Louis Golino

Modern Numismatics

Louis Golino

Louis Golino has been a collector of American and world coins since childhood and has written about coins since 2009. In addition to writing about modern coins and other numismatic issues for Coin World, he writes a monthly column for The Numismatist magazine and has written for other coin publications. In 2017, for  “Liberty Centennial Designs,” in Elemetal Direct, he was presented with the Numismatic Literary Guild's award for best article in a non-numismatic publication. He is also a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum. 

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    World mint news

    February 12, 2018 3:30 PM by

    This is a busy period for modern world numismatics, in part because of last week’s World Money Fair held in Berlin, the world’s biggest coin show, which is held in the German city every February.

    My colleague Jeff Starck was there and is presenting Coin World’s coverage of the show, but I wanted to mention two points.

    First, the micromosaic coin I discussed last week was a big hit, according to Antonello Galletta of Powercoin, who said collectors lined up just to see the coin or take a photo of it.

    Second, one of the highlights of the show was the announcement on Feb. 3 of the Coin of the Year Awards, which is a longstanding project organized by Krause Publications

    I found it interesting that two from my favorite world coin series were among the ten coins of the year (all dated 2016), including the Royal Australian Mint’s 2016 Cassiopeia domed coin, which was named best silver coin, and the Austrian Mint’s 2016 Time coin, which is made of niobium and silver, and was named best bimetallic coin.

    These awards are a great way to bring greater attention to the multitude of interesting and innovative new releases from world mints.

    MINTSHIELD

    In other news, the Royal Canadian Mint, whose Silver Maple Leaf coins have in the past been known to develop white spots on them, often called “milk spots,” announced “a new proprietary method for reducing the occurrence of white spots on silver bullion coins with a breakthrough innovation called MINTSHIELD surface protection.” The Mint said that all 2018 silver bullion coins utilize the new technology.

    This is an encouraging development. The RCM press release noted that laboratory testing designed to simulate long-term use found the method to be successful in resisting spotting compared to coins from other mints that also have this problem.

    Of note is also the fact that the Mint said MINTSHIELD reduces and delays the onset of white spots since there is probably no way to prevent them from ever developing in all cases. The proof will come sometime down the road, if RCM coins made from 2018 onward rarely develop spots.

    This should also help sales of the two new special Maple Leaf coins designed to honor the 30th anniversary of the world’s second most popular silver bullion coin: the 2018 double incuse silver coin (the first ever that is incused on both sides) and a second coin that features a 30 three-dimensionally superimposed on the maple leaf design, appearing as though a digit dangles from the lobe at either side of the leaf.

    Lawsuit on color application

    Finally, another development concerning the RCM is the announcement that, on December 22 of last year, it filed against the Royal Australian Mint a lawsuit that claims the latter utilized without permission a technology the RCM patented to apply color to its 2012 Remembrance $2 poppy circulating coins as well as a number of other coins issued between 2013 and 2017.

    The Canadian Mint first used this technology in 2004 on a circulating 25-cent coin. It differs from the older method of pad printing, which can wear away with time, by creating micropores and macropores (small and larger pores) so that colors adhere to the surface of the metal more effectively.

    The RCM said it asked the RAM to stop infringing on this technology in December of 2015 and has asked that all the RAM colored coins in the RAM's possession be returned or destroyed. The RAM has not yet responded according to press coverage of this issue from last month.

    Powercoin launches first micromosaic coin

    February 5, 2018 5:30 PM by

    Italian modern world coin company Powercoin, which is owned by Antonello Galletta and based in Rome, has launched two interesting new coins that celebrate great works of art. The first, Birth of Venus – Great Micromosaic Passion, depicts the face of Venus from the very famous painting, The Birth of Venus, by Sandro Botticelli. The painting, which was produced in the 15th century, is an icon of the Renaissance and depicts the goddess Venus shortly after her birth as she arrives on the shore fully grown.

    The new coin is the first ever “micromosaic” issue that has more than 5,000 tiny minted tiles on the surface, creating the appearance of a mosaic. It is also a rimless coin, with full details up to the border of the coin.

    “The realization of the smallest tiles was a real challenge. Only with modern technologies and by pushing Coin Invest Trust’s Smartminting technology to the limit was it possible,” Mr. Galletta said. He also noted that “We have been working on this coin since 2013 and it was not possible to realize it, until today.”

    The coin, issued under the name of Palau, is struck from three ounces of silver and has a mintage of 499 pieces.

    The year of issue, 2017, is written in Roman numerals, MMXVII, and is hidden in Venus’ hair in the lower right part.

    The obverse of the coin is also very original. It is a mix of Proof and Matte finish with the acronym of the series, GMP, minted among the tiles.

    Each coin will be accompanied by a numbered certificate of authenticity matching a serial number on the coin’s edge. The certificate of authenticity will look like a museum ticket and will bear a security hologram.

    The coin will be packaged in a custom box built purposely for this coin series, having an irregular shape and colors that recall part of a mosaic.

    A sample of the coin is being shown at the World Money Fair in Berlin this week and the coin will be available to ship during the spring.

    Eternal Sculptures

    A second new coin commissioned by Powercoin and produced in conjunction with CIT is the third issue in the company’s Eternal Sculpture series of coins that depict famous works of sculpture, including the Venus de Milo and Cupid and Psyche coins, which have been profiled in this column.

    The new coin, The Rape of Proserpina, depicts a large 17th century marble sculpture of the same name by Italian master Gian Lorenzo Bernini that is about the abduction of Proserpina by Pluto.

    Like the first two coins in the series it is struck from two ounces of silver and features high-relief on both sides using CIT’s Smartminting and is a Black Proof, which uses a dark black field combined with a special white paint to highlight the intricate beauty of the marble statue.

    The piece has a mintage of 999 coins and is issued under the authority of Palau.

    It will also begin shipping in the spring.

     

    Mexican bank surprises collectors with new Reverse Proofs

    January 30, 2018 5:06 PM by

    The Libertad coin series from Mexico was the gift that kept giving for collectors last year. 2017 is not a year they will soon forget, because of all the new coins released and the impact of those releases on their wallets.

    As I discussed in my feature in the December issue of Coin World, last year saw the release of a plethora of silver kilo Libertads, including the first high-relief version, the lowest-mintage ever bullion piece, the regular Prooflike coin, and an antique silver version of the Aztec Calendar kilo.

    Considering each of these has over 32 ounces of silver and costs over $1,000 (apart from the bullion version if purchased when first released), there must not be many collectors who can keep up with all those coins.

    Pat Stovall of Lois and Don Bailey and Son Numismatics, a major distributor of Libertads, said he too found it hard to keep up with all those kilos.

    He added that though he does not normally sell the Aztec kilos, he offered the antique silver one to clients this week for $1,099 with check payment. In addition, he noted that he sold out of the high-relief kilos quickly, which were priced starting at $1,157.

    2- and 5-ounce Reverse Proofs

    The big news on the Libertad front was the unexpected release in December of the very first 2- and 5-ounce Reverse Proof silver coins. Stovall believes these pieces were produced for domestic Mexican sales and that they have a mintage of 2,000 pieces each, but he is still seeking to confirm those details.

    A few examples of the 5-ounce coin turned up on eBay recently and have been selling for between $330 and $405 each.

    Stovall’s company was able to procure a limited supply of the 2- and 5-ounce coins and offered them to clients for $119 and $237 respectively. Orders for those coins came fast and furious, which is not surprising considering that these are the first coins of their type and that his prices were much lower than those on eBay.

    He also noted that he received more orders for the 2-ounce version, which he thinks is because of the more accessible price level, as well as the fact that there are more collectors of the 2-ounce silver coins.

    Stovall also said there is a larger market for 1-ounce graded pieces compared to graded examples of the larger silver pieces.

    American Eagle golden opportunities

    January 26, 2018 4:44 PM by

    The spot price of gold has risen substantially since mid-December, reaching as high as $1,363 during the last week of January, the highest level since August 2016.

    The run-up in gold has been primarily driven by the decline in the value of the dollar, which hit a three-year low recently.

    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnunchin said on January 24 that a lower dollar is good for exports, which is true, but that overlooks the fact that it also makes imports more expensive, which ends up driving inflation higher. This is important considering that consumers are the main drivers of our economy.

    The following day President Trump talked up the dollar, sending gold slightly lower.

    One of the silver linings of the current, more expensive gold market is that it is possible to get some good deals. For example, I’ve noticed several dealers offering random date American Eagle gold bullion coins and Canadian Maple Leaf gold bullion coins at retail prices about $20 over spot, which is about the typical wholesale premium much of the time.

    An even better deal are the random date Proof American Eagle coins in their original government packaging, being offered at very close to the same price as bullion examples of the same coins.

    For example, at the time of this writing, with gold at $1,352, the wholesale trading value of a Proof American Eagle gold $50 coin, according to www.coininfo.com, is $1,380, while the bullion version is listed at $1,366.20. Wholesale trading prices are the prices dealers pay when buying from customers or other dealers.

    In terms of retail prices, APMEX currently offers the Proof American Eagle 1-ounce gold coins, random dates in original government packaging (OGP), for $1,419.49 with check payment, while random bullion coins are $1,414, a $5 difference. Similar deals are available from other major dealers.

    In addition, some offer the same coins with only their original capsules and no boxes and papers, which is fine in some cases, but I would recommend getting the coins in OGP, especially if the price is right. It is much easier to sell these coins when they are as issued by the U.S. Mint.

    Consider that to purchase the 2017 $50 Proof coin from the Mint, the current price is $1,677.50 with gold between $1,300 and $1,350.

    Also keep in mind that almost all coins in the series trade at the same price on the wholesale market irrespective of mintage.

    I don’t expect the Proof gold coins to be available on the retail market at these levels for much longer.

    Barry McCarthy of ModernCoinMart offered these comments about why the premiums on these coins are down: “Proof gold eagles are following the rest of the physical gold market, just way too many coins out there and not enough demand. With the spot metals prices going up, many investors/collectors are cashing in their metals, gold especially, and dealers are selling it as fast as they get it so they can lock in the small premium they can get right now before the premium goes down even further. It is in a down cycle right now but I am optimistic that this downward spiral of premiums will end. With the incredible volatility of the cryptocurrency market, and the stock market at all-time highs daily, many investors will start to seek a safe haven to put their money. The metals markets will provide that safe haven. Only time will tell but I am bullish about the precious metals market and the coin market in general.”

    Congress should confirm Ryder ASAP

    January 19, 2018 3:48 PM by

    The 2017 Fiscal Year, which ran from September 2016 through September 2017, was a tough one for the U.S. Mint. 

    Sales and revenue from bullion and numismatic coin sales were down sharply, and seigniorage income was also down, according to the FY2017 Annual Report.

    Specifically, bullion sales revenue was down 33.9% and net income from those sales was down a whopping 80.3%. These results were driven primarily by a 98.3% drop in net income from sales of American Eagle silver dollars, which were down by 41.5.

    It is also worth noting that the America the Beautiful 5-ounce quarter dollars, the American Eagle palladium coin program, and American Eagle platinum bullion programs all ended the year at a loss.

    On the numismatic side, revenue was down 6.2%, while net income from those sales was down by 44.3%, which is attributed mainly to the end of the presidential dollar and First Spouse coin and medal programs. 

    It is certainly the case that there were bright spots for the year such as the various products issued to mark the 225th anniversary of the Mint, but overall these results are troubling, especially the steady downward decline in numismatic sales since 2013.

    A key factor is the end of several longstanding coin programs. The Mint is currently in a transition period in which its future direction in terms of numismatic programs other than regular annual offerings largely remains to be determined.

    The American Innovation $1 coin program that passed the House recently is an example of the wrong kind of program, since I do not detect much enthusiasm for it from collectors. 

    In my view, another important factor is that buyers have become weary of paying several hundred dollars in premiums for gold and platinum products, especially since, apart from key date pieces, aftermarket values for those coins typically decline to close to melt value.

    Mint officials said during last November’s numismatic forum that they were not focused on aftermarket values of their products, but they should be. And a way must be found to bring down prices for higher-end coins, in part by offering them in capsules for those who plan to have the coins graded.

    Ryder nomination

    Mint Director-nominee David J. Ryder, whose nomination expired at the end of last year without a vote, has been re-nominated and awaits Senate confirmation.

    Let’s hope that politics does not get in the way of getting Ryder to the Mint as soon as possible. 

    While acting officials are certainly capable of running the Mint, as they have since 2011, at this important juncture in the Mint’s future it is essential to have a congressionally-approved director.

    The Mint faces a daunting array of challenges from reversing the slide in bullion and numismatic sales to implementing effective anti-counterfeiting measures, figuring out how to appeal to younger collectors, and many others.

    Ryder is very well placed to take on this agenda given his background as a former Mint Director and private sector specialist in anti-counterfeiting technology, not to mention that he is also a coin collector, as he told me last year.

    2018 numismatic predictions

    January 11, 2018 9:52 AM by

    There is a tradition started by several numismatic publication editors, including Coin World’s Bill Gibbs and Numismatic News’ David Harper, of posting their predictions for the hobby at the end of one year for the coming year.

    In that spirit and with all the usual caveats that go with making predictions, I offer my own for 2018’s U.S. Mint products.

    The recent trend of “lower lows” in U.S. Mint precious metal coin series will continue for some and will not for many others. Overall, I expect sales to be stronger than in 2017.

    For example, the World War I Centennial dollar and Breast Cancer Awareness commemorative coin programs will both sell much better than the two 2017 commemorative programs, Boys Town and the Lions Club.

    It is also worth noting that this means collectors of modern U.S. coins will embrace the first colored gold coin from the Mint, the $5 rose gold coin.

    And, while the World War I dollars will not sell out, the Armed Forces medals, limited to 100,000 and paired with the dollar coins in five sets, will sell out despite a marketing approach that has received a lot of criticism.

    In addition, the 2018-S American Silver Eagle Proof coin will sell more units than the 2017-S version of this coin, despite the announcement of a slight price increase for these coins, which will cost $55.95 each compared to $53.95 for the 2017 coins.

    Precious metal prices will likely be up over the course of the year due to a declining dollar, strong technical factors, rising geopolitical tensions, and increased concerns about the Federal deficit and debt, which will rise substantially over the course of the year and throughout the Trump years.

    Sales of and demand for the bullion versions of the American Eagle gold coins of various sizes and the 1-ounce silver dollars will increase, because investors in these areas tend to buy more when prices are rising (despite the fact that it is more economical to buy when prices are declining).

    I also predict that the Proof 2018 American Liberty tenth-ounce gold coin will sell out, provided the mintage is not more than about 100,000 units.

    Overall interest in slabbed modern U.S. coins will decrease as prices for 70-graded examples decrease and more buyers learn than it is often easier to sell coins in their original packaging.

    Sales of the collector versions (with a P Mint mark) of the America the Beautiful 5-ounce silver quarter dollars will continue to decrease as the number of collectors willing to stick with the series diminishes, but sales of the bullion coins, which are about $50 less per coin, will remain stable or even increase.

    Finally, the Proof American Eagle Preamble to the Constitution 1-ounce platinum $100 coin and the Proof American Eagle 1-ounce palladium $25 coin will both sell out, provided the mintages are appropriate, which would be under 10,000 for the platinum issue and about 20,000 for the palladium coin.

    We will see how I do….

    Lessons of 2017 for Modern Numismatics

    December 28, 2017 5:05 PM by

    The end of the year is always a good time to take stock of developments in the hobby over the past year.

    Perhaps the most important trend for modern coins is the fact that the market has continued to become softer and more saturated, making it a good one for buyers and a tough one for sellers. There are far fewer opportunities than in the past to buy something at issue price and sell it for a profit, especially if you are not a dealer.

    This means you have to adapt to a changing numismatic arena. There will always be opportunities for those who do their homework, such as the ultra-low mintage gold Libertads I covered in my December feature in Coin World magazine, or the 2017 Niue Ares two-ounce ultra-high relief silver coin I discussed in an earlier article.

    While the U.S. and other mints and coin dealers will always do things that we periodically find annoying, I prefer to direct my energy toward figuring out how to make things work for me, rather than spend a lot of time kvetching. For example, we may quibble with the way the Mint sold certain coins like the 2017 palladium American Eagles, but those who paid close attention had ample opportunity to buy those coins, in the weeks before they were released, from a wide range of coin dealers at a price that turned out to be a real bargain.

    The same is true of some coins sold with high household limits like the 2016-W Centennial Winged Liberty Head gold dime, which sold out quickly but whose price has come back down to close to issue price. Rather than spend a lot of time venting about how the household limit locked you out, be patient and see how the market develops.

    Experienced collectors suspected early on that a coin with a mintage as high as the gold dime (125,000) would be readily available later. For example, in April 2016, longtime dealer Barry Stuppler advised his clients that retail prices for the dimes were likely to come down after initial demand dissipated.

    In a similar vein, I often hear or read comments from collectors who are angry about a certain decision by the Mint or Congress, such as to issue another quarter or dollar coin series. They say they will quit the hobby if this happens. But why not just ignore those coins since they are not of interest to you and focus on what you enjoy?

    Third, American coin collectors today appear to have become more receptive to modern depictions of Lady Liberty. Consider the contrast between comments over the past two years in advance of the release of the 2015 to 2017 American Liberty gold coins and silver medals and actual sales. It is true that sales were stronger for the 2015 and 2016 products, but nonetheless, this year’s gold coin, in dollar terms, was the Mint’s biggest seller.

    In addition, initial reactions to the three modern Liberty designs to be released on the new Proof American Eagle platinum coin series that debuts in January have been positive.

    A final observation is that greater consultation between the Mint, the Congress, dealers, and collectors would go a long way towards addressing many of the pressing issues the hobby faces, from getting mintages and order limits right to issuing the kinds of commemorative coins buyers want, and striking the right balance between reusing classic coin designs and issuing coins with new designs.

    The forums the Mint held this year and in 2016 were useful in this regard, but much more needs to be done. Surveys from the Mint are useful, but much more outreach is needed.

    A Happy 2018 to my readers!

    'Grand Catalog of Australian and Oceanian Coins 2000-2017'

    December 15, 2017 2:30 PM by
    This week I’d like to highlight another recent reference book on modern world coins called Grand Catalog of Australian and Oceanian Coins 2000-2017 . The book, which came out earlier this year and took three years to produce, is by Lukasz Rosanowski of Poland, who was aided by two market analysts.

    It covers coins issued since 2000 by Australia, New Zealand, and the numerous countries of the Pacific region such as Niue, Cook Islands, Palau, and Tuvalu, which are well-known for the myriad coins produced by mints in other countries on their behalf through licensing arrangements.

    Those arrangements not only produce revenue for these countries (and unfortunately probably also raise the retail price of the coins), but they also make it possible to provide collectors with an amazingly diverse and innovative universe of coins produced with cutting-edge minting techniques, typically issued in small numbers.

    The book calls these coins “the most beautiful and the most elitist coins in the world.” Some people less enamored with this area of numismatics derisively refers to it as “circus coins” and say there are too many such coins. They also note that many have declined from their issue price, but that view overlooks some important facts.

    One is that many others of these coins have been among the best secondary market performers. I recently saw an eBay sale for a 2-ounce Lunar gold coin from the Perth Mint issued in 2008 that sold for over $14,000, or around seven times its original price. Second, as Mik Woodgate of AgAuNews noted, some of the most impressive coins of recent years, such as the Tiffany Art series, would not exist if these countries had not gone into this field. Third, collector coins are not intended as investments, though will careful study it may be possible to identify those that are more likely to increase in value.

    The book covers 9,000 circulation, commemorative/collector, and bullion coins in 357 pages and has 14,000 color illustrations, showing both sides of each coin in most cases. It is a high-quality, hardback book and will undoubtedly be a very useful reference for collectors.

    It is organized into three sections: coin series, which may include pieces from different countries; bullion coins of all metals; and countries, which lists the circulation and collector coins issued by the broad range of countries covered.

    For each coin or set the following details are provided: face value, country of issue, metal, weight, size, quality, mintage, date of issue including the month, and in most cases either issue price or retail value as of March 2017, except for the bullion coins since their price is tied in part to fluctuating precious metal prices.

    My one quibble is that the print and the color images are rather small, but that is undoubtedly because so many coins are covered. Plus, enlarging the images and larger print would have added many pages and made the book heavier.

    Since the series and countries sections overlap, perhaps in the next edition there could be just one section of collector coins, one on bullion, and a third on circulation pieces.

    The only other book I am aware of that covers some of this material would be the Standard Catalog of World Coins 2001 to Date from Krause, but the Rosanowski volume is much more comprehensive in its scope and in the details provided on each coin, features color, rather than black and white images, and has more updated pricing information.

    The book is available from world coin retailers such as www.powercoin.it , www.firstcoincompany.com , and www.thecoinshoppe.ca .

    Bullion Book: New reference for world silver bullion coins

    December 6, 2017 5:25 PM by

    Even with the rise of interest in numismatics in China, Germany, and other countries, the U.S. coin market still overshadows the others in most ways. And the U.S. market is, of course, dominated by the market for U.S. coins – classic and modern – despite rising interest in world coins.

    As a result of this situation, numismatic publishing, in particular in the area of guidebooks and reference works, is substantially more developed for U.S. coin series than it is for world coins.

    One area in the modern world coin realm that has long been in need of a good reference guide is that of modern world silver coins, an increasingly popular area for both coin collectors and silver investors.

    It is that very intersection between silver stacking and building sets of silver coins that provides the backdrop for a new book by German author and journalist Sebastian Wieschowski, who previously served as editor-in-chief of the investment journal, Goldblatt, and is the author of other books on precious metal investment and euro coins.

    Called Bullion Book: Silver Coins for Collectors and Investors, the new work is available in both English and German editions and begins with three concise chapters that explain why interest in modern world silver bullion coins has increased in recent years and why it is likely to expand even further.

    The author also explains why silver is an attractive form of precious metal investment, such as its diverse industrial, medical and other uses; its much lower cost compared to its “big brother gold”; why it is probably very undervalued in light of the historic silver-gold ratio and the fact that it has not rebounded as much as gold has since the highs of 2011; and its finite quantity that makes its actually scarcer than gold.

    Sebastian also explains the many reasons why silver bullion coins are a preferred way to invest in silver, such as the fact that the coins are monetized by sovereign governments; issued in many cases in limited quantities and with changing designs; easily tradeable; and far more useful than gold in a financial emergency as a replacement currency, since smaller amounts of silver could be used to purchase daily necessities.

    The bulk of the 180-page book consists of brief chapters on each of the major silver bullion coin series issued today from major world mints in Austria, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Mexico, and the U.S., as well as most of the better-known series from smaller and private mints issued for countries like the Cook Islands and Niue.

    Each of these chapters discusses key background to the series, the factors that shape the rarity of the coins, and the range of products issued, including special editions and collector versions.

    And each chapter also includes excellent, high-resolution images of each bullion coin in the series through the 2017 issues, which is very useful to identify the coins and to help in determining if a coin one encounters is genuine.

    The book ends with a rarity report that uses a star system going from one to five stars that is used to rate the rarity of each issue in the series covered in the book.

    Bullion Book fills an important gap in the literature on modern world coins and should help further stimulate interest in this rapidly growing area of numismatics. As the author explains, these coins have become highly sought collectibles with many past issues of series like the China Panda or Australian Lunar series selling for many multiples of their silver value.

    When the author comes out with a second edition, that one should include some important new series like the Silver Swan and Dragon and Phoenix from the Perth Mint and the Czech Lion, as well as others. He may also want to include a discussion of why the 2005 Kangaroo from Perth was released after the 2006 issue.

    The book can be purchased on eBay and directly from the author, who can be contacted through his Facebook page. He also offers a news update service on his blog, www.bullionblog.eu.

    Silver Eagle series needs a boost

    November 27, 2017 3:54 PM by

    American Eagle silver dollars have always had a dual appeal for buyers as stackable government-backed silver and as collectibles, though initially that was only the case with the Proof coins.

    Over time, as the bullion coins were graded in large numbers and as more people began assembling date sets of the Mint State coins, the series has become the most widely collected silver bullion coin in the country, if not the world.

    It is also such an accessible series when limited to the bullion coins (either ungraded or in Mint State 69-graded examples) that it has helped spur newer collectors to get into numismatics and to branch out to other areas of the hobby.

    But as the series approaches its 32nd year with the January release of the 2018 bullion coins, it is time for the Mint, in conjunction with its congressional oversight committees, to explore ways to breathe new life into the series.

    One sign that this is needed is the sharp decline in sales of the bullion coins in 2017 as well as the, so far, small number of 2017-W burnished coins sold. Another sign is the long time it took (over a month) for the 2017 Limited Edition Silver Proof set to sell out, even though it included the low-mintage 2017-S Proof.

    Next year the Mint plans to offer Proof coins struck at the West Point and San Francisco Mint facilities, as it did this year, and both coins will be offered individually, which presumably means the 2018-S coin will have an unlimited mintage, as the West Point Mint Proof coins do, and likely also be included in the 2018 Limited Edition Silver Proof set (which also means the 2018-S will have a much higher mintage than the 2017-S Proof).

    I suspect the Mint’s decision to offer San Francisco Mint Proof coins has something to do with declining bullion sales.

    In addition, I quite often hear those who collect the entire series, or the various collector versions, say things like 1) new or different finishes are okay, but that idea gets old after a while, and 2) something bolder is needed, such as a new design, either for the whole series, or some segment of it.

    The Mint declined a longstanding proposal from the CCAC a couple years back to change the reverse design to a flying eagle image that was then used on the 2015-W $100 American Liberty gold coin and the 2016 American Liberty silver medals.

    Collectors were divided on the idea, though many said they favored it, but in the end the Mint opted to leave things as they are, probably out of concern that a new reverse could hurt sales of its flagship bullion coins.

    But maybe the opposite is the case, i.e., that buyers want to see a new design at least on the reverse, which has never been as popular as the obverse, or perhaps a different design each year on the Proof or burnished coins.

    Other options include a 5- or 10-ounce version, as many mints issue of their bullion coins, or a high-relief coin that so many have called for.

    All things considered, unless some of these options are explored, sales will likely continue to trend downward, as they have for many other products from the Mint. 

    Design of new Egyptian God round unveiled

    November 14, 2017 3:24 PM by

    Fans of the Egyptian God series of 2-ounce, high-relief silver rounds, designed and sculpted by acclaimed medallic sculptor Heidi Wastweet and distributed by Provident Metals, have been eagerly awaiting the new design for some time.

    Last week, Provident Metals unveiled via a YouTube video the design of the new piece that depicts the god Sobek. The video showed fans plaster models of the new issue, prepared by Heidi Wastweet. Heidi said she has been working on this one a long time. She also studied ancient mythology and history while preparing the design.

    The models will be used to produce the dies, and then rounds will be struck from the dies. This work will be done by Sunshine Minting, one of the companies that produces planchets for the U.S. Mint and other mints’ sovereign precious metal coins as well as those for dealer-issued rounds like the Egyptian series.

    So far, the stunning rounds in the series are remarkable for their highly-detailed artwork and sculpting in the incused style of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics as well as for their impressive high relief striking that brings out the intricate details of each design.

    While displaying the plaster of the new design, representatives from Provident also announced final mintage numbers for the first two issues: the very popular Cleopatra piece was first, with a mintage of 38,767 pieces, and mintage of the second issue, Anubis, came in at 16,142 rounds.

    The designs were also sold in limited-edition, hand-finished antique silver and BU versions with edge numbering, which were graded and encapsulated by NGC and both versions have a mintage of just 500 pieces.

    Each round in the series, to include three new releases per year going forward, is planned to carry a detailed sculpt of the god or goddess on the obverse, and a reverse with an Egyptian pyramid and hieroglyphics, plus the animal associated with the god. For Cleopatra that was Isis and for Anubis it was a jackal.

    Sobek, an ancient Egyptian god associated with the Nile River crocodile was often depicted as a human with a crocodile head, which is how he appears on the new round’s obverse. Sobek was the god of strength, power, and fertility and the protector of the Nile.

    The obverse shows, according to promotional materials, “the Egyptian crocodile god, Sobek, standing with crossed arms. He carries a staff and wears a headdress. A contemporary rendering of the Nile River flows behind him, with plants growing from the soil to symbolize fertility. A series of hieroglyphs can be seen on the right side.”

    “An iconic pyramid stands on the reverse in front of a wall filled with hieroglyphs. In front of the structure rests a table containing Nile River motifs of waves and fish. A crocodile perches atop the table, an earthly representation of Sobek. Inscriptions include 2 OZ., 999, and AG."

    Sobek will be available soon for pre-order from Provident, which is aiming for an early December release if everything goes as planned with the production.

    Palladium American Eagle distribution was not unfair

    October 31, 2017 3:01 PM by
    Like many other collectors I would concur with Norman Carpenter’s (Coin World Guest Commentary, Nov. 13, 2017, issue) view that the 2017 American Eagle palladium bullion coin is of superb quality and looks stunning in high relief. It is without question the coin of the year from the U.S. Mint and one of the most significant modern issues ever.

    As for the reverse design based on the American Institute of Architects gold medal, the legislation authorizing the coin stipulated that this design must be used. I understand Mr. Carpenter’s concern about the eagle, though I fail to see what is cowardly about an eagle whose head is turned downwards to grasp a tree branch. All things considered, I think it was a good idea to use a Weinman design that has never appeared before on a coin.

    However, I must take issue with the writer’s comments about the distribution and pricing for these coins.

    First, the Mint is not currently set up to distribute bullion coins directly to consumers, and even if it acquired the staff and infrastructure to do so, I doubt it would have much impact on prices. For example, buyers who shop around today can obtain American Eagle silver and gold coins for a small premium over what the authorized purchasers pay the Mint. Exact premiums vary depending on the market at the time of purchase, and I fail to see how the Mint could sell them substantially cheaper, especially since it would have to pay for overhead costs just as dealers do.

    Whether selling directly to consumers would mean obtaining “fresher” coins, as the writer suggests, is also unclear. By purchasing from large, well-established companies with good reputations, I’ve almost always received U.S. bullion coins of very high quality.

    As for the 2017 palladium bullion issue, it is true that compared to palladium bullion pieces from other mints, the premiums on the American release were higher, as editor Bill Gibbs noted in an editorial. Those premiums likely reflect the fact that there were issues regarding sourcing of the required amount of planchets, which were originally supposed to come from U.S. producer Stillwater, that was acquired by a South African firm, and instead came from PAMP in Switzerland.

    Most importantly, those who wanted the coin, and who followed reporting on it in this publication and shopped around, had the opportunity to purchase the coin when it was first released to the authorized purchasers for a relatively small premium over what the dealers paid the Mint. For example, I purchased a raw coin for $1,030 on Oct. 2 that looks terrific. The “50 percent or more” market premium the writer mentions only developed in the weeks following the coin’s initial release, as demand outstripped supply, buyers saw what a great piece it is and spot palladium prices continued to rise.

    The Mint produced only 15,000 coins because it was unsure of how much demand there would be for the coin based on the feasibility study for this program that said the bullion coins would likely not be profitable.

