Stop the government from turning ancient coin collectors into criminals

Ancient Coin Collectors GuildOver the last few years, I have asked readers to sign various petitions and write to the Department of State to stop restrictions on ancient coins.

Once again, the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) needs your help. This time, the Greek government has requested changes to the Memoranda of Understanding that can hurt ancient coin collectors.

Please read the following letter that was sent by ACCG President Peter Tompa. If you would like to help, please use the links in his letter. Thank you!

Dear Fellow ACCG Member:

The State Department’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee is soliciting public comments for the upcoming renewal of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Hellenic Republic. Current restrictions exempt certain ancient Greek Trade coins, including Athenian Tetradrachms, Corinthian Staters and Tetradrachms of Alexander the Great and his father, Philip, as well as later Roman Imperial and Byzantine coins. On the other hand, many other ancient Greek coins are restricted, including larger denomination coins of many Greek City states and smaller denomination silver and bronze coins of Alexander and his successors.

Please write CPAC expressing concerns about the current restrictions and any effort to expand the current designated list. Comments should focus on how import restrictions have damaged collecting, the preservation of coins, the study of the history they represent, the appreciation of other cultures, and the people to people contacts collecting brings.

While it’s easy to be cynical that public comments are ignored, silence will be taken as acquiescence about the State Department’s actions which have already diminished the supply of ancient coins available on the market.

Comments are due on or before 11:59 PM on May 9th. For a direct link to comment on the government website, go to!documentDetail;D=DOS-2016-0009-0001 and click on the blue “comment now” button in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

For additional background along with suggestions on what to say, see

For details about what coins are currently restricted, please see


Peter K. Tompa

[Most Recent Quotes from]
Updates once per minute.

Centennial Gold Price Grid

Mercury Dime Centennial Gold CoinAs luck would have it, the day I published my post about my predicted price of the 2016 Mercury Dime Centennial Gold Coin, the U.S. Mint published their prices for all of the centennial celebration coins in the Federal Register. Typical of the way the government does things, the table is too cluttered. As a service to my readers I reproduced the table in a more human-readable form.

Price is based on the average price of gold based on the afternoon price of gold as set by the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). The U.S. Mint uses a Thursday-to-Wednesday week for the average which means that it is highly likely that the Standing Liberty and Walking Liberty gold coins will also be released on a Thursday.

I will add a link to this table under the Collector’s Reference on the menubar for your future reference.

LBMA Gold Price weekly average Mercury Dime Centennial Gold Coin (1/10 ounce) Standing Liberty Centennial Gold Coin (¼ ounce) Walking Liberty Centennial Gold Coin (½ ounce)
$950.00 to $999.99 $180.00 $397.50 $740.00
$1,000.00 to $1,049.99 185.00 410.00 765.00
$1,050.00 to $1,099.99 190.00 422.50 790.00
$1,100.00 to $1,149.99 195.00 435.00 815.00
$1,150.00 to $1,199.99 200.00 447.50 840.00
$1,200.00 to $1,249.99 205.00 460.00 865.00
$1,250.00 to $1,299.99 210.00 472.50 890.00
$1,300.00 to $1,349.99 215.00 485.00 915.00
$1,350.00 to $1,399.99 220.00 497.50 940.00
$1,400.00 to $1,449.99 225.00 510.00 965.00
$1,450.00 to $1,499.99 230.00 522.50 990.00
Image courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

Coin jewelry is not legal everywhere

If you have not visited Etsy, you will find a shopping site where you can find unique items that are not available elsewhere. Most of the sellers on Etsy sell handmade designs, vintage items, repurposed vintage items, supplies, and unique low volume goods. It would not be farfetched to call Etsy an Internet craft fair and a neat place to go shopping.

One of the more interesting items on Etsy are coin jewelry. Coin designs are themselves a form of art but can become ordinary when repeated over millions of coins. Take a meaningful design and add it to a bezel, attach it to a pendant, or hammer it into a ring and these artists take the coins to the next level.

Many of these artists will take requests for the type of coin for their creations. Some will even let you send a special coin or a coin they cannot obtain to create your design.

