Steve Roach

The Art of Collecting

Steve Roach

Steve Roach, Coin World’s editor-at-large, has been deeply involved with numismatics for more than 20 years, starting as a young coin collector in Michigan. Two years spent as a coin grader, nearly three years at a major coin wholesaler and a stint as a paintings specialist at an international auction house have given Steve a rich understanding of the hobby, its market and the unique personalities and exceptional objects that make collecting meaningful. He joined Coin World in 2006 as a columnist, and has served as associate editor and editor-in-chief. He received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Michigan, a juris doctorate from the Ohio State University and is a Certified Member of the International Society of Appraisers.

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    Twenty-five years in the ANA? (How did this happen?)

    August 16, 2016 9:52 AM by

    The American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money has been a summer staple for me since 1994 when my dad took me to my first one in Detroit. That show was close to home and I was overwhelmed by its magnitude. Hundreds of dealers, more educational exhibits than I had ever seen, and every person who I saw pictures of and read about in Coin World were there. I was overwhelmed and fascinated.

    Next year followed in Anaheim, where my parents let me go with some coin collecting friends. Denver followed in 1996 and in subsequent years the ANA summer and spring shows have taken me to Portland, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Boston, Fort Worth, New Orleans and Chicago (a lot).

    This year I received my 25-year ANA membership pin and medal. It’s a bit odd to think of who I was when I joined the ANA in 1991 and what I expected from joining at the time. Did I see myself working in coins 25 years later and still being involved with the hobby? Probably not. But I enjoyed the ANA’s magazine, The Numismatist, and appreciated the outreach of ANA leaders like Florence Schook who suggested that I get more involved with the ANA’s Young Numismatist programs. 

    I absorbed all of the ANA’s YN programs and learned useful lessons in goal setting. Many of the friends I had 20 years ago at the last ANA Anaheim convention remain my friends today, and we have the opportunity to reconnect at the ANA’s shows and the ANA’s Summer Seminar.  

    On Thursday, August 11, I gave an ANA Money Talks presentation where more than 30 collectors joined me for a roundtable discussion of our hobby and where it’s going. The topic kept coming back to young people and how to get new people in the hobby. Suggestions came from all angles: a numismatic game similar to Pokemon Go for people to “find” and “collect” virtual coins, expanded Boy and Girl Scout programs, more online communities aimed at facilitating connections between collectors, and more.

    I don’t have the answers, but I know that our hobby in a decade will look different than it does today. That’s certain. I can’t help but wonder what I’ll think and where our hobby will be when I receive my 50-year pin in 2041. What I know is that the ANA will remain, steady in its dedication to educating and encouraging people to study and collect coins and related items. 

    Danaë detail: Numismatic connection in old master painting

    November 25, 2015 1:09 PM by

    What will be possibly the most expensive Old Master painting to ever appear at auction has a numismatic connection. Italian Baroque painter Orazio Gentileschi’s “Danaë,” dating from 1621 or 1622, will star in Sotheby’s Jan. 27, 2016, sale of Old Master Paintings in New York, with a presale estimate of $25 million to $35 million. Sotheby’s has called it an “undisputed masterpiece” and “one of the most Important Baroque paintings to come to market since World War II.”

    The painting, reportedly consigned by dealer Richard L. Feigen’s family trust, was previously on loan to the Metropolitan Museum in New York where it was installed among the museum’s permanent collection during the museum’s rehang of its European galleries in 2013. At the time, the museum hoped that the 13 objects on loan for the reinstallation, including the Danaë, would end up in the museum’s permanent collection, but instead, the painting is going to auction.

    The story of Danaë is a classic one in mythology that would have been well-known to contemporary viewers of the painting. She is confined to her chamber by her father, the king of Argos, and visited by Jupiter – god of sky and thunder – who impregnates her in a shower of gold. Gentileschi’s depiction uses Cupid to pull back curtains to reveal a nude Danaë, showered with gold coins and golden ribbons. The picture was commissioned in 1621 by the nobleman Giovanni Antonio Sauli for his palazzo in Genoa.

    Depictions of this scene often use gold coins to represent the shower of gold, and it seems that Gentileschi depicts gold coins with Jupiter’s thunderbolt, lest the viewer forget the mythological underlying story that serves as a reason to depict the nude female form.

    Sotheby’s added, “The nuanced treatment of the satin, linen and metals, combined with the refined composition of the overall setting, results in a sumptuous work of art and a dynamic representation of one of the defining moments of early seventeenth-century painting.”

    First Pogue Collection auction an appetizer for the coins to come

    May 20, 2015 3:55 PM by
    ​If the first auction of U.S. coins from the D. Brent Pogue Collection on May 19 served as an appetizer for the rest of the collection, which will be presented in six more auctions through 2017, the strong prices bidders paid for the 128 coins clearly indicate that numismatists are hungry for these rarities.

    How did Stack’s Bowers Galleries' and Sotheby’s auction stack up? The total prices realized for Pogue I exceeded $25 million with an average price per lot of nearly $200,000. Just a single coin sold for under $5,000: a Professional Coin Grading Service Mint State 66 1834 Capped Bust half dime that sold for a bid of $4,250 (or just under $5,000 when the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee was added).

    When Stack’s Bowers Galleries founder Q. David Bowers took the podium to introduce the Pogue auction, Bowers said that the first Pogue sale would be one of those auctions that will be remembered 50 years from now. As usual, Bowers was right. 

    Pogue purchased his coins from both dealers and at auction, so for many of the pieces, we have a public price history to look at. While most of his coins far exceeded what they realized on their last trip to the podium, a few did not. These exceptions serve as a reminder that even the finest collections accompanied with the best marketing need to be judged on their whole and that individual coins only tell part of the story.

    But what amazing individual lots! Take the sale’s first coin to crack the $1 million barrier: a 1796 Draped Bust quarter dollar graded PCGS MS-66. It was a typical Pogue coin (if any can be called typical) in that it had a rich ownership history that traced back nearly a century, gorgeous color and was of exceptional quality. That it is a popular one-year type, and the first year of the denomination, adds to the demand. It sold for $1,527,500, well above the pre-sale estimate of $750,000 to $1 million. A gorgeous 1797 Draped Bust, Small Eagle half dollar also graded MS-66 sold for the same amount.

    A single coin topped the $2 million mark: a stunning 1808 Capped Draped Bust gold $2.50 quarter eagle in PCGS MS-65 that brought a bid of$2 million (selling with buyer’s fee for $2,350,000).

    What’s incredible is that this is the first of seven planned auctions continuing through 2017 and this sale didn’t even have what’s considered the cream of the crop, including a Proof 68 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar that some believe will become the most expensive coin ever sold at public auction. If it does it will break the record established in 2013 when Stack’s Bowers sold a PCGS Specimen 66 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar from the Cardinal Collection for just over $10 million.

    Those in the room were privileged to watch the sale, although physically attending the sale at Sotheby’s showrooms on New York’s Upper East Side wasn’t necessary to get a feel for the room thanks to the streaming video available online at the Stack’s Bowers website. While nothing takes the place of actually being in an auction room, these simulcasts are helpful in documenting bidding increments and winning bidders (at least their bidder numbers) and help viewers get a sense of the overall pace and vibe of a sale.

    Just as looking at a photograph of a coin is an imperfect substitute for actually examining and handling a coin, so is watching an auction online. Yet, the live video of major auctions helps democratize the sale of great collections for those who may not have the resources (both in terms of money and time) to participate, either through bidding or attending the sale in person.  

    Youth and igniting a collecting spark

    May 15, 2015 3:14 PM by

    What does our hobby look like in 10 years?

    One thing is certain: the future of our hobby depends on young people being aware of coins and taking an interest in them.

    It is the spark that is essential, that curiosity about coins that can then either turn a young person into a young numismatist or, perhaps, just linger in dormancy for decades only to reemerge later in a person’s life.

    In chatting with Scott Rottinghaus for this month’s Q&A, Scott shared a story about his daughter Fiachra’s interest in numismatics. While she gave numismatics a try — even winning a few American Numismatic Association Young Numismatist literary awards — the collecting bug didn’t stick.

    Scott said: “I can’t tell yet whether she’ll be back to coins later on. My four younger children haven’t become interested beyond the wild enthusiasm that all young kids seem to have at the prospect of participating in what daddy is doing.”

    So what does it take to make a young person interested in the hobby?

    For both Scott and myself, the American Numismatic Association has been essential to our development from young collectors into adults, and from people curious about coins to numismatists.

    To that end, in the May 18 weekly issue of Coin World where I announced that I was transitioning from my role as Editor-in-Chief to an Editor-at-Large role, I also offered free one-year ANA Gold memberships for young numismatists (those under 17) to the first 50 people who got back to me.

    The offer still stands!

    The responses I received so far are absolutely heartwarming. As Peyton Strzalkowski wrote, “My sister and I like coin collecting because it teaches us about history here in America, countries around the world and because it is special time we get to spend with my dad, David. I also like going to shows and getting to see all the valuable coins that my dad doesn’t have in his collection.” Her father added that publications like Coin World “help keep kids, like my daughters, involved and ensures the future of our great hobby.”

    And what a great hobby it is! 

    Free ANA memberships for YNs: Click here!

    May 4, 2015 10:47 AM by

    I’m often asked what it will take to get younger people involved in coin collecting.

    For me, I followed a pretty normal path where my grandma gave me some old coins when I was 7. At 10 I started reading Coin World, and a few years later I checked out a local coin club show. As I became absorbed in coins, it started to make more sense that it would become my career.

    Throughout each step of my collecting journey, people were there to provide encouragement and guidance.

    Simply put: it starts at the individual level.

    Over the past six years at Coin World, I have had a chance to work with individuals who have made me sharper, wiser and have provided me an entirely new lens from which I can consider our hobby.

    Crafting each weekly and monthly edition of Coin World is the work of a team and each staff member has put his or her heart in the stories that appear in our pages. The same can be said for those who work behind the scenes to help Coin World remain both readable and viable.

    Knowing that Bill Gibbs will be leading the staff going forward in his new role as managing editor gave me the confidence I needed to move into a newly created editor-at-large role.

    Since 1976, Bill has been a backbone of Coin World. He leads by example, always making sure that quality and accuracy define our stories. I’ll continue to work closely with the brand and with Bill so that Coin World — both in print and online — can continue to meet the needs of our hobby and our readers.

    For me, stepping into an editor-at-large role made sense since the one thing I was missing at Coin World was actually physically working with coins. It’s one thing to share wonderful stories about the history of coins and our hobby, but as a collector at heart, there are few things that beat the experience of handling a coin.

    My most meaningful moments in the hobby have come from introducing people to our hobby and helping people engage in it, and this new role will allow more of these interactions.

    When you see me at a coin show, make sure you say hi! I’m always excited to talk coins. 

    Which brings me back to the original question: What will it take to make young people interested in the hobby?

    The American Numismatic Association has provided me with my foundation in numismatics, so why not spread the wealth?