    Finally, I agree with the writer that now that we know buyers like the coin much more than was anticipated, a higher number should be minted next year, though I do not know what that number should be and think 150,000 would be too many.

    Choice Mint launches new coins

    October 25, 2017 2:01 PM by

    Choice Mint, whose two main collector coin series, Legends of Asgard and Camelot, have been covered in this blog, is launching a new line of 2-ounce, high-relief silver rounds called “Dia De Los Muertos,” or DDLM, as Choice’s founder and president Brian Tully likes to refer to it.

    DDLM translates to “Day of the Dead” and is a Mexican holiday. On this day, those who are deceased are celebrated, in part with sugar skulls and skulls made of candy or clay, which are often decorated.

    As APMEX, one of the distributors for the new series, notes: “On October 31, All Hallows Eve, the children make a children’s altar to invite the angelitos (spirits of dead children) to come back for a visit. November 1 is All Saints Day, and the adult spirits will come to visit. November 2 is All Souls Day, when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives. The three-day fiesta is filled with marigolds, the flowers of the dead; muertos (the bread of the dead); sugar skulls; cardboard skeletons; tissue paper decorations; fruit and nuts; incense and other traditional foods and decorations.”

    These silver rounds will have a maximum mintage of 10,000 pieces, but the final mintage could be lower depending on sales. Each is packaged in a protective capsule.

    Mr. Tully said: “My DDLM series came about through inspiration from my interest in collecting Mexican coinage. I've always thought the sugar skull designs were attractive and decided to try my hands at my first bullion piece. I decided to stay true to the Mexican coinage heritage by including an obverse with the eagle, snake and cactus. I chose a 2-oz, 47mm spec to provide me a sizable canvas to showcase both the high relief and the design. The proof-like background on the reverse skull was used to show the depth of the sugar skull and bring out the lettering Dia De Los Muertos. APMEX and The Coin Shoppe are the first to pick up this series. I hope the collector community enjoys this series.”

    He also noted that the second issue is already in the works.

    Ymir, the Frost Giant

    In addition, Choice has also launched the third coin in the 3-ounce, antique-finish Legends of Asgard silver coin series that pays tribute to Nordic gods: a coin depicting Ymir, the Frost Giant, struck with the company’s “max relief minting” that achieves amazing depth in ultra-high relief striking.

    Mr. Tully explained: “The godlike giant Ymir serves as the foundation of Norse mythology’s creation story. Born from the drops of melting ice, Ymir was the first of the Norse giants and produced other giants from his sweat. It was said that Ymir became evil, so the Aesir gods Odin, Vili and Vé killed him. They used his deceased body to form the world. His blood became the oceans, his skull the sky, his skin the soil, his hair the trees and his bones the hills, according to legend.”

    The reverse of this coin features a menacing Ymir emerging from ice while brandishing an intimidating ax and sword, while the obverse features her royal majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. The outer perimeter of the obverse features a knot pattern that is typically found in Norse designs.

    The edge of the coin is smooth. A number matching that on the individual coin’s Certificate of Authenticity is laser-etched onto the side.

    In the 12-coin Legends of Asgard collection, each coin comes housed inside of a custom-designed wood presentation case. No more than 1,500 of each coin in the series will be released. Each coin in the series is legal tender from the country of Tokelau.

    Choice provides a dealer locator on its website and those who are interested in coins with specific numbers and matching certificates will soon be able to see which dealers have which numbers for this piece on the site.

    Mr. Tully also noted regarding the evolution of the artwork and the production of the coin: “When you compare the coin to the final image you’ll see how using lasers to make my dies are well worth every penny. All the details down to the small skulls I placed on Ymir’s belt were captured. I hope you enjoy the coin as much as I enjoyed making it.

    “I will add, I had to make 3 sets of tooling to get the final coin I was happy with. So, this by far was the most costly coin Choice Mint has ever made. Only the best for my collectors. That’s what building a brand is all about. In fact, out of the first batch of 1,000 DDLM coins I rejected and re-minted more than 350. I refuse to put out a substandard product even if it costs me. I won’t sacrifice quality at the altar of profits and I won’t pump out 50,000+ pieces in the name of greed.”

    The fourth Asgard release and third Camelot issue are currently in the works.

    Art on commemoratives matters too

    October 13, 2017 4:36 PM by

    In his editorial in the October 16 issue of Coin World, editor Bill Gibbs argued, as I have in several articles over the years, that it is time to end the practice of adding surcharges to the cost of U.S. commemorative coins.

    Those surcharges help explain why we continue to issue many coins whose themes are rather narrow in focus when we should instead be issuing coins on issues of major national importance.

    It is worth mentioning that legislation has been introduced in the past to end the surcharges, but it’s never garnered enough support to be enacted into law.

    I would add that a second key element to improving our commemorative coin program is to improve the overall quality of the art on the coins.

    To be sure, there have been some very nice recent issues, such as both of last year’s programs, which were for Mark Twain and the centennial of the National Park Service, or the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame coins.

    But other coins have designs that many collectors fail to find appealing from an aesthetic perspective.

    An example is the just-announced and eagerly awaited design for the 2018 World War I veterans commemorative silver dollar. This is a topic that virtually all collectors think is long overdue for commemoration, especially since most of these veterans have by now either passed away or are very elderly.

    Perhaps the Mint’s rendition of the designs by LeRoy Transfield that were unveiled on October 9 by the U.S. Mint simply fails to resonate with those whose artistic sensibilities are more traditional.

    The obverse called “Soldier’s Charge” that depicts a WWI “doughboy” gripping his rifle has been met with a barrage of negative reactions, especially in comments in online coin forums. I found much the same reactions in discussions with collectors and numismatists I know.

    In addition to comments on why, in the line art the Mint provided, he appears to have two eyes on one side of his nose, both closed, and about that nose, many commenters have suggested the uniform, helmet, and rifle are not of the correct type and that the rifle is on the wrong shoulder.

    The artist, a Utah sculptor who has never designed a coin before, said he intentionally gave the soldier a battle-hardened appearance such as by making it look like his nose was broken. And keep in mind that coin line art typically does not convey how the coin will look in hand.

    The reverse, showing an abstract view of poppies and barbed wire, has been met with a more positive reaction, though some are unfamiliar with the custom of using poppies to represent remembrance of slain soldiers, which began after the Great War.

    There are some who argue that collectors who post on coin forums tend to be more negative in general, in part because they are usually anonymous. That argument surely has some merit. Consider, for example, the online reaction to the 2015 and 2017 American Liberty designs, which were met with better sales than were anticipated based on those online reactions.

    But it is also sometimes quite a reliable gauge, such as when the Girls Scouts of the USA Centennial silver dollar design was unveiled. The blogosphere was full of criticism of the design as being political correct because it depicted girls of different ethnicities.

    I personally liked that one and bought it, and did an interview with the then president of the organization for an article, but as is well known by now, the coin did not sell well and ended up producing no surcharges for the GSUSA.

    The issue of how to improve the art on our coins is a broad one that is too complex to cover here*, and when it comes to art, subjectivity rules. But one suggestion I have is to find a way to enlist the views of collectors in the design process. For example, perhaps collectors could vote on which design they prefer, a practice that has been used in other countries.

    I’d welcome any other suggestions readers may have.

    *I wrote a cover story on this issue for the June issue of The Numismatist, which has many suggestions for improving the art on our coins and the coin design process.

     

    2017 palladium American Eagle: Collectible bullion

    October 4, 2017 4:23 PM by

    As we approach the two-week mark since pre-sales began for the 2017 palladium American Eagle $25 high-relief coin, I have some observations about the emerging market for this coin.

    It is not often that the U.S. Mint creates a new type of American Eagle, so the arrival of the palladium American Eagle is undoubtedly a significant numismatic event.

    Plus, 15,000 is not a very high mintage for a bullion coin, not to mention one struck in high relief, and the first bullion coin of that type ever and the first non-gold high relief ever, too.

    Sales of the coin appear to be quite good, especially of Mint State 70 coins, which went fast last week. This past Monday afternoon more top-graded examples hit the market, priced initially in most cases at $1,249, and they also went fast.

    Late Monday most dealers increased their price for the MS-70 examples from $1,250, to $1,450 to $1,500* depending on label and payment method, a 60%-plus premium over the spot value.

    I can understand the desire to have a coin of the finest grade for such an historic piece, but I would want to know how these coins grade, i.e., what percentage of the coins submitted are getting the MS-70 grade at NGC and PCGS, before buying one.

    Raw coins come with risks too, especially since palladium is the most volatile of the four major precious metals used to strike coins (the others being gold, silver, and platinum).

    Palladium has been on a tear this year, hitting a high not seen since 2001 and performing better than any other commodity. But most things don’t go up in a straight line for long, so sure enough Monday saw a decline of a good $30 or so in palladium, creating a nice temporary opportunity for a better price on the raw coins.

    But the key point is that most buyers of this coin understand palladium is a commodity that can rise or fall sharply. They are not buying it as a bullion investment, since bars and foreign palladium coins, as Bill Gibbs noted recently, are cheaper.

    They are really buying the coin as a collectible even though it is technically a bullion issue. Such buyers focus on how it is a first-year coin in a new metal that should acquire a higher premium with time that will help protect its value against the vagaries of palladium spot values.

    In addition, the Adolph Weinman design is widely admired and many wanted to see how it looks in high relief and on larger palette than silver dimes or the 1/10-oz. gold version.

    This all suggests to me that most are buying to hold, not to flip. Of course, only time will tell if this “strong hands” argument turns out to be valid.

    *I saw an MS-70-graded coin sell for $2,000 on eBay that had a label hand-signed by Artistic Infusion Artist Thomas Cleveland, who recently signed a deal with PCGS to sign labels.

    ​Czech Lions join world bullion family

    September 29, 2017 5:12 PM by

    As reported on Sept. 25 by Coin World senior editor Jeff Starck, the Czech Mint has started issuing its own silver and gold bullion coins, the Czech Lion, in the U.S. being sold exclusively by APMEX.

    I first heard about the new Lion coins from a discussion on the silverstackers.com online coin forum, where someone posted about them on September 15.  Some other posters noted that they found it odd that the coin is issued under the authority of Niue, which means it carries the Ian-Rank Broadley effigy of Queen Elizabeth II. 

    The coin is the first of a series called Czech Nationhood designed to showcase the various symbols and artifacts of the Czech nation.  For the first issue, the design includes a “two-tailed lion (coat of arms of the Czech Republic), burning eagle on a shield (attribute of Saint Wenceslas, patron saint of the Czech state), Crown of Saint Wenceslas (part of the Bohemian Crown Jewels) and linden branch (Czech national tree),” notes the Mint, which refers to the series as “investment coins.”

    The work of famous Czech artist Jaroslav Bejvl, it is being issued in a range of sizes, including these according to the Czech Mint:

    Au 999.9 / 1000 g (1 kg) / 85 mm / 8000 NZD

    Au 999.9 / 311 g (10 oz) / 65 mm / 500 NZD

    Au 999.9 / 155.5 g (5 oz) / 50 mm / 250 NZD

    Au 999.9 / 31.1 g (1 oz) / 37 mm / 50 NZD

    Au 999.9 / 1.24 g (1/25 oz) / 13 mm / 5 NZD

    Ag 999 / 1000 g (1 kg) / 90 mm / 80 NZD

    Ag 999 / 311 g (10 oz) / 75 mm / 25 NZD

    Ag 999 / 31.1 g (1 oz) / 37 mm / 1 NZD    [NZD is New Zealand Dollar]

    Jeff contacted the Czech Mint regarding the reason for the Niue connection, and the Mint responded that the main reason for having them issued under a Niue/New Zealand license is because the Czech Mint did not yet have its own legally-authorized bullion coin program.

    The Mint sold the first 500 coins in the type of blister packs familiar to those who purchase coins from European and other world mints that usually include a picture of the coin and details about it.  Those coins sold quickly, and the mint also sold a portion of the mintage of the other 9,500 1-ounce silver coins and some of the other versions as well. 

    As of Sept. 25, the Mint said only some silver kilos and 1/25-oz. gold coins were left.  

    APMEX has the 10-ounce silver with a mintage of 200 coins, and had 131 of the 1-ounce silver left at the time of writing.

    The Czech Lions are an interesting edition to the ever-growing panoply of world bullion coins notable for their classic design, low mintages, and status as the first bullion release from this mint.

    I expect them to acquire some good premiums going forward, but it remains to be seen if they do as well as say the Perth Mint’s new silver Swan series.  The Swans were a sort of stealth release that did not get publicity in advance of their release, and Perth’s bullion coins are global leaders in the field.

    Nonetheless, the lions should hold their own and help the Czech Mint to establish its own reputation in the bullion field.  

    Presentation and storage are key

    September 22, 2017 2:05 PM by
    The recent catastrophic weather events in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and other areas have spurred renewed attention to the importance of how one stores one’s coins and other collectibles, since flooding and similar events can cause severe damage to those items.

    Coin World’s Susan Maltby has long covered these issues in her column for the magazine, which has provided countless tips over the years on how to protect one’s coins from environmental degradation.

    Silver coins are especially susceptible to oxidation if they are not stored properly. As many collectors know from their own experiences, improper storage increases the chances your coins will develop milk spots, dark toning, and other issues that can degrade their appearance and market value.

    In my experience, putting silver coins in tight-fitting hard plastic capsules is essential, especially for coins worth more than their bullion content. And for several years it has been possible to purchase plastic tubes that accommodate coins in capsules, including those that come from the mints in capsules, from dealers such as Provident Metals. However, I have yet to find any big enough for those larger diameter coins like the Perth Mint’s Lunar series coins.

    Where you store those capsules and tubes is, of course, also important. The goal is to provide as inert an environment as possible, especially for more valuable items. Many people use silica-gel-based and other desiccants for this purpose.

    Recently, I have been addressing another aspect to how I store and present my own coins. For extras, tubes are generally a good way to go, but one wants to be able to view one’s set of a particular series in order to enjoy it to the fullest, which is hard to do when the coins are in tubes.

    Presentation options for collectors have continued to grow in recent years. In the past, coin albums like those from Dansco, Littleton, and other companies were about the only option for many coin series. But putting you coins directly into those albums had some drawbacks — toning from the interaction of chemicals in the paper with the coins, and scratched coin surfaces from those sliding pieces of plastic.

    But now there are albums for coins in capsules, coin boxes with trays, etc. An economical and effective approach I like for world bullion and commemorative coins is to purchase a three-ring binder called Grande from Lighthouse, plus two-sided plastic pages designed to hold coins of many different sizes. For years, I have looked for a good way to display my collection of Austrian €25 niobium-silver coins, and I recently found just the right sized pages from Lighthouse to do that. Similar pages exist for slabbed coins.

    In addition, presentation boxes, especially those made of wood, are also a great way to house different coin series. There are several coin supply manufacturers that produce boxes for the major, widely-collected bullion coin series, as well as some boxes from world mints like the Royal Canadian Mint.

    The British Royal Mint has some very attractive new wooden boxes for the three sizes of Queen’s Beasts bullion coins (2-ounce silver, ¼-ounce gold, and 1-ounce gold) that include small metal plates inscribed with the name of each coin. These boxes are coming in October, and I recently bought one from the Canadian world coin company, The Coin Shoppe (http://thecoinshoppe.ca/). They include capsules for all 10 coins of each size.

    Some privately manufactured boxes are available for the Queen’s Beasts series, and I just heard one major dealer will soon offer glass-top boxes for these coins.

    American Liberty medal set likely to sell out

    September 15, 2017 3:28 PM by

    When the U.S. Mint launched the 225th Anniversary American Liberty silver Proof medal minted at Philadelphia, on June 14, I decided I’d rather wait for the forthcoming 4-piece medal set. That decision was based on pricing of the single medal at $60 vs. the set, which I figured would cost less than 4 single medals, and the fact that the set will have versions that are unique to it.

    On October 19 at 12:00 noon, the Mint will launch the medal set, which as announced this week will cost $199.95 and include four medals with different finishes, including a Proof medal that carries the S Mint mark of San Francisco; a Reverse Proof medal that carries the P Mint mark of Philadelphia; an Uncirculated medal that carries the D Mint mark of Denver; and an Enhanced Uncirculated medal that carries the W Mint mark of West Point.

    Then the Mint announced yesterday that the set will have a mintage limit of 50,000 units and a household limit of 2 sets. I was previously planning to get one set for my collection, assuming the set would have an unlimited mintage, but the news about these limits is a game changer. I will now plan to order a second set.

    I suspect it will either sell out on the first day or soon after that.

    I also look forward to seeing the black presentation case the set will be housed in. I increasingly believe that how one houses one’s coins and medals is essential to enjoying them.

    Sales of the single medal reached 44,431 as of Sept. 10, and many collectors clearly like the Liberty medal, despite what the naysayers said about it, such as that the stars are too big, the model looks angry, etc. 

    Moreover, it is encouraging that despite all the initial criticism of the 2015 and 2017 American Liberty designs, the first to depict Lady Liberty in a non-traditional manner, sales of both silver medals and gold coins have been strong, although the 2017 gold coin (at 24,555 sold so far) is lagging compared to the 2015 issue, which sold out of 50,000 pieces.

    Collectors of modern U.S. coins often say they are not big fans of modern medals and that they have a strong preference for coins, but their views on medals seem to be evolving given the performance of the American Liberty series.  

    And though it might be heresy to some traditionalists who still want to see classic Liberty images as often as possible, it also appears that collectors have warmed to modern depictions of an American Lady Liberty.

    America the Beautiful 5-ounce silver coins: Still chugging along

    September 8, 2017 2:48 PM by

    Perhaps no modern coin series, other than the $10 First Spouse gold coins (2008-2016), has been the subject of as much controversy and division as the 5-ounce silver versions of the America the Beautiful quarters that debuted in 2010.

    From the beginning, many collectors questioned the need for large silver coins and criticized their designs, of which the late Ed Reiter, longtime editor of several numismatic publications and president of the Numismatic Literary Guild, said: “Too often, the coins focused on monotonous views of odd outcrops and ill-defined monuments.”

    It is true that many of the designs of this series share a considerable degree of overlap, such as the many issues that depict birds or rocks, but the series also boasts some interesting designs, like that of the Mount Rushmore coin. And to be fair, the artists creating these designs were rather limited by the subject matter supplied to them.

    The series begins its ninth year in 2018, and the designs of the new coins were unveiled at the Denver ANA coin show in August.The 2018 designs include three with birds (one is a loon), and two showing rock formations. I personally think the Voyageurs and Apostle Islands coins, and perhaps Pictured Rocks, should look good in the large, 76.2-millimeter (or 3-inch) format.

    In fact, that has been another challenge of the series, as many of the designs are too busy for a normal-sized quarter but work much better on the 5-oz. coin. In addition, foreign mints have been issuing large silver coins for years, and some collectors clearly like them, so why cede the market to other mints?

    Sticking with the series, with five coins per year, or ten if you also collect the vapor-blasted versions sold directly by the U.S. Mint, has been costly during some years, depending on silver prices, and requires a lot of storage space. That seems to have contributed to lower sales in recent years, as have other factors, like series fatigue.

    Yet a basic bullion set at current silver spot runs only a little over $500 a year, or right about the same amount as 25 American Eagle silver dollars. But while the American Eagle bullion coins are almost all valued at just a little over spot (except for the 1986 and 1996 issues), many of the 5-ounce coins currently bring between $150 and $200 apiece. Even the 2010 issues that were $200 each at issue, because silver was about $35 an ounce, currently sell for the same amount as they did when silver was twice its current price.

    In some cases, the Mint’s authorized purchasers, who distribute the bullion coins, seem to have underestimated demand for certain issues, such as the one for Frederick Douglass, the widely admired 19th century abolitionist leader, whose sales were ended at 20,000 pieces for the bullion issue. That one has almost doubled in retail value since it was released earlier this year, yet the Ozark coin, which has the same mintage, has increased much less, to about $130 to $140 compared to $160 to $190 for the Douglass coin. Perhaps the Ozark con is undervalued at its current value.

    This situation is reminiscent of values with the two previous keys to the bullion series, the 2012 Volcanoes and Denali coins, with the first commanding a much higher price than the second, while both have the same 20,000-coin mintage. Both of those coins peaked at a certain level and then basically stayed there until drifting a bit lower more recently. But the vapor-blasted Volcanoes coin commands almost $1,000 graded SP-70, and around $700 to $800 in original packaging, which is several times the issue price.

    And that raises an interesting aspect to the series, which is that secondary market premiums for these coins are sometimes difficult to understand. It seems that mintage is only one factor, and that designs and parks that are more popular also do well, especially if they are also lower mintage issues, or issues that sold out unexpectedly.

    Much like the gold spouses, the ATB series will always have its adherents who are determined to stick with it to the end, either because they see it as a good way to acquire silver, are encouraged by the many issues whose premiums have risen, or just like the coins.

    Looking towards 2018 in world coins

    September 1, 2017 3:40 PM by

    2018 will undoubtedly bring many new and interesting bullion and commemorative coins from world and private mints.

    I thought collectors might enjoy a preview of some forthcoming issues I heard about recently. This is by no means intended to be comprehensive.

    One clever collector who posts on an online coin forum searched Australian legislation on coins and discovered that the Perth Mint has some interesting plans in store for next year.

    These include the first-ever 10-ounce silver Wedge Tailed Eagle with a new design by John Mercanti, which will presumably appear on all versions of the coin issued next year. This suggests the mint will likely continue using a new Mercanti design every two years, as it has done so far. It is not clear if the 10-ounce coin will be a bullion or Proof issue, but I hope it is bullion to make it less expensive and so it can compete with the 10-ounce Queen’s Beasts silver bullion pieces.

    In addition, Perth will release the second coin in its 1-ounce silver Swan series, which saw the first issue sell out in days and soar in value from $25 to $70 before settling in around $60. A Dragon and Tiger release is planned, likely a follow-up to the popular Dragon and Phoenix coins. There will be a 1.5-ounce silver Crocodile issue, and the Emu coins will be returning in silver as well.

    2018 is of course the Year of the Dog in the Chinese Lunar calendar, and new releases for this program are already coming out, including the Tokelau mirror dog release, with its huge diameter of 65 millimeters despite weighing only one ounce. A one-ounce silver reverse Proof dog coin from Tokelau is also in the program.

    Perth’s flagship silver and gold Proof Year of the Dog coins will be released Sept. 5 at 8:00 p.m. EST with a wide range of sizes all the way up to a kilo in silver. Perth’s 2018 bullion coin program debuts Sept. 11 with silver and gold 2018 Year of the Dog bullion coins in a wide range of sizes and continues with the Oct. 4 release of the 2018 Kookaburra, the silver Kangaroo on Oct. 23, and the Koala on Jan. 8.

    Another development that caught my attention, but which I can only hint at because it is not yet public, is a new series of silver coins showcasing the planets of the solar system from a major mint that I can’t identify.

    Finally, Coin Invest Trust, which announced an extensive range of new releases at the recent Denver ANA show, such as pirate skulls, Mount Everest, a cobra, and an impressive meteorite coin, mostly coming out in October, is expected to announce another new group of coins at the beginning of February, during the Berlin World Money Fair, such as the new Tiffany Art coin to be issued in the spring.

    Undoubtedly, a dizzying array of other new world releases will arrive for 2018, some of which will be covered here.

    Celestial Dome series concludes with Northern Sky coin

    August 25, 2017 4:34 PM by

    Earlier this year the Royal Australian Mint, following the end of its very popular series of curved silver coins about the star constellations of the Northern and Southern skies, launched a new series of domed gold coins with a coin about the Southern Sky that was covered here.

    That coin, a 1-ounce, $100 gold Proof with a convex/concave shape, was as I explained, the first Australian gold coin of this popular shape and one of just a handful of world gold coins in the domed format. That, plus the low mintage of 750 coins and the broad appeal of astronomy, resulted in a real winner in the aftermarket.

    Much of the mintage was sold in the U.S. by APMEX, other than the coins sold within Australia and some by European or Asian dealers, and they went fast. If you bought when APMEX first sold them, they were around $1,600 each, and retail prices quickly reached $2,000 there and everywhere.

    In fact, at the moment, just one coin is listed on eBay, priced at $4,995 or best offer (clearly an optimistic price), and I know of just one U.S. dealer that has it in stock, where it is priced at $2,595. Examples graded Proof 70 have been traded recently for $3,000 each. I would say the current retail value of an ungraded coin is somewhere in the $2,500 neighborhood, which is a very healthy increase, especially if you paid well under $2,000.

    Northern sky

    Recently the mint launched the second and final coin of this delightful series, with another very intricate design by Bronwyn King showing the various constellations of the Northern Sky, which is defined as that half of the celestial sphere that is north of the celestial equator. Astronomers consider the sky as the inside of a sphere divided by the celestial equator.

    Unfortunately for those looking for a deal, the success of the first coin seems to have pushed coin sellers to almost all ask for around $2,000 for the new coin, though after some searching you will find some overseas dealers that have it a little cheaper (between about $1850 and $1900).

    It is, no matter what you are paying, clearly an expensive coin, but it is also (based on my viewing of the first issue) a truly magnificent example of minting craftsmanship, with impeccable quality combined with elegance in the design as well the presentation, a gorgeous lacquered wood box. It is hard to say if the new issue’s value will increase from its current retail level, but it is likely to become just as hard to find as the first issue, so I don’t see it losing value, at least, and it may well do much better than that. It also helps that, to own the complete series, only two coins are needed.

    ‘Unavailable’ does not mean ‘sold out’!

    August 15, 2017 3:45 PM by
    Ever since the U.S. Mint completed revamping its website and order management system a couple years ago, it has been difficult to know for sure when a particular product is sold out as opposed to temporarily unavailable.

    Sometimes when an item is marked as “unavailable” on the Mint’s website on the first day of sales, the product turns out to indeed be sold out, but in some of these cases additional product becomes available after the order reconciliation process is completed, which can take months. As certain orders are cancelled because of expired credit cards or because buyers were caught trying to get around order or household limits, some product is freed up once the reconciliation process is complete.

    Other times “unavailable” changes to “in stock.” This can happen for a variety of reasons such as the fact that many coins are made in batches based on anticipated demand or because of returns and other factors. 

    When the Mint announces how many of a particular coin or set were sold on the first day or days, buyers are given some idea of what to expect. If the Mint announces that all but a small number were sold on day 1, then buyers know the product is likely gone.

    But when the Mint does not immediately provide early sales data, such as with the 2017 Enhanced Uncirculated coin set released on Aug. 1, it is hard to know whether it is really sold out.

    The problem is that not just retailers and flippers but also some in the numismatic media have reported items as being sold out when they are only “unavailable.” For example, in 2015 the American Liberty $100 gold coin sold a large portion of its mintage on the first day (as the Mint announced) but did not “sell out” until the end of the year, yet one reputable news source initially referred to the coin as being gone the first day. And it happened with the 2017 Enhanced Uncirculated set, which was reported as sold out by another publication. By now most people know the 2017 Enhanced Uncirculated set became available again on Wednesday morning.

    I urge all parties to be more careful in how they report this information, since it has an impact on buyers' decisions.

    And the Mint could assist by reporting first day sales on a consistent basis for all products. Order reconciliation is always an issue, so it is hard to explain why some products have their sales reported after the first day or two, while others are not reported until the following week’s sales report.

    Buyers, especially those who are newer collectors, should be skeptical of claims an item is sold out unless it is marked as such on the Mint’s web site. Caveat emptor! 

    In addition, why does the Mint continue to sell products, like the Enhanced Uncirculated Coin set, that have very wide appeal, with no limits, virtually guaranteeing the result of unhappy buyers unable to buy from the Mint? The outcome in this case, that by serendipity many who waited were enabled to buy the sets soon after, doesn’t change the overall problem. All products should have an initial limit of some kind to create a more level playing field. 

    No approach will be perfect or satisfy everyone, but having no limit for something like the Enhanced Uncirculated Coin set does end up favoring large buyers, whether or not that was the intention.  

    2017 American solar eclipse commemorated on Sioux Nation coin

    August 2, 2017 5:05 PM by

    A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, which blocks out the rays of the sun and makes the solar corona (plasma around the sun), which is normally faint, visible. Eclipses occur when the sun is close to either the ascending or descending node of the moon (the points at which the moon’s orbit crosses the ecliptic, the circular path the sun follows).

    While solar eclipses are not rare events, a total solar eclipse, such as the one that will occur on August 21 this year, is rare, especially when it can be seen from the lower 48 states, as it will on that day. It will make its way from the Pacific Northwest to the Atlantic Coast and will last 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

    This total eclipse will be visible in only certain states, but a partial eclipse will be seen in several others. According to Wikipedia: “The total eclipse will have a magnitude of 1.0306 and will be visible from a narrow corridor through the United States. It will be first seen from land in the US shortly after 10:15 a.m. PDT at Oregon’s Pacific coast, and then it will progress eastward through Salem, OR, Casper, WY, Lincoln, NE, Kansas City, Nashville, TN, Columbia, SC, and finally Charleston, SC. A partial eclipse will be seen for a greater time period, beginning shortly after 9:00 a.m. PDT along the Pacific Coast of Oregon.”

    The last time there was a total solar eclipse that charted a path across the U.S. was in 1776, the year of the founding of our nation, and before that it was in 1257. One that did not occur entirely within the U.S. occurred in 1918.

    An event like this is obviously of great interest to astronomers and others with an interest in space and astronomy, which is also a popular topic for modern coins.

    To mark the event, the Native American Mint teamed up with the Oglala Lakota Sioux Sovereign Nation to produce an impressive curved and colored coin that carries a $1 face value. It is legal tender only within the Sovereign Nation.

    The concave reverse sports a colored satellite image of the earth that shows the North and South American continents and charts the path of the 2017 total solar eclipse as it will proceed across the North American continent.

    The convex obverse, which is also in color, shows the solar eclipse as it will look on August 21. You can see the surface of the moon with a few solar bursts around the moon.

    These coins are made of 1 ounce of .999 pure silver, come in a protective capsule and display box with a certificate of authenticity, and have a maximum mintage of 5,000 pieces. They measure 39.6 millimeters in diameter.

    The coins sold out quickly at several major dealers and seems to only be available now on eBay.  That is not surprising since the coin combines one of the most popular numismatic themes with what remains the most popular unconventional shape for a coin (see my feature in the June issue of Coin World on recent coins of this type).

    Not to mention that the coin celebrates not just any total solar eclipse, but an American one. Plus, of the existing coins issued by Native American Sovereign Nations, this one is unusual because it does not deal with a theme or image unique to their culture.

    Collectors excited about Pobjoy’s Britannia variant

    July 24, 2017 4:29 PM by

    July 19, Coin World’s world coins senior editor Jeff Starck reported that the Pobjoy Mint announced it had found out it was in violation of a trademark on its Britannia Rules the Waves 1-ounce silver bullion coin for the Falklands Islands.

    The coin is the first bullion piece ever issued for the Falklands and was issued to mark the 25th anniversary of the UK’s restoration of the islands’ sovereignty in 1992.

    The private mint found out that it could not use the name “Britannia” on these coins because the Royal Mint has trademarked that name; however, it is allowed to retain the design. As a result, production of the coins with the Britannia phrasing was halted, with the total number struck being 7,329 coins.

