Buying the book

An adage of numismatics is “Buy the book before the coin.” It was first used by numismatist and dealer Aaron Feldman in an advertisement that appeared in the March 1966 issue of The Numismatist. Aside from being used to sell books, this sound advice tells collectors to enhance their knowledge of the hobby.

Education is important because helps build the skills and tools they need to navigate the world. Education helps us read, write, calculate and communicate. Without education, we would not be able to perform our jobs competently, accurately and safely. Education also gives us a view of the world which we live and provides a context to how we arrived at society today.

Numismatic education is important because it teaches us how to understand the and navigate the world of money and the economics that made it necessary. Without numismatic education coins, currency, bonds, tokens, and medals are just objects to be ogled without context. We would not know why these items are important or how to collect them. Numismatic education not only teaches us about how to identify these items and collect them but provides the background into history that explains how these items represent today’s society.

The areas I find interesting are the history and policies that have led to how things are today. History gives us the lessons learned as to how it was once done and the evolution of the policies that govern the way any institution is run. This is no different for the money manufacturing apparatus of the United States.

I have been on a book buying binge. If I find a book that will add to my curiosity, then it will become part of my growing library. Over the last few months, I have probably spent more on books than coins. With the exception of the few review copies (that I really should review), most of the books I buy are older and have information that I have not found anywhere else.

There are books from my new stack of older books I would like to highlight.

History of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Bureau of Engraving and Printing, 100 Years

Compared to the U.S. Mint, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing does not get the same love by collectors. Created as the National Currency Bureau in 1862, it became the official security printing agency of the United States government. History of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing covers the first 100 years of the agency’s history. Printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and sold for $7.00 in 1962, this book outlines the growth of the agency from cutting fractional currency printed by commercial printers to pioneering currency production including new press operations and how to create plates.

It is a beautifully produced book that stands out for its quality in both production and writing. The history of the BEP is well written with images of the process with images of some of the printing element interspersed throughout the text. Also included are intaglio printed images from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing archives. Between the pages with the intaglio prints is a tissue-like paper to help protect and preserve the images.

Although there are many good online histories of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing none of them are complete and does not include the other security printing history of the agency including bonds and stamps.

Three on Counterfeiting Currency

The most read post on the Coin Collectors Blog is “How easy is it to pass counterfeit currency.” I am fascinated that since I published that post there it has logged over 5,000 unique hits. I am sure that the post is being picked up by search engines and shown to people who are looking for illicit information. They are probably disappointed that the post is not an instruction manual, but I am fascinated that so many people would be interested.

It made me curious about the history of counterfeiting in the United States. Since I am on a book buying binge, it was time to find some interesting titles:

  • Illegal Tender, Counterfeiting and the Secret Service in Nineteenth-Century America by David R. Johnson. To save money, this is a former library book in very good condition. I have skimmed this book and it looks like it will provide a good background as to the evolution of the U.S. Secret Service. The U.S. Secret Service is a unique agency. It was formed to investigate and deter counterfeiting of U.S. currency starting in 1865. They were so well respected that they were asked to protect President Theodore Roosevelt following the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. Although many countries have divisions of their law enforcement services that investigate counterfeiting, the United States is the only country that has an agency whose mission to protect the currency from counterfeiting.
  • Banknote Reporters and Counterfeit Detectors from 1949

    Counterfeit, Mis-Struck and Unofficial, U.S. Coins by Don Taxay. While my copy has condition issues, including water damage, it is still a book written by Taxay that has to be worth reading. Since this is my most recent purchase it has been added to the “up next” queue.
  • Bank Note Reporters and Counterfeit Detectors, 1826-1866, by William H. Dillistin. Published by the American Numismatic Society in 1949, this book is a survey of experts in counterfeit detection that describes what to look for. It is also a catalog of publications in counterfeit detection and the authors. An interesting exercise may be to work on trying to find the papers and pamphlets listed in this book. I also liked the images in the back of the book that shows what to look for to detect counterfeits.

Illustrated History of Coins and Tokens Relating to Canada

Illustrated History of Coins and Tokens Relating to Canada by P.N. Breton

When I reviewed 2017 Canadian Circulating Coins, Tokens & Paper Money I noted that the third section of the book is dedicated to Breton Tokens. Breton Tokens refer to the coins and tokens that were documented by Pierre Napoleon Breton in 1894. Although I am not a collector of Breton Tokens it would be great to have a copy of the book. Think of it as owning a copy of “Penny Whimsy” by Dr. William Sheldon or the first edition of United States Pattern Coins by J. Hewitt Judd.

