic market in many ways, and a bullish metals market lifts the coin market.  For example, dealers and collectors whose bullion holdings increase in value have more funds available to purchase numismatic pieces. 

    I have no idea what the price of gold or silver will be at the end of the year, but I would not be surprised if we see a positive turnaround in 2016.  Fundamentals are strong, and it is unusual for an asset class to be down for several years in a row.

    Bear in mind as well that the strength of the dollar has masked the performance of gold in the past couple years since in non-dollar currencies it has done much better, especially in countries that have seen significant inflation and currency depreciation. 

    I agree with those who say the dollar may begin to decline at some point in 2016 for several reasons, including, among others, the fact China’s currency, the renminbi, officially becomes a global reserve currency at the end of the year, which means central banks around the world will need to convert some of their dollars into that currency.

    In terms of modern U.S. numismatics, 2016 should be a strong year with all the anniversaries to be celebrated with U.S. Mint coins this year.  From the centennial of the debut in 1916 of three collector favorites (Walking Liberty half dollar, Standing Liberty quarter, and Liberty Head dime) and of the National Park Service to the 30th anniversary of the American Silver and Gold Eagle programs and the 10th anniversary of the American Buffalo Gold coin, 2016 will be marked by a wide range of coins that will excite collectors and include surprises. 

    I expect the Mark Twain commemoratives to be a hit because of the solid designs and the broad appeal of the subject matter, and within the America the Beautiful quarter and 5-ounce silver coin series, the October Theodore Roosevelt National Park coins will be very popular because so many collectors admire Roosevelt.  In fact, many believe he should have appeared on the obverse of the coins rather than Washington.

    The Reagan coin and chronicles set will of course be a hit too, though collectors will not be happy with the fact that no set is planned for the Nixon and Ford dollar coins since collectors hate gaps. 

    The 2016 American Platinum Eagle proof coin is another I expect to attract a lot of attention.  The mintage will likely be higher than that of the 2015 coin provided that sufficient planchets can be secured, and those who were fortunate to obtain the 2015 coin will be pleased to see their investment hold its value as a key coin.

    Finally, the American Liberty high relief silver medal should prove very popular too, and when combined with strong sales of the gold version, may result in a rethink of the Mint’s decision not to make this an ongoing series. 



    American Liberty Silver Medal Coming in 2016

    December 22, 2015 10:26 AM by Louis Golino

    On December 19 the U.S. Mint published on its web site a product schedule for 2016, much to the delight of collectors.  Release dates are of course subject to change, but buyers can now begin planning many of their purchases and saving up for the more expensive items.

    The new schedule front-loads many products since many of them will be issued earlier in the year than usual.  This is especially true of the final three First Spouse $10 gold coins, the final issues of that series. 

    In addition, as usual, many of the most interesting products have no projected release date and are list at the end as “TBD”- to be determined.

    Within this last category are two versions, one struck at West Point and the other at San Francisco, of the 2016 American Liberty high relief silver medal

    This is the silver medal that bears the same design as the 2015 American Liberty high relief $100 gold coin, which is close to achieving a sell-out of its entire maximum mintage of 50,000 coins due to strong sales when it was released and later in the year. 

    The silver medal was originally going to be issued in 2015 and possibly sold as a pair with the gold coin and individually.  The reverse bears the superb flying eagle design that was proposed by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee as a new reverse for the Silver Eagle.

    Details about the 2016 silver medal at this point are not available, including what finish they will have (proof or business strike), whether they will have a maximum mintage or be issued to demand, and when they will be issued.

    Gary Marks, the former chairman of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, told me that back in June the U.S. Mint’s staff showed him a business strike, i.e. uncirculated, version of the medal.  He said that he and other members of the Committee “urged them that a proof finish would capture more collector interest and sell more.  They ended up delaying the medal to 2016 with the idea to retool to produce the medal in proof,” although the Mint has not publicly stated what finish the medal will have.

    Marks also said that he “and other Committee members also urged Mint officials to consider selling the medal in a paired set with a proof “S” mint marked Silver Eagle that could only be obtained in the set.  They could market it as a “Double Eagle” or “Double Liberty” set.

    I like these suggestions, but if the Mint does pair it with a 2016 “S” proof eagle, it is important that the proof coin not also be sold in another product given what happened in 2012 when it released an S-proof eagle in two different sets, which angered collectors.

    It is also important that the Mint produces a medal that will appeal to coin collectors, who in many cases do not purchase medals, though the popularity of the presidential medals in the Coin and Chronicles set shows they will buy medals under the right circumstances. 

    The plan to issue two medals with different mint marks may not go over well with buyers given the poor sales of the 9/11 medal issued in 2011 that also carried two different mint marks.  Collectors felt it was confusing to have mintmarks on a medal and never understood the reason for issuing two versions. 

    What do you think about the 2016 silver medal?  How do you think it should be sold?


    Will the 2015-W Uncirculated Silver Eagle Become a Key Coin?

    December 18, 2015 11:21 AM by Louis Golino
    Recently there has been a lot of coverage of the upcoming 30 th anniversary of the American Silver Eagle in 2016, including in this column just last week ( https://www.coinworld.com/voices/louis-golino/2015/12/collectors_likelyto.html ).

    So far we know that the numismatic versions, including the proof and uncirculated “W” Silver Eagles, will feature smooth rather than reeded edges and will carry incuse inscriptions noting the 30th anniversary of the world’s #1 silver coin. 

    We also know that as a result of the U.S. Mint’s interpretation of the legislation authorizing the edge lettering, no 2015-dated Silver Eagles can be sold next year, which is why the Mint plans to end sales of both numismatic versions on December 30.  This has never been done before.

    It is interesting that the Mint’s interpretation of the law focus on when the coins are sold as opposed to when they were minted.  In the past only commemorative coins from one year could not be sold the following year, while other numismatic products could be sold for multiple years. 

    At this point the 2015-W coin is running 3,420 coins behind the current low mintage coin of the burnished uncirculated series, the 2013-W issue with 221,981 sold.  One must include sales of both single coins and the annual uncirculated dollar set to determine the total number sold.

    It is possible a new low will be set with the 2015-W coin, depending on how many coins are sold between now and the end of the year.  In the December 13 sales report from the Mint, 2,650 coins were sold in the previous week, which is not surprising in the aftermath of the Mint’s announcement that sales will end soon.

    The total for the 2015-W issue at this point is 218,561 coins.

    So with a little over two more weeks of sales, it is quite likely the 2015-W will exceed the mintage of the 2013-W unless the Mint ends sales earlier than expected because it depletes its current inventory, and it is too late to produce more coins.

    The 2015 proof coin has been backordered for the past week, so it appears more of those are being made.  This coin will not set a low, but it will have a lower mintage than most recent issues due to the shorter sales period.

    It also is an open question how much this all matters since the 2013-W coin has not so far seen much of a premium increase despite being the lowest mintage coin within the uncirculated series.  Some collectors believe than if the series ever ends, at that point the lowest mintage coin will increase substantially.


    Collectors Likely to Welcome Changes from New Silver Provisions

    December 8, 2015 10:32 AM by Louis Golino
    As reported in Coin World recently http://www.coinworld.com/news/us-coins/2015/12/obama-signs-law-regulating-silver-coin-composition.html , on December 4 President Obama signed into law provisions that amend Title 31 of the U.S. Code.   These provisions alter the legal requirements for the silver content of U.S. silver coins used in silver proof sets and commemoratives, which are currently 90% silver and 10% copper.   The new language says they should be “not less than 90% silver” and makes no mention of copper.

    While the language is rather open-ended, in practice it is likely to mean that these silver coins will in the future be made of 99.9% pure silver with no alloys, which is both the world standard and has been the purity of American Silver Eagles since they began in 1986.

    There are several reasons why this is likely.  First, it is expensive and counterproductive to use alloys when making silver coins.  It also complicates the process of procuring silver planchets, which has been an issue since 2008.  It is much easier to obtain planchets made of pure silver. 

    The reason for using copper alloy in silver coinage that was issued through 1964 was to make it more durable so that the coins would circulate longer and fewer coins would need to be issued over time.  Pure silver is much softer and prone to being damaged.

    In addition, the U.S. Mint has been interested in switching the silver content of commemoratives and the coins in proof sets for years, and it has asked buyers about this issue in several surveys.  The response tended to be positive to the idea of using pure silver.

    If things do end up proceeding in this manner, I believe collectors will welcome the change, especially if it allows the Mint to reduce the retail price of these products, which is possible.

    The other reason the new provisions are important is the language calling for American Silver Eagles issued in 2016 to have smoother rather than reeded edges and that they bear incused edge inscriptions designating the coins as 30th anniversary issues.

    I think most collectors will welcome this too as it will make the 2016 coins one-year type issues, and that may boost demand even higher than the record-breaking level of sales seen in 2015, which is headed for well over 45 million coins sold.

    Some collectors and numismatic writers have argued that anniversary products are basically hype simply designed to sell more coins.

    Well, in addition to the fact that the Mint is supposed to try to sell more coins, the fact is that collectors tend to like anniversary products, which is why they sell well. 

    Of course, most eagle buyers are hoping for and expecting more than incused edge lettering to mark the 30th anniversary.  The most popular idea as expressed in Mint surveys and in comments in the blogosphere is for the issuance of the first high or ultra-high relief Silver Eagle either by itself or as part of a special 30th anniversary set.

    2016 is also the 30th anniversary of the American Gold Eagle, and I anticipate the Mint will do something special for that as well.

    Next year is going to be a good one for eagle enthusiasts. 


    Royal Mint Issued 50 Pound Britannia Silver Coin

    December 1, 2015 10:51 AM by Louis Golino
    In recent years several world mints have issued silver coins sold at their face value .   The trend began with the Royal Canadian Mint’s $20 for $20 silver coin program, which was expanded to include a wide range of higher-face value silver coins,   and France’s precious metal coins sold at their face value through post offices and the Paris Mint, which include silver and gold coins in various sizes and denominations all the way up to a 5,000 euro gold coin.

    In 2013 the Royal Mint entered this segment of the market with a 20 pound coin featuring the celebrated design by Benedetto Pistrucci of Saint George slaying the dragon that has graced British gold sovereigns for hundreds of years.  It was followed by another 20 pound coin and then two 100 pound coins – the first depicting Big Ben and the second Windsor Castle.  All were hits with buyers, but the Big Ben coin seemed to elicit more interest because of its strong design and sold out almost instantly.

    Now the Royal Mint has issued a new coin of this type, the first 50 pound silver coin struck in brilliant uncirculated finish.  The coin uses the modern rendition of Britannia that first appeared on the 2014 Britannia proof coins, a design which many collectors feel should have been at least nominated for a Krause Coin of the Year award.

    Designed by Royal Mint artist Jody Clark, who also created the fifth effigy of Queen Elizabeth II that debuted this year, the design was an immediate hit with collectors in 2014.  It is not often that a coin is issued that was designed by the same artist on both sides, as the 2015 50 pound coin is. 

    2015 is also the year when Britannia returned to circulating UK coinage, and the Queen became the UK’s longest-reigning monarch. 

    According to the Mint: “Britannia is a popular representation of Britain, reimagined through the centuries, always reflecting the United Kingdom at a moment in time.  She personifies our nation, our history and the values we uphold.  Today’s Britannia, depicted by Jody Clark, is strong and elegant, standing before the world with the British lion at her side.”

    This particular version of Britannia is so popular because of the way it takes the classic allegorical Britannia that has appeared since Roman times and updates her for the 21st century.  It is an especially compelling design that also brings out Britannia’s charm and beauty and her projection of strength in a new and unique way.  And the symbolism of a large globe also struck a chord with buyers whether they were British or from another country.

    In 2014 the 5-oz. silver proof version of this coin sold out quickly, and that coin has appreciated handsomely in the secondary market.  Those who could not afford that version bought either the 1-oz. proof or the 5-coin proof set.

    Now those who love the design have a chance to obtain it for just 50 pounds, which is $75 at the current exchange rate.  That is less than the price of any of the 2014 proof coins.    

    100,000 of these coins will be struck, and I expect them to sell briskly.  

    2015-W American Platinum Eagle Should be a Winner

    November 25, 2015 11:23 AM by Louis Golino
    On November 25 the U.S. Mint announced that it will begin selling this year’s American Platinum Eagle proof coin on December 3 at a price of $1,250.

    The 2015 coin is the first in a two-year series on the theme of “Liberty Nurtures Freedom” and will come in a special custom-designed presentation case that can be used to display this coin and the 2016 issue. 

    The coin will have a household limit of one and a mintage limit of 4,000 coins, which is lower than the final sales level of any previous coin in the series.  Until now the lowest was the 2014 coin at 4,596.  That coin was listed as backordered for months until it was finally marked as sold out.

    The 2015 coin features a modern interpretation of the Statue of Liberty looking to the future next to an American eagle that has landed on the earth. 

