What is the U.S. Mint doing?

What is going on at the U.S. Mint? For an organization whose actions are micromanaged by law seems to be finding a way to get around those rules to make some real questionable decisions.

2015-S Saratoga National Historical Park Quarter

2015-S Saratoga National Historical Park Quarter

First, the U.S. Mint begins production of uncirculated San Francisco struck America the Beautiful Quarters in 2012 leaving the coins of the first two years of the program out. Collectors of the entire set will have two uncirculated options for 2010 and 2011 but a partial set for the rest of the program. Why start something like this in the middle of the program?

Just before the release of the S-mint quarters, the U.S. Mint changed its branding and changed the design of the Presidential $1 Coin Cover. Those of us who collect the coin covers now have two different formatted designs that shows when you show your 2010 Abraham Lincoln cover followed by the 2011 Andrew Johnson cover. And the change puts a thick black bar across the bottom forcing the portrait to be reduced making it an ugly design.

2010 Lincoln First Day Cover (before branding)

2010 Lincoln First Day Cover (before branding)

2011 Andrew Johnson First Day Cover (after branding)

2011 Andrew Johnson First Day Cover (after branding)

Although I love the reverse proof coins and do not think including them in special sets, such as the 2015 Reverse Proof Roosevelt Dime as part of the 2015 March of Dimes Special Silver Set, but there are persistent rumors of a Presidential dollar reverse proof set. Why add a reverse proof set in the middle of a series? What is the U.S. Mint thinking? Adding a reverse proof to an existing series is as wrong as the S-mint national parks quarters.

2015 American Liberty High Relief Gold Coin

2015 American Liberty High Relief Gold Coin

Allegedly, there is “excitement” being made over the new 24-karat $100 Liberty gold coin. First, there was a lot of industry discussion on the $100 face value, which is irrelevant to the issues. What difference does the denomination make on a non-circulating coin? But am I the only one who thinks the image of Liberty looks like an anorexic weakling?

Look at some of the past images of Liberty and they have a stronger look. Two of the most famous by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Adolph A. Weinman has a striding Liberty that shows character. George Morgan’s Liberty had a regal look and Anthony de Francisi’s Liberty on the Peace dollar is just a marvel of beauty. This image is so uninspiring that I would buy the coin only because it is the first year of issue and has some investment potential. Otherwise, if I were to invest in 24-karat gold coins I would continue to buy the American Gold Buffalo.

2015 American Liberty High Relief Gold Coin Reverse

2015 American Liberty High Relief Gold Coin Reverse

The appealing feature of the coin is the eagle on the reverse. While there have been flying eagles on Christian Gobrecht dollar, James B. Longacre’s Flying Eagle cent, and Saint-Gaudens’ $20 gold coin, the new design brings forward the strength of the eagle gripping an olive branch to symbolize peace. Although the eagle depicted on Official Seal of the United States includes arrows in one of the eagle’s claws, modern sensibilities will prevent the symbolism that the arrows would depict.

I know that the designs were approved by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. But, as usual, their motivations and sense of design is really in question. Maybe it is time we drop one of these committees and streamline the process.

Expanding collecting options from the U.S. Mint is good for the hobby. However, adding options to existing series and ugly coins should be discouraged.

Saratoga Park quater image courtesy of USACoinBook.com
All other images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

Do we dump Andy for a woman?

$20 Series 2006 ObverseDuring the course of searching for information, I stumbled upon the website for Women on 20s. It is a site dedicated to replacing the image of President Andrew Jackson with a woman by 2020. The group has targeted the $20 Federal Reserve Note to be replaced 2020 because it is the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote.

Jackson is being targeted because as we look back through the long lens of history, he was not exactly a model person judging by today’s standards. During the War of 1812, Jackson led U.S. Army troops against native tribes working with the British against the United States to regain the lands taken following the colonies’ independence. It was said that Jackson’s troops were brutal against the native tribes on his orders, killing them rather than taking prisoners.

After beating back the British in the Battle of New Orleans, Jackson declared martial law in New Orleans and used his troops to enforce martial law. Aside from having a magistrate arrested who sided with a newspaper reporter writing who was arrested for writing negatively about his rule, he had members of the local militia who sided with the British executed without trial and went on to use it as propaganda to allegedly maintain order.