I have to admit to “picking” this book during a sale of books from my local coin club. The club is selling off items in its library that there seems to be little interest. Periodically, a few books are brought to a meeting and sold by silent auction. When Illustrated History of Coins and Tokens Relating to Canada, I did not pay attention. I was drawn that it was an older book about Canadian coins and that it is written in both French and English. What made this book stand out is that each page had two columns with the French text on the left and the English on the right. The format was fascinating I bid and won the book. Only after I started to go through my pile this past week to prioritize my reading list did I realize what I had purchased.

Although this is not a priority read, to have a contemporary reference about Breton Tokens written by P.N. Breton should make a fascinating read.

So… what’s on your bookshelf?

How money was made in Ottawa in 1920

1920 Image of the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa

I am a firm believer that in order to understand how things evolved to the way they are today, we have to study the past. History teaches us lessons that we should learn from in order to not make the same mistakes and understand how to continue the evolution. This is why when I find old video showing how things were previously done, I watch it several times to see what I can learn about the past.

Take the video below, for example. It is titled “How money is Made” and appears to have been made for the Royal Canadian Mint by a company called Mogull Brothers Film Library in New York.

A quick bit of Internet research shows the company was founded and run by Charles Mogull (1898-1986) in Brooklyn, New York. Mogull Brothers were one of the early content creation pioneers. They would shoot a film on various subjects, edit them into smaller features, and sell the features to companies that would use them in larger compilations. Their content would be everything from features like the one they created for the Royal Canadian Mint, news events, interviews, show promotions, etc. and footage they would buy from photographers. The little information I could find on Mogull suggests that the company ceased operation in the late 1950s.

As for the film, the architecture of the original Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa looks like a castle. I believe I read somewhere that the Royal Canadian Mint still uses the building as storage. To see this marvelous looking structure and to visit the Mint appears to be a good excuse to visit the Canadian capital.

It is a silent film that the person who posted it to YouTube added music. Even with the music, you can see how film technology has changed. Rather than being able to overlay the wording over the image, a process called keying, printed cards are used to describe the content and spliced into the film.

At the moment the film shows the making of the dies, they show the dies of a 1920 Canadian one cent coin with the image of George V. It was under George V, shortly after his ascension to the throne, that the Parliament Act 1911 transferred a lot of governing power to the House of Commons and started the erosion of monarch’s power.

Although we are well into the industrial revolution, the mix of automation and human interaction is fascinating. For example, starting around the 8-minute mark, there is a man bouncing the coins listening for its distinctive ring that silver coins make when bounced on a hard surface. Nowadays, machines with sensors and computers check the coins for quality. Even circulating coins are rarely touched by human hands.

Finally, as a little comic relief, when the film shows the title cards, look in the lower right corner at the graphics they chose to use. The filmmaker tried to use the graphics to emphasize something about what you will see next.

Now enjoy the show:

Royal Canadian Mint celebrates Star Trek’s 50th

Space: the final frontier.
These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.
Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds,
to seek out new life and new civilizations,
to boldly go where no man has gone before.

I admit to being fascinated by space and space travel. This has to go back to my watching the Mercury and Apollo missions as a youngster. Even then, I would watch most television shows that were based on space or something about space including the comedies Lost in Space and My Favorite Martian.

During its first run, I was able to watch Star Trek during its last season. When it was picked up in syndication and played on the independent television stations or late at night, I would watch and become a bigger fan. In college, it was common to walk into the TV Lounge to see the television tuned to Star Trek, especially late at night.

When Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released in 1979, I was able to see it during my December break from college. No, it wasn’t the best of the movies, but it was Star Trek. I was a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation and I have seen all of the movies except the most recent—which I will catch when it is available on cable!

