LOOK BACK: Defence of Fort McHenry

On this day 204 years ago, Francis Scott Key was awakened aboard the HMS Tonnant in Baltimore Harbor to see the tattered, but still present flag flying over Fort McHenry. Today’s LOOK BACK talks about the history of that day and, rather than talking about the legislation, add a little information about the Star Spangled Banner commemorative coin.

Fort McHenry (via Wikipedia)

The War of 1812 had been running for two years when the fighting escalated in Baltimore Harbor around Fort McHenry. American Prisoner Exchange Agent Colonel John Stuart Skinner sent by the War Department to negotiate the release of Dr. William Beanes. Dr. Beanes was allegedly mistakenly arrested with a group of rowdies as he walked to his home.

On Skinner’s way to meet Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane, Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn, and Major General Robert Ross on the HMS Tonnant, he stopped at the home of noted lawyer Francis Scott Key and asked for his assistance.

Col. Skinner and Key were welcomed by the British command on September 13, 1814 and was invited to stay for dinner. After secure the release of Dr. Beanes but were not allowed to return to Baltimore. The British felt that Col. Skinner and Key had learned too much about the British forces. Col. Skinner, Key, and Dr. Beanes were provided guest accommodations on the HMS Tonnant.

The Battle of Baltimore began after dinner and raged overnight through the next morning. On September 14, 1814, when the smoke cleared, Key saw the Stars and Stripes still flying over Fort McHenry. Following the battle. Col. Skinner, Key, and Dr. Beanes were allowed to return to Baltimore on their own boat. During the trip, Key wrote a poem entitled “The Defence of Fort McHenry”

On September 20, 1814, Key had the poem published in the newspaper Patriot. After publication, Key set the poem to the tune of John Stafford Smith’s “The Anacreontic Song,” a popular drinking song written for London’s Anacreontic Society. The combination was renamed “The Star Spangled Banner.”

“The Star Spangled Banner” was first recognized by the Navy in 1889. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed an executive order to recognize “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem. Finally, President Herbert Hoover singed a congressional bill officially making the song the United State’s National Anthem (36 U.S.C. §301).

In 2012, the U.S. Mint issued two coins as part of the Star-Spangled Banner Commemorative Coin Program (authorized by Public Law 111-232). The $5 gold coin “depicts a naval battle scene from the War of 1812, with an American sailing ship in the foreground and a damaged and fleeing British ship in the background” on the obverse and “the first words of the Star-Spangled Banner anthem, O say can you see, in Francis Scott Key’s handwriting against a backdrop of 15 stars and 15 stripes, representing the Star-Spangled Banner flag.”

The obverse of the silver $1 coin “depicts Lady Liberty waving the 15-star, 15-stripe Star-Spangled Banner flag with Fort McHenry in the background.” The reverse shows the waving of a modern American Flag.

The official launch of the 2012 Star-Spangled Banner Commemorative Coin Program was launched at Fort McHenry in Baltimore. You can read about that launch here.

You can read the original article here.
All coin images are courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

Weekly World Numismatic News for September 9, 2018

The ‘Discovery’ coin, encrusted with rare pink diamonds, was created by the Perth Mint. (Image courtesy of The Business Times)

One of the news items this week is that the Perth Mint created the “Discovery” coin, a 2-kilogram (4.4 pounds) gold coin with rare pink diamonds that depicts the discovery of Austrailia and the mining culture that grew on the island nation.

Modeled after the Holey Dollar, Australia’s first coin, it features four 1.02 karat pink diamonds mined in Western Australia. The center of the holey coin is included as part of the set. For the record, the coin as a reeded edge.

Perth Mint officials said that the coin, worth A$2.48 million (US$1.76 million), was created to “meet growing demand for high-end collectables from the ultra-rich.” It will be sold at auction with expectations that the buyer will be from Asia or the Middle East.

This is not the first time the Perth Mint has made a gimmick coin. In 2011, they created the Australian Kangaroo One Tonne Gold Coin. The coin was made using one metric tonne (2204.62 pounds) of .9999 fine gold, the coin measured 80 centimeters (31.5 inches) in diameter and 12 cm (4.72 inches) thick. Also with a reeded edge.

What is the point of making a coin like this?

Aside from extracting money from someone whose pocketbook can match his ego, is there a good reason to make these coins?

Of all of the questions as to whether what the U.S. Mint does is good for the hobby, where does this gimmick rank in comparison?

