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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 '2017'

    New law in Germany could have major effect on coin collecting

    November 15, 2017 10:46 AM by

    ​On the evening of Nov. 9, 1989, Harald Jäger was a border officer in East Berlin. He had rushed to his post after viewing a television newscast in which an East German official said (mistakenly) that East Germans would immediately be able to cross into West Germany, something that had been denied to citizens of the Communist-governed nation for decades.

    Border officer Jäger found a growing crowd of excited East Germans waiting for the opening of the border gates so they could cross over into the free West. After consulting with his superiors, Jäger chose to interpret the various statements from the Politburo and his superiors very broadly as granting him permission to open the gates to protect the crowd from hurting themselves in the crush. The result from that decision was the bringing down of the Berlin Wall, something quite unintended.

    So what does this have to do with coins?

    In Germany, the Act on the Protection of Cultural Property went into effect on Aug. 6, 2016. The core scope of the act’s six main provisions, according to its opening statement, was (in part) to govern the protection of national cultural property against removal; the import and export of cultural property; and the placing on the market of cultural property.

    While on its face the act seems reasonable — nations have a right and duty to safeguard their national cultural property — the numismatic community in Germany is warning of “potentially devastating consequences” as the result of the act. That’s because the act “imposes unjustified and unmanageable legal and economic burdens on all persons legitimately trading art or other culture properties like antiques, paintings, or coins,” according to a position paper released by a group of lawyers in Germany fighting against the regulations, which include provisions that could require the registration of individual coin collections; the potential for dealers and collectors to be stopped at Germany’s borders with their inventories and collections of coins; and disruption to coin auctions in Germany.The lawyers fighting against the imposition of the new regulations in Germany warn, “The new rules primarily aim to discover ‘national cultural property’ which was unknown to German authorities so far. ... The former legal regime of restricting exports of national significance has been replaced by a general monitoring system that applies to any export of cultural property.”

    Like border officer Jäger, one can envision an individual German official interpreting the act as granting permission to declare an individual’s coins as “national cultural property” and subject to import-export restrictions. This could make travel to an event like next year’s World Money Fair in Berlin problematic. Hobbyists should watch closely as the show nears.

    If an error coin is struck deliberately, is it a legitimate error?

    October 17, 2017 2:27 PM by

    If an error coin was struck deliberately, is it truly an error? And if it was produced deliberately and then removed from the mint that struck it through surreptitious means, should it be subject to confiscation by mint officials? Those are questions for which there are no easy answers.

    In the Oct. 16 and Oct. 23 issues of Coin World, we reported on the existence of several “error” coins struck at the San Francisco Mint when it was officially an Assay Office in the 1960s and 1970s. I enclose the word “error” between quotation marks because evidence suggests that at least some of them if not all of them were struck purposely if unofficially and then removed from the Mint through back channels, rather than being struck in error and, after legitimately passing through the inspection process, released through normal channels.

    United States Mint policies on such pieces and related coins are remarkably inconsistent. Mint officials have shown no real inclination to confiscate any of the various mules discovered in recent years though it has prosecuted Mint employees for their roles in moving some of these pieces into the marketplace. However, other pieces with questionable origins do draw Mint condemnation.

    For example, in 2000, a 1999-W George Washington $5 half eagle struck on a copper-nickel clad dime planchet was consigned to an auction by Ira and Larry Goldberg Coins and Collectibles. David Pickens, then the U.S. Mint associate director for numismatics, viewed the coin during the August American Numismatic Association convention in Philadelphia, and told Coin World that there was no way the coin could have been produced or packaged at the West Point Mint under normal circumstances because no dime planchets had been used at the West Point facility since 1996. The piece was reportedly discovered beneath a normal specimen of the gold commemorative in that coin’s original packaging, though that claim could not be independently verified. At Pickens’ urging, the “error” half eagle/dime hybrid was removed from the auction.

    If Pickens’ observations in August 2000 were correct, and we believe that they were, then the legitimacy of that piece should have been questioned, just as the legitimacy of the Kennedy half dollar and Eisenhower dollar struck on Shell Oil aluminum tokens needs to be questioned. There is no way that aluminum tokens given out at Shell gas stations could have made their way to the San Francisco Mint, been struck between dies for a collector version of a half dollar and dollar, not been noticed by the inspectors who examined every example of those coins, placed into Proof set or other special packaging, and then released, without being assisted at every step by one or more Mint employees.

    The same case can be made for the various “two-tailed” Washington quarter dollar mules reported in recent years, all considered products of the San Francisco Mint from the same era as the Shell token pieces. It is unlikely that they could have been made accidentally.

    Even though a strong probability exists that such pieces were made deliberately, they are still avidly collected as “errors” by those wealthy enough to purchase them. Indeed, many specialists in the field treat these the same way they treat legitimate error coins — those pieces that truly were struck by mistake and then released into the wild through normal means, such as in a shipment of coins from the Mint to the Federal Reserve and then placed into circulation. But should they be considered legitimate and collectible, or should be subject to confiscation? Tell us what you think.

    Covering the news in the digital age: a new challenge

    September 12, 2017 5:33 PM by

    I have been in the news business for more than four decades, all served here at Coin World. During that time, I have seen incredible changes, not only in the coins and paper money and other numismatic items in circulation that we collect, but also in the way the hobby is covered in the news, not only here but by the general media at large.

    It used to be that once a completed issue of Coin World was pulled off the printing press here in Sidney, Ohio, it went into United States Postal Service tractor trailers to be distributed nationwide. Subscribers in surrounding states might get their copies in the mail in a day or two while subscribers in distant California or Oregon might wait a week or longer to receive their copies. Life seemed to move slower in those days and most readers did not mind the wait to get their weekly issue of Coin World. In most cases, news — about the year’s new Proof set becoming available or an upcoming auction or whatever — still arrived in plenty of time for a subscriber to act.

    Life has changed.

    Today, the news cycle is 24/7, sometimes even for us here. Most of us can remember when a 24-hour television news channel like CNN seemed “excessive” — did we really need that much news that quickly? — we thought then. Today, though, many of us seem glued to our smart phones constantly. The fact that we can get the news, including video, on a telephone we can carry in our pocket, would have seemed like science fiction not too long ago.