Aside from being great stories, Star Trek has inspired generations. Look at the technology that is in use today. Cell phones were inspired by the communicators; the ship’s computer with its infinite database processing is now in supercomputers of today, like IBM’s Watson; while Majel Barrett was the voice of the first computer, we now have Siri, Cortana and Alexa on portable devices; large flat screen displays are now our television; intelligent personal assistants went from the personal digital assistant (PDA) to being integrated with our computer that can now speak to us; then there is the universal translator; tablet computers; video conferencing; even something like Transparent Aluminum (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) exists in something called aluminum oxynitride (ALON). And remember, Scotty gave the formula for transparent aluminum using a quaint keyboard on a Macintosh!

Yes, I am a hard-core fan. But I have never been to a convention! I never really wanted to go. I did meet William Shatner when I was working for NBC, but that is another story for another time.

The Royal Canadian Mint has produced a set of coins for Star Trek fans. As part of the series, the Royal Canadian Mint produced three half-ounce silver coins with enameled images of Spock, Uhura, and Scotty; one ounce coins with images of iconic scenes: Captain Kirk in “Trouble with Tribbles,” the evil Spock and Dr. McCoy in “Mirror, Mirror,” and the time machines image that was in “The City on the Edge of Forever” which featured a guest appearance by Joan Collins. They are nice coins even though they are enameled. However, I think they are too expensive. It’s probably because of the licensing fees.

Of course, I had to get something. I decided to buy the $20 for $20 silver coin, Star Trek: Enterprise. It is a 7.96-gram silver coin with a face value of $20 with the reverse showing an image of the U.S.S. Enterprise and the Star Trek 50th Anniversary logo. The obverse has the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, as required for all Canadian coins. While the RCM calls the finish “specimen,” it resembles a reverse proof. Not only is this $20 in Canadian funds, which is $15.22 in US funds as I type this, but there is also free shipping!

I also decided to buy was the stamp and coin set produced jointly with the RCM and Canada Post. The set includes a nickel-plated steel 25-cent coin with an engraved center surrounded by enamel ring with six different views of the U.S.S. Enterprise (NCC-1701). The stamp features Canadian-born actor William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk with the U.S.S. Enterprise orbiting a red-colored planet in the background. Also included is a coil stamp produced as a collectible sheet featuring the U.S.S. Enterprise and a Klingon D7-class battle cruiser from the episode Day of the Dove.

You can buy the set from the RCM for $34.95 in Canadian funds, which is $26.60 in US dollars. If you buy the stamp and coin set separately, you will pay postage. However, if you buy both coins together, the RCM picks up the postage.

Before I forget, the Royal Canadian Mint will only ship directly to addresses in Canada and the United States. Collectors in other countries will have to contact a dealer.

REVIEW: 2017 Canadian Circulating Coins, Tokens & Paper Money

Stanley 2017 Canadian Coins, Tokens & Paper Money CoverIf you are a collector of Canadian coins and looking for a standard reference, there is nothing better than The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Coins. Available in two volumes, the Charlton catalogs would be the Canadian equivalent of the Red Book Professional Edition. Charlton Press also publishes books for the Canadian currency and token collectors. All of the Charlton books are very comprehensive on their respective topic and a must for the Canadian collector.

Like the Professional Edition of the Red Book, the Charlton Catalog is not a quick or portable reference. When I am searching through coins at shows or if I am just trying to identify something I had just acquired, I want a quicker reference with some basic prices that does not require me to hunt around the other information I am not interested in at the moment. I think I found the perfect reference for Canadian numismatics.

While searching one of my favorite online coin supply retailers, I came across the 2017 by W.J. (Bill) Stanley. It is published by Canadian Wholesale Supply of Paris, Ontario. Within the book, it does not carry a copyright date and it does not have an International Standard Book Number (ISBN). It can be found at a number of online numismatic stores but not on stores like Amazon that require an ISBN.

But if you are collecting Canadian Coins, Breton Tokens, or Canadian Paper money you should have a copy of this book sitting next to your Charlton Standard Catalog. While the Charlton books are very complete with a lot of information, the pictures are in black and white. All of the coin images in the Stanley book are in color. Although you can guess what the colors are, seeing the color images on varieties and being able to compare them with coins is of great help.

Canadian Coin Section sample pages

Another advantage of the Stanley book is that it consists only of circulating coinage. Although the Royal Canadian Mint has expanded its catalog of non-circulating legal tender coins over the last decade, if you are just collecting circulating issues, then the other stuff is clutter. It is just the basics of what was circulated in Canada.

