Last Friday was my father’s unveiling. For those not familiar with the custom, Jewish descendants celebrate the life of the deceased by dedicating the grave marker where the loved one is buried. The marker is covered then revealed at the end of the service.
As a die-hard and always suffering Mets fan, my father’s marker was covered with a Mets towel until the end of the service. Later that night, the family went to Citi Field to attend a Mets game in his honor. Jacob deGrom pitched a phenomenal six innings and the Mets won.
It was my first time attending a game at Citi Field. The stadium is quite different from Shea Stadium where my father and I saw many games together. In 1972, we attended more games than he expected because I kept winning tickets. That year I was delivering Newsday when it was an afternoon newspaper. To boost the number of subscribers, Newsday would give out prizes to the paperboys who sold the most subscriptions. When Newsday started a Sunday paper, there would be more opportunities to win prizes. I chose the Mets tickets whenever it was an option.
In those days, the paperboys collected directly from the subscriber. On Saturday, we would pay the distributor for the week’s newspapers and hand in orders for the next week. One week I almost did not have enough money to pay the bill because several people paid using silver coins. The silver coins went inserted into the blue folders. My father helped me make up the difference.
By the end of my three years delivering Newsday, I had a nearly complete set of Roosevelt dimes picked from pocket change and from the people who paid for newspapers. Shortly before we moved from New York, my father and I went to a local coin shop and we purchased 12 dimes to almost complete the set. A few days later, he came home from work with the one dime that the local coin shop did not have and a Whitman Deluxe album. Later, I learned he bought the coin and the album from Stack’s in Manhattan.
Although this chapter is over, the memories and the album of Roosevelt dimes remain.
And now the news…
Life in the United States is coming back. Although COVID-19 continues to be a concern, the vaccines seem to be mitigating many of the issues that closed down the country last year. According to many reports, the United States is doing better than other countries with vaccinations. The result is a decrease in the number of infections and deaths.
COVID-19 will change how we live life, at least for the next few years. Aside from the loss of family members, I am no longer shaking hands. I will fist-bump with someone. Maybe we should learn from the Japanese and bow in respect.
Another change is the reduction in handling items. When I go to a store, I continue to wear nitrile gloves. Even though science has proven that COVID-19 cannot live on surfaces for long times, studies have shown that a dollar bill can have more bacteria than a toilet seat.
The next question is what will happen at coin shows. When we go to shows, people will examine coins, currency, and exonumia before they purchase. Collectors will be digging through junk boxes, those long storage boxes, and flipping pages in notebooks. Collectors will handle slabs and flip through pages of the available books. While this is no different from shows in the past, the COVID-19 pandemic scared everyone. A result of the heightened awareness of viruses was a significant reduction in flu cases.
People traveling to long-distance shows will be required to wear masks in the airport and on airplanes. Show venues will continue to require people to wear masks and social distancing that will reduce dealer participation.
COVID-19 restrictions require the ANA to reduce the number of dealers to maintain social distancing. What we do not know are the other restrictions that the ANA will have to follow. Will there be restrictions on the number of people on the bourse floor? What about attendance restrictions on the peripheral sessions like Money Talks and the auctions? How will the exhibits be handled? What other restrictions will the ANA be required to follow?
It is good that life is resuming, but there are more questions than answers. Get vaccinated and stay safe.
And now the news…
On June 8, 2021, Sotheby’s auctioned the Stuart Weitzman Collection. The auction consisted of three of the rarest items in the world, including the Farouk-Fenton 1933 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle. It is the only 1933 Double Eagle coin that anyone who can afford it can legally own.
The coin sold for $18,872,250!
Although not confirmed by Sotheby’s, the price realized suggests that it includes the buyer’s premium. Sotheby’s has not disclosed the buyer’s name.
Arguably, the most famous coin in the world, the price was over the auction estimate of $10-15 million but under what the numismatic industry expected. The price is significantly more than the $7,590,020 paid in 2002 for the coin, including $20 to monetize the coin officially. The auction included the U.S. Mint’s monetization certificate.
