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William T. Gibbs

Bill’s Corner

William T. Gibbs

William was appointed the managing editor effective May 1, 2015. He joined the Coin World editorial staff in 1976 as an assistant editor for "Collectors' Clearinghouse" and later became a senior staff writer before being appointed news editor. As managing editor, he manages the day-to-day editorial operations for Coin World, both print and online, and leads the editorial staff. He also serves as chief copy editor for all Coin World publications, including for all books published by Coin World since 1985. He has been project editor of mulitple editions of the Coin World Almanac. Bill began collecting coins at the age of 10 and soon discovered Coin World. As a teen interested in numismatics and journalism, he identified a writing position on the staff of Coin World as a dream job, which was realized shortly after he graduated from Bowling Green State University with a major in journalism. He collects store cards and medals depicting Adm. George Dewey of Spanish-American War fame.

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Archive for '2015'

    Coin World improved website navigation and content in 2015

    December 30, 2015 11:51 AM by

    During 2015, Coin World and its corporate business, Amos Media, focused a great deal of attention on our website at www.coinworld.com.

    When Coin World was founded in March 1960, computers were still in their infancy and played no role in newspaper publications. Writers wrote their stories on manual typewriters, editors edited them by hand on paper, and typesetters composed the stories using hot lead compositors. Once an issue was printed, it then went into the mail for delivery, and depending on how far the subscriber lived from our headquarters in Sidney, Ohio, the latest issue was received within a few days to a week or more. And that delivery schedule was fine; the world, including the coin community, moved at a slower pace in those days.

    That has changed, and readers now expect to get their news within minutes, not days

    Our website allows us to do that and more, and over the years, the editors, the IT staff, and outside developers have worked at making our website better and easier to use, filled with useful, up to date information

    Tom Klausing, Amos Media’s director of digital media, highlighted for me some of the recent improvements to our website:

    For one, we improved design and navigation for both desktop and mobile devices (the growth in use of tablets and smartphones makes this function vital; now you can get all of the latest news virtually anywhere on your phone).

    We made navigation better by condensing our former “News/Headlines/Insights” all into one “News” section. This section is then broken down by topic: U.S./World/Paper/Precious Metals. Topics are clickable and will intuitively show news from that topic. Our editors will continue to write the same way they did. The big difference is that content is now presented differently, in this improved manner

    New or improved features at the website include related, recommended and trending news. On the CoinWorld.com homepage, we’ll continue to have news all over the page, and on articles you will find a “Recent News” section to the top right of each page. Also on each article page, after the end of the article, we add three related articles, chosen by editors.

    Another change is the addition of “Blog” (formerly “Voices”) prominently to the navigation.

    We hope that you find the new navigation is much more intuitive. 

    From an editor’s perspective, our website grants us the ability to post breaking news within minutes of our receiving it, thus fulfilling readers’ desires to get important news quickly. It also affords us opportunities to post news that occurs after we have closed out a print edition but before it has mailed or been released in its digital edition form (that happens pretty often; the United States Mint often releases information on Friday afternoon, after we have closed that week’s issue).

    Let us know what you think about our website, and what other improvements you would find useful in the future.

    Social media outreach prompts Treasury to buck the system

    December 23, 2015 12:52 PM by
    Of all the news stories covered in Coin World in 2015, one probably caught us a bit off guard.

    It also showed the strength of social media and it received massive coverage in the mainstream press.

    I am referring to the decision of the U.S. Treasury Department to place a portrait of a woman on the next generation of $10 Federal Reserve note, to be unveiled in 2020 and released into circulation sometime afterward.

    As I write in my article recapping this important story, members of the public had advocated for a woman’s place on our paper currency in the past, but none of those initiatives ever gained any traction, thanks to a reluctance by Treasury officials to change the persons and themes depicted on our paper money. In 2015, a new powerful force flexed its collective muscle — the strength of social media to drive news coverage and to persuade federal officials that the old party line had to go. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, at almost every press conference he gave, found himself asked about depicting a woman on a note, and others wrote to President Obama about the topic. Once the president said the idea was a pretty good one, Lew had his marching orders.

    Of course, the original movement, to get rid of Andrew Jackson, now seen by many as all that was wrong with some of our forebears, was sidelined by reality. Since the next note to be redesigned is the $10 note, the change will be made on that denomination and not the $20. The public gained some insight into the slow pace of paper money design, something regular readers of Coin World are more knowledgeable about. Still, I suspect that Old Hickory’s years appearing on the $20 note are numbered.

    Still, the haste with which the Treasury Department said that it would start depicting women on U.S. paper money caught even me a little bit off guard. I was skeptical and expecting the old party line.  Kudos to Jack Lew for doing the right thing.

    The power of the public to makes its voice heard is growing. Coin World’s own social media and online platforms — Facebook, Twitter, and its website — also afforded our readers more opportunities to offer opinions on the various news stories covered during the year. Before, when the Mint website and phone lines crashed with the opening of sales of a hot new product (like the 2015 Coin and Chronicles sets) we would get a lot of phone calls from angry collectors. This past year many instead chose to voice their frustrations at our Facebook page. Granted, some readers still called me when the first two Coin and Chronicles sets sold out in minutes (and many of them voiced their suspicions that the Mint colluded with dealers to sell marketers the bulk of the sets), but the numbers were smaller than they would have been in the past. They just went to our Facebook page to vent their anger and make their allegations. 

    The times are changing.

    Readership metrics results

    In leading up to our selection of the year’s top stories, I asked Coin World editorial staff members for their choices. Joe O’Donnell, Amos Media’s Chicago-based content producer, is a leader in our online initiatives — at our websites, on our Facebook pages, and behind the scenes in getting our word out to the world at large. Not surprisingly, he took a somewhat different approach to selecting his choices for our top stories, saying:

    “Like last year, I’m going to bring a metrics-based approach to my Top 10, just to show what went viral for us. ... (I had to include No. 11 just because I definitely think it’s a top 10 story.)”

    Here’s his list of individual stories that brought the biggest online readership:
    (1) Gold Prospector Unearths 87-Ounce Nugget In Australia.
    (2) Federal Government To Return Millions In Liberty Dollars.
    (3) Goal Of Bill To Change Silver Alloy In United States Coins.
    (4) Mint Releases Mock-Up Designs For Gold 2016 Centennial Issues.
    (5) Court Rules In Favor Of Langbord Family In 1933 Double Eagle Case.
    (6) Israel’s Largest-Ever Gold Hoard Discovery Reported.
    (7) Limited Edition 2015 March Of Dimes Special Silver Set May 4.
    (8) 2015 High Relief Gold Coin Becomes 100 Dollars Face Value.
    (9) California Dealer Discovers Fake Krugerrand In Fake Holder.
    (10) Federal Judge Rules Against Government In 1974-D Cent Case.
    (11) Enhanced Uncirculated Native American Dollars In Demand. 

    The strong reader interest in these stories does not surprise me. Coin World’s editors have long recognized that treasure stories are big draws; who has not dreamed of finding something rare and valuable, like the lucky Australian who found an 87-ounce gold nugget or the finders of the gold coins in Israel. While these stories may not have the same lasting impact on the hobby as some of the other stories, these kinds of treasure stories are popular with readers.

    Similarly, the stories about the government’s efforts to confiscate coins from American citizens elicit strong feelings from readers. Our readership is by no means 100 percent united behind the Langbord family and its claims on 10 1933 double eagles, and similar claims by several dealers on an apparently experimental 1974-D Lincoln cent struck on an aluminum planchet. However, a strong anti-government bias exists in such cases, with many readers feeling that the government has no business confiscating the coins. 

    Similarly, the decision to return Liberty Dollar medals to Americans caught a lot attention from those who have followed the government’s long legal case against Bernard von NotHaus, creator of the Liberty Dollar who in 2011 was convicted of counterfeiting U.S. coins, a decision that some hobbyists thought was prompted by von NotHaus’ longtime crusade against the Federal Reserve. The Liberty Dollar medals had been confiscated by the government in 2007 at the beginning of legal action against their issuer.

    Of course, a number of our stories involve the U.S. Mint, which is the biggest coin dealer in the world. No surprises there.

    I am looking forward to 2016. 

    Legislation has unexpected consequences

    December 17, 2015 3:04 PM by
    Call it bad timing, bad planning or the law  of unintended consequences, or maybe a combination of all three factors. The Mint has announced that it will not offer the previously announced 2015 Limited Edition Silver Proof set — not because the coins aren’t available, and not because the packaging issues that led the Mint to postpone its intended Nov. 23 release can’t be resolved, and not because the Mint has reservations about issuing a 2015 set in 2016 (the 2014 set wasn’t released until 2015).

    Mint officials instead made the decision to not issue the 2015 Limited Edition Silver Proof set because of the five-year $305 billion highway bill that President Obama signed into law on Dec. 3.

    Why would a transportation bill lead the Mint to cancel what was becoming an annual set?

    The 2015 Limited Edition Silver Proof set was to have contained a Proof 2015-W American Eagle silver dollar and 2015-S examples of the Roosevelt dime, all five America the Beautiful quarter dollars, and the Kennedy half dollar. All of the coins were available and the Mint was attempting to solve “packaging issues” for the set. The Mint could have resolved those “issues” and then released the 2015 set sometime in 2016.

    However, the transportation act that was signed into law included several provisions related to the nation’s coinage. Among them is a requirement that all Proof and Uncirculated American Eagle silver dollars issued in 2016 must have a special edge inscription recognizing the 30th anniversary of the coin. The key word in the provision is “issued.” Mint officials have interpreted this as meaning that even the existing 2015-W American Eagle silver dollars cannot be released in 2016 because they already are struck and have a reeded edge. It doesn’t matter that the coins would be dated 2015 — they can’t be issued in 2016 because they don’t meet the edge lettering requirements outlined in the legislation.

