Even reprints of long out-of-date references such as Sylvester S. Crosby's Early Coins of America are still in demand by numismatic bibliophiles.
Paul Gilkes, senior editor, U.S. coins, is a Long Island native who has written for Coin World since 1988. While covering the U.S. Mint, Paul has reported many memorable stories including the record sale of the Farouk/Fenton 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle, the legal proceedings involving the Langbord 1933 double eagles, the aluminum 1974-D Lincoln cent, and the development of the concave/convex 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame coins.Visit one of our other blogs:
Dan Holmes, second from right, and his daughter, Anne, share conversation Sept. 5, 2009, with two well-known large cent collectors, Wes Rasmussen, far left, and Walt Husak.
It was with great sadness that, not long after I arrived Jan. 6 at the Florida United Numismatists Convention (FUN) after visiting relatives for a few days, I was informed that the light of another numismatist luminary had been extinguished.
Large cent collector Dan Holmes passed away at age 77 the day before, following a valiant multi-year battle with the progressive ravages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
I became acquainted with Dan through my attendance, on behalf of Coin World, at Early American Copper meetings held at the major shows. Dan served EAC in a number of capacities, including as its president. He was always cordial, affable, joking, and loved talking about those circular chunks of copper we all call U.S. large cents.
Dan had three families – his wife, Joan, and their children; his numismatic family; and his coins, each of which were like children to him. He had no specific favorites among the coins in his collection. He loved them all equally, although he might confide there were a few that might have a slight edge.
I recall seeing Dan at one of the EAC meetings a few years ago at a FUN convention and he was already beginning to feel the physical effects of ALS. It was only a few months after receiving the medical diagnosis that would chart his next years.
While Dan had already reached the milestone of assembling one of the greatest collections of large cent collections ever amassed and planned to auction the coins and send them to new homes, his auction plans had to be accelerated.
By all accounts, the insidious, debilitating nature of ALS should have claimed Dan much sooner, but he had an unmatched internal drive to continue to enjoy what life still had to offer him.
Not to let the disease be an obstacle, Dan managed to attend the first of the sales, set for Sept. 6, 2009. The night before, Dan was feted at a reception at the Southern California home of Larry Goldberg. Tooling around on his electric scooter, Dan was in the company of fellow collectors and dealers who, like him, cherished early U.S. copper coins.
I had the honor and privilege of attending the reception, as well as covering the auction the following evening. While the star coin at the auction was the finest of seven known 1795 Liberty Cap, Reeded Edge cents at PCGS Very Good 10, which realized $1,265,000, the real star of the auction was Dan.
Dan took the time to autograph copies of the catalog Ira & Larry Goldberg Auctioneers published for the Sept. 6 sale of early date large cents. I, like the numerous other collectors in attendance, took our turns in line to accept our signed copies.
To me it is a constant reminder of what one determined collector could achieve.
American soldiers in the spring of 1918 during World War I get ready to make an assault on enemy forces from the trenches in France. Image courtesy of Library of Congress.
Sometime early in calendar year 2016, the U.S. Mint will begin soliciting proposed obverse and reverse designs in a juried competition for the 2018 World War I American Veterans Centennial commemorative silver dollar.
It will be interesting to see the strength of designs that are submitted under the strict guidelines set forth in the enabling legislation, Public Law 113-212, signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 16, 2014.
The designs for the maximum combined authorized mintage of 350,000 Proof and Uncirculated silver dollars are to be emblematic of the centennial honoring U.S. participation in The Great War, the war to end all wars.
While the start of World War I was triggered by the June 28, 1914, assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, duchess of Hohenberg, U.S. military involvement did not begin until 1917 when President Woodrow Wilson went before a joint session of Congress on April 2, 1917, seeking a declaration of war against Germany. The Senate approved the declaration on April 4, with the House concurring two days later.
Armistice ending the war was reached on Nov. 11, 1918.
The coin design competition calls for a seven-person jury chaired by the Treasury secretary, and three members each chosen from and by the respective memberships of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and Commission of Fine Arts.
The final design selections are to be made by the Treasury secretary, who will set the rate of compensation to be not less than $5,000, according to the authorizing act.