    As Jeff noted, this mint does not normally disclose sales figures, but given the initially published “ mintage limit of 50,000 pieces,” it seems likely that the second variant of the coin that is in production now and does not have the Britannia logo will have a substantially higher mintage than the first variant.

    Collectors love this kind of situation, when a coin turns out to have two versions, especially if they believe one or both of them will be scarce and potentially valuable.

    It is worth mentioning that these coins, which look very nice in hand because of the elegant Britannia design and Reverse Proof finish, had already seen their retail price increase since the coins were first released about a month ago .

    I purchased an example from APMEX, one of the Pobjoy’s official U.S. distributors, on June 17 for about $5 over the $16.76 spot price of silver at the time (or $22.25 total), but by the time of Poboy’s July 18 announcement prices had already moved up to the $30-range.

    EBay dealer Son Montuno sold over 500 coins within about a day of the announcement from Pobjoy. This dealer initially charged $32.95 but raised the price to $42.95 by July 21. Another seller is asking $59.95.

    Another dealer is selling examples graded Proof 70 by PCGS with a First Day of Issue and First of 1,000 coins label. Although the coins are Reverse Proofs, the grading companies often refer to such coins with other designations. For example, NGC calls the 2015 and 2016 Libertad silver Reverse Proof finish coins “PL,” for proof-like.

    It remains to be seen how the coin performs as more buyers and collectors learn of the news about the coin and the mintage of the Britannia variant, but it seems likely prices are headed upwards, especially once the coins priced at $33.95 on eBay are sold out.

    The situation calls to mind what happened in 2014 and 2015 with the Royal Mint’s silver Lunar and Britannia coins. In 2014, coin dealer Modern Coin Mart discovered a mule of the Lunar Year of the Horse coin that used the obverse of the Britannia coins. A second mule with Lunar Year of the Horse reverse and Britannia obverse was also discovered.

    In 2015 when the mint added textured fields to the Britannia bullion coin, a Plain Fields variety was intentionally made with a limited mintage of 10,000 coins. Plain Fields examples also exist of the 2016 and 2017 Britannia coins, but I do not know for sure if those were produced that way intentionally.

    The 2014 mules being error coins initially commanded high premiums of several hundred dollars and more for examples graded 70, but since then prices have come down quite a bit. The Plain Fields pieces also command premiums, but generally less than the mules.

    As for the Pobjoy Britannia, a bullion coin mintage of 7,329 is certainly low, but the key issue going forward will be how much demand exists for the coin and how many of the minted coins are trading in the marketplace at any given time. 

    Roswell Incident 70th anniversary commemorated with coins

    July 14, 2017 5:07 PM by

    Paris-based private mint Art Mint, which has previously issued some artistically impressive high-end collector pieces like the Mandala Art series, has launched an intriguing new coin under the authority of Niue that commemorates the so-called Roswell Incident that occurred 70 years ago.

    In July of 1947 a rancher whose pasture was near Roswell, New Mexico, discovered the debris of an unidentifiable object that dropped from the sky. On July 8, the Roswell Daily Record ran a front-page story, “RAAF [Roswell Army Air Field] Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region,” including a photo of the object described as a “flying disk.” According to Art Mint’s description of the incident, “The next day, RAAF changed its statement to say that the object was a weather balloon, not a flying disk as they previously reported. However, to anyone who had seen the debris (or the newspaper photographs of it), it was clear that whatever this thing was, it was no weather balloon.”

    Interest in the Roswell incident waned until the 1970’s when people who believe in UFO’s — unidentified flying objects — started promoting a range of conspiracy theories, such as that the object was an alien spacecraft, or that the military covered up the incident because aliens were found on the site.

    Then in the 1990’s the federal government published two reports about the incident discussing how the object found was a secret nuclear testing balloon that was part of Project Mogul.

    As the page about this in Wikipedia notes, “Roswell has been described as ‘the world’s most famous, most exhaustively investigated, and most thoroughly debunked UFO claim.’ ”

    Given all the popular culture interest in space travel and UFO’s, not to mention movies and TV specials about the incident, and the lasting questions about what really happened in Roswell 70 years ago, the topic is certainly an interesting one for a coin. And Art Mint has produced a fitting, dome-shaped numismatic tribute to this mysterious affair that is shaped just like a flying spacecraft of the kind popularized in countless movies.

    The coin is made of two ounces of .925 silver and has a mintage of 700 pieces. It is convex on the reverse side and struck in ultra-high relief with various details to fit the topic, such as made-up alien text on the reverse, while the obverse has a reduced-size effigy of Queen Elizabeth and small circles arranged in a circular pattern. What’s more, the coin glows if placed in a dark area after being placed near a light source for 30 to 60 seconds. And it comes housed in a case that resembles a wooden crate, stamped “Top Secret” like those used for the Endangered Wildlife coin series from the New Zealand Mint.

    The coin is already sold out at Art Mint, but can be purchased from U.S. dealer First Coin Company for $199.90 and Italian coin dealer Powercoin for 179.95 euros.

    A second coin commemorating the same event has been issued as legal tender for Cameroon, a three-ounce silver piece that also glows in the dark but features more detailed art work, with a close-up profile of an alien on what apparently is the reverse side, while the obverse depicts the object skidded into the ground, based on the photo that ran with the newspaper story published July 8, 1949. This coin is also available from Powercoin but costs 400 euros, or about $460.

    U.S. coin dealer First Coin Company also offers both Roswell coins, the Niue one here, and the Cameroon one here.

    A lost opportunity with platinum American Eagle 20th anniversary

    July 7, 2017 4:04 PM by

    Yesterday the U.S. Mint released the Proof 2017-W American Eagle platinum coin to mark the 20th anniversary of the start of the platinum coin program in 1997. The coin has a maximum mintage of 10,000 units and an initial price of $1,300, which will be updated each week depending on spot platinum market changes. That represents about a $400, or 44%, premium over current spot value. 

    The Mint’s spokesman Michael White reported that first-day sales were 5,230 coins, or 52.3 % of the total mintage, assuming all coins are produced, which remains to be seen.

    Since 1997 the Mint has issued both bullion and Proof coins in platinum, though after 2008, the range of coins was reduced by eliminating the fractional Proof and burnished coins. Only 1-ounce pieces in bullion and Proof are now issued.

    Perhaps the most appealing feature of the Proof American Eagle platinum coins has been the use of different reverse designs. Since 1998, the second year of production, a variety of very interesting designs focusing on Liberty, American government and democracy, and other themes has appeared on the reverses of these coins, while the obverse continues to use John Mercanti’s close-up view of the face of the Statue of Liberty called Liberty Looking to the Future, a modern take on our most well-known symbol of Liberty.

    But for the 20th anniversary piece, the Mint chose to re-use the design of the first year that has appeared on all bullion coins for the past two decades but only one other time on the Proof coins, which was in 1997. This reverse was created and sculpted by Thomas D. Rogers and is called Soaring Eagle Above America, and depicts a bald eagle soaring in the sky above a U.S. landscape, with the sun behind him.

    That choice struck many collectors as a lost opportunity. Moreover, it marks a departure from the use for two decades of different designs on the Proof coins, and it contrasts with what was done for the 10th anniversary issue, when a two-coin set of half-ounce pieces was issued using the second design from the “Foundations of Democracy” series of Proof platinum coins. One coin is a Proof coin, while the other is a Reverse Proof that was only sold in that set in 2007.

    In addition, in 2016 and 2015 perhaps the two best designs ever to appear on platinum American Eagles were used, neo-classical designs of Lady Liberty that really resonated with collectors and sold out instantly.

    While the new Proof coin has its champions, many other collectors were disappointed by the lack of a new reverse design and by the premium on the coin. Plus, I suspect many collectors are saving their money for the release of the first palladium eagle later this year.

    It is true, as some collectors have argued, that special sets for coin anniversaries can be overdone, but in the past two years the trend has been in the opposite direction, with only edge-lettering to mark the 30th anniversary of the American Eagle silver coin program and nothing for either the American Eagle gold coin’s 30th anniversary or the 20th anniversary of the American Buffalo gold coin (though a Reverse Proof coin was issued in 2015 to mark the centennial of the original design on the Buffalo nickel).

    I believe collectors would have responded very favorably to a special coin or set for the platinum 20th anniversary using a new design or finish unique to that coin or set.

    Coin forums and social media sites can be useful

    June 27, 2017 12:51 PM by

    No one would dispute the fact that the internet has changed numismatics in numerous ways. It allows collectors to view the stock of countless dealers with high resolution images in most cases; it vastly expands the role of coin auctions, creating numerous online-only auctions, such as those of Great Collections and enabling those who could not attend auctions in person to view coins and bid on them; and it brings a wealth of knowledge to the fingertips of collectors, from back issues of periodicals to coin news websites, and sites about grading, specific coin series, new issues, and so forth.

    In addition, coin forums, where buyers exchange opinions and information, and social media coin groups, through platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, have also proliferated over the years. In some cases, these platforms allow participants to buy, sell, and trade coins with each other.

    At the same time, as with all things online, one must always exercise caution and common sense, especially when doing business with people you do not know. And as for information that you only find on a forum or social media group, it is a good idea to look for some other sources, such as mainstream numismatic websites and publications, for confirmation in case the information is not accurate.

    On Facebook, for example, members of a group called “Silver and Gold Coin Collectors/ Stackers/ Numismatics,” post articles and information about precious metals market issues and coins, ask each other questions, and offer advice and tips. And other similar groups allow you to purchase coins from other members, or participate in raffles to win free coins by guessing the spot price of silver on a certain day.

    As for coin forums, the list is huge, but some of the more well-known ones are the PCGS message boards, NGC chat boards, Silverstackers (useful with world coins in particular), Mint News Blog and World Mint News Blog, and the Modern Coin Forum sponsored by Modern Coin Mart, which has sections on all numismatic topics. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a founding member of the MCM forum.

    Over the years, I have found these forums very useful as a window into the hobby at the ground level, and I enjoy the discussions, as long as they don’t stray too far into non-numismatic issues (especially politics). Some very knowledgeable collectors participate on these sites, offering tips and advice, or just share their collecting experiences and frustrations, such as problems they perceive at the U.S. Mint or within the hobby, or where they see precious metals headed. Whether you are new or experienced, you are likely to benefit.

    The diversity of viewpoints and information on these sites hugely enriches our hobby, but don’t forget that some of what you read might not be correct, complete, or verified, or it could be just a rumor. And as with doing business with a new dealer, be careful when doing business directly with someone new; for example, deal with those with whom you may have a common connection, or find out more about them before exchanging money.

    By following these common-sense steps, you can add a lot of enjoyment to your hobby with these sites and forums.

    The Mint needs a new director

    June 15, 2017 10:38 AM by

    Edmund Moy, who was the 38th director of the U.S. Mint from 2006 to 2011, was the last presidentially-nominated and congressionally-approved Mint director. His tenure was marked by the introduction of a wide range of new precious metal coin series that either ended recently, like the First Spouse coins, or continue to this day, like the American Buffalo gold coins and America the Beautiful coins.

    In the years since Moy left, a series of individuals have held the top slot at the Mint in an acting capacity, most recently Rhett Jeppson, who was named Principal Deputy Director, the first person to hold that position.

    This situation is primarily a result of the highly partisan political climate In Washington, which prevented President Obama from getting his 2012 nominee, Bibiana Boerio, confirmed, and so far, President Trump has not named anyone to the position. Obama’s second nominee, Jeppson was nominated during his first year at the Mint, in 2015, but his nomination never received a Senate vote.

    As Michael Miles Standish explains in the CDN Greysheet Monthly Supplement for June, Jeppson worked hard to revitalize the Mint during his tenure. His accomplishments include: resuming production of American Eagle 1-ounce platinum bullion coins; the 30th anniversary American Eagles silver dollars with edge inscriptions (which, though not all collectors saw it as enough to mark the anniversary, was “the first-ever meaningful design change in the series and a technically complex one,” according to Standish); the launch of the American Liberty gold coin and silver medals; the 2016 Centennial gold trio; and meeting record demand for the American Eagle silver bullion coins, which reached almost 48 million coins by 2015.

    Since Jeppson left in January of this year, David Motl has served as Acting Principal Deputy Director.

    Profits, especially for numismatic items, were down substantially in the 2016 annual report, and this year demand for and sales of silver bullion coins has also been down markedly. These developments reflect a changing coin and bullion market as well as decisions about mintage levels for collector products like the Centennial gold coins, last year’s biggest release, that were too optimistic. 

    In addition, less information has been coming out of the Mint about forthcoming products this year, as the online product schedule is updated only month by month. And halfway through the year, buyers have no idea when the planned first American Eagle palladium coin will be released.

    Also, some decisions about pricing and mintage of certain products have left many collectors scratching their heads.

    For example, the Proof 2017-P American Liberty silver medal, which will be released on June 14, and which is not high relief (as the Mint confirmed to me recently), despite some press reports claiming it is, is priced at $60 with no limit on mintage, packaging options or household purchases.

    Last year’s medals were $35 each and had mintages of 12,500 each, making them instant sellouts that are still worth several times their issue price. The 2017 medals were expected to cost more, especially with the packaging and booklet that come with them, but at this price point and with minting to demand, the medals are not likely to be big sellers. Initial collector reaction to these details has not been very positive, with some noting they cost more than Proof silver American Eagles.

    It is true that in terms of production costs, a Proof medal does not cost less to make than a Proof coin, but collectors continue to have a strong preference for coins over medals and are less likely to purchase a medal they see as too expensive, especially if they believe it will eventually cost less than issue price on the secondary market.

    Perhaps, as has been suggested in the past, including by former Coin World editor Beth Deisher, the Mint could offer two options for products – one with the packaging, and one without and at a lower price point.

    Another issue is the pricing and 100,000-coin mintage level of the 2017-W American Liberty high-relief $100 gold coin, whose current sales are only 22,447 after two months. Many collectors find the coin too expensive at $1,690, or about $400 over spot value, and believe it should have had a mintage closer to the 50,000-coin limit of the 2015 issue.

    Mint officials and staff are clearly doing their best and can never please everyone, but the organization would benefit from a new director and some fresh thinking about coins and how they are marketed. It would also help to follow up on the many insightful recommendations from last year’s forum in Philadelphia.

    Gargoyles and Grotesques series debuts with ‘The Decay’

    June 5, 2017 5:19 PM by
    A new coin series called “Gargoyles and Grotesques” issued under the legal authority of the African Republic of Chad is being launched this month. The series will feature coins with designs that are inspired by, rather than reproduce, the gargoyles and grotesques that appear on the world’s most well-known cathedrals and medieval buildings such as Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. 

    To keep the focus on the artwork, the reverse, which is where the image of the gargoyle appears, will have only one inscription, the name of the series, while the coat of arms of Chad appears on the obverse side.

    Based on the success of recent coin series that depict skulls, dragons, and various mythical creatures, modern coin enthusiasts clearly have an appreciation for coins with unusual and scary designs such as this series carries. 

    The first coin, which is being issued in silver with two finishes, Antique and Proof, depicts a gargoyle from the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., called “The Decay.” This gargoyle, which was one of the first added to the building during the 1960’s, is considered to be one of the scariest, making it a great choice for the new coin series, which is likely to be popular.

    The cathedral is the seat of the Diocese of Washington and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and is visited by thousands of people every year in addition to those who worship and attend mass services there.

    The cathedral is the sixth largest in the world and second largest in the U.S. and is widely admired for its stunning architecture, including the 112 gargoyles on the top of the building. 

    Not everyone knows that gargoyles are not simply artistic details added to make a building look more interesting but, in fact, serve a very practical purpose, which is to divert water during rain storms away from the walls of the cathedral so that the walls do not sustain damage. They are, essentially, very elaborate waterspouts.

    While by legend gargoyles, which originated in ancient times and were popularized in medieval times, are said to ward off dark forces, they are also part of the gutter system. And they are especially useful in an area like Washington, D.C., which is known for heavy thunderstorms. 

    The difference between a gargoyle and a grotesque is that the latter is not part of the water drainage system and is only a decorative depiction of a fanciful creature.

    Gargoyles were first used in ancient Egypt, where lion-headed figures served the same drainage purpose. They were also used by the Romans, the Greeks, and Etruscans.

    The new coin, made of once ounce of .999 fine silver, is struck in ultra-high relief to bring out all the intricate details of the Decay gargoyle design. Its display box bears the GG logo and the name of the series and holds a serialized certificate of authenticity.

    The coin’s total mintage is 999, including 799 of the Antique finish and 200 of the Proof finish. It is denominated as 1,000 francs. 

    The coin is available from official distributors, including in the U.S., First Coin Company (https://firstcoincompany.com/S/index.php?route=product/search&sort=p.price&order=ASC&filter_tag=GGSERIES) and in Italy, Powercoin (http://www.powercoin.it/en/search?controller=search&orderby=position&orderway=desc&search_query=decay&submit_search).

    ANA members gain access to 'Collector’s Price Guide'

    May 26, 2017 2:17 PM by

    Last week the American Numismatic Association (www.money.org) and the Coin Dealer Newsletter (commonly called the Greysheet) announced a collaborative effort that will provide ANA members with a great new benefit. 

    The ANA is a congressionally-chartered non-profit organization with approximately 25,000 members that seeks to educate collectors and to promote the study of numismatics. 

    Beginning with the June issue of the ANA’s monthly magazine, The Numismatist, which is out now, each issue will include an 8 to 10-page supplement with retail coin values for “collectible U.S. and Early American Coinage” on a rotating schedule, with early coppers, cents, and nickels covered in June, then silver coins in July, and gold coins in August, and the rotation repeats starting in September.

    The Greysheet (https://www.greysheet.com/) is a key pricing reference for dealers and advanced collectors about the wholesale side of the coin market that provides bid and ask prices for each coin. Listed prices are based on a wide range of sources from auction sales to “anecdotal dealer trades,” and many others.

    There is a weekly Greysheet for U.S. classic and modern coins, along with monthly and quarterly supplements that include essays on various aspects of the market and hobby, a Bluesheet for sight-unseen graded coins, and a Greensheet for paper currency. 

    All of the essays and articles are available for free on CDN’s website, but access to pricing information is for subscribers only. The company is working to expand the range of coins covered and to provide alternative platforms, such as tablet access. 

    Called the “Collector’s Price Guide,” the new ANA journal supplement is based on an online version of this guide that was developed by CDN in response to concerns from coin dealers about “the disconnect between established Greysheet pricing and unrelated retail values that don’t reflect wholesale levels.” 

    The values in the CPG are described by CDN this way: “Similar in concept to the old ‘Ask’ price, the CPG is based on ‘Bid’ but formulated specifically for each coin and with a more accurate market spread. Dealer exchanges like CCE and CDN Exchange are now publishing the CPG values electronically.”

    “CPG values are derived from the Greysheet and move in direct reaction to the wholesale market so collectors and dealers can finally be in sync,” according to CDN publisher John Feigenbaum, who is a leading dealer with over 30 years of experience in the field. He noted that collectors should use the supplement in conjunction with other numismatic price guides. 

    In 2015 Feigenbaum acquired CDN from its previous owner who passed away months earlier, and he pledged to create an improved newsletter and related publications with more accurate and updated pricing information that reflects current grading standards and the impact of services such as CAC (the green and gold stickers from Certified Acceptance Corp. that indicate a coin is very solid for the grade).  He also moved the company from Torrance, Calif., to Virginia Beach, Va.

    CDN first began publishing its widely-used newsletter in 1963. 

    CDN recently announced a new monthly publication called “The Goldsheet,” which provides pricing information about modern Chinese coins, an area of the modern coin market that has exploded in recent years but for which it is challenging to find pricing information.

    Landmarks of Britain bullion series debuts

    May 19, 2017 4:43 PM by
    The Royal Mint has launched a new 1-ounce .999 silver, £2 denomination bullion coin series called “Landmarks of Britain.” It uses the same designs as a four-coin colored Proof set from 2014 that depicts four iconic London landmarks: Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, and Trafalgar Square.

    The first coin released in the new format is again the one for Big Ben, “the Elizabeth Tower that dominates the skyline at the northern end of the Houses of Parliament,” according to the mint. It is shown from the street level against an overcast sky, which is typical of London.

    In addition, the Big Ben and Buckingham Palace designs also appeared on 2-ounce silver coins in 2014 and 2015 that were denominated at £100 and sold at their face value. The Big Ben coin sold out quickly and acquired a nice premium.

    But later buyers discovered that they could not redeem the coins for face value at UK banks, and the mint moved away from issuing high-face-value pieces, although it did also issue a £50 coin in 2015 with the design of the 2014 Proof Britannia that is very popular with collectors.

    The new series, which is being sold in the U.S. exclusively by APMEX (www.apmex.com) and is also available around the world from other sellers, is being marketed as a regular bullion coin sold at a premium over its melt value. APMEX offers it for about $24, which represents a 40% premium over silver value.

    The coins have a limited mintage of 50,000 pieces and come encapsulated but without a box or certificate.

    The Big Ben design was popular when the 2-ounce version was released, and these coins are the first of the 1-ounce series, which should bode well. Also, only four coins are required to complete it, which also helps.

    However, I do not expect anything like the situation we saw with the Australian Silver Swan that I discussed recently, given a mintage twice as high as that of the Swan’s and the fact that the Big Ben design is not new.

    The landmarks depicted in the Royal Mint series are well known outside of Britain, but it remains to be seen whether collectors will want to acquire multiples, or just build a set.

    Silver American Eagle sales down sharply: Does it matter?

    May 15, 2017 1:00 PM by
    Between 2013 and 2016 U.S. Mint sales of American Silver Eagle bullion coins at this point in the year were close to 20 million, and annual sales were more than twice that.

    But this year sales are down sharply with cumulative sales through April of only 8,792,500 coins, or less than half last year’s at this point, which was just under 19 million.

    It is hard to say why precisely this is happening, and it is rather surprising given spot silver prices, which have recently been around $16 an ounce, which is about $ 2.50 less than they were at the beginning of March.

    Perhaps the explanation is that, as often happens, buyers tend to reduce their purchases in a declining market, while they increase when prices are rising out of fear they will have to pay more later. This runs in opposition to the old adage to buy low and sell high, but there is something about human nature that seems to lead metal buyers to often do the opposite.

    Or perhaps they are bullish on the economy given recent unemployment and consumer confidence levels, which have been very good, and think recent low economic growth figures are an anomaly.  In that case they may expect silver to be even cheaper later.

    The Perth Mint in Australia has also seen a big drop on silver sales this year.

    The situation with sales of eagles has led some people to wonder if the 2017 coins might end up being a lower-mintage issue with some potential for a premium.

    That is possible but seems unlikely for several reasons. First, while some silver watchers have extrapolated from current sales figures an estimate for the year of around 20 million coins, many things can happen between now and the end of the year to upend that projection.

    This seems especially likely at a time of greatly heightened geopolitical tension around the world and given the domestic political situation in the U.S. that some already call a constitutional crisis. Not to mention that world trade could be jeopardized by some of the proposals being floated by the U.S. administration.

    In addition, even if sales came in at a level as low as around 20 million, I doubt that would have much impact on values, other than perhaps on retail prices charged by dealers, which might be a little higher.

    My local dealer has often told me that for the entire bullion series, only the 1986 and 1996 issues really command a premium, though I have not talked to him since the news about the 2015 (P) graded coins with a mintage of under 80,000.

    The bottom line is that silver looks attractive at current levels to me, so it is probably a good time to buy some 2017 eagles if they are priced right, but I would not have much expectation of an aftermarket premium for these coins.

    ​Queen’s Beasts: Too many, or the more the merrier?

    May 4, 2017 5:16 PM by

    This week U.S. dealers that distribute the Royal Mint’s popular Queen’s Beast coins announced that two new versions were added to the beast lineup: a 10-ounce silver bullion coin and a 1-ounce platinum bullion piece. The 10-ounce silver Lion of England launched this week has an impressive 90-millimeter diameter, and the platinum coin features the same design.

    The companies selling them, such as J.M. Bullion, APMEX, Bullion Exchanges, and Pinehurst Coins, are offering the coins for a small premium over melt. For example, the 10-ounce silver coin runs about $200, while the platinum coin is about $1,000.

    Previously, the Royal Mint had started offering 2-ounce silver coins, 1-ounce and 1/4-ounce gold coins, and silver and gold Proof versions ranging from an ounce to a kilo.

    The proliferation of Beast coins is reminiscent of what happened with the Australian Wedge Tailed Eagle coins that are sold in an extensive range of sizes in silver, gold, and platinum, as bullion and Proof coins, including High Relief and Reverse Proof versions, and even a bimetallic silver and gold issue.

    Based on discussions with fellow collectors, reactions appear to be mixed. Some people are pleased to have more options and only regret that they can’t keep up.

    Others feel there are too many. But my own feeling has always been that just because a mint offers so many choices does not mean a collector needs to acquire all of them.

    A good approach is to focus on the version or metal you prefer and stick with that, and perhaps add some others along the way if they are of particular interest. 

    Keep in mind, there are 10 beast designs in all, each with the stunning artwork of Jody Clark. Thus, 10 of every option would involve a major financial commitment.

    I’ve often heard collectors of silver eagles complain about having too many coins with various finishes, but the same principle applies there. Either you are a completionist and are willing to spend the money to get all versions, or you pick the versions that appeal to you and stick with those.

    A counterargument is that issuing a very wide range of versions of the same coin somehow dilutes the value of previous coins, but I am not sure how true that is, especially if one is referring to bullion, since the value is usually based on metal content unless it is a 70-graded version. There may also be some additional premium for issues like the first one, the Lion.

    On the other hand, for collector versions there may be some risk that having too many versions will reduce values over time.

    Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments area provided. 

    For more about this series, see this section of the Royal Mint’s site: http://www.royalmint.com/discover/uk-coins/The%20Queens%20Beasts

    2017 Congratulations set: market update

    April 27, 2017 4:44 PM by
    In the weeks since the April 4 release of the 2017 Congratulations set that includes a Proof 2017-S American Eagle silver dollar, many buyers have reported in coin forums that their orders have still not shipped. 

    Even some large coin dealers’ orders seem to have been delayed. I noticed, for example, that APMEX says its sets will be available on April 28, while graded examples are coming in May.

    I ordered a couple and was fortunate to have them ship the next day. 

    The Mint has not announced why, almost a month after the release, many orders have not been shipped. Given the length of the delay, it seems at least possible, if not likely, that not all of the 75,000 coins were struck in advance of the release of the coin.

    It is also puzzling, as others such as Bill Gibbs have suggested, why the Mint did not impose any household order limits, something which has been done in the past when a high-demand item was launched.

    There is no way to accurately gauge what percentage of 2017-S coins have yet to hit the market, but a substantial number will presumably be doing so in the coming weeks.

    How that may impact the market for both ungraded and graded pieces will be interesting to observe.

    It is also interesting that, unlike the typical pattern in which items that sell out quickly at the Mint peak early, these sets started off on eBay after the 2-minute sellout at $120 and now bring $150-160. Whether that increase is a function of the delayed orders, or of something else, is not clear.

    So far, auction and retail prices for examples graded Proof 70 have held on to their premiums, which vary by label. With the exception of hand-signed John Mercanti labels, first day of issue labels, etc., NGC and PCGS-graded coins at this grade continue to bring in the neighborhood of $250, which is a nice return for those who are selling them.

    Many of the sales on eBay of these coins are presales, though some companies and other sellers have coins in hand that are shipping.

    We may see some decline in prices as more coins hit the market, but it is the overall mintage of the coin that will shape longer-term values, which will be determined by how many 2017 Limited Edition Proof Sets are made available for sale.

    And as I discussed in my previous piece, it is likely the 2017-S will remain the second-lowest proof coin of the series and one of the lowest for the entire series.  

    Choice Mint launches Guinevere

    April 18, 2017 2:41 PM by
    The second release in the Camelot series has just been launched by Choice Mint. The coin’s reverse depicts Guinevere, wife of King Arthur and best known for her affair with the king’s chief night, Lancelot.

    King Arthur is a legendary British figure, whose existence has been debated for centuries, and whose tales have been the subject of literary works and folklore. He is said to have led the defense of his people against the invading Saxons during the late 5th and early 6th centuries, and his compatriots were the “The Knights of the Round Table.”

    The series will comprise six coins, with two issues per year. For now, Choice is focusing only on these coins and its Legends of Asgard series of Nordic mythological deities. This lineup reflects the company’s philosophy that it is better to produce fewer coins of the highest quality and compelling artwork than to produce as many coins as possible.

    Pre-orders for the Guinevere coin began on Monday, April 17.

    Like the first coin, for King Arthur, the new Camelot piece is issued under the authority of the Cook Islands. It follows the same format: a two-ounce, .999 silver $10 coin with a 50-millimeter diameter, in a mintage of 999 pieces. Called a Proof coin, it uses three different finishes — Proof, Matte, and polished — and it is struck in high relief. The different finishes highlight different parts of the extremely intricate design, and the high relief minting brings the art to life.

    As before, Coin Invest Trust was project manager for the coin, according to Choice’s president, Brian Tully.

    CIT’s smartminting is the cutting-edge approach to high-relief minting that I discussed in Coin World last year (in Dec. 2016, at http://www.coinworld.com/news/world-coins/2016/11/technology-allows-for-greater-relief-with-less-metal-topical-topics.all.html).

    Mr. Tully also said he decided to purchase custom capsules made in Europe for the coins, and they will be used for the entire series because he “wanted the best capsules to protect these works of art.” He also purchased custom boxes “so that collectors of the series identify the coins with Choice Mint.”

    Details on new design

    The design of the new coin features a reverse with a stunning depiction of Guinevere, her head tilted to the side, set against a medieval scene with hills and castles.

    Mr. Tully added: “I found a new artist/designer for this coin, and she really brought Guinevere to life. I wanted to show her fragile beauty, sitting on a stone wall holding a flower, while at the same time show her vulnerable side and emotional struggle. Guinevere was in love with her husband, King Arthur. However, she was unfaithful to Arthur while he was caught up ruling his kingdom. She fell into the arms of his best friend Sir Lancelot. So, if you look under the tree over her right shoulder I strategically placed Sir Lancelot’s shield. The Sir Lancelot coin will come later. In this position, holding a rose with her head tilted, is she thinking of her husband, Arthur, or her lover, Lancelot?”

    “The obverse is the same as on King Arthur. I created a round table surrounded by the Knights. With their helmets off the Knights are holding their swords in salute to the Queen’s effigy in the center. Looking closely at the detail, you can see the wood grain in the table and each Knight has unique features.” For example, each knight’s hair is different from the others.

    Regarding upcoming coins in the series, he added: “The next coin in this Camelot series will be Merlin, and the design is complete. I’m very excited to reveal Merlin later this year in the September time frame. Choice Mint will also be releasing the 3rd and 4th coins in the sold-out Legends of Asgard series. Coin #3 is Ymir, the Frost Giant, and will be released next month while coin #4 is Tyr and will be released this fall. Choice Mint is also working on a special release for mid-year. Without giving too much away, the coin will be an annual issue with a Mexican theme. More to follow.”

