William is the managing editor, appointed to that position on May 1,2015, after serving as news editor for many years. He joined the Coin World editorial staff in 1976 as an assistant editor for "Collectors' Clearinghouse." Bill manages the editorial staff and is responsible for the day-to-day management of the print and online editorial content of Coin World. He serves as chief copy editor for all Coin World publications and directs ditorial production aspects of Coin World. He has served as lead copy editor for all books published by Coin World since 1985. Bill began collecting coins at age 10. He is a graduate of Bowling Green State University and majored in journalism.
Jan 16, 2018, 13:48 PM by
?Talk about fortuitous timing. Within six minutes of each other on the same day, two items popped up in my Outlook Inbox that shine a hopeful light on a dark corner that afflicts our collecting community — numismatic crime.
From Doug Davis, founder and operator of the Numismatic Crime Information Center, comes a message reporting on the good work NCIC does (see his letter on the page opposite this Editorial). Davis is both a coin collector and a professional law enforcement officer. He is currently mayor of Pantego, Texas, and also served as the community’s chief of police.
Thirty years ago, in 1987, he “established the Numismatic Crime Information Center within the Pantego Police Department to assist law enforcement officers in the investigation of crimes against collectors and dealers. Later that same year he was instrumental in assisting the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the development of the National Stolen Coin File,” notes the history of NCIC published at its website.
For two decades, Doug has been instrumental in working with the numismatic and law enforcement communities to report and investigate numismatic crimes. He has a network of more than 6,000 contacts, and whenever a crime is reported to the NCIC, he sends out email alerts to his network. His letter published in this week’s issue includes one of the many success stories NCIC can boast of over the years.
Whenever a reader contacts me with a sad tale that they have been burglarized or robbed of their collection, I do not hesitate to direct them to contact Doug for assistance. I do not have to do this often, fortunately, but it is a relief to know that help is available for the victims of numismatic crime.
A few minutes after I received the email from NCIC, Donn Pearlman, on behalf of the Professional Numismatists Guild, sent me an email announcing that a member dealer of the PNG (who shall remain anonymous by choice) had aided in the arrest of two men who have since been charged with a crime.
According to Pearlman, “A long-time member of the Professional Numismatists Guild ... assisted the Federal Bureau of Investigation in solving a case involving an attempt by suspected thieves to purchase $2 million of gold using a bank check with the forged signature of a deceased New York City woman.”
According to court documents, the two men stand accused of preying “on a deceased New Yorker’s estate by stealing millions in stock certificates from her home. Then, in an attempt to cover their tracks, the defendants allegedly sold the certificates and tried to purchase more than $2 million in gold coins so that the ill-gotten gains couldn’t be traced to them.”
The dealer said the two men who contacted him were unsophisticated about buying gold. “This just smelled bad,” he said. He contacted the FBI who conducted an investigation and eventually made the arrests.
When numismatic crime happens, it is good to know that organizations like NCIC and PNG exist, and are there to help the victims and the authorities who investigate the crimes.
Jul 17, 2017, 16:46 PM byFor a brief time in July 1977, this fake overdate 1977/6 Lincoln cent was declared genuine by three of the Bureau of the Mint’s leading technical experts. It was ultimately declared to be a fake and the man who sent the coin to “Coin World” received probation for violations of federal laws regarding counterfeiting.
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.
Mar 23, 2017, 10:08 AM by William T. GibbsAn unexpected telephone call in 1994 resulted in the discovery of an experimental coin no one in the hobby knew existed — a 1974 Lincoln cent struck on a bronze-clad steel planchet with regular dies. Only black-and-white images exist.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.
Mar 15, 2017, 17:29 PM by William T. GibbsAn unexpected telephone call in 1994 resulted in the discovery of an experimental coin no one in the hobby knew existed — a 1974 Lincoln cent struck on a bronze-clad steel planchet with regular dies. Only black-and-white images exist.
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.
Dec 22, 2016, 08:07 AM by
?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.
At the end of every year, Coin World’s editors propose their top stories for the year. We then vote on everyone’s recommendations, sometimes taking more than one round to determine what stories make the cut. While these stories are often among the most important that we covered during the year, with lasting impact on the hobby, sometimes a story will make the list more because it was interesting than life-changing.The discovery of a rare Vigo Bay gold coin in a family heirloom toy box — a coin used in play as “pirate treasure” by several generations of children — falls into the former category of interesting rather than life-altering (except maybe for the family, who benefited from the £280,000 the coin brought when sold at auction).However, some stories from 2016 fall into that life-changing category, and none more so than the article about planned changes to the $5, $10, and $20 Federal Reserve notes. When the changes start to appear (maybe in 2020), historic events in civil rights and equal rights will become prominent themes of notes used by Americans every day, and on the $20 note, the portrait of Harriet Tubman will be the first of a historic African-American woman on U.S. currency (and only the second woman to have her portrait appear on federal paper money).Similarly, the appearance of the first African-American Liberty on a U.S. coin in 2017 will break down barriers, and like the future changes to our paper money, recognize the diversity that makes America what it is.Of course, many of the year’s top stories are the kind that excite coin geeks but probably no one else. The story about the discovery of hubs and dies for a 1964 Morgan dollar fits squarely into that category, as does the discovery of the dies and hubs for the 1964 Peace dollar. The twin discoveries, made in 2015 but not announced until 2016, probably excited hard-core collectors more than any other event.The story about the 1974-D Lincoln aluminum cent also falls into that latter category.From the business side of the hobby, the growth in boutique bullion coinage and the fourth auction of coins from the Pogue Collection illustrated the continuing interest in both modern coinage and classic coins (even if the stars of the Pogue IV auction did not sell).Not surprisingly, the 2016 Centennial gold coins and 2016 American Liberty silver medals made our list. I can say that both U.S. Mint offerings generated more phone calls and email to me than any other subjects in 2016, and not all in a “the Mint did a good job” way.One story that made the list in 2016 is a perennial favorite — the continuing saga of 10 1933 double eagles. Will it make the cut again in 2017?
