Passing the time after 10:00 PM on Monday night, the television found its way to the History Channel for the return of Pawn Stars, the reality show about a pawn shop in Las Vegas. While the first show of the hour was just interesting it was the second show that started at 10:33 PM that was more intriguing.
Although the show was marked as “NEW” on the visual guide, it first aired last January. To make sure I was able to study the coins more, I found the episode on the History Channel website. It is also available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/yTKbcAKbQtU. (embedded below)
Opening the show, a seller name Walter walked in with two rare coins. The first coin was a 1792 Half Disme and the other a silver Libertas Americana. Two coins dating back to the earliest days of the country’s history.
If you recognize Walter his full name is Walter Husak. In 2008, Husak sold his extraordinary collection of large cents at an auction held during that year’s Long Beach Expo. For this show, he was selling the two coins.
The 1792 Half Disme was graded MS-65 by Numismatic Guarantee Corporation who lists the coin as a TOP POP, meaning no coin has graded higher. There are only two half dismes graded MS-65 by NGC and one appeared on Pawn Stars.
1792 Half Disme obverse graded NGC MS-65 TOP POP (screen grab)
1792 Half Disme reverse graded NGC MS-65
The Libertas Americana is one of the rare silver versions and was graded MS-61 by Professional Coin Grading Service
obverse of the silver Libertas Americana graded MS-61 by PCGS (screen grab)
Reverse of the silver Libertas Americana
As with a lot of these purchases, Rick calls in an expert for assistance. This time, the expert is Jeff Garrett, the founder of Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries in Lexington, Kentucky and immediate past president of the American Numismatic Association.
Jeff Garrett stands next to Walter Husak as they examine the Half Disme and Libertas Americana on Pawn Stars (screen grab)
I noted that Garrett’s firm is in Lexington since the location of the television show is in Las Vegas. While doing a little online investigation into the prices and to see if there was more information, there was a note on the Collectors Universe forums suggesting that the segment was not a reality, but it had been staged.
According to user “cardinal,” he wrote:
Jeff Garrett is one of the experts that gets brought in to evaluate numismatic items for the show. For this specific episode, Jeff was looking for both a half disme and a Libertas medal, and Jeff was able to locate them and had the respective owners’ permission to have them appear on the show. The half disme is pedigreed to the Garrett Collection, and the silver Libertas medal was one that Jeff Garrett had sold some years back. (This particular Libertas medal has been in the Cardinal Collection for the past 6 years.)
I believe Ccardinal is the anonymous person behind the Cardinal Collection who has collected some of the finest coins in the PCGS registry.
Following a discussion on the actual Libertas Americana used for the show, he ends with:
During the show, the half disme was a no-sale. The Libertas medal was shown as sold at $150K on camera. That being said, the piece was not actually sold, even though Rick actually did want to buy it for $150K.
I have heard stories as to how some segments are real and some are staged. When I spoke with Charmy Harker about her appearance in 2012, I was under the impression that her attempt at selling a World War II-era aerial bomber camera was not overly staged. That does not seem to be the case in this episode.
My one complaint is that these two esteemed numismatists mispronounced the name of the coin. Everyone kept pronouncing disme as “DIZ-ME.” In reality, disme is pronounced as if the “s” was not included in the word. Disme is derived from the French term for tenth but pronounced dime—which is why the “s” was dropped after the first issues of 1792 coins.
Oh well… it was a fun segment to watch.
The royal mints in the Commonwealth Realm are have returned to court with the Royal Canadian Mint accusing the Royal Australian Mint of stealing the technology it uses to print coins.
In January, it was reported that the Royal Canadian Mint file a patent infringement lawsuit against the Royal Australian Mint when the Aussies issued 2012 Remembrance Day coins that the Canucks claim uses the same or similar technologies.
It is being reported that in March, the Royal Canadian Mint filed additional documents in the Federal Court of Australia claiming that the printing method on the coin that commemorates the Australian children’s book Possum Magic also infringes on their patents.
The original claim included the 500,000 coin run from 2012. With this updated filing to include other Remembrance Day coins, Olympic-themed coins, and other commemorative, the total is now 15 million Australian $2 coins. The Royal Canadian Mint wants all of the coins in the Royal Australian Mint’s possession to be turned over or “destroy(ed) under supervision.”
As part of their defense, the Royal Australian Mint is asking the courts to invalidate the patents claiming there is not enough novelty over previous methods. Those who watch technology patent fights here in the United States have heard this argument before.
A hearing is scheduled for June. More claims and counter-claims can be added to this lawsuit between now and then. Stay tune!