    As technology advanced and collector expectations changed, a week-long wait to receive news about a new U.S. Mint product or a treasure hoard discovery or an announcement about a new design for a Federal Reserve note was no longer as acceptable as it once was, both to our readers and our staff. Readers want to know about the news as quickly as possible and like to discuss it as the news unfolds, on online collector forums and on places like Coin World’s Facebook page.

    With these new expectations and new technologies came new challenges, including how to report the news using time-honored journalistic techniques while at the same getting the news to our readers fast. Sometimes the two concepts clash.

    We can post coverage almost immediately (well, we do have to sleep) but doing so does not always meet our traditional journalistic standards — checking facts, confirming details, getting it right before publishing.

    A recent example comes to mind.

    News reports circulated that an 8-year-old girl had discovered a 2,000-year-old half shekel in disputed territory the West Bank. The Coin World editorial staff knows that treasure finds are among our most popular news stories; everyone loves to read about someone else’s good fortune and luck in finding a rare coin or better, a hoard of rare coins. The West Bank story had everything going for it — a treasure find made by a young child. However, you did not see a report of the discovery in Coin World’s print issue or at our website, even though a number of news reports appeared online in the general media.

    There was one problem. The coin was a modern replica that could be found in Israel museum gift shops, a fact pointed out by a respected Israeli numismatist a week or so after the first news accounts were published. Had news organizations consulted with a knowledgeable numismatist before publishing, the news could have been reported correctly from the start or, better, not reported at all, because the find of a replica is really not news.

    When we see news accounts of a treasure find, our standard approach is to move cautiously. If the find is in Britain, as many of them are, we rely on our longtime London correspondent, John Andrew, to confirm the discovery. John knows British law governing hoard finds and knows who to contact. He often lands personal interviews with the finders and the officials who confirm the discovery. This process often means that reporting the news is delayed but the added detail he can include in his coverage makes the coverage much more rewarding than a fast link on our website or Facebook page to a story reported elsewhere that we cannot confirm is accurate. (In fact, we expect to publish, very soon, one of John’s outstanding news accounts of a recent hoard find.)

    It is certainly possible to publish some news immediately. When we learn the price or an edition limit and ordering details for an upcoming U.S. Mint product, we publish that information as quickly as we can. (In August, for example, when we learned that the 2017 Enhanced Uncirculated Coin set, which had been thought to have “sold out,” was available again, we published that news online and at our website within minutes. Readers apreciated those quick news alerts, especially those who had been unsuccessful during the first round of sales.) Other news, however, requires confirmation, and we are willing to wait until we get that confirmation before publishing.

    Striking a balance between timely news coverage and making sure we get that coverage right is challenging. However, those are the kinds of challenges we love at Coin World.

    How many times should we honor the same president on a coin?

    August 17, 2017 10:52 AM by
    How many times should this nation honor the same president on a U.S. coin? How many appearances are too many?

    Those are questions that Congress may ponder in the weeks and months ahead. Twin bills have been introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives seeking a commemorative silver dollar honoring President John F. Kennedy.

    Kennedy, of course, was the last American president to be assassinated. He was young and handsome and had a beautiful wife and two young children. Washington was Camelot reborn and then it all came crashing down on Nov. 22, 1963, with an assassin’s bullets. I was less than two months' shy of my 10th birthday and I have vivid memories on learning the news on the bus ride home from school and finding my mother weeping as she waited for me at the door to the family home.

    Within weeks of the assassination, officials decided to pay tribute to the fallen leader with a new circulating half dollar. Congress had to authorize the change from the Franklin design to the new Kennedy design, but in a matter of weeks, a new coin had been designed, refined, put into production, and released into circulation. The coin was wildly popular. I remember my grandmother, who loved Kennedy, hoarding as many as she could.

    Today, though, the Kennedy half dollar is one of those unnecessary coins. None has been placed into circulation officially since 2001 and the only way to get each year’s new coins is to buy them from the Mint for a premium. And yet the Mint keeps striking the coin.

    In 2015, Kennedy was honored again, this time on a Presidential dollar. Like the Kennedy half dollar, it was intended to be a circulating coin but the Presidential dollars were unwanted  by the public, so later coins were struck strictly for collectors and not for circulation.
    Now we have legislation seeking a noncirculating silver dollar honoring Kennedy. The proposal has several problems, however.

    The coin, intended for release in 2020, is intended to commemorate the centennial of Kennedy’s birth. The problem is that Kennedy was born in May 1917, meaning that if the coin is approved, this “centennial” issue will be released three years after the centennial date. That makes no sense, though Congress has approved similar commemorative coins with weird dating in the past.

    The other, even bigger problem is that Congress is pondering a third coin for the same president. That is one coin too many. Why keep returning to the same theme so many times?

    Enough is enough. This is bad legislation and it is unnecessary. Congress needs to reject a third John F. Kennedy coin.​

    The U.S. Mint once authenticated a 1977/6 Lincoln cent

    July 17, 2017 4:46 PM by

    Forty years ago this month, in the summer of 1977, a Coin World reader sent the editorial staff a coin reportedly pulled from a roll of mixed cents acquired for making change at the finder’s swap shop. The coin was stunning in appearance and potentially the biggest discovery in years — an overdate 1977/6 Lincoln cent.

    An overdate results when a numeral (or numerals) is punched or hubbed over another numeral. While during the early history of the U.S. Mint, overdates were a fairly frequent occurrence, by the 20th century, such varieties were rarely produced. In fact, the last confirmed overdates known in 1977 were produced during World War II and both were on 10-cent coins: the 1941/1 and 1942/1-D Winged Liberty Head dimes (the 1943/2-P Jefferson 5-cent coin had not been found yet).

    Our preliminary examination of the cent gave us hope that it might be real but we held off on publication until we could consult with expert help. It was decided that we would submit the cent to the Bureau of the Mint’s technical experts for their review and possible authentication. Remember, 1977 was in the early days of third-party authentication, with the American Numismatic Association Certification Service in its infancy, and although its main authenticator, the deeply respected Ed Fleischmann, in fact had been a Coin World employee until the previous fall, we decided to consult with the experts who presumably had struck the coin.

    On rare occasion, Coin World editor Margo Russell would reach out to Mint officials and ask them to examine a coin for us; that’s what she did this time. On July 1, we received the Mint’s verdict, though it was preliminary. Dr. Alan J. Goldman, the Mint’s assistant director for technology, and Dr. George E. Hunter, chief of the assay division, had reviewed the coin and thought it genuine.

