• jeff-starck

    Starck Contrasts


    Jeff is the senior staff writer, was Coin World's 2003 Margo Russell intern and joined the staff in 2004. Jeff has been a collector since childhood and fondly remembers the challenges of completing Whitman folders by pulling coins from circulation and searching rolls from the bank. His current collecting interest focuses on Missouri-related numismatics and exonumia. He is the primary writer for the World Coins section in the monthly Special Edition and is responsible for Coin World's coverage of world coins and weekly International page. He graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from Webster University in St. Louis where he was editor-in-chief of its weekly student newspaper.

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    • The 'hobby of kings' is also for peasants like me

      Feb 6, 2015, 15:21 PM by

      The New York International Numismatic Convention, held Jan. 8 to 11 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, was notable for the tens of millions of dollars of items sold in auctions scheduled across eight days.

      For me, however, the show allowed expenditures that even a writer could afford. The “hobby of kings” is for the peasants, too!

      I’ve already written about a few of the pieces I brought home from the show, but one of the neatest acquisitions is a modern-day interpretation of a classic numismatic rarity.

      Jared Grove of Grove Minting stopped by the Coin World booth and showed and shared his 2013 half-ounce silver Amazonian pattern medal. Encapsulated by ANACS, the piece screams beauty and is actually obtainable to a broad range of collectors, unlike the originals

      It happens to be his favorite design so far, he told Coin World, and is just the beginning of big plans for the nascent Grove Minting company.

      Look for more issues coming from them, and a profile of the artist and his work in Coin World soon.

      Another item coming home with me from New York was the newest edition of Token Publishing’s Coin Yearbook

      The 2015 edition offers current pricing data and is a handy reference for the millennia of British coins, all packed into 362 pages.

      The book also covers coins of Ireland, Scotland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Chapters on various aspects of collecting are targeted for new and intermediate collectors, and so is the book’s price tag of £9.95.

      The final item gained at the show cannot be quantified.

      Every show is a chance to connect with readers, meeting old friends and making new ones, and this trip was no different.

      Several new dealers were on the bourse or in attendance, and many story ideas and friendships emerged from the chaos of the show.

      Look for Coin World at the next big show near you, and be sure to stop by and say hello.

    • What I bought at the 2015 NY International Numismatic Convention

      Jan 27, 2015, 13:11 PM by
      A 1745 silver shilling from Great Britain was issued by George II out of silver captured in a naval victory against the Spanish.

      One of the great things about this job is getting to attend coin shows on a regular basis.

      Of course it is always great to greet fellow collectors and Coin World readers, and meet with dealers and discuss the state of the market. From a purely selfish reason, however, it is wonderful because it means another chance to buy coins.

      The New York International Numismatic Convention’s 43rd annual event, held Jan. 8 to 11, was no different.

      I came home with several noteworthy acquisitions, and all have special meaning to me.

      There is a romance and allure to the Lima series of coins issued in 1745 during the reign Britain’s George II.

      These coins, like the shilling that I purchased, were struck from metal captured by Admiral of the Fleet George Anson in defeating the Spanish. 

      Having just written about these coins for Coin World’s December monthly issue, I was delighted to find one, in relatively good condition, at a price I found acceptable. And that was within the first 15 minutes of the show!

      Another find was an ancient coin that I had never heard of, in a denomination worthy of a spelling bee.

      The 1.5 karshapana coin is often attributed to Pushkalavati (modern-day Peshawar) in what is now Pakistan, and was issued sometime in the third to second century B.C.

      It wasn’t the name that drew my attention, but the square shape and the elephant on the obverse.

      Who doesn’t love elephants? (Besides poachers, that is).

      According to coin dealer Bob Reis of Anything Anywhere, at the time Pushkalavati was controlled by what we would recognize as banks today, and these banks issued “a series of municipal copper coins that became the model for the square Greek bronzes after those guys conquered the region.”

      The reverse side shows a lion, though it is almost indistinguishable on the example I purchased.