And now the news…
April 16, 2018
What can you give your country for its 70th anniversary? For thousands of school pupils and volunteers, the answer is the sweat of their brows as they worked to prepare a new public 70-kilometer (43-mile) walking path called the Sanhedrin Trail. → Read more at timesofisrael.com
April 16, 2018
An amateur archaeologist and a 13-year-old student have uncovered a stash of thousand-year-old coins, rings and pearls on an island in the Baltic Sea in northern Germany, including items that might be tied to Harald Bluetooth, the famous king who united Denmark. → Read more at npr.org
April 16, 2018
OTTAWA — A legal battle between the Royal Canadian Mint and its counterpart in Australia is heating up as Canada cries foul over “Possum Magic” coins. The Canadian Crown corporation is alleging the Royal Australian Mint stole its method for printing colour onto metal, and has expanded a December lawsuit over red poppies on a run of 2012 Remembrance Day coins. → Read more at nationalpost.com
April 18, 2018
Maloney, author of the Purple Heart Hall of Honor Commemorative Coin Act, commended Purple Heart Hall of Honor, Inc. after it announced its “Campaign for 290,” which aims to attract at least 290 cosponsors to Rep. Maloney’s legislation by Memorial Day. → Read more at hudsonvalleynewsnetwork.com
April 19, 2018
The "Half Eagle" is 164 years old and one of only four known → Read more at heraldtribune.com
April 19, 2018
The Royal Canadian Mint claims an Australian Possum Magic-themed coin infringes on their patent. → Read more at bbc.com
April 19, 2018
The Ernst Badian Collection gives insight to Roman history, as well as the evolution of currency. → Read more at njtvonline.org
April 19, 2018
Silver is, like gold, a commodity store of value and is free of counterparty risk, with energy-intensive replacement costs setting the lower boundary for prices (the same energy proof of value that underlies gold prices). → Read more at goldmoney.com
April 19, 2018
The Royal Canadian Mint, which is the official maker of the country’s money, has said the commemorative Australian series, which celebrates the classic Mem Fox children’s book Possum Magic, ripped off its unique process of painting colour onto metal. → Read more at news.com.au
April 20, 2018
A former Bank of Japan employee was arrested Friday for allegedly stealing gold coins worth a total of ¥200,000 ($1,850) from the central bank’s Tokyo head office, police said. Koichi Yakushiji, 54, is suspected of stealing the two gold coins on April 2, the police said. → Read more at japantimes.co.jp
This week’s silence was not because I had nothing to say—that would be an anomaly! As part of starting my new business and becoming more organized, I realized how far behind I am in my reading.
Over the course of time, I kept buying books I want to read and let them pile up as other things got in the way including the feeling of obligation to read periodicals because of their timeliness.
The online periodicals are easier to deal with. Right now, I only subscribe to one magazine and The Numismatist for electronic reading. Both seem to get priority over printed items.
I decided that I will set aside one hour each evening before bedtime to catch up on my reading. I started with a non-numismatic book because it has been sitting here the longest and the topic is intriguing. For those interested, I am reading Tesla vs. Edison: The Life-Long Feud that Electrified the World by Nigel Cawthorne (ISBN: 9780785833789). Tesla was a better scientist but Edison was a better businessman.
Next, I will delve into a numismatic book. One that has been sitting on my desk that is really calling my name is Counterfeiting and Technology by Bob McCabe (ISBN: 9780794843953).
While starting and studying my collection of Maryland colonial currency, I learned that the leaf print on the reverse of early notes was an attempt to prevent counterfeiting. Benjamin Franklin devised the nature print, an imprint of a leaf or other natural item with its unpredictable patterns, fine lines, and complex details made it more difficult to copy. (Read more about it here)
Not only have I written a lot about the problems with counterfeiting coins and currency, but I also wrote a six-part series about how to detect counterfeits (start with the first post here).
Ironically, the most read blog post is “How easy is it to pass counterfeit currency,” a post that I wrote after an experience with an iodine pen.
1770 Maryland Colonial 6-dollar note
1774 Maryland colonial 2-dollar note
Examples of Maryland colonial currency using nature prints on their reverses
On first glance, the 480 book looks well researched with a list of a lot of supporting materials. Like most of Whitman’s books, the layout includes a lot of illustrations. What piques my interest is that it does start with colonial currency, the area where my interest in the top began.
After I read about the technology that Tesla pioneered that is still the basis of a lot of what we use today, like the induction engine (used to drive the automobile that bears his name) and the concept of transmitting electricity without wires (see modern-day wireless chargers), then I will dive into the world of counterfeiting.
After note: In memorial…
This post about reading was inspired by the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush. Mrs. Bush was passionate about literacy and would encourage everyone to read, regardless of age and ability. Without fanfare, Mrs. Bush and the foundation she started made sure literacy was a priority in the lives of everyone she touched.