    In addition, due to the current shortage of planchets for platinum coins, the Mint also announced that it will not be issuing any platinum bullion coins for 2015 and that it hopes to resume production of those coins next year at its West Point facility as the planchets become available.

    Collectors have been waiting for this news for months, and this is sure to be a welcome development for many of them.

    It is true as some numismatists point out that platinum as a metal is not nearly as popular as gold and silver are, and that there are not as many people who collect platinum coins.

    But the fact is that previous coins in the proof series have been strong performers due to their low mintages and patriotic designs that feature a new reverse on each coin.  And try finding past issues, and you will see how difficult most are to locate.

    Moreover, platinum spot prices are at a level most precious metal experts believe is a bargain at about $850.  Since platinum is substantially rare than gold and is used in industrial applications, any time it is several hundred dollars below gold, it is considered to be a bargain.

    But the spot price is essentially meaningless because prices for physical platinum, especially American Platinum Eagle 1-ounce $100 bullion coins, have been running several hundred dollars above spot prices. 

    Some will complain that at $1,250 the price of the 2015 platinum coin is $400 over spot, but a more meaningful comparison is with the bullion coins, which are selling at the same price as the proof coins will be sold at.  For example, APMEX is currently asking $1245 by check and $1295 by credit card for the 2014 bullion issue.

    I expect a quick pace of sale for the 2015 proof coin and would not be surprised if it sells out within a week.


    Part 2: U.S. Mint Practices Not So Bewildering

    November 18, 2015 10:47 AM by Louis Golino

    *This is the second part of my response to complaints about the U.S. Mint from Coin World readers

    Regarding the popular 2015 Coin and Chronicle sets, I realize a lot of customers encountered problems ordering the sets, which was mainly due to problems with the Mint’s website that in some cases were worse than anything most people have encountered since the 2011 release of the 25 th anniversary American Silver Eagle sets.

    But in my experience, by logging on a couple minutes before the release of each Coin and Chronicle set, having my credit card handy, and being persistent, the only one I was not able to order from the Mint was the Eisenhower set.  In fact, with the JFK and LBJ sets, almost everyone I know was able to place their order in about a minute.

    The Truman set was the other one that was challenging to order before it sold out.  I do agree with those who say the Mint should have established a higher mintage level for the Truman and Eisenhower sets.  The 17,000 mintage was based on sales of earlier sets that did not have the only reverse proof versions of the respective dollar coins.

    But I also disagree with those who maintain that demand for these sets is only driven by the low mintages of reverse proof coins.  I know many collectors who simply like these sets partly because of their interest in American history and because they like the unique silver medals and overall presentation.

    Moreover, interest in these sets among collectors and not just speculators is reflected in the sharp increase in value of the FDR sets recently, which does not include a reverse proof coin.  Collectors are clearly building sets of each of these products.

    And going back a dozen years as a regular Mint customer, the Ike set was the only time I was not able to order a high-demand, limited item I was interested in.  Perhaps I have been lucky, but to me that is pretty impressive overall track record. 

    And it compares very favorably with other world mints, where high-demand coins and sets are sometimes virtually impossible to order partly because those mints have policies that give preferential treatment to dealers (such as by allowing dealers to order before the release).

    As for Mr. Hepler’s concerns about that fact that dealers profit from the coins the mint issues, which he believes clashes with the fact that the Mint belongs to the taxpayer, let’s be clear.  The Mint may be nominally part of the government, but it does not receive taxpayer funding and is a self-sustaining entity. 

    It can only sustain itself by though a combination of seigniorage from some circulation coins, sales of bullion coins to large coin companies, and sales of numismatic issues to collectors and dealers.  The main discount it offers is the bulk sales program, which does not apply to all products, whereas other world mints routinely sell all their coins at a major discount to dealers.

    Our Mint’s mission in the numismatic realm is to distribute its coins and sets as widely as possible and to do so at no cost to the taxpayer by earning a profit from their sale, which first goes towards covering all their costs.  Anything left over is returned to the Treasury to pay down the debt.

    Finally, I have heard many complaints over the years from collectors and numismatists about the Mint’s practice of creating so-called artificial rarities through limited mintages, which is something all mints use as a marketing and sales tool.

    But the bottom line is people who spend a lot of money on numismatic issues are almost always drawn to coins with low mintages because they prefer items that are less common and that have a better chance of increasing in value.  And it is simply not true, as Mr. Hepler maintains, that all Mint issues eventually are cheaper than when issued. 

    The Mint is certainly not perfect, and everyone has had frustrating experiences at one point or another, but things are not as bad as many collectors say they are.

    Don't Mint Everything to Demand

    November 12, 2015 10:01 AM by Louis Golino
    In the past couple of months there has been a lot of discussion in Coin World about the U.S. Mint’s business practices, mostly in reaction to the quick sell-outs of the Presidential Coin and Chronicles sets.

    In the November 23 issue two items caught my interest: an open letter to the Mint from numismatist Bill Fivaz, and a guest commentary by Alan Hepler on the Mint’s “bewildering practices.” 

    Regarding Mr. Fivaz’s letter, I heartily agree with his suggestion for an advisory panel of dealers and advanced collectors, and I would suggest including more than two representatives from each group. 

    As for his other suggestion to “produce to demand” all products the Mint issues, I do not think this would be appropriate for everything the Mint produces. 

    Many products are already handled this way, and that works well for those items.  Even many coins and sets that technically have maximum mintages are in practice produced in batches based on estimated demand such as the $10 First Spouse gold coins. 

    But minting everything to demand would likely destroy the secondary value of many Mint products, especially those made of precious metals.  This has already largely happened for modern commemorative coins, which in many cases can be purchased less expensively than their release price after they are no longer available from the Mint.

    In 2012 and 2013 the Mint used this approach with the San Francisco and West Point Mint anniversary sets.  It did ensure a wide distribution of the coins, which is helpful, but apart from high grade examples, these coins have not done well in the aftermarket.  They are still nice sets, to be sure, but many collectors indicated afterwards that they wanted to see limited issue coins again and that in these cases the approach did not work well because of extensive shipping delays.  Many buyers saw dealers with large supplies of graded coins long before their orders shipped even if they ordered early.

    And even though they ended up with final mintages that were lower than the 2006 20th anniversary Silver eagle set, which had a limited mintage of 250,000 sets and a household limit of 10 sets, the 2006 set has performed much better than the 2012 and 2013 sets.  That may be partly because the 2006 set had the first reverse proof coin in the series, but the limited mintage was certainly important too.  And collectors had ample opportunity to purchase the 2006 set, a month in fact.

    To be clear, the Mint was not created to enable individuals and dealers to enrich themselves from modern low mintage coins, but if there were no limited mintage issues, this would harm the overall coin market and hobby and drive people away from this important segment of numismatics. 

    It’s not that buyers expect everything they buy to be a secondary market winner because of limited mintages and high demand.  Rather, collectors of modern coins, like all collectors, mainly don’t want everything they buy to be so common than it decreases in value.

    In fact, the appeal of low fixed mintage coins is one of the reasons many U.S. collectors have become more interested in products from world mints, which are not shy about using mintages as a marketing tool.

    And as I will discuss in part two, ordering these low mintage/high demand items in recent years has not been nearly as bad as it is often portrayed based on my own experiences and that of many collectors I know.  

    Back to the Future Coins: Will They Continue to Sizzle or Fizzle?

    November 6, 2015 10:07 AM by Louis Golino
    On October 21 the Perth Mint ( www.perthmint.com.au ) released three coins to mark the 30 th anniversary of the 1985 film sensation, Back to the Future.   The date was of course not randomly selected as October 21, 2015 was the future date the film’s protagonists selected while using a souped-up DeLorean DMC-12 car with a time machine.

    To mark this event three coins were released: a 1-ounce colored silver proof depicting the DeLorean that comes in a replica of the car, which with the touch of a button opens and lights up the hood of the car to reveal the coin inside; a 2-ounce colored silver proof made in the shape of the famous hover board – a skateboard with no wheels that hovers over the ground that made its appearance in the second film of the Back to the Future trilogy, which appears to hover inside the packaging using magnets; and a ¼-ounce gold proof coin that also depicts the famous car.

    The car coin has a mintage of 7,500; the hover board coin is limited to 2,015 pieces; and the gold coin to 1,000.

    The gold coin is still available, but the other two items sold out immediately at Perth’s retail web site when released and very quickly from authorized Perth distributors like Talisman Coins in St. Louis and the Coin Shoppe in Canada. 

    On eBay the two silver coins continue to bring solid premiums over issue price.  The car coin was issued at $90 and has been selling for about $140 on average with some higher sales, while the hover board has done even better.  It was issued at $130 and has been bringing $200-250. 

    A lot of astute buyers and dealers saw the potential for the coins to do well and bought extras, which helped drive the sell-outs and price increases.

    So the question arises: will these well-designed and innovative “fandom” coins retain their secondary market premiums, or will interest in them decline as the novelty fades?

    It is too early to say for sure, and it would be natural for there to be some tapering off of prices, but I suspect these coins will do fine long-term.

    The mintages are rather low for coins with global demand that also have crossover appeal for fans of the films.

    In recent years an ever-increasing number of coins based on popular movie and television characters have been released.  Some of those will clearly have greater staying power than others.

    Back to the Future is not as significant a movie franchise as Star Trek or Star Wars, let alone James Bond, but it did have an impact on popular culture that is probably greater than many people realize, partly because it got so much right about how things would change in 30 years.  Plus it inspired legions of time travel movies. 

    Besides, these coins are simply good fun, and that should never be underestimated.  

    New Coin in Volcano Series for Mount Vesuvius

    November 3, 2015 2:55 PM by Louis Golino

    Following on the success of last year's coin about the Erta Ale volcano in Ethiopia, the Mint of Poland has produced the second coin in its volcano series that has one release per year.   These coins are issued under the legal authority of Niue, a British Commonwealth nation.

    This time Mount Vesuvius in Pompeii, Italy is the subject.  And Vesuvius is one of the best-known volcanoes in the world.

    The new coin has many interesting features that really bring Vesuvius to life.

    First, the coin is concave on one side and convex on the other and shows details of the volcano on both sides.  The convex obverse shows the volcano itself and its craters as well as a a smaller than usual effigy of Queen Elizabeth, while the concave reverse is shaped like the crater at the top of a volcano.  At the center is a real piece of lava inlay that actually comes from the Vesuvius volcano.

    Second, the coin is struck in ultra high relief with an amazing depth of 8 millimeters, and comes with an antique silver finish.  That makes this coin just about the deepest relief ever seen on a coin.

    In addition, only 688 of these coins are being minted, and they come housed in an attractive wooden box with a thematic colored package and a certificate of authenticity.

    The coin is made of two troy ounces of .999 fine silver, has a diameter of 50 millimeters, and a weight of 62.2 grams.

    Mount Vesuvius is best known for the eruption there in 79 A.D., which killed 16,000 people and destroy the city of Pompeii and several nearby towns.  Pompeii was legendary for its collection of sculptures and art works, including many of an erotic nature.

    Vesuvius is located 5.6 miles east of Naples, a major Italian city and port in the southern part of the country. It is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because it is located in such a densely populated area with 3 million people just miles away.

    The volcano has erupted many times since then, and it is the only one in Europe that has erupted in the past century.

    The Vesuvius coin is being sold  in the U.S. and overseas by First Coin Company (www.firstcoincompany.com), which is an official distributor for the coin.  The coins have a release price of $249.90 with free worldwide shipping, and if you are assessed any import fees or duties, First Coin Company will refund those to you.

    The coin is expected to ship later in November, but delays with this type of release are not unusual.  Because prices fluctuate and usually increase after pre-release, it is generally a good idea to buy earlier even if that means waiting for delivery.

    I expect this coin to sell quickly given the popularity of the 2014 issue and of the subject matter.  Readers can get 3% off the price from First Coin Company with the code, "THANKYOU."




    Streamline the Coin Design Review Process

    October 22, 2015 3:55 PM by Louis Golino

    My Coin World colleague, Paul Gilkes, recently wrote a provocative post that asked if we need two different coin design advisory panels, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the Commission on Fine Arts.

    My response is that we only need one, the CCAC, which is better suited to the task because its members include people who have expertise in numismatics, medallic art, and other areas that are highly relevant to the coin design review process. 

    Moreover, most members of the current CCAC are coin collectors or used to be collectors, and that is likely true of most former members as well.  This makes them more in tune with what collectors want, even if collectors are not always happy with their recommendations.

    While I respect the Commission on Fine Arts, the fact that all but one of its members, as Paul explained, have expertise in architectural matters and landscape design, is one of several reasons why they are not as well suited for this process as the CCAC.

    In addition, in the past there have been frequent instances in which the two bodies recommended different coin designs, and the Secretary of the Treasury has tended to go with the CCAC’s choices.

    Then there is the fact that the CCAC works very closely with the U.S. Mint, and of course meets at the Mint’s headquarters in Washington, DC, or one of the branch mints.

