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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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Archive for '2017'

    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.