In 1966, Aaron Feldman placed an advertisement in The Numismatist that read, “Buy the book before the coin.” Although Feldman was trying to entice readers to buy books, it is a sentiment that has survived the test of time and continues to thrive.
Later, Feldman was quoted as saying. “I’ve always thought that if a man doesn’t own one coin, but has the knowledge that is in the books, then he’s a real numismatist.” I am sure this is something that the late First Lady would endorse.
Finally, after 2,649 days (or 7 years, 3 months, 2 days), the U.S. Mint now has a permanent appointed Director when Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin swore in David J. Ryder as the bureau’s 39th Director on April 12, 2018.
David J. Ryder, 39th Director of the U.S. Mint
The U.S. Mint has been without an appointed director since Edmund C. Moy resigned as the director effective on January 9, 2011, although he had vacated his office earlier. Moy’s term was to expire on September 5, 2011. He was one of the few officials from the George W. Bush administration to work under Barack Obama.
Moy will be remembered for the problems with the U.S. Mint’s website ablity to meet collector demand and the debacle over not having enough bullion planchets to meet demands of investors and collectors.
Ryder comes to the U.S. Mint after holding the position of Global Business Development Manager and Managing Director of Currency for Honeywell Authentication Technologies. As part of his work, Ryder worked with the Royal Mint during their development of the security technology that they are currently being used for the new one-pound coin.
During his confirmation, Ryder was asked about counterfeit technologies and how it could help in the United States. Although counterfeiting is a concern, current circulating coins are not the counterfeiter’s targets. For coins, the targets are the older collectible coins with an overwhelming target being Morgan and Trade dollars.
This is a return for Ryder who served as the 34th Director from September 1992 to November 1993 during the administration of President George H.W. Bush. His experience with running the U.S. Mint in the past and his work with Honeywell should help him be successful.
Welcome, Mr. Ryder and good luck!
And now the news…
April 11, 2018
Football fans were shocked to learn that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is a coin collector. On Wednesday night ESPN Sports Business Reporter Darren Rovell tweeted a new detail about Gronkowski's $1million home being burglarized on February 5, the night the Patriots lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII. → Read more at dailymail.co.uk
April 11, 2018
To mark the 20th anniversary of Astana and the 25th anniversary of the national currency, the National Bank of Kazakhstan will issue a new series of commemorative coins. This is great news for numismatists of many countries. → Read more at kazakh-tv.kz
April 12, 2018
Bank tellers beware! A coin con man may be on a roll, warn North Vancouver RCMP – literally. The inventive fraudster recently bilked a bank in North Vancouver by cashing in what the teller believed were more than 45 toonies and leaving significantly lighter, pocketing $2,600 in bills. → Read more at nsnews.com
April 13, 2018
A junk dealer in Turkey returned 100 gold coins he found hidden away in an old stove, state run Anadolu news agency reported on Friday. Asir Ozturk, 36, has been making a living by collecting and selling junk materials in Burdur for the last 20 years, according to the report. → Read more at thenews.com.pk
April 14, 2018
In 1974, Reno stock investor and real estate man, Lavere Redfield, passed away at the age of 77 years. Lavere was born in Utah and his father died when Lavere → Read more at elkodaily.com
When I go picking I look for the unusual. Whenever I walk into an estate sale or any other picking opportunity, I will find the most remote area and work from there. In most homes, I head for the basement and the garage. These are the places that people store things they did not want to throw out, It is where I find the most unusual items.
Lately, I have been finding that buying old books can be just as interesting. Aside from cultivating a small clientele of interested customers, I have found that people hide things in books, especially old books.
Not long ago I visited a difficult to find estate sale hoping to find something interesting. I did not find much but there were some books that had possibilities. At $2 each, I felt I could find a few gems.
Based on the type of books I found, the owner had a passion for European history. In addition to travel books and books about European influence on United States society, there was a two-volume set written in French.
My French is good enough to figure out that the books were published in 1899 Paris and were from the first printing of the first edition. For book collectors, once the book meets the condition test, these are the books they like. Since they were in good condition with nice covers I added them to my pile.
This past week I was going looking through the box of books. As I was cataloging them I will either scan the pages or fan them to see if I find something. Within these two volumes of French language books on European history, I found money.
I was a little surprised to see notes from the Central Bank of Egypt. Seven different Egyptian notes, mostly from the late 1980s. The face value of the notes totals 13 pounds.
Obverse of the Egyptian banknotes found in a French language book about European history.
Reverse of the Egyptian banknotes found in a French language book about European history.
Aside from being mostly in horrible condition, I do not recall any indication of books, magazines, or catalogs referencing Egypt of the Middle East or North Africa.
The best-looking note is a 25 piastre note (Pick #57a) but it looks water damaged. It was probably water damaged before being stored between the pages of the book since the book shows no effects from the storage.