This book is divided into three section. The first are circulating Canadian coins, the second for Canadian currency, and final are the tokens. The coin and currency section has a single introduction, guide to reading the tables, and an index to find the particular type you might try to find. The coin section has their pages numbered beginning with page 1 with the introductory parts numbered with Roman numerals. But the currency section begins on page B-1 following page 54 of the coins.

Canadian Currency Section sample pages

The tokens section appears as if it was a separate book bound with the coin and currency section to make one book. It has a title page followed by a similar introduction, guide to reading the information, and an index. The introductory pages are not numbered but the token listings begin on page T-1.

Breton Tokens Section sample pages

If the book was bigger, these page numbering anomalies would be confusing. I only noticed this when I tried to figure out how many pages are in the book. Considering that not every page is numbered and there are some blank pages in the middle, I think there are 132 pages in total. Not very thick and spiral bound for easier handling.

Prices in the book are given for the basic grades and includes prices for significant auctions and prices gathered for rare and significant coins. As most of us are aware, most printed price books are obsolete by the time they are published. What Stanley does is use information he gathers from auctions and coin shows around Canada to determine the prices. In his introduction, Stanley admits he uses his judgment to exclude what appears to be bogus data based on bidding wars or data from untrustworthy sources. He also admits that there may be errors.

Without reaching out to Stanley, it appears he is the sole responsible person for the prices and content of this guide. Maybe that is a good thing considering the inaccuracy of similar guides from other publishers. However, after go through his guide and a number of other sources including the prices from a few Canadian dealers, this book may be more accurate than his caveat suggests.

After that, it is pages of coin listings similar to any price guide you may find. The number of coins minted is included on each line. There are images of coins, images of varieties with an arrow point to subtle differences, and prices in the most relevant grades of circulating coins.

I cannot speak about the Charlton Standard Catalog of Canadian Currency since I do not own that book, but similar to the coins’ section, the Canadian currency section is nothing but the basics. Color images are reproduced from the Bank of Canada and have “SPECIMEN” superimposed on each note. Descriptions note signature, portrait, and serial number differences (i.e., prefix types) for the notes and the prices in the most relevant grades.

Tokens are a very important part of the history of Canadian money. When coins or currency was not available, Canadian towns and provinces created tokens to act in the place of money. The history of Canadian tokens is fascinating and worth another report. It is important to note that the cataloging of tokens is based on the work Pierre Napoleon Breton in his book Illustrated History of Coins and Tokens Related to Canada originally published in 1894, since republished and updated. As part of his cataloging of tokens, he assigned them a number that is now known as Breton Numbers. Stanley lists Canadian tokens by Breton Numbers.

Although I am not a collector of Breton Tokens, I am fascinated by other areas of numismatics especially if they are different. What thrills me about this section is that the tokens are imaged side-by-side with their basic information and prices. It is not a tome on their history but if I was a collector, it would help me identify these tokens and what I might expect to pay for them. I found myself flipping through the pages looking at the tokens, what they say, and thinking about their possible history. I want to go back through my back issues of The CN Journal (publication of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association) and find some of those stories about tokens I never read.

Flipping the pages of such as basic reference, I never thought I would learn so much. I think it is because all of the other information has been omitted, I can see the coins, images of the varieties, and the prices without distraction. Now that I have learned a number of things, I can pick up other references to learn more.

My only minor nit about this book is the page numbering scheme and the lack of coherent index or table of contents. I give it a grade of MS-68 for being a simple reference of circulating Canadian numismatics and a book that I recommend.

Information in the images is copyright of Bill Stanley and used on Fair Use.
Page images are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Batman v Superman: Dawn on Silver

2016 Canada Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice $20 silver coin

2016 Canada Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice $20 silver coin

I have said time and again that I do not like gimmick coins but I have purchased gimmicks like shaped coins.

I have said that I do not like painted coins then I admit to buying painted coins.

So far, I have stayed away from strictly screen printed and lenticular printed coins but I have lauded some painted coins and added them to my collection.

If there is something that I prefer over everything else is a coin whose design is based on the engraving. For that reason, I have complemented and purchased $20 for $20 coins from the Royal Canadian Mint. Their $20 for $20 program produces .9999 pure silver coins sold with the face value of $20 (in Canadian funds). They are available directly from the RCM to Canadian and United States buyers only.