And now the news…

 August 30, 2018

The platinum producers finally appear to be making headway with the SA government on the introduction of a platinum coin judging from recent comments made by Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe Mantashe is currently in Perth, Western Australia where he addressed the Africa Down Under conference on August 29.  → Read more at miningmx.com


 September 2, 2018

Finance minister Nhlanhla Nene has published the official designs and specifications for the 2019 Natura coin series. The series will focus on the Cradle of Humankind and features a number of hominid discoveries which were made in South Africa.  → Read more at businesstech.co.za


 September 3, 2018

From today you will be able to pre-order a limited number of the newly minted Armistice Day coin for delivery in October, right in time for Armistice Day. The new coin is a legal tender, coloured, circulating 50c piece.  → Read more at scoop.co.nz


 September 3, 2018

Everyone knows how the old saying about comic book collectors goes: there’s one born every minute! So there should be no shortage of fans intrigued by the latest offering from the Royal Canadian Mint.  → Read more at bleedingcool.com


 September 5, 2018

Sydney AUSTRALIA has minted a gold coin encrusted with rare pink diamonds worth A$2.48 million (S$2.45 million) to meet growing demand for high-end collectables from the ultra-rich. The 2-kg treasure, which depicts a sailing ship, a gold prospector and boab trees found in Western Australia, is considered legal tender and will be sold to the highest bidder.  → Read more at businesstimes.com.sg


 September 5, 2018

Archaeologists in Sweden have discovered a gold ducat from early medieval Venice in Elleholm, a once thriving port that has now entirely disappeared.  → Read more at thelocal.se


 September 6, 2018

While coins may just be cheap change to some people, others like Jack Zillion and Dennis Witter see them worth much more.  → Read more at centralillinoisproud.com


 September 7, 2018

It’s been a busy summer for construction in Dawson City, Yukon — which means it’s also been busy for the territory’s archeologists.  → Read more at cbc.ca


 September 7, 2018

Despite the advent of credit cards, cryptocurrencies and other forms of online money, coins and paper still remain relevant  → Read more at usatoday.com


 September 7, 2018

It clearly communicates the notion that the private sector does the monetary system beautifully  → Read more at forbes.com

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Weekly World Numismatic News for September 2, 2018

There is always something in numismatics that can be used to teach us about history. This past week it was reported that Russian archeologists found a rare “beard kopek.” It was a coin that men had to buy if they wanted to remain unshaven under the rule of Peter the Great.

Peter rose to power at the age of 17 in 1689, but the arcane succession rules of Russia did not allow him to actually rule until his mother died in 1694. Then, he had to be co-ruler with his brother Ivan V until Ivan died in 1696. That is when Peter took over.

Once Peter became the sole czar he implemented sweeping reforms to modernize Russia. He thought that in order to become a power similar to those of Western Europe, Russian society had to evolve. Using western advisors and his command of the military, he forced reforms on the country including violently suppressing uprisings by those who did not agree with him.

To enforce his idea of modernization, he introduced western dress to his court and required all government officials to adopt this more modern style of dress. Robes and beards were no longer accepted under Peter’s rule. In order to enforce his idea, Peter began to levy taxes on people who would not comply. If you wanted to keep your beard you had to pay a tax. Once you paid a tax you would be required to carry around a token saying that you paid the tax.

The copper token found in Russia was one of those beard tax tokens. It has an image of a beard and mustache with the words “Money Paid” (in Russian) surrounded by a beaded border. If you wanted to keep your facial hair, you paid the tax and had to carry around the token as proof.

Reports claim that this is only the second known Beard Tax token to exist with the other one being in The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. However, a silver version of the token was sold by Heritage Auctions in September 2017 as part of the Long Beach Expo World Coins Signature auction. The hammer price for that token was $3,000.

Even if there were two more found, it would still be a rare token!

And now the news…

 August 27, 2018

Aaron Coulson was given the silver coin in a Sutton Coldfield pub – and thinks it's worth at least £100  → Read more at birminghammail.co.uk


 August 27, 2018

In 1698, Tsar Peter the Great of Russia, as he would come to be know, was waging a war on beards. In an attempt to modernize his empire and make it more like the west after spending years exploring Europe in disguise, Peter instituted a tax on facial hair.  → Read more at popularmechanics.com


 August 27, 2018

The United States Mint has issued an open call for artists to design the nation’s coins and medals as part of its its Artistic Infusion Program. The government is particularly interested in artists who will “bring innovative perspectives and utilize symbolism in their work to clearly and evocatively convey subjects and themes,” according to the program’s press release.  → Read more at news.artnet.com


 August 28, 2018

AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) – Attention all Maine artists: The Maine Bureau of Veterans' Services has an important job for you. They're looking for an artist to design a coin for post-Vietnam War and peacetime veterans.  → Read more at wabi.tv