As president, Jackson’s policies to relocated native tribes lead to the Indian Removal Act that codified his policies. This lead to the “Trail of Tears” that forced the relocation of Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations from their ancestral homelands in the southeast to an area west of the Mississippi River that had been designated as Indian Territory. It is considered the most violent and brutal act against the native tribes in United States history.

To have Jackson’s portrait on the United States central banks’ currency is also a bit ironic. Jackson was against the concept of a central bank and refused to renew the charter of the Second Bank of the United States and vetoed the bill to continue its charter. After winning election in 1833, Jackson withdrew all of the country’s funds from the bank limiting the bank’s ability to conduct business. He gave power to local banks to lend money and issued the Specie Circular, an executive order requiring government transaction be done in gold and silver coin (specie).

Poster issued by the Whig Party blaming Jackson for the Panic of 1837

Poster issued by the Whig Party blaming Jackson for the Panic of 1837

With the western expansion and federal lands being made for sale and the requirement that duties were to be paid in gold and silver, this created a run on banks that could not provide the hard currency necessary for people to exchange their banknote. Although Jackson paid off the country’s debt in 1835, the only year it has ever been paid off, the squeeze on currencies, lack of central management of money, corrupt bank practices, and reckless land speculation by railroads lead to the Panic of 1837. The resulting depression lasted five years and included the default of many banks and the treasuries of many states. Remember, this was long before the deposits were insured by the federal government.

The Women on 20s organization does not believe that this should be the legacy honored on U.S. currency. But if we look into the history of all of the men on U.S. currency, there are aspects of their pasts and personal lives that would make some blush, including Benjamin Franklin’s common law wife and illegitimate son.

1999 Susan B. Anthony DollarWomen on 20s do recognize that suffragette Susan B. Anthony did appear on a one dollar coin but the coin failed because of its confusion with the quarter. They also recognize that Sacagawea, the Shoshone guide to Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, appears on the current one-dollar coin. Aside from the 2003 Alabama State Quarter, no other woman has appeared on circulating coinage (they do not count commemorative issues). Since neither dollar coin has circulated well and since the Alabama quarter was a temporary issue, the organization believes a better tribute is warranted.

In what looks like an addendum to their argument, they mention that a portrait of Martha Washington appeared on the Series 1886 (Fr. #215) and 1891 (Fr. # 223) $1 Silver Certificates. Both Martha and George Washington appeared on the reverse of $1 Series 1896 Educational Series note (Fr. #224).

To decide who they will try to lobby to appear on the $20 note, the organization started with 15 candidates. Voters were asked to select thee of the 15 candidates in this preliminary round. The top vote-getters will be subject to another final voting round.

2012 First Spouse coin featuring Alice Paul

2012 First Spouse coin featuring Alice Paul

In the first round, the 15 candidates were Alice Paul (appeared on the 2012 First Spouse gold coin), Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, Sojourner Truth, Rachel Carson, Rosa Parks, Barbara Jordan, Margaret Sanger, Patsy Mink, Clara Barton, Harriet Tubman, Frances Perkins, Susan B. Anthony (appeared on the 1979-1999 dollar coin), Eleanor Roosevelt (appeared on the 2014 First Spouse gold coin), and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Women on 20s reported that 256,659 people had cast ballots when the first round ended on April 5, 2015. They reported that Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks were named by as many as half of the voters as one of their top three. They added Wilma Mankiller to the final ballot. Mankiller, the first female Chief of the Cherokee Nation and the first female to be a chief of a native nation, was added because of a claimed “strong public sentiment that people should have the choice of a Native American to replace Andrew Jackson.”

Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation

Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation

Voting is open at the time this is being written. There is no closing date listed on their website.

Since congress does not control the design of the currency, Women on 20s will have to convince the Federal Reserve to change the design of the $20 Federal Reserve Note. If the Federal Reserve, whose chair is Janet Yellen, agrees to the change, they will work with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for the design and the U.S. Secret Service to ensure that the appropriate anti-counterfeiting measures are included.