    Goldman and Hunter were two of the most knowledgeable individuals regarding coinage production in the country. Based on their expertise, Coin World published a Page One article in its July 13, 1977, issue announcing the find. We did report that the judgment was preliminary; the two experts wanted to consult with one more Mint expert before rendering a final decision. That would not occur until July 5 at the earliest.

    After the Independence Day break, the Mint’s Technical Laboratory’s third expert, Tom Jurich, arrived back at the Washington, D.C., headquarters (he had been testifying in a counterfeiting case) and examined the coin. He agreed with his colleagues that the coin was genuine. Coin World received the happy news on July 5 that it was the unanimous opinion of the Mint experts that the coin was a genuine Mint product. The next day, everything fell apart.

    On July 6, the Mint technicians journeyed from Mint headquarters to the Philadelphia Mint where they did some additional testing that led them to reverse their decision. They said that they were able to replicate the process outside of the normal die-making process by creating an artificial die. While they would not disclose how they made the artificial die, they did share that the process was similar to how fake dies had been created to produce counterfeit “double dies” and “over struck” coins that became the subject of several trials in the 1960s.

    Goldman told Coin World that the 1977/6 fake was good. “It had everyone fooled for a while,” he said. Jurich said the areas around the bottom back of Lincoln’s shoulder on the obverse and around three letters in AMERICA held clues to the coin being fake.

    By this time, the news published in the July 13 issue had spread and offers were being made for additional examples at prices as high as $200. Goldman said that as long as additional examples did not enter the numismatic marketplace, the Secret Service would not be interested. However, he was premature in that assessment.

    Coin World reported the reversal of the Mint’s assessment of the coin in its July 20 issue.

    Not long after, Mint officials informed Coin World that the fake overdate cent would not be returned but instead had been turned over to the Secret Service. Agents from the Cincinnati office of the Secret Service came to Coin World’s offices in Sidney, Ohio, on July 12 to confiscate another coin that had been sent to us along with correspondence. We objected to the Mint’s decision, noting that by not returning the cent to us, they were violating a longtime agreement between the government and the publication. We had no choice, however, but to comply with the Secret Service’s confiscation of the coins.

    On July 17, Secret Service agents from the Tampa, Florida, office arrested two men in connection with the production of the fake 1977/6 Lincoln cent. An additional 17 altered coins were confiscated along with the paraphernalia to manufacture them. The men were charged with violating counterfeiting laws by being in possession of a counterfeit die. Ultimately, the man who had sent us the fake overdate was sentenced to probation for violating federal laws.

    For a brief time, though, the hobby thought that the best die variety in decades had been identified, and the market was hopeful that more pieces would be found. It was not meant to be.

    Newspaper clipping leads to a story about a Brasher doubloon hidden in a crawlspace

    June 13, 2017 4:15 PM by

    ​Early in my career at Coin World, one of my assigned tasks in the 1970s was to go through the “clip files” we received from a “clipping service” that we hired, looking for news tips. In this pre-Internet era, clipping services subscribed to newspapers from around the country and hired a staff to go through issues and clip articles that met certain parameters for specific clients. For Coin World, we wanted to see clippings related to coins, paper money, and similar things; I’m assuming that these clippers had a list of clients and their interests. Once a bunch of these newspaper clippings had been accumulated, they would be bundled up in a mailing envelope and mailed to clients.

    For Coin World, the clippings served as news tips for all kinds of stories that we might want to cover: local thefts of coins, medals being issued by a local civic organization — that sort of thing. Sure, many of the clippings may have referenced “coins” or “paper money” in reference to stories with no hobby significance, but some led to real leads. Each clipping had a date-stamped tag that identified the newspaper it had been clipped from. For those articles that warranted coverage in Coin World, we would follow up in our usual manner depending on what the article reported.

    One clipping in particular caught my attention because of the nature of the article. This must have been about 1979, when a 1787 Brasher doubloon not only made headlines in Coin World but also in daily newspapers world-wide.

    The coin was offered in the Rarcoa session of Auction ’79, the first in a series of “Apostrophe Auctions” that four firms held jointly for a number of years. All four auction houses were prominent in the field and their joint auctions featured some classic rarities. The other firms were Paramount, Stack’s and Superior; of those, only Stack’s remains in business in today, as part of Stack’s Bowers Galleries.

    Lot 1433 in the auction, conducted July 27, was a 1787 Brasher doubloon whose pedigree of ownership included collectors Virgil Brand, James Ten Eyck, John G. Mills, and R. Coulton Davis. At the time of the auction, the coin had not been offered at public auction in 57 years. In fact, of the seven pieces known, five were in public collections, and the only other piece in collector hands had also been off the market for decades. The appearance in the marketplace of one these gold coins — the first gold coin struck in what had been the 13 Colonies — was a major story.

    When the auction was conducted, bidding was strong and the coin was hammered down at $430,000, which was a record for any coin sold at public auction. Wire service reports on the astounding price were published in newspapers everywhere, making the story national news. And then we started hearing from people who claimed they also had one of these rare coins. All of them had modern cast replicas, though; the hobby was flooded with tens of thousands of cheap cast replicas of Brasher doubloons and other similar pieces.

    During this period of national excitement and widespread hopes that others had struck it rich, one man contacted a local newspaper (out west, as I recall) and told a reporter how he had once owned one of the coins, then left it behind when his family moved from the house, and then how he had just recovered the coin.

    According to the story he had told the reporter, as a child he had a Brasher doubloon that he had hidden in the crawlspace of the family house. When the family moved, the coin was left behind in its hiding place. Now, all those years later, the subject of the reporter’s interview had read of the recent auction and remembered that he once had a coin just like the one that sold for big bucks. He had to retrieve it somehow so he could also become rich.

    The man told the reporter that he went to his former house and introduced himself to the present owners, explaining that he had once lived there and that since he was in the area again, he just wanted to see what the place looked like. No mention of any coin. The family invited him in and even extended an invitation for him to stay for a few days, which he accepted. After a few days with the family, the trusting owners said they had to run an errand if he didn’t mind staying there by himself for a bit. The family left and the man seized his chance. He got into the crawlspace, found the coin where he had left it, and then left the place with his purloined property. And then he contacted the newspaper in the town he then lived in to brag about his action. The reporter’s article about the deed was printed in the newspaper and a copy of it eventually arrived at my desk via the clipping service.