 August 30, 2018

A MAN uncovered a horde of Roman coins buried in farmland. Allan Hughes, of Wrexham, found five silver Denarii coins dating back nearly 2,000 years while out searching with a metal detector on arable land in Cockshutt, near Ellesmere.  → Read more at leaderlive.co.uk


 September 1, 2018

The South African government is considering a range of initiatives to increase the demand for platinum-group metals (PGMs), including the development of a Mandela Platinum Coin. The proposal to develop a Mandela Platinum Coin is based on the international success achieved by the Kruger Rand, South Africa’s Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe said at the Africa Downunder conference, in Perth.  → Read more at miningweekly.com


 September 2, 2018

A First Century silver Roman coin uncovered on land in Shropshire has been declared treasure trove at an inquest.  → Read more at shropshirestar.com

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LOOK BACK: A frank discussion about China and counterfeits

A regular reader was upset about the appearance of hypocrisy at the World’s Fair of Money. On one hand there was a lot of talk about counterfeit collectibles from China. On the other hand, there was a lot of hoopla over the Panda with special designs and privy marks honoring the World’s Fair of Money. In this episode of “LOOK BACK,” I update what I wrote in February 2014 about China and counterfeits.

Front of a counterfeit 2012-dated American Eagle $50 denomination one-ounce gold bullion coin. (Photo courtesy of Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.)

A persistent question that follows stories about counterfeiting is why do most of the counterfeits come from China and how do they get away with doing this? Unfortunately, the answer lies in differences in our laws, politics, and cultures that may not be as easily resolved as people would like.

Every coin minted by the U.S. Mint is legal tender and are legally an instrument of the government. Although the Trade dollar was demonetized in 1876, it was remonetized as part of the Coinage Act of 1965 making it legal tender (31 U.S.C. § 5103) for trade in the United States. This means that it is legal to spend an 1873 Trade Dollar for $1 of goods and services even though the coin is worth more than its face value.

To protect its currency, the United States has anti-counterfeiting laws that makes it illegal to counterfeit the nation’s money and use in commerce. For collectible coins and currency congress passed and has since updated the the Hobby Protection Act (15 U.S.C. § 2101 et. seq.). These laws protect the money supply when it is a collectible and not an instrument of commerce.

In the United States, laws are cumulative. Once passed, they remain the law until repealed or declared unconstitutional by the courts. This is not the way in many other countries. In many countries, when a new government takes power they are given the authority to rewrite the laws. It is expected to happen within authoritarian governments but it is common in many parliamentary democracies.

The People’s Republic of China has been run by the Communist Party since 1949. Their rules and laws have changed significantly when the Communist Party came into power. One of their first rules was to demonetize the money produced by the Republic of Chin and issued renminbi, the “people’s currency.”

Since then, it has been the practice of the chairman of the Communist Party to demonetize non-current issues of coins and currency as part of their economic control policies. Based on the current Chinese economic system, all coins struck since 1955, the first issued under the current government, are legal tender. Currency printed since 1999, the fifth series is the only legal tender notes. Any other coin or currency note has been demonetized.

Under Chinese anti-counterfeiting laws, it is illegal to duplicate any legal tender coin or currency note for any reason. However, since coinage from previous regimes is no longer legal tender, it is legal to strike coins with those designs. Chinese laws do not recognize the collection of these coins as a market to protect.

An example of a Morgan Dollar cut in half to match a date with a mintmark to have the coin appear something it is not. Coin was in a counterfeit PCGS slab and caught by one of their graders.

Buying and selling coins as an object is a matter of commerce between individuals and not something that requires protection under Chinese law. While the Chinese buyer can use the obsolete coin as an object of barter, bartering does not hold the same legal status as paying with legal tender currency. Basically, once coins are demonetized, just about anything goes.

Chinese law does not recognize the perpetual legal tender status of every coin issued. Chinese law also recognizes that counterfeiting current issues of other countries is also illegal because someone could try to use the coin in commerce where it is legal to use foreign currency. This means that in China, it would be illegal to reproduce a presidential dollar or Washington quarter, but producing Morgan dollars or a set of 1921 Walking Liberty half-dollars is legal in China because these are coins no longer issued in the United States.

When China is asked to assist the United States to stop the counterfeiting of coins, China does not recognize that its people are doing anything wrong. The coins are no longer being made, they are not in circulation, and their laws allow people to make copies of these coins. The only laws that China has regarding collectibles are laws protecting antiquities and cultural properties. This means that you cannot duplicate a Ming Dynasty vase and try to pass it off as real but it is legal to reproduce a Rembrandt masterpiece since he is not Chinese and his work was not made in China.

A trade attorney that was originally consulted for this article confirmed that when it comes to these issues, Chinese law is very protectionist. The claim is that they follow their laws consistently regardless of outside circumstances and they refuse to make exceptions citing the complication with enforcing their laws in a country with a population of more than 1.3 billion people.