      Though attributed to Pushkalavati, researchers suggest the coins might instead have been issued in Taxila.

      Regardless of its true origins, the coin dates to one of the oldest cultures, is square and, need I repeat, shows an elephant!

      Let’s explore three other notable finds at the show in part two, in the next Starck Contrasts.

    • Phantom First Spouse mintage limit a U.S. Mint misstep

      Dec 15, 2014, 13:01 PM by
      The 2014 First Spouse Bronze Four-Medal set is reported sold out by the U.S. Mint.

      Image courtesy of United States Mint.

      There are few U.S. Mint products that I look forward to annually with fervor, and chief among these is the annual First Spouse Bronze Medal Set.

      When the program began in 2007 as a corollary to the much more expensive gold coins, I found a blank Dansco album and blank pages to cobble together a meaningful way to collect and display these medals. Every year when my local coin club placed an order, I made sure to order a set, eagerly anticipating the chance to better learn the stories of First Spouses and/or contemporary coinage designs as new medals were released.

      The recent and rapid sellout of only 7,500 sets of 2014 medals has rendered that effort moot.

      After a few weeks, the sets sold out, despite never before previously having a mintage limit. Today, those sets are selling for three to six multiples of the $16.95 issue price.

      The quick sellout caught myself—and many other collectors—off-guard, and left us scratching our heads.

      The fact that several sets from previous years remain available at the Mint website, even at this writing, certainly lulled me (and probably other collectors as well) into believing that the 2014 set would remain available until we were ready to place an order for other items.

      Shortly after the set was listed at the Mint website as “out of stock,” a fellow coin club collector called Mint customer service and was told that more sets would be made. I called a regional Midwestern dealer that has served my family for several decades, and who has carried the sets from the beginning, and a representative there told me the same story, that a Mint customer service agent told them that more sets would be made.

      Paul Gilkes, Coin World’s tenacious U.S. Mint reporter, quickly sorted out the situation with his sources at the Mint, only to discover that the set had a previously unreported mintage limit and that no more would be made.

      This has created another set of “winners and losers,” as those folks who pounced on the sets are now well positioned to capitalize on the unmet demand.

      When the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame silver and gold coins quickly sold out, and people began “flipping” the coins for profit, I certainly had no complaints, as those coins had mintage limits that were announced well in advance of the sales period.

      Sour grapes may make bitter whine, but this really isn’t a complaint about profit—this rapid sellout means that many collectors will not be able to fill what heretofore had been an inexpensive, educational set with historical implications at a price that even beginning collectors could manage.

      The situation with the Enhanced Uncirculated finish Native American $1 included in the 2014 American $1 Coin & Currency Set has rightfully been described as a rare misstep for the U.S. Mint marketing team.

      The 2014 First Spouse Bronze Medal Set with a phantom mintage limit, is just as much as misstep, and even more disappointing.

      The right thing for the Mint would be to make more 2014 First Spouse Bronze Medal sets, either to a specific limit or to those sold within a specified sales period, with plenty of fair warning for collectors to make plans to get their orders in.

      Until then, four empty holes in a brown Dansco album will serve as a glaring reminder of my failure to act, and of the set that now will remain incomplete.

      More from CoinWorld.com:

      X-ray performed on Boston time capsule that may contain 17th century Pine Tree shilling

      The man who spent $4.76 million on gold Nobel Prize medal has returned it to its owner

      For 2014 Kennedy half dollar, value difference between Specimen 68 and Specimen 69 huge: Market Analysis

      Sold out: 2014 American $1 Coin and Currency set, with 50,000 sets reported sold

      Why is the U.S. Mint selling silver American Eagles at a record-breaking pace?

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

    • Proclaim your own nation and issue your own coinage

      Nov 10, 2014, 16:39 PM by
      "Coins" from Purple Shaftiueland were issued by a coin dealer, Bob Kolasa, in 1970 in reaction to a growing number of noncirculating legal tender coins.
      ?Get taken on a ride to where?

      You won’t find Purple Shaftieuland on a map – but they have“coins”!