    And current and former CCAC members are prominent and passionate members of the numismatic community, as seen, for example, in the recent efforts of former member Michael Olson, who has been instrumental in the push for a set of commemorative coins marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

    Perhaps the most important reason for having only the CCAC reviews coin and medal designs and themes is that there is a pressing need to streamline the review process.

    A good example of why this is needed is the 2015 American Platinum Eagle design, which was only announced a couple weeks ago.

    The CCAC and CFA had recommended different designs for this coin last year, but if only the CCAC designs had been considered by the Secretary, the design selection would have been announced much sooner, which might have speed up the process.

    The shortage of platinum planchets is delaying the release of the 2015 coin, but if the design had been selected earlier, it is possible that the planchets would have already been obtained.

    A final consideration is that it is critical that the views of a wide range of coin collectors be considered when making coin design recommendations, and the CCAC is clearly better suited to reaching out to collectors because of the background and interests of its members. 

    Panama-Pacific Exposition Centennial Coin Released

    October 15, 2015 6:28 PM by Louis Golino
    In 2012 and 2013 legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress calling for 4 and 5-coin programs that would be issued to mark the 100 th anniversary of the famous Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915.   The expo was held to celebrate the years of work it took to complete the Panama Canal, which opened just before the expo was held.

    The proposed coins included $5 gold versions of the legendary round and octagonal $50 gold coins that were part of the original, 1915 set of Panama-Pacific Exposition coins struck by the U.S. Mint as well as modern versions of the half dollar, dollar, and $2.50 coins issued back then.

    Unfortunately, the Congress never passed either bill, so these coins were never struck.  Back when they were proposed there appeared to be substantial interest in a modern tribute to the iconic 1915 issues, which are the most valuable and unusual commemorative coins ever issued by our mint.

    But it turns out collectors who want to own a modern version of the 1915 $50 gold coins are in luck after all.

    Modern Coin Mart (www.moderncoinmart.com) and its parent company, Asset Marketing Services, have released a beautiful 2-ounce gilt proof Panama-Pacific International Exposition Centennial coin under the legal authority of Niue that has a mintage of 1,915 coins to represent the year the expo was held.

    The portions of the coin that are selectively gilt (or gold-plated) represent the round $50 coin, while the silver elements of the design and its overall shape are a tribute to the octagonal $50 coin.  Collectors will be pleased to see the effigy of Queen Elizabeth has been made smaller than usual to free up space on the coin’s obverse. 

    The coin was designed by MCM’s Charles Daughtrey, their in-house coin and round designer, and art and marketing director, as a tribute to one of the most historically significant U.S. commemorative issues.  Mr. Daughtrey’s previous work includes, among others, a series of coins that honors famous designers of American coins, which so far include coins for Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Adolph Weinman.

    The Niue coin was struck by PAMP Suisse, the well-regarded Swiss precious metal refiner that produces high-quality bars as well as coins for various countries such as the popular Niue Lunar year 5-ounce silver gilt series.

    The coin is likely to appeal to both modern and classic coin collectors, especially to those who always wanted to own one of the valuable and low mintage $50 gold coins but could not afford them.  The originals cost a minimum of $50,000 each.

    MCM is selling the coin in NGC-graded proof 69 and proof 70 examples that come in a wooden display box and include educational information on the certificate of authenticity.   




    Mint 1916 Centennial Coins in Silver Too

    October 10, 2015 5:52 PM by Louis Golino
    The U.S. Mint’s proposal to issue gold versions of three classic collector favorites originally minted in 1916 next year was met with strong enthusiasm by the members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Commission when they discussed the idea earlier this year.   During a meeting held at the U.S. Mint in June, the CCAC saw mock-ups prepared by the Mint of gold versions of the Liberty dime, Standing Liberty quarter, and Walking Liberty half dollar, all dated “2016”.

    Many details need to be worked out especially regarding inscriptions, mintmarks, and how the designs would be replicated.

    Most collectors are also very excited about this program, but many have expressed strong interest in seeing them in silver either instead of or in addition to gold versions. Several members of the CCAC have also expressed interest in silver versions, but so far only the gold coins are planned.

    Proof silver versions would probably be a big hit since the original coins were not issued in proof, and a silver set would probably only cost about $100 or less.  These coins would likely generate a lot of revenue for the Mint, and all of that money (after all production and related costs are recouped) would be sent to the Treasury to pay down the national debt.

    The hitch, though, is that the Mint does not currently have the legal authority to produce these coins in silver.

    A provision in the law creating the American Platinum Eagle program gives the Mint broad discretion when it comes to the minting and designs of gold and platinum coins, and that provision served as the legal foundation for coins like the 2009 Ultra High Relief gold double eagle.

    But to mint them in silver the U.S. Congress would need to enact legislation that allows the Mint to do that since the Mint does not have the authority to mint silver coins in the absence of legal statutes. 

    Another option that has support within the numismatic community and among some members of the CCAC, including outgoing chairman, Gary Marks, is platinum versions of the coins. These could be minted under the Mint’s existing statutory authority, and they would make for an attractive set.

    Platinum is also currently cheaper than gold, and with respective weights of one-tenth, one-quarter, and one-half ounce, platinum versions are an interesting option that would be more affordable than gold versions if platinum remains at its current spot price. The only drawback is that they would still be quite expensive and beyond the reach of many collectors.

    If you think the coins should be minted in silver, contact your Member of Congress and tell them about the proposed coins.

    At the moment most people who follow this issue appear to believe that Congress is unlikely to authorize the silver coins, especially in light of all the political disarray within that institution. 

    But if enough people in Congress become aware of the advantages of minting these coins in silver, it could still happen.

    2015 Libertad update: scarce Proofs and Reverse Proofs

    September 30, 2015 10:28 AM by

    There have been several interesting developments in the past few weeks regarding one of my favorite modern world coin series, the Mexican silver Libertad.

    Libertads, which are also struck in gold, are issued both in bullion strikes and in Proof, and both versions are very popular with collectors. The coins are best known for their gorgeous design that depicts the statue of Winged Victoria, which sits on the top of the Angel of Independence, a prominent monument in Mexico City built in 1921 to mark the 100th anniversary of Mexican independence from Spain in 1821.

    But what really gets collectors going about this series is their incredibly low mintages, even for the bullion issues, which make these coins very hard to find not long after their release.

    Two important developments have emerged. First, as was the case in 2014, though perhaps even more so this year, the Proof versions, currently being released, are very hard to come by and are likely to represent one of the lowest mintage years.

    One major U.S. distributor of coins from the Casa de Moneda, or Mexican Mint, Lois and Don Bailey and Son Numismatic Services, told me that their allocation of 2015 Proofs was a fraction of what they were hoping to receive. And another company, APMEX, has listed the 1-ounce Proof coin for sale at $140, which is more than twice the initial retail price of recent issues.

    Once again, it is the two- and five-ounce coins that are likely to be the big winners, especially the two-ounce piece. I noticed that a very reputable German dealer is currently asking almost as much for the two-ounce as for the five-ounce coin.

    Although individual Proof coins are only being released now, the five- and seven-coin Proof sets in wooden boxes have been available for a while and are bringing strong premiums. 

    Proof coin mintages will not be known until later this year.

    The other development is the release of the first-ever Reverse Proof silver Libertad, which Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and Professional Coin Grading Service are calling "Proof Like" when the coins are graded.

    These coins (with a mintage of 1,500) were only released in two sets: a two-coin set with Reverse and regular Proof strikes, produced at APMEX's initiative (500 sets issued), and a three-coin set that also includes the regular business strike, which was only given to Mexican Bank employees (1,000 sets issued). A small number of those sets have made their way into the U.S.

    Finally, I was struck by an exchange I came across on NGC's Collectors Society blog on the long-term potential for these coins.

    The issue was whether Libertads would ever be as widely collected as American Eagle silver coins, and whether any Libertad issues would ever sell for as much as the 1995-W Proof American Eagle silver dollar coin. 

    I would simply say that while the market for American Eagles is likely to remain much larger, the market for Libertads continues to grow, and those who have underestimated these coins have missed out on great opportunities.  

    2015 American Liberty Coin: Definitely More Like 2009 UHR than 2014 JFK Gold

    September 14, 2015 8:44 AM by Louis Golino
    From the time it was released on July 30 collectors have been furiously debating whether the 2015-W American Liberty high relief $100 gold coin has more in common the previous high relief gold coin, the 2009 Ultra High Relief double eagle, or the 2014-W Kennedy gold half dollar.

    Of course those who compare the 2015 issue to the JFK gold coin do not literally think the two coins are similar, but they see them both as a “flipper’s nightmare” that is a big money loser for those who bought extra coins to sell.  So far that is not how things are shaping up. 

    The Liberty coin was intended by the U.S. Mint and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee as a continuation of the effort that started with the 2009 UHR to promote excellence in coin design.

    Second, the 2015 coin, like the 2009 UHR, has been found with a prooflike finish, and the main difference is that the 2015 prooflike coins are so far about five times scarcer than the 2009 prooflike coins.  As happened with the 2009 issue, I think that the search for prooflike coins, now that collectors are aware of them, will increase interest in and sales of the 2015 issue.

    Third, most individual buyers purchased the Liberty coin because they like it, not because they expected to turn a profit on it.  And many of those who purchased the coin say it is much nicer in hand than they expected it to be unless their coin had defects.

    On the other hand, those who see the Liberty coin as more like the Kennedy gold half believe that speculation by dealers and flippers played a large part in sales of both coins, and they still do not believe that collectors were big buyers of either coin.

    There have been a substantial number of returns of the Liberty coin, usually due to quality issues, but they pale in comparison to the much-higher level of returns seen with the Kennedy gold coin, especially during the first couple weeks.  The key difference is the JFK coins were returned because speculators quickly realized they would lose money if they did not return, whereas most Liberty returns appear to be related to quality problems, which have unfortunately been quite extensive. 

    Coin dealers lost tens of millions of dollars on the Kennedy coin, whereas they are earning solid profits selling graded examples of the Liberty coin.  Prices for 70-graded coins have held steady and for 69 coins they have only dipped a little from their initial value, which was not the case one month into sales of the JFK gold.

    The Kennedy gold coin was the biggest fiasco of any precious metal release from the U.S. Mint probably ever for dealers, who both overpaid to purchase it from those who stood in line to buy it from the Mint during last year’s ANA show in Rosemont, and overbought directly from the Mint, in both cases hoping to flip coins for a big profit after having them graded.

    Instead, prices for show label examples of the JFK gold declined very quickly, and prices for the non-show label coins have generally declined for PF69 coins and more or less held steady for 70s.  And raw coins have mainly been hurt by the decline in spot gold prices over the past year, whereas the 2015 issue price has so far gone up $50.

    It is true that after a strong start, sales of the Liberty coin slowed down, but in the past week there was an increase of 744 coins, which is a bullish sign.  I believe this has a lot to do with the fact that the coin is no longer listed as backordered, and sales through September 6 are 41,944. 

    It remains to be seen whether the Liberty coin will achieve a full sell-out at 50,000 units, but that is certainly still possible.  And it is worth remembering that the 2009 UHR did not follow a linear trajectory.  Sales of that coin also slowed at various points, and they picked up mainly after the household limit of one was removed, which allowed dealers to build up inventories.

    The jury is still out on the long-term performance of the 2015 Liberty high relief, but I have little doubt that the numismatists of the future will place it alongside the 2009 UHR.


    Ancient Egypt Subject of New Imperial Art Coin

    September 7, 2015 11:01 AM by Louis Golino

    Last year the Mint of Poland launched an extraordinary series of coins with one release per year on the art and architecture of the world’s great ancient civilizations and empires.  The series, minted under the legal authority of the island nation of Niue, is called Imperial Art.

    Each coin is struck in high relief and is made of 2 ounces of .999 silver with an antique finish and features a natural stone inlay of a different color.  The coins have a mintage of just 500 pieces and are individually-numbered on the edge of the coin, and they come in a luxurious wooden box. 

    The first coin in the series, the Mesopotamia coin, depicted the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon in present-day Iraq, and green-colored agate inlay was used to represent the rich vegetation of that area at the time of the Babylonian, Assyrian, and related empires. 

    In October the second coin in the series will be released, this time depicting ancient Egypt in all its glory with iconic symbols like the pyramids, the sphinx, and ancient Egyptian temples shown in exquisite detail.  The Egypt coin uses a citrine stone inlay to symbolize the sand and desert.  Citrine is a naturally-occurring yellow-golden type of quartz.

    Ancient Egypt was one of the main cradles of civilization and was located along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now modern Egypt.  It left a remarkable legacy of art, culture, and ancient monuments that continue to fascinate people to this day.  It was also an early leader in a wide range of fields from agriculture and irrigation to mathematics, science, medicine, literature, shipbuilding, and many others. 

    The Mesopotamia coin was an impressive achievement in numismatic art that showcased the incredibly talented medallic artists at the Mint of Poland, the mint’s cutting edge technologies, and its almost 250 years of coin production experience.

