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.Visit one of our other blogs:
Archive for '2016'
I think it safe to say that 2016 was
a life-changing year, both in the numismatic community and the
nation at large. Some of our Top 10 Stories of 2016 represent those changes.
England’s polymer £5 note continues to make news, most of it, controversial. Now there is something not kosher about it, too.
One hundred years this month, Bureau of the Mint officials in Washington and Philadelphia were busy trying to fulfill what they believed to be a statutory requirement to replace the existing designs of the dime, quarter dollar, and half dollar.
Charles Barber’s designs for those three silver coins were introduced in 1892 and thus celebrated their 25th anniversary in 1916. That anniversary was important, at least in the views of Mint officials, thanks to an 1890 law. That law was intended to prevent the frequent redesign of U.S. coinage; under the law, Mint officials were prohibited from redesigning a coin unless it had been in use for 25 years, though the Mint could seek congressional approval for a waver to the rule.
By 1915, however, Mint officials had interpreted the act as requiring design changes every 25 years, not permitting the changes. This interpretation was a misreading of the law and Mint officials were under no requirement to change the Barber designs.
In 1916, though, Mint officials were nine years into a massive redesign of the coinage that had begun in 1907, all for coins whose designs were well past the 25-year “mandatory requirement” — the $10 eagle and $20 double eagle in 1907, the $2.50 quarter eagle and $5 half eagle in 1908, the cent in 1909, and the 5-cent coin in 1913. Redesigning the three lowest denominations of four silver coins would have made sense in 1916 even without the misinterpretation of the 1890 act.
As Coin World has reported throughout this centennial year in our news coverage of the gold centennial versions of the three 1916 silver coins, the resultant designs are the most attractive of the three denominations — the Winged Liberty Head dime, the Standing Liberty quarter dollar, and the Walking Liberty half dollar. And yet, as December 1916 began, officials were close to missing their self-imposed goal.
Numismatist Roger Burdette has done a masterful job of reporting on the 1916 redesign effort in the final volume of his Renaissance of American Coinage trilogy, a series that belongs on every numismatist’s bookshelf, so we will not attempt to retell the entire story here. We’ll just note that the dime had not been released until Oct. 30, and as December 1916 began, officials had yet to finalize the designs for the quarter dollar and half dollar. However, by the end of the month the Mint had succeeded in striking small numbers of the two larger coins, though neither would be released until early 1917. The wait, however, was well worth it — the three 1916 silver coins are beautiful, and the 1916 quarter dollar and 1916-D dime are the key dates for their respective series.
So, do you think the 2016 gold versions will be as popular in the future as the originals?
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An 1850 numismatic book related to the California Gold Rush sold for $10,625 on Sept. 21 as part of Bonhams’ Fine Books and Manuscripts auction in New York City.
21 auction by Bonhams’ Fine Books and Manuscripts in New York City of
a copy of the 1850 book New Varieties of Gold and Silver Coins,
Counterfeit Coins, and Bullion; with Mint Values by Jacob Reese
Eckfeldt and William E. Du Bois for an astounding $10,625 is an illustration of the
power in the marketplace of numismatic literature.
Not all books, however, qualify as classic works, as columnist Joel Orosz explains in his “Numismatic Bookie” column in this issue. He cites The Profit March of Your Coin Investment, 1935–1971, written by a man Joel describes as “the Barnumesque” George Haylings. Haylings was wildly optimistic in his 1960 book, in which he predicted that a roll of 1950-D Jefferson 5-cent coins would be worth $10,000 in 1971. They were actually worth $50.
Numismatic literature can inspire, inform, educate and, on some occasions, give bad advice. For collectors, a good library is a vital tool in their hobby.
Read any good books lately?
How do you celebrate your 125th birthday? Attendees at the 2016 American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money will learn how the association celebrates its quasquicentennial when it holds what is traditionally the biggest coin show of the year in the United States.
The ANA World’s Fair of Money “is the biggest, most educational coin show in the country,” in the association’s own words. This year’s event is scheduled for Aug. 9 to 13 in Anaheim, Calif. Previews of the convention appear here.