Design changes to any Federal Reserve Note can take 3-5 years to complete.

NOTE: I contacted the Women on 20s organization for comments via email. That email has not been returned at the time of writing this article. If they answer my questions, I will publish them in a follow up post.

Image of the $20 FRN and Whig Party poster courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Coin images courtesy of the U.S. Mint
Image of Wilma Mankiller courtesy of the Native American Encyclopedia.

Sunday morning numismatics on CBS

CBS Sunday Morning-The Money IssueThe 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.

Anthony Mason

Anthony Mason

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.

Images courtesy of CBS and cbsnews.com

Challenging to following up

I know it has been a while since I wrote a substantive post. But as the holiday season is upon us, business has picked up and I am doing a lot of buying and selling. While good for business, it has not provided me time to write. I have a backlog that I will get to, so please be patient.

Of the items I am buying and selling are Challenge Coins. While not coins in the strictest sense of the term challenge coins are the size of large dollar coins or crowns issued, usually issued by a military organization and given to someone as a sign of appreciation. Back in 2009, I wrote about NBC news anchor Brian Williams admitting that he collected challenge coins.

Although given in appreciation, not everyone appreciates their significance and, in some cases, their beauty. Aside from finding them in estate sales, they are included in large lots of items I purchase while looking for other items. For some reason, the sellers throw them into the lot thinking that they are not worth much.

For the most part, challenge coins do not have value the way coins have value. Most challenge coins are enameled bronze disks. What makes them interesting is the topic, the location depicted, or who issued the coin. Some challenge coins are very basic while others have artistic value that rivals anything issued by government mints.

Although I have handled hundreds of challenge coins in the last year, two stand out as exception. Unfortunately, I was so excited to have found them that I sold them to new owners before taking pictures. One was a coin that was overlaid on a large “V” which was to be the Roman numeral for five. It was very striking. The other was a coin that was three-inches wide by one-inch tall in the shape of a dog bone. This very unique challenge coin was issued for an anniversary of the police canine unit of Amtrak in Chicago. Aside from various insignias and images of the five types of dogs that Amtrak Police Canine Unit trains, the coin included representative flags including one for the City of Chicago.

Here are some challenge coins that I have recently sold:

US Army Garrison Natick-obv
US Army Garrison Natick-rev
U.S. Army Garrison Natick Challenge Coin
Presented for Excellence by the Garrison Command Team in Natick, Mass.
U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) HQ-obv
U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) HQ-rev
U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) Headquarters Challenge Coin
Presented by the Deputy Command in Chief C.S. Abbot, Admiral, U.S. Navy
Rear Admiral Charles S. Abbot (ret.) was Deputy Commander in Chief of USEUCOM from 1998 to 2000.
78th Troop Command-obv
78th Troop Command-rev
78th Troop Command Challenge Coin
“Georgia’s 911 Force”
The 78th Troop Command is the Georgia National Guard. Coins was presented by the Sargent Major (see the insignia on the reverse).
US Forces Korea 50th Anniversary-obv
US Forces Korea 50th Anniversary-rev
United States Forces Korea Challenge Coin
50th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration
FBI 100th Anniversary-obv
FBI 100th Anniversary-rev
Federal Bureau of Investigation Challenge Coin
100th Anniversary of the FBI

Finally, if you want to start your own challenge coins collection, here are a few I have for sale for you to start:

2014 Trick or Treat

Hobo Ike and JeffersonIt has been a few years since I did an All-Hallows-Eve numismatic trick-or-treat that it seems like a good time to do add one. Here are my numismatic tricks and treats for this past year.

Girl Scouts need a values adustment

TRICK: It was announced in January that the 2013 Girl Scouts commemorative coin did not generate enough sales for the U.S. Mint to provide a payout of seignorage. This is the first time this has happened. Part of the problem was that the Girl Scouts are stuck in the 1950s mindset that does not see collecting coins as a girl’s hobby. Although values are important, this shows that he Girl Scouts’ values are behind the times and will not be the catalyst behind helping expand the hobby. They should be ashamed for contributing to this failure.