Dec 16, 2016, 10:31 AM by?Although I write this in mid-December, the cover for this issue bears the new year’s date, so I am peeking into the future to write a little bit about the coming year. I am hesitant to make predictions, but here are some things I am fairly confident about.We have a lot of great features planned for the new year. The Coin World editorial staff — editor-at-large Steve Roach, senior editors Paul Gilkes and Jeff Starck, and copy editor Fern Loomis — plus our talented team of freelance contributors, began thinking in September and October 2016 about features for our 2017 monthly issues.Steve’s feature in this first issue of 2017, “The Appeal of Rare Coins,” looks at market dynamics as shown through recent auctions of some of the greatest collections of U.S. coins in existence. And while most of us may never be able to own a great rarity, we can all learn from the lessons Steve discusses in his look at today’s marketplace.Other features in the planning include a special one for our April issue that is tied to the 225th anniversary of the United States Mint; while that article hasn’t been turned in just yet, I can guarantee you’ll find it fascinating.Additional cover features for 2017 include looks at collecting varieties, the always popular Morgan dollar, and winners and losers among modern U.S. Mint products.Throughout the new year, as a news publication (both in print and online), Coin World will continue to keep you informed. Our talented team of reporters will work their beats to bring you the latest news that you will need to know. Obviously, the U.S. Mint’s milestone anniversary celebration will play a big role but we’ll also keep you informed about the latest news involving world coins, paper money, treasure finds, numismatic literature, auctions, important legislation, and more — I’m predicting that we’ll have lots to report about during the year.Our columnists and bloggers, too, will offer their special insights weekly, and out Chicago-based online team of Joe O’Donnell and Colin Sallee will continue to help keep our website humming.All of us at Coin World promise to do our best in helping you enjoy your collecting pursuits. Please reach out to us whenever you have questions and comments; we want to hear from you.
Dec 12, 2016, 10:38 AM byEngland’s polymer £5 note continues to make news, most of it controversial. Now there is something not kosher about it, too.?Technological changes can have unintended consequences — they did in India in 1857 and they may again in England today, and for the same reason. As Art Friedberg reports this week, the Bank of England’s troubled £5 note is the subject of what could be its greatest controversy: it contains traces of animal fat.To many this might generate a response of, “So what?” However, for Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, vegans, vegetarians, and others in the United Kingdom who have to use the notes, the existence of tallow in the notes may be a matter of morality. And lest some brush off their response as an overreaction, let’s not forget the Indian Rebellion of 1857 against the British East India Company, which held control of the subcontinent. While that rebellion had many causes, the final spark was the rumor that cow and pig fat was used to grease the gunpowder cartridges for British Enfield rifles. A soldier was expected to tear open the paper cartridge with his teeth, dump its gunpowder into the barrel of the rifle, and then shove the greased paper and ball in after it. Not surprisingly, Hindu and Muslim soldiers objected to this because of their sacred beliefs involving cows and pigs. More than 100,000 would die in the rebellion.This is not to suggest that mass violence could erupt over the tallow ingredient of the new polymer notes. However, the use of tallow, of which Bank of England officials say they were unaware until the recent revelations, is just the latest blow to the bank respecting the note. The bank has been embarrassed by YouTube videos and other social media postings of individuals erasing ink from the notes or applying heat until the notes shrink. Those kinds of problems have been experienced with polymer notes from other issuers, but they still seemed to catch the U.K. population by surprise.Preparing a new note, especially in this era when increasingly sophisticated anti-counterfeiting devices are used, takes a lot of work and experimentation, and even then, unexpected problems can still arise, as in the printing of the current generation of $100 Federal Reserve notes. Those problems delayed release of the notes by months while the problems were resolved. Undoubtedly the U.S. government will make every effort to prevent problems with the new $5, $10, and $20 notes being designed. I just personally hope as a vegan that these future notes lack any sort of ingredients derived from animal by-products.
Dec 2, 2016, 15:04 PM by
?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?
Oct 16, 2015, 10:02 AM byThe master American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens is shown with a version of his Amor Caritas in his Paris studio, created after he had already established himself. In 1869, both a young Saint-Gaudens and Theodore Roosevelt were in Paris. While their paths did not intersect then, their collaboration at the dawn of the 20th century resulted in numismatic greatness.?In Paris in 1869, among the many Americans visiting there were two youths — Gus, a struggling artist barely into his 20s and Teedie, the sickly 11-year-old son of a family of aristocrats.It is unlikely that the two crossed paths that year in the City of Light. They came from vastly different worlds. The Irish-born Gus was an improvised art student of no particular brilliance, struggling to make a tiny income from cutting cameos. Teedie was a scion of a very wealthy New York family. Decades later, though, at the dawn of the 20th century, their lives would intersect when both were at the height of their careers, and brilliance would result from their collaboration: Augustus Saint-Gaudens was the pre-eminent American sculptor and Theodore Roosevelt was president of the United States.The author-historian David McCullough in his book The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris tells the story of several generations of young American men and women who journeyed to Paris to learn and hone their talents in the most important city of the arts in the world.Roosevelt is only a minor figure in the book and his collaboration with Saint-Gaudens on the 1907 gold eagle and double eagle warrants a single sentence in the book’s Epilogue. The artist, though, is a central figure of the book, as McCullough relates how a poor art student became one of the greatest American artists of all time.Paris was temporarily home to many talented Americans in 19th century — Henry James, Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson among them. In the 1890s, Saint-Gaudens would meet in Paris another young American artist, James Earle Fraser, whose sculpture The End of the Trail of a bedraggled Native American astride his horse during a blizzard led the older and now established artist to say, McCullough writes, “You haven’t done a man. You’ve done a race.” Fraser would later work in Saint-Gaudens’ studio and like his mentor would not only achieve greatness in traditional sculpture but also create a numismatic masterpiece — the Indian Head 5-cent coin — in what would be a period of American Renaissance of coinage design inaugurated by Roosevelt.When lives intertwine, the amazing can occur.
Sep 14, 2015, 08:25 AM byHappy Birthday! About 60 years ago this month, the Philadelphia Mint struck the 1955 Lincoln, Doubled Die Obverse cent and released it into circulation despite massive doubling on the obverse.