    If you’re a young numismatist (which means you’re under 18) or want to introduce a YN to the hobby, let me know! I’ll pay for a new one-year Gold ANA membership to the first 50 YNs who reach out to me by email at and let me know what they like about coin collecting.

    I’ll end by saying thank you: to our staff, columnists, contributors and our many readers. 

    My personal journey in numismatics has been more than I could ever have imagined as a 10-year-old reading Coin World, and thankfully, it is far from over. 

    The 1933 double eagle’s story is one that continues to be written

    April 24, 2015 12:58 PM by

    1933 Saint-Gaudens $20 gold double eagles occupy a unique position among U.S. coins. In 2013 in The New York Times, I characterized the example that was allegedly owned by Egypt’s King Farouk and later sold at a 2002 Sotheby’s/Stack’s auction for a then-record $7,590,020 as “The Hope Diamond of numismatics.”

    The comparison of the 1933 double eagle to the 45.52-carat deep blue diamond in the Smithsonian seemed good shorthand for the coin’s mystery, value, beauty, and fame.

    The story of the 1933 double eagles continues to be written, although currently the authors are judges and attorneys as the case weaves its way through the U.S. court system.

    My understanding of this case has long been intertwined with Coin World. I remember in high school and college reading about the dramatic seizure of the “Farouk” example in 1996 and its subsequent sale. I followed with interest the brewing lawsuit in 2005 when the Langbord coins were discovered and ultimately claimed by the government as property, and continued to cover the case as it developed including daily trial coverage in 2011 and beyond.
    Now, as these coins might enter the marketplace, they may travel far and wide to private collections where they will be graded, regraded, sold and resold, lost and found.

    As I write my final editorials as Coin World’s editor-in-chief, I reflect on the stories that link each of us to coins, and make our hobby so much more than just acquiring objects.

    I look forward to continuing to share the story of these infamous double eagles, and exploring new ways to personally connect people with the pleasures that come from learning about, and ultimately owning great coins. 

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    Langbord case: What are those 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagles worth?

    April 17, 2015 5:29 PM by

    It's wild for me to think that I started full time at Coin World in 2009, and the Langbord 1933 double eagle case was in full swing. Now, six years later, the case continues to have twists and turns as it evolves.

    From daily trial coverage at the 2011 trial in Philadelphia, to dozens of follow-ups, it’s a case that has never bored me. Here’s the latest development, which is a game-changer for the coins and potentially the hobby.

    As I reported earlier today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on April 17 vacated a previous declaratory judgment by a district court that declared the coins as government property that was unlawfully removed from the U.S. Mint.

    That decision vacated a July 21, 2011, jury decision where 10 jurors unanimously ruled in favor of the government, concluding that the coins were illegally obtained from the U.S. Mint.

    While the government is now weighing its options, the Langbord familys attorney Barry Berke is optimistic, stating, The Langbords are thrilled to receive their property back after fighting to vindicate their rights for over a decade.

    So the big question is, what exactly are these 10 1933 double eagles worth?

    I did my best to answer that question at the outset of the 2011 trial.

    Here's what I wrote in Coin World just before the original trial began that July:

    We know what the coins grade since Numismatic Guaranty Corp. reported Nov. 3, 2009, that it had graded one coin Mint State 66, two MS-65, six MS-64 and one with an NGC Uncirculated Details, Improperly Cleaned grade.

    When pricing any object, one first looks at comparables — other objects of similar type and quality and the prices they sold for. In 2002, the 1933 double eagle allegedly owned by Egypts King Farouk sold for $7,590,000 at auction. It graded MS-65 and was — and currently is — the only 1933 double eagle that can be legally owned by an individual.

    So if the coins are ruled private property, are the Langbord 10 worth around $7 million each?

    That's unlikely. When multiple examples of an object enter a market, the demand/supply ratio changes. While the added publicity helps — meaning that more people know what a 1933 double eagle is and may want one — its not enough to compensate for the fact that the coins are not unique.

    A parallel in the art market is when an artists estate is valued for estate tax purposes, a blockage discount is sometimes used. This assumes that the works are sold at once, depressing the market. To maximize value, prudent estates use long-range marketing, which places objects into the market slowly, responding to the ebbs and flows of demand and artist reputation.

    What pricing comparables do the 1933 double eagles have?

    Perhaps most obvious is the 1927-D Saint-Gaudens double eagle, considered by some the rarest regular issue coin of the 20th century. Around 10 are collectible today from a mintage of 180,000. They are sold infrequently. The last example at public auction was an MS-66 that realized $1.495 million at a January 2010 auction.

    Seeing that the prices for the top objects in many collecting categories are going sky high, with proper marketing to buyers beyond the existing coin-market, the 10 Langbord 1933 double eagle coins could be worth around $2 million each, perhaps more.

    But how many more examples remain to be discovered is a troubling, lingering question.

    Especially as the market for multi-million dollar rarities expands, there could be a wider market for these 10 1933 double eagles than there was in 2011.

    And I look forward to continuing to cover these coins as they proceed though the legal system and potentially enter the numismatic marketplace.

    What opera can teach us about collecting (and the difference between good and great)

    April 17, 2015 2:41 PM by
    This month for the Q&A I had the pleasure of chatting with my friend Mark Van Winkle. Mark has cataloged many of the greatest rarities in numismatics in his job as chief cataloger at Heritage Auctions, but he’s also passionate about the arts, specifically opera.

    During our conversation I asked him, “What can the opera teach someone about collecting coins?”

    While I’ve never been much of an opera fan, I’m always curious how people find connections with the various passions in their lives, and how these connections enhance things.

    Mark shared this story: In the 19th century, there were two prominent German operatic composers, Giacomo Meyerbeer and Richard Wagner. Meyerbeer was popular during his lifetime, but is little remembered today while Wagner is undoubtedly even more popular today than during his lifetime.

    Why is one remembered and the other all but forgotten?

    The answer is the difference between good and great. In U.S. numismatics, who is better remembered a hundred years after his death: Charles Barber or Augustus Saint-Gaudens? Obviously, Saint-Gaudens. Although Charles Barber created serviceable, traditional neoclassical designs that could be struck with one blow from a steam press, Saint-Gaudens adapted the three-dimensionality of sculpture to coin designs, something no one before (or arguably since) had done.

    His coins were certainly a challenge to produce, but the results were magnificent. Greatness is remembered, while mediocrity is relegated to history’s dust-bin.

    How does this relate to coin collecting? 

    Think of the names that continue to pop up in numismatics: they’re typically collectors who assembled magnificent groups of coins or those who have made a lifetime of contributions to the hobby and our collective numismatic knowledge base. 

    When you think of your collection, which coins bring the most pleasure or hold the most meaning? Just as with one’s home, a coin collection can benefit from a spring cleaning to weed out the mediocrity and allow more room for greatness.

    Introduce someone to our hobby during National Coin Week 2015

    April 10, 2015 3:07 PM by

    We get dozens of club publications each month in our Sidney, Ohio, Coin World office.

    Reading these gives me a great feel for where our hobby is at the local level, and it’s been refreshing this year to see how many clubs are planning public programming for National Coin Week.

    This year’s NCW marks the 92nd installment of this annual event that takes place during the third week of April. It’s organized by the American Numismatic Association and each year has a different theme, meant to inspire discussion and unique programming.

    In 2015 NCW takes place April 19 to 25 and is titled: “Building Tomorrows: Inspiration and Innovation at World’s Fairs.”

    Kudos to ANA member Esther Leising who submitted the winning theme, as 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, which is well-known to collectors for the gorgeous (not to mention rare and expensive) round and octagonal gold $50 commemorative coins issued in celebration. There were also 1915-S Panama-Pacific commemorative silver half dollars, gold dollars and gold quarter eagles, as well as a host of other numismatic mementos.

    As Jeff Starck noted, “Expositions have a rich numismatic history, from the prize medals awarded to participants or coins and medals struck on the grounds or in commemoration.”

    It’s a great topic and local clubs across the nation are planning presentations and exhibits in public spaces including libraries and schools to expand the reach of numismatics.

    NCW is one of the many rich traditions that continue to bring visibility to our hobby. The continued viability of NCW is dependent on the generous local clubs and individuals who plan activities to introduce numismatics to new people who may eventually become collectors. 

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    A success in Virginia, but state tax issues continue to threaten hobby

    April 7, 2015 2:20 PM by

    Shifting state tax laws as they relate to the retail sales of coins and bullion continue to cause headaches for our hobby. 

    Dealers, collectors and numismatic organizations including the Industry Council for Tangible Assets should be applauded for their efforts to bring attention to this area and make changes at the state legislature level. 

    For example, Virginia recently passed a bill that provides a sales and use tax exemption that includes gold, silver, and platinum purchases totaling more than $1,000. 

    This could not have happened without the work of many dealers, including David Lawrence Rare Coins’ John Feigenbaum and ICTA. The groundwork for this exemption took hundreds of hours of effort and many months. The law becomes effective on July 1, 2015, and it makes Virginia as the 32nd state to have an exemption, according to ICTA.

    Yet, the exemption could have been wider. Virginia’s governor Terry McAuliffe did not elect to expand the exemption to all legal-tender coins (regardless of their metal content) and paper money. 

    So, the effort will continue in Virginia as it does in other states. 

    Sales and use taxes have a real impact on dealers and collectors. 

    Pennsylvania’s proposed $78.6 billion 2015–16 budget includes various ways to address a $2.3 billion budget deficit, including raising the state sales tax from 6 percent to 6.6 percent and removing an exemption on investment metal bullion and rare coins. 

    The budget notes: “An unknown number of individuals and businesses engaged in the purchase and sale of investment bullion and coins benefit from this tax expenditure.” 

    However, while the state doesn’t know the number of individuals impacted, it has a firm handle on the money it’s lost, and what it stands to gain with the additional taxation.

    The state estimates that the coin and bullion exemption during 2013–14 cost the state $9.3 million and forecasts the potential revenue for taxing coins and bullion for 2015–16 as $12.2 million. This number increases to $14 million in the next budget cycle before concluding at $21.1 million in 2019–20. 

    That steady rise in forecasted tax revenue assumes that numismatic business will stay in the state. 

    However, when state sales tax laws become unpredictable or punitive to coin dealers, dealers often move. 

    Several large dealers that I’ve chatted with in Pennsylvania are considering moving to more tax-friendly climates such as Florida or Texas.

    RELATED: Pennsylvania dealer leaving state to avoid proposed sales tax

    Should the exemption be lifted and coins be subject to state sales tax, this will surely put a chill on the 2018 American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money, scheduled for downtown Philadelphia. While ANA officials have expressed concern, the sales tax threat is becoming more real with each passing year. 

    Is being a coin collecting ‘oddball’ such a bad thing?

    March 31, 2015 11:44 AM by

    Are numismatists oddballs, and is that necessarily a bad thing? 