ANA Willfully Gives up its Premier Status

TRICK:The Professional Numismatists Guild and the American Numismatic Association announced in January that “the first” PNG-ANA Numismatic Trade Show the weekend prior to the 2014 World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont that it will be open to the public. While making it sound exciting it made the entire show 8-days long. This was a bad move because of the length and because it makes the ANA play second to PNG. If the ANA wants to be the premier numismatic organization, the one that anyone wanting to learn about and be about numismatics, The ANA should not play second fiddle to any other organization.

There are coin treats!

TREAT:In creating a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Kenney half-dollar, the U.S. Mint has made a coin that is not really circulated into something interesting for the collector. The dual-dated gold coin became an instant hit before the price of gold dropped and the silver sets are reportedly selling well. This was a good move by the U.S. Mint.

TREAT:For the most part, commemorative coins are sales do not meet expectation. While there are a few exceptions like 2005 Marine Corps 230th Anniversary silver dollar, most commemoratives do not come close to their maximum mintage. But the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemoratives appear to have hit a home run. The combination of the subject and the curve of the coin may be a significant factor in the coin’s success. The $5 gold and silver dollar coins are both sold out. There are some of the clad half-dollars available.

TREAT:Speaking of cool stories, what about the Saddle Ridge Hoard? After a couple found the hoard of gold coins while walking their dog, it spawned an interest in metal detectors and searching for buried treasure. It was such an amazing story that it even found its way into the national news cycle. But like everything else, another shiny story diverted the media’s attention and the coins went on sale to the general public on Amazon.com.

Not all coins are treats

TRICK: Colored and coins with gimmicks are proliferating in the market. So far, the U.S. Mint and the Royal Mint are resisting colored and other gimmicks while the Royal Candian Mint and New Zealand Mint are at a race to the bottom for gimmick coins.

Numsimatics and technology

TREAT: The ANA launched its new website with new technology ready for growth on time and under budget. This is the website that ANA Governor Laura Sperber said, “I can’t wait to see what a disaster the ANA new web site will be.” So far, there has not been a follow up from Sperber while the new site has been a success.

TREAT: More recently, the U.S. Mint had a great launch to their new website. After years of frustration with the online ordering of what would be popular items, the new site handled the launch of the 50th Anniversary Kennedy 2014 Half-Dollar Silver Coin Collection with no issues.

Failure to launch

TRICK: The U.S. Mint launched the Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coin at the Whitman Show in March not anticipating its popularity with fewer coins that there was a demand. It was as if the U.S. Mint had a blind spot with how popular this coin would be.

TRICK: The dealers who paid less than desireable people uninterested in anything other than a quick buck to mob the lines at the Denver Mint and the World’s Fair of Money. I continue to belive that their ethics must be questioned and appropriate actions taken by the ANA even though I do not think that will happen.

TREAT: With the drop in the price of gold, the current price of the gold Kennedy half-dollar tribute is less than what is was at launch. Teach these greedy dealers a lesson and buy the coins for less directly from the U.S. Mint!

U.S. Government hands out coal

TRICK: Because the U.S. Mint can only do what the laws that congress pass tells them they can do and congress is so dysfunctional they cannot even pass laws for issues they agree on, the United States was the only country involved with the Allies on D-Day NOT to issued a commemorative to honor the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

TRICK: In the name of political correctness, the State Department’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) continues to make it difficult for ancient coin collectors to participate in its hobby by allowing countries to ask the State Department to overreach on the enforcement on the Cultural Property Implementation Act. It is turning ancient coin collectors into criminals even for collecting common coins. Their actions are rediculous.

CCAC is the CCAC

TREAT: The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee suggested creating American Arts medals that will feature the artistic ability of the U.S. Mint’s artist.

TRICK: The arts medals are medals, not coins. Even with the beauty of medals like the 9/11 silver medal, it did not sell like coins would. In fact, it grossly under performed without raising significant sums for the 9/11 Memorial at the site of the Twin Towers in New York. But this is what the CCAC is face with because of congressional dysfunction (see above).

So goodbye everybody, and remember the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody’s there, that was no Martian… it’s Hallowe’en.
— Orson Welles, The War of the Worlds, CBS Radio, October 30, 1938


Hobo Ike and Jefferson courtesy of Darth Morgan posted at Coin Community

Kick start a challenge

Proposed design of the Yorkshire (UK) Challenge Coin.

