At least once per month, one story that catches my eye and causes a reaction. Many times I let it pass without comment because I know there is more to the story than what the news reports. This time I looked a bit deeper.
Reverse of the 2019 Peter Rabbit 50p Silver Proof Coin. Peter Rabbit was created by Beatrix Potter. (Image courtesy of the Royal Mint)
Mints around the world do business differently than the U.S. Mint. In many cases, these mints are public corporations or private corporations contracted to strike coins on behalf of the government. Very few are state agencies like the U.S. Mint.
From what I can tell, the United States is the only country where coin design is governed by the whim of 535 people whose design esthetics are eclipsed by their inability to understand the effects of their decisions. In other countries, themes and designs are managed through the mint in cooperation with the central bank and the government.
In the United Kingdom, the committee advising the Royal Mint has a membership of ten men and three women. According to reports, this committee is usually lead by a Cabinet Minister. It is the practice that the minister is selected from the House of the Lords, the least powerful branch of the government.
As it turns out, most of the Lords are male. Since the chair of the committee selects the members, most of the members of the committee are male.
A Controversy is now brewing in the U.K. because a proposal to honor Emily and Charlotte Bronte with commemorative coins were rejected. Even U.S. educated children know about the Bronte sisters having been assigned to read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre in school.
It is not the first time that the committee rejected the selection of a woman author. The committee had decided not to honor Enid Blyton, a children’s author. Blyton wrote over 600 children’s books that echoed her conservative and moral lifestyle. Although she continues to be criticized by more literary critics, her books remain popular.
The committee decided that Blyton was not worthy of the honor.
The British women authors are up in arms over the decision. But could this be a tempest in a teapot?
This year, the Royal Mint issued coins celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Gruffalo and Mouse. The Gruffalo is a children’s book written by Julia Donaldson. The book is about a mouse’s adventures walking through the woods until it meets the mythical Gruffalo.
The award-winning book was translated into 59 languages and made into an animated short film.
Although the Royal Mint did not honor Donaldson on a coin, her characters are so honored.
The Royal Mint has also issued 50p coins honoring Paddington Bear, a character that became popular in the United States through the movie. While Michael Bond wrote Paddington Bear, the books were initially illustrated by Peggy Fortnum.
We learned that whether committees or politicians design coins, they will get it wrong. We also learned that maybe we should stop trying to put humans on coins because regardless of the decision, someone is going to be upset. Sometimes, it is not worth the hassle.
And now the news…
October 21, 2019
BRYAN, Ohio — Tom Reed of Bryan, Ohio donated more than 50 books to the Williams County Public Library, which mainly center on numismatics, also known as coin collecting. Reed saw a need for books on coin collecting to be available to the public, and decided to offer many books from his personal collection to the Williams County Public Library, said a news release.
→ Read more at kpcnews.com
October 24, 2019
WINNIPEG—The Royal Canadian Mint has issued a new coin featuring a portrait of Louis Riel, an important Métis leader and the founder of Manitoba. The coin was launched on the 175th anniversary of Riel’s birth.
→ Read more at thestar.com
October 24, 2019
OSAKA — While a 500-yen coin may not go as far as it used to, at least it still weighs the same. That's the verdict of the annual weight test of coinage, which was held at the Japan Mint in Osaka's Kita Ward on Oct.
→ Read more at asahi.com
October 24, 2019
Hobo nickel is a term used to describe the 18th century sculptural art form of hand-engraving coins, resulting in miniature bas-relief sculptures that you can hold in the palm of your hand. While the ancient art is rarely practised today, Russian artist Roman Booteen keeps the craft alive with his extraordinary coin carving designs.
→ Read more at mymodernmet.com
October 24, 2019
The original 29 March 2019 design for the Brexit 50p. The date was changed to October 31 and now, presumably, will be altered again Credit: Treasury A small batch of special Brexit 50p coins minted with October 31 are expected to become collectors' items now that it looks almost certain Britain will not have left the EU by then.
→ Read more at telegraph.co.uk
October 24, 2019
Are you a coin collector who wants to get a job in the coin business? Plenty of numismatic jobs are out there! Today, I’m going to show you how to find a job working with coins.
→ Read more at coins.thefuntimesguide.com
October 24, 2019
The production of thousands of special commemorative Brexit coins has been put on hold amid continuing uncertainty over when the UK will leave the EU. The Royal Mint had been asked to make new 50p pieces featuring the 31 October date on which the UK was due to leave and a message of "Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations".