Although the notes can be worth $5 for the 25 piastre note to $25 for the 5-pound note, that would be if they were in better condition. I am not sure the entire lot is worth $5!
The moral of this story is that if you go picking at estate sales, check the bookcase. You never know what might fall out when you fan the pages.
There are politicians so full of themselves that they even have to show it off with challenge coins.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt
Scott Pruitt, the 14th Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has decided that rather than saving taxpayer money, he will spend additional money to have the EPA redesign the challenge coin that he uses on behalf of the EPA.
According to the New York Times, Pruitt wants to make the challenge coin bigger and to delete the EPA logo. According to a retired career EPA employee, it appears that Pruitt wants the coin to be all about him and not the agency.
The reverse side of the E.P.A. challenge coin conceived under Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, left, and the face of the coin issued when Gina McCarthy led the agency. (Photo Credit: Ron Slotkin/The New York Times)
“These coins represent the agency,” said Ronald Slotkin, who served as the director of the E.P.A.’s multimedia office. “But Pruitt wanted his coin to be bigger than everyone else’s and he wanted it in a way that represented him.”
It is reported that Pruitt does not like the agency seal because (brace yourself) he felt it looks like a marijuana leaf!
Official logo of the United States Environmental Protection Agency
Leaf of the cannabis sativa plant
Pruitt is not the first agency head to extend his ego to challenge coins. Last fall, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke commissioned his own challenge coin. At the time, it was thought to be the only Cabinet-level official to have his own challenge coin.
In order to create a new challenge coin, the manufacturer must create new dies. Making new dies does have a cost, as opposed to either using an existing die or having an existing design reworked. According to the website of Challenge Coins Plus, the company The New York Times story said was involved with making other challenge coins for the EPA, if Pruitt wants a 2.5-inch coin, the mold fees are $100 per side ($200 for both sides). Once the molds are made, 2-sided colored coins are $5.57 each for 2,000 coins ($11,140) without customizations such as custom edges and capsules.
However, Pruitt is not stopping with challenge coins. He has ordered pens, notebooks, and leather binders to exclude the logo and replaced with his name in a larger font. All at an additional charge to taxpayers.
At least when the U.S. Mint fails, it does not cost the taxpayers any money since the U.S. Mint’s operations are paid by the seignorage and not from the general treasury.
I write this blog from the perspective of a collector. I champion the collector. I think that collectors are the most qualified to determine the direction of the hobby. The collector is the consumer and the consumer is almost always right.
When it comes to helping with the direction of the hobby dealers should also have a say. Their input is important. But they should be there to support the collector because without collectors the dealers have no business. Dealers should not be dictating the direction of the hobby.
Recently, I was listening to The Coin Show podcast hosted by Matt Dinger, a dealer in Indianapolis, and Mike Noodle, a collector that says he works in a coin shop (I think he said it was a part-time gig), and became very concerned when Matt said that the U.S. Mint was hurting the hobby.
Are these sets hurting the hobby? Should the U.S. Mint stop producing them? (U.S. Mint image)
Regular listeners to The Coin Show knows that Matt is not a fan of modern coins and the products of the U.S. Mint. In fact, during the last show, he admitted to not carrying American Eagle coins because he does not want to support the U.S. Mint in damaging the hobby.
During the podcast, Mike came to the defense of U.S. Mint collectors but that defense was tempered when he said that collecting U.S. Mint products was for beginner collectors and that it was a way to start before the collector “graduate” to other collectibles.
I have questioned Matt and Mike in the past on Facebook but this time I felt their statements crossed a line. My regular readers know I can get hyperbolic but I try to remain respectful. As it happens on Facebook and anywhere else on the Internet, people cannot take the words at face value and have to read something into them.
This time I emphasized that not only do I collect U.S. Mint items but have not “graduated” to the type of collectibles Mike and Matt proclaim to be real collectibles. New readers can go through this blog and see how my collection can be classified as normal to eclectic.
After a lot of angry discussions (you will see a sample below) and some churlish responses from others (not Matt or Mike), I finally coaxed out the reasons for Matt’s hatred of modern U.S. Mint products. Unfortunately, it seems his reasons have more to do with the industry than the U.S. Mint.
According to Matt, the U.S. Mint is harming numismatics by selling annual sets like proof and mint sets at the prices they set. During the Facebook discussion, Matt and Sam Shafer, another Indianapolis-area dealer, said that they believe the U.S. Mint’s prices are too high.
From their perspective as dealers, they claim it is the U.S. Mint’s fault for the differences between the manufacturer’s suggested retail price the secondary market.
Using that logic, can I blame Chevrolet for the secondary market price of the 2014 Silverado I just purchased? If I tried, General Motors would laugh me under the tonneau cover of the truck! Yet, coin dealers are applauded for applying the same logic. This does not make sense.