Proposed design of the Yorkshire (UK) Challenge Coin.

Did you ever want to be part of creating and issuing a coin?

Think about how you would feel to help a community create a challenge coin for itself. In the process of helping the community, you can collect one of these challenge coins for yourself. If you provide enough assistance, then you can own one of the lowest numbered challenge coin.

Buried in my inbox was a note about a KickStarter project to create a challenge coin for Yorkshire, U.K. For as little as £6, (currently $9.94) you can own a coin numbered between 100 and 999. If you can afford £20 ($33.14), you can own a coin numbered between 10 and 20. Sorry, but the lower numbers have been purchased. All you have to do is go to KickStarter and fund the project.

For those not familiar with KickStarter, it is a website used to allow interested people to fund projects of their choosing. Kickstarter projects are mostly creative endeavors or involve some creativity in art, music, and technology where you receive awards for your level of funding. The financing model is called “crowd sourcing” and has been used effectively to launch films for the Sundance Film Festival, a skate park in Philadelphia, a photo exhibit on the site of the Berlin Wall, and the Fitbit smart watch.

KickStarter uses and all or nothing model meaning that if the project only receives the money if it is fully funded. If it does not, your credit card will not be charged and you will not receive your premium, of course. For the Yorkshire challenge coin, they are asking for £3,000 ($4,970.52). Currently, there is £220 pledged ($364.50) with 3 days to go. The funding drive ends on Saturday, August 30 at 1:36 AM EDT.

What the heck… it seems like a very cool idea. Let’s see if we can help put the project over the top and get it funded. Even if you do not want the coin, you can spare £3 (about $5) to help!

Note that there are extra postage requirements for shipping outside of the United Kingdom.

High relief speculation

2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin

2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin

Last week, the U.S. Mint sent a notice on its press list to announce the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday, July 22 at 3 PM. As usual, the meeting will be held at the U.S. Mint Headquarters located at 801 Ninth St. NW, in Washington, DC. What caused a buzz amongst the numismatic press was the agenda:

“Discussion of a potential 2015 24K Gold Ultra-High Relief Coin and accompanying silver medal.”

In 2008, it became then Mint Director Edmund Moy’s “pet project” to create the ultra-high relief Augustus Saint-Gaudens double eagle design in a manner that Saint-Gaudens originally envisioned. The result was the 2009 Ultra High Relief Gold Coin. The design was based on the plaster casts originally made by Saint-Gaudens that was digitized and the equipment purchased that would be able to strike the coin.

Moy is no longer Director but the U.S. Mint still has the equipment used to strike the coin. The question is what does the U.S. Mint have in mind for creating a high-relief coin?

Also, what do they have in mind for an accompanying silver medal and how do they justify creating a medal? While the U.S. Mint can use the same law that authorizes the 24-Karat Gold Buffalo coin (31 U.S.C. § 5112(q)), it is uncertain what can be leverage for the silver medal. It is possible that the U.S. Mint might be leveraging 31 U.S.C. § 5111(a)(2) that says The Secretary of the Treasury “may prepare national medal dies and strike national and other medals if it does not interfere with regular minting operations but may not prepare private medal dies.” Before we pass further judgement we will wait to hear what the U.S. Mint says.

As for the subject, since they Saint-Gaudens double eagle design as been used, what other high-relief design has issues? The only design that comes to mind is the Anthony de Francisci Peace dollar. But not just the Peace dollar, but the original design with the broken sword.

The broken sword was not well received. According to numismatic researcher Roger Burdette, he discovered a editorial that appeared in the New York Herald that summarized the feeling about the broken sword:

A sword is broken when its owner has disgraced himself. It is broken when a battle is lost and breaking is the alternative to surrendering. A sword is broken when the man who wears it can no longer render allegiance to his sovereign. But America has not broken its sword. It has not been cashiered or beaten; it has not lost allegiance to itself. The blade is bright and keen and wholly dependable. It is regrettable that the artist should have made such an error in symbolism. The sword is emblematic of Justice as well as of Strength. Let not the world be deceived by this new dollar. The American effort to limit armament and to prevent war or at least reduce its horror does not mean that our sword is broken.

1921-D Peace Dollar

1921-D Peace Dollar

Aside from being too high of a relief for efficient striking, U.S. Mint Chief Engraver George Morgan modified the models using fine engraving tools under extreme magnification at the last moment to remove the broken sword. De Francisci was asked to be in Philadelphia as Morgan made the modifications to ensure the work met with his approval. As part of the modification, Morgan extended the olive branch and removed some of its parts to make it look as if it was de Francisci’s original work. Morgan also sharpened some of the details, strengthened the sun’s rays and straightened the eagle’s leg to give it a better appearance. The work was done so well that nobody realized that Morgan made these changes until Burdette uncovered the details in his research.

Although struck in Denver in late December 1921, the 1921-D Peace dollar was released into circulation on January 3, 1922.

Later that year it was determined that the high-relief design was causing dies to break at a faster pace than planned. The Mint then lowered the relief in order to keep striking coins at the rate required by law. This became the second type of the Peace dollar series.

Because 2015 will be 95 years since the first Peace dollar, I suspect that the high-relief gold coin will be a 2015 tribute to that first Peace dollar.

Artist's conception of a 1964-D Peace dollar.

Artist’s conception of a 1964-D Peace dollar.

As for a companion silver, there is an interesting story about an attempt to produce the Peace dollar in 1964. In 1964 the price of silver rose to new heights that it made the value of ordinary circulating coins worth more for their metals than their face value. Because of this, silver coins were being hoarded by the public and becoming scarce in circulation. Western states that relied on hard currency including the gaming areas of Nevada needed the U.S. Mint to strike additional coins for circulation.

The striking of a dollar coin had a powerful ally: Senator Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, Democrat from Montana, whose state would be directly affected by the new coins. Although the numismatic press was not in favor of the measure because of its limited ability to solve the coin shortage, Mansfield pushed a bill through congress to authorize the Mint to strike 45 million silver dollars.

After much discussion, the Mint looked for working dies but found that few survived a 1937 destruction order. Those that did survive were in poor condition. Mint Assistant Engraver Frank Gasparro, who would later become the Mint’s 10th Chief Engraver, was authorized to create new dies of the Peace dollar with the “D” mintmark. Since the coins would mostly circulate in the west it was logical to strike them closest to the area of interest.

When the coins were announced, coin dealers immediately offered $7.50 per coin which would ensure that they would not circulate as intended. Everyone saw this as a poor use of Mint resources during a time of severe coin shortages. Adams announced that the pieces were trial strikes never intended for circulation and were later melted under reportedly heavy security.

There have been reports that some Peace dollars were struck using base metals (copper-nickel clad) as experimental pieces in 1970 in anticipation of the approval of the Eisenhower dollar. The same reports also presume these coins have been destroyed.

While we are speculating, the companion silver medal could be a modern tribute to the 1964-D Peace dollar by minting a 1915-D silver medal with the same design but without a denomination. It would be the same design but with out “ONE DOLLAR” struck on the reverse.

A high-relief 24-karat gold Peace dollar design and a silver version without the denomination. That’s my prediction, what’s yours?

2009 Ultra-High Relief image courtesy of the U.S. Mint
1921-D Peace dollar courtesy of the author.
Artists conception of the 1964-D Peace dollar courtesy of PCGS.

Yes, the law allows the U.S. Mint to do it

U.S. Mint mock-up of the 24 karat gold 50th anniversary Kennedy half dollar

U.S. Mint mock-up of the 24 karat gold 50th anniversary Kennedy half dollar

Recent events have caused the amateurs to come out of the woodwork to decry that the U.S. Mint is doing something illegal. While the U.S. Mint is an agency run by fallible humans, they are less prone to issues as seen in other bureaus within the Department of the Treasury. However, understanding what the U.S. Mint can or cannot do is a matter of understanding the law.

It has been an ongoing theme written on this blog, the latest was about the nonsensical $1 Trillion coin, is that all you have to do to understand what the U.S. Mint can and cannot do is clearly documented in Title 31, Section 5112 of the United States Code (31 U.S.C. § 5112), Denominations, specifications, and design of coins.