The ANA was founded in 1891 by Michigan physician George Heath, who operated a small coin business on the side and who since 1888 had published a small periodical that he called The Numismatist. In early 1891, he used the pages of his journal to ask, “Whats the matter of having an American Numismatic Association? ... Would it be practicable?” As columnist Joel Orosz wrote in his “Numismatic Bookie” column in the June 20 issue of Coin World, “Favorable responses abounded; in the June number, he nominated a slate of officers for the association.”
Today the ANA wants young collectors to join its ranks. It offers special educational and fun programs, literary contests, scholarships, and much more that is geared specifically at the young numismatist. The ANA leadership recognizes that the hobby needs to continually refresh collector rolls to ensure that the hobby does not die along with aging collectors (a sizeable majority of hobbyists is in the 50- and 60-year age bracket and even older).
For those of you attending the 2016 convention, have fun looking at and buying coins and notes and more. For those unable to attend the show, try to attend a future show (the location changes from year to year). It is well worth the time and expense.
What are you waiting on?
Steve King were, say, king of the United States instead of the
Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Iowa, the
federal government would have lost the authority to (1) continue
enhancing U.S. paper money’s anti-counterfeiting technology, (2)
comply with a 2008 court order making Federal Reserve notes accessible
to the blind, and (3) depict a black woman and other minorities on the
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Contemporary collectors found the matte surfaces of this Proof 1908 Indian Head gold eagle unsatisfactory though Mint officials believed traditional polished surfaces were impractical with the new coin designs being introduced. Eight years later, Proof coins were canceled.
Our cover feature this week focuses on the Mint’s recent experiments with different finishes on the coins it produces and sells to collectors and dealers. Collector reactions to Reverse Proof and Enhanced Uncirculated coins have differed, though secondary market pricing for many pieces suggests that overall, the response has been positive.
The Mint has not always received a positive response to experimental finishes for collector coins. Indeed, the failure of experiments at the start of the 20th century actually resulted in the cancellation of sales of Proof coins for two decades.
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From 1858 to 1915, the Philadelphia Mint struck Proof versions of most coins for customers. Until 1907, the finish on the Proof coins generally consisted of polished surfaces. However, the introduction of the new designs for the gold eagle and double eagle in 1907 and for the gold quarter eagle and half eagle coins in 1908 resulted in changes to the die curvature and texture of the fields that researcher Roger Burdette said made polishing of the surfaces to create a traditional Proof finish impractical.
Since Mint officials still wanted to sell Proof coins to collectors and wanted those coins to have a distinctive finish to distinguish them from circulation strikes, they introduced a dull Proof finish or what we call today the Sandblast Proof finish. This finish on the 1907 and 1908 gold coins was imposed post striking through light sandblasting. A different approach requiring no post-striking treatment was used on the gold coins of 1909 and 1910, creating the oddly named Roman Proof finish.
For the next few years, Proof finishes were not uniform, which collectors found unsettling and complained about in correspondence. The new Lincoln cent had a matte finish. The 5-cent coin and three silver coins of the old designs had traditional brilliant finishes but their replacements had die curvature and fields similar to those of the gold coins, making polished surfaces not an option.
Furthermore, the Mint’s prices for the Proof silver and minor coins would not cover the higher production costs that would be entailed, Burdette writes. The Mint decided the hassle was not worth it, and in 1916 canceled the Proof program.
As I write this editorial on May 12 it has been three weeks to the day since the U.S. Mint offered and “sold out” of its 2016 Winged Liberty Head gold dime, and yet, I continue to receive daily email, phone calls and traditional letters from collectors upset with the U.S. Mint and dealers over how sales unfolded in a period of 20 to 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, as we now know, the program is not sold out. More than 6,200 of the dimes remain unsold because of credit card declines, order cancellations, and returns from buyers (some being returned because of damage to the packaging or coins, and others because of imperfections that might result in a grade that is unacceptable to the customer). Mint officials have said that at least some of the unsold dimes will be offered again but we are still waiting on details of how and when those coins will be sold.