    Jacob Acosta, product manager at APMEX, said: “We are very pleased and excited to carry the Camelot series at APMEX. This is a really exciting and unique series to our marketplace, that offers customers the opportunity to add a piece of art to their portfolio. Choice Mint raises the bar when it comes to modern numismatic coins as their level of detail and thoughtfulness is quite exceptional. The multi-finish of the coin highlights every detail throughout the design from Sir Lancelot’s shield resting upon a tree and the blades of grass to the castle on the hill. The centerpiece of the design truly captures Guinevere’s breath-taking beauty.”

    The Guinevere coin retails for $150 and is distributed through five retail coin companies around the world, which are listed on Choice Mint’s dealer locator: http://choicemint.com/dealer-locator/

    The King Arthur coin as well as the first two Legends of Asgard coins are all sold out now.

    To see a video of the Guinevere coin, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KZXQpa_lI8&feature=youtu.be

     

    2017-S Proof silver American Eagle needed for sets

    April 13, 2017 5:36 PM by
    Last week the U.S. Mint sold out of the 2017 Congratulations set in two minutes, as reported in Coin World , though so far the Mint has not released any sales data for the product. When released, that number will provide a partial clue as to whether any additional sets will be offered later once the order reconciliation process is complete.  

    The reason for the instant sellout is, of course, the inclusion of a Proof 2017-S American Eagle silver dollar coin minted in San Francisco, the first Proof from that Mint facility since the 2012-S coin.

    When the American Eagle silver dollar coin program debuted in 1986, all bullion pieces were struck at the San Francisco Mint and continued to be until 1998, while Proofs were issued at this Mint from 1986 through 1992 and then again in 2011 and 2012. 

    As was the case in 2012, when the Mint sold the Proof silver American Eagle from San Francisco in two different products, the 2017-S will, as the Mint made clear before the launch of the Congratulations product, also be offered later in the year in the 2017 Limited Edition Silver Proof Set.

    Those sets have struggled in recent years to sell their full mintage of 50,000 units, but the inclusion of the 2017-S means this year’s set will likely also sell out quickly. But what is not known is whether the 2017-W Proof American Eagle will also be included; if it is, the retail price would approach $200, a high price point for many collectors. 

    It is likely the mint will offer more than the usual 50,000 units of the LESPS this year, possibly doubling the offering to 100,000.

    The conventional wisdom seems to be that this means the 2017-S is really no big deal.  But what has not been discussed is the fact that even if the LESPS mintage were doubled, the 2017-S will still be the second-lowest mintage regular Proof finish coin of the series, after the coveted 1995-W, and the lowest-mintage Proof of the series from San Francisco.

    However, the picture changes a little if one groups Proofs and Reverse Proofs together.  In that case the 2017-S would come in third overall, after the 1995-W and the 2011-S Reverse Proof, or second for San Francisco Mint Proofs.

    An additional point to consider is how many collectors will want to buy the LESPS just to get the 2017-S when they can buy the Congratulations set now on the aftermarket for around $120 and still also have the only coins eligible for First Strike and Early Release labels.

    Yes, those labels don’t actually mean the coins were made first, but the market still continues to pin higher value on coins with those labels.

    Finally, consider the current retail prices for Proof 70 graded examples of the 2017-S, which have moved up in the past week from $200 when the sets first sold out, to a range of $220 to $240 this week, depending on the label on the coin.

    Those prices may go down later as more coins hit the market, and their future value is hard to say, since it will depend on the final mintage and the number of coins in that grade. 

    But it is likely to be more than the current $120 value for the sets, since a Proof 70 from the West Point Mint sells for close to that amount, and it has a much higher mintage.

    The silver American Eagle is the most widely collected modern U.S. coin series, and the Proof version is the most popular annual product from the Mint, with the West Point Proofs typically selling in the million-coin range in recent years.

    Every collector will need a 2017-S for a complete set, and that is why a final mintage of say 150,000 to 200,000 coins is not as high as it seems at first blush.

    Swan Sells Out in Days

    April 6, 2017 5:01 PM by

    The Perth Mint has done it again. That is launched yet another silver bullion coin called “The Silver Swan,” which is expected to be an ongoing series with a new design each year like its other silver bullion coin series except for the Kangaroo that is expected to retain the same design. 

    But this time the mint decided to do the opposite of the Kangaroo series introduced in 2015, which except for that year’s 300,000 run, carries an unlimited mintage with sales already in excess of 12 million per year.  The Kangaroo is a bullion play. 

    The 2017 Swan mintage is a different animal.  Its mintage was set at the very low level of 25,000 coins, and it was sold primarily by APMEX outside of the 10% reserved for sale in Australia.  APMEX launched the coin on Monday starting off at $24 and within a day, the price was up to over $30.

    The Swan is in fact the Perth Mint’s official symbol and appears on its logo, and that is because the mint was founded on the shores of the Swan River in 1829. 

    APMEX, which is believed to have received 20,000 of the entire run of 25,000 according to a customer was told that by the company, sold out by the middle of the week.  It is unclear if their entire allocation is gone, or if more are coming later.  But if so, they will not be cheap.

    At this point, the coin appears to only be available from a couple German dealers for about 45 euros, or $48, where they are on order, and on eBay, where prices are now in the $60 range. Those who snagged some when prices were barely $6 over spot are very pleased, especially some buyers who said in forums they bought large quantities.

    Plus, if the information about APMEX is true, and after factoring the 2,500 that sold out instantly in Australia at the mint and another seller, only some portion of the remaining 2,500 that mostly went to Germany is likely to be left.

    What accounts for this meteoric rise in a few days?  In addition to an unusually low mintage for a silver bullion piece, the coin is the first of a new series, featuring a gorgeous and elegant design that is less busy that many Perth designs.  And there is the fact the Perth sells coins of this type (again except for the Kangaroo) in protective capsules and makes them to the highest quality standards.

    For all these reasons the Swan is a good example of “semi-numismatic” bullion coins, whose initial price is based on a premium over silver content that was comparable, or just slightly higher, than that for its Kookaburra, Koala, and Lunar ranges.  These coins are really collected for their designs and mintages rather than bought for their silver content, though that provides a baseline value.

    Then when the entire mintage is sold out by distributors, those premiums begin to rise, and in this case the entire process was speed up by very high demand primarily due to the low mintage and the limited number of companies selling the coin.

    It is hard to say what the 2017 Swan will be worth in a year, but I doubt prices will go down, and it seems more likely they will go higher.

    Interesting Issues from Down Under

    March 31, 2017 11:24 AM by

    New wedge tailed eagle variety

    Most Australian silver bullion coins have always featured reverse proof finishes, a feature that made them different from most other world bullion issues.  But to my knowledge, there has not been until now a reverse proof silver coin that is also struck in high relief.

    Now the Wedge Tailed Eagle series that began in 2014, which has included a dizzying array of coins over the past couple years, has a new type of release for 2017: a high relief reverse proof coin that takes the place of the high relief proof coins issued in the past three years.

    Those coins, which have a mintage of 10,000 pieces, are probably the most popular variety within this series. 

    It will be interesting to see how collectors respond to the new type of high relief silver issue.  I have seen an example, and I think it looks great and adds a touch of elegance to the design.

    Last year a second wedge tailed eagle design in which the bird is perched on a tree rather than flying with wings spread out, as in 2014 and 2015, was introduced for the entire line of coins.  Both are the handiwork of John Mercanti, former Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint.

    Kookaburra set
     
    Another interesting recent Aussie release that was first announced at the beginning of March is a special 2-coin Kookaburra silver coin set that includes a regular bullion coin (which is reverse proof) and proof issue that is only available in the set, whose mintage is 1,000 units. There are very few proof Kookaburras over the past three decades, and the one in this set is by far the lowest mintage of those few proofs.

    The sets were sold directly by Perth for $100, and they sold out quickly in early March, but it turns out they were produced at the initiative of APMEX, which presumably received a large portion of the mintage and which began selling them last week, but for $200.

    Perth confirmed to me that only it and APMEX sold the sets.  A couple German dealers also have them, and some have been sold on eBay, and those all appear to have been purchased from Perth and are priced around the same level as APMEX’s sets.

    Last week one of the popular online coin forums had an entire thread about these sets, and whether APMEX had priced them too high. Many agreed, while others said APMEX was actually pretty restrained and could have asked for more. They appear to be selling well at APMEX, but it is hard to tell how many are left since the company lists such products in batches.

    I initially felt the $200 level was probably as high as they would go, but once the sets on the market are all sold to collectors around the world, who will probably mostly want to keep them, the price for any sets sold down the line should be higher.

    UHR rose-gold-plated Zeus $5 begins Niue Gods of Olympus series

    March 17, 2017 3:21 PM by
    Over the past four years an increasing number of silver coins have been issued by numerous world mints that depict ancient mythological deities from different parts of the world and different religions and cultures.

    The trend began with a Niue series, Gods of Ancient Greece, that started in 2013, in which the coins were struck in the shape of rectangular bars.

    Then came the Perth Mint’s Gods and Goddesses of Olympus series, which dealt with Greek gods and inspired a range of other coin series depicting Scandinavian or Nordic gods, as I discussed in my May 2016 article in Coin World magazine . In addition, there are some more recent series that focus on Roman gods, such as the Niue series that began with a coin honoring Ares, the god of war, that is being released very soon.

    The 2014 Zeus coin from Perth, the first issued in high relief with an antique finish, has probably had the biggest impact on this segment of the modern coin market. That coin saw a very substantial increase in its secondary market value, and its success seems to have played a key role in the decision of other mints to issue similar coins. Its success was also related to its artwork that is stunning and nontraditional, making it different from other coins that showed mythological figures in more classic depictions.

    These coins generally follow a similar format: high or ultra-high relief and an antique silver finish, sometimes selectively gold-plated, and usually struck from two ounces of silver and minted in small numbers.

    Now a new Niue series, issued as usual by the Mint of Poland, returns to the Gods of Olympus, and the first piece depicts Zeus.

    In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Zeus was the king of the Olympian gods and the god of the sky, lightning, and thunder. Like Odin in Nordic mythology, he was an all-father figure, admired and respected by the other gods, even those who were not his natural children.

    Though issued in the same format described above, the new Zeus issue has something different from all the others. It is selectively plated with rose gold on the central design device, which is a stunning image of Zeus, thunderbolt in one hand and shield in the other.

    Only 500 Zeus coins are being issued, and the coin can be purchased from First Coin Company , which offers free worldwide shipping and refund of any import duties you might be assessed depending on where you live. First Coin Company is offering a special discount of 5% to readers of this column. Just enter the code 5zeus at the menu of your shopping cart by clicking “edit.”

    It is also available from Powercoin in Italy.

    Eternal Sculptures Series Continues with Venus De Milo Coin

    March 10, 2017 4:39 PM by

    ​When it comes to high-end, luxurious modern world coins, subject matter is critical as it helps determine the design and how the coin is produced. And while there are plenty of interesting topics depicted on such coins, many of the best ones, as I have argued before, deal with the 3 A’s: art, architecture, and astronomy, topics that all hold great appeal for your columnist. Such coins combine gorgeous artwork with themes that enrich the mind and expand one’s cultural and scientific horizons.


    In the realm of art, modern numismatic issues have tended to focus mainly on famous paintings and not as much on other types of art such as sculpture. But last year Italian coin dealer Powercoin teamed up with Coin Invest Trust and B.H. Mayer to launch an interesting new series called Eternal Sculptures that highlights some of the world’s greatest and most significant works of sculpture. The first coin depicted Italian neoclassical artist Antonio Canova’s Psyche and Cupid. Having seen this piece, I can attest to its beauty and high level of craftsmanship.
     
    The second is now available for pre-order with shipment expected around late April, and this time the Venus de Milo, one of the greatest works of ancient Greek sculpture, is the topic. This amazing marble sculpture, which stands 6 feet, 8 inches high, was made between 130 and 100 B.C. and is believed to be of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. Experts think it is the work of Alexandros of Antioch, and the statue was discovered in 1820 on the Greek islands, Milos by a peasant and later sold to French explorers. It resides permanently in the Louvre museum in Paris.   
    The statue is best known for its two-missing arms and was promoted by the French in the 19th century as “the epitome of graceful female beauty,” according to Wikipedia, despite the condition in which it exists, which also includes a broken nose. Before it was damaged, the statue showed Aphrodite holding an apple in one hand.   
     
    Like the previous coin in this series, the new issue is made of two ounces of silver. Rather than have a large diameter, it is a piedfort, with the additional weight in the thickness to enable it to be struck in stunning high-relief using CIT’s Smartminting on both sides, which respectively show the front and back of the upper portion of the statue. In addition, it combines a special white marble-effect on the design of the statue with a black proof background for maximum contrast between design devices and the field and also sports an intricate border. The mintage is 999 coins.
    The 2017 Venus de Milo coin, which is struck for the island nation of Palau, carries a legal tender value of $10, and can be ordered from Powercoin, First Coin Company, and The Coin Shoppe.

    Latest Niue Meteorite Coin: Gosses Bluff

    March 3, 2017 1:24 PM by

    Within the field of world coins dedicated to astronomy and space-related topics, coins about meteorites and the craters where they were found are some of the most popular.

    Beginning in 2014, a series produced by the Mint of Poland for the island nation of Niue called “Metorite Craters” has been issued with one coin per year.

    Previous issues include the 2014 Diablo Canyon coin, the 2015 Wolfe Creek issue, and the 2016 Popigai issue. Each piece is made of one ounce of .999 fine silver with an antique finish, has a real piece of meteorite from the one celebrated on the coin and a mintage of just 666 coins, and is struck in ultra-high relief to create a kind of three-dimensional image of the crater.  And all arrive in a nice wooden box with a colorful shipper that depicts the featured crater.

    Now the fourth coin for 2017 is being released with shipping expected to begin this month. The latest coin is the Gosses Bluff issue, named for the eroded remnant of an impact crater called Tnorala that is located at Henbury within the Northern Territory, near the center of Australia.

    The Gosses Bluff issue has a unique feature that none of the previous coins in this series have, which is a red copper finish, to make the coin the same color as the crater itself. At the center of the coin is a piece of Henbury meteorite.  

    This crater, which is also known as Gosse’s Bluff, was named by Ernest Giles in 1872 after Australian explorer William Gosse's brother Henry, who was a member of Gosse's expedition. 

    It is one of 13 or 14 craters at Henbury, a protected area within Northern Australia named for a nearby cattle station, that range in diameter and depth that that were formed when the meteor broke up before impact. Several tons of iron-nickel fragments have been recovered from the site. The site has been dated to 4.7 thousand years ago based on the terrestrial age of the meteorite and between 4.2 and 1.9 thousand years ago using fission track dating.

    Wikipedia adds: “The original crater is thought to have been formed by the impact of an asteroid or comet approximately 142.5 million years ago, in the earliest Cretaceous, very close to the Jurassic - Cretaceous boundary. The original crater rim has been estimated at about 22 km in diameter, but this has been eroded away. The 5 kilometers’ diameter, 180 m high crater-like feature, now exposed, is interpreted as the eroded relic of the crater's central uplift. The impact origin of this topographic feature was first proposed in the 1960s, the strongest evidence coming from the abundance of shatter cones. In the past, the crater has been the target of petroleum exploration, and two abandoned exploration wells lie near its center.”

    Henbury is one of only five meteorite impact sites in Australia where fragments of meteorites still exist, and it is one of the best preserved small crater fields in the world. For all these reasons, it is a very important location and a geological beauty.

    The previous Niue meteorite coins have been very popular with collectors and have increased in value, something that is not easy when so many different world coins are coming out.

    You can purchase Gosses Bluff from First Coin Company, which offers free worldwide shipping and refund of any import duties you might be assessed depending on where you live. First Coin Company is offering a special discount of 5% to readers of this column. Just enter the code 5bluff at the menu of your shopping cart by clicking edit.

    It is also available from Powercoin in Italy.

    Niobium Solar System Series Begins with Saturn Coin

    February 23, 2017 10:29 AM by

    Niobium, which was discovered in 1801, is rarer than silver and is used primarily in the aerospace industry.  It has also been used in combination with silver on a limited number of coin series from world mints, including those of Austria, Canada, and Latvia most notably. The Austrian series has been until now the real leader for this kind of coin that features an inner ring of niobium and an outer one of silver. 

    The Austrian coins, which focus on themes related to science and technology, have been selling out more and more quickly in recent years, and past issues have seen very substantial gains from an issue price of about 70 euros.  In fact, the first two coins sell for a lot and are very difficult to source.  For example, the 2003 700th anniversary of the Tyrol City Hall now brings $650-1000.

    A new niobium-silver coin series about the planets of our solar system is being launched with a 2017 coin about Saturn that should be available in April.  Issued in the name of the island nation of Palau, it was produced through a collaboration of Coin Invest Trust, which served as production supervisor, and the Mayer Mint in Germany, one of that country’s most highly regarded and oldest private mints. Those two companies are on the cutting edge of high-quality, innovative coin minting, producing coins for numerous countries.

    The new series is clearly inspired by the Austrian one.  From the similar packaging (an elegant red box with an outer white sleeve and certificate of authenticity) to the amounts of silver and niobium used and the total weight, which are very similar.  The Palau coin combines 6.7 grams of niobium with 8.3 grams of silver for a total weight of 15 grams and have a 30-millimeter diameter.

    However, where the Austrian coins have a mintage of 65,000 coins, the Palau coins will be limited to just 3,000 for each issue, which will be one for each planet over 8 years, unless scientists’ effort to have Pluto reinstated as a planet are successful, which would mean 9 coins. That is a difference in mintage of over 2,000%! That means the entire Palau series’ mintage of 24,000 coins is less than half of each Austrian issue.  In addition, where the Austrian coins were mint state pieces, the new series will be struck in proof.

    The $2 Saturn coin sports a stunning design in which the niobium center has been oxidized to make it yellow, again like the Austrian coins, which each feature different colors.  The obverse shows the Palau coats of arms and the nine planets of the solar system (including Pluto) and their orbital rings in black for those in the yellow center, while the reverse depicts the planet in yellow with its famous rings.  Last year the Cassini space probe reached Saturn and its moons and took photos of them.

    I expect these coins to be very popular, especially as the first of a new series on one of the most popular and widely collected themes in modern numismatics.  And this is a series that should not be very difficult or expensive to complete, and it would make a great gift for a young collector who gazes at the stars. 

    The Saturn piece can be purchased from coin dealers who specialize in modern issues, including First Coin Company in California, which offers free worldwide shipping, and Powercoin in Italy.

    Information on Saturn from Wikipedia:
     
    Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second-largest in the Solar System, after Jupiter. It is a gas giant with an average radius about nine times that of Earth. Although it has only one-eighth the average density of Earth, with its larger volume Saturn is just over 95 times more massive. Saturn is named after the Roman god of agriculture. Saturn's interior is probably composed of a core of iron–nickel and rock (silicon and oxygen compounds). This core is surrounded by a deep layer of metallic hydrogen, an intermediate layer of liquid hydrogen and liquid helium, and finally outside the Frenkel line a gaseous outer layer. Saturn has a pale yellow-hue due to ammonia crystals in its upper atmosphere. Electrical current within the metallic hydrogen layer is thought to give rise to Saturn's planetary magnetic field, which is weaker than Earth's, but has a magnetic moment 580 times that of Earth due to Saturn's larger size. Saturn's magnetic field strength is around one-twentieth of Jupiter's. The outer atmosphere is generally bland and lacking in contrast, although long-lived features can appear. Wind speeds on Saturn can reach 1.800 km/h (500 m/s), higher than on Jupiter, but not as high as those on Neptune. Saturn has a prominent ring system that consists of nine continuous main rings and three discontinuous arcs and that is composed mostly of ice particles with a smaller amount of rocky debris and dust. Sixty-two moons are known to orbit Saturn, of which fifty-three are officially named. This does not include the hundreds of moonlets comprising the rings. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, and the second-largest in the Solar System, is larger than the planet Mercury, although less massive, and is the only moon in the Solar System to have a substantial atmosphere.
     

    Southern Sky: First Australian Domed Gold Coin

    February 17, 2017 12:13 PM by

    In recent years, silver coins minted in a cupped or domed format, in which one side is concave and the other convex, have continued to capture the imagination of modern coin enthusiasts around the world. 

    One of the most important series issued in this popular shape is the Royal Australian Mint’s Southern and Northern Sky set of six proof coins released between 2012 and 2016 — three for each hemisphere — that depict star constellations seen there in stunning color.

    The first coin, the Southern Crux, which was also the world’s first domed and colored silver coin, eventually became a runaway success in the secondary market with prices having rising from about $100 at release to $500-plus and approaching twice that for Proof 70 examples. 

    Given the success of those coins, it is hardly surprising that the mint would follow up with more coins of this type, but in keeping with the originality of the concept for the silver series, a new 2-coin $100 gold series called Celestial Dome takes a different approach.

    Rather than focus on one specific constellation or use color, the 1-ounce gold proof called Southern Sky, shows 40 constellations of the southern hemisphere sky which start out smaller at the center of the coin and get increasingly larger. This includes both 32 star constellations and 7 astrological representations of those constellation, i.e., 7 of the zodiac birth signs.

    This new piece, which will presumably be followed by one for the northern sky, is an impressive, creative, and innovative coin that taps into widespread interest in both domed coins and coins about astronomy and space.

    It is the first Australian domed gold coin and joins a small, select group of domed world gold pieces, which also include the 2014 baseball $5 coin, a 2009 200 euro French astronomy coin, and a 2014 200 euro French FIFA soccer tournament coin.

    An additional element of this cutting-edge issue is that only 750 coins are available for the entire world. 

    Sales in North America are exclusively through APMEX, while buyers in Australia can purchase the coin from the Royal Australian Mint or key distributors in Australia like Downies and Direct Coins, and buyers in Europe have a number of choice such as Powercoin and several Germany companies.  Prices vary depending on where purchased.

    Launched on February 3, the coin has been selling briskly at APMEX starting this past week. I anticipate that within a short period, few examples will be available for sale. Only one example is currently listed on eBay.  

    World Coins in Berlin

    February 9, 2017 5:39 PM by

    The biggest coin show in the world is the World Money Fair held each year in Berlin at the beginning of February.  This year it ran from the 3rd to the 5th.

    The show brings together representatives of the world’s major mints, thousands of coin collectors from Europe and beyond, and members of the numismatic media, including Coin World’s Jeff Starck, who will be reporting on the show.

    This year’s guest of honor was the South African Mint, which has been in the news recently for its first ever silver Krugerrand.  Sales of that coin have been delayed.

    Each year the mints showcase their newest and most dazzling coins and their latest innovations in coin minting technologies. Jack Sakarian, who owns Canadian coin company The Coin Shoppe, said that “they were sold out of the silvers [Krugerrands] when the show started, and everyone wants them but there is no stock anywhere. The problem is the capacity, they can only mint 15,000 per day, and that is without any hiccups, and with a million mintage you can imagine why it’s taking so long.”

    As is often the case, many of the most interesting new pieces were from Coin Invest Trust.
     
    CIT unveiled a new technology in 2016 called Smartminting that allows coins to be struck in high relief without reducing the diameter and to produce coins with large diameters with smaller amounts of metal.
     
    CIT’s 2017 line-up included, for example, a time capsule coin that is square-shaped and intentionally warped (with a little compartment) and is a successor to 2015 space-time continuum piece, which won an award from Krause’s Coin of the Year program.
     
    For my personal taste nothing beats the multi-award winning Tiffany Art series, whose new coin for 2017 showcases the Wells Cathedral built around 1310 in England, often considered the best example of Gothic architecture in that country. The design is really stunning as you can see from the image.

    Others include coins for the Graf Zeppelin’s inventor, Fidel Castro, Mongolian Nature, and many others.

    Special coins made for the show included a special Panda from China and a colored Kookaburra from the Perth Mint, which can be purchased from Talisman Coins and other dealers.

    Antonello Galletta, founder of Italian world coin dealer Powercoin, which carries an extensive range of coins, said that he was especially impressed with the CIT coins, the Mind of Poland’s issues, notably those in ultra-high relief, and the coins of the Royal Canadian Mint, among others. 

    He also said that there are now so many coins that try to piggyback on the success of the Tiffany Art series and others that riff off the various god coin series that continue to proliferate.  Meanwhile, various mints continue to experiment with coins of unusual shapes and materials in an effort to be original. 

    Powercoin last year introduced its first exclusive releases produced in cooperation with CIT, which were covered here last year.  Powercoin will soon unveil the second coins in both the Eternal Sculptures and Guy Fawkes mask series.  The sculpture coin will this time depict the famous Venus di Milo.

    Space Shuttle coin launched

    January 31, 2017 4:40 PM by

    Like many Americans who were big fans of NASA’s Space Shuttle, I was saddened to learn the program would end in 2012.

    There is a cool new premium $5 coin for space enthusiasts from the Cook Islands that pays tribute to each of the six Space Shuttles that flew 135 missions between 1976 and 2011. And it has something very special inside each coin: actual flown space material, which includes, for example, thermal insulation, flown metal pins from the space shuttle payload bay, flown bolts, flown nuts and flown washers. 

    Everything was ground into a powder-like mixture with some larger pieces.

    The format of this coin is one that collectors of high-end modern world issues are familiar with: an antique silver finish and selective gold plating. The reverse side includes images of each of the shuttles during their missions plated with gold, which stands out nicely against the antique silver background. At the center of the coin is the ground-up space-flown material in a capsule.

    As a coin issued by a British commonwealth nation, the obverse carries the Ian-Rank Broadley effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.

    The coin is made of one ounce of .999 fine silver and has mintage of just 500 coins. The coin comes with a numbered certificate of authenticity that also explains that the flown material is real, and it is housed in a wooden box with a colorful image of a space shuttle in space.

    It is available from First Coin Company here http://www.firstcoincompany.com, an official distributor for the coin, for $219.90 with free worldwide shipping and refund of any customs or import fees if you are assessed any. A representative of the company said he expects the price to rise.

    He also said the coin should ship within a week of when your order is placed. Here is a direct link to the company’s page for this item.

    For those who think they might be able to get it cheaper on eBay, the coin’s manufacturer is requiring all distributors that sell the coin on eBay not to offer it in auctions and sell it only as a Buy It Now item. 

    There are several current listings for the coin at $249.95 or best offer plus shipping.

    Here is an overview of the history of the Space Shuttle program:

    ENTERPRISE: Designated OV-101, Enterprise was the prototype shuttle and rolled out for the first time on Sept. 17, 1976. Built without engines or a working heat shield for use as a test-bed, she was originally meant to be retrofitted for spaceflight, but design changes and other cheaper options meant it wasn’t to be. She was restored and placed on display at the Smithsonian in Virginia until 2012 when she was moved to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York.

    COLUMBIA: The second to be built but the first space-rated orbiter, Columbia, designated OV-102, launched for the first time on mission STS-1 on April 12, 1981. In the next 22 years, she completed 27 missions but disintegrated during re-entry on mission STS-107 on Feb. 1, 2003, killing all seven members of the crew.

    CHALLENGER: The second space-rated orbiter, Challenger (OV-099) had its maiden flight on April 4, 1983. She made nine flights successfully before breaking up 73 seconds after launch on the tenth, STS-51L on Jan. 28, 1986. The crew of seven was killed and the shuttle fleet grounded for two and a half years as a result.

    DISCOVERY: After her first flight on Aug. 30, 1984, OV-103 went on to complete 39 missions in the next 27 years. She was the first shuttle to retire, having undertaken more spaceflights than any other vehicle, including lifting the Hubble telescope and International Space Station parts into orbit. Her last mission was STS-133 on Feb. 24, 2011. Discovery now lives in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

    ATLANTIS: Given the designation OV-104, Atlantis first flew on mission STS-51-J between Oct. 3 and 7, 1985. She undertook the final ever shuttle mission (STS-135), her 33rd, on July 8, 2011. Over a successful career, Atlantis had orbited the Earth 4,848 times, covering a staggering 126 million miles. She is displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

    ENDEAVOUR: The fifth and final space-worthy shuttle to be built (OV-105), Endeavour was constructed partly from spares to replace the tragically lost Challenger. She undertook 25 missions between May 1992 (STS-49) and May 2011 (STS-134). She was named after the British ship Endeavour (hence the British spelling), the vessel which took Captain Cook on his first voyage of exploration. There was even a piece of wood from Cook's ship in the cockpit. She currently resides at the California Science Center awaiting a new display.

    New Coins: Shooting Thaler and Southern Lights

    January 27, 2017 1:43 PM by

    This week I’d like to highlight two coins from world mints in different parts of the planet that caught my attention.

    First is the 2017 Shooting Thaler 50 Francs silver coin from Switzerland, which has a mintage of 1,200 coins and is also issued in gold.  This year’s piece honors the annual shooting festival held in the Swiss canton of Glarus.  As with previous issues, the design includes both a representation of Helvetia, the Swiss version of Liberty, and someone holding a rifle.

    Shooting Thalers are “are commemorative coins issued by the 26 cantons, or member states, of Switzerland. They pay tribute to the shooting festivals or “Schützenfest,” that take place regularly in Switzerland. These Shooting Thalers are very popular with world coin collectors and are well-known for their beautiful and intricate designs depicting of marksmanship, heraldry, patriotism, and various cantonal themes,” as I said in an overview of these coins I did for Modern Coin Mart last year.

    The shooting festivals commemorated on these coins are today the largest rifle shooting events in the world, drawing some 200,000 to 300,000 people each year.  Classic Shooting Thalers were issued from 1842 to 1939, and then the program was revived in 1984 due largely to the efforts of an American coin dealer.

    These coins are not surprisingly especially popular in Switzerland and in Europe, and relatively few pieces typically make it to the American market.  Compared to a lot of other world coins, this series has tended to appreciate in value, with some issues doing better than others.

    I have not seen the 2017 issue available yet from an U.S. dealer, but with time I anticipate the coins will be available from Modern Coin Mart, Talisman Coins, and possibly others

    I was able to purchase one from German dealer Tobias Honscha for a competitive price this week.

    Southern Lights

    The second coin is from the New Zealand Post (a division of the country’s post office that sells coins).

    The coin is the 2017 Southern Lights $1 silver proof coin that uses a hologram to replicate the cosmic light show of the Southern Lights, which though less well known than the Northern Lights, is apparently very impressive. 

    The coin uses what the mint calls “a unique holographic foiling technique” to provide the viewer with a glimpse of the dazzling light show as it dances across the Mackenzie Basin.

    Only 1,500 of this issue are being produced, and given the popularity of last year’s Royal Canadian Mint coin that showed the Northern Lights on a two-ounce silver coin that glows in the dark, whose value has risen impressively, I expect the this coin to be popular too.

    The reverse, designed by Johnathan Gray of the New Zealand Post, shows the Church of the Good Shepard with the shimmering light show above it.  The official description adds: “This stunning coin captures the magic of the Southern Lights both in its color and its shimmering surface. The Southern Lights can range in color from pink to green to purple, with the colors dependent on a number of factors. The type of solar wind particle, the type of gas molecule and the electrical state at the time of the collision all have an effect on the eventual color of the aurora.”

