VIDEO: World’s Largest Coin Pyramid (Almost)

This one is just for fun.

Cory Nelson and his coin pyramid

Cory Nelson poses with his World Record creation (screen grab from YouTube)

Cory Nelson of Phoenix, Arizona, built the world’s largest coin pyramid.

In an interview with CBC Radio, Nelson said that after building a coin pyramid with 41,000 coins on his desk, his coworkers asked if it was the world’s largest. He said that if it were not, he would make sure it is.

According to the Guinness World Records, the record was 1,000,935 Lithuanian one-cent coin by Vytautas Jakštas and Domas Jokubauskis. The pair built their coin pyramid in 2014 using Lithuanian Litas as a celebration before Lithuania converted to the Euro.

After three years of work on it for 20 hours per week, 45 YouTube videos tracking his work, and 1,030,315 Lincoln cents later (that is $10,303.15 worth of coins), Nelson submitted his creation to become the world records holder. It will take a while for GWR to verify the record.

Here’s the final video of Nelson’s pyramid:

IT’S GONE!

After I closed up shop, I did my usual after Saturday chores then sat down to count the change in my cash register. As I counted all of those brown and red Lincolns, I noticed the 1859 Copper-Nickel Indian Head cent was gone.

I am not sure who received it or if my assistant was the one to make sure it found a new home, but it left without any further discussion.

Unfortunately, I found an 1899 Barber dime in the change along with several 1957-D Lincoln cents. On Monday, I will try to give away the Barber dime.

I can’t even give it away

After the fiasco earlier this week when I tried to give away an 1859 Indian Head cent, someone else just rejected the coin.

It was a busy day, and there were a large number of cash transactions. Since I was not paying attention to the coins I was pulling out of the drawer, I scooped 2-cents to give to someone in change. As I dropped the coins into his hand, I noticed that one was the 1859 Indian Head Cent.

Rather than putting the coins in his pocket, he dropped the two coins into a tray I keep by the cash register.

Since this happened earlier in the afternoon, I left the coin there to see if anyone would notice. Following several more cash transactions, I took the coin out of the tray and dropped it back into the drawer.

It might not be the prettiest Indian Head cent I have seen, but it is still worth about $15-20. And I cannot give it away!

If I cannot give it away on Saturday, it is coming home with me. At least I appreciate its significance in numismatic history.

Not Everyone Likes Old Change

With most of the roll of 1957-D very red Lincoln cents still in my cash register’s draw and the quarter bin even half-full of uncirculated bicentennial quarters, I thought that most of the more expensive and interesting coins made it into circulation. That was not the case.

A new customer came into the shop and found a few items she wanted to purchase. After selecting a few things, she left to find an ATM because, she said, that she does not like using credit or debit cards. As a reseller of estate and other used items, this is a common practice for many purchases under $100. It is a typical scenario.

After paying for her purchase, she saw that I had given her two very shiny Lincoln cent and one with a beautiful brown color. Except it was not a Lincoln cent. It was an 1859 Indian Head cent that was left over from National Coin Week.

I had included two 1859 Indian Head cents in the draw. This coin was the second that survived National Coin Week. Depending on how you look at the coin, it could grade VG-F making it worth about $15-20.

When she looked at the coin what was different in her hand, she asked what it was. After I explained what it was, she accused me of giving her a counterfeit coin. She insisted it was not real and that I was trying to cheat her.

I walked over to the shelf and grabbed a new copy of the Red Book to show her that it is a real coin and that it has value. But she was not impressed insisting that was scamming her with stuff I did not know. Even after pointing to my name in the list of contributors she would not back down.

Finally, I agreed to change the coin.

As I put the coin back into the cash register drawer and replaced it with one of the 1957-D cents, she stopped me and said that I told her the coin is worth $15-20 and she wanted $20. I reminded her that she thought the coin was bogus, so why should I pay for a fake coin?

After handing her another coin, she looked at it and noticed the wheat ears reverse. While accusing me of trying to cheat her, she asked why am I giving away “phony money?”

I explained that the coin was a bit more modern even though it is a little older than me. Its value is about $5-6. She looked at the coin and compared it to the coins in her purse, ignoring the fact that I had given her two of them earlier.

“The back is funny. Why is the back funny?” she asked.

While explaining about the design and the changes made to the coin, I search the change draw then my pocket for a more modern coin. She gave the 1957-D back, and I replaced it with a brown Memorial-back cent I found in my pocket.

Happy that she has recognizable money, she walked out threatening to call the police. As I held the door for her, I said that she should contact the U.S. Secret Service because they are responsible for dealing with counterfeiters.

I wished her a good afternoon.

My new and former customer left without saying another word.

Not Your Ordinary Change Purse Find

Although I am still searching for a quarter with a W mintmark in my change, it does not mean I am not finding anything. Today’s find was not in change but from the bottom of a box.

Peering inside the little purse we see the coin

Little Pink Doll Purse found in a box

I picked up a box that someone used to bring in a consignment, dumped the packing peanuts into another box, and began to prepare to fill the box for shipping. When I checked the box, I found a little pink purse stuck to the bottom.

A few months ago, a client delivered dolls and other collectibles they did not want to take on their move across the country. We sold most of the collectibles and moved on. But this little purse found something in the box to attach itself to and stayed behind.

I opened the purse to find a little handkerchief and a penny. How cute, I thought, they put a penny in the doll’s handbag. The edge of the coin showed a distinctive red color and wondered about the year. Considering that most of the toys were from the 1990s, I was expecting to see a period coin.

Imagine my surprise when I removed the coin and found it was a 1907 Indian Head cent. The red colored coin has signs of toning on the obverse, likely from being stored in the purse with a little cotton hankie. The coin looks like it has never been in circulation.

I am not a fan of toned coins, but this one is light enough to enhance the red coloring of the coin rather than being a different color.

The images of the coin do not do it justice. I should have taken the picture on a white background and away from fluorescent lights. But I wanted to send the picture to someone who might be interested in the coin.

If that person does not buy the coin, I may take the chance to send it to a grading service. I think it could probably grade MS64-RD. It is such a pretty coin that it is worth the risk. After all, mint state Indian Head cents graded as red-brown start at $40. I cannot lose!

Finally, after 87 days…

While looking through my change at the end of the day I finally found one… a coin dated in 2018!

During the day I had business in the Jessup, Maryland area where stops included one for gas and a beverage. I suspect that the bright red 2018 Lincoln Cent I found in my pocket was given in change during the purchase.

Now that I have found a 2018-dated coin, let’s see how long it takes to find a 2018 America the Beautiful quarter. Thus far, only the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (MI) Quarter has been released but I have not seen one in circulation, yet.

Stay tuned!

Creating a modern typeset

What would it take to put together a modern type set?

How would you define a modern type set?

This is the summary of the email conversation I have been having with someone looking for an interesting challenge to work on with his children.

For new readers and those new to numismatics, a type set is one coin of every type regardless of date or mintmark. Although some coins have one-year types, like the 50 State Quarters, there are others where one coin will represent an entire series, like the Roosevelt Dime.

While there are a lot of interesting coins types we focused on modern coins. Modern coins are those struck since 1965 when coins went from silver to copper-nickel except for the Kennedy half-dollar that was made of 40-percent silver through 1970. To budding young numismatists, modern coins are all they know.

In fact, all they know is that the quarter has a constantly changing reverse and they have seen differences in the Lincoln cent and the Jefferson nickel. They did not go through the fiasco of the Susan B. Anthony dollar or marvel at the first circulating commemoratives of the modern era: the dual-dated bicentennial coins. They were not around to search boxes of Cheerios for the new Sacagawea dollar coin or the millennial cent.

Modern coins do not get the same love as some of the classics. Aside from not containing silver, there have been controversies over designs (see the “spaghetti hair” that George Washington was sporting on the 50 State Quarters) and how the relief on coins has been lowered by the U.S. Mint in an attempt to extend die life.

Some not-so-great designs

Although people love the classic designs two of my favorite designs of the modern era is the Drummer Boy reverse on the Bicentennial quarter and the Thomas Jefferson portrait on the obverse of the 2005 Westward Journey nickels. And even though I have not written much about them, there are some fantastic designs in the America the Beautiful Quarters series. A few that you may want to take a second look at include 2017 Ellis Island, 2017 George Rogers Clark National Historic Park, 2016 Shawnee National Forest, and the 2015 Blue Ridge Parkway quarters just to name a few.

A few of the great America the Beautiful Quaters designs

Sitting with a Red Book, I started to list the coin types that would make up a modern type set. If we limited the set to circulating coins (e.g., not including half-dollars and one-dollar coins) that can be found in pocket change, there would be 128 coins with a face value of $28.97.

Type No. in Series Face Value Series Value
Lincoln Memorial Cents 2 0.01 0.02
Lincoln Bicentennial Cents 4 0.01 0.04
Lincoln Shield Censt 1 0.01 0.01
pre-2004 Jefferson Nickels 1 0.05 0.05
Westward Journey Nickels 4 0.05 0.20
Return to Monticello Nickels 1 0.05 0.05
Roosevelt Dimes 1 0.10 0.10
Washington Quarters 1 0.25 0.25
Bicentennial Quarters 1 0.25 0.25
50 State Quarters 50 0.25 12.50
D.C. and U.S. Territories Quarters 6 0.25 1.50
America the Beautiful Quarters 56 0.25 14.00
Total 128 1.53 28.97

The above table does take into consideration the entire 56 Amercia the Beautiful Quarters series including future issues. The kids have to understand the concept of future issues and maintain space for these coins in their album.