Last year, I purchased the Bugs Bunny and the Superman “Man of Steel” coins directly from the Royal Canadian Mint. My final price was $16.46 each in U.S. dollars after the exchange rate and the credit card company’s conversion fee. Sure these are gimmick coins, but I like the themes.

This year, the RCM has issued a Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice $20 for $20 coin. With a mintage of 300,000 coins, numismatists who are also fans of the movie can add this silver coin to their collection. Based on the image, it appears that Superman is overpowering Batman.

Looking at the coin’s aesthetics, it is a good looking coin. The artists at the RCM are very capable and have come up with really nice designs. While the concept of the $20 for $20 (US$15.14 as I type this) may be somewhat of a gimmick for a coin with 7.96 grams of silver ($3.90 when silver is $15.32 per ounce), the design is engraved art struck into a silver planchet that is affordable for many collectors.

I have not had the opportunity to see the movie. I do enjoy comics and comic-related stories, but I am not a hardcore fan. I like both characters and have always been a fan of Wonder Woman now played by Gal Godot. But the coin intrigues me. I might buy the coin before seeing the movie!

Like any good movie, here is the “trailer” the Royal Canadian Mint produced for the coin:

It escaped from Canada!

1966 Canadian one-cent found in pocket change

1966 Canadian one-cent found in pocket change

How could it have escaped from Canada?

We need to build a wall!

We know that the Royal Canadian Mint struck their last 1-cent coin in 2012. During the six-month transition, Canadian banks were helping recall 1-cent coins while cash sales began to be rounded up or down to the nearest 5-cents.

But when I made a purchase at a local convenience store, my change included a 1966 Canadian 1-cent coin. Even though the coin is still legal tender it is not usable. I can visit an agent for the Bank of Canada or the Royal Canadian Mint to turn it in for updated coins. I was told that the minimum they will take for exchange is 100 coins. If I can scrape together 99 more coins I can trade it for a Loonie.

At the current exchange rate, the coin is worth only 0.0074 U.S. cents. Someone owes me 0.0026 cents!

Maybe I should go back to that store and see if they would give me a Canadian 5-cents coin and I would give them four U.S. cents. That would make it even.

It’s Friday. Why not have a little fun after finding a Canadian cent in my change!

Look… up in the sky! What’s up doc?

2015 Canada Bugs Bunny $20 Silver Coin

2015 Canada Bugs Bunny $20 Silver Coin

Back in October I wrote about the Royal Canadian Mint’s “$20 for $20” series of .9999 pure silver coins being sold with a face value of $20.00 in Canadian funds. A few weeks after that post I bought the Bugs Bunny and Superman silver coins.

Even though both coins were ordered at the same time, they were shipped separately. Packaged in plain envelopes with a nondescript United States address, the Bugs Bunny coin arrived four weeks later and the Superman coin arrived 10 days later. It appears like the Royal Canadian Mint is either mailing them from the United States or using a fulfillment center to do the mailing. In either case, shipping was free!

Coins are placed in a plastic capsule, which I hope is archival safe, with that capsule placed in a clear plastic envelope. The envelop is “sealed” with a sticker and then glued to the card. The card has the information about the coin in both English and French. All of the extra paperwork was added to the Superman coin, but that was inconsequential to the presentation.

2015 Canada Superman $20 Silver Coin

2015 Canada Superman $20 Silver Coin

Both coins are a little bigger than the U.S. quarter dollar. The quarter is 24.26 millimeters and the Canadian $20 coins are 27 millimeters. While the U.S. quarter contains 5.670 grams of a copper-nickel alloy, the Canadian $20 coins contain 7.96 grams of silver. At the current exchange rate (1 USD = 1.393 CAD), the coin’s face value is equivalent to 14.3584 USD. With the current silver value of $14.16, the melt value of these coins are $3.62.

Before you go unleash yourself on the costs, remember that the $10.74 “markup” also includes manufacturing and packaging costs, shipping, and license fees the Royal Canadian Mint has to pay to Warner Brothers.

Growing up watching Bugs Bunny on television on the weekends and the reruns of the The Adventures of Superman after school starring George Reeves makes these a special collectible.

These are also struck coins without color enhancements. Although the texture is similar to that of the U.S. Mint’s enhanced uncirculated coins, as sculptured works of art, they are very accurate images and beautifully made.