?Sixty years ago this month, teens were rocking to Bill Haley and His Comets singing “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock” and Pat Boone’s “Ain’t That a Shame.” Dad and Mom were listening to Mitch Miller’s “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” In movie houses and at the drive-ins, moviegoers were watching William Holden woo Jennifer Jones in Love is a Many-Splendored Thing while in The Man From Laramie, Jimmy Stewart faced down a gunrunner selling rifles to the Apaches.
In Nevada, at Yucca Flats, the U.S. military was continuing to study the damage done to “Survival Town” by a series of 14 atomic bomb blasts conducted during the previous spring.
In the Northeast, residents were still cleaning up from Hurricane Diane, whose torrential rains in August had flooded vast swaths of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and New England, killing more than 180 people.And 60 years ago, in the late summer or early fall of 1955, employees of the Philadelphia Mint made a series of blunders whose results still excite collectors six decades later.
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In the die shop of the Philadelphia Mint, an employee installing a partially hubbed obverse die failed to check the alignment with the hub.
The die sailed through the inspection process, somehow, and was installed in a press on the coining floor of the Mint. The facility was operating a 12-hour shift seven days a week to meet the huge demand for cents. A new 1-cent cigarette tax had just been enacted in Pennsylvania to pay for the damage from Diane.
At the Mint, an employee checking the latest batch of cents finally noticed something was amiss with some of the coins, from one press, after about 40,000 had been struck. Approximately 24,000 of the cents from that production run were already mixed in with other cents. After some consideration, the Mint decided to ship the error cents that were mixed with the others, since the need for cents was so acute, but melt the rest. Not long after, collectors began to notice the odd-looking cents, many found tucked in cigarette packs.
Happy birthday to the 1955 Lincoln, Doubled Die Obverse cent!
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Aug 24, 2015, 15:58 PM byA good mystery always satisfies, whether it be between the covers of a mystery novel or behind the origins of a rare coin. Dashiell Hammett’s classic novel, The Maltese Falcon, made into an equally classic movie, is a high point in the genre; the Class II 1804 Draped Bust dollar, like this former Garrett specimen, is shrouded in mystery itself and a high point in anyone’s collection.?You have to love a good mystery, whether it’s Sam Spade and the Maltese Falcon, or Nate Heller investigating the Lindbergh kidnapping, or a numismatist trying to uncover the truth behind the issuance of a 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin, an 1884 and 1885 Trade dollar, or a restrike 1804 Draped Bust dollar.It’s no mystery that these coins have fascinated collectors ever since they were first discovered and sold by a dealer to a well-heeled collector. Each of the coins is rare, and when one appears on the auction block, all eyes are on the auctioneer. The pedigree of any of the coins invariably reads like a list of the best-known collectors of all time. But what do we know about them?Our cover feature this issue by Bill Eckberg tells some of the “shady stories” behind these great coins, or as Bill would insist, “coins.” The quote marks are essential punctuation because, he writes, “it’s easy to forget that some of the rarest, priciest and most ‘significant’ rare coins aren’t really coins at all.” The four coins described earlier were all issued without sanction or authority, many numismatists believe; they certainly were not struck for circulation. But for most collectors, that lack of an official stamp doesn’t matter; these are great coins, and just about anyone reading this piece would love to own any one of them.Even if a collector can’t afford to own one of these coins, there is enjoyment in just looking at them. The just concluded American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money had many great rarities on display at its Museum Showcase, which never wanted for an audience of collectors eager to catch a glimpse of the ANA’s 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin and 1804 Draped Bust dollar (and other great rarities as well).The mysterious origins of coins like the Class II and III 1804 dollars (the restrikes) and 1913 Liberty Head “nickels” enhance each coin’s value. Some other U.S. coins are rarer than the 1804 dollar (which has a sizeable population of 15 counting all three classes), and yet they bring lower prices because they lack the same level of “mystery.”More-modern coins also have an air of mystery surrounding them, like the quarter dollar/dollar mule of 2000 (how could the Mint make three different die pairs of these coins?), that someday may rank right up there with the older rarities.So, what is your favorite mystery?
Jul 9, 2015, 16:44 PM byThe government has asked for a rehearing of the April 17 decision of a three-judge panel in the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit awarding 10 1933 double eagles to the Langbord family. Illustrated is one of the 10 coins in dispute. Images by Tom Mulvaney courtesy of U.S. Mint.
The ongoing legal tussle between the federal government and the Langbord family is starting to feel like the celebrated Jarndyce v. Jarndyce case that is the focal point of the novel Bleak House.
Charles Dickens’ fictional lawsuit involves a large inheritance, not unlike the case involving the 1933 double eagles, though the case in the novel lasted generations before its conclusion. In contrast, the current case involving the 1933 double eagles is merely 12 years old, starting in 2003 when the Langbords revealed the discovery of 10 of the coins and the Mint announced that it was keeping them.
Still, Coin World has been reporting on legal cases involving ownership of 1933 double eagles for more than a generation. In 1996, one of the coins was recovered from a British coin dealer in a sting operation. The dealer and the government fought a legal battle until 2001, when both parties agreed to a public sale of the coin with the proceeds to be split 50–50 between the two; the sale occurred in 2002.And several decades before that, collectors, dealers, and the government fought over 10 other 1933 double eagles sold into the marketplace by the now-deceased father and grandfather of the three Langbords involved in the current case. The earlier cases began in 1944 and did not end until 1952, when a ninth coin was surrendered by its owner, and 1954, when the 10th coin, purported to be the piece sold in 2002, was withdrawn from the collection of Egypt’s King Farouk and went into hiding.If one considers 1944 as the true starting date for the current battle, it truly is becoming the hobby’s Jarndyce v. Jarndyce.
Jul 2, 2015, 12:13 PM by
?When the U.S. Mint underestimates public demand for one of its products, collectors are quick to feel frustrated. When it happens twice in less than a week, the frustration doubles, not only for the collecting community but for Mint officials as well, as evidenced in back-to-back public comments by the Mint.
