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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 'October 2017'

    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.