The act further mandates that each design submitted must be accompanied by a plaster model otherwise the designer risks having their submission rejected. That limitation for talented professional and amateur artists not schooled in or otherwise proficient in sculpting or modeling might preclude their participation.
It will be several weeks before the Mint outlines the complete rules for the design competition. Among the issues to be considered are whether the current outside artists comprising the Artistic Infusion Program will be eligible to participate. Same for the members of the U.S. Mint’s engraving staff, who are tasked with sculpturing the approved designs, regardless of the winning designer(s).
The engraving staff members receive no additional compensation beyond their government salaries for approved designs that they submitted or for sculpturing the own approved designs or the approved work of another artist. That likely won’t change with the 2016 design competition.
Each 2018 World War I Centennial silver dollar sold will carry a $10 surcharge in its purchase price. Net surcharges after the U.S. Mint has recouped its production and related costs will be distributed to the United States Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars to assist the World War I Centennial Commission in celebrating the centenary of World War I.
Let’s hope the winning designs strongly reflect the sacrifices made by the 4 million men from the United States who served during World War I. They deserve nothing less.
For the 2017 Frederick Douglass National Historic Site quarter dollar, the CCAC recommends a design depicting Douglass orating, while the CFA included his District of Columbia home.
Is there still room for two congressionally authorized panels to both provide advice to the Treasury secretary on what designs should appear on United States coins and medals?
For the Commission of Fine Arts, the review of coin and medal designs is one of its many authorized responsibilities. For the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC), it is the group’s sole responsibility.
Withdrawing the design review responsibility from the CFA would still leave the panel with an extensive slate of projects to oversee. Doing so for the CCAC would, in effect, all but abolish the panel.
The CFA was established by Congress on May 17, 1910, under Public Law 61-181, to advise the government on matters pertaining to the arts, but more specifically, to guide the architectural development of the nation’s capital.
Subsequent legislation and presidential executive orders expanded the scope of the CFA’s mission. Executive Order 3524 ( issued July 18, 1921, by President Warren G. Harding), specifically defines the CFA’s responsibility over “essential matters relating to the design of medals, insignia and coins, produced by the executive departments. …”
During its early decades, the Commission of Fine Arts played a leading role in the Renaissance of American coinage that featured designs by sculptors Augustus-Saint-Gaudens, Adolph A. Weinman, Hermon A. MacNeil and many others. Sculptor Daniel Chester French, who sculpted the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial, was a founding member of the commission, serving from 1910 to 1915, including as chairman from 1912 to 1915.
All but one of the CFA’s current seven members are specially qualified in architectural matters or landscape design, with only the chairman, Earl A. Powell III, having an extensive background in 19th- and 20th-century European and American Art and serving as director of the National Gallery of Art since 1992.
The CCAC was created in 2003 as a successor advisory panel to the more than decade-old Citizens Commemorative Coin Advisory Committee (CCCAC) which was abolished under provisions of Public Law 108-15, approved April 23, 2003.
Some members of the CCCAC were held over for service on the fledgling 11-member CCAC, which was given extended advisory powers beyond those of the CCCAC.
While the original committee only addressed matters pertaining to U.S. commemorative coins, the CCAC’s members consider designs and themes for all U.S. coins and medals, but not insignia.
The 11-member CCAC is appointed by the Treasury secretary, with four members recommended by congressional leadership from both houses. The remaining seven members are selected from the general public and those with special qualifications in American history, museum curatorship or numismatics.
For each new U.S. coin or medal approved for issue, both the CFA and CCAC are provided by the U.S. Mint with proposed designs executed by the Mint’s engraving staff and outside artists in the Artistic Infusion Program.
The design process can be dragged out longer if one or both advisory panels reject the designs provided for consideration, choosing not to recommend any to the Treasury secretary or his designate for final approval.
During its two-day meeting Oct. 7 and 8, for example, the CCAC rejected all of the designs proposed for the 2017 Effigy Mounds National Monument quarter dollar for Iowa as being unsuitable. The CFA followed suit with its rejection of the same designs Oct. 15, one of the few times both panels agreed.
Out of those same sessions came two different design recommendations for the reverse of the 2017 Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, D.C. The CFA, arguing the design was about the site, opted for a design depicting Douglass, but with special focus on his historic home.
