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Paul Gilkes

Mint State

Paul Gilkes

Paul is a senior editor and has been a member of the Coin World staff since 1988. Paul covers the U.S. Mint beat and has memorably reported for more than two decades on many of the hobby's most important stories including the record sale of the Farouk/Fenton 1933 double eagle and the ongoing legal proceedings of the Langbord 1933 double eagles. He received a bachelor of arts degree from Grove City College in Pennsylvania and collects autographs and memorabilia from The Andy Griffith Show.

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Archive for '2017'

    Sleeping bear needs to come out of hibernation

    November 2, 2017 12:13 PM by Paul Gilkes

    Counterfeit United States coins, including bullion issues, have been infiltrating the American market on an ever-increasing basis for nearly a decade with little or no intervention from the federal government.

    That is, until now.

    Two congressmen, Reps. Alex Mooney from West Virginia and Frank Lucas, an avid coin collector from Oklahoma, are seeking answers from the U.S. Mint and Secret Service as to what measures are being taken to stem the tide of the fake coins entering the American economy from China and elsewhere.

    The congressmen are also seeking answers as to what the Mint is doing with technology to ensure the integrity of coinage products produced by the U.S. Mint.

    Lucas and Mooney were prompted to action based on the tireless efforts of the Industry Council for Tangible Assets’ Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force, and its director of anti-counterfeiting, former Coin World editor Beth Deisher.

    David J. Ryder, the 34th director of the U.S. Mint and President Trump’s pick to become the 39th, said during his nomination hearing that anti-counterfeit initiatives would be among his top priorities if confirmed.

    And Ryder has the credentials to back it up, with 25 years since his first tenure as Mint director spent working in coin and paper money security.

    illustrated above, a plated base metal counterfeit of a 2009-dated American Eagle gold bullion, is just one example of the type of fakes that have entered the marketplace.

    Tackling the proliferation of United States counterfeit coins has been largely ignored for way too long. It’s time the sleeping bear wakes up and takes action before the problem gets any worse.

    Lost opportunities with platinum, palladium

    October 13, 2017 2:01 PM by Paul Gilkes

    The U.S. Mint needs to reexamine how it produces its bullion coins.

    While the 1-ounce gold and silver American Eagle bullion coins, 1-ounce gold American Buffalo and 5-ounce silver bullion America the Beautiful quarter dollars are being struck to order, the 1-ounce bullion versions of the platinum American Eagle and inaugural palladium American Eagle are being treated more like numismatic issues, with limited mintages.

    None of the Mint’s bullion products are sold directly to the general public.

    The Mint sells the bullion releases through its network of authorized purchasers at a set premium above the closing spot price of the specific metal per troy ounce on the London market.

    The authorized purchasers, who offer a two-way market buying and selling the coins, then sell the bullion issues into the secondary market at a markup.

    For 2017, the U.S. Mint struck and issued for sale to its authorized purchasers 20,000 platinum American Eagles. They were all sold on Jan. 29, the first day they were offered. Authorized purchasers wanted more, but the U.S. Mint has not had any more platinum Eagles struck and offered since.

    And for the first year of the palladium American Eagle, only 15,000 were made available on Sept. 25, the one and only day the coins were offered to authorized purchasers.

    These approved buyers wanted more platinum and palladium American Eagle bullion coins based on customers wants. I know, because I asked the authorized buyers. They needed more coins to meet the public demand. The U.S. Mint didn’t meet that demand.

    You would think that the Mint, which is in the business of making money in more ways than one, would accommodate the demand and strike the palladium and platinum bullion issues to order.

    It means more revenue for the Mint, since the bullion issues can’t be sold back to the bureau. And it provides the authorized purchasers with the coins their customers demand.

    If the Mint is going to continue to strike the platinum and palladium Eagles in limited quantities, it should announce the specific numbers.

    I believe the bureau is making a big mistake by not increasing its production of these two bullion issues. It’s a lost opportunity.

    It's nice to be appreciated

    September 12, 2017 11:44 AM by Paul Gilkes

    My late father always found the time to express words of encouragement to me and my siblings in the form of an “Atta, boy!” or “Atta, girl!” It was nice to be recognized for our accomplishments and that somebody was taking notice even though we weren’t expecting any accolades. It still felt good, though.

    And those words still ring true, today.