PCGS representatives showed Congressmen counterfeit U.S. coins in counterfeit PCGS holders during their recent meetings in Washington, DC. (Photo courtesy of PCGS.)

Making the problem more difficult, copying and counterfeiting of grading service holders are also not covered by Chinese law because they are not made by government entities. The grading services would have to fight the counterfeiters using Chinese patent and copyright law. A patent attorney confirmed that not only would this not stop the problem, but foreign challenges to alleged patent and copyright violations are rarely successful in Chinese courts.

The Chinese government has no incentive to help the United States or any other country fight counterfeiting in what is perceived by the Chinese as a small market problem. To put the resources necessary into what looks like a petty crime for selling inexpensive, non-circulating duplicate coins that are within Chinese law to manufacture is considered not worth their resources.

While there is anecdotal evidence that the Chinese government knows about the counterfeit trades and some officials informally support the efforts because they get kickbacks, official Chinese policy denies there is a problem.

A lot has been written about the nature of the relationship between the United States and China since President Richard Nixon’s trip to China in 1972. Neither side trusts each other nor does neither side believe each other. Today, the United States decries the Chinese for buying too much of our debt, allegations of spying, industrial espionage, and cyber crimes. The Chinese say that the United States is trying to bully the world and that these naysayers are making up the stories to scare the world into following them. The United States talks about civil rights violations within the Chinese border and the Chinese government tells the United States to mind its own business.

The greater opening of markets between the country and the increase in popularity of bullion coins has made the Chinese Panda a popular coin amongst collectors and investors. Those of us who buy these coins know that even with the production increases since 2010 new issues continue to command a premium greater than other bullion coins.

While the Chinese are happy to sell coins and be the factory to the United States, there remains an underlying tone of political and commercial hostility between the nations. A trade attorney said that the Chinese would rather keep the relationship to business between the countries that the United States should stay out of China’s domestic policy. It was explained that the Chinese central government was upset over how the United States passed judgment over companies in their high tech electronic manufacturing sector because these companies are doing better and are safer than other Chinese manufacturers. To the Chinese government, it is not a problem if a few workers die for whatever reason. There is an ample supply from the population to keep the plants running.

These are the values of the Chinese government. Whether you agree with them or not, Communist Party officials will resent anyone telling them how to manage their domestic affairs. They want advice about how to treat their citizens as much as the United States wants similar advice from China.

There is no incentive for China to stop the manufacture of counterfeit collectible coins.

It is not against Chinese law for these people to manufacture coins that are no longer in production. Chinese people who are manufacturing these coins are working in China and many employ other people. It means there are fewer people relying on assistance the Chinese government provides. Since they now have incomes, it provides revenues for the tax coffers.

When a United States trade representatives negotiate with their Chinese counterparts, it gives the Chinese a chance to lecture the United States how they resolved the counterfeiting issues which leads to a discussion on currency handling and management, which is a sore subject in the United States since the United States questions Chinese monetary policies.

Counterfeit coins ICTA ACTF display

A portion of the exhibit of confiscated counterfeits on special loan from the Department of Homeland Security displayed at the 2018 World’s Fair of Money® by ICTA/ACTF.

Finally, it gives China a measure of moral superiority against the United States. After all, China figured out a way to prevent the impact of counterfeiting of older currency, why can’t the United States do the same?

China has no incentive to help the United States to solve a problem that they perceive does not exist. It is up to the United States to resolve these issues. This is why the industry promoted the Collectible Coin Protection Act (Public Law No: 113-288) so that law enforcement has an additional tool to use to help prosecute handlers of counterfeit coins in the United States.

You can read the original article here.

Weekly World Numismatic News for August 26, 2018

News out of the United Kingdom was that the Bank of England was thinking about eliminating the copper 1 penny and 2 pence coins. The discussion came from a blog post on the website Bank Underground, an independent blog written by Bank of England staff commenting on the Bank’s policies. The post suggested that there would be “a negligible impact on inflation, with the average impact being negative but not statistically different from zero.”

The economists that wrote the blog post has used the same argument that many others have used: the rising cost of copper and the reduced purchasing power makes the coin not worth minting.

In response, the Bank of England said that it was not considering eliminating the 1p and 2p coins.

Unfortunately, the Bank of England economists’ post will become fodder for those that want to eliminate the one-cent coin in the United States. The argument will repeat the same themes that the blog post outline as proof that this could be done.

The problem is that regardless of the position, using the arguments generated from data that does not consider social and economic information from the United States makes the using this as an example irrelevant or spurious at best.