It may be too late to buy these for a holiday present, unless you put an “I.O.U.” in the box. Maybe if you are near the Royal Canadian Mint facility in Ottawa you can check out their physical storefront. You may want to call ahead before making the trip expecting to find these coins.

Packaging Images
2015 Canada Bugs Bunny $20 Silver Coin Packaging
2015 Canada Superman $20 Silver Coin Packaging

$20 for $15.41

Obverse of the Royal Canadian Mint $20 for $20 silver coins

Obverse of the Royal Canadian Mint $20 for $20 silver coins

Over the last few years, the Royal Canadian Mint has been producing a series of silver coins called “$20 for $20,” These are .9999 pure silver coins sold with the face value of $20 (in Canadian funds). They are available directly from the RCM to Canadian and United States buyers only.

The advantage to directly buying coins from the RCM is that the exchange rate is very favorable for us Yanks. At the time of writing, C$1 is worth about 77-cents in U.S. currency making a C$20 purchase about $15.41 in the U.S. Another advantage of purchasing coins from the RCM than a dealer is avoiding the dealer markup. One U.S.-based dealer is selling the current $20 Bugs Bunny silver coin for $19.95 in U.S. currency.

For U.S. buyers who use credit cards to purchase coins on the RCM website, while your credit card will be charged in Canadian funds, your bank will charge you a conversion fee. Conversion fees are different between financial institutions and you should consult them for their rates.

Reverse of the Royal Canadian Mint $20 for $20 silver coin featuring Bugs Bunny

Reverse of the Royal Canadian Mint $20 for $20 silver coin featuring Bugs Bunny

Are these coins really a good deal?

RCM’s $20 for $20 coins struck using 7.96 grams of silver. At 27 millimeters, it is comparable in size to the Canadian half-dollar (27.13 millimeters) and smaller than the U.S. half-dollar (30.61 millimeters). While a nice size, a coin containing 7.96 grams of silver is a little more than one-quarter of a troy ounce of the metal. With the cost of silver $15.92 per troy ounce (and the time of writing), the coin only contains $4.07 worth of silver ($5.25 in Canadian funds).

To put it another way, the silver value of the coin is 75-percent of its cost or 400-percent over its melt value!

Reverse of the Royal Canadian Mint $20 for $20 coin featuring “The Man of Steel”

Reverse of the Royal Canadian Mint $20 for $20 coin featuring “The Man of Steel”

Although the Bugs Bunny coin probably requires a licensing fee to be paid to Warner Brothers, the owner of the famous rabbit’s copyright, not all of the coins use copyright images. Even with production and packaging costs, are these coins worth the extra premium?

Questioning the program’s worth aside, both the Bugs Bunny and Superman coins are very cool designs. Aside from being engraved coins (not colored pictures) and struck as specimen coins (similar to the U.S. Mint’s enhanced uncirculated strikes), it is just plain fun to have coins with the image of childhood interests.

For a little more than $30 including fees and shipping, I can get two silver coins with iconic designs. It is not about collecting for value. It is collecting for fun!

2015 Canadian Bugs Bunny 1 kilogram silver proof coin

Weighing in at 1 kilogram of fine .999 silver, this enameled proof coin is does not cost $20! With a $250 face value, the Royal Canadian Mint is selling this coin for $2,350.95
($1,810.80 in the U.S. at the current exchange rate)

All images courtesy of the Royal Canadian Mint.

Catching up by starting a new collection

It has been a very interesting few weeks since my last post. During that time there was a lot of business activity that I hope will allow be to have more time to do some of the things I would rather be doing, like write. Aside from the blog, I have 95-percent of a collecting-related ebook completed and 80-percent of a different sort of book completed. In between business meetings, I was able to start a book I am tentatively calling “Why did the Mint do that?” which may include information about why the Bureau of Engraving and Printing does what it does including a section on the history of counterfeit detection in the United States.

In the mean time, I have started several posts in the same style that I have been writing for the last few years. Until I can make more time, some long-form tomes will have to wait. Instead of taking the time to write longer items, I will look to write shorter posts including in multiple parts, depending on the topic. This way, I can clear the list of ideas I have been saving.