    This coin can also be purchased from Italian dealer Powercoin from the same German dealer (Tobias Honscha), and on eBay.  Others will likely have it as well, and the coin is supposed to ship in February.

    Buffalo Fractional Gold May Be Returning

    January 20, 2017 3:54 PM by

    2017 is already shaping as a banner year for the U.S. Mint and not just because it marks the 225th anniversary of our mint.

    It will be a year of many firsts – from the first coin to depict Liberty as an African-American woman to the first enhanced uncirculated coin set and the expected first American Palladium Eagles.

    But it may also be a year in which the Mint returns to a popular subset of the American Buffalo Gold coin, namely, the fractional coins of one-half, one-quarter, and one-tenth of an ounce that were only issued in 2008 in both proof and uncirculated finishes. 

    Those coins, which have some of the lowest mintages of any modern U.S. gold coin, were discontinued after 2008 because of low sales numbers and the fact that the Mint’s leadership believed it was necessary to reduce the number of coin programs.

    But sales of the coin in 2008 were low because of the economic crisis and the fact that buyers had a cornucopia of precious metal coins to choose from, including not just 4 sizes of proof American Gold Eagles and Buffaloes both in two finishes but also proof and burnished American Platinum Eagles and many others. 

    The situation today is very different.  The economy is back on much firmer ground, consumer confidence is up, and the Mint no longer issues as many precious metal coins for collectors.  The First Spouse $10 gold coins are over, and there will be just one $5 gold commemorative this year for the Boys Town centennial, which will probably only sell a couple thousand coins.

    It is true that the fractional Buffalo gold coins, which may return as 24 karat-proof coins, would compete with the four proof American Gold Eagles and should sell for the same premium.  But they would likely be much more popular than the fractional Gold Eagles, whose sales have tended to be low in recent years, while the 1-ounce version remains the most popular option.

    If as I expect the Buffaloes considerably outsell the Eagles in 2017, the Mint could consider limiting the Gold eagle program to the 1-ounce coin.

    The news about the fractional Buffaloes was included in an e-mail sent by Principal Deputy Director Rhett Jeppson to participants of the Mint’s forum held in Philadelphia last October, according to a collector who went to the forum.*

    A big question is whether the coins will have set maximum mintages like the proof Gold Eagles, or be minted to demand.  Most collectors believe the fractionals need to have a higher mintage than the 2008 coins, and that could boost the value of those coins, which are still substantial though off their peak levels.

    Let us hope the Mint moves forward with this idea, which will be welcomed by many collectors who love the classic Buffalo design and others who simply can’t afford to purchase the 1-ounce proof versions, and still others who have grown tired of the Golf Eagles after thirty years.

    In addition, this move would probably not require congressional approval since the Mint has broad statutory authority to issue gold coins.

    If you support the return of the fractional Buffaloes, I would suggest writing to or calling the Mint, commenting on their Facebook page, or writing a letter to the editor of a widely-read hobby periodical like Coin World

    *This article will be updated if the Mint is able to provide any additional details.

    2017 American Liberty Coin: Opinions Still Divided

    January 13, 2017 1:00 PM by

    On January 12, the U.S. Mint kicked off a year-long celebration of its 225th anniversary with the unveiling of the design of the 2017 American Liberty $100 high relief gold coin. Until this point only line art versions of the design had appeared, but now images of the actual finished coin are out.

    The design, which was recommended last spring by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and Commission on Fine Arts, is the first to depict Lady Liberty as a young African-American woman.  The left-facing portrait also features her wearing a diadem, or crown, of stars, which is a tribute to the Statue of Freedom that rests at the top of the U.S. Capitol dome.

    The Mint also announced some additional details of the American Liberty program, which will include a gold coin in high relief and an accompanying silver medal not in high relief, with a new design every two years.  And subsequent coins and medals will depict other ethnicities such as Hispanic-American, Asian-American, and Native-American.

    It is worth mentioning (as I discussed last year when the 2017 design was first unveiled) that the model used by Augustus Saint Gaudens, Hettie Anderson, as Lady Liberty for his famous $20 gold double eagle design was also an African-American woman, but the finished design of that coin has a Greco-Roman style, and Liberty does not appear to be black woman.

    From the time it was first proposed, the appearance a black woman on the obverse of the 2017 Liberty coin has sharply divided collectors.  Some people like it and find the design attractive, especially after seeing images of the actual coin, while others say it is some combination of ugly, inappropriate, and politically correct.

    Comments from the numismatic blogosphere this week include, for example: “As a coin collector it's a nice coin, but I thought that an anniversary coin with a black woman with dreadlocks is not proper. It would have been better issued as a black history coin or as a dedication to our African-American brothers and sisters”; “Using an African American woman as a symbol of freedom when they were enslaved for 100's of years seems inappropriate and smacks of political correctness run amok. I think the obverse design rather ugly but opinions vary”; and others focused on the use of dreadlocks in the hairstyle, noting that black women in the 18th century did not have such styles.

    Still others said the stars are too large, and there are too many initials for the designers and sculptors.

    The points about the stars and initials are quite understandable, but hairstyle argument is an odd one since the design is specifically supposed to, as the Mint’s press release states, “depict allegorical Liberty in a variety of contemporary forms.”

    Critics seems to have lost sight of the fact that the whole program, as originally proposed by the CCAC, was designed as one to showcase modern images of Liberty that represent the ethnic and racial diversity of 21st century America.

    On the other hand, there are others who find the design beautiful, elegant, bold, and an appropriate tribute to the fact that all Americans deserve Liberty.  I put myself squarely in this camp and will be eager to see if when the subsequent coins are issued those designs will be also be decried as “politically correct.” I suspect not since I have never heard anyone say the Indian Liberty on the $5 and $10 gold coins, or the Indian Liberty of the Sacagawea dollars are politically correct.

    The reverse that features an eagle in flight appears to be popular with most people.

    Another important point is that the new coins are being struck in proof, as can be seen in the video the Mint has on its Facebook page, which clearly shows the highly-polished fields of the coins.  That is how the CCAC recommended they be struck, and it is clear from the difference between the 2015 gold coin in business strike and the same design on the proof medals issued last year, that the design works so much better in proof.

    Also, the mint announced that the coins will have a maximum mintage of 100,000 coins, which is really the same as minting to demand since it is highly unlikely that many coins will be sold even if the coin is available for two years.

    At this point it is hard to say quite how views on the coin break down since critics are more likely to express their views early and online.  The proof will clearly be in sales of the coin.

    I suspect that views will continue to move in a positive direction when collectors see the actual coins in hand or on display at a coin show.  That is certainly what happened with the 2015 Liberty design, especially by the time the 2016 medals came out.

    2016 Commemorative Coin Mintages and Premiums

    January 9, 2017 4:03 PM by

    As William T. Gibbs reported in the Jan. 23 issue of Coin World, the 2016-W National Park Service $5 gold uncirculated coin’s total sales as of the Jan. 1 report from the Mint put the coin at the second-lowest commemorative gold coin of the series. 

    The NPS coin came in at 5,201 compared to 5,174 for the 1997 Jackie Robinson uncirculated gold coin.

    However, it would only take a small number of returns (28) to bring the NPS coin under the Robinson total. 

    The most recent eBay sales for the NPS coin were for three raw coins for $500 (two at that price) and $536.82 on Jan. 5 and 6, which is a nice premium over the Mint’s price of about $380.  However, I doubt these premiums will hold over time.

    The totals would still be so close to each other, and the Robinson coin has had two decades to establish itself as the king of this series and for demand for it to build up.

    Today’s buyers have much more current information than was available back in 1997, and they are well-aware of the potential for coins to come in as low-mintage pieces.

    But they are also skeptical that it will matter, and for good reasons besides the points above.  In particular, they feel that there will likely be plenty of future coins with even lower mintages such as the 2017-W Boys Town $5 gold coin.  That is largely because the Boys Town program does not appear to be very popular with collectors, nor are the designs, though it remains to be seen what happens.

    At the same time, as I suggested in my previous article, the 2016-D NPS clad uncirculated half dollar did come in as the new low for that series with current total sales of 21, 335 compared to the previous low of 30,231 for the 2015-D Marshalls Service coin. 

    eBay sales since the coin went off sale have ranged between $25 and $40 for raw coins, and as much as $300 for a PCGS MS70 first strike.  It appears too soon to have a very good sense of the value for this coin.

    Also, clad halves rarely grade at 70, so the high price for the PCGS coin partly reflects that as well as the low population of 89 coins as the seller noted.

    Finally, it is odd that so many people (including myself) were so focused on the NPS gold uncirculated coin that they failed to notice that the 2016-W Mark Twain $5 proof gold coin came in as the new low among the proof coins of the $5 commemorative series.  Total sales are 13,271 compared to the previous low, the 2013-W Five Star Generals coin at 15,843.

    Recent eBay prices for coins that sold at auction, as opposed to Buy It Now prices which are always higher and are closer to retail dealer prices, are about the best indicator one has of current value other than other auctions prices such as Heritage. 

    And so far the proof Twain coins are not garnering much of a premium with the latest raw coin selling for $380, which is the same as the Mint’s price, and $415 for a Proof 70.

    I think the reason here is that while the Twain proof is the lowest for that subset of the $5 commemorative series, it is still more than twice the mintage of the lowest uncirculated $5 coins, so buyers don’t seem to care.

    It is always useful to see what is happening with mintages and whether they are translating into premiums when the mintages are low.  The fact that they mostly are not is also probably a sign of the overall current weakness of the modern coin market.

    ​A Guide Book of the United States Mint

    January 3, 2017 10:25 AM by

    There is an extensive library of books and other published materials on the United States Mint, but there has never been a single authoritative reference book on the Mint and all its branches. Nor has one previously existed that covers both the original Mint in Philadelphia that was founded in 1792, and the modern, post-1872 Mint under one cover.

    But Q. David Bowers, the most well-known numismatic writer in the country, has written a remarkable book that fills this important gap. A Guide Book of the United States Mint is the 23rd volume in Whitman’s award-winning Official Red Book series of guide books on specific coin series, also known as the Bowers series, and explores a rich treasure trove of information that exists on the U.S. Mint going back to colonial times.

    Combining research and interviews he has been conducting since the 1950s with the latest information from electronic sources and tons of information no longer available in published form, this impressive new work provides what publisher Dennis Tucker calls “a landscape painting of the U.S. Mint stretching back to colonial times but also as close as today’s dimes and quarters jingling in our pockets.”

    The book’s publication is also very well-timed since the Mint is celebrating its 225th anniversary in 2017, which kicks off with the January 12 official unveiling of the 2017 American Liberty $100 gold coin design. This coin will be struck in high relief and features a depiction of Liberty as a young African-American woman wearing a coronet of stars. No official photos have yet been released of the coin, which is expected to be released in April.

    The Mint also plans to issue other products to mark the event, including silver medals of the same design as the Liberty gold coin and the first-ever reverse enhanced uncirculated coin set.

    The book covers the history of over three dozen Mints in the U.S., including colonial, state, private, territorial, and Federal coin facilities. It includes almost 1,300 photos and other illustrations and provides a “you are there” behind-the-scenes look at modern Mint facilities that draws on numerous visits the author made to the branch Mints that exist today and some of those that are no longer in operation.

    In addition to the detailed chapters on all those Mints and the coins they produce that reflect the author’s deep interest in America history, Bowers also includes appendices on collectibles dealing with the Mint, data on every past director of the Mint and the superintendents of branch Mints, and much more.

    This is a book that belongs in the library of any serious collector of U.S. coins, and reading it will enhance your enjoyment of the hobby and of your coins. 

    ​The Speed of Light: Second Code of Future Coin Launched

    December 27, 2016 4:20 PM by

    There is a new world coin release in one of the most interesting coin series, one that is different from anything you have ever seen.

    The Mint of Poland has announced the launch of the second coin in its popular series, Code of the Future, which began in July with the release of the first coin, which was about artificial intelligence.  That coin was one the most successful of 2016, selling out quickly and continuing to hold its value.  Its appeal is due to the unusual design and a theme that resonates with many people because of the increasing role of artificial intelligence in our society.

    The artificial intelligence coin is already well known in modern numismatic circles and will become increasingly hard to find in the future.

    Now comes the second coin, The Speed of Light, which like its predecessor is a 2016-dated, $2 legal tender Niue coin made of two ounces of .999 silver.  The coin is struck in impressive high relief with intricate details, has an antique silver finish, and a large, 50-millimeter diameter.  In addition, the serial number of each coin appears on the coin’s edge.

    And perhaps best of all the design is highlighted with fluorescent UV (ultra violet) coloring, which enables it to glow in the dark after placing near a light source briefly and then looking at it in a dark environment.

    The mintage is just 500 coins, a miniscule amount considering the expected high global demand for this piece.  The coin is housed in an attractive wooden box with a colorful shipper and has its own certificate of authenticity.

    The stunning and highly original design of the coin on the reverse shows the speed of light in movement (particles of light) with colored turning lines like electromagnetic waves and wires. The reverse also shows the numbers of the speed of light, which is 299792458 meters per second, and the flying name of the coin "Speed of Light".

    The obverse of the coin has a reduced-sized effigy of Queen Elizabeth by Ian Rank-Broadley and a very futuristic design with flying lines, particles of light, and electromagnetic waves without color.

    The new coin is being distributed in the USA by First Coin Company (www.firstcoincompany.com), which provides free worldwide shipping and will reimburse any import duties or fees international buyers could be assessed.  In Europe, the coin is available from Italian dealer, Powercoin (www.powercoin.it).

    The coin is priced at $209.90 from First Coin Company and is expected to ship in March.

    First Coin Company is offering Coin World readers a 4% discount code for both coins: 4future.  Just enter this code at the menu of your shopping cart by clicking edit.  

    The first coin, Artificial Intelligence, is still available for purchase from First Coin Company.  You can find both coins on this page: https://firstcoincompany.com/S/index.php?route=product/search&sort=p.model&order=DESC&filter_tag=CODEFUTURE

    The speed of light

    The speed of light is a key concept of modern physics.  According to Wikipedia: “The speed of light in vacuum, commonly denoted c, is a universal physical constant important in many areas of physics. Its exact value is 299792458 meters per second (approximately 3.00×108 m/s, approximately 186,282 mi/s); it is exact since the length of the meter is defined from this constant and the international standard for time.  According to special relativity, c is the maximum speed at which all matter and hence information in the universe can travel. It is the speed at which all massless particles and changes of the associated fields (including electromagnetic radiation such as light, and gravitational waves) travel in vacuum. Such particles and waves travel at c regardless of the motion of the source or the inertial reference frame of the observer. In the theory of relativity, c interrelates space and time, and also appears in the famous equation of mass–energy equivalence E = mc2.

    The speed at which light propagates through transparent materials, such as glass or air, is less than c; similarly, the speed of radio waves in wire cables is slower than c. The ratio between c and the speed v at which light travels in a material is called the refractive index n of the material (n = c / v). For example, for visible light the refractive index of glass is typically around 1.5, meaning that light in glass travels at c / 1.5 ≈ 200,000 kilometers (120,000 mi) /s; the refractive index of air for visible light is about 1.0003, so the speed of light in air is about 299,700 kilometers (186,200 mi) /s (about 90 kilometers (56 mi) /s slower than c).”

    Like the AI coin, the Speed of Light is sure to become a hit with collectors and with those who have a strong interest in science, technology, and futurology.  Future coins in the series with deal with topics such as virtual reality and robotics.

     

    Choice Mint Launches Camelot Series with King Arthur

    December 19, 2016 4:02 PM by

    In the span of only a little over a year, a company called Choice Mint has already managed to distinguish itself from other private mints through its commitment to excellence and innovation. 

    With such a dizzying array of world commemorative coins coming out at an ever-increasing pace, what matters is producing coins that are different and memorable and that stand out because they of their designs and minting.  And Choice manages to achieve those goals by refusing to compromise on the coin’s quality and execution of the concept.

    Choice’s first project was the Legends of Asgard Nordic god series, which so far includes coins for Odin and Valkyrie.  While there are many other coins that mine the same subject matter, none of the others manages to achieve the level of artistic excellence and high relief, which Choice calls Max Relief, which distinguish these releases from similar offerings.  

    Now Choice has launched a second impressive series of coins with a theme based in history and legend, but this time it is a topic rarely seen on coins, namely, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, which was originally popularized in a 1953 novel about the legendary king and his knights.

    The Camelot series will consist of six coins with two issued per year, and each coin weighs 2 ounces compared to the Asgard coins, which are 3 ounces each.  First up is King Arthur himself, which is being released now, and the second coin will depict Guinevere, which should be out next spring.

    The Arthur coin features a combination of multiple finishes – proof, polished, and matte finishes, a stunning design, and is struck ultra-high relief using Coin Invest Trust’s smartminting approach to high relief minting, which I discussed in my article in the February issue.

    The coin is Cook Islands legal tender, has a 50-millimeter diameter and a mintage of 999 pieces, and comes in a high-quality box.  The retail price if $150.

    Brian Tully, President and CEO of Choice Mint, said of the Arthur coin: “The motivation for the coin was really to move Choice Mint in another direction, away from the first series, Legends of Asgard, and show the collector community that Choice is not a one trick pony.  We launched Asgard at a very bad time.  We had no idea 4 other coin companies had similar series in the works.  And honestly in hindsight I would have postponed the series had we not already made dies, purchased the specialized 3 oz blanks and had thousands of boxes made.  Also, you have to keep in mind we had Legal Tender approved by the palace in London and that's not an easy task.”

    He added that he has completed artwork for the rest of the Asgard series but plans to take his time with the release of those coins because “Collectors don't need to be dumped on with so many choices all at once.”  

    The third coin, Ymir, will be launched in early spring 2017.

    Regarding the new series, Camelot, Mr. Tully said: “I was in a hotel room last year and the 1981 film Excalibur was on.  It was one of my favorite films growing up and I still believe it's underrated.  So during the scene where the Knights first convene at the Round Table it inspired me.  I brought the idea of a Camelot series to our amazing artist who took some direction and ran with it.  I think it is a great idea for a coin series that really has never been done on a larger 2oz canvas of silver.”

    He then teamed up with Coin Invest Trust in Lichtenstein to have the coins made and was very impressed with their work.

    As for the impressive reverse that shows Arthur posing in armor with his famous sword, Excalibur, he noted: “The reverse went through a solid dozen different designs but my artist really did an incredible job making Arthur larger than life.  About mid-year I received word that in 2017 a King Arthur movie will be coming out with one of my favorite Sons of Anarchy actors Charlie Hunnam and another great actor Eric Bana.  I figured the timing would be good to finish up Arthur and the other characters and to engage CIT to begin work.”

    Finally, regarding the innovative obverse that does not simply depict an effigy of Queen Elizabeth, he said: “Why not create an obverse that people will really enjoy with great details?  It's well known with Legal Tender we have to have the Queen effigy.  So I decided to surround her with the Knights.  And since I had a 50mm diameter to work with I then added the Round Table and played around with different surfaces until we agreed on the final product, which I hope collectors agree is the most create use of the obverse in modern coins.”

    Initial reaction to the coin based on the images provided by Choice have been very positive in the numismatic blogosphere and will likely become even more widespread once collectors have the coins in hand. 


    They are shipping now from Choice’s network of distributors, which includes: www.bullionstop.com in the U.S., www.thecoinshoppe.ca in Canada, www.powercoin.it and www.muenzdachs.de in Europe, and www.perthbullion.com in Australia. 

     

     

    The Eagles Are Landing in 2019

    December 12, 2016 10:03 AM by
    Well, it is official.  Late on Friday, Dec. 9, the Senate passed the Apollo 11 50th  Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act, just days after the House did the same.  So the legislation will now go to President Obama to be signed into law, and the coins will be struck in 2019.

    Editor Bill Gibbs summarized the legislation here .

    This is a great achievement for the numismatic community, for our country, and for democracy itself as we will now finally honor one of the greatest accomplishments of the United States on commemorative coins.

    It was made possible through a combination of the tireless efforts of several groups: countless coin collectors, who contacted their congressional representatives to express their support for the coins; former astronauts such as Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and others in the space community, who expressed their support for the legislation directly to the Congress; the Astronauts Memorial Foundation* and Astronauts Scholarship Foundation, whose members traveled to Washington, DC to meet with members of congress working on the bill; and especially the congressional members who sponsored the legislation, namely Rep. Bill Posey (R- FL) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D- FL), and many other members and their staffs, who all did amazing work to get the legislation passed.  Thanks also goes to members of the numismatic media for writing about the program to help build support among collectors.

    But the effort would never have gotten off the ground had it not been first proposed back in February 2014 by Michael Olson, former member of the CCAC and Iowa Banker, who while serving on that committee was the first person to propose the coin program.  Mr. Olson said he was inspired to do so by watching the momentous event in 1969 on television when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to walk on the moon, by the New Frontiers medal the U.S. Mint produced, and by the aborted mission of Apollo 13.

    During the Feb. 11, 2014 CCAC meeting, Mr. Olson proposed a motion supporting the program that was seconded by CCAC chairperson Gary Marks.  The motion was approved unanimously, and the committee including the recommendation in its Fiscal Year 2014 Annual Report.

    In March 2015 CCAC chairman Gary Marks proposed the Apollo 11 coin program again, and the committee again recommended it.  And Mr. Marks as well members Tom Uram and Erik Jansen were instrumental in garnering support for the program.

    In addition, as I mentioned in previous articles, Mr. Olson has worked a great deal since he left the committee to support this effort, traveling numerous times to Washington, DC, for example, to meet with members of congress.

    What happened after the House passed the legislation by unanimous consent on Dec. 5 was truly amazing.  The bill required two-thirds of the Senate, or 66 members to co-sponsor it in order to hold a vote.  But on Monday night, only 17 senators had signed on.

    Over the course of the next two days the sponsors of the bill (Rep. Posey and Sen. Nelson) and other members pulled off a feat that has rarely been seen in the halls of Congress.  They managed to get 52 additional senators to support the bill in that short period, bringing the total to 69.  And Sen. Harry Reid also signed on, bringing the total to 70.

    But they still needed a vote to actually take place before the 114th
     Congress ended on December 9, a day when the body was dealing with averting a government shutdown as well as finishing up other business.  But they managed to do it despite all these obstacles.

    As Mr. Olson told me, everyone involved “did incredible work” and as far as he has heard, “nothing like this” has happened in years.

    *The Astronaut Memorial Foundation was founded by the Mercury 7 astronauts, who included Jon Glenn, who passed away just as the bill was about to come before the Senate.  His passing may have played a role in garnering support for the legislation. 

    2016 U.S. Mint Coins to Watch: Part 1

    December 2, 2016 4:36 PM by

    As the end of 2016 approaches, it is worth considering that there are U.S. Mint products that will either no longer be available after the end of the year, and others that can be sold next year but only produced until the end of this year.

    The first category is coins that are part of this year’s two commemorative coin programs for Mark Twain and the National Park Service centennial, which will only be sold through Dec. 29 at the latest.

    As has been the case in recent years, sales of these coins have been rather sluggish.  That is partly due to some of the designs not being very popular and to other factors like all the other coins competing for collector dollars.

    While the trend has not been quite as linear as some people believe, there has been a trend toward lower mintages from year to year, particularly for the $5 gold coins.

    In fact, the 2016-W NPS uncirculated and proof gold coin sales are currently way below those of the previous low mintages of those type of coins, which are respectively the 1997-W Jackie Robinson uncirculated coin with a mintage of 5,174, and the 2013-W Five Star Generals proof coin with a mintage of 15,834.

    The latest sales of the NPS coins are 3,456 for the uncirculated, and 4,509 for the proof.  Both are shaping up as new lows, but proof coin is substantially below the previous low, and it is extremely hard to imagine 10,000 coins being sold in a month.

    Whether that will mater in terms of premium for that coin, or for the NPS gold uncirculated if it maintains its lead over the Robinson coin, also remains to be seen, especially since in recent years that has not been the case.

    The proof gold Five Star Generals coin never developed a premium when it took out the previous low and can still be had for about $400, and the uncirculated version that came in about 500 over the Robinson, making it second lowest, only carries a small premium and mainly in MS70.

    And with four weeks to go, we may well see a big bump in sales before the end of the year for the NPS coins.  There is also the possibility that the Mint may end sales early if they run out of the coins produced so far since there would not be time to make more.  The Mint typically estimates how many coins it will need based on sales levels and produces them in batches.

    So chasing those coins in the hope they will come out winners later is of course a gamble, but it is worth keeping an eye on them, especially with both gold coins shaping up as possible winners.

    It is also worth considering that the NPS gold issue, which were designed by Don Everhart, the U.S. Mint’s top sculptor-engraver, is a gorgeous coin whose design has been well received and that future collectors will likely want examples of this coin.

    Besides, this year many collectors were saving up for the gold centennial coins, which likely depressed sales of the gold commemoratives.

    As for the silver NPS coins, there is no chance of any new lows there, as the uncirculated coin whose latest sales were 19,461, is around 5,000 over the all-time series low, which is the 1996-D Wheelchair Olympic coin at 14,497.

    But the clad half also seems certain to set a new low, as the previous low was 38,095 for the 2013-D Five Star Generals uncirculated half, and current sales of the NPS uncirculated half are only 17,610.  It is virtually impossible that 20,000 coins would be sold in December, or that such a large number is even struck.  Whether, or how much, it matters also remains to be seen, but it is a low risk gamble given the cost.

    Next week I will discuss some other coins to watch.

    2016 Libertad Mintages Announced

    November 25, 2016 5:31 PM by Louis Golino
    On November 18 I received the mintage date for all silver and gold Libertad coins from Mexico minted in 2016, including both mint state and proof versions.

    This is an annual event that Libertad collectors eagerly await since these coins have no predetermined mintages, nor are sales reported during the year.

    The biggest development is that to meet rising demand around the world, the Mexican mint has expanded its production capabilities and that has resulted in higher mintages almost across the board.

    In some cases, such as the silver proofs of all sizes, this means the highest level ever, but consider that at 13,250 for the 1-ounce silver proof coin, that is tiny company to the mintage of proof issues from other mints.

    The 1-ounce BU coin came in at 1,437,500, which is the highest since 1992, but again a low mintage coin in global terms.

    Gold proof mintages were raised to 2,100 (1,600 individual coins and 500 in the boxed wooden sets), which is not the highest ever, but is a lot higher than recent mintages for these coins.

    To compare 2016 mintages to those of earlier years, Wikipedia is a good source.

    With this context in mind, the key question is how will the market react to these figures?  The answer to that will of course only be revealed over time.  While there are no key date or especially low mintage coins this year (apart from the reverse proof at 1,500 as discussed previously), I do not think retail values for these coins will go down in light of this information.

    And that is because the higher mintages reflect increased demand for the coins, and world wide distribution of the coin has also increased.  So these great coins are not likely to be any easier to find despite the higher mintages since they are dispersed more widely than previous issues.

     

    2016 Libertad mintages

    Gold BU 4,100, 1,200, 1,000, and 2,900 (1 oz., ½ oz., ¼ oz, 1/10th oz. and 1/20th oz.)

    And proofs of same size: 2100 each

     

    Silver BU also in same five sizes: 1,437,500, 30,900, 17,700, 24,400, and 22,900 plus 11,400 for the

    5 oz. and 17,600 for the 2 oz.

    Silver proof in same sizes: 13,250, 9,550, 12,650, 12,500 plus 2,750 for the 5 oz. proof and 3,950

    for the 2 oz.

    No kilo mintages yet

    Second Queen’s Beasts Launching December 9: The Griffin

    November 18, 2016 5:46 PM by Louis Golino

    In March, as discussed here, the first coin in the Royal Mint’s 10-coin series of silver and gold bullion coins, which depicts a lion, was released.  The lion was issued in three versions: a 1/4 -ounce gold, 1-ounce gold, and a 2-ounce silver piedfort (extra thick) rather than making it a larger diameter coin such as Perth’s 2-ounce silver Lunar pieces.

    Those coins were initially only available either directly from the mint for those who set up a bullion trading account, and from some sellers on eBay.

    As I wrote in a subsequent article, the prices those resellers were charging seemed exorbitant to me, and I suggested that buyers, especially those interested in the silver coins, wait until major U.S. bullion distributors had the coins in stock.  That happened a few months later, and instead of having to pay as much as close to $100, the silver coins were readily available for under $50.

    The second issue in this stunning series that is based on a series of statues that depict the lineage of Queen Elizabeth II, which are currently in the Canadian Museum of History, depicts a griffin and will be launched on December 9.

    A griffin is a “legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and an eagle's talons as its front feet,” according to Wikipedia.

    Both the lion and griffin and the next 8 designs are all the work of British medallic artist, Jody Clark, who also created the current and fifth official effigy of the Queen that appears on UK coins.  He is also the creator of the amazing 2014 Britannia proof coins and is widely admired as perhaps the mint’s best artist.

    Thankfully for buyers, this time major U.S. dealers like APMEX, J.M. Bullion, and Provident Metals, are taking pre-orders for the coins based on recently-reduced silver prices, making them around $40 each, or only about $6 over melt.

    They are also accepting pre-orders for the 1-ounce gold coins at rather low premiums over melt in most cases. 

    And the 1/4-ounce gold version will be offered as well, plus a new, 1/10th-ounce gold coin too.

    One other issue to consider is that a good number of the silver lions arrived with some combination of abrasions and/or milk spots in many cases, and some of the ones I purchased from different sources were that way.  However, others were fine.

    Only a tiny number of the silver coins graded at MS70 and have been sold at huge premiums, but MS69 examples were available for only about $25 more than raw coins for those who waited until the lions were widely available.

    I would suggest looking closely at your coins, though unfortunately milk spots can also develop later.  And for that reason be sure to track down some good hard plastic capsules for the coins to protect them as much as possible. 

    This is a great series with some of the most inspired neoclassical art I have seen on coins, and I do hope the mint can get a handle on milk spots, which could turn off many buyers if the problem is not addressed.   

    The gold coins do not have any quality issues from what I have seen and heard. 

     

    **An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the ¼-ounce gold version was being discontinued for 2017.  

    Libertad Update

    November 11, 2016 11:34 AM by Louis Golino
    This year the Mexican mint encountered some delays with production of its popular and widely collected silver and gold Libertad coins.

    As a result, mintages for the silver and gold coins, which are typically available by about this time, are not yet available. 

    Pat Stovall of Lois and Don Bailey Numismatic Services, one of the direct distributors of coins from Mexico, said: “I suspect they will be continuing to supply and ship coins to the bank [the Banco de Mexico, which distributes the mints coins] until or before they reach their deadline of 12/31/16.”

    The silver kilo proof-like Libertad is expected to be available soon.  Those coins usually have mintages in the hundreds and previous issues are very hard to obtain.  Choice Bullion is currently taking pre-orders for this issue at $895.00.

    I also have some exciting and exclusive information about the 2017 silver kilo coin.  The Banco de Mexico is considering issuing the first-ever high relief kilo next year, which would be a huge hit, but at this point it remains unclear whether that coin has been authorized.

    The mint has considered producing high relief Libertad proof coins in the past, but the sizes smaller than one kilo do not provide enough thickness to strike them in high relief. 

    Past proof-like kilos do have higher relief than smaller Libertads, so a kilo with even higher (perhaps ultra high relief) would be amazing.