    I’d like to shout out an “Atta, boy!” to Don Kagin from Kagin’s Auctions in Tiburon, California, and an “Atta, girl!” to 7-year-old Lillian Napier for her “Honorable Mention” design sketch submitted for Kagin’s auction catalog design contest for its Sept. 15 Santa Clara sale.

    Lillian contributed a colored pencil sketch on manila paper of a rendition of Lot 2014, which features the Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. example of a circa 1849 Moffat & Co. $16 gold ingot, one of just 20 examples traced. The ingot is graded About Uncirculated 50 by Professional Coin Grading Service.

    Don was thoughtful enough and compelled to reward Lillian’s creative work with items that hopefully will keep her numismatic spark alive for many years to come.

    Lillian was recognized with a full membership in the American Numismatic Association, a mega, deluxe edition of A Guide Book of United States Coins, commonly known as the “Mega Red,” and a PCGS certified Mint State 60 1881-S Morgan dollar.

    I’m sure Lillian appreciates Don’s gesture, and the numismatic community does, too.

    Lillian’s design contribution is illustrated on the inside back cover of the Sept. 15 Kagin’s auction catalog.

    Show us the assets!

    August 14, 2017 3:45 PM by Paul Gilkes

    Collectors and others who attended the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money August 1 to 5 in Denver had the opportunity to see a 1933 Saint-Gaudens $20 gold double eagle exhibited by the U.S. Mint. In fact two of them.

    The venue also served as the stage to display of the lone known example of an aluminum 1974-D Lincoln cent that Mint officials claim was never officially authorized to have been struck.

    The numismatic items are among tens of thousands of items that constitute what the Mint calls its “heritage assets.”

    The two 1933 double eagles are among 10 secured at the Fort Knox Gold Bullion Depository in Kentucky that the Mint “recovered” in 2005 after those in possession sent them to the Mint for authentication.

    After years of litigation leading all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, the government was awarded ownership of the 10 double eagles, all of which were put on display in 2006 by the U.S. Mint at the ANA convention in Denver.

    Only three other examples are publicly known – two in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution, and the purported King Farouk I coin, sold for $7,590,020 in 2002 and the only example deemed legal to own.

    The examples at the Smithsonian have been on public display off and on. The purported Farouk coin is on display at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

    The 1974-D aluminum cent was returned to the Mint in March 2016 after originally being given to a former Denver Mint deputy superintendent upon his retirement in 1980, a transfer U.S. Mint officials dispute.

    The U.S. Mint holds thousands of examples of “heritage assets” across the country. Some are on public display on the self-guided public tour at the Philadelphia Mint and guided tour at the Denver Mint.

    The San Francisco and West Point Mints as well as Fort Knox are off-limits to public access, but boast exhibits in their offices, hallways and common areas. Most items are hidden and haven’t seen the light of day since being placed into storage.

    These "heritage assets” include experimental, test and trial strikes of U.S. and foreign coins, U.S. medals, plaster models, galvanoes, production tooling, design sketches, and other materials associated with coin and medal production.

    The U.S. Mint sparingly has brought select materials out of the dark for display at ANA conventions, but those times have been few and far between.

    Since 2008, U.S. Mint Curator Robert Goler has spearheaded the documenting of 50,000 to 70,000 items that constitute the heritage assets that are added to on an almost daily basis.

    The goal, according to U.S. Mint officials, is to one day display some of the assets on a rotating basis to showcase the Mint's rich history.

    Let’s hope that the Mint follows through — and soon.

    The long and winding road ...

    July 17, 2017 9:15 AM by Paul Gilkes

    After six years of research and development into composition alternatives for circulating U.S. coinage, the U.S. Mint has not adopted any of the possible options studied thus far.

    In the 2016 Biennial Report to Congress, the third submitted under provisions of The Coin Modernization, Oversight and Continuity Act of 2010, Mint officials indicate additional study and test strikes need to be pursued before any options can be approved.

    The 2016 report was released July 12, seven months after its required submission to Congress in mid-December. The report didn’t make it to the Hill until early in 2017.

    The research and development was triggered by the costs to produce and distribute the cent and 5-cent coin more than doubling their face value. While still over face value, overall costs have significantly dropped, primarily from lower metal costs.

    Since submission of the 2014 report, the U.S. Mint has been evaluating five alloy options for the 5-cent denomination, with one of the options also tested for the dime and quarter dollar denominations.