And now the news…

 August 18, 2018

A block below Central Park in Manhattan, an unassuming shop appears, from the vantage point of sidewalk passersby, old, dusty, and uninteresting. Yet it contains treasures. In billboard-laden New York City, the boutique’s beige awning barely snatches a glance.  → Read more at fortune.com


 August 18, 2018

AGARTALA: A commemorative gold coin to honour Maharaja Bir Bikram Manikya has been launched on the occasion of the 110th birth anniversary of 'Tripura's last king'. The coin was released at a special Independence Day function at Ujjayanta Palace – the seat of the Manikya dynasty – by chief minister Biplab Deb, who was accompanied at the event by deputy chief minister Jishnu Dev Varma, who is a member of the royal family, and the Maharaja's granddaughter Maharajkumari Pragya Deb Burman.  → Read more at timesofindia.indiatimes.com


 August 19, 2018

RIGA — The whole mintage of the new silver collector coin dedicated to the Curonian Kings, a cultural group of free Latvian peasants that for many centuries inhabited seven villages in western Latvia, has been sold out at Bank of Latvia Cashier’s Offices, the central bank’s spokesman Janis Silakalns told LETA.  → Read more at baltictimes.com


 August 20, 2018

The Royal Australian Mint is paying homage to a group of iconic Ford and Holden race cars from the likes of Peter Brock, Allan Moffat, Dick Johnson and Craig Lowndes in a new series. Two fresh collections feature seven, uncirculated 50cent coins each from Ford and Holden chronicling the success of the brands in Australian motorsport.  → Read more at supercars.com


 August 22, 2018

Bank of England economists have reignited the debate over the future of 1p and 2p coins, arguing their removal from circulation would not stoke inflation. In a blog post on Wednesday the analysts said their work and the “overwhelming” evidence suggested the withdrawal of coppers would have “no significant impact on prices”.  → Read more at theguardian.com


 August 23, 2018

THE Bank of England is considering plans to scrap the one and two pence coins. It comes after economists claimed that scrapping 1p and 2p coins would not push up inflation. Here’s the latest…  → Read more at thesun.co.uk

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 NLG announces 2018 awards (Aug 20, 2018)

NLG AWARD WINNER!

I would like to thank the Numismatic Literary Guild for recognizing the power of social media as a medium for spreading the greatness of numismatics.

I want to thank you, my readers and followers on social media that gives me the motivation to provide the best numismatic information to the community.

This is an honor, a shock, and motivation to continue. Than you!

LOOK BACK: Paper v. Coin Dollars

Following the introduction of the Presidential $1 Coin program and the discussion about replacing the Federal Reserve Note with a coin, I wrote an article explaining how the situation will not change. Not much has changed in 10 years!

Whenever a proposal or law that creates a new dollar coin, there is always a discussion as to how to make the program more successful. In the past, the Gallup organization has polled the public on a few occasions asking about the potential acceptance of dollar coins.

Regardless of the questions asked, the only way to increase the circulation of the dollar coin is to stop printing the one-dollar Federal Reserve Note and begin to withhold it from circulation. It is a move that will force the people to use the coin as the population of the paper currency is reduced.

There are many emotional arguments on both sides of the issue. Whether one is for or against the printing of the one-dollar note, the US is one of the extreme few first-world countries issue its unit currency on paper. Looking beyond the emotional arguments, each side has dominant arguments to support their positions.

Those who want to eliminate the one-dollar note use at the cost of is production and the savings to the government as the dominant reasons. According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, 95-percent of all Federal Reserve Note printed for circulation are used to replace damaged and worn notes that are being taken out of circulation. Using BEP’s 2017 production report, 2,425,600,000 one-dollar notes were printed. With 95-percent being replacement notes, 2,304,320,000 notes were printed just to maintain circulation levels. With it costing 4.385-cents to produce one note of any denomination, the cost to just replace notes removed from circulation was $100,422,265.60 in 2017.

Rather than printing paper dollars, if the US Mint strikes coins the cost to replace those 2.4 billion notes would cost 21-cents per coin (according to the U.S. Mint’s 2014 Annual Report, the last documenting seigniorage for the dollar coin). The total production cost would be $483,907,200.

But do not let the 381-percent increase in cost fool you. For the real picture, the costs have to be predicted over time. According to the BEP and the Federal Reserve, the lifespan of a one-dollar Federal Reserve Note is 5.8 years. When the U.S. Mint makes plans for circulating coinage, they accept that the lifespan of a coin is 30-years. To help with the calculation, it will be assumed that the price of manufacturing coins and currency s will stay constant. In order to keep the $2.4 billion of one dollar notes in circulation for 30 years, it will cost the BEP $522.6 million dollars.