    Several of our eagle-eyed readers picked up on Jessica Pressler’s March 20 review of Kabir Sehgal’s new book Coined: The Rich Life of Money and How its History Has Shaped Us published in New York Times Book Review

    Pressler writes that the book’s author (an investment banker) is “not unaware of his privilege, and his thoughtfulness comes across as a pleasant surprise, particularly in the latter half of the book, where he introduces a gang of numismatists — coin collectors — whose hobby in the social food chain probably ranks somewhere below gold bugs and just above Civil War reenactors.” She adds, “Sehgal is respectful, even affectionate toward these oddballs,” ending the review, “Cool story, bro.” 

    Perhaps a harsh assessment.  

    Considering that, generally speaking, numismatists are financially successful, well-educated and among the most interesting people I’ve encountered, as a numismatist, I suppose I’ll wear the oddball badge with pride.

    Opportunities abound in our 'fierce' hobby

    March 25, 2015 11:25 AM by
    Paul Gilkes, in his wonderful cover story in this month’s issue, writes that after 27 years working at Coin World, “I can’t help but notice the number of familiar faces of dealers that I encounter show after show, year after year.”

    Coin collecting and numismatics as an industry is one in which one’s knowledge base grows deeper and broader with the passage of time. Each coin show introduces a collector to new coins and people; each addition to one’s collection helps educate the buyer and each passing year in our hobby brings us new people to meet and things to collect and discover.

    The stories that Paul shares in this month’s issue, and in the coming weekly issues in April, have common threads throughout, including a love of the hobby and longevity in it.

    Many, if not most of the stories involve an interest in coins that starts young, including for Q. David Bowers, who has been active in coins since he was a curious 13-year-old in 1952.

    Another common thread is that each person has had help along the way, in the form of mentors who have helped them develop their skills as a numismatist. Some continued in a family business, others started working under a dealer, while others picked up the collecting bug from a family member.

    The subjects of Paul’s story also share a love of the deal and of placing coins with collectors. As Heritage’s co-chairman Steve Ivy told Paul, the business of numismatics is “fierce,” but one that is ripe for entrepreneurship.

    Our hobby rewards those who go after what they want, treat people with respect, and honor those who have helped them along the way.

    As I reflect on what I’ve learned here at Coin World, I’m thankful for the lessons that former Editor-in-Chief Beth Deisher instilled and continues to share. I’m amazed at the mastery and tireless dedication to quality that news editor Bill Gibbs showcases every day.

    Each member of our editorial staff teaches me something daily as they cover the world of numismatics in our pages and online, and our contributors and columnists continue to educate me alongside our readers.

    It is always exciting to be part of such a dynamic and interesting hobby, and as the individual stories in our feature article show, the possibilities in our hobby are endless for those willing to learn and take chances. 

    Balancing cultural property protection and private collecting

    March 16, 2015 11:59 AM by

    Memorandums of understanding between the United States and other nations to protect cultural property serve a noble purpose. The broad concept behind these MOUs is perhaps even more relevant today, as we’ve seen certain political groups attempt to wipe out the material history of entire cultures.

    However, for an MOU to be effective, it also needs to be practical and enforceable. The possibility of the extension of the MOU between the United States and Italy that includes Roman Imperial coins is very real, and could have a wide negative impact on the market for ancient coins in the United States.

    Blanket import restrictions on coins aren’t necessarily practical as ancient coins enjoyed wide circulation well beyond their place of creation. This makes it often impossible to determine whether a particular coin was discovered within Italy and is, thus, subject to the export control of Italy. Further, it’s challenging to prove a given coin was illegally excavated from a specific site.

    Further, these MOUs create an uneven playing field between collectors in the United States and those elsewhere, including Italy, who are not hampered by these restrictions.

    While the Cultural Property Advisory Committee once excluded coins, coins are now included in MOUs between the United States and Cyprus, China, Italy, Greece and Bulgaria.

    As attorney Peter Tompa wrote in his blog, “It has never made sense to place restrictions on ancient coins, particularly when there is large, open and legal internal market for the exact same sort of coins within Italy itself.”

    Tompa adds that the imposition of an MOU “must also be consistent with the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes.” Given that much numismatic scholarship is the result of private collectors, rather than museums or other cultural institutions, is it in the best interest to put in place broad restrictions that limit the collecting of these coins?

    Archaeologist Paul Legutko wrote in the public comments on the proposed MOU: “The academic field of classical archaeology would not exist today without the centuries of collecting that have stocked American museums and provided material for countless doctoral dissertations. It is hypocritical for academics to condemn the private ownership of antiquities, without which they would have neither their study material nor so many students in their classrooms.”

    Roman coins were more than a method of transferring value; they also communicated ideas and the power of Rome. Legutko observed, “The Romans who struck these coins would have welcomed the idea that these coins would travel thousands of miles to be studied and appreciated.”

    There are perhaps more effective ways to protect cultural property than implementing MOUs that include wide categories of objects that are too broad for practical enforcement.

    Mastery and the skill (and art) of readable numismatic writing

    March 9, 2015 3:47 PM by

    It’s currently a popular notion that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Coin World has been fortunate to have several longtime staff members who have developed true mastery of the skill (and art) of informative and entertaining numismatic writing.

    This issue represents Michele Orzano’s final week on the masthead, although you’ll likely see her byline in the weeks to come.

    Michele has been our go-to writer for all things paper money for more than two decades. A fixture at the Memphis paper money show, Michele’s knowledge of the paper money field will be missed.

    But, we’ll also miss Michele’s stories on the people who shape our hobby and make it into the fascinating place it is.

    She came to Coin World in 1985 not as a numismatist, but as a newspaper writer with an education in journalism. Her approach to storytelling, aversion to esoteric jargon and the way she has brought items together in her stories using plain-language reflects that experience.

    Writing about coins and paper money for 52 print issues a year, along with the additional daily demands of a robust website, isn’t easy.

    It takes patience, dedication and an understanding that our audience is specialized, but still wants interesting, readable stories that help them learn about things in their collection and introduce them to new collecting areas.

    Michele wrote beyond paper. For example, she was essential in Coin World’s coverage of the 50 States quarter dollars, from the program’s initial stirrings to the last coins for U.S. Territories and the District of Columbia in the follow-up program in 2009.

    She’s written hundreds of stories on the legislation that authorizes coins, new notes produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and banks around the world, and just about everything else numismatic.

    When I asked her what she’ll remember most about the hobby that she grew so familiar with, Michele wanted to thank “all the people who willingly gave of their time to answer my questions and teach me to look for the stories behind the collectibles we write about.”

    Writing about numismatics is a skill that can be learned with time and patience, but it takes a special person to do it well for nearly 30 years.

    The richness in background and the sense of how a singular event plays into history, as well as a memory of prior coverage provides an intangible depth to the stories written by our longtime writers, including William T. Gibbs (since 1976), Paul Gilkes (since 1988) and Jeff Starck (since 2003) that continues to inspire me (since 2006).

    Michele provides a high standard for the next generation of writers to aspire to, and the hobby is better off because of her work.

    Thank you, Michele, from all of us at Coin World. And thank you, our readers, for allowing us to join you each week as you pursue your hobby.

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    Unhappy with the ANA? Change it from within through leadership

    February 23, 2015 3:46 PM by

    The American Numismatic Association’s settlement of its legal issues with former executive director Larry Shepherd hopefully closes what has been an unusually litigious period in the ANA’s history.

    The settlement — the terms of which remain confidential — will hopefully move the organization forward by directing resources to further the ANA’s mission: numismatic education and the growth of the hobby.

    To ANA members who are particularly pleased with the direction of the ANA, why not take on an elected position within the organization to continue the trajectory?

    Or, to those who are displeased with the ANA and think that it’s headed in the wrong direction, why not change it from the inside by running for a seat on the ANA Board?

    The ANA is led by a volunteer board elected every two years for two-year terms. A president, vice president and seven governors are elected.

    ANA election nominations must be received prior to March 1, and candidates have until March 31 to accept or decline their nomination.

     As of Feb. 19, Jeff Garrett has accepted a nomination for president, Gary Adkins for vice president and Col. Steve Ellsworth and Richard Jozefiak have accepted nominations for governor positions.

    Election ballots will be sent by an independent auditing firm on or before June 1 to all ANA members entitled to vote. Learn more about the election process, keep track of who is running, and sign up for electronic voting at

    Publications like Coin World can ask questions of the ANA, but it’s up to the board to set direction for the ANA staff to follow. A good, service-minded board that looks critically and intelligently at the challenges facing the ANA and our hobby can propel our hobby forward, just as a bad board can set it back years.

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    Changing times need dynamic strategies

    February 17, 2015 3:40 PM by

    Reinvent or die.

    At least that’s how the Old Master painting market is approaching its business, in light of demand that is shifting toward the Modern and Contemporary category and a supply of top Old Master works that is rapidly declining.

    Old Master dealers and coin dealers alike are addressing shifts in the market by modernizing, embracing new technology and experimenting with different ways to make these sometimes dusty objects with often heavy, serious subjects relevant to a new generation of buyers. 

    Famed Old Master dealer Johnny Van Haeften reflected the thoughts of many coin dealers. Commenting on how he’s changed his business to reflect changing times he said, “I probably resisted change to start with, but it’s so important to keep up with the times,” before adding, “Now, I feel very relaxed about it, and very confident about the future.”

    Across nearly all collectibles categories — including coins — more rare objects are being sold at auction. According to Artnet, the value of fine art sold at auction has more than quadrupled in a decade, jumping from $3.9 billion in 2004 to more than $16 billion in 2014. Coin auctions have also exploded during this time period, with more big auctions filling the calendar with increasingly thick catalogs.

    Art, along with rare coins, remains attractive as a safe haven for wealth. 

    But unlike the U.S. coin market, which is fairly diversified with a broad middle-market, the painting market is becoming increasingly focused on a few paintings by a few artists. This means that dealers have two choices: either specialize closely or diversify widely. 

    Oddly, while the coin market has experienced a diversification and expansion that’s redefined what a $1 million coin can be, the top of the market has remained relatively stable for the past few years (at least as evidenced by auction results for name brand rarities like 1804 Draped Bust dollars and 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent pieces). 

    As the Old Master category expands, so must our hobby to remain relevant. Dealers and collectors alike need to remain flexible to adapt to changes in the marketplace.

    Do sexy depictions of Liberty make her any more relevant?

    February 6, 2015 1:08 PM by
    The varied depictions of Liberty in proposed designs for the 2015 High Relief $75 gold coin are nontraditional, at least by U.S. coin standards, in that some depict Liberty embodied as an African-American woman.

    Many of our readers have applauded these designs, while others have provided harsh criticisms.

    My take is that it’s about time that Liberty on our coins goes beyond generalized representations of Liberty in the Greek and Roman classical forms.

    But the designs were unusual in another sense (although one deeply rooted in history) in that many of the Liberties were overtly sexy. 

    Now, U.S. coins have been sexy in the past. Think of Liberty’s décolletage on Robert Scot’s Draped Bust design used on silver coins from 1795 to 1804. There was the scandalous exposed breast on the Standing Liberty quarter dollar design used in 1916 and 1917. 

