Weekly Numismatic World News

Depending on how you look at the news, it was a quiet week in numismatics from around the world. One issue not being written about in the numismatic press are the ongoing problems local governments and some businesses are facing in the United Kingdom on their switch to the new pound coin. Aside from production issues, there are entities that are not ready for the new pound coin and may not be ready when the old round pound is demonetized in October.

The United Kingdom is a smaller country than the United States with fewer people and not as many smaller governments trying to control their own piece of grass. Yet, the change was announced almost three years in advance and the Royal Mint provided free test coins to anyone who asked and they are still not ready. One can only imagine the chaos that would occur in the United States if the same thing happened here!

The other big story that I am not including is those about Bitcoin and other so-called crypto-currencies. There are a lot of stories about “Initial Coin Offerings” (ICO) announcing another version of these contrived bit-created trading units. Unless crypto-currencies produce something numismatic-related that can be collected, it is the same as someone writing “This paper is worth $1” and using it for commerce. Without backing, both the crypto-currency and the paper are worth whatever someone will trade for it. Neither have real value and not a subject I plan to cover.

Now, time for the news!

• July 17, 2017

NEW ORLEANS – A local artist is drawing interest for a commemorative coin memorializing four Confederate-era monuments recently removed by the City of New Orleans. One Point Five Art, an artist based in Algiers who sells New Orleans-themed artwork on platforms such as Facebook, Ebay, and Etsy, has listed the “Monumental” New Orleans Commemorative Confederate Statue Coin for presale on Ebay. → Read more at

• July 19, 2017

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The seas have not been kind this summer to treasure hunters looking for gold off the coast of Wabasso. So far, the crew of the Capitana has recovered only one gold coin, an Escudo minted in Mexico about 1714. → Read more at

• July 19, 2017

CARSON CITY, Nev. – In February of 1870, the sparkling new steam-powered coin press inside the United States Mint in Carson City struck its first coin, a Seated Liberty silver dollar with a crisp CC mint mark. → Read more at

• July 19, 2017

Experts were thrilled to discover the coin on a remote island in the Scottish Orkney archipelago. The coin, which is believed to date from the mid fourth-century A.D., was found during an excavation on the small island of Rousay, which is part of the Orkney islands off Scotland’s northeastern coast. → Read more at

• July 19, 2017

AN ancient Roman coin dating back around 1600 years has been discovered in Rousay, Orkney . Archaeologists unearthed the ancient copper alloy coin during a dig by teams working at the eroding beach at Swandro. → Read more at

• July 20, 2017

A rare gold coin from the time of the Byzantine Emperor Phocas was discovered during excavations at Rusokastro Fortress, which is located on a hill near Zhelyazovo village, in Burgas district in southeastern Bulgaria, quoted by the Bulgarian National Television. → Read more at

• July 21, 2017

MANILA- The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is looking to launch redesigned coins with new security features before the end of the year. Central bank Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo said Friday that the new generation coins would be released and circulated within the year. → Read more at

• July 22, 2017

DENVER — The World’s Fair of Money® is coming to Denver, Colorado, August 1 – 5, 2017, and the public can see more than $1 billion of historic rare coins and colorful currency including $100,000 denomination bills, Colorado Gold Rush-era coins, a famous $3 million nickel and currency that was mistakenly misprinted with upside down serial numbers. → Read more at

Coin Collectors News
 Before a Bitcoin fan decides to flame my stance on crypto-currencies, I do have a technical background especially in the area of information security. I fully understand the principles of the block-chain technology behind these crypto-currencies and the games that can be played not only with the elements of the blockchain (remember, it is only a pseudo-random number generator), but also with the trading mechanisms. I have sound technical reasons behind my social responsibility for not being a fan.

Autographed Slabs and other numismentos

“Pawn Stars” Rick Harrison

Recently, a number of people wrote to me asking what I thought about the announcement that the star of the History Channel’s “Pawn Stars”, Rick Harrison, was autographing the insert for Numismatic Guarantee Corporation holders.

I do not believe there should be a problem with this.