Collectors were first frustrated on June 25 when the Jackie Kennedy First Spouse gold coins went on sale and were quickly placed in back-order status. Then sales began at noon June 30 for the Harry S. Truman Coin and Chronicles set, and ended after 15 minutes. When sales ended,16,780 sets had been sold from a maximum edition of 17,000 sets.
The popularity of both products clearly caught United States Mint officials off-guard.
In a June 30 statement, officials addressed the Jackie Kennedy First Spouse gold coin: “The Mint underestimated the initial demand for the 2015 First Spouse Series One-Half Ounce Gold Coins – Jacqueline Kennedy and, unfortunately, the products went on back order very quickly after sales started.”A day later, the Mint publicly commented on the Truman set (which contains the first-ever Reverse Proof Presidential dollar), noting that the edition size of 17,000 was based on sales of prior sets (lacking a Reverse Proof coin). The Franklin D. Roosevelt set, which went on sale Dec. 22, 2014, “had sold only 13,255 units as of June 29, 2015,” out of a maximum edition of 20,000 sets, the Mint noted in its comments. In contrast, the Truman set sold a “total of 16,780 sets ... in approximately 15 minutes.”Predicting the popularity of a future product can be difficult, and basing maximum mintages on past sales of similar products is a reasonable approach — usually. However, the addition of a Reverse Proof Truman Presidential dollar, a significant change, made the Mint’s prediction of those sales lacking.It is also reasonable for the Mint to factor in the popularity of a coin’s subject or theme. Mint officials did predict that demand for the gold coin depicting the popular Jackie Kennedy likely would be greater than for the other 2015 First Spouse coins and increased the maximum mintage to 30,000 (the other 2015 coins have maximums of 10,000 each).One has to feel for Mint officials, having to face customer criticism twice in such short order. However, officials can use these experiences in any future product planning.
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Jun 26, 2015, 12:27 PM byThis classic image of Buzz Aldrin on the moon from July 20, 1969, inspired the reverse design described for the proposed coins. Image courtesy of NASA.
?Ever since the rebirth of U.S. commemorative coinage in 1982, Congress and the United States Mint have created both winners and losers in the various programs and designs they have served up to collectors. For every American Buffalo silver dollar program with its fast sellout, there’s been a Girl Scouts of America program that sold so few coins that surcharges could not be paid out. For every beautiful Dolly Madison silver dollar, there’s been an unimaginative Seoul Olympiad silver dollar.
The keys to a successful commemorative coin program are twofold. First, select a subject sure to capture the imagination of the coin collecting community; that’s the responsibility of Congress, which authorizes the coin programs. Second, create designs that are gorgeous and innovative and exciting; the U.S. Mint is chiefly responsible here though Congress can also play a major role.
H.R. 2726, the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act, could be one of those wildly successful programs. The subject matter of the program — commemoration of the 50th anniversary of mankind’s greatest technological achievement, landing men on the moon — is an obvious choice. Failure to issue coins commemorating the Apollo 11 astronauts and the thousands of men and women at NASA and the many private contractors who ran the Apollo program would be a grave disservice.
The program could also be a winner in terms of designs as well. As Coin World editor-at-large Steve Roach writes in his Page One article, one of the bill’s provisions calls for “super-sized silver commemorative coins” — a maximum of 100,000 Proof 5-ounce .999 fine silver dollars struck on a 3-inch-diameter planchet similar to the 5-ounce America the Beautiful quarter dollars. “In addition, the bill calls for the program’s coins to use curved surfaces similar to coins from the U.S. Mint’s popular 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative program,” Steve writes.Furthermore, the legislation requires the coins to “be produced in a fashion similar to the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame 75th Anniversary Commemorative Coin, so that the reverse of the coin is convex to more closely resemble the faceplate of the astronaut’s helmet of the time and the obverse concave, providing a more dramatic display of the obverse design.”The U.S. Mint has shown it is capable of producing a 3-inch 5-ounce .999 fine silver coin and striking coins with concave and convex designs. A marriage of the two achievements could yield incredible results.Let’s start the countdown clock to 2019 now. T-minus four years and counting.
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Jun 8, 2015, 16:01 PM by
?Coin World senior editor Paul Gilkes’ recent blog about receiving a Kennedy half dollar in change at a concession stand at a rock concert and his news article in this issue about increased circulating coinage production are connected, however tenuously.
Paul writes in his blog (http://goo.gl/DQSZrC), “Despite being Coin World ‘s senior editor for U.S. coins, I haven’t seen a Kennedy half dollar in circulation or received one in change for years. That is, until May 30, in, of all places, Ohio Stadium, home to the national champion Ohio State Buckeyes football team.”He wasn’t attending a Buckeyes game (wrong time of the year) but a concert given by a bunch of old weathered guys in a little rock n’ roll band that you may or may not have heard of before — the Rolling Stones.The musicians weren’t tossing the half dollars to the crowd, exactly, as Paul explains about his encounter at the concert concession stand.
“All of the food and drink items were priced in even dollar amounts or in 50-cent increments,” Paul writes, adding, “I was actually slightly dumbfounded when the concession worker handed me a well-circulated 1972 Kennedy half dollar in change.”
Paul is always the reporter so he asked the cashier why they were using half dollars; the worker explained that because all of the food and drinks sold at the concession stand were priced in 50-cent increments, all change was handed back in half dollars.
A niche market for half dollars doesn’t get any “nich-ier” than a Rolling Stones concert concession stand in Columbus, Ohio.
The Kennedy half dollar has been a niche coin for decades, used increasingly infrequently in circulation. As Paul explains in his news article at the top of page 5 this week about the Denver and Philadelphia Mints rising up to meet increased circulating coinage demand, half dollars are no longer struck for circulation. In fact, that last happened in 2001 when the Rolling Stones was a boy band, when Mick and Charlie and Ron and Keith were mere youths in their late 50s.
During their current Zip Code tour of North America, the Stones have been selling out and rocking the house with their classic tunes, including 1968’s “Sympathy for the Devil” and the lament, “Who killed the Kennedys,” about the hoarding of the half dollar; and 1969’s gold digger tune, “You Got the Silver.”
And the Stones didn’t forget their trio of classics about the woes of cracking out half dollars for resubmission to the grading services: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Tumbling Dice” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
Finally, they brought the house down with tunes from the days when they dabbled in questionable personal forms of coin alteration: “Under My Thumb,” “Paint It, Black,” and “She’s a Rainbow.”
Seriously, though, the half dollar still can serve commerce even in these highly specialized transactions. You may even get one in change some day; time is on your side.
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May 11, 2015, 13:54 PM by
?Life is all about transitions. We all undergo changes in our lives.I have been thinking about transitions a lot recently. The cover feature in the May Coin World Monthly was about the Coinage Act of 1965, ushering in the transition of silver coinage to clad coinage. I started collecting then, and have fond memories of searching through change at every opportunity — through the library fines paid to me as a volunteer in Margaretta Middle School by fellow students and at my first paying job, at the K&S Dairy Bar across the street from the entrance to the world-famous Blue Hole in Castalia, Ohio.More recently, I have thought about all of the transitions I’ve experienced during more than 38 years as a Coin World staff member. Margo Russell, the editor who called me to offer me a job interview in the fall of 1976, passed away in January. I recently met with her two daughters and we had fun reminiscing about those long-ago days and the many talented people who worked on the editorial staff decades ago.A few days ago, Margo’s successor as editor, Beth Deisher, stopped in to use the library to research an upcoming “From the Memory Bank” column. We discussed how the 1980s, when U.S. commemorative coins were reborn, is now ancient history to many younger collectors. Many of those collectors weren’t alive and don’t recall the era when the United States Mint sold collectors an annual Proof set and an annual Uncirculated Mint set and maybe a few medals, but nothing more.I also thought of the many changes Steve Roach, our editor-in-chief who just stepped into the editor-at-large position — a step that will enable him to continue writing for us while at the same time pursuing new opportunities — helped bring about in moving Coin World from a print-only publication to a digital one.Through all of the years I’ve spent here at Coin World, one force has driven everything that all of us here share — a love of coins and numismatics, a love of writing and editing and reporting.Transitions will always be underway, but that love for the hobby will be undying.
Mar 6, 2015, 16:39 PM by
What would Mark Twain think about being depicted on the 2016 commemorative coins that will honor him for his immense contributions to American literature?
I think he would be amused, and he was vain enough that he would also be a bit pleased.
Twain is the first American chosen for depiction on U.S. commemorative coinage to receive the honor because of his literary contributions.
Congress has honored dozens of politicians and military leaders and athletes and Civil Rights advocates on our commemorative coinage, and some of them made their own literary contributions. But never before has Congress honored anyone whose primary claim to fame is that he was a writer.
And what a writer.
Twain was the quintessential American writer and humorist. His Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is considered one of the greatest works of American literature; it can be read on multiple levels (I first encountered it as a very young child, and have read it multiple times since, gaining new appreciation every time). Life on the Mississippi beautifully captures the river that played such a major role in Twain’s life. Roughing It includes his hilarious experiences as a prospector and miner in the Nevada mining region (he failed spectacularly, and had to turn to writing to survive — fortunately for the literary world). His time travel story, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, predates H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine by many years, and is so much funnier than Wells’ dystopian tale.
His shorter works, too, are often wonderful, including “The £1,000,000 Bank Note,” which tells of the troubles resulting from disputes over ownership of a very high denomination Bank of England note.
Twain’s influence on American humorists cannot be overstated. All modern humorists owe a great debt to him. If he were alive today, he would likely have his own television show like Stephen Colbert and John Stewart. He would be just as biting and funny as any of these modern-day commentators. And like those two very funny men on their TV programs, Twain, when he was a reporter, blurred the lines between facts and fantasy. His early newspaper writings, what turned Sam Clemens into Mark Twain, would fit right in on Saturday Night Live’s news brief, or the monologues read by Colbert or Stewart.
In addition to being amused and maybe a bit proud at appearing on a coin, Twain would also recognize the irony of depicting him on coinage bearing the national motto “In God We Trust.”
Twain said this about the motto’s use on coinage, in a speech he gave May 14, 1908:
“Some years ago on the gold coins we used to trust in God. It think it was in 1863 that some genius suggested that it be put on the gold and silver coins which circulated among the rich. They didn't put it on the nickels and coppers because they didn't think the poor folks had any trust in God. ... If I remember rightly, the President required or ordered the removal of that sentence from the coins. Well, I didn't see that the statement ought to remain there. It wasn't true. But I think it would better read, ‘Within certain judicious limitations we trust in God,’ and if there isn't enough room on the coin for this, why enlarge the coin.”
On the basic facts, Twain’s comments were a fairly accurate recapitulation of the history of the motto’s use on coinage.
He was a little off on the date, of course. The motto’s origins trace to an 1861 letter from a minister to the Treasury secretary and it didn’t appear on a coin until the release of the bronze 2-cent coin in 1864. But he was pretty close otherwise.
The president being referenced was Theodore Roosevelt, and Twain was right; TR demanded that the motto not be used on the new gold coins designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens for issuance in 1907. Of course, about the time Twain was making his speech, Congress was overriding Roosevelt’s decision by ordering the use of the motto on the coinage. And the lesser coins mentioned by Twain — the nickels and coppers — they, too, would gain the motto a few years later as new designs were issued to replace the old “godless” coins.
Twain’s appearance on American coinage is long overdue. And it is very welcome.
Feb 20, 2015, 15:18 PM byChange happens, and often one side loses while another side gains. Telegraphs replaced the Pony Express in a few short months. Similarly, collectors without online access sometimes cannot buy the coins and medals they want.?A pair of telephone calls I received from readers recently brought to mind how much the coin marketplace has changed in the more than 38 years I have spent on the Coin World staff. I am not talking about changes to grading standards nor about the massive increases in products offered by the United States Mint. I am referring to changes in how coins are bought and sold.
The phone calls were similar in nature. One reader described seeing what, as best as I could determine, was a privately “enhanced” American Eagle silver bullion coin being sold by one dealer. The other caller was interested in a medal offered by a private minter. Each caller wanted a phone number for the merchant offering the item he was interested in purchasing. For each caller, I dutifully ascertained who they wanted to contact and then went online to search for the merchant’s phone number. That’s when the same problem arose twice.