One more bit of housekeeping before I talk about my new collection: you might see a page that says that I am working on an update. I decided that the blog needs a new look and that periodically, I will work on a theme change. Hopefully, I can finish by the end of the month, but you never know!

That being said, I also had taken the time to start a new collection. While I wanted to start something new for a while and had an idea for a direction, I did not have the opportunity until now.

Earlier this month I attended a local coin show in Westminster, Maryland. Westminster could be considered a distant suburb of Baltimore with a big firehall that housed this show. Although I was there to man the front table representing the Maryland State Numismatic Association as its president greeting people, I was able to slip inside to look around. One of the tables had binders with foreign coins and I started to look.

Grabbing the one for Canada, I remembered that the first official coinage of the Province of Canada. In 1840, the British Parliament passed the Act of Union that merged the upper and lower colonies of Canada into the single Province of Canada. As a province, Canada was able to form a more independent government, even though it was answerable to the Crown. Answering to political dissension that was building in the province, Queen Victoria named Ottawa as the province’s capital. Although the province government met in Ottawa anyway, this was a symbolic move.

One of the problems was the lack of circulating currency. Even though the monarchs loosened the rules on circulating coinage in Canada, there was a need for a larger supply. Even though the Province of Canada’s parliament passed legislation to adopt a decimal coinage, Queen Victoria finally recognized the request. As part of trying to maintain order in the province, Victoria ordered the Royal Mint to produce coinage for Canada starting in 1858.

Canadian large cents with the effigy of Queen Victoria are affectionately called Vickie Cents. With the recent elimination of the one cent coin, looking back at the Canadian cent through its history has become popular with Canadian coin collectors. The key date for Vickie Cents is the first year, 1858 coin.

At mid-grade the 1858 Vickie cent is not that expensive. Although they are harder to find, the demand keeps the price reasonable for the average collector. Although I have been thinking about starting a Vickie cent collection for a while but when I found one in this dealer’s binder, I could not resist!Based on the description in the Charlton Standard Catalog of Canadian Coins, the coin would be graded around F-12. But since it is the first year of issue and the general rule is to buy the best you can afford, this was how I was going to make my start with Vickie cents.

1858 Province of Canada Large Cent (Vickie Cent) obverse

1858 Province of Canada Large Cent (Vickie Cent) obverse

1858 Province of Canada Large Cent (Vickie Cent) reverse

1858 Province of Canada Large Cent (Vickie Cent) reverse

Since I was there I decided that even though it was not the first year of issue, I would pick up the last year of issue. Since Queen Victoria died in January 1901, that was the last year her image appeared on coins in the British Commonwealth. I picked out a nice extra fine example to mark the beginning and end of the series.

1901 Dominion of Canada Large Cent obverse —Last year of Victoria Cent

1901 Dominion of Canada Large Cent obverse (Last year of Victoria Cent)

1901 Dominion of Canada Large Cent reverse

1901 Dominion of Canada Large Cent reverse (Last year of Victoria Cent)

Vickie cents were produced in 1858 and 1859 with a few distinguished varieties. One notable variety is the 1858 coin-aligned reverse. At the time it was the Royal Mint’s practice to have coins aligned in what we call today “medal alignment” where the top of the obverse and reverse point in the same direction. An error at the mint created a rarer coin-aligned (tops on opposite ends) coin. In 1859 there were overstrikes, doubled numbers, alignment differences, and composition differences. If I were to look for all of the known varieties, the cost of the 1859 with a Narrow 9 made of brass (not bronze) would cost about as much as a 1914-D Lincoln cent and be much more difficult to find.

The cents of 1858-1859 were minted in enough quantity to keep the Canada stocked with cent until 1876. New portrait, and varieties, were introduced as well as a striking at the Birmingham Mint, also known as the Heaton Mint, along side the British halfpenny, which used the same planchet. Coins struck at the Heaton Mint were given the “H” mint mark.

Foreign coin collecting can be an adventure that may not be as expensive as their U.S. counterparts. If you are collecting for fun, as I am, pick a country, learn a little about the history, and pick a series to collect. I picked Canada because my wife’s family is from the Province of Québec. Not only will you find it a challenge, but the lower demand may make your endeavor more affordable.

Stay tuned for more!

I’ll do it, but I’ll probably hate myself in the morning!

Eh… What’s up, doc?

