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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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Archive for '2015'

    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 sroach@coinworld.com 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. 

    More from CoinWorld.com:

    Court rules in favor of Langbord family in 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle case

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

    The £34 million worth of silver coins from SS City of Cairo wreck have been melted

    The curious 1837 dime in an NGC black holder (or, when a coin in an MS-65 slab is valued like an MS-67)

    NGC grades first Mint State 68 1884-CC Morgan dollar while still in its GSA holder

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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. 

    More from CoinWorld.com:

    Internet surfing yields Mint State 1796 Draped Bust cent

    Know your U.S. coins: Morgan dollar

    Federal Government calls in America’s gold

    Coin users recommend the Mint make no changes to the copper-nickel clad quarter dollar composition

    Federal Judge rules against government in 1974-D aluminum cent case

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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.

    More from CoinWorld.com:

    Gold prospector willing to part with 87-ounce nugget find for a price

    Three-coin 2015 March of Dimes Special Silver Set goes on sale May 4 from U.S. Mint

    CCAC makes its Mark Twain commemorative design recommendations

    Commemorative coins honoring Mark Twain long overdue

    Bank of Canada says not illegal to 'Spock' its $5 notes in homage to the late actor

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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 www.money.org/elections.

    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. 

    More from CoinWorld.com:

    Mint reveals details of 2016 gold coins to mark 1916 silver issues

    Commission of Fine Arts recommends designs for 2015 High Relief gold coin

    Tommy Thompson, man who discovered SS Central America shipwreck, arrested in Florida

    2015 American Eagle silver bullion coins being struck only at West Point Mint currently

    Found: Largest Anglo-Saxon coin hoard in 175 years discovered in United Kingdom

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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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    Pawn Stars' Rick Harrison spotted at Heritage's FUN Platinum Night auction

    Big Ben silver £100-for-£100 coin sells out from Royal Mint

    Here are 12 photos from Tuesday's opening of the Boston time capsule

    1792 Birch cent another coin to top $2 million at Heritage FUN auctions

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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.  

    More from CoinWorld.com:

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