The dealer offering the enhanced American Eagle operated a store through Amazon. The private minter similarly has a Web presence where he sells his creations. In neither case could I find a telephone number for the caller. Both companies appeared to transact all business online; neither operated a brick-and-mortar shop and neither took orders over the phone, at least from what I could tell through my quick searches online for the readers.And that was a problem for each of the two readers, because neither has personal online access.
When I joined the Coin World staff in 1976, most business between dealer and collector was conducted in person at a coin shop or at a coin show; or through the mail or by a phone number appearing in an ad (by the way, some of the earliest coin dealer ads bearing phone numbers date to about 1911). Collectors ordered their annual Proof set or Uncirculated Mint set by mail, paying by check and using the form the Bureau of the Mint mailed to them as Mint customers.
The introduction of the World Wide Web changed all that, as coin dealers and the U.S. Mint began conducting an increasing amount of their business at their new websites as the 20th century closed. While some collectors quickly embraced being able to order coins online, many of Coin World’s readers hated the change.
That became very clear with the Mint’s sale of the 2001 American Buffalo commemorative silver dollar. The program sold out in two weeks, and a popular set containing one of the coins sold out in a matter of hours. Some readers accustomed to waiting for their Mint catalog or order form to arrive in the mail, so they could order the commemoratives by return mail,found that the coin had sold out before they could even place their order.
Of the many phone calls Coin World received, a common thread was heard in many of them. Readers without online access — many of them longtime Mint customers who had happily bought Mint products by mail for decades — said it was unfair that they were shut out of being able to acquire the coins just because they lacked online access.
Today, much of the numismatic business is conducted online.Collectors and dealers can bid on auction lots online, and order coins at dealer or Mint websites.
Some dealers, as we have seen, now transact all of their business online, whether it is through Amazon or eBay or at their own websites.They do not offer potential customers an alternative means of purchase.
Collectors today without online access are in the same predicament that others found themselves in when on the traditional side of technological change. Farmers who relied on horse-drawn equipment could notwork their fields as quickly and efficiently as farmers using tractors, whether powered by steam or internal combustion engines. The Pony Express lasted just a short while, its once fast delivery of letters overtaken by telegraph wires that stretched from coast to coast and to every city, town and village.
Change may seem unfair sometimes. Some collectors cannot afford a computer or smart phone or tablet with online access; others may feel they are too set in their ways to embrace the new technologies. Because of the lack of access, the two recent callers to Coin World may find themselves unable to purchase the coin and medal they wanted.But change happens, and very often, it benefits those who embrace that change.
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Feb 12, 2015, 07:43 AM by
?The U.S. Mint caught the collector community off-guard Feb. 6 when it announced that it would be issuing two special 2015 Roosevelt silver dimes as part of a set to contain a Proof 2015-W March of Dimes silver dollar.
The Reverse Proof 2015-P Roosevelt dime to be in the set is a first for the denomination and the ninth Reverse Proof U.S. coin overall.A collector could fairly easily create a mini-set or exhibit of Reverse Proof coins, though many are made from expensive platinum and gold. The mini-set contains (so far!):
Mint officials have also said that collectors should expect additional Mint products with Reverse Proof coins in 2015, including a Reverse Proof set or sets to mark the 50th anniversary of the production of Proof coins at the San Francisco Mint.The other silver dime in the March of Dimes set — a Proof 2015-W Roosevelt dime — is special, too. Until now, all standard Proof Roosevelt dimes were struck either at the Philadelphia Mint (1950 to 1964) or at the San Francisco Mint (1968 to date). The West Point Mint has struck Roosevelt dimes before, though: a 1996-W copper-nickel clad version included in the 1996 Uncirculated Mint set.More from CoinWorld.com:
- A 2006-W American Eagle 1-ounce gold $50 coin.
- A 2006-P American Eagle silver dollar.
- A 2007-W American Eagle half-ounce platinum $50 coin.
- A 2011-P American Eagle silver dollar.
- A 2012-S American Eagle silver dollar.
- A 2013-W American Eagle silver dollar.
- A 2013-W American Buffalo 1-ounce gold $50 coin.
- A 2014-W Kennedy silver half dollar.
Philadelphia Mint strikes silver American Eagle bullion coins for first time since series' 1986 debut
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Several 2015 U.S. Marshals Service commemorative coins already 'out of stock’
Kennedy half dollar sales begin Feb. 12 for 200-coin mixed bags and two-roll sets from U.S. Mint
Former U.S. Mint Director Ed Moy now sits on the board of a Bitcoin integration company
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Jan 22, 2015, 14:49 PM byThis proposed design for the 2015 High Relief gold $75 coin is clearly based on the Statue of Freedom that stands atop the U.S. Capitol dome, but it also throws off a Wonder Woman vibe, at least to this blogger.
The United States Mint unveiled a slew of designs for its 2015 High Relief gold $75 coin on the afternoon of Jan. 22: eagles in various poses for the reverse and images of Liberty for the obverse.
As Coin World’s Washington correspondent Bill McAllister has reported, the Commission of Fine Arts in its Jan. 22 review of the designs recommended two different obverse designs displaying the allegorical figure as Liberty, one showing a Liberty Head and the other a nearly full-length Liberty figure.
The various Liberty portraits submitted for review encompass a wide range — some gorgeous and others that were much less attractive; some simple and others intricate.
Some designs stand out above others.
Two striking portraits of a Liberty Head figure depict her with decidedly African-American features — a bold choice in this increasingly diverse nation, and one which is recommended by the CFA. She wears wheat strands in her hair in both portraits, and both show her in three-quarters view, with one design showing a fraction more of her face than the other.
Many of the depictions show standing portraits of Liberty,some from torso upward, with others showing the full length of her body. Depictions of flags, flaming torches, various plants, wings, shields and swords help support the central Liberty in her various portrayals. Think of Liberty as botanist, or Liberty as patriot, or Liberty as angel, or Liberty as peacemaker,or Liberty as the potential warrior.