    Now the Egypt coin takes numismatic art to another level by creating another gorgeous coin that shows extremely small details like the hieroglyphics on ancient Egyptian temples.  The high relief striking really brings all these design elements to life. 

    And the large, 50 millimeter diameter provides a substantial palette to depict all the intricate artistic details that adorn both the obverse and the reverse.  Unlike British, Canadian, Australian, and other Commonwealth country coins that “lose” an entire side to the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II, as collectors often lament, Niue uses a smaller and older effigy, that of Raphael Maklouf, which frees up a lot of space for the artwork.

    First Coin Company ( www.firstcoincompany ) is the exclusive USA distributor for the coin, and is also an official worldwide distributor.  They are now accepting pre-orders for the coin.

    Readers of this column can get a 10% discount off the current price of $269.90 by using the code “WORLDEGYPT”.  After adding the item to your cart, simply edit the cart and add the code.  Free U.S. and worldwide shipping is included, and First Coin Company will refund you for any duties or import charges if you are assessed any.   Also, the code will work for the Mesopotamia coin.

    Keep in mind that the Mesopotamia coin sold out of its 500 mintage in record time, and I would not be surprised if the same happens with the Egypt release, especially since it probably has even wider appeal.

    You can see a video about the coin here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SgtDhposrg

    100 Greatest Women on Coins Coming Soon

    August 31, 2015 9:53 AM by Louis Golino

    In September Whitman Publishing will release a delightful and extraordinary new book in its “100 greatest” series by award-winning numismatic writer Ron Guth called 100 Greatest Women on Coins.

    Mr. Guth was inspired to write the book after becoming interested in suffragist Alice Paul and taking an online course in 2013 on the history of American women.  Those experiences made him curious about women that have appeared on coins, and more specifically, how many women have appeared on coins since a list of them could help collectors put together women-focused collections.

    After compiling his own list of over 600 women that have appeared on coins throughout history, he contacted Charmy Harker, a dealer who is president of Women in Numismatics (WIN), and asked the members of that organization to select 100 women from his larger list and rank them by importance or interest.

    That effort produced the list that formed the basis for his book.  The women covered in it fall into four categories: “real (or actual) women; goddesses; allegorical women, who represent an idea, concept, or nationality; and women in art.”

    Each of the 100 women he discusses is represented with beautiful color images of at least one coin that depicts them, a photograph of the individual, and a brief discussion of the woman and what made her unique or outstanding.  He also includes a short description of how difficult it is to acquire coins that bear her image.

    The first ten women, who include figures such as Mary, the mother of Jesus, Hellen Keller, Mother Theresa, Susan B. Anthony, and Cleopatra, each receive a longer essay than the other 90 women. 

    He notes that the women covered in the book, including the top ten, reflect the personal preferences of the 18 members of WIN who responded to his request and that they tended to prefer real women, American women, and religious women.  Future editions, as he explains, are likely to cover different women as the voting base expands and changes, and that would be a welcome improvement in my view.

    This is a terrific book for several reasons. 

    First, his pithy essays on each woman are informative and a joy to read.  And they underscore the important and often not well-known role women have played in history and their accomplishments in every field of human endeavor.

    Second, the photographs of the coins and the women are a stunning collection you will not find anywhere else.

    Third, the book will stimulate you interest and leave you wanting to know more about the women and eager to acquire some of the coins or start a new collection.  Guth helpfully includes suggestions for doing all of those things with his bibliography and information for collecting.

    The hobby still tends to be dominated by men, though among the younger generations there is a greater prevalence of women.  As Charmy Harker notes in her foreword, the book may help “inspire more women to become interested in numismatics.”  That goal may also get a boost from the Secretary of the Treasury’s plan to put a real American woman on the $10 bill by 2020.  

    In the next edition Mr. Guth may wish to consider including some of the recent Greek goddess coins from the Perth and New Zealand Mints, which offer an alternative to ancient coins with their images. 

    In addition, I would recommend covering Britannia and Marianne individually since they have appeared on so many British and French coins, and showing both classic and modern coins with their image, and doing the same with Lady Liberty now that we also have a modern version.  In fact, whenever possible it would be great to see one old and one modern coin on each subject. 


    Tokelau Odin Coin Uses "Max Relief" to Great Effect

    August 25, 2015 9:51 AM by Louis Golino
    Several new series about ancient Nordic gods are debuting this fall.   They appear to be inspired both artistically and in format by the Perth Mint’s Olympian gods and goddesses series of antique silver coins in high relief, which ends in September with the release of the Aphrodite coin.

    The most interesting is undoubtedly the Legends of Asgard from a new U.S. company, Choice Mint, which had the private Helvetic Mint in Switzerland produce this series under the legal authority of Tokelau. 

    The impressive first coin in the series is “Odin: Ruler of the Aesir.”  It is made of three ounces of .999 silver with an antique finish and has a large, 50 millimeter diameter, a weight of 93.3 grams, and a mintage of just 1500 coins.  The coins also come in beautiful wooden boxes and have their certificate of authenticity number laser etched on the rim.

    Odin is shown seated holding his legendary spear with ravens on each side of his throne and wolves at his feet.

    Most importantly, the coin’s design is depicted in a truly stunning artistic manner and struck in a new type of relief that goes way beyond high relief and even ultra-high relief, which normally achieves a maximum depth of no more than 2 millimeters. 

    This coin is struck in what Choice Mint calls “Max Relief,” which is an amazing 3.5 millimeters in depth (the highest point is 5 millimeters and the lowest is 1.5, giving the coin a relief of 3.5).  Producing a coin with this level of relief involved first hand-sculpting the intricate design into plaster rather than relying on computer programs.

    The Odin coin is an impressive achievement of numismatic art that I expect will also be a commercial success, as first coins in a new series often are if the series becomes popular.

    Initial reactions to the Odin coin from collectors since it was announced at the end of last week have been very positive with typical comments being “amazing” and “like nothing I have ever seen.”  Modern coin collectors have shown a strong preference for coins that are struck in deep relief, especially when they are artistically compelling.

    And Norse/Germanic gods are already popular in movies, comics, and other aspects of popular culture.

    Odin was a complex and enigmatic character in Norse mythology and literature, who was chief of the Aesir tribe of gods, and whose kingdom was known as the Asgard.  The day of the week, Wednesday, comes from his name in Germanic languages, which include English.

    First Coin Company ( www.firstcoincompany.com ) is selling the coin in the U.S. along with Powercoin in Italy and the Coin Shoppe in Canada.  The coin is expected to begin shipping towards the end of September.

    Readers of this column who order the coin from First Coin Company can get a 4% discount off the current price of $181.90 with free worldwide shipping by using the code, “WEEKODIN”.  In addition, buyers who plan to get the rest of the series from the same company can be guaranteed the same serial number on each coin by paying $15 one time for the whole series.   If you live overseas and are charged any import duties, the company will reimburse you for any taxes or fees. 

    Prices are expected to move up quickly, and a sell-out is likely.

    Check out this You Tube video on the coin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lS5EQxbwAuw




    Reverse Proof Coins Are Good for the Hobby

    August 19, 2015 11:34 AM by Louis Golino

    In recent years the U.S. Mint and several world mints have issued collector coins with reverse proof finishes.  These coins have mirrored devices and frosted fields instead of frosted devices and mirrored fields like regular proof coins.

    The Perth Mint in Australia has been using this approach for many years on its widely collected bullion coin series like the Kookaburra, Koala, and Lunar series coins, and the Royal Canadian Mint has also issued many reverse proof coins.

    The first U.S. reverse proof coin was the 2006-W American Silver Eagle issued for the 20th anniversary of that popular series.  A Gold Eagle reverse proof was issued also in 2006, and a Platinum Eagle reverse proof in 2007.

    Since then more reverse proof silver eagles have been issued and a reverse proof American Buffalo Gold coin in 2013.  Then a Kennedy half dollar reverse proof appeared last year.

    Up to this point these coins were all issued in connection with anniversaries of the respective coin programs.  Then the Mint started issuing the first reverse proofs of several series, and collectors love firsts.

    Earlier this year the Mint issued a reverse proof Roosevelt dime as part of the March of Dimes commemorative special proof set.

    And that brings us to the presidential dollar reverse proofs, which so far include the Truman and Eisenhower coins and in September a Kennedy coin will be added along with one for Johnson in October.

    The Mint has announced that next year there will be one for Reagan, but at this point we do not know if the Nixon and Ford coins will be issued in this format.

    There have been rumors of a possible reverse proof set in 2018 to mark to the 50th anniversary of the San Francisco Mint, and the Mint has confirmed it is considering this option.

    Some say these coins are gimmicks to sell more coins, but most collectors like reverse proofs.

    The key point is that the concept should not be overdone.  A reverse proof set would be fine as long as it does not become an annual issue.  The same is true for reverse proofs in other series.

    In addition, other innovative approaches should be explored.  The enhanced uncirculated Silver Eagles were a good start, but for the 30th anniversary in 2016 something special needs to be done.  The CCAC has recommended a high relief version, which I am sure would be a huge hit.

    It is also worth noting that the Mexican Mint recently issued its first reverse proof silver Libertad coin.  500 of them were issued in a special two-coin set created at the initiative of APMEX, the American Precious Metals Exchange, which also included a regular proof coin.

    Then last week I found out that an additional 1,000 of these coins were issued in a special set that was only given to mint employees.

    An interesting aspect of this issue is that both the Mexican Mint and NGC, which has graded some of the coins from the APMEX set, call the coins proof-like rather than reverse proofs.

    And that raises an interesting possibility.  The Mint has struck bullion examples of the five-ounce silver America the Beautiful coins that have proof-like and deep mirror proof-like surfaces.  Would collectors want to see Silver Eagles with those finishes too?

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    2016 Year of the Monkey Coins Arriving

    August 16, 2015 9:36 AM by

    It’s that time again when the annual parade of Chinese Lunar coins depicting one of twelve animals begins to dominate the new releases. Coins dated-2016 are now being issued even though the Lunar calendar starts on February 8 of each year.

    These coins are especially popular in China and other parts of Asia, but they have also become a hit in other parts of the world, and the number of countries issuing a huge variety of such coins continues to grow each year.

    2016 is the Year of the Monkey. People born in monkey years are said to be clever, inventive, great socializers, and mischievous. 

    As usual first out of the gate are the 2016 Lunar coins from Tokelau, which typically have some of the best designs.  Tokelau’s Year of the Monkey silver coins include a reverse proof, regular proof, antique silver proof, gilded proof, and colored proof, plus an oval-shaped colored coin.

    The Year of the Monkey will really take off next month after the Perth Mint launches its well-regarded Lunar II silver coin series, which includes bullion coins in a wide variety of sizes, and many collector versions too. The three-coin silver proof set is coming September 1, and for the first time, the 2 ounce coin will also be sold individually like the one and half-ounce coins.

    Niue’s Lunar series

    A newer, popular series that stands out from the pack comes from Niue and is minted by PAMP, the legendary Swiss precious metal manufacturer known for its precise craftsmanship. These coins, now in their third year, are made of 5 ounces of silver with a 65 millimeter diameter, come in a proof finish with ultra-high relief minting, have selective 24-karat gilding to highlight the central elements of the design, a limited mintage of just 500 coins, and come in a luxurious wooden box. Each coin is also individually numbered on its edge. Although the number, which is also on a certificate of authenticity that accompanies each coin, does not signify the order in which the coin was minted, collectors like having the number on the coin.

    The monkey coin from Niue shows a gilded monkey climbing a tree branch as two other monkeys contemplate the scene. Each monkey has a peach in its hand.

    The first coin in this series, the 2014 Year of the Horse coin, became one of best performers in the modern coin field, rising quickly from an issue price of about $400 to about $2,000. And this was mostly on the strength of the coin’s superb design of three galloping horses, which when coupled with the low mintage and attention to detail of the coin, continued to push up demand and prices. The horse coin is hard to find, even on eBay.

    The 2015 Year of the Goat coin in this series was also popular, though not as big a hit as the horse coin.

    The 2016 Niue monkey coin is available from a number of sources and is expected to be available sometime in August.  First Coin Company in California is offering it for $399.90, and readers of this column can get a 3% discount by using the code, “THANKYOU”, when checking out. It comes with free worldwide shipping, and if you live somewhere where you are charged import duties, First Coin Company will refund those fees to you.  

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    Strong Early Sales Suggest Modern Liberty Has Appeal

    August 1, 2015 11:49 AM by Louis Golino

    The pace of initial sales of the 2015 American Liberty high relief gold coin, which reached 36,686 on the first day, surprised most people.  According to the Mint, in the first ten minutes on July 30, 5,231 orders were placed, which works out to 8.72 orders per second.  In the first 75 minutes, the Mint received more than 30,000 orders. 

    The big question, one that is currently the subject of much discussion, is how those sales broke down between individual collectors and dealers/coin companies.  Given the rapid pace of sales and the price tag of $1,490 per coin, it seems likely that dealers purchased a significant portion on those coins. 