How can you blame the manufacturer for the secondary market’s reaction?
Matt wrote, “I feel like the depreciation seen in modern sets is much more harmful to potential collectors or beginning collectors.”
I guess if General Motors followed that logic, they would stop making trucks!
But we are talking about collectibles. In that case, Topps, Fleer, and Upper Deck should stop producing baseball cards.
This is only an argument by dealers who would rather sell what they like and not take a broader view of the collecting market. In my new life, I am a collectibles and antiques dealer. The items I buy are either from the secondary market or I buy new items from manufacturers such as comic book and baseball card publishers.
I have been in antiques and collectibles market as a part-time dealer for 10 years. During that time I have been selling at antique shows, flea markets, and online. I have met and spoken with dealers about the market and its volatility. Everyone I speak with survived the Great Recession of 2008. What I learned in these discussions is that ONLY the numismatic industry demands that its collectibles rise in value. If the coin does not increase in value it is not because the market has spoken. It has to be someone else’s fault. After all, these dealers have to be right so it must be the U.S. Mint’s fault.
This 1901 $10 Dollar Lewis and Clark Bison note (Fr# 122) was sold by a dealer at an antiques show by a dealer not complaining about the collecting market.
The vast majority of dealers are very good and very reasonable. Many do understand the view of the collector and work with them. However, there is a subset of dealers that can be some of the most stubborn business people I know. They refuse to change with the market. Even if the market is not looking for their niche, they will not adapt to the market. Their mind is made up do not confuse them with facts.
They are also the most vocal in their opposition to market forces. Their usual retort is “you don’t understand, you’re not a dealer!”
With all due respect, I do not need to be a dealer to know that not changing with the times is doing more to hurt the hobby than the U.S. Mint is by doing its job.
Another argument is that the U.S. Mint has too many programs. Are they kidding me? Have they looked at the offering by the Royal Canadian, New Zealand, and Royal Mints? When was the last time they looked at the websites of the Perth Mint or the Pobjoy Mint? Comparatively, the U.S. Mint’s catalog looks bare!
Did you know that the Pobjoy Mint struck this coin under the authority of the British Virgin Islands. Is this good for the hobby? (Pobjoy Mint image)
The U.S. Mint does not offer dozens of non-circulating legal tender (NCLT) coins. U.S. Mint coins are struck and not painted. The U.S. Mint does not offer piedfort version of circulating coins or even coins guilt in gold or palladium. The U.S. Mint does not make deals with movie production companies, comic book publishers, or soft drink manufacturers to issue branded coins.
Every coin that the U.S. Mint offers for sale has an authorizing law limiting what they could produce. According to those laws, the U.S. Mint has to recover costs and is allowed to make a “reasonable” profit.
But what is reasonable? This is a question that has a lot of valid arguments on both sides. However, the U.S. Mint is subject to oversight by the Treasury Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and, occasionally, review by Congress’s Government Accountability Office (GAO). Neither oversight agency has produced a report saying that the U.S. Mint’s prices are unreasonable.
The U.S. Mint is selling what they manufacture at a price that the competent oversight agencies have not complained about. The only one complaining is by the dealers in the secondary market.
Why are these dealers complaining?
We get to the crux of the problem when Sam Shafer responds, “I would rather sell a customer a Morgan dollar than a set of glorified shiny pocket change.”
It does not take a rocket scientist to understand why a dealer would write that. A dealer makes more money selling Morgan dollars than modern coins. It is about business, not about what the U.S. Mint is doing. It is also a very reasonable response if the dealer would own up to the fact that it is about the impact to their business. Blaming the U.S. Mint is like crashing into a wall and blaming the wall for being there!
But Sam must have had some bad experiences: “How about you come down from your pedestal, put your loudspeaker up your rectum and work in a shop for a few years where you can witness the devastation of families first hand for a few years.”
This is a strong statement, even if you discount the placement of inanimate objects into bodily orifices they do not belong. What has the U.S. Mint done to cause “devastation?” The U.S. Mint sells products to those who want to buy them. You are not forced to buy from the U.S. Mint.
Sam continues, “While your [sic] at it maybe you can take up your glorious cause of finding homes for the 50 billon [sic] sets the government produced and bulk sold over the years to the collectors who assumed that 5 sets would better than 1.”
By Sam’s logic, it is the U.S. Mint’s fault that someone speculated and the investment did not pan out? Whose fault is that? Who told someone that buying these sets would be a good investment? Not the U.S. Mint! Where does the U.S. Mint say in any of its publications or website that coins make a solid investment? How could these speculators have come to this conclusion?
The U.S. Mint goes out of its way to avoid participating in the investment market. They do not represent any of their products as investment grade instruments. This is why the U.S. Mint does not sell investment bullion directly to the public. The government sells these products to distributors who will then sell to the dealers that will sell them to the public. The government is not involved in the price speculation of numismatic items.