The CCAC’s recommendation was for a design featuring Douglas, alone, orating in front of a lectern.
Removing the CFA’s responsibility of coin and medal design review would still leave that more than century-old panel with its primary mission of architectural oversight in the nation’s capital.
Is it really necessary to have two separate panels rendering opinions, from 18 combined panel members, or can reasonable review be accomplished with just one panel?
What do you think?
The United States Mint is still planning on releasing a 1-ounce American Eagle bullion coin in platinum in 2015. Fractionsl versions were last offered in 2008.
The U.S. Mint sold out its maximum authorization 17,000 2015 Dwight D. Eisenhower Coin and Chronicles sets in 15 minutes Aug. 10.
Coin World received multiple complaints from collectors peeved they were unable to order the 2015 Dwight D. Eisenhower Coin & Chronicles set Aug. 11, which sold out of its 17,000-edition limit in 15 minutes. The primary problem was a computer software misfire blocking access to the U.S. Mint’s website.
Not until I interviewed Rhett Jeppson, the Mint’s principal deputy director and President Obama’s nominee for Mint director, two hours after the Ike set went on sale, did I learn that the Mint has two portal components on its website (See the story I wrote, in this week’s Aug. 31 print issue and online at http://www.coinworld.com/news/us-coins/2015/08/eisenhower-set-sells-out-in-15-minutes.all.html).
Seems that www.usmint.gov has the news link to the catalog options. The usmint.gov site is operated by the Mint. The glitch was a software problem at the site, totally unrelated to the Ike set sales launch.
Catalog.usmint.gov, however, did function without problems and is where most of the orders were successfully placed. Catalog.usmint.gov is maintained by PSFWeb, under a multimillion-dollar contract. PFSWeb is a Mint contractor located in Texas. PSFWeb also operates the toll-free 800 ordering and customer service telephone line, and the order fulfillment center in Memphis, Tenn., from where the Mint’s packaged numismatic products are shipped.
Orders taken via the 800 line are input online by PSFWeb to maintain inventory control. Order processors at PSFWeb may or may not have accurate answers for the questions customers ask who use the ordering-by-telephone option or simply customers calling to ask a general Mint-related question. However, answers to many of the general questions posed to the Mint can be found under FAQs on the www.usmint.gov site.
Another beef we heard a lot of from collectors was a belief, based on misinterpreting advertising claims, that dealers or others with deep pockets had been able to order thousands of sets despite the two-set-per-household ordering limit imposed by the Mint. Not so.
Nothing prevents orders being placed through multiple accounts as long as each account has a different delivery/mailing address and credit card for payment. Multiple orders for a single address or credit card will be flagged.
A number of high profile dealers did send requests to their customers to order the two-set limit. When those customers passed the sets on to the dealer, they would receive a premium several times the $57.95 purchase price from the Mint.
Those dealers did end up with large numbers of the sets that they re-marketed themselves, some after having the Reverse Proof 2015-P Eisenhower Presidential dollar and the silver presidential medal certified by a third-party grading service, or they peddled the sets directly to shopping channels like Home Shopping Network. The sets are now generating secondary market retail prices in the hundreds of dollars per set.
The sets are in demand for the Reverse Proof Presidential dollar and silver medal which are available only in each featured president’s respective set.
Mint officials have not announced whether they will further limit household orders, to one per household, to spread out the set distribution, when the John F. Kennedy Coin and Chronicles set goes on sale Sept. 16 or for the Lyndon B. Johnson set release sometime in October.
Decreasing the household ordering limit to one might make customers who obtain a lone set less inclined to sell it to a dealer, even for a premium. Secondary market prices may rise further, though, as dealers work harder and offer more incentives to pry sets loose for resale to collectors still seeking the relatively low mintage items.
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The 2016 Winged Liberty Head dime to be struck to mark the centennial of the coin's 1916 introduction into circulation in .900 fine silver will be produced as a tenth-ounce, 24-karat gold release. Shown are mock-up images for the coin.
The United States Mint released mock-up designs June 17 that tentatively depict what the 2016-dated Winged Liberty Head dime, Standing Liberty quarter dollar and Walking Liberty half dollar 100th Anniversary gold coins will look like.