    Had the Mint not experienced “packaging issues” that delayed the release of the set, it could have gone on sale Nov. 23 and then been taken off sale on Dec. 30, possibly creating a modern rarity for those fortunate to have purchased one or more. However, with the passage of the transportation bill, this set will apparently never be released.

    Unintended consequences, indeed. 

    A few predictions on the the U.S. Mint and its 2016 programs

    December 14, 2015 10:13 AM by
    A few weeks ago, in the Dec. 14 issue of Coin World, I noted that the editorial staff was beginning to think about its selections for the “Top 10 Stories of 2015,” the latest installment of a long-running annual series in our pages. Well, we have pretty much wrapped up that list and you should see the results in the Jan. 11, 2016, issue. It’s a pretty interesting list and I’ll also share some observations from what readers saw as the most interesting stories of the year.

    In the meantime, it seems fitting that as 2015 comes to an end, we look forward to what 2016 will bring for the collecting community by making some predictions for the year. While we could visit many areas, we’ll limit our “predictions” to those involving the largest coin dealer in the world — the United States Mint.

    The sales record for the American Eagle silver bullion coin will fall (again): 

    This is a pretty safe prediction. Since 2008, sales of the American Eagle 1-ounce silver bullion coin have set a new record every year but 2012. 

    In 2007, sales of the coin totaled 9,887,000 pieces (please note that calendar sales may differ from mintages; in some years, sales included coins of two or three dates). In 2008, that sales figure more than doubled, to 19,583,000 (mintage for the 2008 coin, 20,583,000), breaking the old sales record of 10,475,500 coins in 2002. From 2009 to 2015, a new sales record was established in every year but for 2012, and even that year, with 33,742,500 coins sold, the total was more than triple the 2007 sales figure. This year’s total so far, with one more week of sales left for calendar 2015, is 45,786,000 coins.

    Silver demand has been rising across most categories — silver, jewelry, bars and ingots, coins — for several years. Silver coins have proven to be an increasingly popular investment during the last decade, showing impressive gains worldwide. Thomson Reuters noted on Nov. 17, “Coin demand should account for 12% of physical demand this year, up from 10% in 2014 and just 4% ten years ago.”
    The United States Mint has done an admirable job meeting demand, going from striking a little more than 9 million coins in 2007 to striking more than 45 million coins nine years later. Likely the Mint could be striking and selling even higher numbers if not constrained by a worldwide shortage of silver coin planchets.

    Will that trend soften in 2016? We’ll see this time next year, but don’t be surprised if we report the United States Mint sets a new American Eagle silver bullion coin sales record next year.

    The United States Mint will anger collectors somehow, somewhen: 

    As good a job as the Mint does meeting demand for the American Eagle silver bullion coins, it has a history of making stumbles. In 2009 it was the decision to not strike Proof versions of the American Eagle silver bullion coin, to focus all attention on meeting demand for the bullion versions. Collectors hated that decision because it left them with a one-year gap in their collections for the first time since sales began in 1986.

    In 2015, the Mint sales and marketing team made a series of blunders, seen most vividly with sales of the Harry S. Truman Coin and Chronicles set as part of the Presidential dollar program. The Mint sorely underestimated sales of the Truman and Eisenhower sets; both sold out in minutes, and many collectors were unsuccessful in placing orders by phone or at the Mint website. The Mint made some changes when offering the Kennedy and Johnson sets, making the sales of those two products much smoother, but the damage had been done; a lot of collectors who were unsuccessful in buying the first two sets suddenly found that their sets of Presidential dollars were incomplete.

    Obviously, the Mint can’t please 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time (to steal a phrase), but some decisions seem to really, really hack off large numbers of collectors, even when that anger is misdirected or based on an erroneous conclusion. We hope that the Mint’s marketing team will make better decisions in 2016 but we don’t like the odds on that.

    The 2016 gold centennial editions of the Winged Liberty Head dime, Standing Liberty quarter dollar, and Walking Liberty half dollar will be a hit with collectors (but not as big a hit as silver versions would be): 

    Collectors are understandably excited about the Mint’s decision to issue 2016 versions of the Winged Liberty Head dime, Standing Liberty quarter dollar, and Walking Liberty half dollar in gold to celebrate the centennial of the introduction of these three coins in 1916.

    All three designs are celebrated for their beauty and it can be said that each design is the best ever created for its respective denomination. All three coins were designed during the period known as the Golden Age of U.S. Coinage Design. Many of the designs from that era — 1907 to 1921 — have been resurrected on modern U.S. coins: the Indian Head 5-cent coin and the Saint-Gaudens gold double eagle among them. The obverse of the Walking Liberty half dollar was resurrected in 1986 for the American Eagle 1-ounce silver bullion coin and has been used on that coin ever since. The “Mercury” dime and Standing Liberty quarter now join that list of designs taken from the Philadelphia Mint’s vaults, dusted off, and reused for a modern purpose

    The coins should sell well, but the program would be even better had the Mint been able to issue the centennial coins in silver (the original composition of the 1916 coins) in addition to gold.

    However, while provisions in the U.S. Code give the Treasury secretary broad authority to issue certain gold coins without congressional approval, the office lacks similar authority for silver coins. Issuing the centennial coins in silver requires an act of Congress, and no such legislation is pending.

    With gold coins priced above the budgets of many collectors, sales of the centennial coins will be well below what they could have been had the Mint sought and gained congressional approval for the silver coins.

    The U.S. Mint will issue an exciting new product that is on no one’s collection radar screens: 

    The Mint does a great job of developing a new product and springing it upon collectors with little advance notice. In recent years that has included new treatments like the Reverse Proof finish and Enhanced Uncirculated finish, and coins like the American Liberty, High Relief gold coin.

    Will the Mint surprise us and excite us and maybe upset us in 2016? We can’t wait to see. 

    Some coins should be off-limits to collectors

    December 9, 2015 3:46 PM by
    When should a particular kind of coin be untouchable, off-limits to collectors?

    Sometimes an answer to a question you haven’t thought about for a while can come when history, current events and coins all converge at the same time unexpectedly.

    Freelance contributor Gerald Tebben provides always insightful articles for Coin World through his column “Coin Lore” and features like his cover article on patriotic printers in the November 2015 issue of our monthly magazine. He also blogs for us with his “Five Facts” blog, with his latest series focused on men who committed mass genocide in the past who happen to be depicted on coins that many people collect.

    Two days after his last blog was published on Nov. 11 on Leopold II, Belgium’s king who killed millions in the Belgian Congo, came the horrors of the Islamic State’s terrorist attacks in Paris that killed nearly 130 people and injured hundreds more.

    In September, the Islamic State (also known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL) released a movie (which I haven’t watched) announcing its new series of gold and silver coins. According to news accounts, Islamic State leaders want to ruin the economies of the world powers and especially that of the United States by encouraging the replacement of the U.S. dollar with gold. An article published by The Economist on Sept. 3 gives three reasons why the Islamic State’s financial plans are doomed to failure; you should read the article.

    But what about the Islamic State’s coins? Are they something collectors should pursue as collectibles? While Coin World rarely takes a stand against collecting a particular series of coins, this is one time we’ll abandon that principle. Don’t do it, for one good reason (many others exist): providing financial support, even indirectly, to an organization whose sole purpose in life is to foment terror and murder and enslavement is morally wrong and probably illegal.

    Men like Leopold II, who killed millions, are long gone; their coins are part of the historical record and thus are collectible if you have a desire to.

    But not the coins of the Islamic State.

    Counting down to the end of 2015 and pondering the top 10 stories

    November 25, 2015 2:50 PM by
    Every year about this time, the Coin World editorial staff begins thinking about the most important stories we’ve covered since the first of the year, narrowing the list to 10 after several rounds of voting. We then recap the year within our pages and at our website. While we haven’t finalized our plans as yet, you’ll see our list of the top stories for 2015 in about a month.

    We also want to know your top stories of the year. Will your list include the release of the 2015 Coin and Chronicles sets by the U.S. Mint?  (While the editorial staff hasn’t voted yet, I can confidently say that one will make our list.)  How about the impending record sales of American Eagle silver bullion coins? 

    If paper money is your focus, we’ve covered a lot of news in that area as well. Will your list include confirmation that a woman’s portrait will be placed on the $10 Federal Reserve note in 2020? How about the surfacing of a number of previously unknown national bank notes?

    For world coins, a lot has happened during the year, including a new portrait for Queen Elizabeth II on the coinage.

    Let us know your picks for the year’s top stories at www.facebook.com/coinworld and at cweditor@coinworld.com

    A coinage revolution began 50 years ago this month with silver's replacement

    November 11, 2015 9:38 AM by

    ​On Nov. 1, 1965, Washington quarter dollars unlike anything that been released before — the first U.S. copper-nickel clad coinage — were poured into circulation by the Treasury Department through Federal Reserve System channels.

    Until that first day of November 50 years ago, three kinds of U.S. circulating coinage were legally classified: minor coinage, those pieces made of a nonprecious metal (in 1965, just the cent and 5-cent coin remained); silver coinage (the dime, quarter dollar, and half dollar in 1965); and gold coinage (none of which had been struck or circulated since early 1933).

    The Coinage Act of 1965 upended nearly 175 years of federal coinage laws, converting the dime and quarter dollar into what was essentially minor coinage, and lowering the silver content of the half dollar from 90 percent to 40 percent.

    This was a change of historic proportions and collectors were accepting though not thrilled.