    There is also a regular uncirculated kilo coin that sells closer to its melt value, and the 2016 coin is already available.

    As for the gold coins, both the uncirculated and proof versions were delayed and are just being released now.

    The proofs are often only released in 5-coin boxed sets with a mintage of around 500, and buyers of individual coins often have to obtain them from sellers wiling to break up some of their sets.

    But for 2016 the mint is issuing 1600 individual coins of each size (1 ounce, ½ ounce, ¼ ounce, 1/10th ounce, and 1/20th ounce) plus 500 for the sets for a total mintage of 2,100 coins.

    Though higher than recent years’ mintages, they are still very low numbers for modern gold proof coins, especially if you consider that they are sold at lower premiums overs their spot value than American Gold Eagles, let alone more pricey world proof coins.  And gold Libertads have a good track record of increasing in value.

    The BU gold coins have no announced mintages, and that information will likely be released along with the mintages for all the silver issues sometime early in 2017.

    The BU gold pieces are also typically very low mintage coins that do well in the aftermarket with some coins in the low hundreds. 

    When it comes to getting more bang for your bucks, it is hard to beat the combination of low initial premiums and much higher premiums down the road that gold Libertads provide.  That is if you can buy them before they disappear.

    Final Push Coming for Apollo 11 Commemoratives

    November 4, 2016 11:37 AM by Louis Golino
    As reported in this column previously, there are pending bills in the House and Senate calling for the issuance in 2019 of commemorative coin program to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

    H.R. 2726, introduced last year by Rep. Bill Posey (R- FL), and its companion bill, S. 2957, introduced by Sen. Bill Nelson (D- FL) on May 19, are known as the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act.

    The House bill already has enough co-sponsors (298) to put the bill to a vote on the House floor, which is expected not long after the Congress comes back after Tuesday’s presidential election, and it should pass.

    The Senate bill currently only has 11 co-sponsors, but if the House bill passes, that will put the matter in the hands of the Senate.

    Momentum has been building steadily all year for the legislation that calls for issuing four coins in 2019, the usual trio of a clad half, silver dollar, and $5 gold coin, plus the first-ever 5-oz. proof coin.  And each coin would be struck in the concave/convex shape used for the 2014 baseball coins.

    There is strong interest in the collecting community for these coins, and many collectors have contacted their congressional representatives asking them to support the legislation.

    But if the Senate is not able to muster 67 co-sponsors, there will be no vote this year, and the bill will die at the end of the 104th Congress in December.

    Next year the new Congress will have its hands full with the start of a new administration, which means many presidential appointments to consider and many other matters besides coins.

    Michael Olson, a former CCAC member who suggested these coins be issued when he served on the committee, has worked since 2014 to promote the program.

    He told me this week he is still cautiously optimistic about the Senate and that astronauts Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin have both sent letters to the Senate in support of the bill.  Others in the space community have also expressed strong support.

    In addition, the Astronaut Memorial Foundation and the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, which are among the groups that would receive any surcharges from the sale of the coins, are both traveling to Washington, DC this month to meet with senators. 

    It is important that we not lose this opportunity since the bills may not be reintroduced in the next Congress if they are not passed in the current one.

    So please contact your Senator, if you have not already done so, and promote the program with social media.

     

    Here is what Buzz Aldrin said in his Nov. 1 letter, which you may find useful when contacting your Senator:

    “As we quickly approach the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, I urge you to recognize this incredible achievement by cosponsoring the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act. Almost five decades ago, our Nation took bold steps to achieve President Kennedy’s challenge and mobilized the country to achieve his vision, “to go to the Moon in this decade…”  Eight years following Alan Shepard’s extraordinary accomplishment - being the first American to travel into space - our Nation landed Neil Armstrong and me on the lunar surface. We remain the only country that has ever landed humans on the Moon and returned them safely to Earth. 

    The Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin celebrates American ingenuity and our spirit of space exploration. Moreover, these coins will support college scholarships for future scientists, engineers and astronauts; benefit the National Air and Space Museum’s new “Destination Moon” exhibit; and honor astronauts who have fallen in the line of duty. 

    These coins pay tribute to our Nation’s resolve, the hundreds of thousands of Americans who contributed to Apollo’s success, and our remarkable ability to accomplish a truly amazing technological feat. I encourage you to support this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to commemorate 50 years since the Eagle landed in the Sea of Tranquility, an event that defined the United States of America as the greatest space faring nation on Earth.”

     

    A Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars (5th edition)

    October 29, 2016 11:30 AM by Louis Golino
    Experienced collectors of the most popular and widely collected classic American coin series, Morgan dollars, know that the Whitman Official Red Book on this topic is the must-have volume. 

    There are other good books on the series including the one by Michael Standish, Morgan Dollar: America’s Love Affair with a Legendary Coin, but there is no other reference guide to the series that combines a detailed overview of the history of the series with a year-by-year summary of what was happening in the country each year a Morgan dollar was issued and most importantly, a date and mintmark analysis of each coin.  The latter is especially useful because it provides not just mintages, price info., and certified population data but also what to look for with each coin in terms of strike, eye appeal, etc. for circulating coins, prooflikes, and proof coins.

    The recently-released fifth edition of this landmark book is an important event in numismatic publishing.  In addition to updating the text, pricing, and graded coin data, and providing new material on counterfeit error coins, a preface by Whitman editor Dennis Tucker, a foreword by dollar coin expert Adam Crum, and more, the book also contains what can only be described as a numismatic bombshell, the discovery of hubs and master dies for a previously unknown 1964 Morgan dollar and for the 1964 Peace dollar, which was minted but of which there are today no confirmed examples in existence.  The Peace dollar material is covered in a new volume of Roger Burdette’s Red Book on that series that was also published recently.

    In 1964 when Congress decided to issue silver dollars again, there was brief though given to issuing a new Morgan dollar, but it was decided to instead produce a 1964 Peace dollar, which was minted in great quantity.  As numismatists know well, all of those coins were supposed to have been destroyed, but from time to time reports surface of 1964 Peace dollars that made it out of the Mint, perhaps by an employee.

    But until the new edition of the Bowers Morgan dollar book, no materials related to a 1964 Morgan dollar had ever been found, though they were hinted at in some numismatic research.  But Mr. Bowers, Mr. Tucker, and several other numismatic researchers went to the Philly Mint in July 2015 while researching the modern minting process, where they discovered models, hubs, and master dies for a 1964 Morgan dollar plus other materials relating to the 1963 and 1964 experiments to revive silver dollars.  No trial strikes or actual coins were found.  As Bowers says in the book, the 1964 Morgan is now “one of those coins that might have been, but never were.”

     

     

      

    World Bullion Coins in 2017

    October 21, 2016 10:14 AM by Louis Golino

    2017 is already shaping up as an exciting year for modern bullion coins.

    From the new Pegasus series to the first-ever silver Krugerand and a modification to the design of the Britannia silver bullion coin, among other developments, there is a lot happening in the coming months.

    First, the Pegasus silver coin, a well-designed reverse proof silver coin from Pobjoy on behalf of the British Virgin Islands.  In seems like a replacement for the Angel series the mint produced for Isle of Man for the past couple decades, which ended with the 2016 silver and gold coins since Isle of Man cancelled its longstanding contract with the mint.

    The design shows two figures from Greek mythology, the white-winged Pegasus horse with the Greek goddess Athena next to it, and the mintage is just 50,000 coins, a small number for a bullion issue.  Considering it is the first year of the new series, a low-mintage reverse proof, and that is can be purchased for just a couple of dollars over melt, I think these coins are a smart buy.

    On the occasion of the Krugerand gold coin’s 50th anniversary, the South African Mint is introducing a long-awaited silver version that sports the same iconic image of a springbok and has a “50” in a circle privy mark.  The plan is to issue a half million “premium uncirculated” finish coins plus 15,000 proofs, and to make the silver coin an ongoing series.

    The mint also plans to issue a platinum proof for the first time plus new sizes of gold coins to supplement the existing 1 oz., ½ oz., ¼ oz., and 1/10th oz., including 1/50th oz., 1/20th oz., 5 oz., and a whopping 50 oz.

    Then there is the Royal Mint, which is adding cool-looking radiating lines to the background of the popular silver Britannia, and this design modification is an anti-counterfeiting measure like the similar lines the RCM added to its Maple Leaf coins a couple years ago.  

    Initial reports suggested the change might only be on the lunar privy mark version of the 2017 Britannia, but APMEX has posted an image of the new design on its site (www.apmex.com).

    Plus the second 2-oz. silver coin in the very well received Queen’s Beast series is coming soon.  The new coin will depict a griffin.  There are also reports (unconfirmed but appear to be from a reputable source) that the ¼ oz. gold version will no longer be made, so the lion coin of that size will be a one-year type.  The 1 oz. gold coins are expected to continue.

    The RM also recently launched its 2017 Year of the Rooster silver and gold coins.  These are bullion pieces, and there is also a plethora of commemorative rooster coins, many of which are already or will soon be released.  Some more notable ones are those from the Perth Mint, which so far include the bullion, proofs, and color proof, and the Niue 5-oz. silver selectively gilded coin and Cook Islands 5-oz. silver with large red mother of pearl inlay.  Both are higher-end coins that are not cheap.

     

    Photo credit: Modern Coin Mart (www.moderncoinmart.com)

     

    Second Reverse Proof Libertad Released

    October 14, 2016 11:04 AM by Louis Golino

    Readers of this column and my articles in the magazine know that the Mexican Libertad series, especially the various silver coins, is one of my favorite modern world issues.

    This is a series that has so much going for it from one of the very best designs ever to appear on a modern coin to coins issued in a wide range of sizes in both business strike and proof and of course, the amazingly low mintages of many of the coins.

    In recent years a number of special sets and other innovations have also been added to this impressive mix.

    For example, the 7-coin proof set that began in 2014 and includes each size of silver proof Libertad packaged in a convenient, slim wooden box remains popular and continues to sellout quickly.  Those sets come with a numbered certificate of authenticity, which is important to Libertad collectors.

    Last year the first reverse proof coin was introduced and had a total mintage of 1500 pieces, which were sold in two sets.  One was produced for APMEX (www.apmex.com) and limited to 500 sets and included the reverse proof and regular proof, while the second was made for employees of the Banco de Mexico and also included the regular BU coin.  Those sets were limited to 1000 units, and many of them made their way into the U.S. and other foreign markets via eBay and dealers.

    At the beginning of October, the 2016 reverse proof was released starting with the same type of two-coin set for APMEX, but this time there are 1000 of those.  Sold initially for $250 per set, they are now going for about $20-30 more.  The Coin Shoppe in Canada (www.thecoinshoppe.ca) is selling them for $268.99. 

    Though I expect them to eventually reach a higher price point, that is a less substantial increase than last year’s sets saw, especially during the initial period after their release.

    I have heard that a second Banco set, possibly the same three-coin set issued last year, is coming soon, perhaps in the next couple of weeks.  But the number of sets is not known at the present time.

    Assuming the sets from the Banco are again limited to 1500, the total mintage would be 2000 for the 2016 issue.  That is still a very low number and would make it another low mintage key to the series.

    I have seen the 2016 coin, and it looks great.  It will be interesting to see if the Mexican mint continues to issue a reverse proof each year, or does something different next year.  Given its track record of changing things up regularly, almost anything is possible. 

     

     

    Will Teddy Roosevelt Coins Sell Out?

    October 6, 2016 12:30 PM by Louis Golino
    Today the U.S. Mint is releasing what is surely the most eagerly anticipated coin of the America the Beautiful 5-ounce silver series of coins with a “P” mintmark that are aimed at collectors and feature a matte finish.

    The coin, which is the 34th of the “P”-series, is the Theodore Roosevelt National Park issue that features a gorgeous design by Joel Iskowitz that depicts President Roosevelt riding a horse as he surveys the terrain near Little Missouri River.

    There is also a bullion version of the coin that is already available from bullion and coin dealers around the country.  That coin went on sale to the Mint’s network of Authorized Purchasers on Aug. 29, and as of last Friday, October 2, 30,500 of the coins have been sold.

    The P version has an authorized maximum mintage of 30,000 units, while the overall maximum for both versions is set at 150,000 coins.  In theory that means the bullion coin has a maximum of 120,000 coins, but of fewer than 30,000 of the collector version are sold, the mint can make more than 120,000 bullion coins if there is sufficient demand.

    Most sales of both coins tend to occur early on soon after they first become available. 

    Sales of the bullion coin do seem to be unusually low given the huge popularity of President Roosevelt with coin collectors because of his critical role in creating the nation’s most beloved gold coins, especially the Saint Gaudens $20 gold double eagle, which was part of the renaissance in American coinage that he launched in collaboration with Saint Gaudens.

    In addition, the design of the coin has been very well received by collectors.

    With spot silver prices having dropped dramatically this week to under $17.50 an ounce, the bullion coin can be purchased at the moment for around $110 or less.  I suspect that we will see stronger sales for this version in the coming weeks if silver stays at about these levels.

    As for the “P” puck, as collectors often refer to the version sold directly by the Mint to consumers, I expect it to be a strong seller, but whether or not it achieves an actual sellout remains unclear.

    Some collectors predicted very strong initial sales, and to avoid disappointment they purchased the coin through the Mint’s enrollment program.  I confess to being one of these nervous nellies, who did not want to take any chances.

    And keep in mind that a sellout is not a guarantee that the P version will sell for an especially high premium.  A very quick or instant sellout usually has that effect, but it is often only temporary until those coins reach the secondary market, depending on how many dealers bought for resale and how many went to collectors to keep.

    No matter what happens in terms of current sales, this issue in both versions will undoubtedly be one of the most popular of the series over the long term, which should help it to garner a premium over other releases.

    But I doubt they will emerge as series keys, which are typically the lowest mintage coins.  That honor seems set to remain with the 2012 coins.

    30th Anniversary Deserves Much More

    September 29, 2016 5:15 PM by Louis Golino
    I have never been a fan of the rampant bashing of the U.S. Mint that takes place regularly in letters to the editors of numismatic publications and the blogosphere.  Often collectors venting their frustration about some issue of another simply do not have all the facts, or they allege some kind conspiracy between the Mint and the “big boy” dealers to prevent regular collectors from buying their coins at issue price. 

    But there are times when constructive criticism is warranted, and this is one of them.  The Mint delayed releasing the 2016-W proof and uncirculated versions of the American Silver Eagle for most of the year while they re-tooled their dies to enable them to add incuse edge lettering to the coins noting that this year is the 30th anniversary of the world’s best-selling and most widely traded silver coin.

    These coins are usually one of the first products released by the Mint early in the year, and this year buyers had to wait until September 16 to purchase them.  But having seen the coins in hand, I and every other collector I know who has also seen them is underwhelmed by the edge lettering with many using that same word to describe their reaction. 

    For one thing, it is hard to see inside the capsule because the lettering is not very distinctive and appears rather faint.  It is hard to understand why it took most of the year for the Mint to produce these pieces, whose edge lettering requirements were part of last December’s FAST Act.

    Moreover, if this is all the Mint is planning to do to mark the 30th anniversary of the Silver Eagle, that will be an enormous source of disappointment for most collectors, who are expecting some kind of special coin or set for this important occasion. 

    Collectors have been quite clear about this in the years leading up to this one with most saying they wanted to see the first high or ultra high-relief coin of the series.  With the decision not to issue the recent American Liberty silver medals in high relief, those coins would be the first silver issues produced by the Mint with greater than normal relief since the 1921 Peace Dollar.

    I know the Mint regularly surveys its customers and also know that many collectors have specifically requested the high relief eagles in those surveys.  With this year also being the 30th birthday for the American Gold Eagle, a two-coin set with a high relief version of each coin would be a huge success.

    Even if the high reliefs fail to materialize, some kind of special coin set or sets with at least one unique coin is an absolute minimum.  Different finishes and mintmarks have been done, which is why something more different like a high relief would be such a hit.

    There is still hope when you consider that the 20th anniversary set was issued in October.  Perhaps the Mint will reveal something at the upcoming forum it is holding at the Philadelphia Mint that month.

    Innovators Coin Program: Issue Quarters, Not Dollars

    September 21, 2016 2:38 PM by Louis Golino
    In December 2011 the Obama administration announced that it was immediately halting production of the Presidential $1 coins except for coins made for collectors and sold at a premium because this would save taxpayers $50 million a year in storage and other costs.

    But that overlooked the fact that because those coins cost about 30 cents to make, a seigniorage profit of 70 cents accrues for each coin, which means ending their production resulted in a net loss of $300 million per year, that could go toward reducing the Federal debt.

    But years after this had already been done, members of congress continued to propose legislation to end wasteful spending on dollar coins no one seems to want (which they won’t as long as paper dollars continue to be made), even though they last so much longer, which saves money.

    Anyone who is familiar with the state of modern coin collecting in our country knows that after the 50 state quarter program, which was followed by the national parks quarter program, and the Presidential dollar coin program begun in 2007 that ended with this year’s Reagan coin, collectors are weary of long-running series, though if done right, they could still work.

    So along comes legislation introduced on September 14 by Rep. Jim Himes (D- Conn.), the American Innovation $1 Coin Act (H.R. 6025), which proposes a 14-year program with 4 coins per year starting in 2017 of coins that honor innovators and pioneers from each state.

    To be clear, the coins proposed in this legislation would not be for circulation.  They would be numismatic issues, made for collectors and sold at a premium.

    With the end of the presidential program, it is perhaps inevitable that legislators would seek to create another such program, and there is certainly nothing wrong in principle with the theme.

    But I do not have the sense that collectors are at the moment interested in another series of $1 coins not made for circulation.

    Also, the legislation would not impact the Native American $1 coin program, which would continue.

    I think the Native American issues are sufficient for dollar collector coins, and their designs are widely admired.  To me it would be better to start thinking about the quarter dollar program, which will be ending in a couple years.

    In fact, the proposed innovation coin series would be better suited to a quarter program, and its plan to issue coins honoring innovators from each state would parallel the state focus of the current and previous quarter programs.

    Plus, this kind of program works best as a circulating one that has the potential to bring in new collectors the way the state quarters did, and it is great for kids too. 

    But that said, it is critical that coins be widely distributed by Federal Reserve banks.  This has been a problem with the America the Beautiful coins, which are hard to collect from change.

    The quarters worked and were a boon to numismatics because they really did circulate widely.  

    New Book Covers Modern U.S. Dollar Coins

    September 12, 2016 12:23 PM by Louis Golino
    Q. David Bowers, A Guide Book of Modern United States Dollar Coins (Whitman Publishing, 2016)

     

    As serious collectors, numismatists, and researchers know well, Whitman Publishing’s Official Red Book series of guides to specific coin series are an indispensable resource.  Whether your interests lie in one of the many popular classic coin series like Morgan and Peace dollars or Double Eagle gold coins, or a modern series such as Franklin and Kennedy halves, this is the go-to reference series for those who require information about each individual coin in a series and a detailed overview of the series.

    Most of the books in the series follow a similar approach, and that has a lot to do with the fact that most, though not all, are written by numismatic legend, Q. David Bowers, often called the dean of American numismatics because of his incomparable impact on the hobby, industry, and literature of numismatics.

    Modern dollar coins, those issued since 1971, include: Eisenhower, Susan B. Anthony, Sacagawea, Native American and Presidential dollars.  As former U.S. Mint Director Edmund Moy says in his foreword to the book, these coins are “underappreciated” compared to many other U.S. coins and deserve a closer look, and no other modern coins “have undergone so many versions in such a short period of time,” including different sizes and even shapes, various metal alloys, themes, and surface finishes. 

    Both are these aspects make dollar coins a source of endless fascination for modern coin collectors.  And unlike most coin series, assembling sets of modern dollars is very affordable unless you require one of the rare varieties, error coins, or a super-high grade example.

    Covering over 200 coins in depth and with over 800 color photos, no other book brings together anything coming close to the wealth of information contained in this remarkable volume.  Bowers’ own research was coupled with assistance from longtime collectors and dealers, U.S. Mint officials, and hobby groups such as the Ike Group to provide everything from the history of each series and current events and the coin scene for each year since 1971 to mintages, die varieties, grading standards, the keys to assembling a high-quality collection, and market analysis. 

    In addition, there are several appendices including one on error coins, an overview of the Eisenhower series from Charles Morgan, and a gallery of designs for the Native American dollar series that were proposed for coins issued from 2009 to 2016.

    This is a book that deserves a prominent place in the libraries of modern dollar collectors, and it is one to which you will return again and again, each time learning something new, or being reminded of an important detail you may have forgotten. 

    Keep in mind that ANA members who order the book from Whitman receive 10% off, and that you can also borrow it from the ANA’s library.  

    Eternal Sculptures: Cupid and Psyche

    September 6, 2016 5:21 PM by Louis Golino

    This week I would like to bring to your attention the third release for 2016 from Power Coin (www.PowerCoin.it), the Italian coin company that has partnered with Coin Invest Trust and B.H. Mayer to issue some very impressive and original world coins under the authority of the Pacific island nation of Palau.

    This one is the first of a new series called “Eternal Sculptures,” that will showcase important works of sculpture, starting with the famous piece, Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, which was made in the latter years of the 18th century and is masterpiece of neoclassical art by Antonio Canova.  It shows two lovers in a moment of great passion and emotion, and it resides in the Louvre Museum in Paris. 

    Considered perhaps the greatest neoclassical artist ever, Canova (1757-1822) was an Italian sculptor who produced amazing marble sculptures.  Although he viewed his art as above politics and greatly valued his independence, he eventually agreed to receive commissions from Napoleon Bonaparte, who admired his work, after pressure from the Vatican, though he had spurned similar offers from Czarina Catherine II. 

    New application of SmartMinting: “flip and see from both sides”

    Made of two ounces of silver but with a diameter of 38.61 millimeters, this piece utilizes the extra thickness in combination with CIT’s SmartMinting technique to allow the coin to show the sculpture from both sides in high relief.

    In addition, the statue on both sides has been treated with the marble paint that is also on the Guy Fawkes coin and also has the same black proof background as the other coin, which creates a more distinct contrast between the design devices and background than would be possible with a regular mirrored silver finish.

    The result is a beautiful coin, the first ever to show this particular work of art, and the first to my knowledge to show a statue on a coin from more than one perspective.  The date is inscribed in roman numerals, as it would be on the statue itself, and other inscriptions are done in a way to minimize their intrusion on the design.  Plus, the Palau shield is kept small, and there is an ornate inner border that complements the composition of the coin’s design.

    Only 999 of these coins will be made, and they are expected to ship around late October.  The piece can be ordered directly from Power Coin, or from The Coin Shoppe (www.TheCoinShoppe.ca) or First Coin Company (www.FirstCoinCompany.com), for 229 euros or the equivalent in other currencies. 

     

    Here is a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wThU5Xa-8Zo

     

     

     

    Guy Fawkes Coin Highly Original

    August 29, 2016 11:12 AM by Louis Golino

    Guy Fawkes Coin Highly Original

     

    Power Coin, a major Italian numismatic distributor based in Rome, announced during the August World Fair of Money in Anaheim, California that it is releasing two new silver commemoratives this fall. 

    Previous coins created at the initiative of this company include the Hamsa coin I discussed recently and the Ceilings of Heaven series that uses nano chips.

    These coins were produced through a collaboration involving Power Coin, which provided the original concept, Coin Invest Trust (CIT) in Lichtenstein, which then developed the idea into a coin, and B.H. Mayer of Germany, which actually minted the coins.

    I will be covering the first coin this week, and the second next week.  Both are very original coins.

    First up is the visually stunning Guy Fawkes mask, $5 1-oz. silver proof coin, issued under the legal authority of the Cook Islands. 

    This coin uses CIT’s revolutionary SmartMinting technology to create amazing high relief coins, but it also uses a special paint that creates a porcelain effect on the main design device, a stylized depiction of the mask of Guy Fawkes.

    The mask design, which is based on the creation of illustrator David Lloyd for the 1982 book, V for Vendetta, which also became a film in 2006, shows Fawkes with an oversized smile, large, black eyebrows, black eyes, a moustache upturned at both ends, and a thin, pointed beard. 

    The new coin is also the first ever “black proof” coin, which makes the background more distinctive. 

    Who is Guy Fawkes?

    Fawkes, also known as Guido Fawkes, the name he adopted while fighting for the Spanish, was a member of a group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605.  That was an attempt to blow up the House of Lords.

    The mask has emerged as a powerful modern cultural symbol of protest and has been used by groups protesting against politicians, banks, and financial institutions, and as symbol of the online hacktivist group Anonymous.

    This coin is significant primarily for its originality in both concept and appearance that make if very different from anything else released so far.

    With so many world commemorative coins being issued today, to be successful a coin must have something other coins do not, and this one fits that bill very well.

    It also nicely blends old and new by focusing on someone from the 16th century who has become a modern symbol of resistance to powerful elites. 

    The Fawkes mask also blends old and new by adding certain modern flourishes to the original design such as a hoodie and the leaves from the United Nations symbol.  The signature of Fawkes is also included.

    Only 999 of these coins are being issued, and the coin should be available in October.  They are housed in a high quality, lacquered wood display box.

    You can purchase the Fawkes piece directly from Power Coin (www.PowerCoin.it) and it is also available from other companies, including First Coin Company (www.FirstCoinCompany.com) and the Coin Shoppe (www.TheCoinShoppe.ca). 

    If you get it from First Coin, the company will send a free Anonymous Head mask along with the coin.

    Chateau-Renard: New Meteorite Coin Landing Soon

    August 22, 2016 9:02 AM by Louis Golino

    A cool new coin is coming in September from the MCI Mint on behalf of African nation Burkina Faso that uses a meteorite that landed in France 175 years ago.  The meteorite fell at Chateau-Renard in Montargis, which is near the Loiret Valley in France on June 12, 1841. 

    Meteorites mostly come from comets and asteroids, and since the majority of them are used by scientific labs to study the origins of the universe, those remaining pieces of meteorites that make their way into the marketplace are very rare and expensive.  Meteorites are also millions of years old.

    The current price of 1 gram of the Chateau-Renard chondrite meteorite runs around $300, so even a small fragment is worth a lot. 

    Connect with Coin World:  

    This 1000 Franc denomination coin that is struck from 1 oz. of silver with an antique finish uses the fragment of the Chateau-Renard meteorite as part of its stunningly reverse attractive design that uses what is called photorealistic coloring.  The meteorite is shown against a blue sky as it is about to land in Montargis with gorgeous architectural details of the surrounding buildings included.

    The obverse features the national coat of arms of Burkina Faso.

    Only 750 of these coins are being made, which is a small number for a coin of this type.

    As readers of this column know, I am a big fan of coins about space and astronomy-related issues. 

    And as I have written here and in my bi-monthly feature in the magazine on world coins, these coins continue to have a loyal base of collectors, which is why they have tended to hold their value better than coins about many other subjects that may not have as wide appeal.

    The coin comes with two certificates of authenticity, one for the coin and one for the meteorite fragment, and is housed in a wooden display box.

    The coin’s authenticity and allure is enhanced by the fact that we know the story of how the meteorite was discovered.

    The meteorite’s fall was published in the American Journal of Science and Arts, Volume 42, as reported in the New York Observer on August 14, 1841: “Galignani’s Messenger mentions that at a late session of the French Academy, a communication was received from M. Delavaux, stating that on the 12th of June, (1841,) between one and two o’clock in the afternoon, the sky being without a cloud, an explosion was heard at Chateau-Renard, in the department of Loiret, louder than several pieces of artillery firing together.  He suspected that this must have proceeded from an aerolite; and ongoing to the spot where the noise had been loudest, found there the marks where the aerolite had struck the earth, as well as several fragments of such a body, lying about.  Most of these fragments were small, but one weighed thirty pounds, and another six pounds.”

    Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa surrounded by Benin, Togo, and four other countries.  As a former French colony, its uses the CFA franc, which is the Central African Franc, a currency used by six countries in Africa that is guaranteed by the French Treasury.

    In 2015 a 3-oz. silver coin was issued for Burkina Faso that depicted a solar eclipse.

    The issue price of $159.90 for the new piece is certainly not cheap, but one must consider the cost of the meteorite as well as production and other costs.  And don’t be surprised to see the price increase.

    The coin is available from California dealer First Coin Company (www.FirstCoinCompany.com), The Coin Shoppe in Canada (www.TheCoinShoppe.ca), and Powercoin (www.PowerCoin.it) in Italy

     

     

    Apollo 11 Coin Legislation: Senate Support Urgently Needed

    August 17, 2016 3:11 PM by Louis Golino

    As I discussed earlier this year, a bill to create a program of curved silver, gold, and clad commemoratives honoring the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing has been gaining congressional support since its introduction in the House in June 2015.

    That bill (H.R. 2726) now has 300 co-sponsors, an impressive achievement that means the bill can be put to a vote, where it would easily pass since that is well over the 218 votes needed to do that.

    However, in the Senate, where a companion bill (S. 2957) was introduced just three months ago, there are just a paltry four co-sponsors, yet 67 (two-thirds of the Senate) are needed for the bill to be brought for a vote.

    With only 43 legislative days left in the current Congress, it is imperative than another 63 Senators sign on to the bill in order for this important effort to become a reality.

    Without the necessary Senate support by the end of the year, the legislation will die when the 114th Congress ends, and it would be necessary to start all over.

    With a new president coming in January, the Congress will be very busy with other matters, and there is also competition from bills to create coins that benefit the baseball and football hall of fames.

    But Michael Olson, an Iowa banker and former member of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, who was the first person to suggest this program in 2014 when he was on the CCAC, explained that the public can help this effort by calling or sending emails in support of the legislation. 

    Mr. Olson said that when contacting your Senator’s office, tell them about the role that constituents in their state have played in the space program; the enthusiasm for these coins in the numismatic and space communities; and that the House bill already has 300 co-sponsors.

    The Senate goes back to work after the summer recess in September 6, and the calls and emails are needed by September 15.

    Mr. Olson also said that while support in the numismatic community for the Apollo 11 coin programs “far outstrips” the two sports-themed “proposals by a long shot, circumstances can change rapidly in D.C., especially near the end of a congressional session, so space enthusiasts need to join the fight now to put our Apollo 11 coins over the top.  When I think about what this country accomplished by putting men on the moon and the national pride involved in doing so, it drives me to do all I can to make these coins a reality.” 

    *Image courtesy of NASA

    U.S. Mint: American Liberty Medals Are Not High Relief

    August 11, 2016 11:59 AM by Louis Golino


     When it comes to setting mintages and household and product limits, there is simply no way the U.S. Mint can make everyone happy.  No matter what they do, there will always be people who are not happy.  And there is also no way to predict in advance how particular limits will impact sales, accessibility for the average buyer, and secondary market values.

    It is significant that the Mint is factoring into its latest decisions the concerns of many buyers who felt the limits for the Gold Centennial Mercury Dime were too high at ten, which many of them feel enabled dealers to procure a large portion of the mintage of 125,000 coins.

    The Gold Centennial Standing Liberty Quarter, which will be released in September 8, will have a household limit of just 1 coin and a mintage of 100,000 pieces.  Some buyers feel one per household is too low, and that the mintage limit is too high, making a sell-out less likely.