    I found the article disturbing for reasons I think all of you understand. What I knew, that the story’s subject and the reporter didn’t know, was that the Brasher doubloon he had “retrieved” was one of the thousands of replicas in the wild. Coin World used to get these replicas from readers all the time; their owners wanted to know whether they were genuine. They weren’t.

    I wrote the reporter and suggested to her that she contact the interviewee and pass along my recommendations that he contact a knowledgeable dealer or one of the fledging authentication services in an effort to have it authenticated, though I refrained from commenting too much on the man’s tactics despite my personal outrage. She did, but the man did not like the advice. He wrote me a rather scathing letter blasting me for suggesting that the coin might be a copy and not the real thing.  In the years since, no new specimen of a 1787 Brasher doubloon has ever surfaced, so I am confident in assuming that I was correct and that the Brasher doubloon that the man had lifted from the house was one of those cast replicas.

    This experience was by far one of the most interesting to come out of an envelope stuffed full of newspaper clippings. 

    The fascination collectors have for error coins and notes

    May 18, 2017 10:34 AM by
    Error coins and paper money seem to fascinate collectors even if they don’t personally collect such material themselves.

    I first became interested in error coins in my teens in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when I started noticing that some of the coins I found in circulation were “different.” When I subscribed to Coin World about 1970, I immediately gravitated to the Collectors’ Clearinghouse column, which often featured errors and die varieties and coins that had damage or alterations that looked like errors, at least to an untrained eye. When I received the latest issue of the newspaper in the mail each week, I always turned to the Clearinghouse page first to see what new find was being reported.

    My eyes were certainly untrained then, but through the Clearinghouse column I gradually learned about the errors I was finding, including pieces struck on incomplete planchets, coins with laminations, coins with die chips and die cracks, and other usually minor pieces. I never found anything especially rare or valuable. Well, that’s not exactly accurate.

    I found that the information provided by the Clearinghouse editors — Jim Johnson, Ed Fleischmann, Tom DeLorey — was invaluable. They taught me the minting process and what could happen went something went wrong in any of the many steps involved in the production of a coin. Furthermore, that education helped me in 1976 to land my first job with Coin World, as assistant editor in the Clearinghouse department. I had some skill as a writer and some knowledge of coins, including errors.

    Today, I still find error coins and notes interesting, and I enjoy writing about them. You may notice the occasional online-exclusive articles I write about such great pieces as a mated pair of Proof Jefferson 5-cent coins or a note with mismatched serial numbers. Readers seem to like those kinds of articles as well, based on the number of views or comments registered at our website and Facebook page, and in the email and phone calls I regularly receive from collectors who think (hope!) that they have found a rare error.

    For those of you reading this, do you like errors? Do you collect them? What is your favorite error? Let me know.

    Mint confirms existence of the coin they said they never struck

    March 23, 2017 10:08 AM by
    As you recall from my blog here , I received a telephone call in mid-1994 that led to the discovery of a previously unknown experimental coin: a 1974 Lincoln cent struck on a bronze-clad steel planchet. Once I had a chance to examine an example of the coin and do some research into the 1973 experiments in alternative compositions for the 95 percent copper cent, I was convinced that the coin was a genuine Mint product.

    At the time, I had no Mint confirmation that such a coin had been struck. In fact, while Mint publications confirmed that a bronze-clad steel composition had been tested, the Mint claimed in those documents that planchets made of that material had been tested only with strikes bearing “nonsense” designs and not the regular Lincoln cent designs. Nonetheless, after considering the evidence we had available to us, the editors here felt confident enough to publish a news article about the discovery anyway, while being careful to describe the coin as something that “appeared” to be genuine.

    In preparing the article for publication, we also discussed our strategy for protecting the identity of my source and to prevent any possibility that the Mint might ask the U.S. Secret Service to come to our offices to confiscate the coin or to request that we identify the person who sent us the coin. We were concerned on two counts and had cause to be paranoid: (1) the Mint considered the 1974 Lincoln cents struck on aluminum planchets during the same round of experiments as the bronze-clad steel cent illegal to own; and (2) the Secret Service some years earlier had come to our offices and confiscated a coin that we had published a Page 1 news article about (I will write about this coin in the weeks ahead).

    Because of those concerns, I returned the coin to the owner as quickly as possible, even neglecting to take color photographs of it (something I quickly regretted). I also took steps to protect all of my notes correspondence with the source.

    Once I did both of these things, I reached out to the Mint, asking the public affairs office to dig into the Mint’s archives to see whether there was evidence that the bronze-clad steel cent had been struck with regular cent dies. It took Mint officials several months to go through their archives to get the information I requested, but the wait was well worth it.

    Here is what I reported on Page 1 of our Sept. 5, 1994, issue:

    “The United States Mint retains two experimental 1974 Lincoln cents struck on bronze-clad steel planchets in its specimen files, a Mint spokesman said Aug. 15.

    “The admission confirms a July 4 Coin World article announcing the discovery of the previously unknown experimental pieces.

    “The existence of the experimental bronze-clad steel pieces was unknown until June when a collector contacted Coin World with a first-person account of the destruction of a quarter-million or more of the pieces in a steel mill furnace, and the accidental survival of a handful of pieces now in private hands.

    “The 1974-dated experimental pieces are survivors of 1973 testing that also resulted in the famous 1974 aluminum cent.

    “It took Mint officials two months to confirm that the Mint did in fact strike experimental 1974 Lincoln cents on bronze-clad steel planchets using regular dies. Mint spokesman Michael White said no records survive of the coin's production or destruction.

    “However, the anonymous collector who says he holds five of the pieces says he witnessed the destruction of a quarter million or more bronze-clad steel cents in 1974 at a Pennsylvania steel mill (see Coin World, July 4, Page 1). Several other burnt pieces may also survive in private hands, according to the collector.

    “A 1973 Department of the Treasury study discusses the testing of the bronze-clad steel composition, but indicates that none were struck with regular cent dies. ‘Nonsense’ dies were reportedly used, according to the 1973 Treasury report now known to be incorrect.

    “An examination of one piece by Coin World staff indicated that the cent was struck by regular Lincoln cent dies dated 1974. The coin, with its steel core, is attracted to a magnet.
     

    “The bronze-clad steel pieces are unlisted in any work discussing pattern issues, including the just published United States Patterns and Related Issues by Andrew W. Pollock III. The new book was published almost at the same time as the bronze-clad steel cents surfaced.
     