    As Coin World editor Margo Russell wrote in her Editorial in the Nov. 17 issue, collectors had been awaiting the new coins with mixed feelings:

    “Coin collectors knew why and how the coins were being manufactured — they were just waiting for a look at the finished product,” she wrote.

    “The collectors’ verdict?” she asked, and answered, “Most agree the new coins will serve their purpose as coin of the realm, their sole function from a Treasury standpoint, but it is the collecting consensus that few people will collect clad coins in quantity or for their aesthetic qualities.”

    Margo wrote that this collector disinterest would serve Treasury goals. Concurrent with the rise in the price of silver that drove the conversion to a copper-nickel clad coinage was a nationwide shortage of coinage. The vending industry demanded higher and higher numbers of coins every year and the Bureau of the Mint had taken several steps in the early 1960s to ramp up production: reopening the San Francisco Mint for coinage production,which had last occurred in 1955; increasing the number of production shifts;and adding additional coining presses to its facilities.

    Treasury officials had blamed collectors and “speculators”for much of the coinage shortages. The collector sentiment was “good news for the Treasury,” Margo noted, adding “its task will be made easier by the initial lack of collector interest in the new pieces.”

    The hobby was doing what it could to repair relations with those who governed the Mint, even to the point of refusing to profit by the change, at least immediately. Margo noted, “Major segments of the numismatic press have agreed not to accept advertisements offering the new clad coins inbulk quantities until there are sufficient quantities in circulation.”

    Attempts at repairing the relationship had begun several months before release of the new coins, Margo revealed, crediting both major   hobby organizations and a receptive Treasury Department for working toward the thaw. She especially hoped that improving relations would prompt government officials to offer collectors something more; the Mint had stopped making Proof sets and Uncirculated Mint sets in 1965 to focus on circulating coinage, and had gotten authority to remove all Mint marks as well (collectors would have to be satisfied with a single 1965 quarter instead of three coins, one each from the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco facilities). The Mint would offer 1965, 1966,and 1967 Special Mint sets, but production of the traditional annual sets and restoration of Mint marks would have to wait until 1968, so Margo was right about the Mint’s resumption of collector-friendly outreach, if a bit optimistic.

    As for the Nov. 10 news article, there is a statement collectors today will find laughable.

    Treasury officials expected the silver coins to circulate alongside the copper-nickel clad ones “for their normal 25-year life span.”

    We know how that went, don't we?

    Getting edition sizes for collectibles vital to keep collectors happy

    November 3, 2015 8:34 AM by
    “You could have manufactured enough of this edition so that everyone who wanted one could have one.”

    This lament, voiced by a collector at a collector’s forum after a limited edition collectible sold out in mere minutes, could have been about one of the U.S. Mint’s recent Coin and Chronicles sets.

    So could this comment found at another social media site: “I'm so disappointed I couldn't get a [blank] because of your unperfect sales strategy. ...”

    In fact, neither comment was made by a collector shut out of buying a Harry S. Truman or Dwight D. Eisenhower Coin and Chronicles set. The first comment was made by a collector who was unable to buy a limited edition Hot Wheels die-cast version of a Dodge 330 car that was offered Oct. 26 at the collector’s website operated by toy giant Mattel for collectors of Hot Wheels. The second comment was from a collector unhappy about being unable to buy a replica Pepsi Perfect bottle on Oct. 21 on Amazon in commemoration of the date that Marty McFly visited in the movie Back to the Future II (Pepsi Perfect was promoted as a “future” product of PepsiCo in the movie).

    Collectors like being able to buy a limited edition product at issue price and then watch it rise in value on the secondary market. Collectors don’t like being unable to buy the collectible and then see prices rise on the secondary market. Collectors especially hate it when they see quantities of limited edition collectibles available for sale, at rising prices, on eBay or elsewhere, all being offered by the same seller, despite restrictive household limits, when they themselves were unable to buy just one.

    For manufacturers of collectible products, getting the edition size right is one of the most important decisions a marketing team can make. Make too many of the collectible and unsold quantities can sit on the issuer’s website for weeks, months, or longer. Make too few of them and the collectibles can sell out in minutes, frustrating hundreds or thousands of collectors who couldn’t reach the checkout step of ordering online in time.

    Mattel’s Oct. 26 sale of the Dodge 330 was a good example of the type of sale that can frustrate collectors. The edition was limited to 3,000 units and of that number, 2,000 were reserved for collectors who had earlier subscribed to the year’s core product line. When the sale of the remaining 1,000 began at noon Eastern Time Oct. 26, collectors rushed to buy those examples.

    Some buyers saw their orders sail through. Others encountered roadblocks; Mattel recently introduced a new edition of its Hot Wheels Collectors website, and problems with logins, browser incompatibilities and other technical matters have occurred ever since (U.S. Mint website customers would understand). The car sold out in a half hour or so, while some collectors were still sitting in the online waiting room (also something Mint customers remember).

    Post-sale comments were so similar to those about the Mint’s limited edition issues that all one would have to do would be to trade “Dodge 330” for “Coin and Chronicles set” and nothing would be lost in the translation.

    As for the joint Pepsi-Amazon offering of 6,500 bottles of Pepsi Perfect (identical in appearance to the bottles seen in the movie), confusion arose as to when sales of the product were to begin on Oct. 21. Sales of some of the bottles apparently began early according to news accounts, catching many collectors unawares. Given the much higher visibility of the Back to the Future movie trilogy, it is likely that the numbers of upset collectors were much higher than those shut out of recent U.S. Mint and Hot Wheels limited editions. The sellout certainly got a lot of attention from the media.

    What all of these recent sales show is that government and private manufacturers can anger their customers when sales methods allow products in hot demand to sell out early. Anger customers too often and they will stop buying the products, or so the unhappy customers say at forums.

    Many U.S. Mint customers want the Mint to stop imposing artificial mintage limits on special products and, instead, make them to order. Mattel does that with some Hot Wheels, producing them to the quantities ordered during a set sales period. But most of its special collector products are limited to editions of 2,500 to 4,000, and there are rarely enough to go around.

    If you’re a U.S. Mint customer who couldn’t buy one of the Coin and Chronicles set, you’re not alone. There’s a collector at the Hot Wheels site who knows exactly what you’re going through.

    Stories intertwine in Paris in the 19th century

    October 16, 2015 10:02 AM by
    In Paris in 1869, among the many Americans visiting there were two youths — Gus, a struggling artist barely into his 20s and Teedie, the sickly 11-year-old son of a family of aristocrats.

    It is unlikely that the two crossed paths that year in the City of Light. They came from vastly different worlds. The Irish-born Gus was an improvised art student of no particular brilliance, struggling to make a tiny income from cutting cameos. Teedie was a scion of a very wealthy New York family. Decades later, though, at the dawn of the 20th century, their lives would intersect when both were at the height of their careers, and brilliance would result from their collaboration: Augustus Saint-Gaudens was the pre-eminent American sculptor and Theodore Roosevelt was president of the United States.

    The author-historian David McCullough in his book The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris tells the story of several generations of young American men and women who journeyed to Paris to learn and hone their talents in the most important city of the arts in the world.

    Roosevelt is only a minor figure in the book and his collaboration with Saint-Gaudens on the 1907 gold eagle and double eagle warrants a single sentence in the book’s Epilogue. The artist, though, is a central figure of the book, as McCullough relates how a poor art student became one of the greatest American artists of all time.

    Paris was temporarily home to many talented Americans in 19th century — Henry James, Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson among them. In the 1890s, Saint-Gaudens would meet in Paris another young American artist, James Earle Fraser, whose sculpture The End of the Trail of a bedraggled Native American astride his horse during a blizzard led the older and now established artist to say, McCullough writes, “You haven’t done a man. You’ve done a race.” Fraser would later work in Saint-Gaudens’ studio and like his mentor would not only achieve greatness in traditional sculpture but also create a numismatic masterpiece — the Indian Head 5-cent coin — in what would be a period of American Renaissance of coinage design inaugurated by Roosevelt.

    When lives intertwine, the amazing can occur. 

    There’s no going back: U.S. Mint website is a permanent feature

    October 12, 2015 2:47 PM by

    I took a call from a reader a week ago who had some suggestions on improving how the United States Mint sells its limited edition products to ensure a fairer distribution.

    That’s a subject that has been on a lot of minds lately, in the wake of superfast sellouts of the 2015 Truman and Eisenhower Coin and Chronicles sets, and complaints by some collectors that certain retailers were finding ways to circumvent the Mint’s household limits.

    The caller was recommending a return to a time when the Mint sold all of its products through the mail, with the customer sending in an order form and a check. I have been a collector for a bit more than 50 years and remember the days when I would write my check for the annual Proof set and send it in with the Mint order form, and then wait six months or longer for delivery. A lot of our readers probably did the same in their youth in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

    The caller, however, was recommending a twist on this old practice. He suggested that the Mint set a purchase deadline for limited edition sets, hold all orders received until the deadline, then randomly draw “winners” until all of the sets are awarded to the lucky customers.

    The collector was no Luddite. He described his background as scientific, with experience in working for the Department of Defense. I suspect that other collectors of a certain age (my 60th birthday is already past, so I am in that age group) would embrace this idea.

    Abandoning the Mint website for mail sales will never happen. There’s no going back.

    Online sales are not a wave of the future. They are how business is done today. The U.S. Mint can’t go back to the sales practices of a half century ago, any more than Amazon could suddenly announce it was closing down its website and was instead opening up brick and mortar stores nationwide. 

    Yes, online transactions are not perfect. We all face the possibility of identity theft. Buying a single product from a website can result in a flurry of junk email filling your inbox. But buying products and services online, including bidding in rare coin auctions and buying sets of coins from the U.S. Mint, is a permanent fixture of the marketplace. At least until the next technological achievement renders online buying obsolete (Star Trek “matter replicators,” maybe; we seem to be headed that way with 3-D printers).