      If you’ve always wanted to issue your own coins, but don’t want to go the traditional route (see part one of this blog series), then you could always proclaim your own nation.

      Such a nation doesn’t require land upon which to dwell, and may only occupy space in your imagination.

      In so doing, you would be following a tradition of the last half-century,when “coins” for places like Bermania, Buck Island, the Grandy Duchy of Westarctica, the Ultimate State of TÆDIVM, and many others, have been issued.

      Perhaps the most biting of these issues are the “coins” for the nation of “Purple Shaftieuland.”

      In 1970, coin dealer Bob Kolasa created the coin series as a revolt against the flourishing of noncirculating legal tender coins from barely identifiable places, aimed specifically at collectors (a lament that might ring true even today).

      The “coins” also poked fun at the practice of U.S.government foreign aid, and used stereotypical humor to make the point. The politically incorrect brochure accompanying the pieces also features very thinly veiled comments about some of the companies creating the market for international Proof sets in the late 1960s.

      According to coin dealer Joel Anderson (who provided the brochure to Coin World), Purple Shaftieuland had five denominations: 1 nudge, 1 twist, and quarter-, half- and full-shaft pieces. The coins were issued in two versions, “brilliant brass” and“unanodized aluminum.”

      According to the brochure, the exchange value is fixed: 100 nudges equal 10 twists, which equals one full shaft, which of course equals“nothing U.S.”

      As the brochure also noted, the “coins” had staying power as an investment.

      “The beauty of these, as with many foreign proof sets is that they never go down in true value. They can’t go down because they’re worthless to begin with.”

      Besides its own currency, Purple Shaftieuland had another vestige of statehood, a national anthem. Kolasa helpfully provided it on the brochure so all coin owners could sing proudly the refrain, which ends thusly:“When these sets stop selling, and income does refrain, we’ll form another nation, and do this all again!”

      Though the Purple Shaftieuland coins were created to serve a point, many of these issues are just all about fun. Consider Bermania, a place known to dealer Allen Berman and a few others.

      The “kingdom” has a long history, as detailed by Berman, who created a flag, crowns, titles of nobility and other trappings of a monarchy.This, naturally, includes “coins.”

      The first issue was a hand-hammered piece in the style of a medieval coin, struck on a tree stump and with crude lettering and designs.Another piece is celebratory, marking the “royal wedding” of King Alanus I to Queen Barbara.

      The most recent issue is a Bermanian horse cart token, which is good for one ride “anywhere in Bermania.” Good luck redeeming that token!

      The “coins” of Purple Shaftieuland were alternately described by Kolasa as “transportation tokens” because “you buy and get taken for ride.”

      Micronations are a vast and interesting area, and are popular among some collectors. Dealer Anderson stocks any number of unofficial,fantasy issues, and an organization called the Unrecognized States Numismatic Society flourished as little as five years ago. 

      It’s not an area necessarily popular with serious students of American coinage history, but that isn’t the point — in most cases, it’s all about making the hobby fun. 

    • ?So you want to make your own coins?

      Oct 24, 2014, 14:59 PM by
      ?So you want to make your own coins?

      It’s not as hard as you may think

      Anyone who pays attention to the modern new issues market quickly becomes aware of the outpouring of commemoratives, often from far-flung tropical island nations or war-torn African countries, but also from national mints like the Royal Canadian Mint and the Mint of Poland.

      Private issuers abound, with European and Asian and even American companies directing programs intended to capture segments of the market.

      Maybe you want to cash in on that craze by issuing your own coins, with a theme of your choosing? But invading a country is too dangerous, and buying a sovereign island outright is too expensive.

      So, you could always partner with a mint that already has a relationship with an issuing authority like Palau, the Cook Islands, or Somalia. Let’s assume that you will coordinate the program with the Mint of Poland, which issues coins for the National Bank of Poland as well as several other partners.

      A popular size for the many noncirculating legal tender coins struck by the Mint of Poland is a silver, crown-size coin measuring 38.61 millimeters and weighing 28.28 grams. This is a fairly standard size among the Mint of Poland and the Pobjoy Mint, among others.