Members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee previewed the designs during two days of coin and medal design review June 16 and 17.
The most prominent of factors in the centennial coin’s production is the Mint’s decision to employ sculptor Hermon A. MacNeil’s original Bared Breast obverse introduced in 1916, and not the modified 1917 Mailed Breast version that masks Liberty’s previously exposed right bosom
The three 2016 coins’ mock-up designs appear to replicate the original .900 fine silver versions that MacNeil designed for the Standing Liberty quarter dollar and sculptor Adolph A. Weinman did for the dime and half dollar.
As illustrated in the mock-up designs, the precious metal composition would be given as AU, its elemental symbol on the periodic table, instead of GOLD. The weight would be given as 1/10 OZ. for the dime, 1/4 OZ. for the quarter dollar and 1/2 OZ. for the half dollar. The fineness inscription would be 24K (for 24 karat), and not .9999 FINE as it appears on American Buffalo gold coins.
All three coins are expected to be eagerly awaited by collectors.
Here’s what some Facebook fans are already saying, specifically on the gold dime, from our initial June 17 posting at Coinworld.com announcing all three denominations:
Christopher Brant: I think they should mint this in gold and platinum.
Noah T. Wright: I’ll take one.
Vernon Peterson: I think the 2016 date is to large & doesn't look right. Since it shows 1/10oz of gold + "ONE DIME", why not place the date in Roman Numerals - MMXVI instead of 2016...
Steve Elam: Waste of Time! Not A Dime!
As Coin World learns additional details of any design modifications, surface finishes, release dates, mintages and product options, we will report them to you.
This well-circulated 1972 Kennedy half dollars was received in change May 30 at a concession stand at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, before a Rolling Stones concert.
How often do you come across a Kennedy half dollar in circulation? I’ll bet not very often.
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A congressional gold medal being awarded April 15 recognizes the World War II exploits of Doolittle’s Raiders. Eighty airmen of the U.S. Army Air Forces, led by Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, took off April 18, 1942, in B-25 bombers from the flight deck of the USS Hornet en route to bomb strategic locations in Japan, including Tokyo.
I’m looking forward to visiting the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, on April 18. On that day, the 73rd anniversary of the Doolittle Raiders bombing of Tokyo and other strategic Japanese cities during World War II, the museum will see the delivery, via B-25 bomber, of the congressional gold medal recognizing the heroism of 80 United States airmen. The museum is the medal’s final resting place.
Congressional leaders will have formally presented the medal to the Doolittle Raiders on April 15, at Emancipation Hall of the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C.
Just three of the 80 airmen, who took off in 16 five-man crews in B-25 bombers from the flight deck of the USS Hornet, on what was billed as a suicide mission, are still alive today.
One of the three is expected to attend both the Washington, D.C., and Dayton, Ohio events, and a second survivor is anticipated to join him at the Dayton event.
Of the 80 Doolittle Raiders, several died from injuries sustained when their aircraft was downed by enemy fire. Some died in captivity under enemy control. By the end of World War II, 17 of the original 80 who participated in the mission were gone.
Among those who made it back, three survive today – Lt. Col. Robert Hite, 95; Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher, 93; and Lt. Col. Richard Cole, 99.
Commissioned as a second lieutenant and rated as a pilot on May 29, 1941, Hite, the co-pilot of one of the 16 B-25 bombers, was captured after the Tokyo raid and imprisoned by the Japanese for 40 months. Hite was liberated by American troops on Aug. 20, 1945, and remained on active duty until Sept. 30, 1947. Hite returned to active duty during the Korean War.
Thatcher was an engineer-gunner. After the Tokyo Raid, Thatcher served in England and Africa until discharged from active duty in July 1945.
As a second lieutenant, Cole was the co-pilot in the lead plane piloted by Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle. Following the raid, Cole remained in the China-Burma-India theatre of operations until June 1943, and served there again from October 1943 to June 1944 before being relieved from active duty in 1947.
The heroic efforts of these three brave airmen and their comrades on a mission targeted to end the war in the Pacific as soon as possible is now being recognized with the awarding of the congressional gold medal.
Collectors and the general public have the opportunity to support that recognition when the U.S. Mint offers for sale 1.5-inch and 3-inch bronze duplicates of the gold medal.