    But demand may be higher than those individuals think it is, and a one per household limit could produce an even bigger frenzy, as happened when the limit for the Presidential Coin and Chronicles set was lowered to one.  The difference, though, is that the quarters will cost about $500 each based on current gold prices, while the chronicle sets were about $60 each. 

    As I have suggested before, something in between one and ten would probably work best, and two is what the limit will be for the American Liberty silver medals coming on August 23, which also have a product limit of 12,500 but no mintage limit.  It is possible that some type of set will also be offered that includes the medals, hopefully one paired with a special American Silver Eagle proof coin only available in the set, as suggested by the CCAC, or in some other set perhaps for the 30th anniversary of these coins.

    Those sets would also help the Mint to sell more proof American Silver Eagles, whose release has been delayed due to the requirement to add incuse edge lettering marking the 30th anniversary of the program.  Those coins will begin selling on Sept. 16.

    The Mint confirmed to me that the 2016 proof coins can be sold next year and beyond unlike the 2015 coins, which could only be sold until the end of last year, but no information has been released about any sets with the medals, which may not be issued.

    The medals, which will use the same size of planchets as those used for American Silver Eagles (40.60 millimeters), were originally planned to be struck in high relief like the 2015 American Liberty gold coins of the same design, which they are intended to complement. 

    However, the product description the Mint posted this week does not specifically state that the medals will be in high relief, though it mentions the 2009 Ultra High relief gold double eagles.  So I contacted the Mint, and Michael White in the Office of Public Affairs who confirmed that the medals will definitely not be in high relief and will feature a proof finish.  They will also be issued with two different mintmarks, “W” for West Point and “S” for San Francisco.

    That will be disappointing to many collectors, who were eager to see the modern liberty and flying eagle design (respective obverse and reverse) in high relief, which would have been the first silver high relief product from the Mint.

    Mr. White also said that the Mint’s Principal Deputy Director, Rhett Jeppson, will be attending this week’s ANA World Fair of Money in Anaheim, CA but will not be doing a forum with collectors and the media as has been the case at some past shows.  That would have been a great chance for the Mint’s customers to discuss these issues with him.

     

    Valkyrie: Second Legends of Asgard Coin Launched

    August 4, 2016 10:13 AM by Louis Golino

    A year ago I wrote in this column (http://www.coinworld.com/voices/louis-golino/2015/08/tokelau_odin_coinus.html)about a new series of Nordic mythology coins called Legends of Asgard from anew private mint, Choice Mint (www.choicemint.com),which is a division of Choice Bullion (www.choicebullion.com),a U.S. dealer in modern coins, which began with what many collectors considerto be the best of the several Odin coins issued.

    That coin was notable both for its format, three-ounces ofantique silver, rimless, and a new type of ultra-high relief that Choice callsMax Relief, which achieves a depth of 3.5 millimeters, and for its impressiveartwork, which stands out compared to other coins of this type.

    The format is also notable for serial numbers that are etchedonto the edge of the coins that match those on the certificates of authenticity,the classy wooden presentation box, and the use of only the name in terms ofinscriptions on the reverse, which frees up the planchet so the art is notobscured by other elements.  And a mere1500 coins were issued, which sold very quickly.

    Now Choice has finally launched the long-awaited second coinin this series, Valkyrie, which has been in production for much of the pastyear.

    The new coin has been widely and eagerly anticipated bynumerous collectors.  It was expected tobe released earlier this year, but several delays were encountered during theproduction process, which were mainly a result of Choice’s commitment toexcellence and its refusal to compromise until the final product met its veryhigh standards.

    The final product is truly stunning and breathtaking, a coinyou will not forget when once you see it. 

    Valkyrie is shown on the reverse of the coin wearing awinged helmet and with her large wings spread as she grasps a large sword. 

    The design features exquisite details that bring outValkyrie’s combination of strength and sexuality.  The detail on the wings is especiallyimpressive, and there is also a village in the background. 

    Because the coin is issued under the legal authority ofTokelau like its predecessor, the obverse features the usual Ian Rank-Broadleyeffigy of Queen Elizabeth II with an ornate chain around the inner rim. 

    Valkyrie is a supernatural figure associated with fate.  In Nordic mythology she is a female figurewho chooses those who may die in battle and those who may live.  In modern culture Valkyries have been thetopic of works of art, music, poetry, and even video games.

    The Asgard series will span 12 coins altogether, and you canexpect future issues to come out much sooner than the year in between the firstand second coins now that Choice has moved to an all-digital process. 

    The new coin is being sold by Choice’s authorized dealers,which are listed here (http://choicemint.com/dealer-locator/).

    I expect Valkyrie to sell out quickly and for prices toincrease in short order, both of which occurred with Odin.  Many world issues see a drop in values afterinterest fades, but I do not expect to see that with this coin, which is likelyto be even more well received than Odin was.

    Pre-orders are being taken now, and the coin is expected tobe delivered in about a month.

    Hand of Hamsa Coin Coming Soon

    July 29, 2016 4:29 PM by Louis Golino

    Powercoin (www.powercoin.it)is a major modern world coin dealer based in Rome, Italy and is owned byAntonello Galletta.  The companydistributes many of the leading series from various world mints such as theMint of Poland, Royal Canadian Mint, Perth Mint, and many others. 

    And as is the case with some other leading numismaticcompanies, it also sometimes commissions coins to be issued on its behalf.  The first of three new coins coming fromPowercoin is an intriguing piece called the Hand of Hamsa, or Hand of Fatima,that is now available for pre-order with coins expected to ship in late September.

    Designed by Coin Invest Trust in Lichtenstein and minted bythe German private mint, B.H. Mayer, both highly regarded in the numismaticworld for their quality work, the Hamsa coin depicts the very popularpalm-shaped amulet that represents the hand of God and is seen throughout theMiddle East and North Africa.

    Hamsa is spelled Khamsah in Arabic and means “five, or “thefive fingers of the hand.”  It has otherspellings in Hebrew and other languages. 

    Tracing its origins to ancient Carthage, an open right handis supposed to ward off evil.  It is asign of protection in all faiths and is supposed to bring happiness and goodfortune to its owner.  It is seen allover the world in tattoos, pendants, keychains, etc.

    Issued under the legal authority of Palau with a $10 facevalue, the coin is made of two ounces of pure silver and struck in proof.  It uses CIT’s remarkable Smartmintingtechnology that I have covered before to get the maximum effect out of itshigh-relief striking and also features a blue Swarovski crystal that isintended to represent the eye-in-hand that protects against the evil eye.  Only 999 of these intricately-designed coinsare being issued.

    Mr. Galletta told me that he has seen a sample coin that hesaid looks amazing and that the pictures do not do justice to this beautifulpiece, the first coin ever issued about this popular amulet.  The hand has countless small artisticflourishes on it, and the coin is a work of numismatic art that is not quitelike anything I have ever seen.

    In addition to being sold by Powercoin for 200 euros, thecoin is also available from First Coin Company (www.firstcoincompany.com) in theU.S. and the Coin Shoppe in Canada (www.coinshoppe.ca)for $217.90.  The owner of the CoinShoppe told me sales have been strong, especially from American buyers. 

     

    Be sure to click on the main image to see additional pictures of the coin.

    Change Coming for Pobjoy Mint and Isle of Man Coins

    July 22, 2016 10:26 AM by Louis Golino
    Pobjoy Mint Ltd., a private mint in the UK, issues both numerous commemorative coins and some circulating one for various countries. 

    For the past 40 years it has been the official minter for the Isle of Man, a self-governing island located in the sea between England and Ireland.  It is a British Crown dependency and is well-known in the numismatic world for the numerous collector coins it issues, such as the cat coins, which were discussed in the July cover story by Bill Gibbs.

    Taya Pobjoy, managing director of the mint, issued the following announcement this week: "Pobjoy Mint Ltd would like to announce that as from March 2017 they will no longer represent the Isle of Man as the official  minter  of Isle of Man legal tender products.
    Recently, the Isle of Man has announced a reduction in the number of themes that can be produced in any year.
    This will mean that many Isle of Man coins will no longer be made and we urge our customers to order existing Isle of Man products while stock last.
    We will continue to produce high-quality coins from our six other issuing authorities and look forward to showing our customers the new and exciting products we have for the balance of 2016 and into 2017.
    Pobjoy Mint Ltd has had a long and fruitful relationship with the Isle of Man that has lasted for over 40 years; we wish them well for the future."

    One implication of this news is that the popular Angel bullion coin, which has been issued since 1984 in silver and gold, will likely no longer be issued.  And the reverse proof Angel with a mintage of 100,000 coins that was issued this year will definitely no longer be issued.

    For 2016 a proof version of the same coin was issued in a special two-coin set with the reverse proof and a mintage of just 500 coins. The proof is only available in the set, which retails for about $150.  The single reverse proof coin can be purchased for a little under $30.

    If you collect Isle of Man coins, you may want to obtain those pieces you need in the near future.  SM Coins, an eBay coin dealer that specializes in modern world issues, has an extensive selection of these coins: http://www.ebay.com/sch/m.html?_odkw=&_osacat=0&_ssn=son-montuno&_nkw=isle+man



    Update on 2016 Britannia proof coins: The 5 oz. silver coin has sold out, and the 1 oz. silver coin and 6-coin silver set are close to sold out as well.  In addition, the first-ever reverse proof version has been released by APMEX in a 2-coin set with the regular proof. Only 500 sets were issued, and the reverse proof is only available in the set.  They were announced yesterday, July 21, and are selling quickly.  


    Patience Helps in Modern Numismatics

    July 15, 2016 3:20 PM by Louis Golino
    There is a not so secret fact when it comes to modern numismatic products, especially those from the U.S. Mint, that it often pays to wait to purchase what you want rather than buy when interest in that item is peaking and dealers are promoting the new issue to retail customers.

    There are of course important exceptions to this advice, and an experienced collector can usually tell whether it is better to strike quickly, as as with last year's American Platinum Eagle proof coin that had an unusually low maximum mintage of 4,000 coins and sold out in 7 minutes.  It was challenging for sure, but most people I know who were ready to go at the time of launch were able to place an order if they were prepared and moved quickly.

    But there are many other times when those who wait do very well such as items that fall below issue price, which happens a lot in certain segments of the market such as modern commemoratives or proof and mint sets.

    Or perhaps you failed to order your 2016-W gold centennial dime before they sold out from the Mint, or you wanted to have one graded but did not get it in time from the Mint to have it graded with first strike and early release labels.  

    This is why energy expended on studying the market is better than all that kvetching about the Mint, which stresses you out anyway. Instead, astute collectors quickly saw that the gold dimes were grading at a high level with most coins getting 70's from both NGC and PCGS.  In fact, the last time I checked the rate of 70's was much lower at NGC, which has not been the trend in the past with many modern issues.

    So I decided early on that rather than submit any of my coins for grading, I would wait until the excitement abated, check around for a good deal, and buy an already graded coin.  And in fact I was able to purchase an NGC SP70 early release example for the same cost as the issue price plus the grading fee without any of the related expenses or hassles or the risk the coin would come back as a 69.

    Each case will be a little different, and that is why it pays to do your homework in modern numismatics.

    Update: Last week I discussed the new 2016 Britannia prof coins.  I ordered a set of the silver coins and have already received them. They look great in hand, and even better than the pics.  

    New Britannia Proof Coins Launched

    July 7, 2016 11:36 AM by Louis Golino
    Right around this time of the year, late June to early July, every year since 2013 when the program began, the Royal Mint (www.royalmint.com) launches its extensive range of silver and gold Britannia proof coins.  

    Unlike their popular bullion counterparts, which since 2012 have carried the same design each year, the proof coins feature a new rendition of Britannia each year.

    Britannia is the British equivalent of Lady Liberty, the female personification or allegorical representation of Great Britain and the enduring values for which she has stood for centuries.  The practice of representing nations as women dates to the Roman Empire, and over the years Britannia has emerged as a "warrior queen," wearing a helmet and carrying a shield.

    That is how she is portrayed in the new design, which appears as always on the reverse side of the coins since the obverse must feature the latest effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.  For 2016 Britannia is seen with the British lion at her feet, a pairing seen on memorial plaques issued after the First World War, a national symbol of courage and protection.
    The new coins called "Courage at her command" show Britannia holding her trident in one hand and the shield of Britain in the other with a British lion at her feet.  The addition of the lion is something that was seen on memorial plaques after World War I and is a national symbol of courage and protection.

    The 2016 design is the work of Suzie Zamit, the only woman who has designed Britannia coins, and this is her second one.

    Initial reaction to the design from collectors has been quite positive, though nothing issued to date compares with the 2014 Britannia proof design by Jody Clark that was also used in the 2015 50 pound BU coin that is still available from the Mint.  The 2016 design is perhaps the best one after the 2014.

    Those interested in acquiring the coins have many options from a single 1 oz. silver piece to a six-piece silver proof set and 5 oz. silver coin as well as various gold options from 1/40th oz. to 5 oz.  Only the 1 and 5 oz. versions in both metals are available individually. The fractional coins are only issued in sets.

    Britannia proof coins carry low mintages esp. compared to our own proof coins, and they tend to sell out and do decently on the aftermarket after that.  Those who own any of the 2014 proofs know what I mean.


    Finally, keep in mind that due to the Brexit vote, the British pound is at a 30-year low of about 1.3 to the U.S. dollar, which makes these coins more affordable than  in the past.

    FinBriIfInBritannia is the female personification of Britain, embodying the changing ideals and values of our country throughouhistory. She has often been said to reflect powerful women through the ages, and, in the case of certain British queens, the events and attitudes of their reigns.

    The practice of portraying nations as idealised women dates back to the Roman era and, over the centuries, Britannia has developed into a ‘warrior queen,’ wearing a helmet and carrying a shield




    Britannia is the female personification of Britain, embodying the changing ideals and values of our country throughout history. She has often been said to reflect powerful women through the ages, and, in the case of certain British queens, the events and attitudes of their reigns.

    The practice of portraying nations as idealised women dates back to the Roman era and, over the centuries, Britannia has developed into a ‘warrior queen,’ wearing a helmet and carrying a shield

    Palladium Eagles Should be Proof Only

    June 30, 2016 10:50 AM by Louis Golino
    During this week's meeting of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee held in Colorado Springs in conjunction with the American Numismatic Association's summer seminar, which I followed via telephone, the U.S. Mint's Ronald Harrigal provided an interesing update on the Mint's forthcoming program for an American Palladium Eagle coin program.

    He explained that the plan is to issue both bullion and proof coins struck in high relief once the Mint can secure a sufficient supply chain of palladium planchets and work out some other details such as the diameter of the coins.

    As a result of these issues, it is highly unlikely the Mint will be able to begin the program this year, and Mr. Harrigal also said the priority is for the bullion coins.  It is possible that in 2017, if the program does start then, that the Mint will only issue bullion coins that year, and the proofs would come the following year.

    But this is a mistake in my view, though to be clear one the Mint is doing because it is mandated by the U.S. Congress to issue both versions.

    It is unlikely that there will be very much demand for the bullion coin other than for the first year of issue because collectors tend not to be very keen on palladium as a metal, which is what the 2012 feasibility study on these coins revealed.

    Besides, as I noted recently in regards to the 2016 high relief Liberty medal, high relief coins look so much better in proof than they do in business strike.  

    This is why the world mints that specialize in high relief issues produce them in proof, including especially the Perth Mint and the Mint of Poland.

    The palladium program is far more likely to be a hit with collectors of coins with limited mintages and top-notch designs as opposed to bullion coins, which have not fared very well when other mints produced them.  In fact, palladium tends to be traded far more often in bar form than as coins.

    The U.S. Congress would do well to consult with the numismatic community when it crafts legislation about coins to avoid producing pieces that will prove to be unpopular, which has certainly been the case with many recent commemorative coin programs and would likely be the case with palladium bullion coins.

    Precious Metals Up Sharply After Brexit Vote

    June 24, 2016 9:53 AM by Louis Golino
    Early Friday morning when the world learned that the British people had unexpectedly voted in a referendum to leave to the European Union, popularly known as Brexit, the price of gold and silver shot up to the highest level seen in two years.

    In fact, the Royal Mint, which sells bullion directly to consumers, reported today that visits to its precious metal trading platform were up 550% compared to yesterday, and new accounts were up 200% for the same period. 

    Investors are seeking refuge in gold from all the economic and political uncertainty surrounding the British move, which immediately sent the value of the British pound down very sharply against other currencies and roiled the world’s equity markets with futures in several countries down more than 10%.

    Gold was up $70 from its level on Thursday, reaching $1340, and silver touched $18, but the strength of the dollar masked the fact that in non-dollar currencies gold was up even more.

    Metals had already been doing well this year, up around 25% compared to the four-year low reached late last year, making them one of the best-performing asset classes of the year.

    Gold analysts in particular have been arguing for some time that the yellow metal was due for a substantial correction higher because of fundamental factors such as record demand and tight supplies and the increased role of China in the gold trade, which includes a new gold exchange and their own version of the daily London gold fix. 

    But they key factor underpinning the move higher, and one of the main reasons it is likely to continue, has to do with interest rates.  With sluggish growth and heightened economic uncertainty due to geopolitical tensions, problems in China, Brexit, and the prospect of a potential Trump presidency producing a trade war and economic recession, rates will continue to remain close to zero and central banks will continue their policy of quantitative easing.

    This is the perfect environment for precious metals, so analysts who specialize in this area see higher values going forward later this year and continuing into the future, especially as the high levels of debt in most countries reach the point where governments may not be able to afford to continue paying the finance costs to service their debt, which could produce an even greater global economic crisis at some point than the one that began in 2008. 

    It's never a good idea to put too many eggs in the same basket, but what is happening now is a good reminder that diversifying one’s assets by including some gold in your portfolio offers helpful protection in an uncertain world.  

    High Relief Medal Beautiful in Proof

    June 16, 2016 5:29 PM by Louis Golino
    11 months ago, on July 13, the U.S. Mint announced (http://www.coinworld.com/news/us-coins/2015/07/united-states-mint-nixes-high-relief-silver-medal.html ) that it would not be producing a companion high-relief silver medal to go with its $100 American Liberty high-relief gold coin, which sold out of its entire 50,000-coin mintage. 

    As I explained in a column last year, this program was the brainchild of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee under the leadership of former Chairman Gary Marks, which envisioned an ongoing series of high-relief gold coins and silver medals of the same design with the theme of modern images of Liberty.

    The Mint decided to use the 2015 design for a 2016 silver medal, which still has no release date.  But today after my colleague Paul Gilkes published a story (http://www.coinworld.com/news/us-coins/2016/06/american-liberty-high-relief-silver-medal-on-horizon.html) about production of the medals at the West Point and San Francisco mints and photos of the medal, Gary Marks said that he is “super excited” about the 2016 silver medal, and that he worked “hard along with members of my committee to revive images of "Liberty" on U.S. coins and medals. This silver medal is the result of our efforts.”

    “I am super excited now because it was so difficult to make this happen and there were numerous times I was almost certain we had failed or that the program was headed in a hopelessly wrong direction. I am most excited that Mint leadership finally followed the Committee's recommendation to produce this medal as a silver proof (rather than an uncirculated version). I am very pleased also that plans to produce another silver Liberty medal are in the works for 2017. Hopefully these Liberty medals will become an annual series (also a Committee recommendation). It is my further hope that collectors will support this program with strong sales as a demonstration to the Mint's leadership team and key Members of Congress that "Liberty" does indeed sell.”

    “Ultimately I want Miss Liberty to be restored to our circulating coinage. A successful medals program might help give that challenging goal a much needed push. Congratulations are in order to the following artists who together created the artwork for this medal: Justin Kunz, obverse designer; Phebe Hemphill, obverse sculptor; Paul C. Balan, reverse designer; and Don Everhart, reverse sculptor. Outstanding work all!”

    In correspondence with Gary, I told him I really feel the design works so much better in the proof format than the business strike used on the 2015 gold coins.  This is because the contrast between the frosted design devices and the mirrored background fields work much better than the matte finish of the business strike gold coin in translating Paul Balan and Don Everhart’s excellent designs into stunning high-relief medallic art.     

    And he agreed, responding: “These designs were meant for proof. From the beginning the Mint folks saw the Liberty program as a book end to the 2009 UHR St. Gaudens which had the business strike finish. I was disappointed to see last year's gold Liberty coin follow the same route. CCAC members kept pushing the idea that a proof finish would make the difference between a well-received program and a super-charged success.”

    “With these silver medals now in the works with proof finish with "S" and "W" mint marks I will be curious to see how many sell. I hope the Mint takes the same approach as they did with the 2011 National 9/11 Silver Metal and offer these Liberty medals for a defined time period for sales rather than with a capped numerical limit. A mintage cap would be a big disappointment since it would deny all of us from seeing how popular the program might be if allowed to seek its own sales level.”

    I would add that a lot of people who said they did not like the design last year are very likely going to have a different view when they see the new medals.  These truly are modern classics, and as Gary said, let’s hope that this program helps to encourage new circulating Liberty-themed coins, another proposal of the CCAC under his leadership. 

     

    Artificial Intelligence Coin Looks to the Future

    June 6, 2016 9:40 AM by Louis Golino
    A new series is being launched by the Mint of Poland on behalf of Niue called "Code of the Future," which deals with cutting-edge advancements in science and technology of recent years and decades such as virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics, among others.

    The first coin, which is expected to be released in July, is called "Artificial Intelligence," also referred to as AI, and sports a very unique design as well as a number of special features.

    The reverse shows a human head superimposed with the inside of a computer (the motherboard), and a robotic arm that holds the earth in its grasp.  The background is an endless series of computer codes, i.e., 1's and 0's. 

    The obverse has a reduced-sized effigy of Queen Elizabeth by Ian Rank-Broadley and a very futuristic design with more computer codes, including towers of code with a human head on top and various futuristic structures.

    The coin carries a $2 denomination, has a mintage of 500 coins, an antique finish, and is made of two ounces of pure silver.  It has a diameter of 50 millimeters and a weight of 62.2 grams.

    Of special interest is the application of fluorescent ultra violet (UV) coloring on the head on the reverse that makes it glow in the dark.  It is best to put the coin under a light source for 30 seconds and then place it in the dark to see it glow.

    The serial number is on the coin and the certificate of authenticity, and the coin comes in a luxurious wooden box and a colorful shipper.

    The AI coin is being sold for $224.90 by First Coin Company (www.firstcoincompany.com) in California with free worldwide shipping. As always if you live somewhere where they charge any import duties or fees, First Coin Company will reimburse them. Here is a link to the listing: https://firstcoincompany.com/S/niue...016-fluorescent-uv-effect-antique-finish-2-oz

    You can use the code "THANKYOU" for a 3% discount.

     

    Future coins in the series are expected to deal with topics such as personal robotics and virtual reality.

    This unusual piece is a fitting tribute to perhaps the most important field of study and knowledge of all time, one on which the future of the human race depends, according to Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and Space X, who believes that we actually already live in a world of artificial intelligence.  In Musk's view there is only a one in a billion chance that we are not living in a computer simulation, and idea that many people may find hard to grasp.

    AI is commonly understood as the idea of creating computers that mimic the cognitive functions we associate with the human mind, such as learning and problem solving.  AI has already been used to create computers that can beat professional chess players and self-driving cars.

    As was suggested back in 1968 in the film, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which featured a computer called Hal that took over the spaceship, the challenge of AI is to create machines that make our world better rather than going against humans and potentially destroying the world.  At the same time, as Musk argues, unless we keep advancing, civilization will destroy itself. 

     

    Little News from the U.S. Mint

    June 3, 2016 10:07 AM by Louis Golino
    It's shaping up to be a rather quiet summer in terms of numismatic releases from the U.S. Mint despite the fact that so many of the issues of greatest interest to collectors have not yet been released, or even listed with a date on the Mint's online product schedule.
    June's highlights include the launch of the Harper's Ferry quarters and companion 5-ounce silver coin as well as the 2016 Native American dollar coin and currency set and the 2016-W American Platinum Eagle proof coin.
    Last year's platinum eagle sold out in minutes and as i suggested here before its release, it has turned out to be a big secondary market winner and has definitely held its value.  The 2016 coin sports a gorgeous design of Lady Liberty in a neo-classical style, but no details have been released about the coin's mintage or household limit.
    Later in the summer the Nancy Reagan gold first spouse coin will be issued, marking the end of that series.  It will likely be a popular issue.
    But here we are almost halfway through the year, and there are still no American Eagle Silver proof coins with special edge lettering for the 30th anniversary or any news about some kind of special set for the anniversary, or one for the same anniversary of the American Gold Eagle program.
    And fans of the centennial gold tribute coins are puzzled that the Standing Liberty gold quarter does not have a release date, yet it was displayed at a coin show in late April, which suggests the coins have been struck.
    And not a word about the Walking Liberty gold coin.
    There are certainly reasons why the Mint needs to wait to release certain information about its programs and coins, but this situation seems very puzzling.
    Buyers need advance notice so they can figure out how to budget for several expensive coins that interest them, and the coin media can help the Mint get out the word about these issues.  But all that requires a specific plan and a lot more information from the Mint. 
    If nothing else, perhaps the officials at the Mint could provide an explanation for the lack of information such as a restructuring of staff or management.

    Mars Meteorite Coins Landing Soon

    May 23, 2016 9:53 AM by Louis Golino
    Coins on space and astronomy themes, as I have noted in the past, are increasingly popular with modern coin enthusiasts.

    Right on the heels of the new Mercury coin I discussed recently, there is another issue coming soon about Mars that was made by the Mint of Poland. 

    First Coin Company (www.firstcoincompany.com) in California is the official USA and worldwide distributor for a new Niue legal tender coin called "Martian Meteorite NWA 6963," which comes in two sizes.

    There is a $1, 1 oz. silver coin, which has a mintage of 500 pieces, and a $50, silver kilo coin with a mintage of a mere 99 coins. Both are produced with a premium, handmade antique silver finish and struck in high relief and of course come in an attractive wooden display box.

    The design features a stunning color image of Mars and rock formations typical of the planet.

    The 1 oz. version is being sold on a pre-order basis for $219.90, and the kilo is priced at $2,749.90, but the company is accepting best offers on the larger coin.  Or you can get $650 off the kilo coin with the code 7SKU.

    All orders ship free worldwide and if you are assessed any import duties or taxes, those will be refunded by First Coin Company.  The June is expected to be available to ship in June.

    The most exciting part in addition to the design, which depicts Mars, the red planet, is that these coins include fragments of NWA 6963, which is a meteorite that came from Mars. There is a separate certificate for the meteorite fragment.

    A Martian meteorite, or shergottite, is a rock that formed on the planet Mars and was then ejected from Mars by the impact of an asteroid or comet and finally landed on the Earth.

    NWA stands for Northwest Africa, which is where this particular meteorite was found.  According to the Meteorological Bulletin: “In September, 2011, a Moroccan meteorite hunter found the first pieces of NWA 6963 and sold it to AHabibi without giving the exact provenance. The hunter continued collecting pieces in the same area for about 6 months. In mid-May, 2012, the NWA 6963 locality, near the river Oued Touflit, became widely known and hundreds of meteorite hunters went to the area searching for more pieces. Pieces ranging from 100 to 700 g have been recovered, as well as a few small pieces (3-10 g), most of them are broken and partially covered by a thin fusion crust. The total mass may be as much as 8-10 kg.”

    Mars is the second-smallest planet in our solar system after Mercury and was named for the god of war. The iron oxide on its surface gives it a reddish appearance. The planet also has seasonal cycles similar to those of the earth, and like in earth its seasons are produced through tilts.

    The timing of the release of these coins is excellent as Mars has been in the news a lot recently. In addition to the current plan for volunteers to at some point go to Mars and live there for the rest of their lives and last year's hit movie with Matt Damon, The Martian, which won Academy Awards, there is brand-new research about the surface of Mars. 3.4 billion years ago when a large asteroid hit the planet, it triggered tsunamis that covered several hundred thousand square miles of the planet with water that has been frozen in the years since then.

    **Please note that to see additional images you need to click on first one. 

    Queen's Beasts Secondary Market Prices Too High

    May 20, 2016 3:58 PM by Louis Golino

    Back at the end of March when the Royal Mint announced the launch of its 10-coin Queen's Beasts silver and gold bullion series, there was a lot of enthusiasm about the new coins.  This had a lot to do with the top-notch artwork of the first issue, which is designed by Jody Clark, who has created some of the best modern British coin designs.

    There continues to be a lot of interest in these coins, but I find it troubling that prices for the 2 oz. silver and 1/4 oz. gold pieces have gotten as high as they have.  

    While the 1 oz. gold continues to be available from many bullion dealers in the U.S. for as little as $38 over spot recently from one company, the quarter-ounce gold, which seems to only be available from some eBay sellers, has sold recently for about $550, or a huge markup of 75% over its gold content value.

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    And the silver 2 oz. coins, which have only been available also mainly on eBay and from some non-Americans sellers in Europe and Canada, has sold for as much as $90, though at the moment it can be purchased for $65 on eBay.  That is still a 100% mark-up over silver value.  The only better prices I have seen were from The Coin Shoppe in Canada (www.thecoinshoppe.ca), which as of this writing was $51.34 plus shipping.

    What is strange is that no major U.S. bullion dealer such as APMEX, MCM, etc. is carrying the silver coins, and when I asked some of them, they said they did not plan to carry them.  

    A-Mark, a wholesale precious metal company, is the Royal Mint's American distributor.  What is not clear is to whom A-Mark is selling, or whether they even have the coins, since the eBay sellers and foreign dealers appear to be getting their coins directly from the Royal Mint.

    The Royal Mint does sell directly to the public (https://www.royalmintbullion.com/Products/Queens-Beasts), but it is quite daunting to open an account from what I have heard as a lot of documentation is required that some U.S. buyers may not want to provide.  In addition, the silver coins sold out of their initial allocation very quickly, and the coins are on order.

    This situation has kept prices for the silver coins at what I believe is an artificially-inflated level that does not bode well for buyers, or really for the long-term success of the series.  For the first issue buyers seem willing to pay 100% and higher mark-ups, but will they continue to pay this much for 9 mire coins, especially when if you think about it, there is no real upside from these prices unless silver were well over $100 an ounce at some point?

    A friend of mine has been considering purchasing directly from the Royal Mint, which provides price breaks for those who purchase a number of tubes, or rolls, at a time, which brings the cost down quite a bit into the mid-to-high-$40-range.  But that is not a very practical option for the individual buyer who just wants a coin, or a couple of them.

    It is my view that the Mint and the public would benefit from a better distribution arrangement for these coins.  

    RCM Launches Huge Star Trek Tribute

    May 13, 2016 3:06 PM by Louis Golino

    On September 8, 1966 NBC launched the original Star Trek television series that ran for three seasons and inspired decades of successor television series and big-budget films that have developed a cult-like following from its fans, known as Trekkies.  

    The first tv series' main character was Capt. William Tiberius Kirk, who commanded the U.S.S. Enterprise for the Starfleet command during the 23rd century.  Kirk was of course played by Canadian actor, William Shatner, who became a household name from this series.  The other best-known character was Spock, half human and half Vulcan, played by Leonard Nimoy, who passed away last year.

