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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 'March 2016'

    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.