Previously, I wrote about something I called “numismentos,” mementos created from numismatic items. It was prompted when NGC announced they struck a deal with Edmund C. Moy, the 38th Director of the U.S. Mint and currently the last full-time director, to autograph labels. I also noted that NGC also had autograph deals with Elizabeth Jones and John Mercanti, the 11th and 12th Cheif Engravers of the U.S. Mint, respectively.

You can see the list of available NGC Signature Labels here.

But NGC is not the only one in this game. Professional Coin Grading Service has had similar promotions including Philip Diehl, another former Director of the U.S. Mint and a long list of Baseball Hall of Fame inductees who signed labels used in the encapsulation of the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins.

A Goodacre Dollar encapsulated by ICG

Famously, Glenna Goodacre, who was paid $5,000 for her design of the Sacagawea dollar, asked to be paid in the new dollar coin. She sent the coins to Independent Coin Graders to be encapsulated with special labels. Goodacre then sold the coins at a premium. She did not sell out of these coins. Later, about 2,000 coins were acquired by Jeff Garrett who submitted them to PCGS. The coins were encapsulated with a special attribution on the PCGS label and included an insert with an autographed by Philip Diehl.

ICG also had some of the designers of the State Quarters autograph labels.

Does anyone else remember when the original PCI was still in business and they hired J.T. Stanton as company president and they had him autograph labels of coins he graded?

Although all of the grading services include special attribution for coins, NGC and PCGS have special labels that they use for certain coins.

In all cases, these grading services are creating these numismentos for customers interested in having the label be significant to their collection.

The only problem I have with the label designation is the “First Strike” or “First Strike” labels. There are questions as to the validity of these designations that causes an unnecessary premium to be added to these coins.

Besides, If I took any other stance, I could be accused of hypocrisy. In a few cases, I have purchased numismentos. My collection includes a pair of ICG holders with 2001-P and 2001-D New York State quarters autographed by designer David Carr that is part of my New York collection.

As part of my Bicentennial Collections, I own a Bicentennial PCGS Signature set. The set consists of the three proof coins with the special bicentennial reverse in PCGS slabs with the autographs of Jack L. Ahr, Seth Huntington, and Dennis R. Williams, the designer of the coins. There is a business strike version of this set but I find the proof coins more appealing.

1976-S Silver Proof Bicentennial Autograph Set

The only reason that there appears to be some umbrage taken with the autograph by Rick Harrison is that he is a relentless self-promoter whose style is not welcome by everyone. Harrison is not the first non-numismatic-related celebrity to autograph inserts but may be the most controversial to some people.

As I have previously suggested, we can call these types of numismatic-related collectibles numismentos. Numismento is a portmanteau of numismatic + memento.

I suggest the name to distinguish collecting the coins from collecting the slabs, show-related ephemera, buttons, or anything else that is not numismatics.

If collecting numismentos makes you happy? Enjoy yourself!

Numismatic World News for the Week Ending July 15, 2017

I have lamented the ending of the weekly newsletter. I thought it would be fun to share the numismatic-related news from non-numismatic press from around the interwebs and grow into something interesting. To support generating the newsletter, I wrote some software to automate the process. These scripts are pretty cool if you ask me (I know you didn’t but I did). It is not fun letting good software go to waste. So I reworked the output to generate a version for the blog.

Each week, I will take no more than 10 stories from around the world and post them Sunday evening. These stories range from those about coin production, finds of ancient hoards, coin and currency issues from world government, bullion, and anything else that would concern the numismatic market in some way.