    The Mint ceased study of alternatives for the copper-plated zinc cent after submission of the 2014 report in which although a compositional alternative was available, would not reduce overall costs below face value.

    Three of the five options offer possibilities for the 5-cent denomination, but additional testing is required to solidify their use in all phases of commerce. One of those options is copper, nickel and manganese; one copper, nickel and zinc; and one copper, nickel, zinc, and manganese.

    The 5-cent denomination is currently a homogenous mix of 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel, the same alloy that comprise the current outer layers for the dime, quarter and half dollar that are bonded to pure copper.

    The Mint is also studying two alternatives that could co-circulate with existing coinage instead of replacing what’s already in circulation.

    We’ll just have to wait and see what develops.

    What's the story?

    June 14, 2017 3:57 PM by Paul Gilkes
    We’re still waiting.

    It’s been 16 months since the U.S. Mint released details for a public design competition soliciting designs for the obverse and reverse of the 2018 World War I American Veterans Centennial silver dollar and still no announcement of the winning designer or their winning designs.

    What’s the holdup?

    The design competition, launched Feb. 29, 2016, includes that the lone artist who will receive $10,000 in compensation and have their initials sculpted into the design, would be announced in January 2017. January has come and gone as have February, March, April and May, and June is halfway there.

    And June is supposed to be the month the Mint announced they would disclose the winning designs and designers for the 2018 Breast Cancer Awareness three-coin program that includes a pink gold $5 coin.

    Will that announcement be held up, too?

    Collectors of U.S. commemorative coins, as well as those with a vested interest in the themes being depicted, want to know what the designs look like to determine whether they are worthy of adding to their collections.

    And the Mint is looking to hold more open design competitions for future commemorative coins.

    The designs for the 2018 World War I American Veterans Centennial silver dollar are to appear on up to a maximum of 350,000 coins in Proof and Uncirculated condition. And augmenting those coins will be five separate silver medals honoring the five military branches – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard – bearing designs executed by members of the U.S. Mint’s engraving staff and/or the Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program artists.

    Hasn’t the collecting public waited long enough?


    Get to know your currency!

    May 15, 2017 2:27 PM by
    It never ceases to amaze me that those individuals whose job it is to handle cash on a daily basis – bank tellers, cashiers in retail and grocery stores, restaurant servers, and gas station attendants, among others – don’t know much about the U.S. currency that passes through their hands, neither the paper nor the coins.

    Many that I’ve encountered focus, in the case of coins, on the diameter and color of the coin without giving much consideration to the design. Every coin within a denomination might as well look the same. If they see a dollar coin, they consider it an anomaly, or worse yet, a foreign coin or counterfeit.

    I had two instances in recent weeks where the currency in question was a $50 Federal Reserve note.

    While attending the Central States Numismatic Society Convention April 26 to 29 in Illinois, I talked with a dealer friend who had an unpleasant encounter with a supermarket check-out cashier who intimated he was trying to pass a counterfeit bill. She had looked at the placement of the security thread in the note as she held the note up to the light. The dealer retrieved the note and paid for his groceries with two $20 notes and a single $10 note, which the cashier accepted without even batting an eye.

    On May 6, while attending a Todd Rundgren concert in Columbus, Ohio, with a friend, my friend paid for his pizza with a new $50 note. The guy behind the bar counter held the note up to the light, again looking for the security thread. I provided him a short history lesson on the production of the note and explained that the mere existence of a security thread was not necessarily an indication of the note’s authenticity. He actually surprised me by having knowledge of some of the other security features of the current series.

    I “noted” (no pun intended) that the security thread on the current series of notes, although supposed to appear vertically to the right of the presidential portrait, could appear to the left if the security paper in which the thread is embedded before printing was improperly placed into the printing press at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Paper positioning will also affect the positioning of water marks. While such notes with the security strip appearing in the wrong position might bring into question their authenticity, they are not only genuine legal tender, they are also highly collectible error notes that command a premium above face value.

    If your knowledge of the security features on the current series of Federal Reserve notes denominated $5 through $100 is a little rusty, take the time to visit www.uscurrency.gov for an illustrated refresher. The U.S. Currency Education Program posted there is managed by the Federal Reserve Board.

