Yesterday, I wrote about sales of 2017-P Lincoln cents selling at nearly 20-times face value online. These are coins in production that the U.S. Mint will continue to strike until December 2017 at a pace that should yield over 5 billion coins.
At the end of the post, I wrote:
Maybe it is time for the American Numismatic Association and Professional Numismatic Guild to issue a statement warning the public. If these organizations are about protecting the collector, here is a clear case of price gouging that they should show concern!
2017-P Lincoln Cents are selling for high multiples over face value
Sometimes, I do not understand collectors and the speculation market.
I had read a few stories about the one-year-only 2017-P Lincoln cent selling for high multiples online. I had to check it out for myself. What I found are rolls of uncirculated Lincoln cent selling for upward of 20-times face value!
Since the U.S. Mint did not announce that they would be adding the “P” mintmark to the one-cent coin as a one year issue, there has been a frenzy of interest. It seems to the point of overpaying for a coin that is really not worth more than its face value!
These are business strike coins, struck for circulation. They are the coins ordered by the Federal Reserve to satisfy the nation’s commerce. Although they have a mintmark “P,” the U.S. Mint will strike billions of these coins. In 2016, the Philadelphia mint struck over 4 billion one cent coins—4,698,000,000 to be exact.
According to the U.S. Mint production figures, 515,200,000 of the 2017-P Lincoln Cents were struck. Extended out over 12 months, that means the U.S. Mint will strike over 6 BILLION of these coins.
One day of 2017-P pocket change finds
Before typing this blog post, I checked my pocket change to see how many I had. Since I empty the change from my pocket daily, I found five coins just from my daily travels on Saturday.
This is an unfortunate state of society. The collective ADD and instant satisfaction will have people spending more than they should only to be disappointed later when the coins are not worth more than face value. It will be like those who bought 50 State Quarters on the home shopping channels only to later realize they would be lucky if they could recover half of what they paid.
I understand that online sellers are trying to satisfy the market. Capitalism at its most greedy. But it is not good for the hobby.
1974-D Experimental Lincoln cent pattern made using an aluminum planchet (J2151)
Once again the U.S. Mint is saving us coin collectors from ourselves and preventing a legally obtained collectible from being owned by the collecting public. In a canned statement that had to have been copied from previous canned statements, U.S. Mint Principal Deputy Director Rhett Jeppson said that the agreement to return the only known version of a 1974-D Aluminum Lincoln cent pattern “is not only good for the integrity of the coin collecting hobby but for the integrity of the government property and rule of law.”
In 1974, as part of the effort to find a composition that would replace the 95-percent copper planchet for the one-cent coin that was used at the time, the U.S. Mint struck 1.4 million as patterns with the intent on destroying all of the coins struck when completed.
Congress did not like the concept fearing that their silver color would confuse them with other coins. Additionally, the aluminum composition could not be detected in vending machines nor would show up on an x-ray if swallowed. The coins were melted down.
Patterns that were struck for this test were made entirely in Philadelphia.
Which brings us to the story of the 1974-D cent pattern in this story.
Harry Lawrence who retired as deputy superintendent of the Denver Mint in 1979 owned this coin. Lawrence died in 1980. Harry’s son, Randall, discovered the coin in 2013 after moving to La Jolla from Denver and selling a bag of his father’s old coins to Michael McConnell at the La Jolla Coin Shop.
McConnell had the coin graded by Professional Coin Grading Service as MS-63 and determined it to be a genuine pattern. They were going to offer the coin for auction when the government stepped in to stop the sale and demanded its return.
Michael McConnell (left) and Randy Lawrence (right) returned the rare 1974-D penny made from aluminum back to the U.S. Treasury Department Thursday afternoon. — Nelvin C. Cepeda
There is one caveat to this story: there is no record of Denver ever striking such a coin. According to Randy Lawrence, the coin was given to his father when he retired from the Denver mint.
When Lawrence and McConnell sued the government to end the demand order, it is reported that Alan Goldman, former interim Mint director who headed the aluminum cent project, speculated in his deposition that the coin might have been made as part of a practical joke. Goldman allegedly named a suspect whose name was not released but is reported to be deceased.