    Liberty’s body is clearly revealed through clinging drapery on Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ gold double eagle of 1907 to 1933. She was even made “sexier” to a new generation in 1986 when she was slimmed down for the new American Eagle gold bullion coins. 

    Our trusted proofreader Fern Loomis had some thoughtful comments on the disconnect between visual depictions of Liberty and nudity. 

    She questioned, “Why is American liberty constantly touted as best represented on coins by a semi-clothed, often barefoot (why not pregnant, to go with that?) and bare-breasted young Caucasian woman? Any clothing she may carry, draped over a shoulder perhaps, or flimsily floated about her otherwise naked form, is of ancient style, from a time when, most American women today might agree, their fellow women were not granted much liberty.”

    She added, “ ‘Liberty as naked white woman’  has very little to do with any factual representation of either liberty or any portion of the population, and everything to do with who has long financed, and therefore shaped values of and creation of, what is considered ‘best’ in the worlds of money and art.”

    How does the concept of Liberty stay modern and relevant to today’s audiences? The varied depictions of Liberty should be representative of the diversity of America. 

    Fern’s point is well-taken.

    Is Liberty relevant to modern audiences if it is wearing tight, revealing or seemingly wet clothing (as seen on some of the proposed designs)?
    Is a sexualized depiction of Liberty really necessary to fully represent concepts of social and political freedom? 

    Margo Russell: We Remember a numismatic legend and her legacy

    January 30, 2015 12:06 PM by

    ​In preparing this week’s issue, I had the pleasure of being able to get to know someone who I never had the chance to meet: former Coin World editor Margo Russell, who led the publication for 23 years.

    Some of the most thoughtful remarks came from her successor, Beth Deisher. Writing in a March 20, 1985, Coin World editorial, Beth said: “Margo leads by example. She insists upon accuracy and fairness, yet she has never shied away from asking the tough questions. Her skill at diplomacy is legendary. Her energy level is seemingly inexhaustible.”

    Beth added, “Many have seen the high profile that her role as editor of the world’s largest weekly numismatic publication has dictated. But few have known of her quiet dedication to her family — her husband, her two daughters, her grandchildren, and her mother.”

    Margo — who was rarely at a loss for words — had a simple statement summarizing her years at Coin World: “They’ve been wonderful.”

    She received the Farran Zerbe Award from the American Numismatic Association, along with virtually every honor a numismatist could receive. The ANA named her a “Great Lady of Numismatics.” 

    Just as important, she and Beth were trailblazers: women who rose to leadership roles in a hobby and industry that is overwhelmingly male. For example, Margo was the only woman on the nine-member Amos Press Inc. Management Planning Group and attended advanced management courses in the 1970s, at a time when few women were taking this type of training.

    Thank you Margo. You shaped a generation of coin collectors. You will be missed by the hobby, and all of us at Coin World

    Facebook helps us continue the conversation with readers

    January 26, 2015 6:32 PM by

    Social media, especially Facebook, give us at Coin World a different perspective on what we publish as they allow our stories to reach out to an audience beyond our subscription base (and often beyond the coin collecting community).

    It’s tough for us to predict what will generate discussions. Stories on silver American Eagles and Morgan dollars are always popular, but so are ones that tie into news and current events. 

    For example, on Jan. 19 — Martin Luther King Jr. Day — we revisited a question we asked our audience in July 2014: Should MLK replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill?  

    The resulting comments were wide-ranging. 

    Some were thoughtful and logical, some were emotional. A few were indifferent (yet took the time to share that indifference) and others were irreverent (evidenced by a brief debate on whether Garth Brooks or Carrie Underwood was more deserving). 

    Social media allow us to have a type of conversation with our readers that is enlightening in showcasing the wide range of our audience and their views. 

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    Teaching history through numismatics

    January 20, 2015 12:24 PM by

    History is the entry point for many new collectors in our hobby. 

    Coins have the ability to take us back to points in time. None of our readers were around in 1815, yet as Bill Eckberg shares in his feature on the activity at the Philadelphia Mint in 1815, contemporary coins provide tangible evidence of the struggles of a new nation and Mint coping with war.

    It’s a popular trivia question (at least among coin collectors): what year were no cents produced? 

    The answer is usually 1815. 

    But numismatists love the details, and as Eckberg explains, that traditional answer is likely not that simple. 

    He writes, “Cents were struck in 1815, but no cents dated 1815 exist.” He suspects that the cents produced in 1815 were actually struck from a leftover die dated 1814, adding, “The surviving population of coins tells us that if the entire mintage for the date was the recorded 357,830, 1814 Classic Head cents are far more common, relative to the original mintage, than other Classic Head dates.” 

    Alternate explanations exist, including one that relates to a rumor in the 1830s that erroneously suggested that 1814 cents had trace amounts of gold, which could have led to hoarding and melting. 

    Questions like this keep coin collectors enthralled with our hobby and it is the connection to history that keeps many people involved in numismatics over the course of a lifetime. 

    Coin collecting is often called a lifetime hobby and at the recent Florida United Numismatists show in Orlando, more than 50 collectors attended a roundtable discussion where we chatted about the top 10 stories of 2014 and how they could shape collecting today. 

    From the discovery of the Saddle Ridge Hoard, the continued exploration of the SS Central America, to more recent issues like the questions surrounding the discovery of a 1974-D Lincoln aluminum cent, there is always something new happening in our hobby and discoveries abound. 

    It keeps us busy, and we hope that each issue of Coin World’s weekly and monthly publication educates, entertains and inspires you to explore your hobby in new ways.

    Stepping up to lead: A challenge to help our hobby thrive

    January 12, 2015 3:58 PM by

    Entering any new endeavor can be intimidating. What’s equally challenging can be taking the next step and becoming involved and engaged.

    We love sharing stories of people who have stepped up to the challenge of taking their interest in coins and numismatics to the next level: growing the hobby. 

    The broadness of our hobby — from the first ancient issues to the modern era’s coins, paper money, tokens, medals and everything in between — provides opportunities for individuals to use their unique skill sets to keep numismatics strong.

    Our Guest Commentary this week by Andrew Blinkiewicz shows how one person stepped up to the challenge. He asked himself: How can I go beyond normal hobby activities like collecting, writing and exhibiting, and make a difference through leadership? How can I take my interest, enthusiasm and experience and help expand our hobby?

    He challenged the status quo by saying that, as a young person, he has a voice that needs to be heard to keep our hobby relevant. 

    Everyone comes to our hobby with a unique story, a set of circumstances that draws them to numismatics and can be applied to leadership positions. 

    It’s encouraging that several members on the American Numismatic Association Board of Governors fall well below the average age of our hobby and that young(er) people around the country are stepping up, accepting responsibility as leaders and keeping our hobby strong. 

    As we enter 2015, how will you help our hobby thrive? 

    It could be as simple as visiting a local coin shop and buying a few coins, joining your local club or renewing a subscription to a hobby publication. All of these seemingly simple activities help keep our hobby strong.

    Or, you could move numismatics forward and take a leadership role. Around the country, clubs and specialty groups are searching for capable people to take responsibility. 

    Longtime volunteers are looking to transition out of their roles. They are seeking new enthusiasts to train, guide and mentor. 

    Are you up for the challenge? 

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    Coin counterfeiters (and those who help them), beware!

    January 2, 2015 5:14 PM by

    The Collectible Coin Protection Act, which President Obama signed into law on Dec. 19, is an important tool to protect our hobby. 

    The bill amends the Hobby Protection Act to increase consequences for distributing and selling prohibited items. It also provides protections to keep third-party certification service trademarks secure.

    This law is not designed to target an individual who mistakenly passes along or sells a counterfeit coin.

    Instead, it prohibits “knowingly engaging” in any act or practice that violates the law. It allows counterfeit coin protections to be enforced across a broader spectrum of the life-cycle of a counterfeit item, going beyond the mere manufacture of the item to include the importation, shipping and sale of it. 

    The passage of the Hobby Protection Act in 1973 was a game-changer for coin collecting in the United States. It requires that replicas and imitation numismatic items be clearly marked “COPY.”  What the new law does is provide some teeth to the Hobby Protection Act. 

    The influx of counterfeits from Asia, along with advancements in technology such as 3-D printing have made counterfeiting a continued problem. The flooding of counterfeit U.S. coins from China seems to have eased, due in part to eBay cracking down on the sale of these and also through the advocacy of many in the hobby, including Coin World’s former editor Beth Deisher.

    The Industry Council for Tangible Assets should be applauded for its steady effort to keep this in front of legislators. 

    As long as there is demand, there will be counterfeits, so it’s essential that all of the various parts of our hobby keep vigilant to make people aware of the presence of counterfeit coins and the danger that they pose to numismatics.  

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    Smart collecting leads to solid investments

    December 22, 2014 5:34 PM by

    There is no magic answer to how one should invest in coins to maximize profits.

    Historically, the most successful coin investments have been the result of years of careful collecting. 

    Our cover feature this month looks at a case study of how smart collecting can lead to a solid coin investment. 

    It is drawn from Whitman Publishing’s new book by Robert Shippee titled Pleasure & Profit: 100 Lessons for Building and Selling a Collection of Rare Coins.

    In the foreword, Q. David Bowers reflects on Shippee’s advantage in the marketplace: he was well-informed by carefully studying numismatics and by spending time learning about coins. 

    Looking at the stories of people who put together great collections in other collecting areas — collections that are often very profitable for their owner when sale time arises — seems to provide a universal lesson. The key to success is understanding the material that you’re collecting. 

    For example, Leonard A. Lauder, an art collector whose world-class collection of early 20th century Cubist paintings was just gifted to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, learned everything he could about what made a picture important. 

    That education informed all elements of his collecting. 

    In an interview, he gave advice on how to work with dealers when trying to acquire great material: “Don’t haggle, and pay your bills promptly, even in advance. A well-respected collector sends the check over to the dealer by messenger as soon as the handshake is made. That’s a good way to be first on the list.”

    Shippee’s advice is similar, since developing relationships with dealers is a key part of building a solid collection. 

    Seizing opportunities and educating yourself is key to building a great, meaningful coin collection that will hopefully, over time, prove to be a good investment as well. 

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    What was the biggest story of 2014?

    December 15, 2014 11:29 AM by

    The coin market tends to slow down a bit in December, but the U.S. Mint is keeping busy selling American Eagle 1-ounce silver bullion coins to its authorized purchasers. With nearly 44 million already sold in 2014, last year’s record sales of 42,675,000 pieces has been shattered.

    Local coin shops around the country count on an increased flow of traffic during the holiday season, as people give 2014 Proof and Uncirculated Mint sets, along with silver and gold American Eagles as gifts. 

    From the popularity of the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins to the hullabaloo surrounding the gold 2014 Kennedy half dollar, the Mint has provided a lot for us to work with this year. 

    The way that holidays fall this year means that our list of the top 10 stories that shaped collecting in 2014 will appear in an upcoming January 2015 issue. 

    What were some of the stories this year that stood out to you? Send me an email or comment below and let me know. 