    Gone in 120 seconds

    April 5, 2017 8:52 AM by

    The apparent two-minute sellout April 4 of the 2017 Congratulations set left the U.S. Mint in the position, once again, of not being able to please everyone.

    And it’s not likely that position will change with any future limited-edition offerings.

    Sufficient orders were placed within the first two minutes of the noon Eastern Time offering of the 75,000 sets containing a San Francisco Mint-struck Proof 2017-S silver American Eagle to fulfill the maximum number of sets available.

    Unlike the 2017 set, Congratulation sets from 2012 through 2016 contain West Point Mint Proof strikes of the silver American Eagle.

    The 2017 Congratulations set was offered by the U.S. Mint for $54.95, just $1 more than is being charged for the single 2017-W Proof silver American Eagle that went on sale March 23 without production limits or ordering restrictions.

    The Congratulations set is a numismatic product the U.S. Mint offers as a gift-giving option.

    One would have to live under a rock not to know that silver American Eagles, especially the Proofs, are likely the most popularly collected numismatic product the U.S. Mint offers.

    Demand was anticipated to be strong for the 2017 Congratulations set, and more so because the set was a limited edition.

    Add to that the fact the U.S. Mint did not impose any household order limits, the issue was bound to sell out quickly.

    But in two minutes? Unbelievable.

    The secondary market price for the 2017 set has doubled at minimum. Those able to capitalize are those who were successful in getting their orders accepted and confirmed during the miniscule window of opportunity and immediately shipped.

    Collectors of Proof silver American Eagles, and speculators, will have a second opportunity later in 2017 to obtain a Proof 2017-S silver American Eagle that will be included in the 2017-S Limited-Edition Silver Proof set.

    The release date, product limit, and pricing for that set has not yet been announced, but demand is also expected to be high for that option as well.

    The U.S. Mint is in the business of making money, no pun intended.

    This may sound like a broken record, but the U.S. Mint should consider a household ordering limit of two sets, at least for the first two weeks, then lift the restrictions.

    This will open availability to more customers, and lower the number of potential disgruntled hobbyists should they get shut out of ordering a set.

    No matter what the Mint chooses to do, somebody’s going to be unhappy.

    Spreading numismatic knowledge brings lesson in return

    March 8, 2017 3:20 PM by

    When I first reported early in January that the U.S.Mint was striking 2017-P Lincoln cents bearing the Philadelphia Mint’s P Mint mark for the first time in the bureau’s 225-year history, I wondered how long it would take me to find examples here in Coin World’s home city of Sidney, Ohio.

    Two months to be exact. I came across my first one March 7 at the local Tim Horton’s fast-food restaurant. I checked with the cashier to see if they had any more in their cash register, but no luck. 

    I did happen to find five more 2017-P Lincoln cents in a change jar sitting on the counter next to the register. I politely asked if I could swap out to the one-year type cents with older ones. I think the cashier thought I was nuts, but she agreed after talking to the manager.

    Who should protect the coin hobby from predatory sellers?: Inside Coin World: “Should the numismatic community ‘police’ the sellers of coins, medals, and related objects, even those dealers who fall outside of the mainstream dealer network?”

    The P Mint mark was added to the Lincoln cent for circulation strikes and the cents to be included in the 2017 Uncirculated Mint set, as part of the Mint’s year-long celebration of its 225th anniversary.

    The circulation strikes are coins collectors can add to their collections at face value. They’re likely not going to appreciate in value, since it’s anticipated the Philadelphia Mint will be striking billions of them.

    Since my reporting of the Mint’s unannounced decision to add the P Mint mark, I’ve checked with the staff working the registers at many of the places which I frequent or do business in searching for the cents — McDonald’s, Wal Mart, Walgreen’s, Kroger supermarket, and any restaurant.

    I also regularly checked a half dozen or so bank outlets.

    I tried to educate those I encountered about what I was looking for and why, in hopes that I may make a collector or two in the process.

    While trying to spread a little knowledge and being mostly greeted with blank stares, I learned a little lesson of my own. All of the coin handlers I dealt with, including the bank tellers, had no clue about the coins they received or dispensed. They paid no attention to the coin designs, date, Mint mark, or lack thereof. They just looked at the color and diameter and took it from there.