A Mint spokesman said May 12 that the remaining dimes likely would not be offered until order reconciliation is complete. He could not say how long that might take, so collectors are left wondering whether it be a matter of days or weeks or even months. And when sales resume, how much advance notice will collectors receive.
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Two of our news articles this week focus on the generous donations to museums in New York City by two civic-minded and wealthy families. Paul Gilkes reports on the generosity of John E. Herzog, while Steve Roach reports on the donation by Stephen K. and Janie Woo Scher.
Herzog is well known within the financial collectibles community. He is chairman emeritus of Spink/Smythe and the founder and chairman emeritus of the Museum of American Finance on Wall Street in New York City. In 2011 he founded the Wall Street Bourse, a now annual coin, paper money and stock certificate show held at the nation’s financial capital.
His new donation to the museum of $5 million, to be paid out in installments through May 17, is, as Herzog puts it, “a final gift” and “a display of my confidence in the ability of the museum’s leadership to successfully carry it into the future and sustain it as a permanent institution.”
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The museum serves as a neutral public forum for addressing topical financial issues and events.
The Scher donation involves their astounding collection of 450 art medals, donated to The Frick Collection in New York City.
Museums are wonderful places for families to visit, whether they be an art museum like the Frick, a financial museum like that founded by Herzog, or the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force not far from Coin World’s home in western Ohio. And numismatic holdings can enhance a museum’s ability to tell visitors something about history, art, finance, and people.
Donations of numismatic materials to museums don’t have to be as valuable as those offered by Herzog and the Schers. Even a small local museum might welcome a donation of numismatic material. For a collector who is thinking about what should be done with his or her holdings after death and whose family has no one interested in coins or paper money or medals, a donation to the local history museum is a great solution.
Trigger warning — if you were one of the many collectors who were unsuccessful in buying one of the Winged Liberty Head gold dimes from the U.S. Mint on April 21 and you are still upset about being shut out, you might want to pause before reading this next bit.
Promotional copy at the Home Shopping Network website: “2016 SP70 ANACS First Day of Issue Limited Edition of 1,789 24K Gold Mercury Dime ... $499.95.”
To translate, the online and television shopping network acquired at minimum nearly 1,800 of the hotly anticipated gold dimes, sold by the Mint for a price of $205 each with a household of 10 coins.
That represents about 1.4 percent of the 121,201 coins sold in the initial wave of sales from the maximum mintage of 125,000 pieces, and they are now being offered at more than twice the price (cost of grading and encapsulating included).
The Mint’s sale of the 2016-W Winged Liberty Head gold dime unfolded like many of its long-awaited and hotly anticipated products. The coin went on sale at noon Eastern Time, was switched from “available” to “back order” status about 20 minutes later, and then to “currently unavailable” about 40 minutes into the sale.
The speed at which the coin sold out was made possible in part by the 10-coin household limit. That bar was too high, collectors have told us, adding that the limit made it easier for retailers to snap up sizeable quantities of the coins.
My phone started ringing and email inbox beeping around 1 p.m. April 21, maybe even sooner. Collectors were contacting me to complain that they had been unable to buy one of the dimes. Most said the 10-coin household limit was too high; a one- or two-coin limit would have been better. This is a familiar refrain; the collectors make a good point.
Many of the callers also predicted that dealers would be able to acquire quantities of coins well beyond the household limit. Most were upset with this possibility.
I think anyone would understand why a collector who was locked out of buying one of the coins would be upset with a retailer offering large numbers of the coins at prices well above the issue price. It is easy to see why some believe that the system is rigged in favor of dealers and not collectors. But is it?
Companies like HSN and some of Coin World’s advertisers build their inventories in several ways: The firms may have employees order the maximum number of coins on their personal accounts and then reimburse them. Firms also turn to the secondary market, buying coins from their customers or others at a premium; it is not unusual to receive an email from such a company before or after a sale begins, offering to pay a premium for each coin the recipient will sell to the firm. And while the practice does upset some collectors who see such techniques as improperly circumventing the household limits, some collectors already intend to buy the maximum number of coins, pick the best one to keep, and sell the rest to a dealer, often financing the purchase of the coin they kept and making a nice profit beyond that. It is tough to fault any collector for doing that.