→ Read more at bbc.com
October 24, 2019
An extremely rare 1879 $4 gold coin could sell for $1 million when it is auctioned next month. The 400 cent piece, known as the $4 Gold Stella, is valued at roughly $200,000 but could sell for $1 million, according to auction house Stack’s Bowers Galleries.
→ Read more at foxnews.com
October 26, 2019
– Umayyad, a historic Islamic coin which was made around 723AD has sold for £3.7m – Among the inscriptions said to be on the coin is one that reads "Mine of the Commander of the Faithful" – The coin was initially billed to sell £1.6m but increased at the auction because of much interest
→ Read more at legit.ng
October 26, 2019
Royal Mint bosses have been accused of sexism for rejecting plans to honour novelist sisters Emily and Charlotte Bronte with special coins. The Mint’s male-dominated advisory committee on commemorative coins was accused of failing to ‘take women seriously’ after snubbing the authors of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.
→ Read more at dailymail.co.uk
During a ceremony at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts on September 6, the U.S. Mint unveiled the design for the 2020 Hall of Fame commemorative coin.
The obverse of the coin, designed by Artistic Infusion Program artist Pheobe Hemphill, has an image looking down into the net from the rim. Superimposed on above the rim are three players: a man, woman, and wheelchair player, reaching for a ball.
The design is something that represents the Basketball Hall of Fame. As opposed to Halls of Fame from other sports, the Basketball Hall of Fame honors the best basketball players from any arena, not just from the professional leagues.
The reverse of the curved coin, designed by Artistic Infusion Program artist Justin Kunz, the image of a basketball as it is about to drop into the basket. While using the image of a ball is similar to what the U.S. Mint used for the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin, this one is a little different. For this commemorative coin, the ball does not take up the entire side, leaving a distinct rim around the ball. Also, the ball will be on the concave side of the coin.
Line drawings of coin designs do not provide the perspective of the final product, making it difficult to judge. The design unveiled in Springfield appears to have a lot of potentials. Let’s hope that the final product can be just as nice.
Although U.S. Mint Director David Ryder once mentioned something about selective coloring on this coin, there has been no formal announcement from the U.S. Mint.
A video of the ceremony is available on the NBA’s website.
Although it has been a while since I have posted something outside of the Weekly World Numismatic News, it does not mean that I have been idle. Here are some random thoughts:
First, I want to thank the American Numismatic Association Board of Governors for awarding me the 2019 Glenn Smedley Memorial Award. It is an honor! I wish I could have been there for the award ceremony.
2019 Glenn B Smedley Medal
ANA President Steve Ellsworth asked me to continue as Chair of the Technology Committee. I accepted his appointment. Steve has a different vision for how to move forward. Change is a good thing and will work with him and the Board to do what is best for the ANA.
There continues to be work to do for the ANA to add technology to the numismatic experience. One of the areas I would like to include more technology are the exhibits. After speaking with one person familiar with the exhibiting process, I think there are ways to add technology without technology overshadowing the numismatic content. I will have a proposal shortly. Stay tuned.
Not long ago, U.S. Mint Director David Ryder said that there might be a chance to add color to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coins. I have had a mixed feeling about adding color to coins. There are some cases where the color acted as an enhancer. Other times, some mints produced coins that were discs with prints. I will wait until the design is released to decide how I feel about the Mint’s attempt with color.
2007 Somalia Motorcycle Coins
I love these coins but is this the direction the U.S. Mint should go?
There are many collectibles whose values have declined over the last year, including some collector coins. One area that remains low are those collector sets produced by the television hucksters or the private mints. These firms overhype the value of their wares to convince buyers that they should purchase them as an investment. Recently, I handled an estate with several items purchased from QVC and the Franklin Mint. All of the coins were overpriced. The family was upset when I provided my valuation. I will talk about this more in a future post.
Another article idea that is inspired by my business is the difference between collecting and investing. Although some people like to try to mix the two, most of the time, the result is that the investor does not create a compelling collection while most of the collectors create value without trying.
Recently, I decided to liquidate part of my collection. As part of the process, I realized how much I have learned over the years. It is a real case of “the more you know, the more you realize what you don’t know.” I learned several lessons during this process, including not to trust my judgment. In one case, coins I graded years ago were over graded. If I would have used the tools and knowledge, I have today, and the grades would be different.
I sold my silver Pandas. I lost interest after the composition was changed but the hype has kept the prices up. Hype is not a long-term strategy.