2018 Fiji Coca-Cola Bottle Cap-shaped coin is not a U.S. Mint product. It contains 6 grams of silver (about $3.20) and costs $29.95. Is this good for the hobby? (Modern Coin Mart image)
The U.S. Mint does not even acknowledge historical and aftermarket pricing for the items they manufacture.
The U.S. Mint sells collectible coins. They do not sell investments.
Over the years, I have received more complaints about dealers than allegedly worthless State Quarters or the U.S. Mint’s annual sets. But why are coins allegedly worthless?
Did the U.S Mint make claims that these one-time-only coins are really special and that they would be the greatest thing since sliced bread?
Did the U.S. Mint create rolls in sonically sealed plastic holders and tout them as the next great collectible?
This is not a U.S. Mint Product! (Danbury Mint image)
Did the U.S Mint create books, boards, folders, albums, maps, touting this as a once-in-a-lifetime way to collect?
All this came from the secondary market. Who runs the secondary market? DEALERS!
DEALERS set the values for the coins based on what they sell them for.
DEALERS take coins and entomb them in sonically sealed plastic holders saying that this is how you should be collecting. They tell you one encapsulating service is better than another and then make you pay different prices if you use a service they do not like even if the number assigned as a grade is the same on both pieces of plastic.
DEALERS have convinced an entire class of collectors that if they do not have a plastic holder with this new, whiz-bang label that their collection is not complete.
DEALERS have also complained about whose name and image have appeared on some of those labels.
Tragedy grips the industry when a Pawn Star is featured on a plastic holder’s label! (NGC image)
DEALERS genuflect when someone puts a shiny green sticker on a plastic holder as if it was blessed by some deity. They prostrate themselves if the plastic holder is granted that divine gold sticker! After preaching this gospel to their flock, you are considered a heretic if you question the validity of the sticker and the motives of the sticker maker.
While the U.S. Mint is not perfect, the problems with the numismatic market have not been created by a tightly regulated government bureau. The problems come from the secondary market whether they are overstating the values of these items or demeaning collectibles that they cannot make a hefty profit on.
Maybe it is time for dealers to look in the mirror and ask whether the U.S. Mint is hurting the hobby or maybe they are refusing to recognize the problem is right in front of them.
The Royal Canadian Mint has officially Jumped the Shark!
According to the Urban Dictionary, jump the shark is “a term to describe a moment when something that was once great has reached a point where it will now decline in quality and popularity.” The origin came from the premiere of the fifth season (1977) of the sitcom Happy Days in which The Fonz, the stereotypical 1950s greaser, jumps over a shark on water-skis. It was out of character for The Fonz and seen as a ploy to boost sagging ratings.
2018 Canada $20 coin commemorates the 1967 Falcon Lake alleged UFO incident. (Source: Royal Canadian Mint)
Popular usage has been those times when a show, company, or anyone does something so outlandish to attract attention that was once lost.
One might say that the Royal Canadian Mint might have jumped the shark in the past, but they have really outdone themselves this time. They issued a one-ounce silver, $20 face-value non-circulating legal tender (NCLT) coin to commemorate an alleged UFO sighting.
When it goes on sale, the will cost $129.95 ($101.69 USD).
Aside from being 6.22-times the spot price of silver, the design is printed on the egg-shaped planchet. There appears to be nothing about the coin that is struck.
I have heard some say that things the U.S. Mint is doing is bad for the hobby. Some have targeted the American Liberty 22th Anniversary Gold Coin as being over the top. Although I have a problem with the coins having a high premium over spot prices, the coin pales in comparison to the UFO and other lenticular coins being offered by the Royal Canadian Mint.
And now the news…
April 2, 2018
Sales in March of U.S. Mint American Eagle gold fell to their lowest for the month, and silver coins dropped to their lowest in 11 years, government data showed. → Read more at cnbc.com
April 2, 2018
Scientists are left wondering how the coins remained hidden for so long. → Read more at newsweek.com
April 2, 2018
A Long Island businessman who built a textile empire by peddling irregular sweaters at local flea markets thought he had a fool-proof way to boost his assets — invest in a pal’s coin business. Bad … → Read more at nypost.com
April 3, 2018
The oval-shaped coin immortalizes Stefan Michalak’s experience in Whiteshell Provincial Park, more than 50 years ago in what became known as the Falcon Lake incident. → Read more at thestar.com
April 3, 2018
The Royal Canadian Mint has released a new $20 coin to commemorate one of Canada's closest encounters with a UFO. → Read more at ctvnews.ca
April 5, 2018
Now that the nation has a $1.3 trillion budget, lawmakers can resume debate about whether to pinch pennies. The threat to do away with pennies and nickels → Read more at newsherald.com
April 5, 2018
A trove of bronze coins, the last remnants of an ancient Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire, have been discovered near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. → Read more at foxnews.com
April 5, 2018
Medieval coins dating back 800 years have been unearthed in north Shropshire. → Read more at shropshirestar.com
The American Numismatic Association and Numismatic Guarantee Corporation recently issued press releases notifying the public that there have been attempted phishing scams by trying to impersonate a hotel service or someone who works for NGC. Since this is back in the news, I am taking an article I had previously written on the topic and updating it to be more current.