    There are all kinds of Canadian connections to the original Star Trek series such as a town in Alberta called Vulcan to other actors in the series besides Mr. Shatner who were Canadian such as James Doohan, who played Scotty, and others.

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    To mark the golden anniversary of this beloved series the Royal Canadian Mint on June 13 launched a series of 11 coins.

    These include one of its $20 face value silver coins depicting the U.S.S. Enterprise; a four-coin set of half-ounce colored silver coins depicting the most well-known characters from the series; another four-coin colored silver set in this case weighing one ounce each that depict some of the most popular episodes such as "The Trouble with Tribbles"; a coin and stamp set with a base metal quarter showing the spaceship from many different angles; and finally a half-ounce gold coin in the delta-shape of the insignia worn by crew members.  The two four-coin sets begin now with the remaining issues coming every three months.

    It's an impressive line-up of coins for sure and one that will have considerable appeal for Trekkies and for coin collectors, especially those in their mid-50s or older who watched the first series as a child like myself.  By the time I was watching it with my friends in the late 1960s it was already in syndication.  And the combination of living at the time in the same neighborhood as both William Shatner and Neil Armstrong and being a young boy in the era of Star Trek and Apollo 11 has left a soft spot in me for the series and for space travel and science fiction in general.  I will never forget meeting Mr. Armstrong as they were packing up to move to Ohio.

    And for those collectors who really love Star Trek these coins will go nicely with their set of 10 issues from the Perth Mint plus the gold latinum slip that was released recently.  And more coins are rumored to be coming later from Perth for the 50th anniversary of the first series.  Beam me up, Scotty!  

    On Monday, May 16 the Canadian Royal Mint announced that 70% of the 11,500 mintage of the first of the colored 1-oz. proof coins have been sold since Friday.

    Will Collectors Buy a Pink Coin?

    May 6, 2016 5:13 PM by Louis Golino

    There has been surprisingly little reaction so far from the coin collecting community to the announcement that the U.S. Mint will issue the first pink gold coin ever in 2018.  The coin will be part of a set of three coins to mark breast cancer awareness and the legislation, which was first proposed in 2013, was signed into law on April 29 by President Obama.

    As usual the law calls for up to 750,000 clad halves, 400,000 silver dollars, and 50,000 pink gold $5 coins.  The designs will represent the fight against breast cancer and will be selected through a design competition.  The legislation also opens the door to producing the dollar with a higher silver fineness than the usual 90%.  It also stipulates that the pink gold coin will contain at least 75% gold with the balance consisting of copper and silver, which are used to give it a pinkish color.

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    There are few causes that have the widespread support that this one does, and these coins could introduce new people to numismatics.  This program will also be an important test of how far the innovation envelope can be pushed on U.S. coins.
     
    The potential problem is that the gold coin is likely to cost the same amount as other $5 gold commemoratives, or about $420, and more if gold is higher than $1300 in 2018.  The savings from the smaller amount of gold will likely be offset by production costs.  In recent years $5 gold commemoratives have continued to see decreasing sales numbers, and to sell more than the usual 6,000 or so coins, a lot of non-collectors would need to be willing to spend over $400, especially since depending on the design some regular buyers may not want the coin.

    One collector has proposed that it would be better to issue a dollar coin with selective pink gold plating, as was done on the 2012 Canadian farewell to the penny coin that was clearly an inspiration for the breast cancer gold piece.  It would be priced at a level that is much more accessible to a broader range of buyers, which means the coin would raise a lot more money than the gold coin is likely to. Perhaps a simple pink ribbon against a silver background, or even a pink silver coin created with alloys, as a collector-friend suggested.

    A selective pink plated dollar could be a big seller, but it is not clear how it would be received by regular collectors.  Younger ones might like it, but I can just imagine the traditionalist middle aged ones saying "we don't need circus coins," which is how some of them have reacted to the pink gold coin idea.

    So all things considered it will be especially important that a great design be selected.  And the Congress really should consult more closely with the numismatic community on these programs to get a sense of what collectors are interested in and what will sell.  

    Good intentions have a way of getting lost with modern commemoratives, and if they sell poorly, they may not even cover all the production and associated costs, and then no funds will be raised.  Which is why commemoratives should not be about causes.  They should be about significant people, events, etc.



     

    Two More New Issues from the Mint of Poland

    April 29, 2016 2:41 PM by Louis Golino
    Spring is often when world mints roll out some of their best products of the year.  Already we have seen Coin Invest Trust begin to release an impressive range of coins for virtually every taste from the Great Tea Race coins to the new Tiffany issue and many others that were first unveiled during the February World Money Fair in Berlin.
    Now the Mint of Poland, one of the premier coining facilities in the world that specializes in producing top-quality issues for other countries, is doing the same.
    In addition to the intriguing planet Mercury coin I discussed last week, two other interesting high-end pieces were announced this week.
    The first is a 2-oz. high relief, antique silver coin issued for Niue about the famous Trojan Horse that the ancient Greeks used to secretly invade the city of Troy.  
    According to a Latin poem from the time of Augustus and of course in Homer's Iliad, the Greeks made a large wooden horse and hid some of their armed force inside it.  They then pretended they were sailing away after a decade-long siege but pulled the horse into the city and under the cover of night, the men in the horse came out and attacked the Trojans.  
    The coin features exquisite artwork and a real wooden inlay, and it is rimless with the serial number etched on the coin, and the number matches that which is on the certificate of authenticity.  It is also the first issue in a new series called Ancient Myths.  A mere 500 coins were issued, and the coin is sellout of fast pushing retail prices from $200 to about $260 over the course of the week.
    The other new issue is also a first in a new series called Evolution of Earth and features a bug called a Trilobite.  The coin is also made of 2-oz. of silver and is struck in ultra high relief with a relief of 3.7 millimeters, a mintage of 666 coins, and is plated with two rare metals- gold and ruthenium.  Trilobites were one of the first arthropods (an invertebrate animal with an exoskeleton) to roam the earth and managed to live for 270 million years.  These coins can be obtained from sellers who typically carry Mint of Poland releases such as the Coin Shoppe (www.thecoinshoppe.ca), First Coin Company (www.firstcoincompany.com), Powercoin (www.powercoin.it) and on eBay.  The Coin Shoppe has already sold out of the Trojan Horse coin twice.  





    A Different Mercury Coin

    April 21, 2016 11:06 AM by Louis Golino

    With all the focus on the release today of the 2016-W gold Mercury dime, properly called Winged Liberty or Liberty Head dime as numismatists know, collectors may not be aware that a different Mercury coin is also going to be released soon.

    It is the second release in the Mint of Poland’s solar system series, which debuted last year with the issuance of the popular 2015 moon coin.  These pieces are issued under the legal authority of Niue, and the 2016 coin features the planet Mercury, which is the smallest planet and the one closest to the sun.

    Like the moon coin the new issue, which is expected to be available in May, will be dome shaped and comes with an antique finish, but for the Mercury issue it will be a yellow-colored antique finish to resemble the color of the planet. 

    In addition, the Mercury coin is embedded with a small piece of a real meteorite like the moon issue was.  In this case it is the NWA8409 meteorite found in Northwest Africa, specifically in Morocco in 2013.  This particular meteorite is worth $3,000 for one gram, and the fragment on the coin is worth about $70.

    The reverse of the coin is convex-shaped and depicts the surface of the planet and has the meteorite fragment, while the obverse is concave and has a rather small effigy of Queen Elizabeth II like all Commonwealth coins as well as lots of surface details of the planet. 

    The mintage is just 666 pieces, and the coin comes in a wooden display box with a certificate of authenticity. 

    Coins depicting planets, meteorites, and other subjects related to astronomy and space have become very popular in recent years, as I explained in my article in the September issue of Coin World magazine (http://www.coinworld.com/news/world-coins/2015/09/space-themed-world-coins-more-popular-than-ever.html).

    While there is never any guarantee, these coins also have a rather solid track record with the best example being a 2009 Cook Islands moon coin that is now worth 10 times its issue price. 

    The Mercury coin is available from sellers such as the Coin Shoppe (www.thecoinshoppe.ca), a Canadian company that ships frequently to the U.S. via Niagara Falls, and on eBay.  The coin is priced at about $200 at the Coin Shoppe, while recent eBay sales have been about 10% higher at $220 and $230.  Don’t be surprised if the coin reaches higher prices in the coming weeks. 

    The next coins in this series will depict Mars in 2017 and the Earth in 2018.  With one coin a year and an impressive level of detail on these coins as well as their shape, low mintage, and rare meteorite fragments, the solar system series is shaping up to be a winner as well as an interesting and coherent set of coins. 

     

    Irish Central Bank Issues Coins to Mark Centennial of Easter Rising

    April 14, 2016 3:11 PM by Louis Golino
    On April 4 th the Central Bank of Ireland issued gold and silver proof coins to mark the 100 th anniversary of the Easter Rising, also known as the Easter Rebellion.

    That event, which played a key role in the establishment of the Irish republic, was an armed insurrection by Irish Republicans on Easter weekend in April 1916 to protest British rule of Ireland.  The protesters were killed by British soldiers.

    During the uprising, one of the activists, stood on the Central Post Office’s steps and read this proclamation: “We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people.”

    In addition to a 2-euro bimetallic coin already covered in Coin World, a 15-euro silver proof and two gold coins, one of them with a 50-euro denomination and the other 100 euro, were also issued.  The silver coin is sold individually and in a two-coin set with the smaller gold coin, which weighs 7.77 grams.  The larger gold coin weighs twice as much and was released as a stand-alone piece. 

    Both the set and 100-euro gold sold out almost instantly, but the single silver coin is still available from the bank, and in the U.S. from Royal Scandinavian Mint (www.rsmint.com), which offers buyers the option to obtain a certificate of authenticity signed by the designer of the coin, Michael Guilfoyle.  Their price is $67.50.

    The coins feature a gorgeous design showing Hibernia, the allegorical representation of Ireland (similar to Lady Liberty here, or Britannia in the UK), which first appeared in cartoons and drawings in the 19th century.  Hibernia was also known as “Britannia’s younger sister.” On the coin she appears in front of key phrases from the proclamation.

    The coins were minted by the Austrian Mint in Vienna, and carry mintages of 18,000 for the silver, 5500 for the 50-euro gold, and 1,000 for the 100-euro gold.

     

      

    Act Now to Make Apollo 11 Coins a Reality

    April 6, 2016 10:27 AM by Louis Golino

    Last year Rep. Bill Posey (R- FL) introduced a bill, H.R. 2726, calling for the issuance in 2019 of a series of four coins honoring the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon, one of the greatest achievements of our country and of mankind.  The coins include the usual three-coin set of a silver dollar, clad half dollar, and $5 gold coin plus a first for the modern commemorative program, a proof 5-ounce silver coin struck in the concave/convex shape used for the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame coins.

    Last June Steve Roach explained in Coin World what this proposed coin program would include.

    This program was first recommended in 2014 during a meeting of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, when Mike Olson made a motion for it that received a unanimous vote, and the proposal again received a unanimous vote in 2015.

    Since his term on the CCAC ended in 2014, Mr. Olson, an Iowa banker and former Army National Guard Lt. Colonel, has been working to promote this program, including meeting with members of congress from states that participated in the massive effort to land on the moon such as Florida, Texas, California, and Alabama.  He was last on Capitol Hill a couple weeks ago.

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    There is a lot of interest in these coins because of the huge significance of the event and the fact that it has never been commemorated on a U.S. coin, yet many world mints have already issued such coins. 

    To date H.R. 2726 has 63 co-sponsors, but it needs 290 to move the legislation forward.  So far most of those who have signed onto the bill come from the same states mentioned above.  In addition, a companion Senate bill has not yet been introduced.

    If the bill does not pass both houses by the end of the year, it will expire, and those who care about this program will have to start all over again.

    That is why time is really of the essence and why any collectors that want to see these coins issued should do what Mr. Olson recommended:

    Here is what coin collectors can do to make a difference and win the support of their members of Congress.  First, go to this link and see if your representative has cosponsored H.R. 2726.

    If their representative is not listed as a cosponsor, collectors should research contributions that companies or universities in their congressional district made or continue to make to the space program.   Almost every state had some involvement in the Apollo program, which was by design to ensure widespread support for this massive fiscal and human undertaking. With involvement now by the coin collecting community, this can also serve to generate pivotal support for H.R. 2726.  For example, Rockwell Collins, an Iowa company, played a key role by producing the radios that communicated between the earth and moon.

    The next step is to contact their representative's office in Washington DC via phone or email. You can find your representative’s contact information here. I suggest calling the Washington DC office of your representative and asking to speak to the legislative director. If they are unavailable, leave a message and ask for their email address in order to also send them some information, making sure to specifically reference H.R. 2726. Let them know about the key role that constituents in their district made to the space program, the enthusiasm in the numismatic community regarding this particular set of coins, and the fact that over 60 of their colleagues have cosponsored this legislation already. It would also be important to mention the worthy organizations which would receive surcharges from the sale of these coins: the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum's "Destination Moon" exhibit; the Astronauts Memorial Foundation; and the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, to aid its missions by providing college scholarships for the very best and brightest students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). 

    Dieter Jobe with Congressman Posey's office can also be contacted for those with questions on how they can support this legislation.  His contact information is:  Dieter.Jobe@mail.house.gov; (202)-225-3603.

    In addition to contacting their Congressman, collectors should also contact both of their Senators, who can be found by following this link

    There is currently not a bill in the Senate, however I am very hopeful and optimistic that a bill will emerge and making these contacts now will serve to generate  interest and support that will be needed later.

    If collectors want to see this happen, they need to act NOW, and get their friends and neighbors engaged.  It is very time intensive to get a commemorative coin proposal to this point and if this does not get passed by both houses before the end of the session this year, we will have to start over.  We only have one chance in our lifetimes to honor the Apollo 11 lunar landing on a significant anniversary and we owe it to the astronauts and the people who made it possible to complete this mission.

    Royal Mint Launches Queen’s Beasts

    March 29, 2016 12:54 PM by Louis Golino

    The Royal Mint of the United Kingdom (www.royalmint.com) has launched an intriguing new series of bullion coins called the Queen’s Beasts, “ten creatures that have featured throughout hundreds of years of British royal heraldry. The series will be introduced a ‘beast’ at a time, starting with the gallant Lion of England, by British coin designer Jody Clark,” according to a March 29 press release from the Mint.

    There are three versions of the first release, the lion, including the Mint’s first 2-ounce silver coin, which carries a 5-pound denomination coin; a 25-pound, one quarter-ounce gold piece, and a 100 pound, 1-ounce gold coin.  Mintages will be unlimited. 

    These coins will be sold by the mint’s bullion department (www.royalmintbullion.com) to UK buyers and by bullion dealers around the world.  U.S. dealer, A Mark, is a distributor for the coins, and I have seen them for sale at APMEX and JM Bullion as well as on eBay.   Other dealers will soon carry them too.

    So far only the gold coin has been released, and premiums are comparable to those for American Gold Eagles and other major world gold bullion issues. 

    Initial reaction from buyers has been very positive, especially because of the striking design of a growling lion on top of a heraldic coat of arms, which symbolizes “the various strands of royal ancestry brought together in a young woman about to be crowned queen. Each beast, used as a heraldic badge by generations that went before her, was inspired by the King’s Beasts of Henry VIII that still line the bridge over the moat at his Hampton Court Palace.”

    The inspiration for the series is a series of ten sculptures that are each ten meters tall created for the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth, which now reside in the Canadian Museum of History in Quebec.

    Since many buyers are unable to afford one-ounce gold pieces, there is considerable interest in the silver and smaller gold coins provided that premiums are reasonably low.  I expect all three to be popular in the UK and around the world.

    The designer, Jody Clark, is best known as the artist who created the current fifth effigy of the Queen that began to appear on UK coins last year, and as the designer of the widely-admired 2014 proof Britannia coins with an art deco kind of design that is without question the most popular in the proof Britannia series.

    Clark explained his work on the news series this way: “I took inspiration from the original Queen’s Beasts, both the original versions in Canada and the Portland Stone replicas here that look out over Kew Gardens. They are very stylized and look imposing as statues, but the challenge was to capture this on the surface of a coin.”

    “I researched the origins of heraldry and coats of arms, and wanted to replicate the sense of strength and courage they were designed to convey. I created a sense of movement to make the beasts bold and dynamic, but the shields they guard still feature strongly as they are integral to the story.”

    This new series is the third major Royal Mint bullion coin series after the sovereign and Britannia coins, or the fourth if one also counts the Lunar calendar series.

    Lost Opportunities with Anniversary Coins

    March 23, 2016 9:59 AM by Louis Golino

    The U.S. Mint recently announced that during the upcoming Whitman Exposition in Baltimore, Maryland (held from March 31 to April 3) Mint Director nominee Rhett Jeppson will be there to talk to collectors and sign certificates of authenticity.

    It also announced that the 2016-W American Buffalo Gold coin, which marks the 10th anniversary of this program, will be released at the show.

    Perhaps worried about a repeat of the pandemonium that emerged in August 2014 when the Kennedy gold half dollar tribute coin was launched at the ANA’s World Fair of Money, there will be nothing special about this coin for the anniversary at least based on what has been announced.

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    So no special finish or design, nothing.  I can understand the desire not to change the design, but to mark the occasion they could have used a new type of proof finish called enhanced proof, or done something else such as a one-year only reverse proof fractional set.

    Collectors regularly lament the fact that fractional Buffaloes were only issued in 2008.

    The bullion version of this coin fills a niche for bullion buyers who want a one-ounce gold coin made to the world standard of 24 karart, four nines (.9999 fine) gold, but the proof coin, which carries a very hefty premium, has seen its mintage decline substantially in recent years.

    The 2015-W coin had sales of 16,591 as of December 2015 when it became unavailable compared to the previous low in 2013 of 18,599.

    Collectors love the design but are probably growing tired of paying large premiums for a coin that is the same year after year with the exception of the 2013-W reverse proof coin and the 2008-W uncirculated coins.

    Doing something special for this year’s proof, and perhaps also for the bullion counterpart, would have helped to breathe new life into the series.

    Similarly, during the March 15 meeting of the CCAC in Washington, DC, the Mint’s staff announced plans for the 20th anniversary American Platinum Eagle proof coin, which is to simply reissue the design of the first proof coin issued in 1997 that has appeared on all bullion issues for 20 years. 

    This is the case even though the product manager at the Mint in this area recommended three possible options: proof, reverse proof, or enhanced proof.  The second was used in 2007 for the 10th anniversary, so it would make sense to do the third, enhanced proof, especially if no new design will be used.

    This lost opportunity is especially glaring because the APE proof series has seen some of the best artwork of any modern U.S. coin series, and it is the only ongoing American Eagle program which has utilized the concept of changing reverses.  In the earlier years the half ounce coins had a different reverse each year, and more recently the one ounce proofs have done that. 

    The Mint will continue to lose market share to other world and private mints unless it becomes bolder and more imaginative with its coin programs, which it could do without losing its distinctly American character.    

    Will Collectors Embrace Black Lady Liberty?

    March 16, 2016 4:41 PM by Louis Golino

    On March 15 the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee recommended designs for the 2017 American Liberty, high relief $100 gold coin and silver medal during a meeting at the U.S. Mint headquarters in Washington, DC.

    Their mandate was to select an obverse design with a modern version of Liberty that reflects the racial and ethnic diversity of 21st century America, and a reverse with a contemporary eagle.

    Many of the design candidates the committee received were underwhelming artistically and some of the nicest ones were more classic than modern.

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    The design the committee recommended of an African-American woman wearing a crown of stars, as Paul Gilkes noted, is an homage to the Statue of Freedom that sits at the top of dome of the U.S. Capitol.

    As happened last year, when a multicultural liberty design was recommended, the new designs set off a firestorm of criticism of the obverse the committee selected. 

    Once again most collectors who expressed an opinion said they did not like the design, would never buy the coin or medal, and that it was all part of a politically-motived and politically-correct agenda, a parting salvo perhaps from the first African-American president in history, as some speculated.

    But the notion that this project is politically-driven, or that President Obama is behind a push for a black liberty, is patently absurd.  The mandate to reflect racial and cultural diversity reflects the fundamental ideals of our nation and is not some kind of directive from the current administration. 

    This would be, as far as I know, the first African-American liberty since she is normally shown as a white woman of European origin depicted in a Greco-Roman style as in the work of Augustus Saint Gaudens, or as a native American, as on the Indian gold eagles, half eagles, and quarter eagles, but never specifically black.

    Though I initially gravitated to some of the other candidates, upon further reflection I think it would work well in a high relief format because the coin will be the size of a half dollar.  With that format a simpler rather than busy design is much better, and the cheek bones will look good in relief, as one committee member noted.

    Plus the committee wanted a profile rather than another standing image like last year and as on most classic coins. My only caveat would be that if the idea is to show the true racial/ethnic diversity, then next time let's see a Hispanic or Asian liberty or something else.

    While most agree beauty comes in many forms, there is no point in trying to make someone else like your version of beauty if they don’t like it. 

    But given the fact that African-American women have only appeared until now on a couple of commemorative coins and never as liberty, why not a black liberty now?  And why is it that every time an African-American female design is recommended or selected there is a loud chorus of opposition from collectors?

    Many say why not stick with the classical representations of Liberty, but that ignores the whole point of this program, which is to move beyond those designs and depict a modern Liberty. 

    So the jury is out, to say the least, as to whether collectors will warm to the obverse design as many did last year, and at the moment it appears unlikely that many will embrace a black Liberty.

    I would also add that the Mint would do well to better communicate its plans regarding this series, which caught many people by surprise after hearing the Mint decided last year not to make this an ongoing series.

    It would have been preferable to have a gold coin and silver medal each year starting in 2015.  Instead, we had a 2015 gold coin, a two silver medals that could be proof or business strike coming later in 2016, and then a gold coin and silver proof medal in 2017, if the plans the Mint laid out yesterday are implemented.

    Collectors like continuity and appreciate advance notice and an explanation of the goals behind specific programs and the symbolism of the imagery in designs.

    Bowers Guide Book for the Three Silver Series that Turned 100 in 2016

    March 10, 2016 4:45 PM by Louis Golino

    In this column I like to periodically highlight significant numismatic reference books.  With the recent announcement by the U.S. Mint of the April 21 release of the first of its trio of gold coins (the dime) honoring the centennial of the three liberty-themed silver series that began in 1916, now is a good time to pick up a copy of Q. David Bowers’ excellent guide book to these coins. 

     

    The book is part of Whitman Publishing’s long-standing Official Red Book series of in-depth guides to specific U.S. and world coins series, which are indispensable sources for the collector or numismatic researcher.

    Like his popular guide to the Morgan dollar, this book, which was released in late 2015, provides all the key information someone interested in collecting one or more of these terrific classic silver coin series needs.

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    One of the many strengths of Bowers’ approach is the way he grounds each series in its historical context, explaining to the reader the genesis of the Mercury dime, Standing Liberty quarter, and Liberty Walking half dollar.  These coins, struck from 1916 to 1947, were issued during a tumultuous era in U.S. history that spanned two world wars, the Roaring Twenties, and the Great Depression.

    This is also the period when the U.S. became a global power on the world stage, largely as an outgrowth of its involvement in the two wars.  As historian Roger Burdette aptly says in his introduction, the new designs of 1916 “embody the aspirations and fears of an America that stepped hesitantly from behind her protective barrier and into the unknown of the larger world.” 

    Collectors, whether they built type sets or specialized in one or more of the series, or simply admired their fetching designs, have always loved these three depictions of Lady Liberty, whose symbolism is very important to a nation of people who love liberty and the pursuit of freedom.    

    Each was created to replace the unloved designs of U.S. Mint Engraver Benjamin Barber, and interestingly they were a product not only of a design competition, but also grew out of a grassroots approach that began with an influential coin club of the time, whose members encouraged the Mint to develop better coin designs.

    In addition to an overview of the origins of each series and a year by year review of important events in the country at this time, the book also provides a coin by coin and mintmark analysis, focusing on striking characteristics and other critical factors to look for in each coin.

    In addition, there is help to grade these coins, certified population and retail price information, buying tips, information on errors and die varieties, the artists, past Mint directors, pattern coins, and even a brief overview of the plan for the 2016 centennial gold issues based on what was known at the time of writing, which is really no more than we know today apart from the release date for the dime.

     

     

    Palladium Proof Eagles Need to Be Done Right

    March 3, 2016 11:18 AM by Louis Golino

    As Paul Gilkes reported recently, the U.S. Mint is surveying its customers about the possibility of issuing a series of palladium coins in the usual four sizes- one ounce, half-ounce, quarter-ounce, and tenth ounce.

    I think such a series of coins could be a nice addition to the product lines the Mint offers.

    However, there are several caveats.

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    First, if collectors are going to buy these coins the premiums will need to be lower than those suggested in the survey, which amount to 60%-65%, 72%-78%, 84%-88% and 90%-110% respectively.

    Those premiums are much higher than the ones the Mint charges for other precious metal coins like American Gold Eagle proof coins, and they would be a serious drag on sales.

    Second, palladium, like platinum, is not traded nearly as widely as gold and silver are.  In the past sales of American Platinum Eagles have tended to be sluggish with the exception of the one-ounce bullion coins when offered at competitive prices.

    So the Mint will need to make this offering as attractive as possible by pricing it at the right level and also by choosing the designs carefully and by limiting mintages rather than minting to demand.

    There is definitely a lot of interest in using the Adolph Weinman-designed proposed obverse based on the obverse of his Winged Liberty dime and the proposed reverse based on the eagle that appeared on his American Institute of Architects gold medal. 

    But if the series is to be ongoing, I think many collectors would welcome changing designs perhaps on the reverse side as has been done most years on American Platinum Eagle proof coins.

    Of course, the designs would need to be compelling.  Many possibilities exist such as different eagle designs, an area where the Mint has a lot of experience and a lot of designs that were considered but not selected for various coin programs.

    It would be helpful to survey customers on their interest in changing designs and what themes would appeal to them, but there is little doubt that liberty themes and eagles would be of strong interest to most collectors.

    Another consideration is making sure the Mint can secure sufficient supplies of palladium planchets.

    If done right, a series of American Palladium Eagle proof coins would be a nice complement to the Mint’s other American Eagle series.  With the coming end of the First Spouse gold coin series, it would also help fill a major gap in revenue from that development.

     

     

    U.S. Mint Can Learn from Other Mints

    February 22, 2016 4:04 PM by Louis Golino

    There has always been, as I have suggested before, a substantial difference between modern U.S. numismatic coins and the typical collector pieces issued by other world mints.

    The U.S. Mint tends to issue coins that are more traditional in appearance and does not follow all the latest fads and trends in advanced minting, although it does innovate and follows what other mints are doing.  For example, the enhanced uncirculated technique borrows from the Royal Canadian Mint’s pioneering of laser frosting to make certain elements of a coin’s design more distinctive.

    And as many collectors know our mint consulted with the Paris Mint and Royal Australian Mint to produce the award-winning 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative since those mints had experience producing curved coins that the U.S. Mint did not at that point.

    When it comes to some of the more unusual types of coins other mints produce such as odd shapes, or the use of crystals and other materials as inserts, the U.S. Mint has hewed to a more conservative approach that seems to suite most of its buyers just fine. 

    Another technique, namely, selective gilding, or gold plating, which is popular on world issues from other mints, may or may not prove popular with U.S. coin buyers, but one approach I know they do like is high relief striking, which has become very popular with world coin buyers because it gives coins the appearance of three-dimensionality. 

    Until now just two gold coins, the 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle and 2015 American Liberty High Relief $100 coin have been issued in high relief, and a silver medal version of the 2015 coin is planned for later this year. 

    But it is time for the U.S. Mint to also issue silver coins in high relief, perhaps starting with the 30th anniversary of the American Silver Eagle and extending to other programs as well.  In fact, a two coin set of high relief American Silver and Gold Eagles would be a nice way to mark the third decade of both programs.

    Until now it was necessary to make high relief coins thicker and with smaller diameters than non-high relief issues, but all that has changed thanks to a new technology called smartminting that has been developed by the prestigious private mint, Coin Invest Trust, in Lichtenstein.  CIT is well-known for producing gorgeous, highly intricate pieces like the award-winning Tiffany series.

    Smartminting allows high relief coins to be made with much larger diameters and makes it possible to produce coins with a depth of relief that was not previously possible. 

    At the recent World Money Fair in Berlin CIT unveiled a dazzling array of coins struck with smartminting that will be hitting the market over the next couple months.  For example, there are two versions of a coin commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Great Tea Race in 1866, a 2-ounce silver piece with ultra high relief in the billows of the ship, and an 8-gram version of the same coin with the diameter of a 1-ounce coin and considerable relief, which is impressive for a coin of that weight. 

    It would be a good idea for our Mint’s officials to consult with CIT about smartminting and with other world mints like the Perth Mint that have extensive experience issuing high relief coins.

    And this would not be anything new or unusual since as Jeff Starck wrote in the February issue of Coin World, the U.S. Mint has been inspired by the work of other world mints for a long time.

    ATB Demand May Not Reach New Maximum Mintage

    February 10, 2016 11:59 AM by Louis Golino

    Earlier this month I was surprised when a friend of mine told me he heard the mintages for the 2016 5-oz. silver America the Beautiful coins had been increased, according to someone who contacted the U.S. Mint about the issue.  So I made an inquiry to the Mint.

    On February 3 I received this response from Michael White in the Mint’s Office of Public Affairs: “The current authorized mintage limit for both numismatic and bullion 2015 America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Coins for Shawnee National Forest is 150,000 coins. An announced mintage limit of 30,000 coins has been set for the America the Beautiful Five Ounce Shawnee National Forest Uncirculated Coin.  However, based on demand, the United States Mint may mint and issue more than the minimum of 120,000 America the Beautiful Five Ounce Shawnee National Forest Silver Bullion Coins so long as the United States Mint does not exceed the 150,000 coin limit.”

    There seems to be some confusion within the numismatic media about this change since I have seen reports stating that the mintage for these coins has been increased to 150,000 coins, which is not accurate.  It is only the authorized maximum mintage that has been increased to this amount, which does not in itself mean that many coins will be produced. 

    The key point is that demand will determine how many coins are minted.  Depending on the level of demand, we could see mintages much lower than 150,000 for the two versions of each coin.

    In fact, I suspect that only one 2016 release in this program has a chance of reaching this level of demand and that is the coin that will honor the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which will be released in October.

    Collectors are concerned that minting so many coins will dilute the value of the 2016 issues, which will be true if so many coins are actually made. 

    But since this series began in 2010, only two coins, the 2011 Gettysburg and Glacier National Park coins, sold enough to reach this level with sales of the bullion versions were 126,700 plus 35,000 of the “P” version, or 161,700 total for those two issues. 

    Last year, for example, no bullion coin in the series sold more than 45,000 coins and the “P” versions have been averaging a bit under 20,000, so it is not clear why the Mint decided to raise the max to more than twice the level of sales of any coin since 2011.

    Perhaps it is because they are eager to sell more silver coins given