    The real solution to fast sellouts and “unfair” distribution of limited edition sets is not a technological one, it’s a marketing one, as we have said in the past.

    Theme matters, but Congress doesn’t get that with commemorative coins

    September 26, 2015 4:10 PM by
    This has been said before, but it needs to be said again. Congress authorizes too many commemorative coins of limited appeal.
    Congress has limited itself to no more than two commemorative coin programs per calendar year since the late 1990s. That’s when wiser heads reined in Congress’ propensity to use collectors as cash cows for whatever project sought funding through the surcharges attached to the prices of commemorative coins. Still, that has not stopped the authorization of programs that were poor choices with little chance of broad collector/public support.
    Let’s look at the two 2015 coin programs. 
    The March of Dimes silver dollar celebrates a laudable theme: the eradication of polio from the United States. But laudable themes do not always translate to strong sales. Sales of the coin have been lackluster at best: as of Sept. 20, Mint customers had purchased 148,343 silver dollars out of a maximum mintage of 500,000 coins, 74,590 of the coins being in the March of Dimes Special Silver set. It is particularly disturbing that the strongest sales have been for the limited edition set (75,000), which contains a Proof March of Dimes silver dollar and two 2015 Roosevelt silver dimes bearing distinctive finishes. It is clear that the collector interest in the set was for the two dimes and not the silver dollar.
    The second coin program for the year marks the U.S. Marshals Service and offers a copper-nickel clad half dollar (maximum mintage of 750,000), a silver dollar (500,000 maximum), and a gold $5 half eagle (100,000 maximum). Sales as of Sept. 20 are not even close to those maximums: 98,140 half dollars, 148,325 dollars, and 29,494 half eagles.
    Clearly, neither program has drawn the attention of the public like the successful 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame program did; except for a few returns, that program’s gold coin and silver dollar both sold out, and the half dollar sold nearly 58 percent of its maximum. In contrast, sales of the 2014 Civil Rights silver dollar did not even reach 25 percent of
    the maximum.
    A commemorative coin program’s theme matters. Congress needs to remember that. 
    Collectors would be better served if the concept of surcharges was simply dropped. Then organizations would have less incentive to approach Congress for funding through commemorative coins sales. And then maybe Congress would, finally, authorize coin programs with themes that have a wide appeal.

    Unfortunately, the hobby no longer has a voice in Congress. Frank Annunzio is long gone and his spiritual descendant, Michael Castle, no long serves in the House. Getting change will be hard.

    But it is something to strive for.

    Transitional errors: Coins with a high coolness level that await discovery

    September 18, 2015 12:21 PM by

    ​Kennedy half dollars are back in the news, thanks to the discovery of a rare transitional error for the 1971-D Kennedy half dollar, as reported by Paul Gilkes.

    Transitional errors generally occur when a mint is making a change in composition. They have a coolness level that is hard to match, particularly since they can be found in circulation when the coin’s composition is in the process of being changed, or even discovered years later as with this newly reported piece. 

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    The most famous U.S. transitional errors are the 1943 Lincoln cents struck on copper-alloy planchets from 1942 rather than on the one-year-only zinc-coated steel planchets. Even some in the noncollecting public are at least vaguely aware of the 1943 errors, though many think the steel cent is the error and not the copper one.
    The period from 1964 to 1971 offered ample opportunity for the production of transitional errors for the dime, quarter dollar, and half dollar. The switch from 90 percent silver to copper-nickel clad for the dime and quarter dollar, while not popular with collectors, was a financial necessity. Since production of 1964 and 1965 coins continued well past the ends of those two calendar years, even concurrently, planchets of both compositions were on hand, and not surprisingly, coins of either date were struck on the wrong planchets.
    The transition of the half dollar was a two-step process. Silver proponents wanted a “prestige coin” to survive, so the half dollar’s alloy was switched to a silver-copper clad composition — with a reduction in silver content to 40 percent from 90 percent. Again, transitional errors became possible as this first switch was made.

    By 1970, however, silver’s value had risen to the level that even a content of 40 percent was not viable. The last half dollars struck for circulation in a silver alloy were the 1969-D coins. In 1970, no half dollars were struck for circulation, though the 40 percent silver composition was used for the 1970-D coin for the Uncirculated Mint set and for the 1970-S half dollar for that year’s Proof set. In 1971, when production of the denomination resumed for circulation, the half dollar was made of the same copper-nickel clad composition as the dime and quarter dollar.

    The discovery more than 40 years later of a 1971-D Kennedy half dollar presumably struck on a leftover 1970 silver-copper clad planchet is a reminder that great coins can still be found. 

    More from CoinWorld.com:

    Space-themed world coins more popular than ever

    ANACS certifies 1971-D Kennedy half dollar struck on silver planchet

    Weekly allocation of American Eagle silver bullion coins lowered

    Collecting the Peace dollar

    Transitional errors: Coins with a high coolness level that await discovery

    ‘Rocking Around the Clock’ making cents (big ‘whoops’ moment)

    September 14, 2015 8:25 AM by

    Sixty years ago this month, teens were rocking to Bill Haley and His Comets singing “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock” and Pat Boone’s “Ain’t That a Shame.” Dad and Mom were listening to Mitch Miller’s “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” In movie houses and at the drive-ins, moviegoers were watching William Holden woo Jennifer Jones in Love is a Many-Splendored Thing while in The Man From Laramie, Jimmy Stewart faced down a gunrunner selling rifles to the Apaches.

    In Nevada, at Yucca Flats, the U.S. military was continuing to study the damage done to “Survival Town” by a series of 14 atomic bomb blasts conducted during the previous spring.

    In the Northeast, residents were still cleaning up from Hurricane Diane, whose torrential rains in August had flooded vast swaths of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and New England, killing more than 180 people. 

    And 60 years ago, in the late summer or early fall of 1955, employees of the Philadelphia Mint made a series of blunders whose results still excite collectors six decades later. 

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    In the die shop of the Philadelphia Mint, an employee installing a partially hubbed obverse die failed to check the alignment with the hub. 

    The die sailed through the inspection process, somehow, and was installed in a press on the coining floor of the Mint. The facility was operating a 12-hour shift seven days a week to meet the huge demand for cents. A new 1-cent cigarette tax had just been enacted in Pennsylvania to pay for the damage from Diane.

    At the Mint, an employee checking the latest batch of cents finally noticed something was amiss with some of the coins, from one press, after about 40,000 had been struck. Approximately 24,000 of the cents from that production run were already mixed in with other cents. After some consideration, the Mint decided to ship the error cents that were mixed with the others, since the need for cents was so acute, but melt the rest. Not long after, collectors began to notice the odd-looking cents, many found tucked in cigarette packs.

    Happy birthday to the 1955 Lincoln, Doubled Die Obverse cent! 

    More from CoinWorld.com: 

    Application of edge devices differs between Enhanced Uncirculated 2014-D and 2015-W Native American dollars

    U.S. Mint gets shot at redemption: Monday Morning Brief, Sept. 14

    Seeking a different challenge for your collecting pursuits?: Q. David Bowers

    1933 double eagle sighting leads to eventual call from FBI office: Guest Commentary

    How one firm seeks to meet collectors' demand for limited-edition U.S. Mint products

    Mint needs new approaches for selling limited-edition products

    September 3, 2015 8:26 AM by
    In recent weeks we have commented on the botched — a harsh term, but accurate — marketing decisions behind the sales of the 2015 Truman and Eisenhower Coin and Currency sets. We won’t further belabor those points. Instead, let us look at the future. What steps can the Mint sales and marketing team take in the future to avoid angering their most loyal customers (collectors)?

    Many readers been have asking why the Mint didn’t make the sets to order. The Mint has done this previously; it struck the Matte Finish 1998-S Kennedy half dollar to order, and today the coin sells at a significant premium. This approach would give collectors and dealers equal opportunity to buy the products.

    If the Mint would prefer not taking that approach, then it needs to make informed decisions on the products it offers. The Mint sales and marketing team needs to talk with hobbyists at all levels before making final marketing decisions; had it done this prior to limiting the Truman and Eisenhower sets to editions of 17,000 each, officials would have likely understood that those numbers were woefully inadequate to meet consumer demand. 

    One resource the Mint could access pretty quickly is the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, which already advises the Mint on collector products. The CCAC has among its membership a number of knowledgeable collectors and professionals, so expand reliance on these experts and let them help. 

    In addition, the Mint needs to balance the twin needs of collectors and dealers. Mint staff must recognize that some dealers will circumvent household ordering limits by enlisting surrogate buyers. The Mint will likely never be able to stop this from happening, so it should offer products in a different way. It could, for example, offer a percentage of a particular product to bulk purchasers — maybe even without the elaborate packaging, for those resellers who plan to slab the products — while at the same time ensuring that the majority of the product is offered to collectors. For a product limited to 50,000 units, it could for the first week offer 20,000 sets in bulk quantities (say, units of 1,000) and the remainder in smaller numbers. Then, if the set remains available after a week of sales, lift all ordering restrictions (by that time, collectors will have had ample time to place their orders).

    The Mint makes a lot of products that a lot of collectors want. But to keep that collector base, it has to sell those products smarter. 

    Whodunnit: Mystery can add to a coin’s ‘value’

    August 24, 2015 3:58 PM by
    You have to love a good mystery, whether it’s Sam Spade and the Maltese Falcon, or Nate Heller investigating the Lindbergh kidnapping, or a numismatist trying to uncover the truth behind the issuance of a 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin, an 1884 and 1885 Trade dollar, or a restrike 1804 Draped Bust dollar.