    In the numismatic blogosphere, some collectors were tracking order numbers of their fellow collectors and calculated that there were approximately 12,500 orders before the coin went on backorder.  They further estimated that if most individual buyers were purchasing one coin in most cases, that means dealers bought at least 20,000 pieces.

    That may well be about right, but it is a little too early to automatically assume that this means there will soon be a glut of coins on the market that will pull prices below issue price, as happened with the 2014 Kennedy gold half dollar.

    It really depends on a couple factors, including whether the coin sells out completely in the next week or so and how soon the backorders are filled.  The Mint’s web site has since its relaunch been overly conservative in the shipping estimates it provides buyers when an item is unavailable but can be ordered for later delivery.

    A good example is the Jacqueline Kennedy proof coin that immediately went into backorder status with an estimated shipping date months away, only to begin shipping days later with most orders filled not long after that.

    As usual, it appears that the big players’ strategy is to have their early purchases graded to capitalize on the demand for first strike/early release MS70 coins, then once the coin is no longer available and premiums rise, they will sell remaining inventory over time. 

    I read and heard complaints from some buyers that dealers were locking them out of buying a coin by purchasing all those coins during the first couple hours when some people were not able to order because they were at work or otherwise busy. 

    But there were few reports of buyers who said they had trouble placing an order, and by now experienced buyers understand that there is almost always intense competition for high-demand coins when they are first released, which means they should order right away if they want to make sure they secure their coins.

    In addition, I would note that the tagging of the coin as “unavailable” after 4:00pm EST on release day, which switched to “backordered” about four hours later, may have resulted in a lost sales momentum during a critical period because for some buyers it suggested the coin was sold out. 

    Since the Mint tracks how many orders are coming in and knows when the maximum mintage is reached, it would be preferable to immediately tag items not in stock as backordered, as was the case with the previous order management system, so as not to lose orders during the interim period before the backorder notice goes up. 

    However this coin ends up performing in the marketplace, the strong start of sales of the coin is in my view a health sign for the modern coin segment of the hobby because it suggests that there is demand for modern representations of Liberty.  

    And as former CCAC chairman Gary Marks, who spearheaded this initiative, told me, if the Mint produces a deep cameo proof silver medal version, it will be “a blockbuster.”   




    A Better Way to Buy Precious Metals

    July 27, 2015 2:53 PM by Louis Golino

    Smart buyers know that the time to purchase precious metals is when prices are down.  With gold at a 5 1/2 year low, demand for physical gold coins is extremely strong right now.  

    But I would recommend having a strategy that seeks to minimize your risks while maximizing your potential gain.

    First, if this is your goal I would not follow the advice in a July 26 article on the web site, The Street.com, which is affiliated with CNBC stock guru, Jim Cramer, at least on gold coins.  The article recommends purchasing numismatic gold coins from the U.S. Mint like the 4-coin American Gold Eagle proof set, the 2015 American Gold Buffalo proof coin, and the Jackie Kennedy gold first spouse coin as a long-term investment.

    The article also recommends the collector versions of the 5-ounce silver American the Beautiful issues and 1-ounce American Silver Eagle.  

    In my view the bullion versions of these coins are a better deal currently given the price of gold and silver, and the much lower premiums over spot for these coins.  There is no bullion version of the Jackie O coin though both versions (proof and BU) are cheaper now than when released due to the drop in gold.  The collector version of these coins are gorgeous pieces, to be sure, and if bought as collectibles, they are sure to delight.  Just remember that the premiums are several times what you pay for the bullion coins, and if you sell one of the collector coins because you need the money, you will lose almost all of that premium unless gold has increased by hundreds of dollars an ounce for the gold proof coins. 

    If you purchase the bullion versions now, your downside risk is much lower than it is with the proof coins, and you have good potential for increase if gold goes up from here.  And then there is the low mintage factor, which has given certain bullion coins a nice premium over melt value, but rarely helps much with the proof unless you own the key to a series like the 2008 American Gold Buffalo.

    In fact, one of the best ways to buy gold is to purchase the half ounce, bullion version $25 American Gold Eagle the year it is issued since buyers usually purchase fewer of this denomination than other gold eagle bullion coins.  As a result several issues have acquired numismatic premiums that amount to several times the gold content of the coins.  

    Similarly, coins such as Mexican gold and silver Libertads the year they are issued at bullion-related prices are a great deal.  These coins are minted in much smaller numbers than other bullion coins and are therefore harder to find. They sell out from the Mint and dealers extremely quickly, and they then acquire substantial premiums over their bullion value.  Chinese gold and silver Pandas are also in this category.  It is also important to know which kind of coins are in demand, and all these issues do well precisely because they combine low supply with high demand.  

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    Will the American Liberty High Relief Gold Coin be a Success?

    July 20, 2015 3:04 PM by Louis Golino

    On July 30 the Mint will launch the $100 high relief gold American Liberty coin, which could eventually become one of the most important issues of the modern era in U.S. coins if it is a success.  That is because it will be both the first modern, high relief coin with a new design, and the first to portray a modern version of Lady Liberty, which is symbolically significant.

    This coin is largely the brainchild of Gary Marks, who recently completed his term as chairman of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, and the CCAC under his tutelage. Marks has been a strong advocate of the argument that American coins should not just reuse the classic designs of the past, and that they should push the envelope of medallic art by depicting a modern representation of Liberty which reflects the diversity of our country.

    The new coin is intended to continue the vision that former U.S. Mint Director Ed Moy began with the very popular 2009 ultra high relief double eagle to promote a renaissance in American coin design.  But that coin was released when gold was much less expensive and had an initial issue price of $1,189.  It was made to demand and over the course of a year 114,427 of them were sold.

    Most serious coin collectors continue to have a strong preference for the classic designs, which is the main reason the 2009 coin did so well.  Reactions to the images the Mint released recently of the 2015 coin are encouraging, but the real proof will come when buyers see the coin in hand.

    In addition, the 2009 coin came in the most luxurious presentation box the Mint has ever used, while the 2015 coin will be sold in a regular black velvet presentation case like those for gold commemoratives.  With a premium that is at least $400 over the gold value, and a price that is $50 higher than other one-ounce gold numismatic coins from the Mint, buyers expected a nicer box.

    The cancellation of the companion silver medal of the same design is also unfortunate, as many buyers either wanted to pair them up, or planned to buy the silver medal because they are not able to purchase the gold coin.  Hopefully the medal will be issued next year.

    Many people are very cautious about buying gold coins when the spot price of gold is declining by the day.  If purchasing low-premium gold bullion, that probably represents a good buying opportunity, but when a coin has a premium of about 40% over its gold value, the coin has to be something really special.  The 2013 American Buffalo reverse proof gold coin sold 47,836 coins but had the advantage of the most popular of all classic designs and is part of an established series with an existing base of collectors.    

    It would also help if the coin were the first in a new series as originally intended, but the Mint cancelled the plan to do that, and no rationale for doing so was provided when I asked them about it.  Collectors tend to be wary of expensive one-off coins, which they see as a risky choice. 

    Another factor is that collectors with limited budgets are saving their funds for the 2016 centennial dime, quarter, and half dollars in gold with classic designs. 

    Perhaps enough buyers will be stunned by the coin that it eventually sells the full 50,000 maximum mintage.  And hopefully a good number of coins will be available when the coin is launched online, as long backorders will turn off buyers.

     Ultimately, the coin will be a success if future buyers want it, and if it influences the future direction of American coin design as more modern Liberty coins are produced, which was its main purpose.  

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    Perth Mint Release One-Ounce Silver and Gold High Relief Wedge Tailed Eagles

    July 12, 2015 5:39 PM by Louis Golino
    Back in March and April I discussed the 2015 line-up of Australian wedge tailed eagles, which are minted by the Perth Mint.  This is the second year for this popular new series that features a striking reverse design of a wedge tailed eagle in flight with its large wings spread.  
    The appeal of these coins is a result of the gorgeous, intricately-detailed design, the general popularity of eagles, especially in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, and the fact that the design is the handiwork of John Mercanti, who retired from the U.S. Mint as Chief Engraver.  As with many popular Perth releases the American market is where many coins end up, especially in this case.
    But as I mentioned in the spring, Perth has a distribution deal with GovMint, a U.S. dealer, that is part of the Asset Marketing Services group of companies, which recently acquired Modern Coin Mart.
    As a result American buyers have had to either acquire the coins from GovMint, or wait until they are released directly by Perth to the non-U.S. market and then purchase them from Australian or European dealers.  
    The most popular of all the various versions of silver and gold wedge tailed eagles are those struck in high relief and proof, which really brings out the detail and beauty of the design.  
    On July 7 Perth released the silver and gold one-ounce high relief proof coins, which are available ungraded from European and Australian companies for prices in the range of $77 to $100 for the silver and $2,000 for the gold, which is substantially less than the graded coins GovMint had in the spring.  Not surprisingly prices for 70-graded coins have come down now that raw coins are available for $100 or less.
    The silver has a mintage limit of 10,000 coins worldwide, and the gold has a mintage of 1,000 coins.
    For those who are eagerly awaiting the 5 ounce silver high relief proof coins, which are the other big seller for this series, Perth's press office informed me that their Australian release in coming in September.  

    July 13 Update: GovMint announced that a one-ounce platinum version of this coin is now available.  It has a mintage of just 500 coins, and only 300 are available to collectors in the U.S.  GovMint is selling PCGS PF69 and 70 coins.

    Truman Sets and Jackie Kennedy Gold Coins: An Update

    July 5, 2015 11:41 AM by Louis Golino
    Last week I discussed the release of two of the year’s most popular U.S. Mint products, the Harry S. Truman coin and chronicles sets and the Jacqueline Kennedy $10 gold coin.

    The Truman sets, which had an issue price of $57.95, are doing very well on the secondary market, hitting an initial peak of $150 and still bringing very close to that amount.  Often when the Mint finishes shipping orders out, prices decline somewhat, but that may not happen in this case because the Mint was well prepared for this release and began shipping orders immediately. 

    Not everyone, including some dealers, understood what all the fuss was about these sets, but when you have the first reverse proof presidential dollar ever, and a non-precious metal modern issue with a mintage of only 17,000, that means the coin becomes an instant key, and I expect demand to remain strong for these sets.  And high-grade examples of the Truman reverse proof dollar will fetch hundreds or more.

    Some collectors believe the mintages for these sets should have been higher to ensure a more equitable distribution.  But the fact remains that the web site functioned smoothly at least for most people when the sets went on sale, and for the first time I can recall some collectors compared the Mint to Amazon and similar retailers known for their efficiency.


    In the time since my article appeared I have been able to obtain additional information about the events surrounding the release of the Kennedy coin.  I believe I was right to raise questions about the proof coin since no matter what demand expectations anyone had, it seemed odd that no coins would be ready to ship yet dealers had them in stock days later.

    But two important facts have emerged to clarify the situation.  First, as Adam Stump, the U.S. Mint’s Deputy Director for the Office of Corporate Communications explained to me, proof and uncirculated coins were sold at all three of the Mint’s retail locations in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and Denver.  And I have learned that a number of major dealers sent representatives to those locations to purchase coins. 

    Second, the Mint’s initial estimate that backordered proofs would not ship until September 1 was incorrect as orders began shipping by the middle of last week.  From my discussions with the Mint and with collectors, I would say that most early orders for the proof coin have already been filled.

    In addition, some collectors have noted that the release of images of the 2015 American Liberty high relief gold coin just days before the Kennedy coin was launched, and the announcement that the high relief coin will be released on July 30, may have negatively impacted demand for the Kennedy gold coin.

    But dealers such as Andrew Salzberg, who runs Modern Coin Mart, told me that demand has been strong at their companies for both ungraded and graded coins despite the planned release of the Liberty coin and the fact that it is summer, when the disposable income of many collectors is going towards other things such as vacations. 



    Where Did the Proof Jackie Kennedy Coins Go?

    June 30, 2015 6:32 PM by Louis Golino

    A Tale of Two Coin Releases

    Today (June 30) at 12:00 pm EST the U.S. Mint began accepting orders for the Harry S. Truman coin and chronicles set, which includes the first reverse proof presidential dollar ever minted.  The sets have a fixed mintage of 17,000 units, and buyers could place orders for five sets per household,though large numbers of buyers got around the limits and secured larger numbers of sets. 

    Within 15 minutes the sets were unavailable and likely sold out, which appears to be a record for the time a product took to sell out. With most buyers ordering either a couple sets or five, it only took a couple thousand orders to make the product disappear.

    Fortunately,there were no computer glitches this time, and people who were on the ball secured their sets and they are already bringing $150-160 per set on eBay.  I would not be surprised if they reach the $200 level by next week.  Many average buyers who could not get away from work will be forced to pay a huge premium, which is why I previously suggested a lower household limit.

    Orders for these sets are shipping out quickly, according to buyers.

    Last week on Thursday the Mint began accepting orders for the Jacqueline Kennedy $10 First Spouse gold coin, but only orders for the uncirculated coin began to be processed after being placed.  The proof version was on backorder from the time sales began.  Orders could be placed, but the web site said no stock would be available until September 1.