Hey bub… did ya hear dat de Royal Canadian Mint is going Looney Tunes?

$250 Looney Tunes Silver Kilo Reverse

$250 Looney Tunes Silver Kilo Reverse

Cashing in on the commercialism demonstrated by the New Zealand Mint, who produces coins of Warner Brothers rival Disney characters, and helping Warner Brothers celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Looney Tunes cartoons, the Royal Canadian Mint is now producing the Looney Tunes Collection.

I will admit to having grown up watching Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Tweety, and all of their friends on the weekend morning cartoons. I spent many mornings in my bedroom before my parents woke up watching on an old black and white television wondering if Wile E. Coyote would ever catch the Road Runner? Would Sylvester ever learn that he should not eat Tweety Bird? Or will Pépé Le Pew ever figure out why he could never find a girl to go with him to the casbah? Of course, at that age, I didn’t know what the casbah was!

I guess I also have to admit that I am intrigued by some of these coins. Not the ones that seem to be enameled for the design because I have this thing about using paint for the design of the coin. But there are some coins that are going to be really engraved coins that are somewhat affordable. Apparently, if I examine my own preferences, I do not mind enhanced color that enhances the designs but not just splashing paint on the metal disks.

$100 Looney Tunes 14-karat Reverse

$100 Looney Tunes 14-karat Reverse

For this series, the Royal Canadian Mint is producing a series of $10 coins that are all struck from engravings. These are fun designs based on the characters by Tex Avery and Chuck Jones and voiced by the man of a thousand voices, Mel Blanc. There will be eight different silver coins that will include a special presentation case, if you subscribe to the series. The presentation case will also include a space for the Royal Canadian Mint’s “20 for $20” silver coin that will feature Bugs Bunny. The Bugs Bunny “20 for $20” coin went on sale May 12, 2015.

For those not familiar with the Royal Canadian Mint’s “20 for $20” program, they provide a limited mintage silver coin with a $20 face value for $20 (note that all prices are in Canadian dollars). These coins are 7.96 grams of .9999 silver and available for direct purchase to buyers in Canada and the United States.

As I type this $20 Canadian is worth $16.49 USD. A U.S. resident buying directly from the Royal Canadian Mint will have their credit card charged in Canadian dollars. Your credit card company will pay the Royal Canadian Mint at the rate at the time of the transaction plus an exchange fee. Exchange fees differ between credit card issuers.

Other options include:

Bugs Bunny $20 Silver coin reverse, part of the Royal Canadian Mint 20 for $20 program

Bugs Bunny $20 Silver coin reverse, part of the Royal Canadian Mint 20 for $20 program

  • A $20 “Merrie Melodies” silver coin featuring Bugs Bunny and the gang in a design that is reminiscent of the Looney Tunes’ end credits. The coin is cleverly packaged in a box that mimics the ACME crate.
  • A $20 silver four-coin set featuring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Tweety. If you buy the set as a subscription it will include a free Looney Tunes wrist watch.
  • A 14-karat gold Bugs Bunny and Friends coin featuring Bugs Bunny, the Tasmanian Devil, Wile E. Coyote, Daffy Duck and Marvin the Martian. The Royal Canadian Mint claims that there is a “hidden surprise design element” in this coin. If you buy this coin you will also receive an “exclusive” pocket watch.
  • Finally, the Royal Canadian Mint will issue one kilo gold and silver coins. The gold coin will have a face value of $2,500 and the silver will have a face value of $250. The design will feature every major Looney Tunes characters. The design of both coins features selective colored enamel applied by hand to Bugs Bunny who serves as the central focal point. He is surrounded by the entire cast of Looney Tunes characters.

As this posting was saved as a draft for the last few days, I have been contemplating what I wanted to do. With my new found nostalgia and admitted mid-life crisis, I look back at the Looney Tunes fondly. Where I grew up, Bugs Bunny sounded like he could have been one of my neighbors! Mel Blanc, who gave Bugs his voice, wasn’t even from New York yet nailed the accent, cadence, and attitude perfectly. I will probably order the Bugs Bunny “20 for $20” silver coin and take some time before I decide on others. if I do decide to do the whole series, I would probably buy the silver $10 coins because they are coins without painted on designs.

Thats-All-Folks

All coin images courtesy of the Royal Canadian Mint.

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