Also included in the auction was The Inverted Jenny Plate Block sold for $4,860,000 (estimated at $5-7 million), and The British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta stamp that sold for $8,307,000 (estimated at $10-15 million).
Numismatists may want to save the catalog link for the sale of this coin. Sotheby’s catalog listing includes the coin’s history with an updated history of the other 1933 Double Eagle coins. The update includes the ten coins “discovered” by Joan Langbord, daughter of Israel Switt, and her family’s fight to retain ownership. Documentation from court filings adds to the story.
David Tripp wrote the original catalog description for the first Sotheby’s/Stack’s auction. In 2004, Tripp published his research in Illegal Tender. Given the new information, would it be worth updating the book?
Congress became quiet on the numismatic front in May. After a flurry of vanity bills introduced in March and April, the only bill to be introduced in May was to create a commemorative to raise money for the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The National World War II Memorial opened in 2004 to a lot of acclaim for its design. Surrounding a reflecting pool are 56 granite pillars arranged in a semicircle. Each pillar has the name of the 48 states and eight territories at the time of the war. Two sides represent the two theaters of the war, the Atlantic and Pacific.On either side of the pool are victory arches to celebrate the victories in Europe and the Pacific. Hidden within the design are two “Kilroy was here” engravings. The phrase’s origin remains a mystery, but it was prevalent where ever U.S. troops were located.
The memorial is open 24 hours a day, and the National Parks Service does not charge admission fees to enter. The only money the NPS receives to maintain the memorial is from the budget process and donations. Neither is enough to prevent the deterioration caused by Washington weather extremes and the wear of visitors. Unfortunately, there has also been vandalism.
Because of the condition problems, groups are looking for ways to raise money to refurbish and improve the memorial. Ideas included the creation of a commemorative coin to help raise money for the construction. If passed, S. 1596 will create a commemorative coin series to raise construction money for the memorial.
S. 1596: A bill to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC, and for other purposes.
When it comes to identifying the numismatic-related news of the week, you cannot ignore the fiasco caused by the U.S. Mint. It is a repeat of every significant release for the last 15 years: underestimate demand, make purchasing policies that are out of touch with the demand anticipated by the industry, not have the infrastructure in place to meet the demand, apologize and promise to do better later.
Wash, rinse, and repeat.
Collectors are not taking this situation in stride as they previously have. According to congressional staffers who spoke on the promise of anonymity, the calls to their offices bordered on outrage. The stories were amazing.
One staffer said that their district office received a call from an assisted living center in their district. Five people were on the call. Each made a statement and passed around the telephone, so they could all tell their members of congress how upset they were. One of the people told the staffer about buying his first proof set from the U.S. Mint in 1958.
Another staffer said that the House Financial Services Committee redirected calls made to their offices. Someone investigated and decided that something I wrote the day of the sale prompted the calls.
A source with the Treasury Department said that they logged a lot of calls on Wednesday. Although they would not break down the distribution of the calls, sources suggested that calls made to the main Treasury caught Secretary Janet Yellen’s attention.
Although members of the numismatic industry called, everyone I spoke with said it was the public’s outrage that caused the U.S. Mint to take quick action.
Instead of putting up with bad service from the government, the people stood up and asked for answers. The government responding to the people is the best news of the week. Now let’s hope the U.S. Mint does not waste this moment.
And now the news…
For those who do not access Facebook, the following is the complete text of the announcement:
Sources reported that unhappy collectors “besieged” the U.S. Mint with email and telephone calls following their latest ordering fiasco. The sources also said that the offices of several members of congress contacted the U.S. Mint after hearing from their constituents.
One source said that collectors contacted the Treasury Office of Inspector General (OIG) and prompted them to question U.S. Mint management on the problems. I have not been able to confirm this story.
Too bad ANA leadership did not take a leadership role on behalf of the hobby.