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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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Archive for '2016'

    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. 

    Connect with Coin World:  

    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.