By comparison, since the U.S. Mint will be striking new coins for circulation and (theoretically) not replacement coins (not including the coins already in storage), the U.S. government would save about $117 million over 30 years. The following table illustrates these costs:

Denomination Production Total Number of Replacement Notes Cost of Production for Replacements Cost of Replacements over 30 years
Paper Dollar (2008) 4,147,200,000 3,939,840,000 $177,292,800 $1,772,928,000
Paper Dollar (2018) 2,425,600,000 2,304,320,000 $101,044,432 $522,643,614
Coin Dollar (2008) N/A 3,939,840,000 $626,434,560 $626,434,560
Coin Dollar (2018) N/A 2,425,600,000 $509,376,000 $509,376,000

While this might be a compelling argument to stop printing one dollar notes, such a move has political ramifications for some powerful members of Congress. With over 1500 people working in the Eastern Currency Facility in downtown Washington, DC, they are represented by several leaders of both parties. When it comes to jobs in their districts, members of Congress will not allow anything that will reduce the production capacity of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and where constituents could lose jobs.

Before Congress changes the law to stop the printing of the one-dollar note (31 U.S.C. §5115(a)(2)), the BEP will have to supplement production in order to protect jobs. The way this could be done would be to print foreign currency. However, it seems that the BEP is having problems selling their services to foreign governments.

Although the Bureau of Engraving and Printing has experimented with polymer notes and other printing substrates, the Federal Reserve has said that it does not consider these alternatives viable for United States currency. However, the Federal Reserve and Bureau of Engraving and Printing has been testing rag-based paper from companies that can produce new anti-counterfeiting features.

If there was a change to the supplier of currency paper, that would raise concern by the Massachusetts congressional delegation whose constituents include Crane Currency, the subsidiary of Crane & Company. Crane has been the exclusive supplier of currency paper to BEP since 1879. Although BEP has tried to open the competition for purchasing currency paper (see GAO Report GAO-05-368 [PDF]), the cost of entry into the market has prevented other manufacturers from competing for the business. If BEP would stop printing over 2 million one dollar notes without replacing it with similar paper production, the Massachusetts-based company could lose significant business.

Regardless of the measures taken by the US Mint to increase the circulation of the one-dollar coin, public perception is that the one-dollar paper note is easier to use than the coin. Unless key congressional leaders agree that ending the printing of the one-dollar note is in the best interests of everyone, including their political careers, the political reality is that printing of the one-dollar note is here to stay until a significant event causes a change in policy.

The original post can be read here.

Did someone say something about a square con?

NOTE: The title is NOT a typographical error. It is a commentary raised by the discussion, below.

With the flurry of legislative action last month, the only bill that I commented on was the American Innovation $1 Coin Act (Public Law No: 115-197) because it was the only one that is the law. The others were just introduced and may not be passed out of committee.

But that has not prevented speculation and discussion about the potential for these potential commemorative coins. Based on the email buzz, the two bills of interest are the Integration of Baseball Commemorative Coin Act (S. 3283 and H.R. 6469) and the Carson City Mint 150th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 6221).

Reverse design of the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative (Image courtesy of the U.S. Mint)

Regarding the Integration of Baseball Commemorative Coin Act, someone decided that the coins would be square and that has infested the numismatic media. This is not what the bill requires. In fact, the bill says that the “design on the common reverse of the coins minted under this Act shall depict a baseball diamond similar to those used by Major League Baseball.”

For those commentators who cannot read simple English, it says that the design “shall depict a baseball diamond.” Nowhere in that sentence does it say that the coins have to be shaped like the baseball diamond. A depiction and the shape of a coin are two different concepts.

Trying to understand where the idea that the coins would be square, a review of the official statement issued by Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX) as co-sponsors does not mention the shape of the coin.

What might have confused the issue was a report in The Hill that former Montreal Expos and Chicago Cubs legend Andre “The Hawk” Dawson talked about the coin minted in the shape of home plate. While Dawson was a great ballplayer and earned his place in the Baseball Hall of Fame, he is not a member of Congress and, apparently, did not read the bill.

The commentary about the shape does not take into consideration what the bill actually says. Aside from talking about it like it will be the law, it does not take into consideration that the bill is now in committee with less than 90-days to go until the mid-term elections. Without turning this into a political analysis blog post, there will be contention regardless of the outcome of the election. With the late introduction of this bill and the current political environment, the likelihood of this bill passing both chambers before the end of the session is highly unlikely.