    Thank you from all of us at Coin World for allowing us to join you on your collecting journey. We continue to work hard each day to help share the news and interpret the events that make our hobby move, teach you about items in your collection, and introduce you to collecting avenues. 

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    A tricky situation: buying gifts for your favorite numismatist

    December 1, 2014 6:03 PM by

    The holidays mean many things. Tradition, family, faith, being thankful and spreading cheer. A big part of the holiday season involves giving and getting gifts.

    Few things give me as much pleasure as selecting the perfect gift for someone, but to those in my life who know me as “Steve the Numismatist,” finding a coin-related gift has proven a definite challenge. 

    I’ve received chocolate coins, a variety of banks, and basic books that are already in my library but were the only coin books at Barnes & Noble. One friend even purchased me a Whitman Lincoln cent folder, which ended up being a fun project that took me back to my childhood days filling out those blue boards.

    In this issue we look at some of the different types of holiday gifts available to those with collectors on their lists. From bullion coins of the United States and around the world, paper money items and even (for the especially well-off) custom safes that would bring to mind an image closer to James Bond than a numismatist, there are plenty of options. 

    The U.S. Mint makes it easy, publishing a holiday gift guide with categories including “Stocking Stuffers” and “Gifts Under $25” (both of which include the fun National Baseball Hall of Fame Young Collectors Set with a 2014 Baseball half dollar). 

    There are always gifts that go on during the year, such as a membership to the American Numismatic Association, American Numismatic Society, or any one of a number of specialty organizations.

    Of course, numismatic publications — including Coin World — are generally always welcome gifts (but because you’re reading this, I trust you already know this).

    As a young numismatist I treasured the coin-related gifts my parents gave me. The holidays are a perfect time for introducing someone new to our hobby. After all, it’s better to give than to receive. 

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    Supportive adults play key role in growing young numismatic talent

    November 24, 2014 2:38 PM by

    Coin World Senior Editor Paul Gilkes story on a 12-year-old young numismatist who is making his mark on our hobby brings up a point that is worth repeating: it takes a supportive team of adults to cultivate a young person s interest in numismatics.


    Garrett Ziss may only be 12, but his ambition to learn about the hobby and develop as a numismatist provides examples that all hobbyists can learn from.

    Like the majority of young collectors Ive observed, Garretts parents arent coin collectors, but they support their son by taking him to coin clubs and shows, and providing a firm foundation for him to base his hobby upon. They note that those in the hobby who work with Ziss are generous, welcoming and treat him like a young adult rather than a kid.

    That is one of the great things about our hobby: YNs who are responsible, enthusiastic and receptive to learning are treated as peers. This in turn raises the ambition of young people to make their mark on numismatics. For example, Ziss is working on refining research on emission sequences for Capped Bust half dollars, expanding on research presented at a Coinage of the Americas Conference.

    What were you doing when you were 12?

    Many young people will always be drawn to coins and their connection to history. As Paul told me, a parent doesnt have to collect coins, but support of a young persons curiosity about coins is essential.

    In Pauls case, his parents nurtured his interest in coin collecting even though they werent collectors themselves. Pauls dad was a zone supervisor for newspaper circulation, and as he collected money, Paul would go through the coins. I would get to go through the money and pick out interesting things to add to my collection. I purchased my first car by cannibalizing my Whitman folder, Paul shared.

    Cultivating a young persons interest in the hobby is essential, and established collectors and parents play an essential role in this.

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    Making sense of the current market

    November 17, 2014 2:31 PM by

    What’s going on with the gold market?

    Should I buy rare coins? Is now a good time to purchase silver? 

    Since you’re reading this publication — aimed at coin collectors — chances are that you’re either asking or get asked these questions on a regular basis these days.

    The answer to each depends on many different factors and I don’t have the magic answer. Even after reading dozens of dealer recaps each month that seem to address every nuance of the market, I have seen no “one-size-fits-all” answer. 

    For the past few months, pessimists were saying that the art market had peaked. Then during the first few weeks in November, Sotheby’s and Christie’s set multiple records during their fall Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary art sales, with strong totals that in the aggregate exceeded what were considered ambitious expectations for individual works. Quality works sold well. 

    Many are looking with a cautious glance at the state of the rare coin market currently. True, gold and silver have fallen (and may fall further, just as they may rise again). But what many market observers are seeing as a potential weak spot in the market — the presence of many great coin collections coming to market in 2014 and 2015 — is also a magnificent opportunity. 

    Yes, the prices for some coins have fallen and some coins are selling for less at auction than they sold for several years ago. 

    But like any market with multiple sectors, in the coin market there are always items going up in price while others go down. 

    If you were bullish on coins last year at this time, chances are that your dollar will go further in today’s coin market. That’s a solid opportunity. Further, by educating yourself on what makes a coin great, by learning about rarity, condition, originality and taking those factors with a long view, these bumps in the market should be of little concern. 

    As our cover feature by Tom Hockenhull of the British Museum points out, coins have been around long before any of us and will outlive us all. 

    So, while others are nervous, be bold. Go out there and buy the coins you’ve been waiting for. Who knows when a rarity from a great collection will come to market again.

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    Improvements to U.S. Mint's website welcomed by collectors

    November 10, 2014 3:16 PM by

    Ask anyone who has developed a website how it went, and the answer will typically incorporate these points: it is always harder than expected, nearly always more expensive than anticipated and an often thankless task. 

    For several years the U.S. Mint had taken a piecemeal approach to improving its website, which had become antiquated. This approach often left collectors frustrated and the system showed its weakness most prominently during launches of popular coins and sets. 

    Collectors became used to waiting long period of time and then hoping that an element of luck would click in, allowing them to purchase the coins that they had waited for.  

    It turned coin buying into something akin to a pilgrimage, rather than a simple business transaction.

    The Mint launched its new site on Oct. 1, promising that it would be more user-friendly and faster. The dreaded “waiting room” for high traffic days with product launches was eliminated and users could more easily track their orders. 

    READ:  U.S. Mint ditches 'antiquated' platform, launches redesigned website with new order system

    The new site saw its first major test with the launch of the four-coin Kennedy 50th Anniversary half dollar set on Oct. 28. 

    With a total limit of 300,000 sets and a household limit of five sets, it was a good product to test the capabilities of the new system in that the 300,000 sets would likely not sell out immediately. In fact, during the first 12 hours of sales, 85,670 sets were sold.

    Those buying coins reported that the Mint’s site worked as one would expect it to and that the shipping was fast, the coins were handsome and that it was a positive experience. 

    READ:  Social media reacts to release of U.S. Mint's silver Kennedy set


    In a year of ups and downs for the U.S. Mint, the launch of a new website and a successful product launch ends the year on a high note. 

    In chatting with Tom Jurkowsky, director of the U.S. Mint’s Office of Corporate Communication, he said that the Mint was obviously delighted and that while the upgrade was long overdue, the new system is state of the art and gives the U.S. Mint the same tools as the largest online retailers. 

    He stressed that the Mint is constantly looking to improve its communication channels with collectors, making sure that it produces products that collectors want and that these coins get to collectors promptly and easily. 

    He said that this integration of sales, manufacturing and customer service channels is something that the Mint’s been working hard at improving, and that successful integration of these systems could possibly change the dynamics of coin collecting.

    It’s a welcome change that has been long overdue for collectors.

    More from

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    Specialists identify counterfeit 1900-O/CC Morgan dollar with links to Micro O fakes

    Mint confirms printing error on Great Smoky Mountains National Park quarters set COA

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

    Club journals and publications useful for collectors and hobby

    November 4, 2014 10:33 AM by

    Note: The following is S​teve Roach's Editorial Opinion from the Nov. 17 issue of Coin World, which pairs with Paul Gilkes' feature on the status of club journals in today's digital world

    Surveys of membership organizations (both numismatic and otherwise) typically confirm one fact: that members view a publication as the primary tangible benefit of membership. 

    Each week in Coin World’s offices, we get publications from organizations across the country, big and small. Some are excellent publications with a regional emphasis, such as The California Numismatist or the Central States Numismatic Society’s quarterly The Centinel

    Others are specialty publications with in-depth research of the sort that is necessary for the growth of numismatics, but goes beyond what a mainstream publication like Coin World can publish. 

    As publications — both commercial and nonprofit — move toward digital platforms, they must be careful not to alienate their print subscribers. 

    Our own surveys confirm that a surprisingly high percentage of Coin World’s audience does not use computers for their collecting and that they view printed publications as providing a break from the normal day. Further, in removing the print publication, a club risks losing members. Member engagement and happiness need to be weighed against any cost savings when a move to discontinue a club’s publication is under consideration. 

    There are ways to reach new audiences without alienating existing members, such as the Numismatic Bibliomania Society’s excellent (and free) weekly email E-Sylum, which complements its print journal The Asylum

    It is sometimes forgotten that behind all of these publications are patient, dedicated editors and writers who often work solely in a volunteer capacity. The quality of research in many specialty publications has never been higher, and they provide a wonderful complement to more broad-ranging publications like Coin World.

    More from

    What you need to know before collecting 'classic' U.S. coins

    Inventory of silver 1-ounce American Eagle bullion coins at United States Mint depleted

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    Mint unveils 2015 March Of Dimes silver dollar designs

    Gardner's Standing Liberties: Low-mintage 1927-S quarter tops $175,000 at auction

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

    When does an object’s value impact our experience with it?

    October 24, 2014 12:14 PM by
    ​What happens when an object’s value becomes more important than the object itself?

    I was confronted by this question head on when viewing two exhibitions in Columbus, Ohio, this week.

    The first was a small exhibit featuring paintings and sculptures from the collection of Les Wexner, founder of Limited Brands. The quality of the paintings, especially those by Pablo Picasso, was extraordinary, but because many were sold at auction over the past decade or so, I couldn’t separate the economic value of the art from my viewing.

    Knowing that the gorgeous, sensual 1932 large Picasso canvas Nude in a Black Armchair brought $45.1 million at auction in 1999 and a comparable picture sold for more than $100 million recently distanced me from my visual experience with the painting.

    Rather than admiring Picasso’s mastery, I thought about how a single object could be worth so much, and if, perhaps, there were other uses for that money which would provide more value to society.

    The next exhibit, “In_We Trust: Art and Money” at the Columbus Museum of Art, brought it home, as 26 different artist deconstructed the concept of money.

    As the exhibit curator Tyler Cann wrote in the exhibition catalog on money, “It connects, defines, and divides nations. It is pocket change and dead presidents. It is the key to happiness, and the root of all evil. It has no intrinsic value apart from what we’ve given it.”

    There are those coins that have become more than coins. It is tough to think of a 1933 Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagle and not think of the nearly $7.6 million that one brought at a 2002 auction.

    How does knowing an object’s worth in the marketplace change our viewing experience of it (and does it even matter?)

    These types of questions keep our hobby interesting in a way that goes beyond dates, grades and Mint marks.

    Coin shows remain vital and relevant today

    October 17, 2014 11:18 AM by
    It’s autumn and local and state coin clubs are busy hosting their coin shows. 

