Basketball Hall of Fame Commem Unveiled

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.

Weekly World Numismatic News for September 8, 2019

Chew Valley Hoard

Post Norman Conquest coins found in Sommerset, England (Pippa Pearce/© The Trustees of the British Museum via Smithsonian Magazine)

While talking about the hoard of coins that dates back to the time of William the Conqueror in England, someone said that they wished they could find treasures like that in the United States. That prompted me to talk with metal detector enthusiasts to hear their stories.

One of the people I spoke with regularly uses a metal detector around the Eastern Shore of Maryland and into Delaware. Although most of the coins found are from the 20th century, many of the finds include artifacts leftover from earlier settlers. They have found some older copper coins, buttons and bullets from the Civil War, and utensils dating to the colonial period.

The leader of a small group of enthusiasts travels the midwest along know migration trails. Some are now roads and highways, while others have returned to nature. They regularly find artifacts of life on the move. Although they rarely find money, the items they find have made their way into museums and university research centers that study the lives of the western migrants.

Finally, someone who has explored eastern Washington, Idaho, western Montana and Canada discovered artifacts that confirmed and expanded the stories of border disputes in that area. In that era, the disputes were not about security but about who claimed the profit from the resources.

Although metal detector finds in the United States may not find anything more valuable than a few coins, bullets, and buttons, they do find the evidence of history. Unless you stumble over another Saddle Ridge Hoard, finding history can be as gratifying.

And now the news…

 August 29, 2019

Shortly after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, a wealthy local buried a trove of 2,528 coins in what is now Somerset, England. Featuring the likenesses of both Harold II—the country’s last crowned Anglo-Saxon king—and his successor, William the Conqueror, the hoard is the largest collection of post-Norman Conquest coins found to date.  → Read more at smithsonianmag.com


 August 30, 2019

Manitoba lottery officials modify their machines to close a loophole exploited by gamblers. 1:32 When was the last time you saw a 50-cent piece?  → Read more at cbc.ca


 September 1, 2019

In mid-September, Macquarie Mint will release 500 Red-Back Spider $1 coins as part of its aptly named 'Deadly & Dangerous' collection. There are six more in the series, ranging from the dingo to the great white shark.  → Read more at lifehacker.com.au


 September 2, 2019

Better known for lagging, sagging, floundering and falling, Canadian currency now boasts a distinction both impressive and unique: It pulsates. Well, one $10 silver collector’s coin appears to do so thanks to a “numismatic breakthrough” that the Royal Canadian Mint heralds as a world-first.  → Read more at resourceclips.com


 September 2, 2019

OTTAWA , Sept. 3, 2019 /CNW/ – The Royal Canadian Mint is proud to launch a numismatic breakthrough from its ambitious and creative Research and Development team. Working with the University of Ottawa's Centre for Research in Photonics, the R+D team has created the 2020 $10 Fine Silver Coin – Pulsating Maple Leaf, engraved with an array of sub-millimeter-scale mirrors in the shape of a maple leaf on the reverse of this 99.99% pure silver coin.  → Read more at finance.yahoo.com


 September 3, 2019

As the 150th anniversary of the opening of the U.S. Branch Mint in Carson City draws closer, the Nevada State Museum is expanding the days it showcases one of the Mint’s most enduring artifacts. For much of the summer, the museum has been giving history lessons and minting medallions every Friday on Historic Coin Press 1 — the original coin press used when the Mint opened in February 1870.  → Read more at carsonnow.org


 September 4, 2019

TORONTO, Sept. 4, 2019 /CNW/ – For the first time in three decades, Canada's rarest coin – the 1911 silver dollar – will be on public display in its home country. This weekend, on Sept. 7-8, the 108-year-old silver dollar will be displayed at the National Postage Stamp and Coin Show, to be held at the Hilton Mississauga/Meadowvale.  → Read more at newswire.ca


 September 5, 2019

Rare currency expert Alfredo Cimino has never seen the 1911 silver dollar, but he’s heard of it. Everyone in the business has. Nicknamed the Emperor or Holy Grail of Canadian coins, it’s held many heavyweight titles in the world of numismatics, or professional coin collection and study, including the world’s most valuable coin, in 1965, and Canada’s rarest coin, which it retains to this day.  → Read more at theglobeandmail.com


 September 5, 2019

A rare example of Bermuda “Hogge Money” — a coin which was produced in the early 1600s — sold for $96,000 when it was auctioned last night, with the coin one of only eight examples known to exist. “The Sommer Islands coinage was produced in England circa 1616 for use in the British colony now known as Bermuda,” the auction house noted, with the “Hogge Money” coins issued in four denominations: shilling, sixpence, threepence, and twopence.  → Read more at bernews.com


 September 6, 2019

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — As special as it is for those involved, a class of new members gets enshrined annually in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. That makes it somewhat less exclusive than the minting of a coin – which is part of this year’s ceremony as well.  → Read more at nba.com

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Some random thoughts…

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:

Glenn B Smedley Medal

2019 Glenn B Smedley Medal

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.

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.

2007 Somalia Motorcycle Coins
I love these coins but is this the direction the U.S. Mint should go?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Weekly World Numismatic News for August 18, 2019

2019 Worlds Fair of \MoneyThis past week the World’s Fair of Money was held in Rosemont, just outside of Chicago. I wish I knew more of what happened, but the coverage of the show was its usual light to non-existent.

For years, I have been calling for the ANA to broadcast from the convention. For many years, I have been saying that when the collector cannot go to the show, the show must go to the collector. Nearly every other industry that holds a significant show finds ways of broadcasting part of the show to people who cannot attend.

One of the reasons I could not be at the World’s Fair of Money was because I was attending two seminars from another show. These were classes that are required so that I can become a licensed appraiser. Rather then travel to the show, I was able to view these seminars as they occurred. The conferencing software also allowed me to ask questions.

For next year’s show, I would like to see the ANA start to broadcast the Money Talks programs. All business-related items like the meeting of the Board of Governors session could appear on a live stream. Let’s start with that before I go into the rest of my wishlist.

And now the news…

 August 10, 2019

The Royal Mint has revealed no new 1p or 2p coins were struck over the last year. Is the future of copper coins under threat again?  → Read more at which.co.uk


 August 12, 2019

The government’s latest wheeze to convince us that Brexit means Brexit was announced this weekend. Sajid Javid is drawing up plans for millions of 50p coins to be issued when the UK leaves the EU later this year.  → Read more at independent.co.uk


 August 14, 2019

To ensure you the best experience, we use cookies on our website for technical, analytical and marketing purposes. By continuing to browse our site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.  → Read more at antiquestradegazette.com


 August 15, 2019

Sen. Roy Blunt wants a commemorative coin to honor Negro League Baseball when it celebrates its 100 year anniversary in 2020. The Missouri Republican talked about his coin push during a tour of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, this week.  → Read more at rollcall.com


 August 15, 2019

A woman from Asten found a very peculiar coin when she emptied out her purse after her vacation on Wednesday. A 2-euro coin, with the image of Princess Beatrix on it, that had also been minted with an image of an eagle with a swastika under it, De Gelderlander reports.  → Read more at nltimes.nl

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Weekly World Numismatic News for August 11, 2019

Mexico MintThis past week, two men entered the Mexico Mint (Casa de Moneda de México) and stole 1,567 gold coins worth an estimated $2.5 million. News reports say that these coins have a 50 peso value. Since the only gold coins available from the Mexico Mint of that type are Libertads, each coin is worth a little more than $1,600 each (about 31,500 pesos).

Initial reports say that security personnel did not follow appropriate protocols as the vault was left open before the robbery. Guards and other staff members were taken into custody for questioning.

The brazen daylight robbery occurred in an exclusive section of Mexico City that is well protected. Unfortunately, Mexico has seen an increase in violent crimes, including murder, with the increased activity of the drug cartels. The arrest and conviction of high-profile cartel leaders and the growth of exports to the United States created a situation where the cartels are fighting for territory.

An unconfirmed report said that the robbery was carried out by one of the cartels. If that is the case, the gold will likely be melted so that the coins would not be traceable.