      Mintages have been getting ever smaller as the market explodes and competing issues clamor for attention. A recent issue for the gold-plated 2015 $1 coin for the Year of the Goat had a mintage of 1,500 pieces.

      Back of the envelope calculations indicate that 1,500 coins, at $17.27 per ounce (the closing London market price on Oct. 22), would have a base precious metals cost of $21,789 U.S. That price doesn’t account for any special technology like gold-plating, color or embedded jewels, some favorite embellishments at the Mint of Poland.

      That price doesn’t include the die-making or manufacturing costs, since artists and other employees have to be paid to do the work. And it also doesn’t include the cost for a license.

      You need a license to drive, but why do you need a license to issue coins?

      Well, in this case, the sovereign privilege of striking coins comes at a price. Each nation is responsible for its money supply, and commemorative coins, though unlikely ever to be cashed, are in accounting-speak potential liabilities to the bottom line. 

      Whether it is Niue or Armenia or Belarus or any other country you want to officially issue the coins, there is a cost that must be paid. Issuers are always quiet about this relationship, but recent news reports about the New Zealand Mint suggest that the company alone pays about half-a-million dollars U.S. every year for the dozens of coin programs it issues under that island’s name.

      Suddenly this proposition seems a little pricey, huh?

      Well, maybe that means you want to consider a different route, without involving national mints and all that legal rigmarole. Next time we’ll explore what it takes to issue your own “coins” for a place that might not be found on the map.

    • Relic medal for USS Constitution; putting hands on history

      Oct 2, 2014, 14:36 PM by
      A copper relic medal was made from copper recovered from the hull of the USS Constitution, the world’s oldest warship, to celebrate the War of 1812.

      Coin World images.

      ?If someone told you that you could legally walk around with a piece of the oldest warship in the world in your pocket, would you believe them?

      In one sense, the USS Constitution is owned by every American, but in another, the number of folks who can own a piece of the ship, as preserved in a relic medal, is severely limited.

      Relic medals are medals that are struck containing metal or other substances recovered from, flown in or on famous ships, spacecraft or important historic artifacts, or from historic sites. Many relic medals are decades or centuries old, and signify famous American events (like the 1871 Great Chicago Fire or the 1898 Spanish-American War). On a trip to Boston this summer, I stumbled upon a modern relic medal with major importance.

      The USS Constitution is the world's oldest commissioned warship. The ship, known as "Old Ironsides," was launched Oct. 21, 1797, as one of the first warships authorized by Congress. It currently is docked in the Charlestown (or Boston) Navy Yard.

      Visitors may take a free tour to hear the exploits of the sailors and the ship. The ship received its name from the thick wooden hulls that repelled cannonballs during the War of 1812.

      To mark the bicentennial of its greatest moment, and those who have served aboard the ship in battle and in peace, the USS Constitution Museum commissioned the striking of a medal using copper removed from the ship's hull, and a total of 6,000 medals were struck in 2013 by an unnamed Providence, R.I., company.

      On the obverse of the medal is an image of USS Constitution under full sail with its name and nickname. The image is borrowed from an oil painting by Marshall Johnson that is part of the museum's collection.

      On the reverse side is a design inspired by the sea bag of Gunner John Lord who served on board USS Constitution between 1824 and 1828; the sea bag is also part of the museum's collection.

      Each medal measures 1.52 inches and weigh approximately 20 grams.  Each comes with a certificate of authenticity.

      The medal is sold for $29.95, and is still available through the museum store both at the site and online.

      This is actually not the first time a relic medal has been made from copper recovered from the USS Constitution, as an earlier medal issued in 1999 was struck from metal recovered in 1974. Numerous other medals (not struck with recovered metal) celebrate the USS Constitution, and these may sometimes be found in dealer stock or in online auctions.

      Relic medals literally give collectors affordable ways to put their hands on history, and in the case of this medal is another example of the adage that “the hobby can be found everywhere.”