Finally, I am still waiting to find a “W” quarter in change. I have yet to see one. Most of the people I know that are looking for these quarters are roll hunting. If I were into conspiracies, I would suggest that the Mint did this on purpose to increase the demand for quarters. People would demand rolls of quarters, forcing the Federal Reserve to order more.
Considering the U.S. Mint is a government agency, I bet they are storing most of the quarters in Area 51! After all, if we are going into conspiracy theories, we might as well go all of the way!
Usually, news about a new artist selected for the Artistic Infusion Program is not big news in the numismatic community. The program currently has 13 artists including a few who were once employees of the U.S. Mint. But the recent announcement that Steven Kenny of St. Petersburg, Florida seemed a little unusual because of his artistic style.
Newly named Artistic Infusion Program artist Steven Kenny (photo courtesy of www.stevenkenny.com)
Kenny’s primary work is surrealism, a style described as “irrational juxtaposition of images.” There are many different styles of surrealism that many artists have explored. One of the most famous surrealist artists was Salvador Dali.
While exploring Kenny’s website, you can see he has an interesting take on surrealism. Most of his works appear to be his take on portraits of different types of people adapting to their environment in unique ways. But these works go beyond that simple description, which is usually the case with artists who specialize in surrealism. His work has a simplicity that the more you look at them, the more that you can see complex themes formed by the image.
“The Beach” by Steven Kenny. Available as a print on his website.
The way Kenny approaches a subject makes his selection to the AIP a fascinating choice. The U.S. Mint has always had a problem figuring out how to create designs for complex subjects. It is one thing to design a coin with an organization’s logo or the bust of a person, but what about design a coin for a national park, a forest, or an event?
Although seeing a surrealistic design on a coin would be interesting, someone with a background in surrealism has a different view that has the potential to improve on coin designs.
Kenny’s selection to the AIP is a very interesting move for the U.S. Mint. Whoever made the selection should be praised for not only selecting a talented artist but one with a different perspective.
I encourage everyone to explore Steven Kenny’s website to see more about his art.
And now the news…
June 30, 2019
Using powerful infrared light, researchers have found a way to tint metal without dyes or pigments – with scientific implications far beyond coin-collecting → Read more at theglobeandmail.com
July 2, 2019
The U.S. Mint selected St. Petersburg surrealist painter Steven Kenny to create designs for coins. → Read more at abcactionnews.com
July 3, 2019
PHOTO: “MIR” → Read more at galpost.com
July 3, 2019
To continue, please click the box below to let us know you're not a robot. → Read more at bloomberg.com
July 3, 2019
→ Read more at kitco.com
July 4, 2019
A rare gold solidus dating back 1,600 years has been found by a group of Israeli students in the Galilee region. → Read more at sci-news.com
July 4, 2019
A treasure trove of Arab coins dating back some 1,000 years has been discovered in an old German cemetery near the Baltic coast. → Read more at thefirstnews.com
Since U.S. Mint announced the launch of the American Innovation $1 Coin Program there has been nothing but complaints from the community about the coin.
According to the law (Public Law No: 115-97), “The common design on the obverse of each coin issued under this subsection shall contain a likeness of the Statue of Liberty extending to the rim of the coin and large enough to provide a dramatic representation of Liberty.” With the U.S. Mint under a short deadline because of when the bill became law (July 20, 2018), there were a number of disagreements with the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee regarding the obverse design of the coin. The U.S. Mint tried to modify an old design but the CCAC did not like that. Eventually, the design from Miss Liberty’s left side was used.
It has turned out to be an elegant design that does not duplicate any previous one. She stands on the coin as stately as she stands in New York Harbor, extending from rim to rim as required by law. For once, the CCAC and I agree on a good design.
But that is not enough for some people. The design is too plain.
The reason why the coin appears plain is that two elements that could have been on the obverse, the date and motto “E Pluribus Unum,” are on the edge of the coin.
Edge lettering for the $1 coins began in 2007 with the introduction of the Presidential $1 Program. It was decided to move these elements, along with “In God We Trust” to the edge because the obverse was to include the years of the president’s term. Aside from providing more space for the design, relocating the date would prevent potential confusion as to the date of the coin.
“In God We Trust” was restored to the obverse of the coin in 2009 after striking errors caused the edge of the coin to be blank. This caused overzealous conspiracy theorists and the gullible believing that this was done purposely against the religious communities.
Some argue that since the conditions have changed, the coin should not have edge lettering.
Aesthetically, the obverse design was well executed. It would be how the statue would look if you were standing in Battery Park located at the southern tip of Manhattan, and looked across the water on a clear day. There should be no reason to change the design.