    Coin World recently gave an informal survey to our email list and more than 2,000 of you replied. The results confirmed some things that we already know (such as our audience being predominantly male) and revealed a few surprises. 

    Perhaps the biggest surprise is how relevant coin shows are to our readers. Roughly two-thirds of the respondents reported that they attended a coin show in the past year. 

    Even better? Nearly 30 percent of the respondents attend three or more shows a year. 

    I generally go to a coin show at least each month, where I see the spirit of collecting and volunteerism in full effect. This was wonderfully evident when I was invited to address the Virginia Numismatic Association’s 56th annual convention and coin show in Fredericksburg, Va., Sept. 26 to 28. 

    The show was fantastic, with a variety of dealers who were busy buying and selling coins, but not too busy to chat with new collectors. I had the luxury of visiting with many of the dealers, including VNA director John Cunningham of Hibernia Rare Coins, who was assisted by his daughter. He told me that he loves introducing modern coins from around the world to new collectors, and showing more seasoned collectors the great things that world mints are doing to produce attractive, innovative coins. 

    Col. Steve Ellsworth of Butternut Coins shared his passion for early American large cents while Ernie Swauger explained that his customers love 17th, 18th and 19th century world coins because of their link to history. 

    Nearly all day on Saturday, VNA education director John Philips led dozens of young people including groups of Boy Scouts and homeschooled children through thoughtful educational programs that are sure to inspire some new collectors. 

    Local and state run shows are a vital part of our hobby, serving to introduce new people to numismatics, and keeping longtime collectors engaged in the hobby. 

    Check one out in the coming weekends!

    Could Jackie breathe life into the First Spouse gold $10 coin series?

    October 9, 2014 10:25 AM by
    As the First Spouse gold $10 coin series winds down, 2015 will see the release of four coins including one for Jacqueline Kennedy.

    Could the launch of “Jackie O’s” coin breathe some life into this series that is in desperate need of attention? 

    The series has had some unfortunate twists of circumstance that have hurt its popularity with collectors. The Mint has been inconsistent with its release dates, often releasing all four (or five) coins in the final months of the year.  Add to that a roaring precious metal market that saw gold rise from $660 an ounce in the summer of 2007 to more than $1,800 an ounce in the summer of 2011, meaning many collectors were priced out of the program. 

    With few collectors building sets, mintages have dropped. The 2007-W Thomas Jefferson’s Liberty coin saw nearly 40,000 pieces produced across both Proof and Uncirculated formats. Total sales across both formats of 4,000 to 5,000 are likely for each of the five 2013 First Spouse coins. 

    As gold settles down to more reasonable price levels, and the First Spouse designs celebrate first ladies who many coin buyers remember, the program could get a nice bump. 

    The set has a lot going for it, including handsome designs, with often very interesting reverse designs emblematic of themes of the corresponding first lady’s life, low mintages and accessible entry points with the higher-mintage pieces from the first few years of the program. 

    It is a series that is worth a second look.

    Visit a coin show: see coins, meet people, learn and have fun

    September 26, 2014 4:24 PM by

    It seems that many collectors today are content having a virtual experience with their coin collecting. 

    They buy and sell coins online, socialize with collectors online and get their information online. These collectors are likely not maximizing their collecting experience.

    Going to a coin show is a refreshing break from the routine. Many of us spend our days in front of a computer screen, and what’s great about coin collecting are the tangible aspects: putting a coin into a Whitman board, holding a coin by its edge, examining one slabbed coin against another one to figure out which one is better for the grade. 

    I continue to be inspired by local, state and regional organizations expanding their shows to attract new audiences.

    Many show organizers are taking proactive steps to keep their shows relevant through advertising, expanded marketing and by letting people beyond their membership know that a show is happening. 

    But once you get someone in the door, how do you turn that person into a collector? 

    The best shows are realizing that mere attendance numbers don’t tell a full story of a show’s success. Great dealers offering a range of material, a warm welcome when newcomers enter, and rich educational programs and exhibits, all combine to create an environment that is conducive to cultivating a new collector. 

    Our Guest Commentary this week shows how the Michigan State Numismatic Society is keeping its fall show, which has traditionally anchored the show schedule over Thanksgiving weekend, relevant. 

    It’s neither cheap nor easy.

    The $5 million rarities that are on loan from the American Numismatic Association (a 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent piece and an 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar) bring in curious visitors, but also cost a club thousands of dollars in transportation and security fees. 

    Advertising is expensive. Prizes for educational exhibitors can be pricey. Renting a venue costs money (and renting a nice one costs more). 

    These expenses add up, but smart clubs consider them investments, as a thriving coin show is a key factor to keeping local and state coin clubs — and our hobby — relevant. 

    Entering our hobby through the side entrance

    September 19, 2014 1:11 PM by
    What do you hope to get from collecting? 

    Is it a connection to history?

    Perhaps it is because you enjoy objects?

    Or, are you in it for potential profits?

    Those who put together the best collections — and have the most fun doing it — put these three elements together. 

    Collecting doesn’t have to be expensive. This month’s world coins feature by Rita Laws highlights sets of Canadian and Mexican coins that can be put together inexpensively. Our venerable columnist Q. David Bowers points out that thousands of varieties of copper tokens, fractional currency notes, Confederate notes, encased postage stamps and more issued during the Civil War can be purchased at reasonable prices.

    He has a great point: some collecting areas are ripe for discoveries. Take carved coins that combine art and numismatics. Artists today are taking as a model the traditional “Hobo nickels” that were first carved as the Indian Head 5-cent piece, 1913 to 1938, was circulating. These artists are applying their creativity to create small sculptures on a variety of different coins. Depending on the skill involved in the carving, carved coins can be found for as little as $5 or $10, while the most skilled pieces can be priced in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars. 

    Nor does coin collecting have to be dull.

    Our October cover feature ties coin collecting in with the macabre as depicted on coins, medals and paper money. Skeletons, skulls and the like. Rita extends the seasonal theme in her monthly column “Going Topical” where she looks at creepy, crawly critters depicted on coins. 

    Our interview subject this month, Thomas Hockenhull of the British Museum said that he entered his role as curator of modern coins “through the side entrance,” meaning he didn’t initially set out to be a numismatic curator. Instead, his interest in coins and paper money grew over time.

    Our paper money editor, Michele Orzano, pointed out in a conversation as we were editing the issue that, in his answers, he gave great advice that’s applicable to situations beyond numismatics. Keep your eyes open, be flexible, and opportunities appear. 

    Estate planning not a sexy part of collecting, but necessary

    September 15, 2014 10:06 AM by

    To most collectors, buying coins is fun. 

    Owning coins can be even more rewarding. 

    Even selling coins can be a boost to the spirit, especially when you’re using the money to buy new coins. 

    But estate planning for your coin collection, well, that’s not as fun.

    However, it is necessary. 

    When I speak on estate planning for coin collections to coin collecting audiences, I tell the audience: You know what’s in your coin collection. But does your significant other? Do your kids? Does your estate planner? 

    When I speak on estate planning for coin collections to attorneys and estate planners, I remind them that a coin collection can be a hard-to-value asset that could make up a significant amount of a client’s total net worth. 

    A hard fact is that most people don’t like to think about what happens to their things after they are gone. This includes their coin collections. 

    The first step toward some preliminary estate planning for a collection doesn’t have to be complex. It can be as basic as an inventory that lists enough information for a non-numismatist to locate and identify items and for a numismatist to provide a value on them. 

    Photographs help, as does a list of trusted resources that non-collecting heirs might turn to for guidance. 

    The second edition of Cash in Your Coins: Selling the Rare Coins You’ve Inherited, the useful book by Coin World’s longtime editor Beth Deisher, has just been published by Whitman Publishing. The cover says it all, defining it as “the book that belongs in every collector’s safe deposit box.” 

    It’s one of those rare numismatic books that offers something for multiple audiences. For noncollectors, it provides a basic guide to identification of items, determining value and how one should go about selling a coin collection. 

    For collectors, her book provides a primer on collection management including how to write an effective inventory, rare coin appraisals and managing an unfortunate truth: taxes.

    This week we’re sharing part of Beth’s chapter on taxes because it has important information that is relevant to many of our readers. 

    She writes: “As a collector, neither you nor your heirs should pay more than is legally required. To ensure that you and your heirs don’t overpay requires action now, not later (after you depart planet Earth). Awareness and good planning are the keys to peace of mind for you and protection for your heirs.”

    Collections should be thought of as investments and cared for as such. With some planning, a collection can create a legacy that may provide for one’s loved ones. 

    But absent a thoughtful plan, a collection may end up being sold for a fraction of its value, or worse, may simply disappear. 

    Local leadership serves valid purpose in regional groups

    September 5, 2014 3:43 PM by

    ​As some regional and state organizations reach a national audience with their coin shows, should they be required to extend opportunities for leadership beyond their stated geographic region? 

    For example, the Central States Numismatic Society covers a 13-state region. Its annual spring convention is a major show and its associated auctions are among the largest coin auctions held during the year.

    The CSNS bylaws stipulate that all officers and governors must be at least 18 years old and reside in the Central States region. The bylaws further limits the number of elected officials from any one state to keep things balanced. 
    These types of restrictions serve a valid purpose of keeping resources in the region that the members live in. It also presumably keeps travel expenses down, providing more money for educational opportunities that can extend throughout the region by involvement with local clubs and seminars, and beyond the region through the group’s publication. 
    Those who are challenging groups like CSNS and Florida United Numismatists to expand to become national organizations cite that the majority of revenue comes from their conventions and auctions, which are populated in large part by dealers and auction houses who may live outside of the region defined by the group’s geographic definition. 
    The hobby has multiple national organizations. Regional and state groups have a useful and relevant purpose in the hobby: to promote education, camaraderie and collecting with people who live in geographic proximity to one another. 
    Limiting leadership to those who live in the region is neither arbitrary nor capricious. Rather, limiting leadership to those individuals who maintain a meaningful presence in the state seems to serve a valid purpose that ultimately benefits the group’s membership.
    To require state and regional groups to expand to include leaders from outside of their region seems to punish organizations that develop successful programs that extend beyond the region, while adding little benefit to the membership that the group ultimately serves.

    Collecting what's timeless

    August 22, 2014 11:37 AM by

    Which of today’s coins will hold their value over time? In light of the media coverage from both within and outside of our hobby on the release of the gold 2014-W Kennedy half dollar, it’s a relevant question to ask.

    As I write in our new investment column, conveniently titled “The Investment Column,” quality, rarity and desirability are three core values at the center of successful rare coin investment for lasting value. The same was true a century ago and the same will be likely be true hundreds of years from now.

    Much of what passes for investment today is mere speculation, but, over time, collectors who have stayed true to their interests and have built a depth of experience and knowledge in a given area have built collections that stand the test of time (and often reap large profits once sold).

    Consider the current popularity of coins that are certified by major grading services in special holders recognizing that they’re sold on the first day of issue. For many collectors, these represent exciting souvenirs of a coin show and a chance to own a story alongside a coin. Other collectors wouldn’t even entertain the idea of paying a premium for a first-day-of-issue coin that is most likely physically indistinguishable from the last coin that leaves the Mint’s presses. 