    “Both the 1974 bronze-clad steel cents and the well-known 1974 aluminum cents were struck in 1973 as Mint officials experimented with alternatives to the 95 percent copper, 5 percent zinc cent then in production. Rising copper prices threatened to make the cent’s intrinsic value higher than its face value. Copper prices dropped, however, and the composition remained unchanged until 1982.“

    As exciting as it was to get confirmation that the bronze-clad steel cents had, in fact, been struck, it was even more exciting to learn that Mint retained examples. The Mint had gotten a reputation in the 1960s and 1970s for destroying its history, including the mass meltings of experimental pieces like the 1964-D Peace dollar and 1974 aluminum cents. The fact that two bronze-clad steel cents were held by the Mint was exciting.

    Even more exciting was White’s comments about whether the bronze-clad steel cent was legal to own. I was so surprised at his response that I asked him to confirm that a second time and his response was the same. Still doubtful, I then asked for a formal statement from Mint legal counsel and decided not to publish White’s initial responses until we received that formal opinion from the Mint. This time, it took less than a month for the Mint to respond to my request, and the response was what I expected. Here is how I explained my repeated inquiries on the legality of private ownership in the next article I wrote about the coin, appearing in the Sept. 26, 1994, issue:

    Experimental 1974 Lincoln cents struck on bronze-clad steel planchets have the same legal status as the more famous 1974 aluminum cents, the Mint stated Sept. 9: Both are illegal to own and are subject to confiscation.

    Coin World requested a formal statement about the legal status of the bronze-clad steel cents in mid-August, following several conversations with a Mint public affairs officer during which the officer stated the pieces would be considered collectible like any other item that fell into collector hands.

    “The public affairs officer’s statement was at odds with past Mint policy on the experimental 1974 Lincoln cents struck on aluminum planchets, struck at the same time and for the same purposes as the experimental bronze-clad steel cents. The aluminum pieces have always been considered government property and remain subject to confiscation.

    “The Mint public affairs officer stated at least twice during the week of Aug. 15 that bronze-clad steel cents would be considered collectible, the second time after what Coin World was led to believe was further research by the Mint staff. Coin World asked the officer at that time for a formal opinion, not only on the bronze-clad steel cents, but whether the statement represented a policy shift that would also apply to the aluminum cents.

    “However, the August statement was not a formal declaration, nor did it represent a policy shift, Mint officials now say.

    In a Sept. 9 letter, Mint chief counsel Kenneth B. Gubin states: ‘The Mint’s policy regarding the 1973-dated [sic] aluminum one-cent pieces remains unchanged; since these pieces were experimental and never issued by the Mint, any still outstanding are considered property of the U.S. Government and may not be circulated, sold or held in collections. If they were to appear in the hands of the public, they are, and will continue to be, subject to confiscation by the U.S. Secret Service as no individual may acquire valid title to them. This policy also applies to other similar experimental pieces, including the experimental 1974 bronze-clad steel Lincoln cents.’ ”

    Had the Mint reversed its policy on private ownership on the 1974 experimental cents, it is interesting to speculate about what other “forbidden” coins might have surfaced in collections. 


    As for the owner of the experimental bronze-clad steel cents, he attempted to enlist my assistance in marketing the cents. He said he would be open to a trade — one of the cents (or maybe all of of them; I forget which) in exchange for a new top-line pickup truck. I had to decline to assist him. Similarly, years later I had to decline a request from a prominent collector of Lincoln cents to place him into contact with the owner of the coins. In any case, I do not have contact information for the owner of the coins and for all I know, he may now be deceased. 

    Covering the story of the 1974 bronze-clad steel cent was one of my best journalistic “scoops” and one that I remember with fondness and pride.


    ​An unexpected phone call that revealed a huge Mint secret

    March 15, 2017 5:29 PM by

    Over my four decades as a Coin World staff member, I have received thousands of phone calls, from readers and nonreaders alike, asking questions about coins or items in their possession, or seeking advice on how to collect, or providing us tips on stories.

    Some calls came in waves. For example, any time that a bronze 1943 Lincoln cent appeared at auction and was covered by the mainstream media, I prepared for a lot of calls from noncollectors with 1943 steel cents who thought they had one of the rare ones (since a steel cent is unlike any other Lincoln cent in appearance, one cannot blame callers for their excitement). I also talked to callers with what they thought were rare early U.S. coins like a 1787 Brasher doubloon or an 1804 Draped Bust dollar. I can say that in all of those calls, not a single one ever resulted in the discovery of a new example of a 1943 bronze cent or Brasher doubloon or 1804 dollar.

    One call in mid-1994, however, revealed the existence of a U.S. coin that no one had ever heard about before, and that an official U.S. Mint/Treasury Department report claimed was never struck.

    I took the call in June (I believe) of 1994. It began like any other call, with the speaker saying that he had something rare — five 1974 Lincoln cents of an unusual composition. I was, of course, familiar with the Mint’s 1973 experiments in alternative compositions that resulted in the 1974 aluminum cent. But that wasn’t what the reader said he had; it was something unexpected — a 1974 Lincoln cent struck on a bronze-clad steel planchet.

    The caller, a retired steel worker, told me a fantastic story of how United States Mint officials, with a contingent of Mint police on hand, arrived at the Alan Wood Steel Co. in Pennsylvania 20 years earlier, in 1974. According to the caller, at least 40 bags of the experimental pieces — 200,000 pieces or more — were destroyed in one of the mill’s furnaces.

    But not all of the pieces were destroyed, according to the source.

    At least nine and as many as a dozen 1974 Lincoln cent experimental pieces struck on the bronze-clad steel planchets reportedly survived the furnace.

    According to the source, the bags of experimental cents were shoved down a chute from the third floor to a basic oxygen furnace on the second floor. The source said the cents were under heavy guard by five Mint guards.

    As the bags were being placed onto a lift to be transported to the chute, one bag fell to the floor and burst open, scattering the experimental pieces across the floor. The Mint guards made the employees move away from the spilled cents as they swept them up for melting. 

    According to the source, as the cents from the burst bag poured down the chute, a gust of wind blowing through the plant picked up 10 to 12 pieces and blew them onto the floor of the furnace, which had not yet gone into operation.  Despite the presence of the Mint guards, some employees managed to snatch up some of the coins, apparently without the guards noticing.  The five pieces possessed by the source came from those dozen or so survivors. Another three pieces may exist in burnt condition in the possession of other mill employees.