And now the news…

 August 4, 2019

A treasure trove of 17th century silver coins has been found under the floor of a monastic church. Archaeologists from the University of Gdańsk were working in the presbytery of the 14th century Church of the Saint Andrew the Apostle in the town of Barczewo in Poland’s northern province of Warmia, when they discovered a glazed ceramic mug handle filled with nearly 1,000 coins.  → Read more at thefirstnews.com


 August 6, 2019

Thieves stole nearly 1,600 gold coins worth more than $2 billion in a brazen daytime robbery in Mexico City. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Armed robbers broke into a Mexican government coin manufacturer on Tuesday and filled a backpack with more than $2 million worth of gold coins from a vault that had been left open, security officials said.  → Read more at businessinsider.com


 August 6, 2019

Police are searching for the perpetrators of the theft, which took place in broad daylight on one of the Mexican capital's most prestigious avenues, Avenida Reforma, CNN en Español reports. The brazen heist is the latest development in a crime wave that has struck Mexico City in recent months as the security situation deteriorates across the country.  → Read more at www-m.cnn.com


 August 7, 2019

The Royal Mint didn’t produce any 1p and 2p copper coins in 2018 — marking the first time since 1972 and 1984 that none were created, respectively. Currently, there are an estimated 10.5 billion coppers in use and another 6.3 billion laying dormant in piggy banks and jams cars across the country.  → Read more at news.yahoo.com


 August 7, 2019

A glass bottle containing six kilos of coins from interwar Poland has been found buried under a monastery in Ukraine. Builders stumbled upon the stash one-metre below the Bernadine Monastery and St. Andrew’s Church in the town of Zbarazh where they were carrying out earthworks.  → Read more at thefirstnews.com

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July 2019 Numismatic Legislation Review

1921-D Peace Dollar

Of course, the July legislative review has to discuss the introduction of the 1921 Silver Dollar Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 3735). Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) introduced this bill with Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) as a co-sponsor. As soon as the Congressional Record published the bill’s submittal, the American Numismatic Association issued a press release asking members to ask their member of Congress to support the bill.

The bill calls for the issue of no more than 500,000 $1 silver coins commemorating the Morgan dollar and the Peace dollar in 2021. If passed, 2021 will mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the Morgan Dollar and the beginning of the Peace Dollar.

Aside from being excited about the issue of the coin, the one line that has caught the interest of collectors is that “it is the sense of Congress that if the Secretary determines it to be feasible and cost effective, the Secretary may mint some of the coins minted under this Act at the Nevada State Museum (formerly a United States Mint facility) located in Carson City, Nevada.”

Although it seems like a good idea, there are a lot of questions whether striking coins in Carson City would be feasible. Since the facility is an active museum, would Nevada be willing to give up a piece of their operations to the federal government? How disruptive would be to the museum’s activities before and after striking the coins?

How would the U.S. Mint strike coins at the museum? While the facility has old coining presses used for demonstrations, they may not be capable of manufacturing modern coinage. Then there is the other equipment involved including an upsetting mill to put an edge on the coin.

The Carson City Mint was built in 1863 to building codes and security standards of the mid-19th century. After the Mint stopped striking circulating coins in 1893, the building became as Assay Office. In 1933, the Great Depression ended its service as an Assay Office. The federal government sold the building to Nevada in 1939. While the Nevada State Museum has updated the building’s security, it is doubtful that it would meet modern U.S. Mint requirements.

Striking coins with the CC mintmark may have an appeal to the collecting community, it might not be feasible and cost-effective.

S. 239: Christa McAuliffe Commemorative Coin Act of 2019
Sponsor: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Introduced: January 28, 2019
Summary: (Sec. 3) This bill directs the Department of the Treasury to mint and issue not more than 350,000 $1 silver coins in commemoration of Christa McAuliffe, a teacher tragically killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster.(Sec. 4) The design of the coins shall bear an image and the name of Christa McAuliffe on the obverse side and a design on the reverse side that depicts the legacy of McAuliffe as a teacher.(Sec. 5) Treasury may issue the coins from January 1-December 31, 2021.(Sec. 7) All surcharges received by Treasury from the sale of the coins shall be paid to the FIRST robotics program for the purpose of engaging and inspiring young people, through mentor-based programs, to become leaders in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Held at the desk. — Jul 10, 2019
Received in the House. — Jul 10, 2019
Message on Senate action sent to the House. — Jul 10, 2019
Passed Senate with amendments by Voice Vote. — Jul 9, 2019
Measure laid before Senate by unanimous consent. — Jul 9, 2019
Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs discharged by Unanimous Consent. — Jul 9, 2019
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Jan 28, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-S239.

The Senate passed the Christa McAuliffe Commemorative Coin Act of 2019 in July. Like the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act (S. 1235) passed in June, the bill is being held at the desk in the House of Representative because of an objection by one of its members.