Phishing is the term used to describe the attempt to convince someone to reveal personal information by sending them an email that looks like it came from a legitimate source. Unfortunately, it is so easy to spoof (trick) the Internet’s email system that all it takes is someone with attention to detail to get past spam and other security filters.
Last year, I retired as an information security professional where, for the last 25 years, was contracting to the United States government. I saw many attempted and successful attacks against both government and commercial systems. However, the one attack that is the most difficult to defend is those where humans are convinced to act against their own best interest. The technical industry calls them phishing attack but they are forms of social engineering.
A social engineering attack tries to use something about you or something you care about to convince you to do something that could potentially harm you. For example, an attacker looking to scam someone who collects rare coins may know about NGC’s business. Knowing that the people who might be using NGC’s services are collectors with a lot of disposable income, they could use the weaknesses of the email system in order to fool the recipient into a situation where they can be taken advantage of.
To help you stay safe, the following are rules you can follow to keep safe online:
Rule #1: Unless you are 100-percent certain that the email is legitimate, do not click on the link!
You will be never 100-percent certain that any email you receive is legitimate. Thus, make sure that you are as close as 100-percent certain as possible. One thing you can do is to move your pointer over the link, stop, and wait for the tooltip to show you the address.
Tooltips are those balloon-like popups that will tell you something about the link or element before you press the mouse button. One way to tell that a link is bad is that if the address is not what you think. For example, if the link is supposed to send you to the ANA website, the tooltip better say that it will send you to money.org. If it does not, then do not click on the link.
Place your mouse pointer over the link and let the tool tip appear. What does it say?
When you check the link, the address of the server is the first part of the address. If what should be the server name is not in that area at the beginning of the address, do not click on the link.
One trick the phishers use is to show you what looks like a complicated address in the message, but the link behind it will send you to another website. This is where tooltips can help. If you hover over the address and they do not match, it is an attempt to trick you and you should not click on the link.
If you are using a web-based email client, such as Gmail, you can check the address on the status line at the bottom of your browser window. Check to see if the address makes sense. For example, if the email claims to be from Amazon, the link should say “amazon.com” and nothing else. Sometimes phishers will try to write a link using something after the address like “amazon.com.anothersite.co” to fool you. Do not be fooled. A link like this is trying to send you to “anothersite.co” and not Amazon.
Understanding the part of a typical URL and what to look for
If you are unsure about the link, then go to your browser and type in the address yourself.
As with everything in life, there is an exception to the rule. Organizations, like the ANA, will use mailing list services to send out notices to members and anyone else who have signed up for these emails. Unfortunately, the URL you will click on will be one associated with the mailing list service. The service uses this to provide engagement statistics to whoever is sending out the email. For example, for the service that the ANA uses all of the links are to r.listpilot.com.
Mailing list services are great resources for many organizations and their tracking service is necessary to understand the effectiveness of the communication. If you are not sure, continue to visit the organization’s site without clicking on the link.
An example of an email message showing what to look for to understand how to identify it as a phishing attempt.
Examine the envelope information, also referred to as the headers of the message, for signals that this could be a phishing attempt.
Even though a lot of email contains grammatical errors, businesses have proof readers that will prevent the most egregious errors. Look for bad spelling and even using numbers instead of characters, such as using a zero instead of a capital “O.”
Rule #2: No legitimate company or organization will ask for information to be sent via email
One of the tactics that the phishers use to try to trick you into giving them your personal information is to create a form that looks like it is legitimate. Just as it is easy for someone with moderate skills to fake a web page they can also create a counterfeit form. Not only will the form be counterfeit, but they could also embed programs in that form to steal your information.
Embedded code in documents is called macros. Macros are used to command programs to do something for the user. When used in productive environments, macros can be a wonderful tool to create dynamic documents and provide input validation. But the same instructions that can make macros a productive tool can also be used to do bad things.
Unless you are certain about where the document came from, do not open a document. If you open the document and the program asks if you should enable or run macros, do not enable macros.