    It is this difference of opinion that ignites our hobby. Ultimately, it is up to us individually as collectors to determine value. If multiple collectors are willing to pay a premium for a given item, that makes it collectible. Now, does the current market’s high prices for first-day coins have lasting value or is it a passing fad? That’s a question that only time can decide. 

    Collecting tastes change as do aesthetics. The pendulum swings between originally toned Morgan silver dollars and bright white coins just as it does between lightly circulated, “crusty” original U.S. gold coins and shiny examples.

    In short, collect what you like. Learn about it. Seek out the best and have fun with your collecting. Life is simply too short to buy coins you don’t love. 

    ​Wrapping up the ANA Show: Days 5 and 6

    August 11, 2014 10:37 AM by

    The ANA show is always a blur of excitement; people to meet, coins to see. Although, by the end of the week, I honestly don’t want to see a coin for a few days. Thankfully, that wears off quickly and as I write this on Monday, August 11, we’re busy preparing our September Coin World monthly edition.

    Of course, the key story of the ANA show was the gold Kennedy half dollar and it has raised an interesting dialogue in our hobby, specifically on the respective and connected roles of dealers, the American Numismatic Association, the U.S. Mint and grading services in managing launches of new Mint products in a way that benefits the hobby.

    Ultimately, it’s up for debate whether the launch of the gold Kennedy half dollar was a boon for the ANA show. From some perspectives, it energized the market, while others think that it sucked all of the air out of the show. 

    Thursday, August 7, was more subdued as the Mint canceled its gold Kennedy half dollar coin sales. That evening, Coin World was honored to receive multiple honors from the Numismatic Literary Guild, including best magazine. Our own Jeff Starck entertained the attendees at the organization’s “bash” with several original songs!

    On Friday, August 8, at the ANA banquet, the organization’s lifetime achievement recipient Gene Hessler had what was perhaps the line of the night. The lifelong musician said, “A gentleman is a man who knows how to play the accordion … but doesn’t.” I don’t recall the context, but it was a fantastic bit of levity in a night of speeches, including one that went beyond the 10-minute mark.

    Saturday, August 9, started bright and early with the ANA Board’s open session meeting where past President John Wilson can always be counted on to provide a comprehensive resolution thanking the many entities that make a major show like the ANA’s World’s Fair of Money possible. The public attendance on Saturday didn’t seem to reach the level of previous years, although more dealers maintained a meaningful presence at their tables on the final day of the show.

    Ultimately, the best part of the ANA show is getting to meet our readers and hearing what they like, and occasionally don’t like, about our publications. Now this week will be spent sorting out from hundreds of conversations the stories that will appear in the pages of Coin World and online at our website.

    Thank you for joining me this week, and perhaps I’ll see you at next year’s ANA show in Rosemont, Ill., Aug. 11 to 15, 2015.


    Read the rest of Steve's blog posts from the ANA:

    Steve's Week at the ANA show: Day 4

    August 8, 2014 8:15 AM by

    The following blog post is pulled from Steve Roach's editorial in the Aug. 25, 2014, issue

    ​As I’ve spent the week at the American Numismatic Association’s annual summer convention in suburban Chicago, I’ve had a first row seat to see the U.S. Mint’s launch of the 2014-W Kennedy gold half dollar. It’s exciting to see the interest that the launch of this coin has created. However, at the same time it’s troubling. 

    The majority of people who have been waiting outside of the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont are not collectors looking to add a coin to their collection. Instead, they are either being paid by someone to wait in line or are looking to flip their coin at the show for a fast profit. 

    In conversations I’ve had with people while they were waiting in line, many weren’t even clear what they were buying. They were simply bodies that would receive money to purchase something for someone else, make $400 to $600 for waiting in line, and then after lunch go back in line again.

    An ABC station in Denver broadcast an interview with a man named Demarko Anderson who said he was paid $600 to purchase a coin at the Mint’s retail space in Denver. He said, “Basically, they’re giving away … basically … free money.”

    While it brings bodies in the door of a coin show, are these people going to become coin collectors? Are they going to look at coins as any more than a way to make a fast buck?

    It’s not a good look for coin dealers and the rare coin industry. 

    The first six coins were quickly certified by Professional Coin Grading Service with special labels indicating that they were among the first coins sold at the ANA show. Of course, these coins are physically indistinguishable from other 2014-W Kennedy gold half dollars and the Mint has made clear that the quality of coins will not differ throughout the production run. The Mint also has the capacity to strike more than 100,000 of these coins and plans to have 75,000 available by Oct. 1, 2014. 

    The first four coins were sold at effectively the $6,240 level per coin (since each of the first four people in line who purchased the coins from the Mint were given $5,000 and a replacement gold Kennedy half dollar with a sale price of $1,240). Other coins from the first day of the ANA show have sold at more than the $3,000 level in transactions on the ANA’s bourse floor. 

    The Mint expects to launch more products at the ANA’s summer show in the coming years and will learn from this launch. As Tom Jurkowsky, the Mint’s director of Corporate Communications, told Coin World on Aug. 7, “we’re a victim of our own success.” 

    By 10 p.m. on the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 6, there were already more than 500 people waiting in line for the next day’s sales. On Aug. 7, the Mint and the ANA jointly announced that sales of the gold Kennedy half dollars in Rosemont were suspended for the last two days of the show, Aug. 8 and 9. 

    Of course, with the Mint’s allocation of 500 coins per day at the ANA show now cut short by 1,000 coins as the Mint won’t be distributing them on Friday or Saturday, this now only puts increased demand on the first 1,500 that were sold at the show. 

    One hopes that going forward the U.S. Mint works with the ANA, dealers, collectors and grading services to orchestrate new releases at major coin shows that will put positive attention on our hobby and avoid the uncontrolled speculation that marred this release. A successful release of a popular new issue could introduce new people to our hobby and allow collectors a chance to add an example to their collection without giving up a day at the coin show (and a night’s sleep), or paying steep premiums in the secondary market.

    Read the rest of Steve's blog posts from the ANA:

    Steve's week at the ANA show: Day 3

    August 7, 2014 9:48 AM by

    The general excitement over the Mint's new gold Kennedy half dollars shows little sign of slowing down. During the day on Wednesday, August 6, lines were as long as ever. By the time I returned to my hotel at around 10 p.m. from a reception hosted by the Austrian Mint celebrating the 25th anniversary of its Vienna Philharmonic bullion coin program, the line of people outside of the convention center likely exceeded the 500 coins that the Mint allocated to distribute at the show the following day. 

    Immediately after I send this to our news editor Bill Gibbs to polish, proof and post (on Thursday), I'm heading with our senior editor Paul Gilkes to discuss the gold Kennedy half dollar and many other issues affecting coin collectors with Dick Peterson, deputy director of the U.S. Mint. It's always a fascinating conversation. 

    As far as the ANA show goes, Wednesday felt a bit lighter in terms of traffic than Tuesday, August 5 (the show's opening day). I started the day by judging exhibits. As I entered the hobby as a young numismatist and participated actively in the ANA's exhibit program, it's always a privilege to help, and the quality of displays in terms of both presentation level and material seems to increase every year. 

    Because of the mainstream media picking up on the gold Kennedy half dollar story, I did several radio interviews with stations across the country during the day in between visiting with collectors and Coin World readers at our booth on the ANA bourse floor. In the afternoon I participated in the ANA's live broadcast of "The Coin Show," a radio show hosted by Mike Nottelmann. I had the pleasure of following my predecessor at Coin World, Beth Deisher. The second edition of her book Cash in Your Coinscomes out soon, with expanded information and more images. 

    Off to the Mint! I'm certain that it will inform what I'll be writing tonight for the editorial that will appear in the August 25 issue of Coin World

    Until tomorrow,


    Read the rest of Steve's blog posts from the ANA:

    Steve's week at the ANA show: Day 2

    August 5, 2014 5:43 PM by

    This morning I woke up way too early to the sound of police whistles directing people waiting outside of Rosemont’s convention center where the ANA show is held. People got in line at 11pm on Monday — braving a thunderstorm — for the opportunity to buy one of the Mint’s new gold Kennedy half dollars.

    Coin World writers Paul Gilkes and Joe O’Donnell both provided fine reports on the frenzy in nearly real-time, posted at

    Those first four people who braved the elements for the front spot in line? Well, they sold their coins for $5,000 each and got a replacement gold Kennedy half dollar for their efforts. Would you spend the night outside to make around $400 an hour?

    To the U.S. Mint and the ANA’s credit, considering the rather unexpected turnout, it was a very smooth process. No fights broke out. Security was tight. People were polite and generally, excited for the opportunity to either add a coin to their collection or make some easy money.

    To see so many people standing outside at a coin show was certainly invigorating but by noon — after the frenzy died down — the ANA’s registration area was calm and only a handful of people were outside of the convention hall.

    I can’t help but wonder if anyone in the line will be more inclined to collect coins after this. By most reports, and confirmed by my own observations and conversations, it seemed that most people in line weren’t collectors but were rather hired to wait and purchase coins on behalf of others.

    What does the market have in store for these coins, which are likely going to be no different than gold Kennedy half dollars that are shipped later this month, or the ones shipped in September?

    In many ways it helps bring attention to the ANA show and the hobby generally, but is this type of easy money the kind of attention that our hobby really needs?

    But, thankfully the ANA provides too many pleasant distractions to keep me from dwelling on this too much. Another great part of the ANA is getting to meet so many of our readers. While I have a fairly full schedule, I try to be at the booth as much as possible and connect with collectors and those in the hobby. Tonight’s the ANA’s kick-off event , “Oktoberfest in August” where I’ll be able to ask dozens of people in the hobby what they think of today’s gold Kennedy half dollar launch.

    Until tomorrow,


    Read the rest of Steve's blog posts from the ANA:

    Steve's week at the ANA show: Day 1

    August 5, 2014 6:48 AM by

    This year at the ANA show (more formally known as the American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money), I'm here for the entire week. It's a bit of a marathon, but one that I'm happy to tackle each year. While the official show is August 5 to 9, there's a pre-show several days before the main ANA show.

    This blog is the first of a series which will take you along with me during my week at the ANA show. This year at the ANA show (more formally known as the American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money), I'm here for the entire week. It's a bit of a marathon, but one that I'm happy to tackle each year. While the official show is August 5 to 9, there's a pre-show several days before the main ANA show. This blog is the first of a series which will take you along with me during my week at the ANA show.

    For me, Monday (August 4) is my first full day at the show. It's primarily dealer set-up day, so I often take advantage of the lot viewing offered by the show's auctions — this year Stack's Bowers Galleries and Heritage Auctions are co-official auctioneers — to look at coins and sharpen my eye. It's a chance to get "up close and personal," so to speak, with many of the rare coins that we've previewed in the months before the ANA show. It also provides a lot of ideas for future Market Analysis columns and stories, allowing me to go beyond the published description and I'm able to make connections and in tandem with the prices realized, identify trends in the marketplace.