    It’s no mystery that these coins have fascinated collectors ever since they were first discovered and sold by a dealer to a well-heeled collector. Each of the coins is rare, and when one appears on the auction block, all eyes are on the auctioneer. The pedigree of any of the coins invariably reads like a list of the best-known collectors of all time. But what do we know about them?

    Our cover feature this issue by Bill Eckberg tells some of the “shady stories” behind these great coins, or as Bill would insist, “coins.” The quote marks are essential punctuation because, he writes, “it’s easy to forget that some of the rarest, priciest and most ‘significant’ rare coins aren’t really coins at all.” The four coins described earlier were all issued without sanction or authority, many numismatists believe; they certainly were not struck for circulation. But for most collectors, that lack of an official stamp doesn’t matter; these are great coins, and just about anyone reading this piece would love to own any one of them.

    Even if a collector can’t afford to own one of these coins, there is enjoyment in just looking at them. The just concluded American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money had many great rarities on display at its Museum Showcase, which never wanted for an audience of collectors eager to catch a glimpse of the ANA’s 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin and 1804 Draped Bust dollar (and other great rarities as well).

    The mysterious origins of coins like the Class II and III 1804 dollars (the restrikes) and 1913 Liberty Head “nickels” enhance each coin’s value. Some other U.S. coins are rarer than the 1804 dollar (which has a sizeable population of 15 counting all three classes), and yet they bring lower prices because they lack the same level of “mystery.”

    More-modern coins also have an air of mystery surrounding them, like the quarter dollar/dollar mule of 2000 (how could the Mint make three different die pairs of these coins?), that someday may rank right up there with the older rarities.
    So, what is your favorite mystery? 

    Repeat performance: Collectors angry over Eisenhower sellout

    August 17, 2015 10:10 AM by
    Collectors are not happy with the superfast sellouts of the first two Coin and Chronicles sets for 2015. The Dwight D. Eisenhower set sold out within approximately 15 minutes on Aug. 11, according to U.S. Mint officials. The rapid sellout was a repeat of the experiences with the Harry S. Truman product, which also sold out in about 15 minutes when it went on sale June 30. 

    Within 15 minutes of the sellout, I received a phone call from an upset reader who was unsuccessful in obtaining one of the sets. His experience, he said, was enough to lead him to decide to not even bother attempting to purchase the remaining two 2015 Coin and Chronicles sets. Shortly afterward, the email began to flood my Inbox. The email did not stop; it seemed like every time I opened my email on my iPad while attending the ANA World's Fair of Money, another one or two emails about the set awaited. Not a single email was 100 percent positive; most were 100 percent negative.

    Several broad points were made repeatedly in the emails: (1) The 17,000-set edition was too small for the demand. (2) Many collectors experienced website difficulties, with some customers making it all the way to checkout at the Mint's website only to be denied their set. (3) There's a perception among many collectors that a few dealers snapped up the bulk of the sets in order to resell them at huge profits; several readers cited claims they say were made by a television retailer of coins that the firm had acquired 6,000 to 7,000 of the sets. (4) Customers are tired of a system that to them seems to prefer deep-pocket dealers wanting thousands of the sets to small-time collectors wanting one or two sets.

    Interest in the two sets was clearly driven by the Reverse Proof Truman and Eisenhower dollars, both of which are unique to their respective sets. The Presidential dollar program has its followers in the collecting community, and since the mind-set of many collectors is completeness, the popularity of the coins is not surprising.

    In establishing an edition size, the Mint’s marketing team has to walk a tightrope between two potentially uneven towers — one tower representing demand and another representing edition size. If the towers are too unbalanced, the tightrope walker will also be unbalanced and fall. Making sure the rope is balanced between towers of equal height is important.

    For the Truman and Eisenhower Coin and Chronicles sets, the edition size was clearly too small. The Mint could easily have sold additional sets without clogging the marketplace with sets no one wanted.

    The Mint also got household limits wrong, in the view of many collectors. They tell us that the limit should have been one per household from the start, and not five or even two.

    For some collectors, sales like the two Coin and Chronicles sets are enough to make them question their loyalty to the United States Mint. Mint officials need to remember that risk when contemplating future product offerings. 

    Over the weeks to come, we'll revisit the subject and offer some suggestions on how future programs might be improved.

    Smithsonian Institution exhibit reviews the concept of money

    July 24, 2015 1:19 PM by

    ​The National Numismatic Collection is one of this nation’s great treasures and its new exhibit “The Value of Money” showcases items that trace the concept of money from its earliest origins to today’s digital currencies.

    The concept of money is a powerful one, representing as it does the idea that various media are considered to hold value, whether that value be based on some imagined intrinsic value or simply faith in the issuer of the money.  For those of us in the collecting community, money takes on special meaning as something to be collected for artistic and historical worth.

    The word “money” itself is ancient, believed to have originated in a temple to the goddess Juno, situated on Capitoline, one of Rome’s famous seven hills. A Juno Moneta temple at Rome is believed to have been a mint. Roman coinage, of course, counts among the earliest coins, preceded by the first true coins issued in Lydia and by the earliest Greek coins, plus various coin-like objects issued in China.

    The new exhibit of the National Numismatic Collection at the Museum of American History helps explain money — what it is, how it arose, how different cultures view different things as having value, of being “money.”

    The concept of what has value can differ among cultures. Take a simple thing like a rock.

    If you show someone who grew up in a Western culture a round piece of rock with a central hole and tell him that it that it is money, he’s likely to scoff and say that it’s just a rock. Show the same Westerner another rock and point out the threads of gold running through it, and he’ll probably agree that this rock has value, simple because of the mineral running through it. On Yap Island in the Pacific Ocean, the results would likely be reversed. The resident of Yap would prize the round stone as money and very possibly view the rock containing the gold as having no real value.

    Both cultures have identified different rocks as having value, as being money; it’s all a matter of perspective about a particular physical object.

    However, money no longer has to be a physical object — a coin, a Federal Reserve note, a piece of Yap money or a gold nugget. Increasingly, digital forms of money are growing in acceptance.

    Consider Bitcoin, a form of money or exchange  that exists primarily in the digital universe. Bitcoins are nothing more than bits and bytes, and yet they are now being used as money. Bitcoin is the logical next step in money, the child of credit cards and online payments through your bank; none of these involve physical exchanges of a coin or note to complete a transaction, and yet most of us are perfectly content with using such payment methods as money.

    The Smithsonian exhibit, of course, has a lot that appeals to traditionalists — 1804 dollars, gold coins and paper money, and more. For the noncollector, “The Value of Money” exhibit helps viewers understand the many concepts of money, from a Yap Island stone, to a traditional coin, to a credit card.

    More from CoinWorld.com:

    Images of gold coin hoard discovered in Germany released by museum

    Collecting gold dollars: Q. David Bowers

    United States Mint releases approved designs for 2016 America the Beautiful quarter dollars

    Metal detectorist discovers Nazi-era gold coin hoard

    Household ordering limit set at 50 for American Liberty, High Relief $100 gold coin

    Keep up with all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by signing up for our free eNewslettersliking us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter. We're also on Instagram!

    ANA World's Fair of Money: The center of the collecting universe

    July 22, 2015 12:49 PM by
    The summer hobby doldrums should end with the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, Ill., Aug. 11 to 15.

    The late spring and early summer are often quiet times in the collecting community: many take vacations starting after the end of school, and in families where the collecting gene wasn’t passed along to the children, collecting pursuits are left at home. Hobby business can drop off for some firms and the auctions and shows conducted during this period are usually smaller affairs. Collectors, however, whip out their loupes and update their want lists as the ANA’s annual summer show approaches.

    Rosemont will again become the center of the numismatic universe for a full week, with abundant opportunities for collectors and dealers alike. ANA officials have anchored its summer convention at this northern suburb of Chicago in recent years, viewing the centrally located site as a good one, with easy airport access, sizeable convention center space, and ample hotel accommodations.

    If you’ve never attended an ANA show, you really should consider treating yourself. Here’s what you can expect this year:

    There’s the hobby business that will be contracted at the convention, of course, on what is traditionally the largest numismatic bourse of the year and at the many auctions to be held in conjunction with the show. Chances are excellent that you will find something for your collection.

    Then there are the many educational opportunities. The ANA and other clubs conduct numerous educational forums, most of which are free and open to the public. Topics this year range from “Aksumite Coinage” to “Lincoln in Numismatics.”

    Many mints private and government will be on hand to showcase their numismatic collector products and even sell their latest creations. However, don’t expect the U.S. Mint to have a major show release like the 2014-W Kennedy gold half dollar issued to great excitement and disruption in 2014.
    Finally, there’s the social aspect of a large coin show, where friends can gather to share their hobby experiences and renew acquaintances.

    Much of the Coin World staff will be present at the show. I will be there from Thursday through Saturday; please stop by the Coin World booth and say hello.  

    The saga of the 1933 double eagles is our Jarndyce v. Jarndyce

    July 9, 2015 4:44 PM by

    The ongoing legal tussle between the federal government and the Langbord family is starting to feel like the celebrated Jarndyce v. Jarndyce case that is the focal point of the novel Bleak House

    Charles Dickens’ fictional lawsuit involves a large inheritance, not unlike the case involving the 1933 double eagles, though the case in the novel lasted generations before its conclusion. In contrast, the current case involving the 1933 double eagles is merely 12 years old, starting in 2003 when the Langbords revealed the discovery of 10 of the coins and the Mint announced that it was keeping them.