Coin World Senior Editor Paul Gilkes, left, met with Pawn Stars television show star Rick Harrison Jan. 9 during the Florida United Numismatists Convention in Orlando.
The 60th Florida United Numismatists convention, staged Jan. 8 to 11 in Orlando, is now one for the history books.
I and the other 10,000+ visitors privileged to have attended the numismatic extravaganza were treated to a wealth of collectibles and numismatic education.
Numismatic rarities offered by Heritage Auctions generated tens of millions of dollars in prices realized, with several issues, including the finest known 1792 Birch cent pattern, garnering more than $2 million each.
The numismatic collectibles found among the 630 dealer tables offered collectors with every size budget the opportunity to add to their collections. If action on the bourse wasn’t of interest, meetings of specialty collector clubs and numismatic education programs on topics of interest were open to the public.
The combined booths of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and U.S. Mint were popular visiting stations on the bourse. Treasurer of the United States Rosie Rios put her signature on more than 300 Federal Reserve notes and other collectibles during her show visit Jan. 8. During the convention, the U.S. Mint sold 12,500 of the Proof 2015-W American Eagle 1-ounce silver dollars, the only 2015-dated numismatic product the Mint had available for sale at the FUN show.
U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Donald Everhart II was also on hand to demonstrate traditional sculpturing methods for coins and medals.
The large exhibit area mounted by the 1715 Plate Fleet Society for the 300th anniversary year of the fleet’s demise shared with the public artifacts retrieved from the shipwreck and now part of the state of Florida’s extensive collection of treasure salvage.
The competitive exhibit area provided show attendees a glimpse at what other areas of collecting interest one may pursue. Pennsylvania collector Tom Uram took home the Best in Show award for his display on “The Kings and Queens of England Through Maundy Money.”
If there was one experience that generated a considerable buzz on the bourse, it was the daily appearance of Rick Harrison, one of the anchors of the popular History Channel television series, Pawn Stars. Hosted by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., Harrison was on hand to assist in the casting of collectors with items of numismatic and historical interest to appear on a future segment of the television show.
Each time Harrison appeared on the bourse, the public followed his every footstep as if he was the Pied Piper. Harrison’s scheduled appearance the afternoon of Jan. 9 at NGC’s booth on the bourse brought the public out in force, requiring bourse security to keep the aisles clear. The line of people wanting to try out for the show or simply meet Harrison stretched across the NGC booth area and past Coin World’s booth, providing us a captive audience with which to talk hobby interests.
Now that the 60th installment of the FUN show is complete, what will the 61st edition have to offer? You’ll have to find out for yourself when the show travels Jan. 7 to 10, 2016, to the Tampa Convention Center. Hopefully, I’ll see you there.
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The Commission of Fine Arts recommended for the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders congressional gold medal the designs preferred by the four surviving raiders. The Treasury secretary should give the raiders the designs they want.
This is an open letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob “Jack” Lew:
Dear Treasury Secretary Lew,
By statute, you have the final say for what designs will appear on the nation’s coins and medals, regardless of what the two congressionally authorized review panels — the Commission of Fine Arts and Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee — and even the U.S. Mint recommend.
Public Law 113-106, signed into law May 23, 2014, by President Obama, authorizes the issuance of a congressional gold medal recognizing “the World War II members of the ‘Doolittle Tokyo Raiders’, for outstanding heroism, valor, skill, and service to the United States in conducting the bombings of Tokyo.”
Of the 80 Doolittle Tokyo Raiders who launched on the April 18, 1942, raid, eight were captured, two died in crashes, and 70 returned home.
Of the eight captured Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, three were executed and one died of disease.
As of February 2013, according to the text of the enabling legislation, there were only five surviving members of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders.
Today, only four survive, all in their 90s — Lt. Col. Robert Hite, Staff Sgt. Robert Thatcher, Lt. Col. Edward Saylor, and the senior member, Lt. Col. Richard Cole.
As a lieutenant, Cole was Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle’s co-pilot in the lead plane. The crew had to bail out as the aircraft ran out of fuel and eventually crashed. Doolittle, Cole and the remaining three men in the crew were rescued by the Chinese.