A quick search on Etsy for coin jewelry found over 100,000 different jewelry items including bracelets, rings, earrings, bracelets and more. Aside from the different types of jewelry the artists will also use coins from all around the world including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Norway, and more.

Resin ear rings made by InspiringFlowers using Roosevelt dimes

Resin ear rings made by InspiringFlowers using Roosevelt dimes

1996 Half Dollar Ring by LuckyLiberty

1996 Half Dollar Ring by LuckyLiberty

Hummingbird cut from a Trinidad and Tobago penny by SawArtist

Hummingbird cut from a Trinidad and Tobago penny by SawArtist

Click on the image to visit artist’s store

Coin jewelry hunters may be unknowingly accessories to a crime. According to an article in The Straits Times, it is illegal to make jewelry using coins from Singapore.

Like many other nations, Singapore takes pride in the art on their coinage. Aside from being their means to promote commerce, they are used to represent their culture and society. However, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the Singapore equivalent of the U.S. Treasury Department, has said that under Singapore’s Currency Act, it is illegal to “mutilate, destroy or deface” their money. Offenders can be fined up to $2,000.

If you search for “Singapore coin jewellery” (the British spelling of “jewelry”) on Etsy, you will find around 200 different jewelry items returned as part of the search. It is common to see Singapore flower series coin or older coins that featured seahorses.

Painted Singapore Dollar coin ring by Monedus

Painted Singapore Dollar coin ring by Monedus

1990 Singapore Horse bullion coin 1/20 oz. in a ring by BritanniaJewelry

1990 Singapore Horse bullion coin 1/20 oz. in a ring by BritanniaJewelry

Pendant made using a cutout 1979 Singapore coin

Pendant made using a cutout 1979 Singapore coin

Click on the image to visit artist’s store
None of these artists are based on Singapore

While United States law allows for people to use coins for jewelry or other purposes as long as there is no attempt to use them as legal tender currency (18 U.S.C. § 331), this might not be the same for other countries. Although European laws are similar to those in the United States, there is some question as to whether the laws of Canada and Australia can be interpreted to have the same restrictions as Singapore.

When I asked an attorney, he questioned whether an international buyer would convicted of a crime. We both agreed that if you buy jewelry with an international coin, leave it home if you plan to visit that country.

Etsy was asked for a comment but attempts to contact them via email has not been answered.

All images are courtesy of their respective artists on Etsy.

The Gold Merc and the U.S. Mint’s computers

Obverse of the Mercury Dime 2016 Centennial Gold Coin

Obverse of the Mercury Dime 2016 Centennial Gold Coin

Although I was working when the U.S. Mint began selling the 2016 Mercury Dime Centennial Gold Coin, I made an attempt to purchase the coin. The sale opened with a price of $206.00 and an announced mintage limit of 125,000. There was a household order limit of 10.

Although I was in a meeting, I tried to purchase this coin using the U.S. Mint app on the iPhone. Basically, the U.S. Mint app on the iPhone does nothing more than distill the mobile version of the U.S. Mint website on the iPhone. Since the app was not working properly, I opened Safari and tried to use the website directly. By the time I was able to get the system to respond, the coin sold out.

Even though the U.S. Mint revamped the website, hired a new integrator, and added more capacity to the communications lines that lead to the server, the website failed to be able to handle the requests. The U.S. Mint hired a new contractor to make these improvements but still cannot get it right. Their website is not programmed to handle the crush of a popular product.

As someone who has worked in the government for many years, we usually have to undergo a review of recent events to learn about what went wrong in order to fix the problems for next time. These reviews look at every aspect of the process and recommend changes. It appears that if the U.S. Mint performed these after action reviews they did not learn their lessons from past mistakes.

Now is the time for the U.S. Mint to get out of the e-commerce business and hire a company that understands how to manage peak volumes. Services like Amazon and eBay have figured out how to manage users flooding their systems. I am sure that sales related to the U.S. Mint would not approach the traffic that comes on shopping holidays like Cyber Monday.

Does Ticketmaster sell e-commerce solutions? The software they use that adds you to a queue to wait until you can order because the system has been flooded. In the cases when I used Ticketmaster or Live Nation, their sister site, to buy tickets to popular shows, I was forced to wait on the virtual line before being able to purchase tickets.