    The caller’s story was rich in detail and I immediately felt that I was onto a possible blockbuster article. I asked him to send Coin World the best example of the five cents in his possession so we could examine it.

    When the piece arrived and I had an opportunity to examine it, I was immediately convinced that it was genuine. While I had been waiting on the reader’s coin to arrive in our offices, I had grabbed our copy of the December 1973 Alternative Materials for One-Cent Coinage, the official report of the Mint’s experiments in alternative compositions. At the time, the price of copper was so high that the Mint was losing money on every cent it struck, and that was considered unacceptable.

    The 1,579,324 aluminum experimental cents struck in 1973 using standard 1974-dated cent dies were well known. The report also had details about another promising composition that was tested — a bronze-clad steel composition, with two outer layers of 90 percent copper and 10 percent zinc bonded to low-grade steel. There was just one problem. According to the report, no bronze-clad steel pieces were struck using standard Lincoln cent dies. When testing began, what are called “nonsense dies” were used to strike various experimental pieces. As the report stated, “The nonsense dies were designed to simulate the actual penny dies with regard to relief and location of images and lettering. In this way, coining characteristics of the alloys could be compared relative to one another without creating a large number of potentially valuable numismatic oddities. ... Finally, 1974 cent dies were used to strike a carefully controlled number of aluminum alloy coins.”

    When the caller’s cent arrived, I compared it to the description in the official report and it matched. It was made of two outer layers of copper with a core of gray metal. The piece stuck to a magnet, what you would expect of a coin with a steel core. The designs looked good and when compared to the designs of a regular 1974 Lincoln cent, they were identical. I was convinced on the evidence — the coin that I had in hand and the caller’s very convincing story — that the piece was something heretofore unexpected — a 1974 cent struck on one of the bronze-clad steel planchets that the Mint had admitted that it had tested, though not with cent dies.

    Coin World published the article in the July 4, 1994, issue as the main story on Page 1. Here are the introductory paragraphs to my article:

    “An experimental 1974 Lincoln cent struck on a bronze-clad steel planchet — a piece a 1973 Treasury publication says was never produced, has surfaced — and with a source who claims a quarter million or more of them were destroyed by Mint officials 20 years ago.

    Coin World has examined a 1974 Lincoln cent struck on a bronze-clad steel planchet that appears to be a genuine U.S. Mint experimental piece. It matches the description of planchets produced and tested in 1973, and mentioned in various Department of Treasury reports discussing alternative cent compositions.

    “This is the first indication that specimens of experimental 1974 Lincoln cents struck on other than aluminum planchets survived. Previously, it was thought that only specimens of the more famous 1974 aluminum experimental pieces had escaped destruction.”

    I described the coin for readers:

    “At first glance, the coin appears to be a normal 1974 Lincoln cent. In fact, the obverse and reverse are indistinguishable from a standard Lincoln cent in color and texture, even under high magnification.

    “However, when one examines the edge, it becomes immediately apparent that the piece is not a normal Lincoln cent. The steel core is visible along the edge as a grayish band between layers of bronze.

    “Most spectacularly, the coin is attracted to a magnet because of its steel core. The standard copper-zinc cent is not.”

    In an accompanying article that I wrote from additional official sources for the same issue of Coin World, I explained why the Mint rejected the bronze-clad steel composition:

    “According to the 1974 Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, ‘Several alternative alloys and clad materials were tested on a laboratory scale and the most promising materials, an aluminum alloy, a 70 percent copper-30 percent zinc alloy, and gilding metal clad steel were subjected to short production runs.’

    “The December 1973 Alternative Materials for One-Cent Coinage, a federal government report published by the Department of the Treasury, details how the bronze-clad steel experimental cents proved to be a failure in just one critical area that doomed it as an alternative. The composition failed in the category of ease of coin fabrication.

    “However, it received B\+, B and B-grades in all other categories. In fact, in the eight categories in which each composition was tested, bronze-clad steel bested the preferred aluminum composition in two (general public acceptability and coin machine acceptability) and equaled aluminum in three other categories (durability, present availability of metals and long-range in-house production feasibility).

    “Bronze-clad steel was rated lower than aluminum in the categories of ease of coin fabrication, present cost and long-range seigniorage protection.

    “Mint Director Mary Brooks, testifying before Congress on March 27, 1974, said a bronze-clad steel cent is ‘a very expensive proposition, and the die life, because of its hard composition would be a fourth to an eighth of that we are presently experiencing. We would get about 100,000 to 150,000 strikes: we did get on the bronze-clad steel. We are now experiencing over 600,000 strikes on our present die.’

    “Brooks said the need to change dies more frequently to strike bronze-clad steel cents would result in less press time and cent shortages.”

    The publication of the two articles, as you expect, generated a great deal of excitement in the collector community.

    In my next blog, I will detail how I got Mint officials to confirm that such pieces had been struck, whether any others survived, the steps I took to protect my source and Coin World from becoming involved in a possible confiscation of the caller’s coins, and how I asked the Mint for confirmation of a statement from a Mint official that the bronze-clad steel cents would be legal to collect.

    Did you hear about the quatloos of Triskelion?

    March 2, 2017 3:17 PM by
    A long time ago in a galaxy far away (yes, wrong series, I know, but indulge me), when I was still new at the journalism profession, I innocently created a bit of “fake news,” just two lines long and with a short headline.

    Back in 1976, when I joined Coin World in the Collectors’ Clearinghouse department, issues of the newspaper were built by taking strips of special paper that contained the text of a story. A designer would wax the back of the strip of paper containing the story and then position it in place before rolling it down with a small roller. When the bottom of a column was reached, the designer would use a sharp knife or scissors and cut the paper strip, then move on to the next column to repeat the process until the entirety of the story had been placed on the page, which when completed would then be photographed on a large camera and the resulting negative used in making the printing plate for the press.

    As you might expect, it was sometimes difficult to get a story to fill the entire length of the final column. While today I adjust an article’s final length to fit the assigned space by cutting or adding text as needed, and sometimes by using some reformatting tricks, a hole at the end of an article back then would be filled by a short block of type called, appropriately, a “filler.”

    All staff members wrote “fillers” in their down time, each with a headline in tiny type, all containing a brief numismatic factoid. We kept a bank of these ready to use of varying lengths, from two or four or five lines long or thereabouts. There was no magic in writing these. The writer would slide a sheet of paper into the IBM Selectric typewriter, write a bunch of fillers, which once transferred to the paper used for laying out a page, was held in reserve until needed.

    These fillers could be about anything. For example, on Page 24 of the Nov. 17, 1976, issue (the first one in which I was listed as a staff member), below a longer article about the forming of a new firm, was this filler, five lines long with the “Martha depicted” headline: “Martha Washington’s portrait appears on a $1 U.S. Silver Certificate issued from 1886 to 1891.” Short. Factual. Informative. Not fake news.

    One of my first tasks on the staff was to assist in writing these fillers (my main focus at first, however, was helping to answer baskets filled with a couple of years of Collectors’ Clearinghouse correspondence from readers with questions about their coins and other numismatic collectibles). I don’t recall any of these early filler contributions except for one. Which brings us to my “fake news” contribution decades before that phrase became fashionable.

    One day, I was sitting in the office I shared with a fellow staff member whose name I will not reveal, writing some fillers. He made a suggestion that I address the status of that monetary unit known as the “quatloo.” I immediately caught the reference, being from the episode of Star Trek called the “Gamesters of Triskelion.”

    In this episode, the bridge crew of the USS Enterprise was captured by an alien race from the planet Triskelion and forced to participate in gladiator-style games while the audience bet on the outcome of each match in the planet’s unit of currency, the “quatloo.” Capt. James T. Kirk, for example, had to fight against a slave or “drill thrall” called Shahna, played by the actress Angelique Pettyjohn, who was dressed in the standard (and sexist) Star Trek style for a woman from an alien civilization (meaning as little clothing that the standards of the 1960s allowed on television). During the match, which was supposed to be to the death, wagers were called out in units of quatloos by the leaders of the planet. Kirk managed to defeat Shahna though he declined to kill her and helped in defeating the evil Providers, who ran the games.

    The episode was not one of the series’ best but it was one of the few that had anything remotely like a money reference.

    So, back to the fateful filler.

    I forget the headline, but my filler read something like this: “The quatloo of Triskelion has been demonetized.” My co-worker assured me it would be all right, so it was turned in with the rest of my tiny contributions. It made it through the editing process (which meant the older, wiser, and more skilled news editor did not question the piece), and finally made it to a page and was published.

    And then we got letters. Lots of letters.

    Many readers asked the same question. What the heck was a “quatloo” and where was “Triskelion”? The correspondents had never heard of the place nor the currency unit. A smaller number of Trekkies among the readership caught the reference and wrote, essentially, “Hey, cool reference.”

    Eventually the letters came to the attention of the news editor and of Margo Russell, our editor. Margo thought it cute, but the news editor mildly admonished me. Somewhere in my files I still have a clipping of my quatloo filler.

    Today, being older and wiser and more experienced, I can only look back at that time and ask myself, “What was I thinking?”

    Still, I am not going to take any credit for introducing the concept of “fake news.” That kind of thing happened long before I was born.

    Live long and prosper.

    How long should the U.S. Mint keep offering older products?

    February 16, 2017 2:07 PM by
    How long should the United States Mint keep offering coins, annual sets, and other products past the end of the calendar year?

    A look at the U.S. Mint’s online catalog shows that products that are now six and seven years old remain available to customers. In the America the Beautiful quarter dollars program, for example, three-coin sets containing coins from the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco Mints remain available to the beginning of the program in 2010. Is that too long?

    Allowing products to remain available for two and three and even six years might be beneficial to collectors who are just getting started and might be interested in acquiring older sets at issue prices, but it also leaves collectors who bought the products as soon as they were offered uncertain about whether sales will ever end. It can be disconcerting to see a product’s sales figure or “mintage” continuing to rise year after year.

    A number of 2016 products remain available today, including the Standing Liberty quarter dollar and Walking Liberty half dollar in the Centennial gold coin series. Is it appropriate to keep selling these two coins, with mintages maybe rising or falling by a handful of coins each week? They are labeled “Limited” at the website, but an end to sales seems nowhere in sight.

    The Mint does have some limitations imposed upon it. Commemorative coin programs by law have to close at the end of the calendar year. But the vast majority of products have no restrictions imposed.

    Many collectors would probably tell Mint officials to take annual sets off sale more quickly than occurs now. Why are some 2014 sets in the America the Beautiful quarter dollars program still available at issue price nearly three years after sales began?

    Collectors like to know how many of a particular set or coin exist. When sales continue for years, they wonder if they will ever know. 

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to bring his star power to the CCAC and coins

    February 10, 2017 9:55 AM by

    The appointment of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee was an inspired decision at several levels.

    Abdul-Jabbar, of course, brings to the panel star power that the CCAC has never had before. He literally is one of the most-recognizable persons on the planet. While current members like Dennis Tucker and Heidi Wastweet are well known in the insular worlds of numismatic publishing and medallic art, they are not household names to most of the rest of America. Indeed, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee itself is one of those tiny government panels that, while performing an important role, is virtually unknown outside of the immediate community that it serves. Ask a thousand random people what the CCAC does, and it is likely that 999 of them will not know. Ask those same thousand people to identify Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and 999 will likely know. 

    His service on the CCAC holds the potential to increase the panel’s visibility by a significant factor. When the CCAC meets in a hobby-friendly setting outside of the nation’s capital, like at an American Numismatic Association convention, it can draw a crowd of a few dozen collectors. Imagine, however, the kinds of crowds that could arise if it is announced in the days before that the basketball legend will be in attendance at the convention. To see someone like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar appearing before a crowd of young people who never before thought about collecting coins and hear him say that coins are cool and that collecting is fun — well, the benefits to the hobby could be immense.

    He also brings something more to the panel. As he says in our interview starting on Page 6, “I will add an element of diversity in suggesting how America is remembered, as well as how those overlooked people of color who helped build America are remembered.”

    The CCAC, an offshoot of the original panel formed to advise the government on commemorative coin programs, is intended to give a wide swath of Americans a say in what our coins and medals look like. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will add his own distinctive voice and outlook to that panel.

    “I’ve spent the last twenty years writing books and articles that celebrate overlooked people of color who have had an extraordinary impact on American culture,” he told Coin World. “So, it seemed like a perfect fit.”

    He appreciates the strides that have been made, praising the bold choice that the Mint and the CCAC have made with the 1792–2017-W American Liberty gold $100 coin — the first U.S. coin to depict Liberty as an African-American woman. He calls it “a fitting symbol for the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Mint.”

    His first CCAC meeting is set for Feb. 15, a teleconference at which the panel will discuss design themes for the 2019 America the Beautiful quarter dollars. His first in-person meeting will be in March. Like most of the hobby, I’m looking forward to his insights

    To the hidden owners of any 1933 double eagles: don’t tell the Mint

    January 30, 2017 8:44 AM by
    Roy Langbord is a third-generation target of the government’s determination to prohibit the private ownership of a gold coin struck when it was possible (though unlikely) to walk into any store and pay for your purchase with gold coins.

    He is a member of the Langbord family that has fought a 10-year legal battle against the federal government for ownership of 10 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagles his mother found in a family safe-deposit box some 12 years ago. Now, he is sharing with readers some of his personal recollections on that battle in an exclusive interview granted to Coin World. He told senior editor Paul Gilkes how his family’s reputation has been besmirched in a story that dates to the 1930s when his grandfather Israel Switt was a dealer in jewelry and coins in Philadelphia.

    At the heart of the recent case is Switt’s role in selling an uncertain number of 1933 double eagles in the marketplace. The thing is, until 1944, 1933 double eagles traded in the coin marketplace unhindered by government interference, generally bringing prices of $1,000 to $2,000. While the coins were rare, they weren’t hidden. Ads for them appeared in numismatic publications. In fact, the government, with the Bureau of the Mint’s blessing, in March 1944 granted King Farouk of Egypt, a collector of coins and many other things, an export license for one of the coins. Within days of that decision, however, the government’s stance on 1933 double eagles was reversed.

    When the government was made aware of a March 1944 auction by Stack’s that included a 1933 double eagle, Mint officials took another look at the background of the coin and came to the conclusion — whether right or wrong we may never know for sure — that no 1933 double eagles were issued legally with the exception of two given to the Smithsonian. Secret Service agents descended upon Stack’s and soon learned of Switt’s connection to marketing the coins. Over the next few years, the government tracked down nine examples total, eventually melting them all (a desecration to numismatists). But the Mint didn’t get all of the coins out there. The supposed Farouk coin was found in 1996 and another long trial ensued; surprisingly, the government permitted its public sale in exchange for 50 percent of the take.

    At least one other 1933 double eagle resides in a private collection. You can bet that the owner of that coin will listen to Roy Langbord’s advice to not tell the Mint. 

    The Mint gives up a Friday afternoon surprise

    January 20, 2017 9:56 AM by
    In the early afternoon of Jan. 13, a few  hours after we had completed the Jan. 30 issue of Coin World Weekly and sent it to the printer, I visited some of the online collector forums that I monitor for news tips and to keep abreast of the public mood of collectors. One of the conversations at the Professional Coin Grading Service U.S. Coins Forum caught my eye, saying something along the lines of “2017 coins found in circulation.” I scrolled down and looked at one of the first images displayed. Then I muttered a few words you won’t see in the pages of Coin World. That’s because, had I read the post four or five hours earlier, I would have torn up Page 1 even though it was mostly done since the day before.

    A collector had posted a picture of one of this year’s Lincoln cents — one struck at the Philadelphia Mint and bearing that facility’s P Mint mark. While at first I was skeptical, especially when someone quickly posted some obviously photo-manipulated images of similar pieces with different dates, the original poster said that the image was genuine.

    I summoned Paul Gilkes, our senior editor for U.S. coins whose beat includes the U.S. Mint, and showed him the image, asking if he saw anything unusual. He immediately saw the Mint mark and returned to his desk to call his contacts in the Mint’s corporate communications department. A spokesman quickly confirmed that Lincoln cents struck in 2017 at the Philadelphia Mint do indeed bear a P Mint mark, as a one-year nod to the Mint’s 225th anniversary, and that the Mint had kept this a secret.

    Paul hastily wrote the news coverage and we posted it to our website and Facebook page. In the “old days,” before we had an online presence, we would have had to wait till the next print issue to inform our readers of the change for 2017. Even now, those of our readers who rely strictly on our print issues will see the news for the first time in this issue, more than a week after we published the news online.

    The Mint’s decision should increase interest in what is normally a rather routine issue. I suspect that in the weeks ahead, you’ll see dealers offering the 2017-P Lincoln cents for those of our readers who can’t find them in circulation. 

    We want to thank the Mint for the surprise. What’s next? 

    When the Mint had to abandon the coin collecting community

    January 17, 2017 1:51 PM by
    A century ago, in 1917, the Bureau of the Mint largely abandoned the coin collecting community, though not out of malice. 
    Since 1858, the Mint had offered the public Proof coins, from the cent to the $20 double eagle. The boom in coin collecting in 1858 and the Mint’s positive reaction to public interest in coins established a symbiotic relationship that lasted for decades, through a Civil War and a brief war with Spain.

    That all came to an end in 1917 with another war. The United States had resisted being drawn into the war that had raged throughout much of the world since 1914, but by April 1917, we were at war with Germany.

    Concurrent with this was a huge increase in the demand for coinage, starting in Fiscal Year 1918 (which began on July 1, 1917). As Mint Director Raymond T. Baker wrote in his annual report for 1918, “The coinage executed approached the half-billion mark in number of pieces, against approximately 155 million pieces in the previous year. This was the largest year’s coinage in the history of mint service.”

    With the Mint’s facilities churning out record numbers of coins, something had to give, and it was the Mint’s numismatic program that paid the price. The Mint abruptly stopped issuing Proof coins for public consumption in 1917, though officials already had scaled back the program in 1916 when they offered no Proof gold coinage. (While commemorative coinage production continued sporadically, the Mint was not involved in the sale of the coins.)

    No Proof coins would be struck for public sale until 1936, a move that cheered collectors though they were a bit grumpy over the increased costs of the coins. Just six years later, another war ensued, as did another hiatus in Proof coin production from 1943 to 1949. 

    Since 1950, Proof production has for the most part remained steady. However, could a halt happen again? We saw Proof American Eagle production stop in 2009 in response to bullion coin demand, but it seems unlikely that Mint will ever repeat its actions of 1917 as long as collectors continue to make its numismatic program a highly profitable one.