On Oct. 14, the CCAC made their recommendations after design review, and two days later, the CFA made their picks. The Doolittle Tokyo Raiders made it known to both panels the proposed designs the association wants to see on the final medal.
The CFA backed the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders' preferences. The CCAC recommended different obverse and reverse designs.
Simply put, give the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders what they are asking for.
They earned it.
Senior Editor, U.S. Coins
But you can’t blame them, as the safety of the general public and Mint employees was of major concern. While it appears the literal stampede of potential coin buyers waiting in line at the Denver Mint for Aug. 7 sales was the likely culprit for sales suspensions at all outlets, the incident was an isolated one.
Aug. 7 was the last day of sales at the three Mint facility locations, leaving 100 unsold coins at each location to be returned to the Mint’s order fulfillment center. And the 500 coins each day for both Aug. 8 and 9 at the ANA venue were also returned.
At $1,240 per coin, the U.S. Mint gave up $1,612,000 in retail sales at the four venues combined in the name of public safety.
No one could have anticipated the size of the crowds at each site. I was present at the ANA venue, and checked the line activity throughout each day, beginning with the line assembling the evening of Aug. 4 waiting for inaugurals.
From what I witnessed, except for some line jumpers, the crowd was orderly and policed themselves. It was repeated each day a new line assembled.
I also monitored activity at the other three venues through my sources on-site, who experienced similar orderly behavior,
The sales of the gold Proof Kennedy 50th Anniversary half dollars was THE story of the show, making national headlines.
There was more positive publicity and feedback generated for the hobby from the coin launch that no amount of money could buy.
The U.S. Mint is planning to sit down for internal discussions to determine what officials felt was done right, what glitches there might have been and what things can be improved upon.
The Mint is already looking at the release of an undisclosed numismatic product at the 2015 ANA convention, to be held at the same venue in Rosemont, Ill.
It will be interesting to see what the product will be, and how the launch will be handled. I know I’m looking forward to it.
By the way, as of Aug. 10, the U.S. Mint recorded sales of 112,134 of the gold Proof Kennedy 50th Anniversary half dollars.
When I started covering the U.S. Mint beat for Coin World some 25 years ago, the Mint’s public affairs personnel periodically released what were referred to as “salmon sheets.”
Containing the latest production figures for circulating coins and sales for precious metal coins and numismatic products, the “salmon sheets” derived their moniker from the color of the paper on which the figures were printed. Some of the figures reported were neither sales nor production, but what was shipped.
Today, much of the same data for current programs is disseminated weekly online at www.usmint.gov , or more frequently if we specifically ask the Office for Corporate Communications.
The Mint reports the number of each denomination of U.S. coin struck for circulation and shipped to the Federal Reserve.
Collectors often follow the sales numbers for numismatic products to determine whether to place an order with the Mint for a current numismatic product or to pursue a product on the secondary market for a program that has closed.
The U.S. Mint reports final “sales,” not mintages, within six months after a numismatic program has officially closed and all sales reconciled and audited.
In some instances, the wait to learn the final sales, mintage, or whatever the end number is to be called, can take longer, especially for programs for which sales are extended into the next calendar year.
Commemorative coin sales are mandated to end on the specific date provided for in the enabling legislation.
Sales of Proof or Uncirculated versions of American Eagle and American Buffalo coins carried over from the previous continue as long as inventory remains, but usually end once the new issue is released.
First Spouse coins dated 2013 are still being sold, in 2014. There are several other 2013 products still being sold in 2014 even though their 2014 counterpart has been issued. Learning the final mintage for those 2013 products will be delayed until sales are cut-off, the program ends and the auditing subsequently completed.
For American Eagle and American Buffalo bullion coins, as long as product remains in inventory for acquisition by authorized purchasers, the final “mintage” will not be disclosed, even though the number of coins actually struck is known.
And because of the plethora of annual numismatic products containing some of the same coins in multiple packaging options, the final sales or mintage of a particular coin will be delayed even further until all those products have been pulled from sale and audited.
Numismatics is a numbers game.
Collectors are obsessed with numbers.
To answer the primary question, “What’s it worth?” collectors often rely on mintages in making that assessment.
But what are mintages and what do they mean? Things have changed quite a bit since the U.S. Mint’s founding in 1792.