Regardless of the model the U.S. Mint uses, they must do something. Either they need to figure it out or maybe a discussion with the Treasury Office of Inspector General may be worth the effort.

NOTE: The U.S. Mint sent a note to the media saying that they would have a statement regarding the sellout on Friday (today). At the time of this writing the U.S. Mint has not released a statement.

The Gold Merc is coming

If you read my Baltimore show report, you might have noticed that I included images of the Mercury Dime 2016 Centennial Gold Coin. According to the U.S. Mint, the coin is scheduled to go on sale on April 21, 2016 at noon Eastern Time.

Obverse of the soon to be released Mercury Dime 2016 Centennial Gold Coin

Obverse of the soon to be released Mercury Dime 2016 Centennial Gold Coin

Reverse of the soon to be released Mercury Dime 2016 Centennial Gold Coin

Reverse of the soon to be released Mercury Dime 2016 Centennial Gold Coin

With a mintage limit of 125,000 and struck in West Point, the coin will be struck on a 24-karat (.999 pure) gold planchet. It will differ from the original Mercury Dime in that it will be dated 2016. On the reverse the coin will have the “W” mintmark since it will be struck in West Point, include “AU 24K” and “1/10 OZ.” to note that the coin will contain one-tenth ounce of gold. Otherwise, it looks exactly like Adolph A. Weinman’s design that was used from 1916 through 1945.

At 16.50 mm in diameter, the gold coin will be a little smaller than the 17.91 mm silver dime. The gold coin will be heavier (3.11 g) than the original that was made from 90-percent silver (0.7234 troy ounces).

To make this coin, the U.S. Mint is exploiting a loophole in the law that authorized the American Buffalo 24-Karat Bullion Gold Coins program (31 U.S.C. § 5112(q)). According to the law, after the first year of issue (2007), the Secretary can change the design of the coin as long as the design is reviewed by the Commission of Fine Arts and Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. The U.S. Mint used this law to authorize the 2009 Ultra High Relief coin and the fifty year celebration of the Kennedy half dollar in 2014 with the dual date.

The original Winged Liberty “ Mercury” Dime was a silver coin produced as a result President Theodore Roosevelt’s “pet crime” where he thought U.S. coin design was hideous. Weinman was Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ student who is credited with finishing the work on Saint-Gaudens coin designs after the master sculpture’s death. It was not one of Weinman’s favorite works but it is beloved by collectors.

As a collector who has an almost complete collection of Mercury dime (missing the 1916-D), I was skeptical about the visual appeal of the coin in gold. When I open the folder, I see 30 years of silver coins. Since I try to keep my collection at extra fine (XF) or better, you can get used to seeing that beautiful silver color. When I saw the gold coin in a size that is close to the original dime in the presentation box at the Whitman Expo, I thought it made for a beautiful tribute.

Pricing of the coin will depend on the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) afternoon price of gold on Wednesday, April 20. That number will be plugged into their pricing grid to determine the opening price of the coin. For example, the LBMA PM price of gold on April 14 is $1,233.85 per troy ounce. If this was the basis of the opening price, we would look up in the table for the price range $1,200.00 to $1,249.99. Since this is an uncirculated business strike coin struck under the American Buffalo act, the table shows that the coin would open at $194.00.

Using my example, this would give the coin a $70.61 or 36-percent numismatic premium over the spot price, which also takes into account U.S. Mint production costs (materials, labor, packaging, etc.).

If the LBMA PM price goes over $1,250 then the opening price of the coin will be $199.00. Being under $200.00 may give the market a psychological boost that may promote quicker sales. Then again, if the price of gold dips below $1,200.00, the coin will open at $189.00.

Putting on my prognosticator’s hat, I predict that the price of gold will go up enough that the opening price will be $199.00.

NOTE: I am just a blogger making a prediction. If you want a better market analysis, ask a professional advisor. They may have a more informed opinion, but we are all just throwing ideas up against the wall trying to figure out what will stick!

Current Poll

Should there be more or less coin shows?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Coinsblog Archives

Pin It on Pinterest

%d bloggers like this: