Copper: Scientific Fact and Numismatic Fiction?

Copper is the third most common element in the world.

Copper is a versatile metal that has been exploited for many purposes since the Bronze Age that started roughly in 3300 BCE. It is as practical as wire carrying electricity and for cooking. It is used for its artistic qualities such as the Statue of Liberty. Copper is also a medium of exchange.

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

Copper has a long history of being integrated with coins in the United States. From the first half and one cent coins of the late 18th century, every coin ever struck for circulation has contained copper, except for the 1943 Steel Cent.

When coins were struck using precious metals, more were struck using a majority of the precious metal, and the balance was copper. Although legislation required changes in the composition of the alloy, copper continued to provide the filler.

Precious metals, like gold and silver, do not oxidize. Copper will naturally oxidize. Copper oxidizes when it is exposed to the environment. Water, salts, and acids in the air will react with the copper that will cause a molecular change in copper that causes its color to change. A typical example of what happens when copper oxidizes is the Statue of Liberty. The copper statue is now a blue-green color after many years of enduring the elements. That blue-green color is known as verdigris.

In numismatics, the copper oxidation is apparent as the colors of the half-cent, one cent, and two cent coins oxidize. When a coin is the color of the initially polished planchette, it is said to have a red color. As the copper in the coin oxidizes, the color is described as red-brown, sometimes with a percentage of red to brown color. A brown coin is a coin whose red color has completely oxidized.

The oxidation process is natural and can not be stopped. It is possible to slow the process. Eventually, the copper will oxidize and turn every cent ever struck to brown.

Large Cent with Verdigris

Would this metal detector find be considered “artificial toning” (Image from CTTodd.com)

Numismatics does not consider the oxidation of copper as damage to a coin until the appearance of verdigris. Then the coin loses its value. However, verdigris is not damage. Verdigris is the result of the natural oxidation process.

As collectors, we have seen the natural oxidation of copper accelerated by artificial means. Coins stored in holders made of the synthetic polymer polyvinyl chloride (PVC) produce an acidic gas as it oxidizes accelerating the oxidation of the copper used to make coins. That acceleration can lead to the rapid breakdown of the PVC holder, causing it to appear as if it melted to coin. Numismatists call this damage. It is a natural reaction by the copper.

When copper oxidizes, it does not change its molecular structure but alters its form. If someone would test the surface of a cent with bright red color and one that has turned brown, both will test as being made of copper. The surface would have to examined on a molecular level to see how oxidation has reformatted the molecular structure.

Statue of Liberty

An example of how copper tones

Oxidation only changes the color on the surface. The Statue of Liberty is an example of this phenomenon. When the statue was conserved in the early 1980s, experts found that the verdigris covering the copper was no more than 6-8 millimeters (one-quarter of an inch) deep. As a testament to how copper can maintain its structure, it the restorers estimate that it had lost .01-percent of its surface in her 100 years of living in New York.

Although few would call the verdigris on the Statue of Liberty ugly, verdigris on a coin causes people to turn their heads away.

Another way that the oxidation of copper changes coins is when a coin becomes toned. Some collectors marvel at colors some coins become when the copper in the alloy oxidizes. Others see the coin as damaged. Both views are right.

From a scientific perspective, a toned coin shows the flaws within the alloy. If the alloy was a consistent mixture of metals, toning on every coin would be similar. Instead, the inconsistencies of how the copper is mixed with the primary metal is revealed in the pattern of the toning. This inconsistency makes toning difficult to predict and challenging to detect whether toning was through natural oxidation or by artificial means.

Experts claim they can tell the difference between natural and artificial toning. With certain exceptions, such as the toning from known contaminants like the lignin in paper and PVC, very few people can tell the difference without extensive examination. Specialized equipment such as microscopes that enhance the image using a type of radiography is the only way to determine the difference between natural and artificial toning. And that is not a perfect solution.

The third-party grading services can examine coins using specialized equipment and determine whether the coin was naturally or artificially toned. But they can only be reasonably sure. Without examining the surface to determine the type of contaminants that caused the oxidation, they can provide the best guess based on the evidence they can collect.

If you read the various numismatic forums, members share many formulas that they found to accelerate the oxidation of the copper in a coin. Some have even bragged how they were able to have the coins graded by the third-party grading services as being naturally toned. Collectors continue to chase these coins and pay additional premiums for them.

Another numismatic curiosity is the alleged conserving of coins to remove damaging oxidation. Unlike the oxidation of iron, which breaks down the molecular bonds of the alloy, the bonds of oxidized copper molecules remain strong. The green color is on the surface of the copper where it was in contact with the contaminants.

It is impossible to reverse the oxidation of copper. The only way to remove the oxidized copper that has turned to verdigris is to remove that layer of copper. When speaking with professionals that restore art and antiques, they admit that their methods of restoring copper involve removing the oxidized layers. They recognize the fact that it is the only way to restore the luster to copper.

However, numismatic conservation services make claims that they can safely remove the oxidation without damaging the surface of the coin. When asking a professional art restoration company whether this was true, they wondered how these companies could get away with making their false claims.

When shown example images of coin conservation found online, the professionals were able to explain how most of the cleaning was done using sonic tools or high pressure distilled water possibly mixed with baking soda to raise the alkaline level of the water. They did refer to this as a form of cleaning because it is designed to loosen the bonds between the contaminants and the metals.

One set of images showed the removal of verdigris on a coin. The expert said that the only way to remove the verdigris spots was the alter the surface of the coin by removing that layer of copper which changes the surface of the coin. It is an evasive procedure, yet the example images showed the coin before conservation and following the work in a third-party grading service holder not marked as having altered surfaces.

While sitting at a table where a bronze bust worth tens of thousands of dollars was in the process of conservation, this expert saw before and after images of silver and gold coins and wondered if the numismatic industry knew something the multi-billion dollar art industry did not.

Analyzing the Structure of a painting

Art restoration is so understood that a graphic like this does not cause controversy.

The art industry documents its conservation methods. Auction houses, insurance companies, dealers, and collectors know how art is conserved. They accept that the surface of the bust on the table is being altered to remove the verdigris spots. Once completed, the restored copper bust will be worth more to a collector, who will know about the restoration.

Similar openness does not exist in the numismatic industry. Numismatic conservation companies do not document their methods by calling them trade secrets. These coins are in third-party grading service holders without any indication of their conservation, and the auction companies are happy to sell them for thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What have we learned?

  • Every coin that has been struck for circulation by the U.S. Mint contains copper except for the 1943 Steel Cent.
  • Copper oxidized to the point of forming verdigris on the surface.
  • Oxidation only occurs on the surface that is in contact with the environment.
  • The rate of oxidation is controllable through proper handling.
  • Once copper oxidizes, it is not reversible.
  • It is not possible to remove oxidation without altering the copper surface.

The art world understands that conservation of copper requires altering the surface. It is accepted as part of an industry where significant works sell for tens- or hundreds-of-millions of dollars. The numismatic world hides behind alleged proprietary secrets and few questions about what they are doing.

Maybe it is time to ask the numismatic conservation companies to disclose what they are doing to understand whether they are altering the coins’ surface, or not. Maybe it is time to ask the third-party grading service why are they not disclosing that they are placing conserved coins in their holders. Maybe it is time to hold the auction companies and dealers responsible for not disclosing when a coin is conserved.

Maybe it is time the industry is honest with itself and honest with its collectors.

Collecting Apollo 11

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
— President John F. Kennedy speaking at Rice University on September 12, 1962

Eisenhower Dollar Reverse featuring the Apollo 11 mission insignia

President Kennedy’s speech at Rice University was not the official policy announcement. He made that announcement on May 25, 1961. This speech was to convince the American people and Congress that it was necessary to fund this idea. Given the technology of the time, the space race was a longshot with people bound and determined to beat the Soviets to the moon.

Kennedy’s vision was accomplished by the Apollo 11 crew of Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin along with the thousands of support people on Earth. A little more than eight years after Kennedy made it the nation’s policy, Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969.

From within the capsule attached to the top of the Saturn V launch vehicle, a rocket once described as a giant Roman candle, the rocket roared to life to lift the three pioneers into the final frontier. Even though the liftoff occurred at 9:32 AM in Florida, it was watched worldwide regardless of the local time.

Four days later, on Sunday, July 20, 1969, the world held its collective breath as the Lunar Module (LM), call-sign Eagle, was guided to the moon’s Sea of Tranquility and landed at 4:18 PM Central Time. Relief came when Neil Armstrong transmitted a message to Mission Control in Houston:

“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

CAPCOM (Capsule Communicator) Charles Duke’s response summed up the feel of those of us on Earth as he stumbled a bit at the beginning:

“Roger, Twan– Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.”

According to the official schedule, Armstrong and Aldrin were supposed to get five hours of sleep. Realizing that it was unlikely they would be able to sleep, the crew prepared for the first walk on the moon’s surface.

Six and a half hours after landing, after Walter Cronkite and the CBS News team showed models as to how Armstrong will descend from the LM, pull the D-Ring to activate the camera, Armstrong left the LM and went down the latter. He pulled the D-Ring, and the world watched his progress. Just before reaching the surface of the moon, Armstrong uncovered a plaque mounted on the LM that read:

Replica of the plaque on Eagle, the Apollo 11 Lunar Module (Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute)

Armstrong looked at the surface and described the moon’s dust as “very fine-grained” and “almost like a powder.” Then with a short jump, he left the bottom rung of the ladder and was standing on the surface of the moon.

“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Over the years, there has been a debate about whether Armstrong included the word“a” in the statement. That is not what was heard at the time, and modern examinations of the audio tapes neither confirm or deny the claim. Regardless of what he said, Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the surface of the moon, a little more than eight years since President Kennedy said it was his goal.

Apollo 11 Flown MS66 NGC Sterling Silver Robbins Medallion, Serial Number 241, from The Armstrong Family Collection (Courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

Ironically, with the concerns about weight and preserving fuel, there appears to have been a lot of souvenirs carried to space with the crew. The most famous of these souvenirs are the Robbins Medals.

The practice of carrying Fliteline medals started in 1965 with the flight of Gemini 3, NASA’s first manned mission in the Gemini program. In 1968, the Robbins Company of Attleboro, Mass. was contracted to produce the Fliteline medals starting with Apollo 7.

It is reported that 480 of these 28mm medals were carried aboard Apollo 11.

According to Heritage Auctions, the most paid for a mission flown Robbins Medal was medal #241, a silver medal graded MS66 by NGC, that sold for $112,500 (including buyer’s premium) on November 1, 2018. It was sold with a Statement of Provenance signed by Armstrong’s sons as being once owned by Neil Armstrong. The provenance likely accounts for its high price.

Weekly World Numismatic News for July 14, 2019

Counterfeit 1803-dated dollar found in Hong Kong for $3. It is not part of the story but makes for a good accompanying image.

According to news reports, Barry Ron Skog, a coin dealer in the suburbs of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, pleaded guilty to selling counterfeit coins. He was last week to 30 months in jail.

Skog, 68, advertised in Numismatic News sending lists of available coins to interested collectors. Reports say that Skog, who used the alias Ron Peterson, sold $57,000 worth of counterfeit coins. On his arrest, his list contained 275 counterfeit coins which would have sold for over $200,000.

A source said that Numismatic News cooperated with investigators when a reader alerted them about the problem.

I am reporting this in very stark terms so that if anyone is searching the Internet for information about coin collecting, I want you to know that this situation is not typical of the hobby.

Like any industry, there are a lot of outstanding people and a few that ruin the reputation for others. Skog is not typical of the vast majority of the dealers I have met. Although there are dealers I disagree with on many different issues when it comes to numismatics, the state of the hobby, or their approach, I do not think they are bad people.

Not all mail order dealers are bad people either. For some, it is a hobby. They use the proceeds from buying and selling through ads placed in the numismatic media to enhance their collections. The same is true of some of the people who sell on eBay. Sure, there may be issues with some eBay sellers that give the rest a bad name, but there are more honorable people than those trying to scam you.

Finally, Numismatic News is an outstanding publication and an excellent source for stories about the hobby. While its future is uncertain, while it is still publishing, I have no problems recommending it as a reliable source. A scammer like this could have done this using any other publication. There is nothing about Numismatic News to place them at fault.

Unfortunately, stuff happens. When it does, it was nice to hear that the community banded together to stop someone from hurting other members.

And now the news…

 July 8, 2019

HISTORIANS are baffled after a mysterious African coin that could date as far back as the 8th century was found in Australia. The copper coin could mean Captain Cook – famous as the first Eur…  → Read more at thesun.co.uk


 July 8, 2019

Scientists are perplexed at the origins and provenance of two very ancient and unusual Roman coins that turned up like a bad penny in the 20th century. A Quincussis – the correct scientific name of this strange find — has thus far only been mentioned in texts dedicated to the coinage of ancient times and at most only a drawing was reported, but no one has ever seen one, until one was presented to Dr Roberto Volterri of the Rome University for analyses and then its twin surfaced.  → Read more at ancient-origins.net


 July 9, 2019

A Burnsville coin dealer who admitted selling counterfeit coins was sentenced Tuesday to 30 months in prison. Barry Ron Skog, 68, pleaded guilty to the counterfeit coin scheme Feb. 21.  → Read more at twincities.com


 July 9, 2019

Greek customs officers caught a Turkish citizen attempting to smuggle 1,055 ancient coins across the border from Turkey on Tuesday, the Greek Reporter news site reported. The coins were hidden in seven water bottles concealed at the bottom of a bag containing food, it said.  → Read more at ahvalnews.com


 July 9, 2019

A federal judge in St. Paul sentenced a former Burnsville coin dealer Tuesday to 2½ years in prison for fraud in the sale of bogus collectible coins. Barry Ron Skog, 68, owned the Burnsville Coin Co., which advertised the sale of collectible “numismatic” coins.  → Read more at startribune.com

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Weekly World Numismatic News for July 7, 2019

Steven Kenny

Newly named Artistic Infusion Program artist Steven Kenny (photo courtesy of www.stevenkenny.com)

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.

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.

The Beach by Steven Kenny

“The Beach” by Steven Kenny. Available as a print on his website.

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 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

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June 2019 Numismatic Legislation Review

Seal of the United States CongressEven while other things were going on, Congress found time to introduce and vote on numismatic-related legislation during the mother of June. The most significant development was the passing of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act (S. 1235) by unanimous consent.

If passed by the House of Representatives and signed by the President, the bill would create a commemorative silver dollar in 2020 with a surcharge of $10 per coin that will go to the Smithsonian Institution’s American Women’s History Initiative.

When this bill was sent out of committee to the floor for a vote, the media was all in a twitter (pun intended) about the bipartisan nature of the bill’s support. The bill was introduced on April 30, 2019, by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and cosponsored by every female senator. Subsequently, male senators added their support to where the bill had 82 cosponsors. While we live in very partisan times, those of us who watch numismatic-related legislation understands that these bills are not controversial and tend to gain bipartisan support.

The bill is being held at the desk in the House of Representatives and not assigned to a committee. Although a call to the House did not provide answers, a source says that it is being held for procedural reasons.

According to the source, an objection was made by a member because the member believes that the bill violates the constitution. According to Article I Section 7 of the United States Constitution, it says that “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.” Since commemorative coin bills raise revenue for private and public (seigniorage) sources, someone believes that the Senate overstepped its bounds.

There was no report as to who filed the objection.

S. 1235: Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Introduced: April 30, 2019
Held at the desk. — Jun 5, 2019
Received in the House. — Jun 5, 2019
Message on Senate action sent to the House. — Jun 5, 2019
Passed Senate with an amendment by Unanimous Consent. — Jun 4, 2019
Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs discharged by Unanimous Consent. — Jun 4, 2019
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Apr 30, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-S1235.

H.R. 3155: 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)
Introduced: June 6, 2019
Summary: This bill directs the Department of the Treasury to mint and issue up to 50,000 $5 coins, 500,000 $1 coins, and 750,000 half-dollar coins in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.The coins shall be emblematic of the sacrifices made by millions of people of the United States 75 years ago in bringing an end to World War II. The design on each coin shall represent the World War II Victory Medal, which was awarded to all 16 million U.S. military personnel who served from December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946.The bill requires all sales of such coins include specified surcharges, which shall be paid by Treasury to the congressionally designated National WWII Museum to fund its educational mission of telling the story of the U.S. experience in World War II.
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Jun 6, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-HR3155.

S. 1794: CENTS Act
Sponsor: Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA)
Introduced: June 12, 2019
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Jun 12, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-S1794.

H.R. 3483: To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint commemorative coins in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the integration of baseball.
Sponsor: Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA)
Introduced: June 25, 2019
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Jun 25, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-HR3483.

S. 1954: A bill to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint commemorative coins in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the integration of baseball.
Sponsor: Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)
Introduced: June 25, 2019
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Jun 25, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-S1954.

S. 2042: A bill to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor.
Sponsor: Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)
Introduced: June 27, 2019
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Jun 27, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-S2042.

Weekly World Numismatic News for June 23, 2019

1883 Liberty Head Nickel (Type 1)

1883 Liberty Head Nickel — Type 1, No “CENTS” on reverse (Credit: National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History)

A story that appeared in the Desert Sun seems to defy what some in the numismatics industry wants you to believe is successful collecting. The problem is that it is narrow in focus.

The article talks about the dealer’s held belief that successful coin collecting is about the hunt for the perfect coin. It is finding the right coin for your collection then making it better. Unfortunately, the more this industry holds on to these notions, they are scaring off potential collectors.

What the article and dealers do not want to tell you that it is perfectly acceptable to pick a set, topic, or series and find examples that are good or consistent with the rest of the collection. They tell you that you have to buy the coin in the latest piece of plastic with the highest number and graffitied with stickers. But what they do not tell you is that you can find better-looking coins at lower grades and many times without stickers or entomb in plastic.

One of the best looking collection I saw was a Liberty Head “V” Nickel set with all of the coins in extra fine (XF) condition. It is a more difficult collection to assemble than one might think. These coins were the workhorse of the economy. Their copper-nickel alloy was softer than the silver coins and wore quickly. It is challenging to find 19th-century coins in XF condition.

The set will not bring its assembler a lot of profit since the Liberty Head nickel is not in high demand. Instead, it is an accomplishment by a dedicated collector whose goal was to have fun.

Maybe that is the key to promoting the hobby. Let’s have some fun and stop worrying about what is the right or wrong way to collect!

And now the news…

 June 18, 2019

A gold coin that dates back to ancient Rome and was discovered in a field by a man with a metal detector has sold at auction for nearly $700,000.  → Read more at jckonline.com


 June 20, 2019

Why not get the kids off the computer and into something of lasting value?  → Read more at desertsun.com


 June 20, 2019

The archaeological excavations in Parion, a well-protected ancient city in Çanakkale, aim to shed light on the defense system of the city  → Read more at hurriyetdailynews.com


 June 20, 2019

Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron were among the impressive collection.  → Read more at silive.com


 June 21, 2019

LANSING, Mich. — While attending the International Paper Money Show in Kansas City, Missouri late last week, the staff of Liberty Coin Service purchased an exceedingly rare 1736 mortgage document for land in Mooreland, Pennsylvania Province that was printed by Benjamin Franklin.  → Read more at fox47news.com

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VIDEO: World’s Largest Coin Pyramid (Almost)

This one is just for fun.

Cory Nelson and his coin pyramid

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suffrage Centennial Commem passes the Senate

Congress may be filling out the 2020 commemorative coin calendar with the Senate passing the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act (S. 1235). If passed by the House, the bill would require the U.S. Mint to issue a one dollar silver coin to commemorate women suffrage activists in 2020.

S. 1235: Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Introduced: April 30, 2019
Passed Senate with an amendment by Unanimous Consent. — Jun 4, 2019
Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs discharged by Unanimous Consent. — Jun 4, 2019
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Apr 30, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-S1235.

On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Since there were 48 states in the union, 36 represented the three-quarters necessary to ratify the amendment.

S. 1235 was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee.

According to the bill the design of the coin is supposed to “contain motifs that honor Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Carrie Chapman Catt, Harriet Tubman, Mary Church Terrell, Alice Paul, Lide Meriwether, Ida B. Wells, and other suffrage activists of the late 19th century and early 20th centuries.” That is a lot of people to try to fit on a 1½-inch coin.

As with almost every other commemorative coin bill, the silver dollar will have a $10 surcharge. The surcharge will go to the Smithsonian Institution’s American Women’s History Initiative.

This bill does not mention mintage limits. It is possible to become the most produced commemorative coin of the modern era.

Next, the bill is sent to the House of Representatives for their vote.

May 2019 Numismatic Legislation Review

The legislative review is back after taking a month hiatus since there was nothing to report for April.

Legislation introduced in May is a bit different than others in that only one bill directly affects the section of the law that governs the U.S. Mint (Subchapter III of chapter 51 of title 31, United States Code). Let’s look at each of legislation submitted in May.

S. 1300: National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Introduced: May 2, 2019
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — May 2, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-S1300.

The National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act is a typical three-coin commemorative coin legislation ($5 gold, $1 silver, half-dollar clad) to raise money for a cause. If passed, this law will pay the surcharges to National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

H.R. 2559: Gold Reserve Transparency Act of 2019
Sponsor: Rep. Alexander X. Mooney (R-WV)
Introduced: May 7, 2019
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — May 7, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-HR2559.

The Gold Reserve Transparency Act of 2019 calls for a complete assay, inventory, and audit of gold reserves held by the federal government. The proposed law requires that the location of all gold is documented “including any gold in ‘deep storage,'” the security of those places, and any transactions of that gold.

If enacted, the Comptroller General of the United States do this audit for the past 15 years and have it completed within 12 months and every five years. The law would require the complete audit to be made public with the only exception of the physical security issues.

COMMENTARY: Given the nature of the economy and a lot of other factors are the gold holds that important? The Federal Reserve reports that the M1 money supply is over $3.7 trillion and the M2 is over $14.5 trillion. Think of the M1 as cash used in commerce. The M2 represents all money, including those in savings, securities, or may have circulating restrictions. Even if the government were to account for every grain of gold as reported an in U.S. Mint’s annual reports, that would represent less than 1-percent of the M1.

Gold holdings are irrelevant to the strength of the United States economy. Maintaining the M1 supply is more critical because it is a measure of activity. Economists fear wild tariffs since it will have a direct effect on the M1 money supply. Changes to the M1 will alter the demand for the products produced by the U.S. Mint and Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

H.R. 2558: To define the dollar as a fixed weight of gold.
Sponsor: Rep. Alexander X. Mooney (R-WV)
Introduced: May 7, 2019
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — May 7, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-HR2558.

H.R. 2558 would require the Secretary of the Treasury “define the dollar in terms of a fixed weight of gold, based on that day’s closing market price of gold” and allow Federal Reserve Notes to be exchangeable for gold at that statutory rate.

COMMENTARY: This is a backhanded attempt to return the United States to the gold standard without the sufficient backing of gold that will support this effort. With the money supply being over $14 trillion, trying to match the amount of gold at market value to every U.S. dollar would cause a devaluation of the currency that it would not be economically viable to do business in or with the United States.

Further, the market price of gold is set by private banks, metals dealers, mining companies, and other financial companies from all over the world through the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). Given the makeup of their membership, this bill will allow this market that includes people from Bahrain, China, Switzerland, Russia, and other countries where the United States may have disputes to have direct influence over the strength of the U.S. dollar.

The introduction of a bill like this makes for good talking points for a constituency that is ignorant of the ramifications of this law. It is not sound policy given the nature of the markets.

H.R. 2630: Cash Always Should be Honored Act
Sponsor: Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-RI)
Introduced: May 9, 2019
Referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. — May 9, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-HR2630.

The Cash Always Should be Honored (CASH) Act states that “It shall be unlawful for any physical retail establishment to refuse to accept legal tender as payment for any products or services offered for sale by such physical retail establishment.” The bill allows exemptions for online and telephone-based transactions.

COMMENTARY: Although I believe in the power of spending the products of the U.S. Mint and Bureau of Engraving and Printing over using electronic means, it should not be the government’s place to tell anyone how to conduct business.

Another short-sighted bill that does not consider the modern economy because it does not consider changes to the concept of a physical retail establishment. For example, what about mobile-based commerce? Would the rideshare companies be required to take cash? What about the plumber who comes to fix your sink? What about the food truck where you might buy lunch?

For the numismatists, how would this affect dealers at a coin show? Will you be required to carry around a wad of currency to buy coins? Would there be a distinction between the dealer who only sells at shows versus a dealer with a shop who travels to shows?

It is another bill that looks better as part of talking points than its effects on the real economy.

H.R. 2650: Payment Choice Act of 2019
Sponsor: Rep. Donald M. Payne (D-NJ)
Introduced: May 9, 2019
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — May 9, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-HR2650.

This Payment Choice Act of 2019 is similar to the CASH Act in that it will prohibit any business from refusing “to accept United States legal tender of cash as payment for goods or services,” post signs saying that the establishment will not accept cash, or charge a higher price for paying in cash. The bill exempts “any goods or services sold to the public by telephone, mail, or internet.”

COMMENTARY: See the commentary for the CASH Act, above.

Weekly World Numismatic News for June 2, 2019

The most interesting news of the week was not printed by a media outlet but by the Government Printing Office. On May 23, 2019, the GPO published an entry in the Federal Register saying that the U.S. Mint has priced the Pride of Two Nations Limited Edition Two-Coin Set at $139.95.

Which two nations? Of course, if this is coming from the U.S. Mint, one of the countries is the United States. However, several reports claim that the second nation is Canada.

According to a source, the set will include a proof one-ounce American Silver Eagle coin and a proof one-ounce silver Canada Maple Leaf with a unique privy mark. There was no further information as to what the privy mark will be.

Production will be limited to 250,000 sets, according to the source.

The coins will be packaged and marketed by the U.S. Mint. The Royal Canadian Mint will also take orders for the set that will be fulfilled by the logistics contractor working for the U.S. Mint.

The source did not have information about the packaging.

The set will go on sale at the beginning of the World’s Fair of Money via Internet and telephone ordering only. Falling under the category that we can no longer have nice things, the U.S. Mint’s reticence to open sales at shows is a result of the fiasco that occurred when they released the 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Gold Proof coin at that year’s World’s Fair of Money.

Of course, no dealer was penalized by the American Numismatic Association for disrupting the World’s Fair of Money or setting the conditions that disrupted the distription outside of the Denver Mint.

And now the news…

 May 28, 2019

ST. GEORGE — Glen Canyon National Recreation Area’s investigation of centuries-old Spanish coins that were turned into the park has provisionally concluded the coins are authentic. However, according to a news release from the National Park Service, the two small coins were probably part of a modern coin collection, perhaps accidentally or intentionally dropped by a visitor to Lake Powell.  → Read more at stgeorgeutah.com


 May 29, 2019

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include the newest mock-up of the Harriet Tubman currency from the advocacy group Women on 20s. WASHINGTON – The Trump administration says it needs until 2028 to release a new $20 bill featuring abolitionist hero Harriet Tubman.  → Read more at usatoday.com


 June 1, 2019

The coins and a silver ingot, believed to be worth £500,000, were seized in Durham and Lancashire.  → Read more at bbc.com


 June 1, 2019

Is the current 1p piece the least valuable British coin since the currency was unified in 1707?  → Read more at bbc.com

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