Production at the fledgling United States Mint during the waning years of the 18th century, and well into the first half of the 19th, was derived from a combination of official Mint records and speculation.
Official records might indicate a specific number of coins were struck during a specific calendar year or with a specific date; however, the Mint in its early years was prone to have dies from previous production years reused. So, in some instances, production figures from the 18th and 19th century coinage from the U.S. Mint may reflect output over more than one calendar year regardless of the date on the coin.
A coin may have a reported mintage or production of 1 million coins, but circumstances resulted in half the output being melted.
Should the mintage be reported as 1 million or 500,000?
Today, while production can begin in 2014 for a coin to be issued in 2015, the coin can’t be officially released until the year whose date appears on the coin.
Production may eventually span more than one calendar year, but must end no later than December 31 of the year of issue.
The topic can be debated as to what a coin’s mintage actually is. Is it the number of actual coins struck? The number struck and issued? The net number after production and a quantity of that output subsequently melted?
Many of the classic early commemorative coins dated and issued from 1892 through 1954 have had the production recorded as number struck, number sold, and number melted, from which the end result is the net mintage.
Some of the early commemoratives had all the coins authorized struck on speculation they would eventually be sold.
Today, the U.S. Mint strikes commemorative coins to order, up to the maximum authorized mintage for each issue according to the enabling legislation. While a program may be called a sellout, the combined Proof and Uncirculated sales reported might fall short of the maximum authorized mintage because some coins are returned for damage or other reasons, and eventually melted. The figures reported by the Mint that serve as the mintages are actually sales.
Legislative language sometimes specifies no more than a certain number can be struck or issued, while on occasion, the language specifies the maximum that can be issued. In those latter instances, more coins may be struck to compensate for rejected or damaged coins, but not more than the number authorized can be issued.
Again, what is often publicly reported are the sales, not the number actually struck, which includes rejected coins, although those figures are likely available somewhere. Should the damaged, rejected or returned coins be reported as part of the mintage, even though those coins would not be available to the collector marketplace?
2014 is the year of the Kennedy – half dollar that is.
The year marks the golden anniversary of the inaugural release of the Kennedy half dollar into circulation.
By the time the year ends, collectors will have had the opportunity to acquire directly from the U.S. Mint at least nine different Kennedy half dollar composition, Mint mark, finish and design/relief combinations.
Premier among the highly anticipated options is the dual-dated 1964-2014 Proof version containing approximately 0.75 ounces of .9999 fine gold.
Collectors are speculating when it and two other versions – one in .900 fine silver and one in copper-nickel clad -- bearing U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts original 1963 sculpt of the slain president will be released.
The popular bet is that the three special Kennedy commemoratives could be released during the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money the first week of August in Rosemont, Ill.
The U.S. Mint has previously released special numismatic commemoratives during the ANA’s conventions – the 2012 American Buffalo, Reverse Proof $50 coin and 2013 American Eagle West Point Two-Coin Silver Set among them.
While it is known the gold version of the Kennedy half dollar will be struck with the W Mint at the West Point Mint, many questions remain unanswered.
What finish will the high relief silver and copper-nickel clad versions bear? Which facility or facilities will strike these issues? Will mintages reflect striking to order during a set or open-ended ordering period, or will they be limited editions?
Except for the gold version, the obverse of all Kennedy half dollar versions in 2014 will bear the single date 2014. The reverse design on all options, including the gold, will bear the lower relief Heraldic Eagle reverse last used on 2013-dated Kennedy half dollars.
Collectors seeking to assemble a complete collection of Kennedy half dollars dated 2014 will need the following, with price from U.S. Mint:
The three high relief commemoratives (prices unknown)
Circulation quality copper-nickel clad Denver Mint (D) and Philadelphia Mint (P) strikes (two-roll set, $32.95)
Copper-nickel clad Denver and Philadelphia strikes in the 2014 Uncirculated Mint set ($27.95)
Copper-nickel clad San Francisco Mint (S) strike in 2014-S Proof set ($31.95)
.900 fine silver San Francisco Mint strike in 2014-S Silver Proof set ($53.95)
Collectors may lower their cash output by trying to acquire single examples of the coins, where available, on the secondary market.
Visit the U.S. Mint’s website at www.usmint.gov.