A source claims that a freshman member of the House has objected to these bills being first passed by the Senate. This member cites Article I Section 7 of the United States Constitution where it says that “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.” A spokesperson in the House ’Clerk’s office would not confirm or deny the ’source’s claim.

H.R. 3757: 1921 Silver Dollar Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO)
Introduced: July 15, 2019
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Jul 15, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-HR3757.

Happy Anniversary to Modern Coinage

The dual-dated Bicentennial reverse designs are still very popular amontst collectors

On July 23, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Coinage Act of 1965. Congress passed the bill in response to the coin shortages caused by the rising silver prices. When it was signed, the act eliminated silver from circulating dimes, and quarters while reducing the amount of silver used to strike half-dollars from 90-percent to 40-percent for five years. After five years, the half-dollar would be struck using the same copper-nickel clad composition as the lower denominations.

The act forbade the striking of silver dollars for five years ending an experiment with the striking of Peace Dollars in 1964. There are rumors that at least one 1964-D Peace exists despite the U.S. Mint’s insistence that all of the coins were melted.

Finally, the act made all coins and currency produced in the United States and specific bank issues as legal tender, which reversed the demonetization of the Trade Dollar in 1867.

The Coinage Act of 1965 marks the dividing line between “classic” and “modern” coinage.

After fifty-four years of modern coinage, there continues to be collectors and dealers who turn up their noses at modern coins.

Although the stories behind many of the classic issues are interesting, modern coins provide a diversity that is meaningful and affordable for the average collector.

The first coin of the modern era that had a public impact was the dual-dated coins with the reverses honoring the nation’s bicentennial. The bicentennial was a two-year celebration preceded by three years of hype and prep. When the coins were released, many people searched their change, looking for the coins. It was the first time in many years that half-dollar and large dollar coins circulated in significant numbers since finding them in change was exciting.

The Susan B. Anthony dollar was less than successful because it was confused with a quarter

The modern era also saw a big flop when the Susan B. Anthony small dollar coin entered circulation. Even though the U.S. Mint tried to simulate the 12-sides on the coin’s design, the size and the reeded edge was confused with the quarter. People stopped using the Susie B. thus ending whatever momentum dollar coins had.

The most successful program of the modern era was the 50 State Quarters program. The program started strong with a lot of interest. Unfortunately, a downturn in the economy and the television hucksters overselling the potential value of the series turned away a lot of potential collectors.

As the success of the 50 State Quarters program grew, Congress passed laws to create several other circulating commemoratives. The programs include the Westward Journey Nickels, Abraham Lincon Bicentennial cents, and the Native American $1 coin program using the golden-colored planchets of the Sacagawea dollar.

The modern era saw the return of the commemorative coin programs. Some were very popular, like the 2001 American Buffalo Commemorative Coin and 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin programs. There were less popular coins, but none had flopped as bad as the 2013 Girl Scouts of the USA Centennial Silver Dollar.

Unlike previous commemorative coin laws, modern laws help the U.S. Mint limit the time these coins can remain on sale. It also limits their production to one year.

Finally, the modern era has given us the bullion coin series. It started with the American Silver Eagle program that was created to provide a way for the United States government to sell off silver saved in the Defense National Stockpile. As a result, the U.S. Mint has used the program to experiment with different finishes, including burnished and reverse proof.

Congress passed the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985 a few months later after being lobbied by the gold mining interests. This law created the American Eagle Gold Bullion Program.

2013-W American Buffalo gold reverse proof obverse

Even more significant was Title II of the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005. Title II established the American Buffalo 24-Karat Bullion Gold Coins program. The law required the coins struck from .9999 put gold using the design of the 1913 Type 1 Buffalo Nickel as designed by James Earle Fraser. After the first year of issue, the U.S. Mint could change the design after vetting the design with the Commission of Fine Arts and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. This law allowed the U.S. Mint to produce coins like the 2009 High Relief gold coin and the 100th-anniversary tributes to the Mercury dime in 2016.

After 54 years there are a lot of exciting choices for the modern collector. And this does not consider the collection of errors or varieties, like the three types of 1972 Eisenhower dollars or the wide versus narrow lettering on the reverse of the 1999 Lincoln cent.

It is past the time for the numismatic community to embrace the collection of modern coins more than it has. There may be few modern coins that are worth thousands of dollars, but they are available to capture the interest of potential collectors. After all, how many of us started collecting by searching pocket change.

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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