Carson City Mint (1866)

A correspondent asked “Wouldn’t it be cool if the Carson City commemorative coins were struck in Carson City?” It does not matter if it is a good idea or not unless Congress changes the law, specifically 31 U.S. Code § 5131 that defines where the branches of the U.S. Mint are located, Carson City is not authorized to strike coins. Unless Carson City is added to that list, even temporarily, the U.S. Mint cannot strike any coins in Carson City. Further, the building that was once a branch mint is no longer owned by the Federal Government. Ownership was transferred to the State of Nevada that runs it as part of the Nevada State Museum.

Even though the first press used in Carson City is located in the museum, it may not meet the specifications that are required of the U.S. Mint to strike modern commemorative coins. And both the press and building are not owned by the United State government, a fact that would make those who provide oversight of the U.S. Mint’s operations a bit nervous.

While these “what if” questions might make good parlour or message board discussions, allegedly responsible industry journalists and pundits should know better.

A LOOK BACK: When is a Variation Not a Variety

This week’s LOOK BACK is my take at the stir made over the positioning of the edge letters on the newly struck George Washington Dollar coins in 2007.

If you search the online auction sites, you will find less than honest sellers trying to sell variations in the positioning of edge lettering of the new George Washington Dollars errors or varieties. Letters that are pointed up, or the top of the letters towards the obverse, are considered “normal” by these sellers. Letters that are pointed downward, or the top of the letters closer to the reverse of the coin, have been called errors or varieties. They are neither.

Exasperating the issue is that one third-party grading service added a designation to their labels with the orientation of the edge lettering.

Images are courtesy of Ken Potter.

An accepted definition of a variety “is any variation in the normal design of a given coin, usually caused by errors in the preparation or maintenance of the coin dies.” They are also errors caused in the striking process. But these definitions do not account for the differences in the orientation. The problem is that after the planchets are struck into coins by the high-speed coining machines, they are mechanically collected and fed into a machine that will press the lettering into the edge of the coins.

The machine that adds the edge lettering uses a three-part collar to impress the incuse lettering does this without regard to position. not only could the edge lettering face any direction, but the lettering can appear at any position along the edge. The U.S. Mint confirms this by saying that because of “the minting process used on the circulating coins, the edge-incused inscription positions will vary with each coin.

Since the Mint is saying that the process can vary, these variations are normal for the design. Since these are normal variations, they are not numismatic varieties or errors. Thus, the coins with variations of orientation edge lettering are not worth the premiums being sought online. They are worth their face value of $1.

There have been errors found with the edge lettering. The most infamous has been called the “Godless Dollars” for coins missing their edge lettering and the motto “In God We Trust.” Most of these coins were minted in Philadelphia and discovered in Florida. Others have found doubling of edge letters and what looks like breaks in the three-part collars where letters have moved out of place. These are legitimate errors and worth a premium above face value. Orientation variations of the edge lettering are not errors.

If you want to consider these varieties, please save your money and visit your local bank. You can purchase these coins for face value without shipping and handling fees. If you purchase a 25-coin roll, you can spend the coins you do not want since they are legal tender.

The original article can be read here.

July 2018 Numismatic Legislation Review

Augustus Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site
(Image courtesy of the National Parks Service)

July has been a big month for numismatic-related legislation for the 115th Congress. Aside from passing the American Innovation $1 Coin Act (Public Law 115-197), the Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act (H.R. 965) and a technical change to the American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (Section 3. in S. 1182) moves closer to passage.

The Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act does not add a commemorative coin program but it changes the designation for the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in New Hampshire to be the “Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park.” The change is significant in that it changes the funding for the staffing and maintenance of the site. It also will keep the site accessible for tourism.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens is known as the artist who co-conspired with President Theodore Roosevelt in his “pet crime” to redesign United States coinage. Before his death in 1907, Saint-Gaudens provided the design for the $20 Double Eagle and $10 Eagle gold coinage.

Saint-Gaudens’ legacy continued after his death by his students Adolph A. Weinman, designer of the Walking Liberty half-dollar and Mercury dime, and James Earle Fraser, designer of the Buffalo Nickel.

As for the American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act, the commemorative program was passed in September 2017 and signed by the president in October 2018 (Public Law No: 115-65). This bill has a few minor technical changes that will not change the program as originally passed.

For once, it was a busy month for numismatic-related legislation watchers. maybe congress is trying to show their constituents that they have a record of doing something.