• July 10, 2017

It's time to start checking your pockets again, as a rare pound coin with a manufacturing fault has been valued at £3,000. A coin collector from Hull spotted the error on his new £1 coin and immediately contacted the Royal Mint to find out if it was a genuine coin which could therefore be extremely rare and sought-after. → Read more at

• July 10, 2017

Summary Silver fundamentals released by the Silver Institute for 2016 show reduced demand, with a smaller deficit compared to 2015 Silver is reacting to investment news such as interest rate rises, and has since the second half of 2016 → Read more at

• July 10, 2017

The Prince of Wales has struck a commemorative coin to mark the Duke of Edinburgh's retirement from public duties. One side of the £1 coin bears the image of Prince Philip and the phrase "Non sibi sed patriae", meaning "not for self, but country". → Read more at

• July 11, 2017

BERLIN — A giant gold coin that was stolen from a museum in the heart of Berlin this year was probably smashed or melted down and will most likely never be recovered, the authorities said on Wednesday, as they announced four arrests, including that of a museum security guard. → Read more at

• July 11, 2017

A Beaumont man is facing up to 20 years in federal prison for an alleged scheme involving $5.4 million in rare coins. Westley Pollard Jr., 42, was arrested Wednesday morning and charged with 11 counts of mail fraud, according to a statement from the U.S. → Read more at

• July 11, 2017

DEFECTIVE quids — previously dubbed the “most secure in the world†— have been slowly cropping up online with many selling for hundreds of pounds. But are these errors really that common and why do they make your coins collectable? → Read more at

• July 11, 2017

Governor of the Bank of Jamaica (BoJ) Brian Wynter says a shortage of coins will ease later this month. He told Parliament's Economy and Productions Committee Wednesday that there is currently a shortage of $20 coins. → Read more at

• July 12, 2017

HOW much is a dollar worth? If it falls between the car seat cushions, or it gets lost in the washing machine, it’s worth big bucks to Ronnie Shahar. Every year, countries all over the world ship millions of tonnes of scrap metal to processing plants in China, India and South-East Asia, the remains of old cars, vehicles, washing machines and vending machines. → Read more at

• July 14, 2017

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi commemorated the birthday of Shrimad Rajchandra — the spiritual guide of Mahatma Gandhi — by launching two commemorative coins of Rs. 150 and Rs. 10 on June 29 at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. → Read more at

Coin Collectors News

Errors verus Varieties: Varieties are spice

This is second article of a 2 part series:
  1. Errors versus Varieties: About Errors
  2. Errors verus Varieties: Varieties are spiceyou are here

A variety is a coin that differs from its basic design type in some distinctive way and is thus differentiated by collectors. Varieties are not errors. They are deliberate changes to the design whether it is to better define the design, adjust the design to strike better, or to add or change elements like dates and mintmarks.

A key difference between a variety and an error is that varieties are replicated for multiple strikes. Die changes, repunched mintmarks, repunched dates and over polishing of dies can reproduce the variety for the life of the die or until it is detected by Mint workers.

Nearly every series of coins has its own traceable die varieties that have been studied and catalogued by researchers. Researchers assign the varieties a number that is used by the third-party grading services to provide attribution to the variety on their holder.

Variety collecting is a very specialized subject. If you are going to collect varieties, you should read the references to understand the characteristics of the varieties. Some of the more well recognized and documented varieties include:

Catalog Coin Series Main or Initial Reference
Cohen (C#) Half Cents (1793-1857) American Half Cents – The “Little Half Sisters” by Roger S. Cohen, Jr.
Sheldon (S#) Large Cents (1793-1814) Penny Whimsy by Dr. William H. Sheldon
Fortin (F#) Liberty Seated Dimes (1837-1891) Liberty Seated Dimes – Die Varieties, 1837 – 1891, by Gerry Fortin
Overton (O#) Half Dollars (1794-1836) Early half dollar die varieties, 1794-1836, by Al C. Overton and Donald L. Parsley
Van Allen-Mallis (VAM#) Morgan and Peace Dollars (1878-1935) Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars, by Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis
Fivaz-Stanton (FS#) Varieties from the Cherrypickers’ Guide Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties of United States Coins, by Bill Fivaz and J.T. Stanton

Arguably, the most collected series by varieties are Morgan Dollars. VAM varieties and catalog numbers were introduced to the hobby by Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis who discovered the varieties while examining Morgan and Peace Dollars. Their book, Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars began a hunt that has seen hundreds of more varieties found and cataloged.

Most VAM varieties cannot be seen without magnification and detailed knowledge of what to look for. The primary resource for VAM collectors is the VAMworld website. Aside from listing the identified VAM varieties, there are instructions how to identify VAM varieties.