You can read Section 5112 without having to obtain a law degree. It is very readable. It is the section that covers all of the specification for every coin struck by the Mint. It describes the size, weight, content, and the design of the coin. Very little is left up to the Mint in coinage design. But as the U.S. Mint is run by fallible humans, these laws were written by even more fallible humans: congress. This means that some of the laws are very clear while others are open to some interpretation.

First, it has been questioned whether the U.S. Mint can strike more 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins since they sold out of the gold and silver coins. The answer to that question can be found in law (31 U.S.C. § 5112(m)). This is the section that describes the legal requirements for commemorative coins. Paragraph (2)(B) (31 U.S.C. § 5112(m)(2)(B)) says (emphasis mine):

If the Secretary determines, based on independent, market-based research conducted by a designated recipient organization of a commemorative coin program, that the mintage levels described in subparagraph (A) are not adequate to meet public demand for that commemorative coin, the Secretary may waive one or more of the requirements of subparagraph (A) with respect to that commemorative coin program.

2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative proof dollar graded by PCGS PR70

2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative silver dollars and gold commemoratives are sold out at the U.S. Mint.

Since subparagraph (A) codifies the limits of commemorative programs, and if the mintage levels are not adequate to meet public demand, then the Secretary can authorize high limits for the commemorative coin program.

As was the case with the 2005 Marine Corps Commemorative Silver Dollar, a quick sellout of the coins does satisfy the evidence necessary for the Secretary to make the decision to increase the production limits. In 2005, then Secretary of the Treasury John W. Snow authorized the U.S. Mint to produce 100,000 additional silver dollars. This was the last commemorative program sellout prior to the Hall of Fame coins.

However, the proposal to increase the production of the National Baseball Hall of Fame coins is speculation. This rumor has not been acknowledged by the U.S. Mint or the Department of the Treasury.

The other claim is that it is illegal or questionable that the U.S. Mint can produce the 2014 Kennedy Half Dollar gold coin. In an op-ed printed in Coin World, William T. Gibbs wrote, “The Mint is using what it cites as existing authority to produce a .9999 fine gold half dollar struck at the West Point Mint, with a 1964–2014 dual date and the higher relief 1964 portrait. The logic behind this coin is hard to understand. We’ve never had a gold half dollar before and the Mint’s legal authority to issue it is open to debate.”

Equating the fact that the U.S. Mint has never produced a gold half dollar coin is a parochial discussion and not whether the U.S. Mint can legally produce the coin. After all, the U.S. Mint produces quarter dollars made of five ounces of silver.

Congress makes the laws and they can change at almost any time!

Congress makes the laws and they can change at almost any time!

The U.S. Mint is allowed to mint the coin under the authority of 31 U.S.C. § 5112(q), the law that authorizes the Gold Buffalo bullion coin. According to the law, the U.S. Mint is only required to produce the coin with the James Earl Fraser Type 1 Buffalo design the first year. Any changes in subsequent years must then be vetted by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.

The same questions were raised when the U.S. Mint issued the 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin. The coin was based on the 1907 design by Augustus Saint-Gaudens was produced in .9999 fine gold and was issued under the Gold Bullion Coins provision of the law (31 U.S.C. § 5112(q)).

Gibbs further says, “When the Mint struck gold versions of the 2000 Sacagawea dollar and announced plans to sell them to the public, Congress stopped the Mint, stating that Mint officials lacked constitutional authority to issue the dollar coin in gold” as an additional argument against the U.S. Mint producing the Kennedy gold coin. In 2000, the law authorizing the U.S. Mint to strike 24-karat coins did not exit. The Buffalo Gold Bullion coin program that the decision is based was signed into law on December 22, 2005 as part of the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005 (Public Law 109–145 [PDF]).

The U.S. Mint may not be the most perfect agency and you may not like their decisions, but to accuse them of questionable legal practices is a bit naive.

Cook Island thermometer coins

Anders Celsius

Anders Celsius

Cook Islands will be issuing a coin with an embedded thermometer to commemorate the 270th anniversary of the death of Anders Celsius. While his name does sound familiar, the results of his work is known in most of the world except for the daily lives of most Americans.