    Many buyers found this frustrating, especially since the proof spouse coins are always more popular and bigger sellers than their uncirculated counterparts.

    In the numismatic blogosphere rumors began to swirl that the proof coins were all snatched up by the big boys, major coin dealers, or in the colorful description of one poster, “the big pig dealers.”

    I was skeptical about such claims, and yet now I see that several companies not only have the proof coins in stock already, but they even have coins that have been graded with “first day of issue” labels.

    I contacted the sales kiosk at the Mint’s Washington, DC headquarters on the first day and was told they had no proofs, but when I called back a couple days later I was told they did get some proofs, and they sold out quickly.  This facility does not typically have a large supply of such coins with the exception of last year’s gold JFK half dollars and the baseball issues.

    So where did these dealers get all those proof coins, and how did they manage to get them delivered to the Sarasota, Florida offices in time for first day release grading?

    And since the Mint clearly knew these coins would be in high demand given their decision to up the mintage to a maximum of 30,000 coins if necessary, why were no coins available for people who are not dealers?

    I’ve always said our Mint is the world’s only mint that tries to give collectors and coin sellers a mostly even playing field, but I am troubled by how the Kennedy proof coin release was handled.  I believe the Mint owes its individual customers an explanation.

    Is it fair to give dealers all the available supply of a coin at release time so that they can maximize profits and make everyone else wait until Labor Day? If that is not what happened, I would love to know how those dealers got coins on the first day when there was no first day sales announcement.

    In response to my inquiry the Mint's Office of Public Affairs provided the following statement: "The Mint underestimated the initial demand for the 2015 First Spouse Series One-Half Ounce Gold Coins - Jacqueline Kennedy and, unfortunately, the products went on back order very quickly after sales started.  As of June 30, additional product arrived at our distribution center in Memphis that will clear a majority of the backorders.  The Mint has resumed production and we expect to fulfill all customer demand in the coming days and weeks. We apologize to our customers for the delay."

    On July 1 the Mint's Adam Stump, who is Deputy Director of Public Affairs, told me that the Jackie Kennedy gold coins, including proofs, were sold at all three of the Mint's retail locations at its mints in Philadelphia and Denver as well as its Washington, DC headquarters.  

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    Excitement Builds for 2015 American Liberty Coin Program

    June 23, 2015 4:00 PM by Louis Golino

    In January the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee reviewed designs for the American Liberty High Relief gold coin and silver medal and sent recommendations to the Secretary of the Treasury. The program’s main intent is to depict Lady Liberty in a modern way that showcases the country’s diversity, and to stimulate artistic development through an ongoing series of silver medals with designs that are emblematic of the American experience.

    Initial reactions from collectors to the recommended obverse design were rather mixed, and many Coin World readers said they would prefer a more traditional or classical representation of Liberty.  A lot of collectors said at the time that they planned to skip this offering.

    On the other hand, the flying eagle design on the reverse has been applauded since it was first considered last year as a replacement for the current obverse design of the American Eagle silver coin.

    The plan is to mint the 24-karat, High Relief gold coin on a half dollar-sized planchet as a business strike or Mint State coin, while the silver medal will be minted in Proof on a 40.6 millimeter planchet like those used for American Eagle silver coins but with a higher relief than that coin.

    The Mint recently added images of the gold coin to its product schedule for the year on the Mint’s web site. Once they saw how the coin looked after the design was sculpted by the Mint’s artists Phoebe Hemphill and Don Everhart, reactions have shifted dramatically, and there is now a lot of excitement about the coin.

    Many people are now saying it is the best design from the Mint in years. 

    Outgoing CCAC Chairman Gary Marks said on his Facebook page: “I am proud of this coin and medal program because I feel it carries the most beautiful designs produced by the U.S. Mint in many years. More important to me, though, is that it so boldly asserts the message of LIBERTY. If the silver medal proves popular with collectors there is a good chance the Mint will begin issuing large-sized Liberty-themed silver proof medals with changing designs every year. Realization of that possibility would be a HUGE advance for American medallic art.”

    At this point it remains unclear when the coin and medal will be released. There has been a lot of speculation that this set would be released during the August ANA World Fair of Money in Rosemont, Illinois, but no announcement have been made so far, apart from an erroneous reference that it would be released in July. The Mint clarified that no release date has been determined.

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    Moon Landing Commemorative Coin Program Proposed

    June 16, 2015 10:50 AM by Louis Golino

    On June 10 Rep. Bill Posey of Florida introduced a bill (H.R. 2726) with bipartisan support that calls for the minting in 2019 of a commemorative coin program marking the 50 th anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon in 1969.

    The July 20, 1969 landing on the moon by astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins was a major milestone in human and American achievement, but it has never been commemorated on a U.S. coin apart from the reverse of the Eisenhower dollar that shows an eagle on the moon.

    Many coin collectors are also space and astronomy enthusiasts, but the existing coins depicting these themes have all been issued by other countries like the 2009 French coin that marked the 40th anniversary of the moon landing.

    The bill has seven co-sponsors so far and has been referred to the House Budget and Financial Services Committees.  Many commemorative coin program bills are introduced that never become law, but this one seems to have a better chance than most.

    The proposed coins include not just the usual clad half dollar, silver dollar, and $5 gold coin, but also a $1, 5-ounce proof silver coin with a three-inch diameter, which would be a first for the U.S. Mint.  And the legislation calls for the coins to be struck in the same convex/concave shape as the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame coins. 

    The obverse for these coins would be chosen through a design competition that would be open to the public like the one for the baseball coins, while the reverse would depict the famous photograph taken during the Apollo 11 moon landing, “Buzz Aldrin on the Moon.”

    More specifically, the convex reverse would depict the faceplate of an astronaut’s helmet of the period, and the reverse design would extend to the coin’s edge so that the reverse extends all the way to the obverse.

    The text of the legislation says the 5-ounce coin would be minted in proof, but does not specify the finishes for the other three coins.  So these details will be worked out later.

    Surcharges from the sale of the coins, once all costs have been recouped, would go towards three organizations: a moon-related exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum; the Astronauts Memorial Foundation; and the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.   

    Michael Olson, a banker from Grinnell, Iowa and former member of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, told Coin World: “This is an exciting and historically significant commemorative coin program.  Coin collectors and space enthusiasts should immediately contact their members of Congress to encourage them to support this legislation. This program has twice been recommended by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee for 2019 and the sponsors of the legislation should be applauded for introducing this bill.”

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    Does the U.S. Mint Need a Loyalty Program?

    June 11, 2015 6:32 PM by Louis Golino

    The Royal Canadian Mint recently announced that on July 1, which is Canada Day, it will launch a new customer loyalty program.

    The Mint already has such a program called the Masters Club, but in the past year it consulted with its customers to make changes to the program.  Previously anyone who spent $1,000 during a 12-month period joined the club and received advance notice and access to new releases and free shipping on all orders.

    With the new program there are three levels: silver once you spend $1,000; gold after you spend $1500; and platinum when your total purchases reach $2000.

    In addition to the benefits of the previous iteration of the club, members will now have a variety of new benefits such as three special coins a year in which at least 90% of the mintage will be reserved for club members; free access to Mint tours and special events; the ability to purchase special cases to display and store your coins, etc.

    I like how the RCM frequently offers attractive cases for its coin sets and series, which is something I would like to see other mints, especially the U.S. Mint do too.

    But should the U.S. Mint offer its loyal customers some kind of reward program?  This is something I have heard collectors ask for many times, and I believe it would be a good idea.

    The closest it has come so far is the subscription program 10% discount, which existed for only part of last year.

    As part of the revamping of the U.S. Mint’s web site and order management system last year, the Mint said it would offer special deals for its buyers, but so far that has only included a couple of free shipping days.

    Many customers were sad to see the subscription discount end, especially with the price of the five-ounce silver America the Beautiful coins running 50% over the cost of the bullion versions. 

    I hope the U.S. Mint’s management considers following the lead of its Canadian competitor and creates some type of loyalty program to reward its regular customers.   It could include anything from free shipping over a certain dollar amount to reward points or other benefits.  

    And some nice display boxes for coin series would be great too like the ones it briefly made in 2007 for the First Spouse gold coin series.  

    More from CoinWorld.com:

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    No Crystal Ball Required

    June 5, 2015 10:38 AM by Louis Golino

    I read an article recently in CoinWeek.com in which the author, Peter Masiondz Jr., discussed the many collector coins issued by the Royal Canadian Mint.  He suggested one buy what one likes, which is of course sound advice and added: “Can you buy certain products, hold them for a few years, and then offering them for sale? Yes. But first let me borrow your crystal ball so I can see which issues are going to be good enough to allow me a nice profit. No one can predict which items are going to advance in value. You just have to be lucky.”


    Now, of course it is true no one can predict with certainty which modern issues will do well.  And the modern market can be very unpredictable and even fickle, making it hard indeed to know which issues will outperform.

    But I have to disagree with the notion that it is just a matter of getting lucky when a modern issue does well. 

    In fact, experienced collectors and dealers often agree about which issues have good potential to increase in value.  While they are of course wrong in some cases, or the interest fizzles out quickly, it is possible to learn a lot by studying trends and patterns over time.  That allows one to see which issues have tended to hold their value, and which did not, and which ones temporarily did well. 

    For example, sticking with the example of Canadian coins, the 2013 Superman issues did very well, especially the gold coin.  So it was hardly a surprise that the 2014 Superman coins also ended up performing well and selling out quickly. 

    Similarly, the just-released 2015 Superman coins have been selling very briskly with two of the silver issues sold out at the Mint within a couple days of their release.  The only surprise is that the new gold coin is still available.  

    If modern buyers were just guessing and getting lucky once in a while, we would not see certain issues consistently selling out more quickly than others and going on to increase in value.

    So the moral of the story is to do more than buy what you like.  Study what you buy, do your homework, and read widely about coins, and you too can learn to understand the modern coin market and not just leave things to chance. 

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    March of Dimes Secondary Market Taking Shape

    May 29, 2015 12:35 PM by Louis Golino
    Over the course of May prices for the March of Dimes special three-coin proof set have continued to increase on the secondary market. 
    Sets in their original government packaging that have been opened started off at about $90, then moved to $100, and some online auctions for them have recently reached the $120 level.  Unopened boxes have traded at similar levels, but with the approach of the cut-off dates next week for PCGS First Strike and NGC Early Release-eligible sets, I would not be surprised to see the unopened sets move higher.
    But the real action has been for graded sets, which were initially available on a pre-order basis for about $220 for NGC and $240 for PCGS sets.  The prices for those sets are now respectively about $330-370 and $500 and up, which is a very healthy increase in a matter of a couple weeks.
    The question, as always with popular modern coins, is whether those prices have peaked.
    The Mint initially shipped a rather limited number of sets, and very few dealers have even carried the graded sets so far. The lack of supply has translated into higher and higher retail and auction prices.
    But last week the Mint began shipping many backordered sets, and as they arrive and are sent off to be graded, we may see prices for graded sets begin to cool off depending on how many of them were received in time for the grading company deadlines.  In addition, early reports from those who submitted their sets indicate that the reverse proof dime, the key to the set, is not receiving PF70 grades very often, and this is likely also driving up values.  But the situation could look different when there is more information available on grades received.  

    Consider Having Your Better Modern World Coins Graded

    May 24, 2015 12:11 PM by Louis Golino

    Once a year I submit a group of coins to be graded by one of the two leading coin grading services, NGC and PCGS.  In the recent past I have usually submitted modern U.S. coins and have avoided sending classic U.S. coins because like many people when I did so some of my coins came back with “details grading” due to unoriginal surfaces. 

    But this year I decided to try a different approach and sent in a nice group of modern world coins instead.  I typically buy such coins in their original government packaging because they are cheaper that way, and this type of coin usually comes in an impressive display box.  Once in a while I will purchase an already graded coin if the price is right.

    I was curious to see what kind of results I would get sending in some of my favorite modern world issues, especially since several of them sell for a substantial premium in the top grade of 70.  Plus they looked to be virtually flawless to me, though like many collectors I have often trouble seeing the difference between a 69 and a 70.

    I ended up getting 70s on three of my five submissions, which was a very good result since I added several hundred dollars of value to the coins by going through this process.  It probably would have been more difficult to do this with recent U.S. coins. 

    It is worth considering that while the market for graded modern U.S. coins is becoming rather saturated, especially for American Silver Eagles, not nearly as many modern world coins get graded.  And the premiums buyers pay for 70s of such coins can be quite steep indeed.

    In fact, for one of my new 70s I own one of only two such coins that have received the top grade by that company so far.  Of course this is probably because not many such coins have been submitted, but the fact remains that this adds something to the coin’s appeal and marketability.

    If you want to know more, check out my forthcoming article in the magazine this fall on the market for graded modern world coins. 



    Do American Coin Buyers Want Non-Traditional Coins?