Examples of VAMs from VAMworld

The third-party grading services have an optional service that will identify VAM varieties on their holders. However, they do not recognize all VAM varieties. There are three sub-lists of catalogued VAM varieties that are recognized. These varieties are as follows:

  • TOP 100: The 100 most significant VAM Varieties known
  • HOT 50: A list of additional 50 VAM Varieties that collectors are interested in finding. Many of these varieties are scarce and have sold for significant premiums
  • HIT LIST 40: A list of 40 new VAM Varieties that have been discovered since the publishing of the HOT 50 list

General searching for varieties and errors should consider picking up a copy of Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties of United States Coins by Bill Fivaz and J.T. Stanton. The book comes in two volumes. Volume 1 covers die varieties of half cents through nickel five-cent pieces. Volume 2 covers everything else including gold and bullion issues.

VAM example images courtesy of VAMworld

Errors versus Varieties: About Errors

This is first article of a 2 part series:
  1. Errors versus Varieties: About Errorsyou are here
  2. Errors verus Varieties: Varieties are spice

FDR dime struck on a nail (stand in for Festivus Pole)

Over the years, I have been asked what are the differences between errors and varieties. While some errors are distinctive, some wonder why some errors are not varieties and some varieties are not classified as errors.

A basic rule of thumb is that even though errors and varieties represent changes to the basic design of the coin, they differ in how they occur and the resulting appearance of the coin.

A Mint Error is the result of an issue with the manufacturing processes causing the coin to be damaged in some way. Errors can be the result in malfunction of the equipment, imperfect coining materials, or created by human error.

Even though modern equipment is supposed the make the striking process more consistent, when the manufacturing process involves striking billions of coins, there are bound to be a few errors. Coining machines have so many moving parts and everything has to work in concern, one variation in speed, force, vibration, or tilt can make the coins look very different than intended.

Then there is the human factor. Humans are imperfect beings subject to making mistakes. Even though the machines are supposed to help guide the humans to reduce mistakes, something can go wrong, especially in an operation that involves making billions of the product.

To help understand where some of the mint errors come from, they can be categorized as three different types: Planchet Errors, Die Errors, and Strike Errors.

Planchet Errors

1943 Lincoln cent struck on a copper planchet (Courtesy of CoinTrackers)

Planchet Errors are defects of a coin that was caused by the planchet, the coin blank, being imperfect prior to the coin being struck. Planchet Errors occur prior to striking the coin but in ways that could sometimes not be detected. Types of Planchet Errors include:

clipped planchet: Term used to describe a planchet that may have been cut incorrectly from the metal sheet. The clipped area may be curved if cut into the area where another planchet was cut out or straight if cut beyond the edge of the metal strip.
delamination: A form of planchet flaw caused by imperfections in the metal whereby a thin strip of the metal separates itself from the coin.
lamination or planchet flaw: Lamination is a type of error in the planchet that occurs when a thin layer of the metal splits or peals away from the surface of the coin.
off metal or wrong planchet: A type of error that occurs when a coin is struck on a planchet that it is not normally struck, such as striking of a quarter on a planchet that was supposed to be for a nickel.

Die Errors

A Die Error describes a defect caused by a flaw in the dies used to strike the coin. Types of Die Errors include:

cud: The area of a coin struck by a die that has a broken area across part of its surface. The result appears as a blob of metal on the surface of the coin.
die break or die crack: Fine raised lines can appear across the coin when something causes the die to break or crack. A cracked die opens a fine line in the design allowing the flow of metal to fill in the space when struck.
filled die: A type of error that appears on a coin when a foreign substance, such as grease, fills the elements of a die used to strike coins. A filled die error can also occur when the dies are polished to remove debris during the striking process. Modern minting processes have eliminated the polishing of dies but the problems with filled dies continue.
hub doubling: Refers to the doubling of the elements on a coin that was caused by the hub being pressed more than once into a die in different angles. Hub doubling occurs prior to the striking process when the dies are created. Master hubs are pressed into the dies to create working dies for the coining process. Mistakes in this process can result in the production of many coins with the error struck into them.
mule: A mule is a type of mint error that occurs when a coin is struck with two dies that were not intended to be used together.