    Still, Coin World has been reporting on legal cases involving ownership of 1933 double eagles for more than a generation. In 1996, one of the coins was recovered from a British coin dealer in a sting operation. The dealer and the government fought a legal battle until 2001, when both parties agreed to a public sale of the coin with the proceeds to be split 50–50 between the two; the sale occurred in 2002.


    And several decades before that, collectors, dealers, and the government fought over 10 other 1933 double eagles sold into the marketplace by the now-deceased father and grandfather of the three Langbords involved in the current case. The earlier cases began in 1944 and did not end until 1952, when a ninth coin was surrendered by its owner, and 1954, when the 10th coin, purported to be the piece sold in 2002, was withdrawn from the collection of Egypt’s King Farouk and went into hiding.


    If one considers 1944 as the true starting date for the current battle, it truly is becoming the hobby’s Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. 

    Underestimating demand for sets frustrating to Mint’s customers

    July 2, 2015 12:13 PM by

    ​When the U.S. Mint underestimates public demand for one of its products, collectors are quick to feel frustrated. When it happens twice in less than a week, the frustration doubles, not only for the collecting community but for Mint officials as well, as evidenced in back-to-back public comments by the Mint.

    Collectors were first frustrated on June 25 when the Jackie Kennedy First Spouse gold coins went on sale and were quickly placed in back-order status. Then sales began at noon June 30 for the Harry S. Truman Coin and Chronicles set, and ended after 15 minutes. When sales ended,16,780 sets had been sold from a maximum edition of 17,000 sets.

    The popularity of both products clearly caught United States Mint officials off-guard.

    In a June 30 statement, officials addressed the Jackie Kennedy First Spouse gold coin: “The Mint underestimated the initial demand for the 2015 First Spouse Series One-Half Ounce Gold Coins – Jacqueline Kennedy and, unfortunately, the products went on back order very quickly after sales started.”

    A day later, the Mint publicly commented on the Truman set (which contains the first-ever Reverse Proof Presidential dollar), noting that the edition size of 17,000 was based on sales of prior sets (lacking a Reverse Proof coin). The Franklin D. Roosevelt set, which went on sale Dec. 22, 2014, “had sold only 13,255 units as of June 29, 2015,” out of a maximum edition of 20,000 sets, the Mint noted in its comments. In contrast, the Truman set sold a “total of 16,780 sets ... in approximately 15 minutes.”
    Predicting the popularity of a future product can be difficult, and basing maximum mintages on past sales of similar products is a reasonable approach — usually. However, the addition of a Reverse Proof Truman Presidential dollar, a significant change, made the Mint’s prediction of those sales lacking.
    It is also reasonable for the Mint to factor in the popularity of a coin’s subject or theme. Mint officials did predict that demand for the gold coin depicting the popular Jackie Kennedy likely would be greater than for the other 2015 First Spouse coins and increased the maximum mintage to 30,000 (the other 2015 coins have maximums of 10,000 each). 
    One has to feel for Mint officials, having to face customer criticism twice in such short order. However, officials can use these experiences in any future product planning. 

    More from CoinWorld.com:

    Policy by eBay exempts some numismatic items from Confederate flag ban

    1970-S Lincoln, Small Date cent discovery a keeper: Found in Rolls

    Where did the Proof Jackie Kennedy coins go?

    Legislation calls for commemorative coins celebrating 50th anniversary of Apollo 11

    2015-W American Liberty, High Relief $100 gold coin goes on sale July 30

    Keep up with all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by signing up for our free eNewslettersliking us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter. We're also on Instagram!

    It is rocket science: Honor Apollo 11 with commemorative coins

    June 26, 2015 12:27 PM by

    Ever since the rebirth of U.S. commemorative  coinage in 1982, Congress and the United States Mint have created both winners and losers in the various programs and designs they have served up to collectors. For every American Buffalo silver dollar program with its fast sellout, there’s been a Girl Scouts of America program that sold so few coins that surcharges could not be paid out. For every beautiful Dolly Madison silver dollar, there’s been an unimaginative Seoul Olympiad silver dollar.

    The keys to a successful commemorative coin program are twofold. First, select a subject sure to capture the imagination of the coin collecting community; that’s the responsibility of Congress, which authorizes the coin programs. Second, create designs that are gorgeous and innovative and exciting; the U.S. Mint is chiefly responsible here though Congress can also play a major role.

    H.R. 2726, the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act, could be one of those wildly successful programs. The subject matter of the program — commemoration of the 50th anniversary of mankind’s greatest technological achievement, landing men on the moon — is an obvious choice. Failure to issue coins commemorating the Apollo 11 astronauts and the thousands of men and women at NASA and the many private contractors who ran the Apollo program would be a grave disservice.

    The program could also be a winner in terms of designs as well. As Coin World editor-at-large Steve Roach writes in his Page One article, one of the bill’s provisions calls for “super-sized silver commemorative coins” — a maximum of 100,000 Proof 5-ounce .999 fine silver dollars struck on a 3-inch-diameter planchet similar to the 5-ounce America the Beautiful quarter dollars. “In addition, the bill calls for the program’s coins to use curved surfaces similar to coins from the U.S. Mint’s popular 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative program,” Steve writes.

    Furthermore, the legislation requires the coins to “be produced in a fashion similar to the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame 75th Anniversary Commemorative Coin, so that the reverse of the coin is convex to more closely resemble the faceplate of the astronaut’s helmet of the time and the obverse concave, providing a more dramatic display of the obverse design.”
    The U.S. Mint has shown it is capable of producing a 3-inch 5-ounce .999 fine silver coin and striking coins with concave and convex designs. A marriage of the two achievements could yield incredible results.
    Let’s start the countdown clock to 2019 now. T-minus four years and counting. 

    More from CoinWorld.com:

    Policy by eBay exempts some numismatic items from Confederate flag ban

    1970-S Lincoln, Small Date cent discovery a keeper: Found in Rolls

    Where did the Proof Jackie Kennedy coins go?

    Legislation calls for commemorative coins celebrating 50th anniversary of Apollo 11

    2015-W American Liberty, High Relief $100 gold coin goes on sale July 30

    Keep up with all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by signing up for our free eNewslettersliking us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter. We're also on Instagram!

    Coins and notes as snapshots of history

    June 22, 2015 9:56 AM by
    Coins and paper money are snapshots in America’s photo album, capturing turning points and other events in our history. That’s the message in Coin World senior editor Jeff Starck’s cover feature the July Coin World Monthly issue. It’s also part of the message in the article by our paper money contributor, Art Friedberg, on a decision to depict a woman on the $10 federal Reserve note in 2020.

    Art writes about the decision by Treasury officials regarding the $10 Federal Reserve note: “Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew decided that the new $10 note should feature a woman who was a champion for our inclusive democracy. The note is scheduled to be introduced in 2020, in time to mark the centennial of the passage of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote. In a new twist, the Secretary is asking for the public’s views to help guide the design process.”

    As readers of Coin World and the general media know, advocates of depicting a woman on the $20 note to replace Andrew Jackson have been very vocal this year. And while Lew’s decision affects the $10 note — already scheduled for a design upgrade in 2020 — and not the $20, it appears that democracy is alive and well, as men and women, boys and girls, all came together to change history. We don’t yet know who will appear on the note that now depicts Alexander Hamilton, but it will be someone who did much to change our shared history.

    Coins serve in the same manner, as Jeff writes in his feature: “Coins not only serve as a medium of exchange, but as a record of a nation’s growth, and American coinage, when viewed in the proper context, can tell a fascinating story of the moments, milestones and turning points that help define this nation. In this sense, coins can serve as a lens to focus on American history.”

    Those of us who share a love of coins and paper money and all things numismatic can appreciate the beauty of the things we collect.

    But we can also appreciate the lessons these objects teach. Coins tell stories if you will only listen. So does paper money; so do medals and tokens.

    As you collect, take time to listen to what these records of our past are saying. Think about the times reflected in the dates on the coins and the eras depicted. Appreciate these snapshots of history.

    Summer vacation doesn't have to mean leaving collecting fun behind

    June 12, 2015 1:48 PM by
    Summer is nearly here, and for collectors, that can mean a brief relaxation of their collecting activities. 

    Longtime collectors and dealers know that the hobby often takes something of a breather in the early summer. Families, with the children out of school, often use this time for vacations.

    The marketplace can also take a breather

    This year, like many years, the appearance of important auctions, while not completely halted, has slowed somewhat. Conventions and coin shows, too, are on something like a break, with the Whitman Baltimore Expo in July merely whetting the appetite for the larger American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money near Chicago in August, when the hobby and marketplace should resume its normal pace.

    Still, collectors taking vacation in the weeks ahead need not take a complete break from their hobby. Vacation destinations often offer the collector in the family ample opportunities to sate their collecting needs.

    Collectors visiting the nation’s capital, for example, have several hobby-related sites that even noncollectors can enjoy. 

    The Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s main facility in Washington, D.C., offers a tour taking in the production of Federal Reserve notes; tickets to the tour often are snapped up fast, so families should plan their stop at the nation’s money factory early. (And if your vacation takes you to Texas, the BEP’s Western Satellite Facility, also offering public tours, is located outside Forth Worth.)

    The Smithsonian Institution in Washington offers numerous different museums; a family could easily spend a week at the Air and Space Museum, the American Art Museum, the American Indian Museum, the African American History and Culture Museum, and the American History Museum. This last museum should really appeal to the collector, since that’s where the National Numismatic Collection is housed. Better yet, starting July 1, the new Gallery of Numismatics and the inaugural exhibition, The Value of Money, opens at the museum, making the museum a must-stop for visitors to the District of Columbia.

    Visitors to other cities will often find hobby-related stops beckoning as well. In the City of Brotherly Love, the Philadelphia Mint offers public tours. Visitors in Colorado will find both the Denver Mint and the ANA Museum in Colorado Springs well worth the stops.