The ensuing lawsuit lasted about two years and was settled today with McConnell returning the coin to the U.S. Mint on March 17, 2016.
The precedence this ruling is more dangerous for the hobby than people think. The most important issue is that it puts into jeopardy the status of the five 1913 Liberty Head nickels. Created under allegedly similar circumstances, the U.S. Mint has no record that these coins were ever produced. Although the government has tacitly agreed not to pursue that coin, there may be a time when someone with a more parochial view might use this situation to recover alleged chattel as property of the state.
Rulings like this will likely keep any surviving 1964-D Peace dollars hidden from the public. This will partially bury the history of turmoil in the coinage markets of the early 1960s. Hiding history is never good for anyone.
1974-D Aluminum cent courtesy of PCGS via Coin World.
Over the summer, a Harris Poll was conducted to understand how Americans feel about abolishing the one-cent coin and the paper dollar note. Even though there are pundits calling for these changes and even the end of physical currency, Harris found that those wanting to keep the lowly one-cent coin continue to hold the majority opinion.
Series 1935 $1 FRN Reverse Early Design
According to Harris, 51-percent of those polled oppose abolishing the minting and use of one-cent coins versus 29-percent in favor. In 2008, 56-percent were opposed and 24-percent were in favor. While some will see a small movement to being in favor of eliminating the one-cent coin, the change is not significant when considering that the last poll was seven years ago shortly before the height of the recession and the beginning of the bank failures.
Those of us who work in areas outside the larger commercial world has experience with a cash economy that is not tied to economic status. One of those is the numismatics industry. While many dealers will take credit cards, and will pass along the fees along to the customer, many dealers have said that most of their off-line business is a cash-based business. While larger purchases are done using checks, most will leave shows with more hard currency than other types of payments.
1909-VDB Lincoln Cent
Collectibles businesses are very reliant on cash. In my business, I do accept credit cards but when I do shows the overwhelming majority of my business is in cash. A few weeks ago I did a two day show and had one of my best weekends ever but only had one sale using a credit card.
There are people who are leery of using credit and debit cards for every transaction. We use cash to limit our exposure. In this connected world, the credit and debit card leaves a digital breadcrumb that is available to be hacked. I cannot tell you how many times I watched people in local convenience stores punch in their codes in a matter I could see them and then leave their receipts behind. This could be used to steal your money and your debit cards are not covered the same as credit cards. But the public does not see this.
A week does not go by without a report of the hacking of personal information that should not be made public. Unfortunately, it is getting to be like rain on the hot-tin roof, after a while the sound blends into the background.
According to the Federal Reserve, there was approximately $1.39 trillion in circulation as of September 30, 2015, of which $1.34 trillion was in Federal Reserve notes. That represents a lot of money that would have to be accounted for if we were to go into a cashless society. It would take a significant effort that would not make for good public policy.
The calls to make changes to change are beginning to drone on as background noise like rain on a hot-tin roof.
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) 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 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.
Lithograph depicting Lincoln’s Assassination by Currier and Ives.
As Doctors Charles Leale, Charles Sabin Taft, Albert Taft, two soldiers who are anonymous to history, and William Hall carried the bleeding body of the president out of Ford’s Theatre, they saw Henry Safford in front of William Petersen’s boarding house waiving the crowd to bring them across to the street. It rained that evening as they brought Lincoln into the house and laid him diagonally on a bed in a first floor bedroom.
Joining the crowd in the room was Surgeon General of the United States Army Joseph K. Barnes, his assistant Charles Henry Crane, Lincoln’s personal physician Dr. Robert K. Stone, and Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott the first Black Canadian to be a licensed physician. With Barnes in charge, the examination and treatment proved beyond the capabilities of the medical arts of the time. By 7:22 AM on April 15, 1865, Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America had succumbed to his injuries.
While every president faces their shares of challenges, Abraham Lincoln was challenged with the morality of slavery and the breaking apart of the republic before it reached its 100th anniversary. He was so concerned about keeping the nation together that not only did he have Union troops shoot at what he considered fellow Americans, but he broke laws and violated the constitution in order to keep the country going.
Lincoln is remembered for his debates with Stephen Douglas, the Emancipation Proclamation, Gettysburg Address, his second inaugural address, the Civil War, the Homestead Act, three revenue-based (taxation) acts, and the National Banking Act that lead to the creation of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Aside from being the first president assassinated, there are other aspects of his presidency that is not widely discussed. Lincoln was known for either not enforcing laws he did not like or over enforcing laws to silence critics. While he did not condone a lot of the brutality especially from Generals Sherman and Grant, he did not condemn them either. Some historians suggest that his appointment of the young General George B. McClellan after the loss at the First Battle of Bull Run was to use him to manipulate the strategy to be more brutal against the Confederacy.
In a move that would have had any modern president excoriated, Lincoln ignored a writ of habeas corpus issued by Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney. Lincoln became incensed with Taney after he authored the controversial Dred Scott v. Sanford decision that Lincoln highly disagreed with. Following the writ, Lincoln and his cabinet ignored Taney, a move that hurt him in many ways. Taney died miserable and poor after a long illness blaming Lincoln for his decline.
1909-VDB Lincoln Cent
Even with these blemishes on his record, Abraham Lincoln is the second-most celebrated and honored president. For his accomplishments, Theodore Roosevelt listened to immigrant artist Victor David Brenner to honor Lincoln on a coin. As part of Roosevelt’s “pet crime,” a portrait of Lincoln design by Brenner has appeared on the one-cent coin for 117 years. Lincoln has also appeared on the reverse of the 2013 Illinois state quarter, as part of the depiction of Mount Rushmore on the 2006 South Dakota quarter, and the 2010 Lincoln presidential dollar.
Obverse of the 2009 Abraham Lincoln Commemorative proof coin
Lincoln also appeared on the 1918 Illinois 100th anniversary of statehood commemorative half dollar, 1991 Mount Rushmore commemorative coin series, and the 2009 commemorative silver dollar honoring the 200th anniversary of his birth.
At one time there was a trivia question as to the only United States coin with a presidential portrait of a president on both sides of the coin: the Lincoln Memorial cent. If you look carefully in the memorial on the reverse, you can see the statue of Lincoln in the memorial making it the only coin of its time to have this distinction.
Aside from appearing on the current $5 Federal Reserve Note, Lincoln has appeared on notes of 10 different designs and denominations including the fourth issue 50-cents fractional note, $10 Demand Note, $500 Gold Certificate, and a $1 large size silver certificate.
Series 1882 $500 Gold Certificate
In honor of Lincoln, spend at least one of those little copper-coated zinc cents remembering that if it was not for him, that coin might not have existed.
Curier & Ives image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute. Image of the 1909-VDB cent courtesy of USAcoinbook.com.Image of the 2009 Lincoln commemorative dollar courtesy of the U.S. Mint. Banknote image courtesy of AntiqueBanknotes.com.
The U.S. Mint has sent out a press alert saying that CBS Sunday Morning will air two segments this Sunday, April 12th, that may be of interest to collectors. The first segment will focus on the artists and engravers in Philadelphia and the role they play in the coin-making process. The segment will also look at some of the Philadelphia Mint’s history.
A second segment will look at the penny and the debate about whether or not it should be eliminated.
CBS is branding this show “The Money Issue” with CBS News Senior Business Correspondent Anthony Mason as the guest host. The four scheduled segments include “What’s in a name” examining the art of branding; “The Look of Money” with Anna Werner showing the design process as the U.S. Mint’s press alert said; Correspondent Nancy Giles reports on “Making sense of pennies” and the great elimination debate; Mo Rocca who reports on “Pirate Joe’s” and the grey market of food; and more.
CBS Sunday Morning is usually hosted by Charles Osgood and airs at 9 am Eastern Time. Check your local listings to see when it airs in your region.
I know my postings have been sparse. Business has been picking up making me very busy. I will explain more at another time. But for now, I wanted to share my first 2015 find of the year.
In the past few years I have had to wait until late April or May to find a coin with the current year’s date in pocket change. This year, it took a trip to New York to find a 2015 coin earlier than in the past.
After dropping off my dogs at the house of the person who babysits them, my wife and found our way to I-95 then north to the city of my birth. Since I am a coffee hound, I have to stop in order to take care of the after effects of drinking the coffee and buy more, of course. This time, we stopped at the Chesapeake House Travel Plaza on I-95 in Cecil County, Maryland.
First, we were stunned by the new building. the state demolished the old Chesapeake House and rebuilt a new building complete with LEED Silver Certification and a better choice of side-of-the-road restaurants than the usual. One of those establishments was Peet’s Coffee and Tea where I was able to fuel myself before fueling my vehicle.
As part of my change I received a shiny, new 2015 Lincoln cent!
Not only did a get a good cup of coffee but I was treated to my first 2015 find of the year. It was a good way to start a weekend that included a family celebration!
Did you find a 2015 coin in your pocket change?
Yes I did (71%, 17 Votes)
Not yet (21%, 5 Votes)
I am not looking (8%, 2 Votes)
Total Voters: 24
$2 Federal Reserve Notes found at a convenience store near where I work
Over the weekend I attended an estate auction that included coins for sale. While my new business venture concentrates on all vintage collectibles, I am still a collector and continue to look for those interesting items and the good coins to add to my collection. As I was looking over the lots I noticed one had several blue folders of Lincoln cents. The collector in me could not resist and I picked up the folders and started looking.
Every hold was filled.
What drew my eye first was the hole marked “1909-S VDB.” Even though the 1914-D may be worth more, the 1909-S VDB is considered the Holy Grail amongst change hunters. With only 484,000 struck the odds of finding one are not in a change hunter’s favor. But we keep looking and hoping.
After reaching into my pocket for my ever present loupe, I asked the attendant if I could remove the coin to see the reverse. I had to check for those three letters on the back because it did say it was a 1909-S on the front. With the attendant watching me, I removed the coin from the slot, turned it over and brought it up to my loupe.
Using a 16X loupe I zeroed in on the area where I could find the “V.D.B” only to find something unexpected. On this coin, the “VDB” with no periods were punched into the coin. Holding the coin and turning it in the light to see how the light reacts, it was easy to see that the coin was not real.
Being very disappointed I quietly told the attendant that the coin was altered. She did not know what to do. When I suggested she tell her boss, she took the coin from me and went into a back room. A moment later, she returned and asked me to follow her to the office.
Scott’s 1909-S VDB
While the owner of the auction house was a bit upset, we talked to establish who I was and how I was qualified to judge the authenticity. After asking him to bring up my blog and showing him that I own a real 1909-S VDB, I told him how I know that the coin was altered. I handed him my loupe and told him to look at the letters. When he saw that the letters were punched into the coin instead of being in relief, he became upset again, but not at me.
I understand how he felt. In the auction business, they earn money from the buyer and seller fees. If the item sells for a high price, the auction house makes more money. In this case, since the coin was a solid VF, it could have sold for $700-800 alone.
Before he became too angry, I asked to see the 1914-D. At VF that coin is about $400 in the retail market. When I looked carefully I could see that the mintmark was added to the coin. It was not a very good job when you see it under magnification but looked all right on first glance. I showed the auctioneer how I know it had the mintmark added. He agreed with my assessment.
He asked if there were any more important dates that he should know about. I zeroed in on the hole for the 1922-D that had “No D” written in pen under the date. Even before finding the date under the loupe I could tell the coin was whizzed. That is a bad sign to begin with but if the coin was real, it would diminish its value but not make it worthless. What made it worthless was that you can tell someone filed the mintmark off the coin. Whoever did the filing did not do a good job because it made a little hole where the mintmark should be. This coin doctor probably whizzed the coin in order to cover up the alterations.
To say I gave this gentleman a shock would be an understatement. He shook my hand and offered me a discount on the buyer’s fee for helping him. After leaving his office he had the attendant who helped me remove all of the blue binders from the auction. When I spoke with the attendant later, she said they were all from the same consignor and that he was going to return them as being unsalable.
This was not the first time I attended an auction at this place and it will not be my last. Aside from being able to purchase good inventory for my business, they have proven to me they have integrity. Knowing this helps me buy with confidence.
I tell this story to provide two lessons. First, always examine the items before you bid. Even for online auctions, examine the pictures and read any descriptions carefully. If you are afraid to buy ungraded coins, then buy only graded coins. But make sure you are fully aware of what is being sold. Do not be afraid of asking the seller a question or even asking for a better picture. If the seller cannot help you then do not buy from that seller.
Buy the book before buying the coin!
When buying from a live auction, look carefully at the coins. Even if the coin was encased by a grading service, take out that loupe and examine. This means you should know what you are looking at. Educate yourself about the coins you are interested in purchasing. In a future post, I will discuss my portable reference and buying tools.
My second lesson is to know who you are buying from. This is more difficult online but you do have to take the feedback seriously. Again, if you have any questions you should ask. Every site has a way to contact the seller in order for you to ask questions. If the seller is not cooperative, let that be a sign for you.
When working with auction houses, it takes a little longer to establish a relationship. But you need to introduce yourself, talk with people and ask questions. Make yourself known and show that you are a serious buyer. It may take a few auctions to establish a relationship, but be persistent. Aside from preferential treatment and discounted seller fees, someone with a relationship can be told bout unpublished items in advance so that you are prepared to buy quicker than someone off the street. Another advantage is that if you specialize in something that the auction house cannot sell, you can buy it as a good price. As a reseller, I find that very good for business.
Even though online auctions are very popular, there is nothing better than being there live. I highly recommend the experience.
Experimental 1974-D Lincoln cent made struck on an aluminum planchet
After all the U.S. Mint has tried to do to make itself more appealing to the collecting community, they are now reverting to their old form and attacking a collectors for owning a coin they claim is “contraband.”
The argument is over a 1974-D Lincoln cent made of aluminum that was to be auctions by Heritage Auctions during the April 2014 Central States Numismatic Society auction. Rather than being auctioned, the U.S. Mint requested its return as government property even though it was reported that no records of the coin’s production exist.
According to an updated report appearing in Coin World, the coin was given to Harry Lawrence, a former Denver mint assistant superintendent, as part of a retirement gift in 1979. Upon his death, his possession were willed to his son Randall Lawrence.
Randall Lawrence and Michael McConnell, a San Deigo-area dealer working with Lawrence, consigned the coin to Heritage in hopes to be able to donate at least $100,000 from the sale to charities helping the homeless in San Deigo. Heritage had estimated the coin to be worth $250,000. Lawrence and McConnell are asking the federal court to determine the coin’s ownership.
U.S. Mint does not have records of the aluminum cent being struck in Denver. There are records of 1 million coins struck in Philadelphia. Nearly all were destroy.
The U.S. Mint’s mishandling of their own records are legendary. Some of the more famous coins that have escaped official record include the 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle and the five 1913 Liberty Head nickels. Numismatic researcher Roger Burdette has documented significant gaps in the way the U.S. Mint has historically mishandled their own documents. Even in recent years, the U.S. Mint has played fast-and-loose even with required documentation during previous director’s term because the narrative of the annual report would make the U.S. Mint’s performance look less than stellar.
Unfortunately for the U.S. Mint, Coin World reporter Paul Gilkes was able to interview former Denver Mint employee Benito Martinez “who said he personally struck fewer than a dozen of these coins as a die setter on aluminum planchets provided by the Philadelphia Mint.” Martinez said that these coins eventually made its way to the U.S. Mint headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Aside from the bad precedent this would create for all pattern coins and trial strikes, this has the potential to undo whatever good will the U.S. Mint has built with the collecting public in the last few years. Problems with the Kennedy gold coin not withstanding, the work that the U.S. Mint has done after the departure of Director Edmund Moy to build a more collector-friendly can be undone by continuing this fight.
Maybe it is time that the lawyers at the U.S. Mint and the Department of the Treasury stop trying to flex its muscles and realize the goodwill that would be created by changing policies and attitudes. After all, like all lawyers it is possible to interpret the law in a manner that would be more helpful while protecting the U.S. Mint and the U.S. government.