Starting the set with pocket change allows the kids to get used to the concept of looking at the coins to understand what they are looking for. To help with their search each child was given a Red Book and two apps on their iPads: PCGS CoinFacts and PCGS Photograde. They can use the Red Book as a handy off-line reference but use PCGS CoinFacts to learn more when they have access. Photograde is very useful to help them assess the condition of the coins.

While collectors have a basic understanding of coin grading, getting it right can be difficult. These kids were given a basic lesson on things to look for when trying to assess the condition of the coins they find. It will be interesting to see how they interpret this information.

Once we covered coins that can readily be found in circulation, we then discussed the other business strikes that are usually not found in ordinary pocket change.

After an interesting discussion, it was decided to make those a separate collection.

As a separate collection, this will give the kids an opportunity to go to dealers and coin shows to allow the kids to learn about buying coins in this environment. They will learn how to talk with a dealer, gain experience negotiating, and do some comparison shopping. It will let them get the experience and see different coins but maintain a collection discipline that will allow them to learn to collect on a budget.

What are the modern type coins that do not see a lot of circulation? Once again, I sat with the Red Book and came up with the following list:

Type No. in Series Face Value Series Value
Kennedy Half Dollars 1 0.50 0.50
Bicentennial Kennedy Half Dollar 1 0.50 0.50
Eisenhower Dollars 1 1.00 1.00
Bicentennial Eisenhower Dollars 2 1.00 2.00
Susan B. Anthony Dollars 1 1.00 1.00
Sacagawea Dollars 1 1.00 1.00
Native American Dollars 11 1.00 11.00
Presidential Dollars 39 1.00 39.00

To complete the task, I came up with a checklist for all of the modern coins in two formats. One is a printed version that they could keep in their pocket as they go about their day. The other is a spreadsheet that can act as an official record. The paper version is a very basic PDF file that can be used to write notes. The spreadsheet offers more information. It also allows them to come up with their own catalogue.

Both files are attached for you to use (see the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License for text of the permissions granted with this release).

It will be interesting to see what these kids do!

Checklists
 
[sdm_download id=”42733″ fancy=”2″]
[sdm_download id=”42735″ fancy=”2″]

 

Diehl & Moy endorse change

Could the recent cyber attacks and growing severity of cybersecurity issues become the motivation for Congress to vote to reform United States currency?

According to Philip Diehl and Edmund Moy, former Directors of the U.S. Mint, the discussion as to remove the cent and paper dollar from circulation should be part of the current budget and tax overhaul debates.

The discussion is the same as it has been. The cost of zinc has risen causing the manufacturing costs of the Lincoln cent to climb above its face value. Even with operating efficiencies that have brought down the cost of manufacturing to its lowest levels in many years, the price of zinc keeps makes the materials cost more than the coin is worth.

As for the paper dollar, the Government Accountability Office has published several reports over the years that demonstrate the cost savings between using the paper dollar versus a coin dollar. The last GAO report (GAO-13-164T) concluded that using a dollar coin instead of the paper note “could potentially provide $4.4 billion in net benefits to the federal government over 30 years.”

This is not a new discussion. The only change is that this is being suggested by former Directors of the U.S. Mint from both sides of the aisle. Diehl was appointed by Bill Clinton and served from June 1994 through March 2000. Moy was appointed by George W. Bush and served from September 2006 through January 2011.

Earlier this year, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced the Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings Act of 2017 (COINS Act) (S. 759). McCain’s bill would require:

  • Suspending the production of the one-cent coin for 10 years except for collectibles. After three years, the GAO would doe a study to determine whether production should remain suspended or should be reinstated. This would not demonetize the cent.
  • Change the composition of the nickel to 80-percent copper and 20-percent nickel. This should bring down the cost of materials used in striking the five-cent coin to be on par with its value. Efficiencies in manufacturing could lower costs further.
  • If the bill becomes law, two years after it is enacted, the Federal Reserve will begin removing $1 Federal Reserve Notes from circulation. This will probably be done by the banks who will take the notes on deposit and send them back to the Federal Reserve where they will be destroyed. Coins would take their place. The $1 FRN could still be produced for the collector market.