And then there’s Liberty as Wonder Woman. Yeah, Wonder Woman. The Mint’s 14th design shows a virtually full length portrait of Liberty, her hair held in place by a helmet, armor covering her torso, a sword in her right hand and a union shield being supported by her left hand. The design shows Liberty as Warrior Queen, or an Amazonian princess. Like I said,Wonder Woman.
The design is clearly modeled after the Statue of Freedom that stands as guardian atop the U.S. Capitol dome, though somewhat modernized.And yet the figure also throws off this Wonder Woman vibe. True, she’s not wearing Wonder Woman’s classic costume (Google “Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman” if you’re uncertain of what that looks like).However, the character of Wonder Woman is sometimes shown in the comics wearing flowing robes similar to those worn by women in ancient Greece and Rome, and thus looks a lot like the design reviewed on Jan. 22.
These comments should not be construed as criticism. Far from it, as the many Wonder Woman statues and figures and busts that grace the geek shelves of my home prove.
To Americans, the allegorical figure of Liberty can represent many things. Why not Wonder Woman, who wears the red, white and blue of her adopted country??
Dec 31, 2014, 12:18 PM by
?The year 2014 is now officially past, and Coin World tradition means that it is now time for the editorial staff to present to you its annual recap of the Top 10 Numismatic Stories of 2014.
As in the past, editorial staff members met in mid-December to vote on the Top 10 stories they had covered in the past year. Everyone had an opportunity to present his or her choices, and then we voted on what we believed were the year’s most important stories. For the most part, the votes were not even close. Stories such as the release of the 2014-W Kennedy gold half dollar and the National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins were universal choices — no one on the staff disagreed that they were among our top stories for the year.
It should be noted, however, that we did not rank the stories from 1 to 10 in terms of importance. That is for our readers to decide.
Some patterns emerged this year, as they often do in each year’s list. Of the 10 stories deemed the year’s most important, four directly involved 2014 programs and initiatives of the United States Mint: the 50th Anniversary Kennedy half dollar program, the Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins, another record year for sales of the American Eagle 1-ounce silver bullion coin, and the Mint’s successful launch of its new website. Since most of our readers collect modern U.S. coins issued by the Mint, it should be no surprise that so many of our top stories have a close Mint connection
Three other stories involved found treasure connected to the California Gold Rush: the Saddle Ridge Hoard of gold coins and the discovery of the 70-ounce gold Butte Nugget, both finds made in Gold Rush country, and the resumption of recovery of gold ingots, coins and more from the shipwreck of the SS Central America, which carried tons of California gold in its cargo bays when it was sunk in 1857. Treasure stories are always popular with readers and with the editorial staff, so it is rare when our annual recap of a year’s news does not feature one or more treasure stories.
A seventh article has links to both treasure and the U.S. Mint: the revelation that a 1974-D Lincoln aluminum cent had been discovered (no one, including U.S. Mint officials, was even aware any of the experimental aluminum cents had been struck at the Denver Mint).
The remaining two articles are market driven: one is about the amazing number of major collections entering the marketplace in 2014 or being announced as coming to market in early 2015, and the other top article is about a series of record prices being set for ancient and more recent world coins.
As with any “Top” list, room for disagreement exists. What do you think of our choices? Did we miss any major stories? Let us know your thoughts by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and by commenting on our Coin World Facebook page.
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Dec 8, 2014, 17:04 PM byColor coded sketches indicate the different finishes on the dies for the 2014-D Enhanced Uncirculated Native American Dollar in the 2014 American Coin and Currency set being offered by the Mint. The Uncirculated Mint set coin shown at top is only to illustrate the coin's design. In the sketch of the Enhanced Uncirculated coin die, white indicates a standard Uncirculated finish; blue, a standard laser-frosted finish; and yellow, a light laser-frosted finish.
Twenty years after the U.S. Mint issued a set with a 1994-P Jefferson 5-cent coin bearing a special finish, and not revealing that the coin was special until after the set sold out, the Mint has done something remarkably similar.
Coin World Senior Editor Paul Gilkes reports in this issue about the Mint’s surprise “sleeper set of the year”—the 2014 American $1 Coin and Currency set with an Enhanced Uncirculated 2014-D Native American dollar.
RELATED VIDEO: An exciting end for 2014 Mint products
When the Mint announced details of the set Nov. 13, it noted only that the coin had an “uncirculated finish." As one collector said, “Yawn. Someone tell me why this set exists.”
However, as collectors started examining Mint images of the set packaging, they noticed the words “Enhanced Uncirculated,” and when they started receiving their sets after sales began Nov. 20, the special finish was confirmed in the accompanying certificate of authenticity.
The failure to announce ahead of the set’s release that the coin had a special finish was a rare misstep by the Mint’s Sales and Marketing staff, which in recent times has done a good job in promoting coins with special features.
After Mint officials released additional details about the finish on the morning before Thanksgiving, Coin World and other media quickly published news of the coin’s nature. Customers then placed so many orders that by Dec. 1, the set was “out of stock” for several days before sales resumed.
A 50,000-piece sales limit makes the Enhanced Uncirculated 2014-D Native American dollar the likely key date in the series.
In deciding whether to buy the 2014 set, collectors might want to look at current values for the aforementioned Matte Finish 1994-P Jefferson 5-cent coin and a similar Matte Finish 1997-P 5-cent coin. Both coins are among the highest priced pieces in the series since 1968.
After a busy year with such exciting issues as the Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins and the Kennedy gold half dollars, December looked to be rather dull for the Mint. With the release of the new set, however, the year will close out on a high note.
Who says collecting modern U.S. coins can’t be exciting?
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Sep 30, 2014, 15:47 PM byA century and a half ago, U.S. Mint officials demanded that owners of five 1804 dollars return them to the Mint. Four of the coins were reportedly returned, with three of them destroyed, a Mint curator claimed. Should collectors today worry about a repeat performance? Probably not, but ...
It's a nightmare scenario for many hobbyists. U.S. Mint officials contact owners of rare 1804 dollars and demand their return, and upon receipt of the coins, destroy most of them.
Some observers of recent Mint litigation involving 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagles and a 1974-D Lincoln cent struck in aluminum warn of such a nightmare scenario. They say that if Mint efforts at confiscating these coins are unchecked, classic rarities produced under less than official circumstances, such as the 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin and 1804 Draped Bust dollars, could be next.