    I wonder why the Mint didn’t disclose they were adding the Mint mark and just spend a few dollars educating the public on the nation’s smallest denomination and most encountered coin. Maybe such a small gesture would be enough to spark an interest for a whole new generation of collectors. The hobby needs the boost.

    Kennedy half dollar product somewhat of a fluke

    February 15, 2017 9:21 AM by
    Have you ever wondered the genesis for some numismatic products offered by the U.S. Mint? Here’s one for the record books.

    The United States Mint has not struck Kennedy half dollars for general circulation since 2001, but that still hasn’t stopped hobbyists from adding such coins from the series to their collections. These are in addition to any Kennedy half dollar strikes produced for inclusion in annual Proof, Silver Proof and Uncirculated Mint sets.

    The Philadelphia and Denver Mints are still striking circulation-quality copper-nickel clad Kennedy half dollars in 2017, but the coins are being offered by the U.S. Mint to collectors at a numismatic premium above face value in 20-coin rolls and 200-coin mixed bags.

    How those numismatic products came about is somewhat of a fluke.

    In 2001, the Philadelphia Mint produced 21.2 million Kennedy half dollars for circulation, with the Denver Mint contributing another 19.504 million coins. Much of that production was executed during the waning months of the 2001 calendar year. Philadelphia didn’t start production until September, with 20 million coins struck that month toward the eventual 21.2 million total.

    While some of the 2001-D Kennedy half dollar production was pushed out into general circulation through the Federal Reserve, the Philadelphia Mint output was withheld from circulation release.

    It wasn’t until an enterprising dealer from Tennessee arranged to secure 100,000 of the Kennedy half dollars from the Philadelphia Mint production was there any chance of the issue in circulation-quality seeing the light of day.

    Arrangements were made by the dealer to have the coins shipped to the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta for pickup. Once U.S. Mint officials learned of the transaction, Treasury moved quickly and had the coins returned to Mint vaults from Nashville.

    At the close of the 2002 fiscal year Sept. 30, the Mint had in its vaults 15.1 million out of the 19.504 million Kennedy half dollars dated 2001-D and all 21.2 million 2001-P half dollars.

    With millions of Kennedy half dollars from 2001 and earlier sitting in Mint vaults, in November 2002, U .S. Mint officials announced the bureau would offer numismatic sales of circulation-quality 2002-dated Kennedy half dollars, and has done so annually since. The U.S. Mint never offered the 2001-dated half dollars as a numismatic product.

    The 2001 Kennedy half dollars that languished in Mint vaults for more than two years slowly began entering circulation from Mint vaults through the Federal Reserve beginning in October 2003, closing that chapter in U.S. Mint history.

    What other issues is the U.S. Mint keeping under wraps?

    January 16, 2017 12:04 PM by
    The numismatic community and public at large were totally caught off guard with the appearance in circulation of 2017 Lincoln cents bearing a P Mint mark. Many believed the 2017-P cents were counterfeit, since cents struck at the Philadelphia Mint beginning in 1793 do not bear a Mint mark.

    That is, until now.

    It wasn’t until Coin World was able to confirm with U.S. Mint officials Jan. 13 that the Lincoln cents struck for general circulation and those for 2017 Uncirculated Mint sets will bear a Mint mark for the first time in the U.S. Mint’s history that counterfeit concerns were debunked.

    U.S. Mint officials report the adding of the Mint mark was not formally disclosed so that the coin bureau could see how long it would take before the public would notice. North Carolina collector Terry Granstaff noticed on Jan. 13 when he received a 2017-P cent in change from a Black Mountain, N.C., gas station.

    Adding the Mint mark is part of the U.S. Mint’s year-long celebration of its 225-year history and recognition of the contributions from the Philadelphia Mint employees.

    Beginning in 2018, the cents struck at the Philadelphia Mint will return to being struck without releases the U.S. Mint might have that will go unannounced.

    One of the benefits to collectors, however, for the circulation-quality 2017-P Lincoln cents is that collectors will be able to obtain examples of the strikes at face value. The 2017-P cents in the 2017 Uncirculated Mint sets will carry a premium, since the coins will be included in a numismatic product with other coin denominations and offered at a premium above face value.

    Hopefully, the U.S. Mint will be offering in 2017 a number of celebratory 225th anniversary products that are not only appealing to current collectors, but may spark an interest to entice new collectors.

    It’s a win-win for the Mint and the hobby.