Sources report that the chances of McCain’s bill getting a hearing are minuscule. While having lunch with on congressional staffer, I was given three reasons why Congress will not address this issue:

  1. States with a large rural population primarily west of the Mississippi River represented by Republicans are unlikely to support the removal of the one-cent coin. Removal of the coin is viewed as a hidden tax against the people with fear mongering that suggest the government is keeping the extra money that would become on the rounding of prices.
  2. States with large poor populations, primarily in the south, and their advocates who believe that taking away the pennies are a way to separate more money from poor people who can least afford to lose the ability to pay in cents.
  3. Surveys show that most of the people older than Millenials are against removing the paper dollar. Since this population constitutes the majority of the voters and donors, the politicians are not about to make those people upset.

Another issue is that McCain is not popular amongst his fellow Republicans. If the issue is addressed, it is likely to be discussed as part of a bill that does not bear McCain’s sponsorship.

Given the partisan nature of politics and the perceptions of the members of Congress, there is a very little chance of the Coins Act or any similar legislation being enacted during this session of Congress.

1943-D Bronze Cent makes a TV appearance, sort of

1943-D Bronze Lincoln Cent graded MS-64BN by PCGS

Fans of the NBC show The Blacklist that watched on Wednesday, October 4, would have noticed there was a numismatic role added to the script.

Raymond Reddington, played by James Spader, was trying to gain the attention of a high-rolling thief and found himself at a numismatic auction. The item up for bid was the 1943-D Bronze Lincoln cent. As part of the story, it was announced that it was the only one known to exist and that it was graded by the Professional Coin Grading Service.

Currently, there is only one known 1943-D Bronze Lincoln Cent and was graded by PCGS to be MS-64BN. It last sold for $1.7 million in 2010.

Since then, more 1943 Bronze Lincoln Cents were found including a 1943-S graded MS-62BN by PCGS. That coin was sold to Bill Simpson, a co-owner of the Texas Rangers, for $1 million in 2012. Simpson owns a complete set of 1943-PDS and 1944-PDS off-metal Lincoln cents, the latter made of zinc coated steel.

In the show, the hammer price was $3 million. All things considered, it is probably an accurate estimate of what the coin might be worth if it were to come to market today.

Of course, they did not use a real 1943-D Bronze Lincoln cent and there was a mistake when the coin showed up later in the story. But if you have not seen this episode, I am not going to spoil it for you!

Image courtesy of PCGS CoinFacts.

News sparks change hunting

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

People seem to come out of the woodwork when there is the story about an error coin being worth a lot of money. Most have folders or albums left behind by long passed loved ones that they have stored in a draw for sentimental reasons. They do not have the passion of the relative for collecting, but they still have the folders.

Since the news reports about the discovery of two 1943 Lincoln wheat cents struck on copper planchets hit the news, I have received a few inquiries as to whether they have a coin that could be worth tens- or hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars. All are disappointed when they find out that grandpa’s old album may not be worth more than $50.00 if that much.

“But the coin is so old!”

U.S. cents have been made of copper, steel, and copper plated zinc. What’s next?

Those of us who have been around this hobby for a while know that many factors go into pricing coins including supply and demand, condition, and other market forces. The considerations are so varied, that I wrote a two-part series on “How Coins are Priced” (links: Part I and Part II) that is still relevant.

The 1943 copper Lincoln cent is known as an off-metal error. It probably happened when the U.S. Mint started to strike the 1943 Steel cents and a few copper planchets were probably still stuck in the machine. According to Coin World, there have been 12 reported 1943 copper cents.

Now that the coin has been reported in the mainstream media, be careful about buying counterfeits coins. Sources report that would-be fraudsters are either taking the abundant supply of steel cents at a cost of 50-cents to $2 each and plating them with copper. This type of counterfeit is easy to detect using a magnet. Copper is not magnetic and will not react to a magnet.

Another trick they try is to alter the “8” on a 1948 Lincoln cent to make it look like a three. If you carefully study the style used on the “3” and the “8” you will see that they are very different shapes on the coins. Also, if you look at the date under magnification, you could see the tooling marks. This is where carrying a 10x loupe is beneficial.

Identifying a 1943 altered date

Otherwise, make sure the coin is encapsulated by a reputable grading service and that you check the serial numbers against the grading service’s database.

While it is nice to have the attention, please do not be disappointed when I tell you that the rusting 1943 steel cent is probably worth about 25-cents or that reprocessed set may be worth one- or two-dollars.

Credits

  • 1943 copper Lincoln Cent courtesy of CoinTrackers.
  • 1943 Steel Cent courtesy of the U.S. Mint.
  • Image showing the diagnostics of an altered 1943 date courtesy of The Spruce.

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