1955 DDO Lincoln Cent

1937-D 3-Legged Buffalo Nickel

Two of the most famous dies errors are the 1955 Double Die Obverse (DDO) Lincoln cent and the 1937-D Three-Legged Buffalo nickel. The 1955 DDO Lincoln cent and is known as the King of Errors. It is the result of hub doubling that created the double-looking lettering on the coin. It is the coin that really started the error collecting segment of the hobby.

The 1937-D Three-Legged Buffalo nickel occurred when a mint worker polished the reverse die of the Buffalo nickel too aggressively without checking his work. The result was the front-right leg of the buffalo being eliminated from the die. A few thousand were created before the Mint officials figured out they had a problem.

Strike Errors

Off-center 50 States quarter struck in Denver

The strike occurs when the top die, usually the obverse, is pushed with such forced on a planchet sitting in a position on the anvil dies, usually the reverse, that will make the impression on the coin. Strike errors are the result of a mechanical problem that occurs during this process.

broad strike: A coin that is struck in a way that expands beyond the boundaries of the collar. A broad strike can give the coin n flat or elongated look.
brockage: A type of striking error when the coin is not ejected properly from the press and causes the mirror image of the exposed design to be struck on the next coin.
capped die: An error in which a coin gets stuck on a die and remains stuck for successive strikes. Eventually, the coin forms a “cap” on the die and imparts its image on coins it strikes. When the cap falls off, it usually resembles a small bowl.
clashed die: One of the more interesting errors occurs when during the striking process, a malfunction prevents a planchet from being in place when the dies are forced together causing them to crash into each other. This leaves the design from either side on the other. Subsequent coins are then struck with the latent image of the other side pressed into the coin.
cracked die: An error that occurs when during the stress of striking coins, the die cracks across its face. When a cracked die strikes a coin, the metal flows into the crack that impresses a raised area in the coin that is not part of the design.
filled die: A type of error that appears on a coin when a foreign substance, such as grease, fills the elements of a die used to strike coins.
incomplete strike: A coin that is missing design detail because of a problem during the striking process.
misaligned dies: A striking error caused by one or both dies not set properly in the coining machine or worked loose during striking.
multiple-struck: A type of mint error when the coin was struck more than once. A multiple-struck coin can show the design as it is struck in multiple places.
off-center strike: During the striking process, the coin is not seated in the right place in the area over the anvil (lower) die causing the coin’s design to not be properly centered on the coin.
overstrike: A type of minting error when a coin, token or medal is struck on a previously struck coin, token or medal.
partial collar strike: A type of striking error where a planchet does not enter completely into coining position and is struck partly within the collar and partly outside.
rotated dies: A type of mint error caused by the dies not being aligned when striking the coin, token or medal.

1999-P Georgia state quarter double struck and off center.

strike doubling or doubled strike: A coin that is struck more than once while in the coining machine resulting in doubling of design elements. Double strikes are different from hub doubling in that this type of error is a mechanical failure within the coining machine whereas hub doubling happens before striking. Double strike errors are rarer than hub doubling.
weak strike: refers to a coin that does not show its intended detail because of low striking pressure or improperly aligned dies.

When going to coin shows you can see some of the most fantastic errors. Some boggle the mind how they were done and how they escaped the U.S. Mint. Dealers whose concentration are errors do not reveal their secrets but I have been told that some have contacts with some of the security companies that haul money on behalf of the banks.

This topic is not complete until we talk about varieties. That will be the next post.


Weekly Numismatic World News

Depending on how you look at the news, it was a quiet week in numismatics from around the world. One issue not being written about in the numismatic press are the ongoing problems local governments and some businesses are facing in the United Kingdom on their switch...

read more

Numismatic World News for the Week Ending July 15, 2017

I have lamented the ending of the weekly newsletter. I thought it would be fun to share the numismatic-related news from non-numismatic press from around the interwebs and grow into something interesting. To support generating the newsletter, I wrote some software to...

read more
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