    But when August gets here, the nation’s numismatists will head to the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Ill., where the ANA will hold its World’s Fair of Money from Aug. 11 to 15. An amazing bourse floor with numismatic collectibles of all kinds will await showgoers, as will educational events and exhibits, and more.

    Summer is here and the collecting is fine (or Extremely Fine). 

    What summer hobby activities do you have planned?

    Rolling Stones concert surprise source of half dollars in change

    June 8, 2015 4:01 PM by

    Coin World senior editor Paul Gilkes’ recent blog about receiving a Kennedy half dollar in change at a concession stand at a rock concert and his news article in this issue about increased circulating coinage production are connected, however tenuously. 

    Paul writes in his blog (http://goo.gl/DQSZrC), “Despite being Coin World ‘s senior editor for U.S. coins, I haven’t seen a Kennedy half dollar in circulation or received one in change for years. That is, until May 30, in, of all places, Ohio Stadium, home to the national champion Ohio State Buckeyes football team.”

    He wasn’t attending a Buckeyes game (wrong time of the year) but a concert given by a bunch of old weathered guys in a little rock n’ roll band that you may or may not have heard of before — the Rolling Stones.
    The musicians weren’t tossing the half dollars to the crowd, exactly, as Paul explains about his encounter at the concert concession stand.

    “All of the food and drink items were priced in even dollar amounts or in 50-cent increments,” Paul writes, adding, “I was actually slightly dumbfounded when the concession worker handed me a well-circulated 1972 Kennedy half dollar in change.”

    Paul is always the reporter so he asked the cashier why they were using half dollars; the worker explained that because all of the food and drinks sold at the concession stand were priced in 50-cent increments, all change was handed back in half dollars.

    A niche market for half dollars doesn’t get any “nich-ier” than a Rolling Stones concert concession stand in Columbus, Ohio.

    The Kennedy half dollar has been a niche coin for decades, used increasingly infrequently in circulation. As Paul explains in his news article at the top of page 5 this week about the Denver and Philadelphia Mints rising up to meet increased circulating coinage demand, half dollars are no longer struck for circulation. In fact, that last happened in 2001 when the Rolling Stones was a boy band, when Mick and Charlie and Ron and Keith were mere youths in their late 50s.

    During their current Zip Code tour of North America, the Stones have been selling out and rocking the house with their classic tunes, including 1968’s “Sympathy for the Devil” and the lament, “Who killed the Kennedys,” about the hoarding of the half dollar; and 1969’s gold digger tune, “You Got the Silver.”

    And the Stones didn’t forget their trio of classics about the woes of cracking out half dollars for resubmission to the grading services: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Tumbling Dice” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

    Finally, they brought the house down with tunes from the days when they dabbled in questionable personal forms of coin alteration: “Under My Thumb,” “Paint It, Black,” and “She’s a Rainbow.”

    Seriously, though, the half dollar still can serve commerce even in these highly specialized transactions. You may even get one in change some day; time is on your side.

    More from CoinWorld.com:

    How one group is putting $100,000 in dollar and half dollar coins into circulation

    Donald G. Partrick Collection auctions postponed at consignor's request

    Collector discovers new variety for 1896 Indian Head cents

    Stack’s Bowers Galleries announces coins to be offered in Pogue II sale in September

     Rolling Stones concert surprise source of half dollars in change

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    It’s the Golden Age of Numismatic Literature, so Go read a book

    June 1, 2015 8:59 AM by

    Joel Orosz’s “Numismatic Bookie” column this week poses an interesting challenge: “This month, let’s play ‘Desert Island Numismatic Book,’ and choose a single volume we’d cherish if washed up on Gilligan’s Isle.”

    Given some time to think about it, we’d all likely be able to select one book to take with us while stranded on a desert isle. 
    Which brings us to this important point.
    In all of the excitement over auctions of major named collections like Partrick, Newman, Gardner and Pogue, or the scramble to acquire the United States Mint’s latest must-have limited edition offering, it is easy to overlook what is arguably one of the most important segments of our community: numismatic literature.
    Numismatic books, auction catalogs, price lists and price guides, Mint reports and other forms of literature all play vital roles in telling the story of our hobby. And recently, numismatic literature has soared to new heights. If 1907 to 1921 was the Golden Age of  U.S. Coin Design, the last decade or so has been the Golden Age of Numismatic Literature. 
    As I look at the bookshelves in the Coin World offices and reference library, and my own personal library at home, I marvel at the breadth and depth of hobby literature today.
    Researcher-writers like Joel Orosz, Q. David Bowers, Roger Burdette, Philip Mossman, Fred Reed, Roger Siboni, John Howes, A. Buell Ish, John Adams, Anne Bentley, Leonard Augsburger and a host of others have produced a remarkable body of work in this century.
    And then there are the catalogers who have produced incredible catalogs for dozens of auctions of collections big and small. 
    Traditional publishers like Whitman and auction firms such as Heritage and Stack’s Bowers Galleries, too, deserve credit for publishing books on increasingly specialized series: If you collect only Peace dollars, there’s a book for that series. How about a book on the 1822 Capped Head half eagle or Draped Bust half dollars of 1796 and 1797?
    Yes, they exist.
    If you will excuse me, I need to go read a book.

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    Mega-collection auction catalog offers more than just rare coins

    May 27, 2015 2:07 PM by
    The first auction of the D. Brent Pogue Collection is now history and collectors are beginning to review the results for the 128 silver and gold coins sold May 19.

    The auction brought more than $25 million — that’s an average of about $195,000 per coin.

    Of course, not all of the coins sold for six-figure prices. Some of the coins sold for well under $10,000, and one for less than $5,000. Still, for many collectors, even these prices exceeded their annual collecting budgets.

    Should a collector on a limited budget feel marginalized when so much attention is focused on mega-collections like that assembled by Brent Pogue with mega-coins bringing mega-prices? Absolutely not.

    The auction catalog created by Stack’s Bowers Galleries and Sotheby’s for the auction is a well-researched, well-written work of numismatic literature, and it is available free as a download at http://goo.gl/wzMVDV

    Every collector should seek out the Pogue catalog and make it part of their library. It will offer many hours of reading pleasure.

    You will discover, for example, the cataloger explores the concept of a “Specimen coin” in writing about the second coin offered in the auction, a gorgeous 1794 Flowing Hair half dime. In just 100 words or so, the catalog deftly reviews what collectors and dealers have long known — that a few 18th century coins show signs of being struck with special care, or in the words of the cataloger, “that particular forethought must have been involved in their creation.” The catalog is filled with insights like this on virtually every page.

    Yes, most of us can’t afford a six-figure coin, but we can all enjoy reading about them and learning something new and exciting. 

    Transitions are always occurring, but one thing remains constant

    May 11, 2015 1:54 PM by

    Life is all about transitions. We all undergo changes in our lives.

    I have been thinking about transitions a lot recently. The cover feature in the May Coin World Monthly was about the Coinage Act of 1965, ushering in the transition of silver coinage to clad coinage. I started collecting then, and have fond memories of searching through change at every opportunity — through the library fines paid to me as a volunteer in Margaretta Middle School by fellow students and at my first paying job, at the K&S Dairy Bar across the street from the entrance to the world-famous Blue Hole in Castalia, Ohio.
    More recently, I have thought about all of the transitions I’ve experienced during more than 38 years as a Coin World staff member. Margo Russell, the editor who called me to offer me a job interview in the fall of 1976, passed away in January. I recently met with her two daughters and we had fun reminiscing about those long-ago days and the many talented people who worked on the editorial staff decades ago.
    A few days ago, Margo’s successor as editor, Beth Deisher, stopped in to use the library to research an upcoming “From the Memory Bank” column. We discussed how the 1980s, when U.S. commemorative coins were reborn, is now ancient history to many younger collectors. Many of those collectors weren’t alive and don’t recall the era when the United States Mint sold collectors an annual Proof set and an annual Uncirculated Mint set and maybe a few medals, but nothing more.
    I also thought of the many changes Steve Roach, our editor-in-chief who just stepped into the editor-at-large position — a step that will enable him to continue writing for us while at the same time pursuing new opportunities — helped bring about in moving Coin World from a print-only publication to a digital one. 
    Through all of the years I’ve spent here at Coin World, one force has driven everything that all of us here share — a love of coins and numismatics, a love of writing and editing and reporting.  
    Transitions will always be underway, but that love for the hobby will be undying.

    Commemorative coins honoring Mark Twain long overdue

    March 6, 2015 4:39 PM by

    What would Mark Twain think about being depicted on the 2016 commemorative coins that will honor him for his immense contributions to American literature?


    I think he would be amused, and he was vain enough that he would also be a bit pleased.

    Twain is the first American chosen for depiction on U.S. commemorative coinage to receive the honor because of his literary contributions.

    SEE THE COIN DESIGNS: Part 1: Gold obverses — Part 2: Gold reverses — Part 3: Silver obverses — Part 4: Silver reverses

    Congress has honored dozens of politicians and military leaders and athletes and Civil Rights advocates on our commemorative coinage, and some of them made their own literary contributions. But never before has Congress honored anyone whose primary claim to fame is that he was a writer.

    And what a writer.

    Twain was the quintessential American writer and humorist. His Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is considered one of the greatest works of American literature; it can be read on multiple levels (I first encountered it as a very young child, and have read it multiple times since, gaining new appreciation every time). Life on the Mississippi beautifully captures the river that played such a major role in Twain’s life. Roughing It includes his hilarious experiences as a prospector and miner in the Nevada mining region (he failed spectacularly, and had to turn to writing to survive — fortunately for the literary world). His time travel story, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, predates H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine by many years, and is so much funnier than Wells’ dystopian tale.