    May 19, 2015 10:32 AM by Louis Golino

    The success of last year’s Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins, which had a convex/concave, or domed, shape, and were a big hit with collectors, has prompted some people to wonder if U.S. collectors want more coins that are non-traditional in their shape or appearance.

    For example, when the Pro Football Hall of Fame coin (which is still only a legislative proposal pending in the U.S. Congress) was first proposed, there was some discussion about whether it should be shaped like a football.  But it would be very difficult to create a coin of such a shape, and the fact is that the U.S. Mint has little experience producing coins of unusual shapes.  That is why it had to consult with the French and Australian Mints to produce the baseball coin, which was a very challenging project for the Mint, as was detailed in the pages of Coin World last year.

    Besides, from what I hear from collectors it would probably be accurate to say most of them are not big fans of many of the unusual types of coins other world mints are issuing.  There does not appear to be much desire for colored coins, for example, and the same applies to coins with elements like crystals. 

    However, if not overdone and if limited to coins whose subject matter lends itself to the domed shape, I do think U.S. buyers would go for that shape again.  In fact, the proposed 2019 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing commemorative coin series, which the Citizens Coinage Advisory Commission endorsed at its recent meeting in Portland, may be minted in that shape.  That makes sense since it would resemble the moon. 

    Another innovation that American buyers might go for, if tastefully done, would be selective gilding, or gold-plating.  The upcoming 30th anniversary of the American Silver Eagle program next year might provide the occasion for a gilded American Silver Eagle.  But I highly doubt buyers would want one every year.

    All things considered, collectors of U.S. coins are probably more inclined towards traditional coins than collectors of world coins, but there is still scope for plenty of innovation within those parameters, especially in terms of bolder designs.  


    Gold First Spouse Coins: Will Future Buyers Demand Them?

    May 15, 2015 11:28 AM by Louis Golino

    On April 16 the U.S. Mint began selling the Bess Truman First Spouse gold coin in proof and uncirculated finishes.  This is the first 2015 gold spouse coin, and the release of the first issue for this year comes much earlier than the first spouse coins issued during each of the past couple years.  Collectors will be pleased about that, especially since gold prices have been lower recently, although the coins do sell at a substantial premium over their gold content.

    I have always supported the issuance of these coins because the first ladies of our country often played important behind-the-scenes roles and the series increases interest in this part of our history, and because so few real American women have appeared on our coinage. 

    But interest in this series from collectors has decreased substantially over the years, and this is primarily a function of the difficulty for most buyers of purchasing four or five half-ounce gold coins each year.

    The series began in 2007, when mintages were 40,000 per issue including both the proof and uncirculated versions.  Nine years later mintages have been reduced to a maximum of 10,000 per issue based on sales levels over the past four years of about 7,000 coins per release.

    For the Jackie Kennedy coin, slated to be issued later this year, the Mint has indicated it will mint up to 30,000 coins if the demand is there, which it may well be as that is the coin so many people have been waiting for since the series began.

    Fans of the series who can afford to keep collecting these coins continue to believe they will be long-term winners, especially the coins with tiny mintages of about 2,000 per coin.

    But if you ask any dealer who sells precious metal coins and even modern numismatic issues, they will tell you there is hardly any demand for these coins, and most of them trade at about their melt content.

    So the long-term question remains: Will the collectors of the future want coins that so few buyers want today?  

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    Lower Household Limits Needed for 2015 Presidential Coin and Chronicles Sets

    May 12, 2015 10:12 AM by Louis Golino

    A long-standing complaint of many regular purchasers of U.S. Mint products is that household limits are typically too high.

    There have been instances in which the initial limit was one per household such as for the 2009 Lincoln Coin and Chronicles set, which had a limit of five when originally announced.  But prior to the set’s release the Mint lowered the limit to one.

    This also happened last year when the Mint released the gold Kennedy half dollar tribute coin that initially had an announced limit of five coins, but a week before the release the limit was lowered to one. Later on the limit was removed.

    But most U.S. Mint products have initial limits of five per household, or have no limits.  

    Low household limits help to enable more collectors to purchase an item that is in high demand when released.  And they are especially important because large buyers often use friends and employees to snap of most of the first tranche of sales.

    If a product has a limited mintage such as the upcoming Presidential Coin and Chronicles set for Truman that will be released on June 30, and the other three sets in this series that will be released later this year, low household limits are critical to ensuring a fairer distribution of the product.

    An initial limit of one of two sets for a set with a total mintage of only 17,000 (or 25,000 for the Kennedy set), and which notably includes the first reverse proof presidential dollars, would help a lot to achieve that goal.  

    After a period of a week or two, the limit would be released, though there may not be any sets left at that point.

    The 2015 presidential sets are almost certain to sell out very quickly, and an initial limit of one per household will put more sets in the hands of collectors, and flippers and dealers may be forced to buy sets from individual collectors for their inventories.

    The Mint will earn the same revenue no matter where the sets end up, but spreading them around more evenly would further the Mint’s goal of making U.S. numismatic coins available to as many collectors as possible.  

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    March of Dimes Proof Sets Sold at Mint’s Headquarters

    May 8, 2015 11:35 AM by Louis Golino
    The March of Dimes three-coin special silver proof set has been selling briskly, but once it was backordered during the first hour it was available on May 4, sales began to slow down considerably.   The Mint’s web site that says additional sets won’t be available until mid-August.

    The delay matters to buyers who want sets that are eligible for PCGS First Strike or NGC Early Release labels, and they are required to submit their sets in unopened boxes since there is no way to distinguish the silver dollar in the set from ones sold separately. 

    Although the Mint posted a message on its Facebook page stating that the sets would not be sold at any retail locations, they are being sold at its sales counter at the Mint’s Washington, DC headquarters, where approximately 50 sets were sold the first and even more the next day.

    A Mint employee said that while products with household limits are typically not sold at retail locations, the management decided to allow them to be sold in-person in DC with a limit of five per person as on the web site. 

    Few people knew the sets were being sold there, but one of those who did, a local dealer, was seen trying to pay strangers to pick up extra sets on his behalf until he was advised against such behavior.

    I applaud the Mint’s decision to sell the sets in DC, but it would have been better to get the word out before doing so.  Or perhaps there was a conscious strategy to avoid the mayhem of the Rosemont, Illinois ANA JFK gold coin release.

    Last year a dealer I spoke to about that incident said a big part of the problem was announcing a year in advance that the coins would be rolled out at the show.

    I think the entire mintage of the March of Dimes sets would have easily sold out on day one if the Mint had anticipated how much demand there would be, as it did with last year’s special John F. Kennedy coins, and had more sets ready to ship.

    Two issues are key going forward.  One is how long it takes to ship orders.  Those who ordered before the item was backordered are having their orders shipped quickly, making them eligible for special labels from the grading companies.

    The second is how much long-term interest there will be in the dimes, especially in graded examples of the first reverse proof and the first West Point Mint proof since 1996. 




    2015 May be Another Tough Year for Gold

    May 5, 2015 12:03 PM by Louis Golino

    After two rough years for precious metals (2013 and 2014), at least in dollar terms, many analysts expected 2015 to be the year when things turned around for gold and silver.  That could certainly still turn out to be the case, but at the moment most analysts expect gold and silver prices to remain relatively flat until some of the key macroeconomic factors have sorted themselves out.

    The main drag on prices is the possibility of higher interest rates.  Financial experts continue to read the tea leaves of Federal Reserve meeting minutes and statements from Fed members to try to discern if and when interest rates will rise in 2015. 

    Since last year there has been a consensus that the Fed would finally start raising rates this year, though the increases are widely expected to be very small.  But those expectations have been widespread enough to contribute to a lot of volatility in financial markets, which are also rattled by increasing geopolitical tensions and concerns about a global economic slowdown.

    In a rising rate environment, gold would be expected to decline in value as assets that pay a yield become more attractive, but whether a small rate rise would have that impact remains to be seen, especially for those who see gold as a hedge against financial instability.

    The dollar’s rise is another factor since it puts a drag on our exports, which translates into fewer jobs and lower economic growth.  Moreover, raising interest rates at a time when the dollar is at multi-decade highs against other currencies could also hurt the economy, as it would cause the dollar to rise even further.

    And don't expect the high dollar to last forever, or to necessarily translate into lower precious metal prices, as it often has in the past.  

    That is because of Asia's growing role in this arena.  Already, the World Gold Council reported that in 2013 almost 80% of global physical demand for gold came from Asia.

    For now, precious metal prices are determined much less by traditional supply and demand factors and far more by futures trading in which Western financial organizations remain dominant.  But over the long term, expect China and other Asian countries to be increasingly important players in this area.   

    It is probably best to think of gold and other precious metals as a long-term hedge against financial instability, inflation, and currency depreciation and not to get too caught up in the day to day market.  

    But if prices do remain sluggish, expect that to continue to be a drag on the coin market outside of major rarities.  

    More Versions of 2015 Australian Wedge-Tailed Eagle Now Available

    April 30, 2015 3:38 PM by Louis Golino

    A couple weeks ago I discussed the release of the one-ounce silver bullion version of the 2015 Australian Wedge Tailed Eagle. At the time there was no information available on other versions of this coin, which are issued by the Perth Mint in Australia. 

    Some information on other versions is now available. 

    On April 6 GovMint announced that the five-ounce silver and one-ounce gold high relief versions were available for sale. The silver coins were sold in PCGS-graded slabs hand-signed by the coin’s designer, John Mercanti.

    Three options were available for the silver: Gem BU priced at $395; Proof 69 for $495; and Proof 70 for $695. 

    In addition, the mintage of the silver high relief coins was cut in half for 2015 from its mintage last year of 5,000 coins. Of the 2500 coins struck GovMint said they only received 1,000 coins and are not sure if more are coming later.

    There is also a new one-ounce gold high relief version sold by GovMint, and the Perth Mint will be issuing a half-gram gold version in early May.

    Plus, a one-ounce silver proof version is also being sold by the same company, as happened last year, and that one is priced at $89.95 in original government packaging. 

    In addition, the one-ounce silver high relief will be available soon from the same company in PCGS-graded examples. And a five-ounce silver and one ounce-platinum version will be sold later in 2015.

    GovMint said it sold out of its 1,000 2015 five-ounce silver high relief coins in hours.

    The Perth Mint told me the remaining five-ounce high relief coins will be available through Australian dealers in July.

    What does the quick sellout of the silver Homestead bullion coin mean?

    April 27, 2015 3:20 PM by

    On March 31 the U.S. Mint told its network of authorized purchasers that it had sold out of the 5-ounce silver 2015 Homestead National Monument of America quarter dollars. Sales of the coin reached the maximum authorized level of 35,000 units in about six weeks from the time the coins first went on sale Feb. 17. That was after the Mint announced the coin had sold out of its initial run of 20,000 coins after about a week. 

    That is a quicker sellout than was achieved with many previous issues, and it raises questions about what drove the fast sellout. It was likely not the coin’s design, which many collectors have said is better suited to the quarter format in which it is also minted. Instead, it appears that lower silver spot prices, which enabled buyers to pick it up for about $100, is what drove the sellout. And the fact that the bullion version was available for 50 percent less than the price of the Mint's numismatic version with a P mintmark made it seem like a bargain.

    Another question arises too, which is whether the fast pace of sales of the Homestead coin is likely to drive up secondary market premiums. Of course, only time will tell, but I suspect this coin will not be a major long-term winner compared to some other issues in the series.

    The coins that have done the best have either sold out unexpectedly like last year’s Arches bullion coin, had one of the lowest mintages, or sported a design that most collectors believe has great appeal. Some coins like the 2012 Hawaii Volcanoes issue have all these attributes, and others like the 2013 Mount Rushmore coin are favorites because of their design and the fact that they depict well-known national parks.

    This series continues to have excellent long-term potential with relatively low risk at current spot silver prices. One of the best arguments for buying the coins is that one of them is typically priced either the same or a few dollars less than the cost of five one-ounce silver American Eagle coins. Yet their mintages are roughly a little less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the mintage of the eagles. 

    Whitman Baltimore Expo show report

    April 17, 2015 5:19 PM by
    The Whitman Expo, held three times a year in Baltimore, Maryland, is a major national coin show that is typically well-attended and includes interesting events and major auctions. The spring show held from March 26-29 was as usual bustling with activity.I was there on Friday afternoon, March 27. 

    One highlight of the show was the U.S. Mint’s booth, which included some nice displays of offerings from the Mint (including two upcoming releases, the March of Dimes special proof set, and the 2015-W Buffalo gold coin) as well as a superb collection of old paper money from the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. 

    The Mint launched the new 2015-W American Silver Eagle at the show, and the staff at the booth told me that in the morning there was a long line of buyers for this coin. The grading services booths for NGC, PCGS, ANACS, and ICG, were conveniently located close to the Mint booth.