This is not just a problem with word processing document. PDF documents can also deliver very nasty malware (malicious software). Not only can an attacker add macros to a PDF document, but someone can embed Flash in those PDF. Flash is the technology that helps you watch online videos and add enhancements to the visual interface of some websites. But Flash can be used to attack your computer system. Opening a PDF file sent by someone you do not know can be as dangerous as a word processing document.
Rule #3: Do not open suspicious attachments
Another trick the attackers try to use is adding an attachment named in a way to entice you to open the file. File names consist of the name of a file followed by a period followed by a file extension. The file extension is used to tell the computer the type of program to execute to allow you to work with the file. There are three file extension that very dangerous and should never be opened unless you are absolutely sure who sent them: .zip, .exe, and .dmg for Mac users.
The .zip file extension tells the computer that the file is something called a Zip archive. A Zip archive is a file that is formatted to allow it to store many files that are compressed. Zip files are used for many legitimate purposes including being the default format of Microsoft Word’s .docx file. Unfortunately, it can contain programs and files that can be used to attack your system.
One of the types of file that can be included in a Zip archive is a .exe or executable file. Simply, these are programs in the same way that Microsoft Word is a program. Once an executable file is opened, it will do whatever it is programmed to do. Among the things that the program can do is keylogging. A keylogger reads what you type on your keyboard, what you click on the screen, and in some cases, what is displayed on your screen. The keylogger will be able to capture the username and password you entered when you visit any website including your bank’s website. The problem is that when a key logging program is run, you do not know it is watching what you type. Nor do you know that it connects to a server somewhere on the Internet to send the information to the attacker. Keyloggers and other malware can infect your system in a way that allows it to continue to exist, even if you reboot the computer.
You may ask about anti-virus software helping stop malware. Anti-virus software is programmed to understand what is known about attack vectors. It cannot protect you if it does not know how the virus works. Remember that the government warned that last year’s flu vaccine was not effective for the version of the virus infecting people? Anti-virus software is similar that if it doesn’t know about the strain it cannot protect you. Hackers are always looking for ways to fool anti-virus software.
For Windows user, you should consider running Windows Defender. Windows Defender is built into Windows but cannot be run if you have another anti-virus software. I use Windows Defender and have been happy with the results. If you want more information about Windows Defender visit this page on Microsoft’s support site.
While Macs are more difficult to attack they are not immune. Mac users should never open a file with a .dmg file extension unless you know who sent the file. The Macintosh .dmg file is a disk image stored as a regular file. A disk image file is formatted to look and acts like a disk so that when you double-click the icon, it will mount on your computer as if you plugged in an external disk drive. Because .dmg files are commonly used to install legitimate software, sometimes the installation can be automatically started. If you allow the installation to continue, you can install software as dangerous as what I described for the Windows .exe file.
OS X is a different type of operating system where if you are careful you can get away without running an anti-virus program. However, if you want to be paranoid (along with me) you might want to run the free anti-malware software from Malware Bytes.
Regardless of the operating system and software you use, ALWAYS KEEP IT UP TO DATE! Patching your computer may be an annoyance but the dangers, if you do not apply security patches, will hurt more and last longer!
Rule #4: When in doubt, throw it out!
While all this seems simple to me after having worked in this industry for nearly 40 years, I have seen how these concepts are confusing to the non-technical user. The problem with email is that it was developed as a way for researchers to communicate by plain text across Arpanet, the forerunner of the Internet. Email, as a text-based service, \ has been extended in so many ways that it has created a complicated series of standards that require a degree in computer science to analyze. While these complications make it easier to communicate via email it also makes it difficult to secure.
Even if you cannot fully analyze whether the message is spam or legitimate, if you have any doubt, then just press the delete button. If the message came from a source you know, contact them off-line and ask if the mail is legitimate. If you think the email is from your bank, call the bank and ask. If you think the email is from your credit card company but not sure, call the credit card provider and ask. If you think the email sent from the ANA or NGC is suspicious, call them and ask.
A little intuition and some due diligence can be of great help in these circumstances.
Stay safe online!
In last Sunday’s Weekly World Numismatic News I commented on a story that members of the Philippines legislature were upset that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines or BSP) issued coins that were similar look and feel but of different denominations. I related the story to the plight of the Susan B. Anthony dollar.
A 1979-D Susan B Anthony dollar found in change that was mistaken for a quarter.
This week, I was involved in a real-life example of this confusion.
While getting ready to retire for the evening, I empty my pockets on my dresser and look to see if there is anything interesting. Since my only trip of the day was a local grocery store, I did not expect anything. As I looked at what I thought was 78-cents something did not look right. As it turned out, one of the quarters was not a quarter.
Mixed in with the change from my single transaction of the day was a 1979-D Susan B. Anthony dollar coin. Not only did the cashier make the mistake, but when I accepted the change I did not catch the difference.
A real-life example as to the reason why the Susie B. was not a successful coin!