Celsius was a Swedish physicist, mathematician and a professor of astronomy at Uppsala University. As one of Sweden’s premier scientists of his day, Celsius traveled extensively to research ways to measure degrees from the poles in order to improve mapping and navigation. He believed that by studying the stars we could learn more about the composition of the earth and its origins, something we are still doing today.

The research he is most known for was as the first scientist to experiment with temperature in order to define a definitive scale to be used by all scientists as the basis for their experiments. In 1742, Celsius published the paper Observations of two persistent degrees on a thermometer where he defined 100 as the freezing point of water and 0 as its boiling point with a scale of units in between. He called his scale “centigrade” derived from the Latin for “hundred steps.”

Independently, physicist Jean-Pierre Christin of France developed a similar scale with 0 as the freezing point of water and 100 as its boiling point. In 1743, Christin commissioned the building of the “Thermometer of Lyon,” a mercury thermometer based on his research.

Celsius died in 1744 at the age of 42 from tuberculosis. A year after his death, colleague Carolus Linneaus, a botanist interested in the effects of temperature on growing plants, reversed Celsius’ scale and improved on the design for the thermometer. In a paper published in 1745, Linneaus first used the Celsius to describe the temperature scale. He later convinced the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to change the name of the scale to Celsius in memory of his late colleague.

To honor Celsius, the Cook Islands hired Coin Invest Trust of Balzers, Liechtenstein to design and strike a coin to honor Andres Celsius. The coin with a 5 Dollar face value will 50mm in diameter and proof struck using one troy ounce of .925 silver. Mintage will be limited to 1744 pieces.

The coin’s unique reverse design will include a thermometer that will be integrated around the center of the coin that will feature the portrait of Anders Celsius. Based on the images, the thermometer looks like it will be based on the same technology as those used in temperature strips. The area where the portrait will be features a little degree mark before the C in Celsius, the date 1744-2014, and a small depiction of a thermometer.

Since Cook Islands are under the sovereignty of New Zealand and New Zealand is a member of the Commonwealth Realm, Queen Elizabeth II is the legal head of state and appears on the obverse of the coin. The portrait is by British sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley whose work appears on all coins of the Commonwealth Realm.

No announcement has been made as to when it will be available and the purchase price.

Given my resistance to gimmicks on coins (with my own admitted hypocrisy), there is still something compelling about the proposed design for this non-circulating legal tender (NCLT) coin. I will wait to see how much the coin will cost before making a commitment one way or the other.

Image of Anders Celsius from Wikimedia Commons
Coin images courtesy of Coin Invest Trust

No, it wasn’t a double-strike

Too many serious topics lately. Let’s have a little numismatic fun.

2013 Mount Rushmore QuarterIt was a busy day. While I really wanted to go out for lunch, all I had time for was to go to the cafeteria in the building where I work to get something quick. After settling on something I went to pay handing the cashier a piece of paper with the portrait of Andrew Jackson. In the change returned were three quarters. Most of the time I will just drop the change in my pocket and check it out later. But on this day, I took a glance at the coins and something struck me. Well, it didn’t strike me but it looks like something struck one of my quarter. Twice!

Closing my hands around the coins I walked away from the cash register and found a place I could stop to better examine what I had. Did I just find a rare double-strike quarter? Is it really an error? How much could it be worth?

Putting down my lunch container, I opened my hand and found quarters. Not just one but three quarters. Three 2013 Mount Rushmore quarters. It was not a double-strike but the double-image of the side-by-side portraits that fooled me.

And this happened more than once. If I take a quick glance at change that contains the Mount Rushmore quarters I get the impression that I found a double-struck coin.

The Mount Rushmore quarter has to be one of the better designs of the America the Beautiful Quarters® Program. Rather than attempting to be a pretty postcard-like image of the place of honor, the design is more about the sculpting of the impressive monument.

So be careful when glancing at your change. Those two faces side-by-side is not a double-strike or double-die. It is just a portrait of a portrait of George and Thomas being immortalized in granite.

Coin image courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

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