The reality is that the Mint has not found a better way to sell in-demand products. The Mint order system cannot distinguish why a particular buyer is purchasing a coin or coins, whether it is for a collection to be held long term or to be quickly flipped for a profit. I doubt anyone would want the government to tell a buyer what he or she can do with the coins once purchased. If anyone has a better idea that might be feasible, let us hear it.
However, the Mint can do a better job of determining household limits. Ten was too many for this coin; a better limit would have been one or two coins for the first couple of days of sales, then a higher limit. A lower limit could have helped spread the coins around a little better.
The Mint still has time before it launches sales of the gold Standing Liberty quarter dollar and Walking Liberty half dollar, part of the same Centennial program celebrating these three beautiful coins. Although the smaller size and lower price made the dime the most desirable coin for collectors on a limited budget, the Mint should still listen to collectors and lower the household limit for both other coins.
The recent decision by members of both the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the Commission of Fine Arts to recommend a portrait of an African American woman as the Liberty figure for the 2017 American Liberty silver medal and gold coin has been polarizing, to put it mildly. A lot of collectors are not at all supportive; many of them loathe the idea — and they have not been shy in their comments at Coin World’s Facebook page and in their email to me.
Supporters of the decision and the design have been a distinct minority; I estimate that some 80 percent or so of those commenting fall into the “anti” camp, with about 20 percent welcoming the recommendation (and I count myself among the latter; a wrongheaded decision, some readers have told me).
The opposition to the design seems to fall into three or four or more categories, with some crossover. Some just don’t like the design on aesthetic grounds. Others are rejecting the design without explicitly saying why. Then there are those who call the idea of an African American Liberty “politically correct garbage,” or another example of an America changing into something they don’t support. Others see the abandoning of the classical Liberty, with its roots in Europe, as tossing tradition out the window. Still others point fingers at President Obama or the U.S. Mint as being responsible, though that is not accurate, as one person intimately involved in the decision explains.
She writes: “The High Relief Liberty series is not Congress driven. It was [a] program recommended by CCAC and adapted by the Mint as is allowed in the Mint parameters.
“That seems to be common notion that there was some kind of directive saying we were told to do an African American Liberty, or that Obama pushed this agenda or that it is an attempt at radical political correctness. (I’ve been reading the online comments). The truth is much simpler — We members of the CCAC wanted a new medal series to stimulate artistic freedom and creativity and therefore create more interest in collecting. ...”
She added: “Last year we chose a standing Liberty that was not distinctly caucasian but not specifically any particular race. It was just a solid beautiful design. This year we had many submissions again as you saw and this is the one that got the most votes. There was no direction to choose a black Liberty. The CCAC and the CFA thought this was simply the most intriguing design of the group.
Lest you think that the CCAC is some stereotypical “Washington elites” organization out of touch with the coin collecting community, be aware that the membership is dominated by the numismatic community. Of the 11 current members, 10 are coin collectors, numismatists, or medal/coin designers. “They” are “us.” Some on the panel have been coin collectors for decades; many are award-winning writers, researchers, and artists. Not all of the current members served on the panel when the American Liberty program was first proposed, but the current domination of the CCAC by the collecting community has always been present.
So why are so many collectors so strongly opposed to the design decision? Why are so many of them so angry about the proposal?
Getting back to those opposing the design, there is one more category — one with racist undertones — that I and others have found to be especially disheartening. Overtly racist comments have been in a minority, thankfully, but some of those favoring the design have called out what they see as racism in other postings. And this leads to my next observation.
America is changing. We’re becoming much more diverse on many levels, and while some in the nation are upset with those changes, census studies suggest that those changes are not going to stop. But is the coin collecting community keeping pace with greater America?
