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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 'May 2016'

    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.

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    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.