The fears of a broadened wave of confiscations are likely overblown, but those voicing such concerns can cite historical precedence. The Mint has already confiscated 1804 dollars, and by some accounts, destroyed them — a century and a half ago.
For longtime collectors, the back story of the 1804 Draped Bust dollars is a familiar one. No 1804 dollars were struck in 1804. The so-called Originals were struck circa 1834 for use in diplomatic Proof sets to be presented to foreign heads of state like the Sultan of Muscat and the King of Siam. When collectors became aware of the coins' existence, a few favored individuals were able to acquire some of the circa 1834 strikes from the Mint. Years later, at the end of the 1850s, Mint employees began striking new 1804 dollars (Restrikes, as they are sometimes called) using the same obverse die and a different reverse die, and selling them to dealers and collectors — without official authority to do so — to meet new demand for the coins.
These unsanctioned sales were quite the scandal in the numismatic community in the 1860s, and many collectors were outraged that Mint was selling such pieces to a select few. In November 1861, members of the Boston Numismatic Society wrote James Pollock, director of the Mint, calling to his attention the fact that Mint employees had been abusing the system by striking pattern coins and other rarities, and offering them to dealers. Pollock was pretty noncommittal in his response, about whether abuses truly had occurred and whether he would stop them.
Some years later, William E. DuBois, the curator of numismatics of the Mint Cabinet — the Mint's collection of coins that was the basis for today's National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution — wrote in the numismatic press that Mint employees had sold five 1804 dollars in the category that modern collectors call Class II. These coins, struck circa 1858, have a plain edge and a different reverse than the 1834 Originals, which have a lettered edge along with a distinctive reverse.
In an apparent effort to clean up the mess some Mint employees had made, Mint officials requested that the owners of the five Class II coins return them, according to DuBois. Four of the coins were returned (no evidence exists of a surviving 16th example, however; just 15 known 1804 dollars survive of all classes), with one retained and three destroyed. Today, the sole Class II coin known rests in the National Numismatic Collection.
The confiscation and destruction of the Class II coins was not the end of the 1804 dollar story, and the Mint's notorious practices were resumed, if they were ever stopped in the first place. Some time after the end of 1850s and early 1860s (no one today knows for sure), additional examples were struck with a lettered edge and the second reverse. These later dollars are the Class III coins. Other great rarities also slipped out the Mint's doors, even into the 21st century.
DuBois' claim that some 1804 dollars were destroyed in the 1860s, if true, could cause owners of 1804 dollars today to worry at least a little about future Mint actions. Today, it is impossible to know whether the Class II 1804 dollars were truly destroyed, or whether they were converted into Class III coins with the addition of edge lettering, and then sold back into the marketplace.
It is unlikely that existing 1804 dollars will be confiscated in the future. However, coins rest in collections today that the government wants to confiscate, and the Treasury Department has an inconsistent history on what it consider legally collectible. Never say never.
Sep 2, 2014, 10:35 AM by?As Coin World’s resident error coin specialist, I get a lot of phone calls from readers about coins they’ve found. A call I received the other day was typical, and unfortunately for the caller, so was my response.The caller was excited about a coin he had owned for some 40 years: a 1971 Eisenhower dollar that was missing the letters OL in DOLLAR on the coin’s reverse. The owner expressed surprise that after all those years, the coin had not been listed in any publication, including the “Red Book” — Whitman’s venerable A Guide Book of United States Coins — and was hopeful that it could be listed in standard references.Now, I can’t speak for Whitman, but as the principal editor for Coin World’s own annual Guide to U.S. Coins, Prices & Value Trends for more than a quarter century, I’m qualified to discuss why a few “odd” coins make the listings but most do not.I explained to the caller that, for his coin, the most likely explanation is that some foreign matter, maybe “grease,” filled incused portions of the die. The grease impeded metal flow into those letters of the die, thus the OL was not formed on the coin. Such pieces are common, though collectible, with minor examples usually bringing very low premiums.References like the “Red Book” and the Coin World Price Guide do not add such coins to their listings for a very good reason. The error was temporary — once the grease wore away after a few strikes or was manually removed by a Mint employee, the die would have returned to striking normal coins. It is also of a very common type.What standard price guides incorporate into their listings is a selection of die varieties (and die stages and states), and even then, just a tiny fraction of varieties that are produced are included. Granted, a few outliers have made their way into general works like the "Red Book" and Coin World's price guide, including the 1922-D Lincoln, No D cents. These errors are not die varieties in the technical sense; they fall into the category of die stages/states, since the changes that resulted in the missing D Mint mark occurred after the obverse die was placed into production, and not during the creation of the die itself.Collectors who don’t understand the differences between errors, like the struck-through coin owned by the caller, and die varieties, like the 1955 Lincoln, Doubled Die Obverse cent (which the caller repeatedly referred to as “double stamped”) don’t enjoy the broad exposure to errors and varieties both great and small that we at Coin World and Whitman enjoy. They also don’t face the dilemma we publishers face of deciding what legitimate varieties to add to our respective products.Generally, varieties are added to a standard reference when they are collected not only by specialists but by general collectors as well, or have gained wide popularity in collecting circles. That’s why the prime Doubled Die Obverse variety for the 1955 Lincoln cent is listed in standard references while the other multiple Doubled Die Obverses for the same date are found listed only in highly specialized references.
There is another reason a coin may not have been listed in any reference, even a specialty one devoted to Eisenhower dollars that goes beyond true die varieties — the coin may never have been reported to a specialist and confirmed. The caller had owned the coin for some 40 years but I got the impression that he had never contacted anyone in the publishing field about the coin previously; he was waiting for someone else to do so, apparently. And even when a variety has been reported to a specialist and confirmed, the find may not be reported to the broader numismatic community, even in this age of online chat rooms, forums and websites devoted exclusively to error and variety coins.The caller’s coin sounded like an interesting error, especially being on a large dollar coin, and would be a nice circulation find. However, it just doesn’t qualify for a listing in any standard price guide.