It’s no secret that the hobby (collectors and dealers alike) has long been dominated by older white men (like me; I’m aged 62) and that as the community ages, it is not being replaced at the same rate by younger collectors and dealers. Hobby leaders are worried about declining club membership, declining numbers of dealers, declining advertising space and revenue and editorial space in the numismatic publications. We’d all like to see the hobby grow and expand. But can that happen if white men continue to represent 90 percent of the hobby?
The hobby needs to diversify. We need new collectors, new dealers. And we should seek to welcome people who fall outside of the current collector community demographics. Unfortunately, though, the level of anger directed at more diverse representations of Liberty isn’t very welcoming. If you were a young black woman, say, happening upon the Coin World Facebook page, how would you feel if you saw so much vitriol directed at a coin design showing someone who might look like you? You probably wouldn’t stick around.
In the meantime, I welcome your comments. If you don’t like the CCAC/CFA decision, I’d like to know why. We’ll consider comments for publication in Coin World, but please, keep your comments civil. You can reach me at email@example.com or at 937-498-0853.
The 1907 Indian Head gold $20 double eagle is arguably one of the greatest U.S. patterns ever struck. The coin bears a variation of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Liberty portrait eventually adopted for the 1907 Indian Head gold eagle married with a version of the artist’s Flying Eagle design used on the adopted reverse of the 1907 double eagle. The date appears in Roman Numerals at the bottom of the reverse (not the obverse), and LIBERTY is the sole inscription on the obverse, boldly positioned below the portrait. The pattern is unique, entered the marketplace from the estate of Charles Barber (chief engraver of the U.S. Mint when the pattern was struck), and today is in a private anonymous collection. It last sold at auction in 1984 for $467,500.
So is this 1907 pattern permitted to be in a private collection? After all, the sole 1974-D aluminum cent was just returned to the U.S. Mint by a coin dealer and a second man whose father was given the cent as he retired from a long-held position at the Denver Mint; even the son agreed the Mint made a compelling case. Similarities between the two pieces are striking. Both are unique, both were struck during a period of experimentation at the Mint, and both surfaced in the marketplace from the estates of U.S. Mint employees.
To many outside the collector community and even for some within it, Barber’s keeping of a historic pattern would not pass the smell test. A current Mint employee would be prosecuted for keeping a modern pattern, justifiably so. Remember, also, that just a few years after the 1907 pattern was struck, the Mint fought hard and successfully to force a private collector to return two unique 1877 gold $50 half union patterns (today, they’re national treasures).
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Whichever designs receive final approval from the Treasury secretary for the 2017 American Liberty High Relief .9999 fine gold $100 coin, the same designs will be used also for the .999 fine silver companion medal, except without the coin inscriptions.
Liberty, that icon who has graced U.S. coinage since 1793, appears poised to have a new face that reflect the nation’s growing diversity.
During their reviews of designs provided by the U.S. Mint for the 2017 American Liberty, High Relief gold coin and silver medal, the two federal panels that advise the Treasury Department on coinage and medal designs went for the same bold choice. Both panels chose to emphasis the first word of “American Liberty” and to thankfully abandon “traditional” concepts, by selecting a portrait of a woman with distinct African-American features to be the new face of Liberty.
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Not long after the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and Commission of Fine Arts made their decisions on the 2017 American Liberty designs, some collectors began to object to the panels’ choice for Liberty. A few of those objecting simply said they didn’t like the portrait, but others trotted out that tiresome phrase “politically correct” in voicing their opposition to the idea of an African-American Liberty.
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Does the investor market really need a palladium bullion coin? That question had been answered but Congress in its “wisdom” has overridden hard data to require the United States Mint to issue such a coin anyway.
Congress in 2010 authorized the Mint to issue a palladium bullion coin but required Mint officials to study the matter first to determine whether the idea was viable. The Mint released its findings on March 1, 2013.
As Coin World reported then, “The palladium market study was completed by New York City-based CPM Group under provisions of the American Eagle Palladium Bullion Coin Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-303). CPM Group is a commodities market research, consulting, asset management and investment-banking firm.”
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