However, there is a problem with the edge lettering in that it makes it difficult to see. As someone who has reached the age where an annual eye exam is a requirement and “corrective lenses” is now a permanent fixture on my driver’s license, having the mintmark on the edge requires me to use magnification to find the mintmark.
As a member of the Baby Boomer generation whose glasses seem to get stronger every year, I would be in favor of moving the date and mintmark to the obverse of the coin. But if the problem is only aesthetics, then I have no problems with having to use a 16x loupe to help identify where the coin was struck.
Sometimes I wonder if the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and U.S. Commission of Fine Arts is actually paying attentiong to the designs they are selecting. While they have rejected some interesting designs, they seem to accept other designs without really thinking.
Reverse of the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin
It looks like these two groups that are supposed to be the gatekeepers of the design of U.S. coinage did not fully think through their design selection for the Apollo 11 Commemorative Coin program.
When the line art images were sent out, the design did not immediately remind me of a bootprint on the surface of the moon. Actually, it reminded me of something that many of us have placed our bootprint on a little closer to the ground.
Obverse design of the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin program
A Dubia Roach (Blaptica dubia)
I understand that with the resignation of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from the CCAC that this august body may be lacking the appropriate point of reference that Abdul-Jabbar and I have to make the tie between the bootprint and an insect that could probably survive on the moon (he was born Lew Alcindor in New York City). Then again, the CCAC is the same organization, albeit, with different members, that gave us some of the worst designs in modern coinage.
For the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century, all the CCAC could come up with is a bootprint?
On Monday, the U.S. Mint announced that on September 3, they will begin accepting applications for the Artistic Infusion Program. Judging by the last round of artwork submitted to the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee to review for the new American Innovation $1 Coin, they need the help.
For those who did not read the stories, the U.S. Mint submitted a design for the obverse that is supposed to be “a likeness of the Statue of Liberty extending to the rim of the coin and large enough to provide a dramatic representation of Liberty,” similar to the reverse of the Presidential $1 coins. According to reports, the U.S. Mint claimed that they could not work on a better design because of time constraints.
Time constraints are a legitimate issue. The bill was signed into law on July 20, 2018, leaving the U.S. Mint less than six months until the program begins in 2019. However, that does not mean that the program has to begin on January 2. In fact, the law does not specify at what point during the year that the coins are to be produced.
They also could have anticipated their responsibility. Once the bill was passed by the Senate on June 20, it was only a matter of time that the difference between the House and Senate versions were resolved before being signed by the president. It was not a surprise. They had two months to come up with something prior to the CCAC meeting.
Although U.S. Mint Director David Ryder has not been on the job long, he has to take responsibility for not providing the leadership necessary to impress on the artists and whoever directed them not to try to take the easy way out. If they have not learned by now, most of the CCAC members take their jobs much more seriously than previous committees (this is a good thing) and are very outspoken in a very constructive manner.
One person that should respond to this call for artists is current CCAC member Heidi Wastweet. An accomplished medalist and sculptor, her term with the CCAC is about to expire. She is well qualified since her work is phenomenal! You can see for yourself on her website. Imagine what an artist with her talent and knowing what the CCAC is looking for can add to the U.S. Mint.
Having never met Ms. Wastweet, I am not in a position to try to talk her into applying. However, if you are acquainted with her, please let her know that not only would it be of great service to the U.S. Mint but that she has at least one endorsement—for whatever that is worth!
There are so many great medals on Heidi Wastweet’s site it is difficult to select one to highlight. But I always seem to focus on this one called a Zombuck.
NOTE: The title is NOT a typographical error. It is a commentary raised by the discussion, below.
With the flurry of legislative action last month, the only bill that I commented on was the American Innovation $1 Coin Act (Public Law No: 115-197) because it was the only one that is the law. The others were just introduced and may not be passed out of committee.
But that has not prevented speculation and discussion about the potential for these potential commemorative coins. Based on the email buzz, the two bills of interest are the Integration of Baseball Commemorative Coin Act (S. 3283 and H.R. 6469) and the Carson City Mint 150th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 6221).
Regarding the Integration of Baseball Commemorative Coin Act, someone decided that the coins would be square and that has infested the numismatic media. This is not what the bill requires. In fact, the bill says that the “design on the common reverse of the coins minted under this Act shall depict a baseball diamond similar to those used by Major League Baseball.”
Reverse design of the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative (Image courtesy of the U.S. Mint)
For those commentators who cannot read simple English, it says that the design “shall depict a baseball diamond.” Nowhere in that sentence does it say that the coins have to be shaped like the baseball diamond. A depiction and the shape of a coin are two different concepts.
Trying to understand where the idea that the coins would be square, a review of the official statement issued by Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX) as co-sponsors does not mention the shape of the coin.
What might have confused the issue was a report in The Hill that former Montreal Expos and Chicago Cubs legend Andre “The Hawk” Dawson talked about the coin minted in the shape of home plate. While Dawson was a great ballplayer and earned his place in the Baseball Hall of Fame, he is not a member of Congress and, apparently, did not read the bill.
The commentary about the shape does not take into consideration what the bill actually says. Aside from talking about it like it will be the law, it does not take into consideration that the bill is now in committee with less than 90-days to go until the mid-term elections. Without turning this into a political analysis blog post, there will be contention regardless of the outcome of the election. With the late introduction of this bill and the current political environment, the likelihood of this bill passing both chambers before the end of the session is highly unlikely.
A correspondent asked “Wouldn’t it be cool if the Carson City commemorative coins were struck in Carson City?” It does not matter if it is a good idea or not unless Congress changes the law, specifically 31 U.S. Code § 5131 that defines where the branches of the U.S. Mint are located, Carson City is not authorized to strike coins. Unless Carson City is added to that list, even temporarily, the U.S. Mint cannot strike any coins in Carson City. Further, the building that was once a branch mint is no longer owned by the Federal Government. Ownership was transferred to the State of Nevada that runs it as part of the Nevada State Museum.
Carson City Mint (1866)
Even though the first press used in Carson City is located in the museum, it may not meet the specifications that are required of the U.S. Mint to strike modern commemorative coins. And both the press and building are not owned by the United State government, a fact that would make those who provide oversight of the U.S. Mint’s operations a bit nervous.
While these “what if” questions might make good parlour or message board discussions, allegedly responsible industry journalists and pundits should know better.
Although it is not really a numismatic-related bill, the Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act appears to be on track for passage in the Senate.
Essentially, the bill redesignates the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ former home in New Hampshire, as the “Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park.” The change is significant in that it changes the funding for the staffing and maintenance of the site. It also will keep the site accessible for tourism.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens is known as the artist who co-conspired with President Theodore Roosevelt in his “pet crime” to redesign United States coinage. Before his death in 1907, Saint-Gaudens provided the design for the $20 Double Eagle and $10 Eagle gold coinage.
Saint-Gaudens’ legacy did continue after his death by his students Adolph A. Weinman, designer of the Walking Liberty half-dollar and Mercury dime, and James Earle Fraser, designer of the Buffalo Nickel.
S. 2863: National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — May 16, 2018
H.R. 965: Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act
Summary: (Sec. 2) This bill redesignates the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, in New Hampshire, as the "Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park."
Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. — Feb 7, 2017
Placed on the Union Calendar, Calendar No. 197. — Aug 25, 2017
Reported (Amended) by the Committee on Natural Resources. H. Rept. 115-277. — Aug 25, 2017
Mr. Thompson (PA) moved to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended. — Oct 2, 2017
Considered under suspension of the rules. — Oct 2, 2017
DEBATE – The House proceeded with forty minutes of debate on H.R. 965. — Oct 2, 2017
At the conclusion of debate, the Yeas and Nays were demanded and ordered. Pursuant to the provisions of clause 8, rule XX, the Chair announced that further proceedings on the motion would be postponed. — Oct 2, 2017
Considered as unfinished business. — Oct 2, 2017
On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 401 – 0 (Roll no. 545). — Oct 2, 2017
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Oct 2, 2017
Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. — Oct 3, 2017
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Ordered to be reported without amendment favorably. — May 17, 2018
In last Sunday’s Weekly World Numismatic News I commented on a story that members of the Philippines legislature were upset that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines or BSP) issued coins that were similar look and feel but of different denominations. I related the story to the plight of the Susan B. Anthony dollar.
A 1979-D Susan B Anthony dollar found in change that was mistaken for a quarter.
This week, I was involved in a real-life example of this confusion.
While getting ready to retire for the evening, I empty my pockets on my dresser and look to see if there is anything interesting. Since my only trip of the day was a local grocery store, I did not expect anything. As I looked at what I thought was 78-cents something did not look right. As it turned out, one of the quarters was not a quarter.
Mixed in with the change from my single transaction of the day was a 1979-D Susan B. Anthony dollar coin. Not only did the cashier make the mistake, but when I accepted the change I did not catch the difference.
A real-life example as to the reason why the Susie B. was not a successful coin!