    His shorter works, too, are often wonderful, including “The £1,000,000 Bank Note,” which tells of the troubles resulting from disputes over ownership of a very high denomination Bank of England note.

    Twain’s influence on American humorists cannot be overstated. All modern humorists owe a great debt to him. If he were alive today, he would likely have his own television show like Stephen Colbert and John Stewart. He would be just as biting and funny as any of these modern-day commentators. And like those two very funny men on their TV programs, Twain, when he was a reporter, blurred the lines between facts and fantasy. His early newspaper writings, what turned Sam Clemens into Mark Twain, would fit right in on Saturday Night Live’s news brief, or the monologues read by Colbert or Stewart.

    In addition to being amused and maybe a bit proud at appearing on a coin, Twain would also recognize the irony of depicting him on coinage bearing the national motto “In God We Trust.”

    Twain said this about the motto’s use on coinage, in a speech he gave May 14, 1908:

    “Some years ago on the gold coins we used to trust in God. It think it was in 1863 that some genius suggested that it be put on the gold and silver coins which circulated among the rich. They didn't put it on the nickels and coppers because they didn't think the poor folks had any trust in God. ... If I remember rightly, the President required or ordered the removal of that sentence from the coins. Well, I didn't see that the statement ought to remain there. It wasn't true. But I think it would better read, ‘Within certain judicious limitations we trust in God,’ and if there isn't enough room on the coin for this, why enlarge the coin.

    On the basic facts, Twain’s comments were a fairly accurate recapitulation of the history of the motto’s use on coinage.

    He was a little off on the date, of course. The motto’s origins trace to an 1861 letter from a minister to the Treasury secretary and it didn’t appear on a coin until the release of the bronze 2-cent coin in 1864. But he was pretty close otherwise.

    The president being referenced was Theodore Roosevelt, and Twain was right; TR demanded that the motto not be used on the new gold coins designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens for issuance in 1907. Of course, about the time Twain was making his speech, Congress was overriding Roosevelt’s decision by ordering the use of the motto on the coinage. And the lesser coins mentioned by Twain — the nickels and coppers — they, too, would gain the motto a few years later as new designs were issued to replace the old “godless” coins.

    Twain’s appearance on American coinage is long overdue. And it is very welcome.



    Change sometimes seems unfair if you're on the wrong side of it

    February 20, 2015 3:18 PM by
    ​A pair of telephone calls I received from readers recently brought to mind how much the coin marketplace has changed in the more than 38 years I have spent on the Coin World staff. I am not talking about changes to grading standards nor about the massive increases in products offered by the United States Mint. I am referring to changes in how coins are bought and sold.

    The phone calls were similar in nature. One reader described seeing what, as best as I could determine, was a privately “enhanced” American Eagle silver bullion coin being sold by one dealer. The other caller was interested in a medal offered by a private minter. Each caller wanted a phone number for the merchant offering the item he was interested in purchasing. For each caller, I dutifully ascertained who they wanted to contact and then went online to search for the merchant’s phone number. That’s when the same problem arose twice.

    The dealer offering the enhanced American Eagle operated a store through Amazon. The private minter similarly has a Web presence where he sells his creations. In neither case could I find a telephone number for the caller. Both companies appeared to transact all business online; neither operated a brick-and-mortar shop and neither took orders over the phone, at least from what I could tell through my quick searches online for the readers.And that was a problem for each of the two readers, because neither has personal online access.

    When I joined the Coin World staff in 1976, most business between dealer and collector was conducted in person at a coin shop or at a coin show; or through the mail or by a phone number appearing in an ad (by the way, some of the earliest coin dealer ads bearing phone numbers date to about 1911). Collectors ordered their annual Proof set or Uncirculated Mint set by mail, paying by check and using the form the Bureau of the Mint mailed to them as Mint customers.

    The introduction of the World Wide Web changed all that, as coin dealers and the U.S. Mint began conducting an increasing amount of their business at their new websites as the 20th century closed. While some collectors quickly embraced being able to order coins online, many of Coin World’s readers hated the change.

    That became very clear with the Mint’s sale of the 2001 American Buffalo commemorative silver dollar. The program sold out in two weeks, and a popular set containing one of the coins sold out in a matter of hours. Some readers accustomed to waiting for their Mint catalog or order form to arrive in the mail, so they could order the commemoratives by return mail,found that the coin had sold out before they could even place their order.

    Of the many phone calls Coin World received, a common thread was heard in many of them. Readers without online access — many of them longtime Mint customers who had happily bought Mint products by mail for decades  — said it was unfair that they were shut out of being able to acquire the coins just because they lacked online access.

    Today, much of the numismatic business is conducted online.Collectors and dealers can bid on auction lots online, and order coins at dealer or Mint websites.

    Some dealers, as we have seen, now transact all of their business online, whether it is through Amazon or eBay or at their own websites.They do not offer potential customers an alternative means of purchase.

    Collectors today without online access are in the same predicament that others found themselves in when on the traditional side of technological change. Farmers who relied on horse-drawn equipment could notwork their fields as quickly and efficiently as farmers using tractors, whether powered by steam or internal combustion engines. The Pony Express lasted just a short while, its once fast delivery of letters overtaken by telegraph wires that stretched from coast to coast and to every city, town and village.

    Change may seem unfair sometimes. Some collectors cannot afford a computer or smart phone or tablet with online access; others may feel they are too set in their ways to embrace the new technologies. Because of the lack of access, the two recent callers to Coin World may find themselves unable to purchase the coin and medal they wanted.But change happens, and very often, it benefits those who embrace that change.

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    Mint to issue another Reverse Proof coin

    February 12, 2015 7:43 AM by

    The U.S. Mint caught the collector community off-guard Feb. 6 when it announced that it would be issuing two special 2015 Roosevelt silver dimes as part of a set to contain a Proof 2015-W March of Dimes silver dollar. 

    The Reverse Proof 2015-P Roosevelt dime to be in the set is a first for the denomination and the ninth Reverse Proof U.S. coin overall. 
    A collector could fairly easily create a mini-set or exhibit of Reverse Proof coins, though many are made from expensive platinum and gold. The mini-set contains (so far!):
    • A 2006-W American Eagle 1-ounce gold $50 coin.
    • A 2006-P American Eagle silver dollar.
    • A 2007-W American Eagle half-ounce platinum $50 coin.
    • A 2011-P American Eagle silver dollar.
    • A 2012-S American Eagle silver dollar.
    • A 2013-W American Eagle silver dollar.
    • A 2013-W American Buffalo 1-ounce gold $50 coin.
    • A 2014-W Kennedy silver half dollar.
    Mint officials have also said that collectors should expect additional Mint products with Reverse Proof coins in 2015, including a Reverse Proof set or sets to mark the 50th anniversary of the production of Proof coins at the San Francisco Mint. 
    The other silver dime in the March of Dimes set — a Proof 2015-W Roosevelt dime — is special, too. Until now, all standard Proof Roosevelt dimes were struck either at the Philadelphia Mint (1950 to 1964) or at the San Francisco Mint (1968 to date). The West Point Mint has struck Roosevelt dimes before, though: a 1996-W copper-nickel clad version included in the 1996 Uncirculated Mint set. 

    Is it Liberty, or is it Wonder Woman?

    January 22, 2015 2:49 PM by

    The United States Mint unveiled a slew of designs for its 2015 High Relief gold $75 coin on the afternoon of Jan. 22: eagles in various poses for the reverse and images of Liberty for the obverse.

    As Coin World’s Washington correspondent Bill McAllister has reported, the Commission of Fine Arts in its Jan. 22 review of the designs recommended two different obverse designs displaying the allegorical figure as Liberty, one showing a Liberty Head and the other a nearly full-length Liberty figure.

    The various Liberty portraits submitted for review encompass a wide range — some gorgeous and others that were much less attractive; some simple and others intricate.

    Some designs stand out above others.

    Two striking portraits of a Liberty Head figure depict her with decidedly African-American features — a bold choice in this increasingly diverse nation, and one which is recommended by the CFA. She wears wheat strands in her hair in both portraits, and both show her in three-quarters view, with one design showing a fraction more of her face than the other.

    Many of the depictions show standing portraits of Liberty,some from torso upward, with others showing the full length of her body. Depictions of flags, flaming torches, various plants, wings, shields and swords help support the central Liberty in her various portrayals. Think of Liberty as botanist, or Liberty as patriot, or Liberty as angel, or Liberty as peacemaker,or Liberty as the potential warrior.

    And then there’s Liberty as Wonder Woman. Yeah, Wonder Woman. The Mint’s 14th design shows a virtually full length portrait of Liberty, her hair held in place by a helmet, armor covering her torso, a sword in her right hand and a union shield being supported by her left hand. The design shows Liberty as Warrior Queen, or an Amazonian princess. Like I said,Wonder Woman.

    The design is clearly modeled after the Statue of Freedom that stands as guardian atop the U.S. Capitol dome, though somewhat modernized.And yet the figure also throws off this Wonder Woman vibe. True, she’s not wearing Wonder Woman’s classic costume (Google “Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman” if you’re uncertain of what that looks like).However, the character of Wonder Woman is sometimes shown in the comics wearing flowing robes similar to those worn by women in ancient Greece and Rome, and thus looks a lot like the design reviewed on Jan. 22.

    These comments should not be construed as criticism. Far from it, as the many Wonder Woman statues and figures and busts that grace the geek shelves of my home prove.

    To Americans, the allegorical figure of Liberty can represent many things. Why not Wonder Woman, who wears the red, white and blue of her adopted country?​