    As I tell students when I teach coin grading, the best way to understand how to grade coins is to look at thousands of them and the ANA auctions provide an excellent opportunity for that. I started the morning by looking at Heritage's Platinum Night offerings (that auction is Thursday, August 7) and then moved to its more general U.S. offerings (which start on Tuesday, August 5). That afternoon I moved to Stack's Bowers Rarities Night lots, which will be sold Wednesday, August 6.

    Admittedly, it's a bit numbing, and I have tremendous respect for dealers who can sit and look at coins for hours on end.

    There's something incredibly exciting about holding million dollar rarities like one of two 1861 Paquet reverse $20 Coronet double eagles or an 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar.

    I checked out the new Coin World booth, which looks fantastic, and took note of the huge amusement park style partitions that have been erected outside of the ANA convention hall to (hopefully) contain the crowds that are anticipated for the launch of the new dual-dated 2014-W gold Kennedy half dollar on Tuesday, August 5. The launch will keep all of us busy tomorrow and looking forward to sharing it with our readers.

    Tonight's the Professional Numismatists Guild dinner which is always a pleasant evening where dealers are recognized for their contributions to the hobby. It's a reminder that without dealers, there wouldn't be an ANA show.

    Until tomorrow,


    Read the rest of Steve's blog posts from the ANA:

    Lots of winners for new 1964–2014 gold Kennedy half dollar

    August 1, 2014 12:42 PM by
    The Mint will release its .9999 fine gold Proof 1964–2014-W Kennedy half dollar at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money on Aug. 5. The popular program has a lot winners that spread the wealth around our hobby. 
    • American Numismatic Association: With the ANA’s flagship convention held in Rosemont, Ill., over multiple years, each installment needs a new angle to attract mainstream media attention and reach attendees outside of the hobby. The ANA benefits with a high-profile launch, and the strict ordering limits of one coin per person, per day, will result in long lines that will make for great photo ops. 
    • The U.S. Mint : The Mint is likely the most obvious beneficiary of a successful coin launch, standing to profit from the sale of the coin and the increased awareness that a popular new coin brings to the rest of its products.
    • Grading services: Major grading services will be flooded with coins submitted for special labels commemorating the coin’s first day of issue, more labels recognizing coins purchased at the ANA show, and then the usual “Early Release” and “First Strike” labels for coins submitted during the first month. 
    • Coin dealers: Coin dealers are clear beneficiaries as the special grading service labels create a product that goes beyond the coin itself that can command premiums in the marketplace. Due to ordering limits, many impatient collectors will likely turn to dealers rather than the U.S. Mint to purchase a coin for their collection. 
    • Coin collectors who want to keep their coin: Coin collectors benefit by a well-timed fall in the price of gold that led the U.S. Mint to price the coin at $1,240 based on its pricing chart, which looks at the average price of gold for the prior week. If gold had an average price above $1,300 during the period, the opening issue price would have been a less elegant and more expensive $1,277.50. 
    • Coin collectors who want to sell their coin: Much like the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative program earlier this year, those who are quick to buy one in person at one of the Mint’s retail facilities or at the ANA show early in the ordering cycle may likely be able to resell their coins quickly for a fast profit (which, Coin World hopes, will stay in the hobby!). Strict ordering limits and the Mint’s sales strategy of releasing just 500 coins per day at the ANA show will prevent dealers from getting large quantities for retail, placing greater demand on coins. 
    The coins will be struck to demand, with no mintage limits, and the Mint has said that it has 40,000 coins ready to ship as I write this. Still, we’ll be watching the building mintage closely and comparing it to a similar recent product: the 2009 Ultra High Relief gold $20 piece, which saw an eventual sales figure of 115,178, with coins trading at roughly twice the initial issue price. 

    As our news editor William T. Gibbs addressed in his June 30 editorial, the Mint’s authority to produce a gold half dollar is a bit fuzzy. For example, the Mint was not allowed to sell gold versions of the 2000 Sacagawea dollar to the public, as Congress stated that Mint officials lacked constitutional authority to issue the dollar coin in gold. 

    There’s also the somewhat odd selection of 1964, which represents the 50th year of the Kennedy half dollar program, resulting in what is essentially a coin honoring a coin. 

    But, these types of issues add to the gold half dollar’s story and make the coin more interesting, which should provide fodder for researchers and writers in the coming decades. In an era of rapid proliferation of U.S. Mint products, one-off special issues like the gold Kennedy half dollar may need to stand out to be remembered at all. 

    Weighty ANA auctions full of once-in-a-lifetime possibilities

    July 28, 2014 11:09 AM by
    The American Numismatic Association’s decision earlier this year to have two official auctioneers — Stack’s Bowers Galleries and Heritage Auctions — means one sure thing: more auction catalogs. 

    The two firms competed aggressively against one another to fill their auctions. 

    While they likely stressed their differences to potential consignors, their resulting auctions have some things in common. Each firm has a rarity or two that will bring more than $1 million, each firm has at least four separate catalogs, and each firm is unleashing tens of millions of dollars of rare coins and paper money into the marketplace during the ANA week.

    The enormity of the catalogs when together (this doesn’t even include Heritage’s paper money auction, which we haven’t received yet) is staggering. The catalogs received by July 24 totaled almost 15 pounds!

    Then there’s what is inside those publications. 

    Page after page after page of coin photos, stories of collectors past and present, and research new and old to describe the lots and make them appealing to consumers (and to make the auction house’s work evident to consignors!).

    Some coins are fresh to market; others are old friends that have seen the auction block multiple times over the last decade.

    A friend saw a few of the catalogs on my dining room table at home and asked, “Who buys all of this stuff?”

    It’s a good question, especially considering the sheer number of lots — approaching 10,000 between the two firms — that will be coming to market all at once.

    The ANA show, in Rosemont, Ill., this year Aug. 5 to 9, is an exciting time for the rare coin market and the auction lots offered have been previewed for months in the pages of Coin World, while recaps will be found in our issues in the weeks post-ANA.  

    What’s great for collectors is the democratization of information available today. Both auction firms make their catalogs easily accessible online at their respective websites, with tools to help collectors make smart bids. 

    Every little bit of help is needed when trying to sort through this many lots, and while some coins will likely return to market quickly, others may go into collections and escape the market’s grasp for generations. The “once-in-a-lifetime” possibility is one of the things that make major auctions like the ANA sales so exciting.

    Remembering Debbie and those who make our hobby better

    July 9, 2014 10:29 AM by
    Our hobby is filled with many people who work behind the scenes, keeping the coin collecting hobby vibrant and the rare coin industry running smoothly. 

    Their contributions aren’t visible to collectors, but their work is essential. 

    Debbie Rexing was one of those people. She passed away on June 19, and with her passing, the hobby loses one of its most wonderful individuals. 

    She was just 52 years old and leaves behind three children she loved very much. 

    I had the pleasure of knowing Debbie for more than 15 years; she was in the marketing department when I spent summers working at Heritage as a teenager. She rose to vice president of Sales and Marketing.

    Her professional competence in keeping Heritage’s massive auction machine running was well-known, but she also brought a caring, personal element to every person she came in contact with. She remembered details, she cared about people, and she brought a tremendous amount of joy to those around her. 

    Her friend Brenda Wyen put it perfectly when she said to me, “It is difficult to put Debbie into words. It is rare to find a person who has so many wonderful attributes.”

    Major coin shows, and our hobby won’t be the same without Debbie, with her laugh and seemingly ever-present smile.

    Her joie de vivre will be missed. 

    Rational values: Considering current prices for rare coins

    June 2, 2014 12:07 PM by

    I recently received a mailing from an art dealer in New York City specializing in 19th and 20th century American paintings.

    The message was simple. It asked, “Why is the combined value of a coke bottle, a car crash, and a balloon dog worth more than the total value of every American 19th- and 20th-century painting sold at auction in the last three years?”

    It answered, “Because it’s no longer good enough to just keep up with the Joneses. Why not buy what you love — seek rational values.”

    The mailing cheekily refers to eight-figure works of art by Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons that have sold at auction recently, and pokes some fun at the meteoric rise of the top of the contemporary art market over the past few years.

    It was especially appropriate in the wake of mid-May’s Contemporary and Modern painting auctions in New York City, which brought more than $1.5 billion and included nearly 20 works that sold for more than $20 million each.

    Christie’s Brett Gorvy had promised before the auctions that the sales would resemble “gladiator sport at the highest level.”

    Rational values is something that a market loses when the heat is turned up, as it is with the contemporary art market.

    In contrast, in a decade, how will the prices achieved for the various coins and tokens in the various Eric P. Newman auctions be considered?

    The top coins at these sales have rested at the $1 million to $2 million level and even the top rarities in American numismatics like 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent pieces and 1804 Draped Bust silver dollars trade at the $2 million to $4 million level at auction.

    The art dealer’s directive: “buy what you love — seek rational values” seems especially fitting in today’s market where the number of old collections coming to market dwindles each year.

    Coins from old collections like Newman’s may seem pricey now, but history has a tendency to reward quality and rarity with price appreciation.

    A great coin collection isn’t likely going to help you keep up with the Joneses (unless they’re coin collectors), but when compared with other markets, even expensive coins seem to provide rational values at their current price levels.

    One of the best parts of my job

    June 2, 2014 11:28 AM by

    The best parts of my job as editor-in-chief of Coin World is being able to better connect our readers with the coin collecting hobby. This requires me to get out of the office and travel, usually on weekends.

    Like any work travel, sometimes it’s a bit tedious, but more often than not it’s a pleasure. Such was the case when I visited the Central Ohio Numismatic Association and with the coordination of club president Stephen Petty, and with co-instructor Tony Cass, led two grading seminars on a gorgeous Saturday morning.

    The best coin events are like reunions with friends. Tony and I met when I was grading part-time at ANACS when it was headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. At ANACS I also met Eric Justice, who attended the seminar along with two of his sons.

    This was the second time the course was offered by the club. The class is an abbreviated version of the Introduction to Coin Grading class that I help teach every few years at the American Numismatic Association Summer Seminar in Colorado Springs, Colo.

    Unlike the ANA Summer Seminar, where students have the better part of a week to absorb grading, a coin club course is substantially shorter at just few hours. Tony and I pass out a box of 20, or so, coins and ask students to look at them, make notes on what makes them interesting, and assign them a market grade.

    After a break, we discuss the coins and use the individual coins to describe market grading, which takes into account wear, eye appeal and other intangible factors.

    Among the stumpers in the class was a 1935 Connecticut Tercentenary commemorative half dollar with thick, rich original toning that approximates the color of algae. The grade: Numismatic Guaranty Corp. Mint State 67 with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker indicating quality within the grade. It wasn’t a popular coin with the class, with students being thrown both by the weird color and the general unfamiliarity with the commemorative issue. However, since it was recently given a green CAC sticker, I had some confidence that the coin didn’t “turn” in the slab.

    At each of these seminars, I’d likely say that I learn just as much (if not more than) the students and it’s great to connect with Coin World’s readers.