    I asked one of the staff members at NGC about what kinds of modern coin submissions he was seeing other than the 2015-W Silver Eagle, and he mentioned the five-ounce silver America the Beautiful coins such as the 2015 Homestead coin that was issued recently. The P version of that coin is on back order at the Mint’s web site but was available at the show, and I picked one up myself that was of very nice quality.

    As I have noticed for years at this show the majority of coins on display are classic American issues, which is what the typical attendee is interested in. Bullion issues were also well-represented unless you were looking for something hard to find like the 2015 Canadian 1.5 ounce silver Polar Bear, which is mostly only sold within Canada. As usual modern world issues were in rather short supply.

    I checked out the new, mammoth edition of the "Red Book" that was launched at the show, which is of telephone-book dimensions coming in at over 1,500 pages.

    While eating lunch I saw next to someone from one of the grading services, who mentioned he is a collector himself, and that he specializes in Mexican silver Libertad coins. Like me he is excited about the new 7-coin Libertad proof set coming soon, that I discussed recently.

    The most interesting comment I heard at the show was from a dealer commenting on the fiasco that transpired when the 2014-W Kennedy gold half dollar was launched at last year’s ANA World Fair of Money in Rosemont.  He said that $40 million was lost by dealers and other buyers trying to make a quick profit on show release-graded examples only to see values plummet quickly, and that this incident “broke the modern coin market” because a loss of that size has many lasting effects.  

    Push to put woman on $20 notes gains momentum

    April 16, 2015 4:05 PM by

    Throughout the spring, many news outlets have been reporting on a push to put females on our $20 Federal Reserve Note. This project is being led by Barbara Ortiz Howard, who founded the Women on 20s project.

    After realizing that no women have ever appeared on American paper money, she decided to launch an effort to change that. Her plan is to get Americans to vote on a group of 15 female leaders, a list that includes people such as Harriet Tubman, Alice Paul, Eleanor Roosevelt, Barbara Jordan, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, and other women who made significant accomplishments to the history of our nation. The list was chosen with the help of female historians.

    Once the voting process has narrowed down the selection to one person, the group will forward that name to President Obama, who has already noted that he thought it would be a good idea to put a women on our paper money.

    The plan is to have the new note issued in 2020, which will be the 100th anniversary of the year when women got the right to vote, and that is also the reason the $20 note was selected.

    The group is using videos that feature young children commenting that there are no girls on our money to help increase support for this effort. 

    READ:  Susan Sarandon backs effort to put a woman on $20 FRN

    It is worth noting that few real women have appeared on circulating U.S. coinage, the exception being the two that were featured on dollar coins, Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea. However, neither of these coins was ever widely used in commerce as a result of the reluctance of many Americans to use dollar coins. The Anthony dollars had a short run, and the Sacagawea dollars are now only produced for collectors.

    In addition, even our commemorative coinage has tended to feature few real women, with the one major exception being the First Spouse $10 gold coin series.

    Unlike here in the U.S., women do appear on paper money in other countries. For example, in 2013 the United Kingdom launched an effort to put women other than the Queen on their paper money beginning with author Jane Austen.  

    Coin show labels no longer bring huge premiums

    April 7, 2015 2:48 PM by

    Over the past two years, demand for new coins with special labels indicating they were sold at coin shows where the coin was launched has gone through a predictable cycle.

    Back in August 2013 when the 2013-W Buffalo Reverse Proof gold coin was launched at the ANA World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, Ill., dealers and other buyers quickly discovered they could make a quick and handsome profit by buying coins at the show, having them graded on-site by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and Professional Coin Grading Service, and listing them for sale on eBay. For about a year the premiums on these coins generally held.

    READ: Gold American Buffaloes cause show stampede

    Last August, the peak of this phenomenon was reached when major dealers bussed in scores of paid buyers for the gold Proof Kennedy half dollar, which led to chaos at the ANA show in Rosemont. The first four purchased, once graded Proof 70, sold for $5,000 apiece, and the first was reportedly resold for $100,000. But those premiums dropped very quickly. Today coins with the show labels carry no premium over other graded examples. A lot of money was lost on these coins, which is likely to reduce premiums for such labels in the future.

    This year the Mint has launched several coins at shows beginning with the FUN show in Florida, where the Proof 2015-W American Eagle silver coin was sold, and then at the Long Beach Expo, where the 2015 U.S. Marshals Service commemorative program was launched. And from March 26-29 during the Whitman Expo in Baltimore, the 2015-W Uncirculated American Eagle silver dollar was launched.

    In each case buyers could buy coins from the Mint and have the graded on-site with special “first day of issue” labels, the latest twist on this concept. A check of recent eBay sales shows that while the 2015 first day coins do carry premiums, the prices these coins are bringing is a fraction of what the show label coins of 2013 and 2014 initially went for.

    For example, the FUN show Proof 70 silver American Eagles sell for about $50 over regular Proof 70 coins, and with time they are likely to be worth less.

    I believe this a healthy sign for the hobby. There will probably always be certain buyers who attach importance to coins that were sold the first day they were available, but the market as a whole has begun to take a more measured view of how much such coins are worth. 

    However, one collector told me that his previous top-rated registry set at NGC was downgraded because he did not have the first day version of a certain coin, which other collectors said was unjustified. 

    2015 Mexican silver and gold Libertads coming soon

    April 1, 2015 5:04 PM by

    The much anticipated release of 2015 Mexican silver and gold Libertad coins is coming later in March, according to Pat Stovall of Lois and Don Bailey and Son Numismatic Services in Houston. His company is one of U.S. distributors of these Mexican bullion coins, which are typically the last major world bullion coins released each year.

    The release of the 2015 coins was delayed while the Bank of Mexico waited for authorization to increase premiums on these coins by 25 percent. This is the first time there has been an increase since the coins were first issued in the early 1980s. 

    Mr. Stovall added that the new coins will be released in batches each week rather than all at once, and that the silver kilos are coming in June.

    For now only the silver and gold bullion coins are being issued, which include for the silver—5-ounce, 2-ounce, 1-ounce, half-ounce, quarter-ounce, tenth-ounce, and twentieth-ounce coins—and for the gold—1-ounce, half-ounce, quarter-ounce, tenth-ounce, and twentieth-ounce coins. The proof versions will come later.

    In addition, for the second year in a row a special seven-coin proof set in a wooden box with a mintage of only 250 sets is being issued. The 2014 sets have done very well on the secondary market, and the 2015 sets sold out on pre-release instantly and will be available later in the spring hopefully. Delivery of the 2014 sets was delayed by several months, but those who pre-ordered were rewarded for their patience when secondary prices quickly reached more than double the issue price of about $500.  

    Finally, Libertad mintages are never known until all coins have been sold to distributors, and those figures are typically not available until much later in the year. But Mr. Stovall said he expects the 2015 mintages to be similar to last year’s, though that may change. As he often says: “Everything is fluid in Mexico.” 

    The year 2014 saw some of the lowest mintages in certain coins in this series, and insiders say the Mexican Mint will be increasing production starting next year.   

    2015 Australian Wedge-Tailed Eagle coins now available

    March 26, 2015 3:46 PM by

    Last year the Perth Mint in Western Australia launched a popular new series of silver and gold coins, the Australian Wedge-Tailed Eagle coins, that depict a wedge-tailed eagle in flight with its majestic wings spread. These eagles are the largest bird of prey in Australia, and one of the biggest eagles in the world.

    These coins have been a big hit with collectors due in large part to the stunning design they sport, a creation of former U.S. Mint Chief Engraver John Mercanti. Mercanti, of course, designed the reverse of the American Silver Eagle.

    Mercanti’s design for this coin really struck a chord with collectors, and as part of the marketing of the coins primarily in PCGS-graded examples, he personally signed thousands of labels for those coins.

    Many different varieties of the silver and gold coins were issued in rather low numbers: Proof and High Relief 1-ounce silver, 5-ounce High Relief silver, and several gold coins. 

    The coins were also released in a 1-ounce silver bullion format, which was the least expensive option and carried a mintage of 50,000 pieces—a low number for a bullion coin.

    I have been trying to find out if all of the various versions will be released this year from my contacts at the Perth Mint, but they were not yet able to provide any details.

    However, on Monday, March 2, GovMint, the U.S. distributor for this series, began selling the silver bullion coins on its retail web site. The coins are being offered once again in PCGS-examples graded MS-70, MS-69, and Gem BU.

    Some collectors have expressed a preference for purchasing the coins ungraded, but so far only graded examples are available of the new issue.

    The 2014 bullion coin was obtainable in capsules, but they were not easy to locate.

    By Australian law, 10 percent of the mintage of any Australian coin must be reserved for Australian buyers.

    Many collectors said last year that while they love the design, especially in High Relief, they believe too many different versions were offered. It will be interesting to see which other versions, if any, are released later. 

    Lady Liberty: Classic vs. Modern

    March 20, 2015 4:03 PM by

    The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and Commission on Fine Art’s recent recommendations for the 2015 High Relief $75 gold coin and silver medal program has received a lot of attention in the numismatic media and blogosphere.

    As indicated by the letter from George Kissinger in the March 16 issue of Coin World, and in many other reactions from collectors to the proposed obverse design with a non-white or multi-cultural female Liberty, most collectors have a strong preference for classic depictions of Liberty. And they are not in general pleased with the proposed design.

    This puts the typical collector at odds with the vision of the CCAC under its current chairman, Gary Marks, which is committed to modern depictions of Liberty. 

    The CCAC is not opposed to re-using the classic designs as seen in its ringing endorsement of the Mint’s proposed 2016 gold versions of the Winged Liberty Head dime, Standing Liberty quarter, and Walking Liberty half dollar. 

    But the CCAC’s members believe the classic designs of the past have been overused on modern coins, and that it is time for modern versions of Liberty on our coins. A key component of that vision is to depict the ethnic and cultural diversity of America. 

    Many collectors see that as a politically correct agenda. But Liberty is not a static concept, and since it or she has never been depicted as anything other than a Caucasian woman, perhaps it is that version of Liberty that is actually politically correct.

    Collectors are clearly not opposed to all modern designs, which is clear from the quick sell-out a year ago of the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame coins. 

    But they also do not, on the whole, agree with the committee that the classic designs have been overused. 

    Moreover, they also favor designs that fuse classic and modern elements like the 2012 Star Spangled Banner commemoratives, or the new 225th Anniversary U.S. Marshals Service coins.

    It is also interesting that collectors of modern world coins are also very keen on coins that reuse classic designs, so this is in many ways a worldwide trend.

    More from CoinWorld.com:

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    Low-mintage 'King of Morgan dollars' example sells for nearly $40,000

    $60,000 gold coin is lost at ANA National Money Show, found and returned within hours

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    U.S. Mint website creating confusion about product availability

    March 10, 2015 4:28 PM by

    This is a new blog on modern numismatics.  It aims to inform the modern coin collector about important issues and developments. I think that to get the most out of any aspect of numismatics you need to keep abreast of what is going on.

    Q. David Bowers famously said “buy the book before the coin,” which is sound advice, but in an area of numismatics that moves as fast as modern coins, you may not be able to wait for the book, and that is where blogs like this can help.

    My commitment is to you, the modern coin collector. Since I also know many people who are into modern coins are also bullion investors, I will also discuss precious metals issues.

    But the main focus will be on the two key areas of modern coin collecting, namely, modern U.S. coins and modern world coins.

    I will also be discussing developments at the U.S. Mint and other major world mints. 

    Last year the U.S. Mint implemented a major overhaul of its web site and order management system.  This has enabled the Mint to process and fulfill most orders much more quickly than in the past. 

    However, there is a problem with the way the new site tags certain items as being backordered and out of stock.  Sometimes an item is marked as backordered or out of stock and cannot be ordered, while in other cases it can, and the same item may be marked one way one day and another way the next.

    This is creating confusion for collectors and creating temporary secondary market premiums for items such as the 2014 First Spouse four-piece medal set.

    When that set was first offered for sale, only a limited number of sets were made available.  They sold quickly, which resulted in the sets being sold for huge mark-ups soon after. Then on Feb. 10 the sets were again briefly in stock, and sold out again in less than a day. It remains unclear whether or not they will be offered again.  In the meantime the market price has dropped from about $200 a set after the first batch sold out to half as much.

    This also happened with the 2014 Native American Coin and Currency sets, which were offered several times with no clear indication of whether or not they were coming back.

    Yet other items such as the 2014 American Platinum Eagle proof coin have been listed as out of stock for months and have not been made available again, making it likely the coin is sold out.

    My understanding is that the Mint is trying to avoid situations that arose previously when coins were ordered but not shipped for months. However, it appears they are often producing products batches that are too small for many products, which means they quickly sell out of existing inventory, and then buyers have to wait for more coins to be produced. So the order fulfillment delays have simply been replaced with delays to order products.

    It would help a lot if the Mint implemented a more consistent approach so that buyers can more accurately gauge whether a particular item will be offered again.  

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    Three-coin 2015 March of Dimes Special Silver Set goes on sale May 4 from U.S. Mint

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    Commemorative coins honoring Mark Twain long overdue

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