H.R. 770: American Innovation $1 Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. James A. Himes (D-CT)
Introduced: January 31, 2017
Summary: (Sec. 2) This bill directs the Department of the Treasury, over a 14-year period beginning in 2019, to mint and issue “American Innovation” $1 coins commemorating innovation and innovators from each state, each U.S. territory, and the District of Columbia. Treasury shall issue four coins per year, in alphabetical order by jurisdiction, until a coin has been issued for each jurisdiction. Treasury may mint and issue a $1 coin in 2018 to introduce the series. Neither the bust of any person nor the portrait of any living person may be included in the design of the coins.The bill instructs Interior to continue to mint and issue $1 coins honoring Native Americans and their contributions.
Became Public Law No: 115-197. — Jul 20, 2018
Signed by President. — Jul 20, 2018
Presented to President. — Jul 10, 2018
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Jun 27, 2018
On motion that the House agree to the Senate amendment Agreed to without objection. (text as House agreed to Senate amendment: CR H5786-5787) — Jun 27, 2018
Mr. Hensarling asked unanimous consent to take from the Speaker’s table and agree to the Senate amendment. — Jun 27, 2018
Message on Senate action sent to the House. — Jun 21, 2018
Passed Senate with an amendment by Voice Vote. — Jun 20, 2018
Measure laid before Senate by unanimous consent. — Jun 20, 2018
Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs discharged by Unanimous Consent. — Jun 20, 2018
Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Jan 17, 2018
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Jan 16, 2018
On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by voice vote. — Jan 16, 2018
DEBATE – The House proceeded with forty minutes of debate on H.R. 770. — Jan 16, 2018
Considered under suspension of the rules. — Jan 16, 2018
Mr. Duffy moved to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended. — Jan 16, 2018
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Jan 31, 2017
This law can be viewed at http://bit.ly/115-HR770.

H.R. 965: Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act
Sponsor: Rep. Ann M. Kuster (D-NH)
Introduced: February 7, 2017
Summary: (Sec. 2) This bill redesignates the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, in New Hampshire, as the "Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park."
Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 512. — Jul 12, 2018
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Reported by Senator Murkowski without amendment. With written report No. 115-299. — Jul 12, 2018
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Ordered to be reported without amendment favorably. — May 17, 2018
Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. — Oct 3, 2017
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Oct 2, 2017
On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 401 – 0 (Roll no. 545). — Oct 2, 2017
Considered as unfinished business. — Oct 2, 2017
At the conclusion of debate, the Yeas and Nays were demanded and ordered. Pursuant to the provisions of clause 8, rule XX, the Chair announced that further proceedings on the motion would be postponed. — Oct 2, 2017
DEBATE – The House proceeded with forty minutes of debate on H.R. 965. — Oct 2, 2017
Considered under suspension of the rules. — Oct 2, 2017
Mr. Thompson (PA) moved to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended. — Oct 2, 2017
Placed on the Union Calendar, Calendar No. 197. — Aug 25, 2017
Reported (Amended) by the Committee on Natural Resources. H. Rept. 115-277. — Aug 25, 2017
Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. — Feb 7, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR956.

S. 3239: Integration of Baseball Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)
Introduced: July 18, 2018
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Jul 18, 2018
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S3239.

H.R. 6469: To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint commemorative coins in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the integration of baseball.
Sponsor: Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX)
Introduced: July 23, 2018
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Jul 23, 2018
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR6469.

S. 1182: National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act of 2018
Sponsor: Sen. Todd C. Young (R-IN)
Introduced: May 18, 2017
Summary: (Sec. 2) This bill amends the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program through November 30, 2018.
Motion by Senator McConnell to refer to Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs the House message to accompany S. 1182 with instructions to report back forthwith with the following amendment (SA 3630) made in Senate. — Jul 26, 2018
Motion by Senator McConnell to concur in the House amendment to the text of S. 1182 with an amendment (SA 3628) made in Senate. — Jul 26, 2018
Cloture motion on the motion to concur in the House amendments to S. 1182 presented in Senate. — Jul 26, 2018
Motion by Senator McConnell to concur in the House amendments to S. 1182 made in Senate. — Jul 26, 2018
Measure laid before Senate by unanimous consent. — Jul 26, 2018
The title of the measure was amended. Agreed to without objection. — Jul 25, 2018
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Jul 25, 2018
On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 366 – 52 (Roll no. 373). — Jul 25, 2018
Considered as unfinished business. — Jul 25, 2018
Message on House action received in Senate and at desk: House amendments to Senate bill. — Jul 25, 2018
At the conclusion of debate, the Yeas and Nays were demanded and ordered. Pursuant to the provisions of clause 8, rule XX, the Chair announced that further proceedings on the motion would be postponed. — Jul 24, 2018
DEBATE – The House proceeded with forty minutes of debate on S. 1182. — Jul 24, 2018
Considered under suspension of the rules. — Jul 24, 2018
Mr. Hensarling moved to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended. — Jul 24, 2018
Held at the desk. — Aug 4, 2017
Received in the House. — Aug 4, 2017
Message on Senate action sent to the House. — Aug 4, 2017
Passed Senate with an amendment by Voice Vote. — Aug 3, 2017
Measure laid before Senate by unanimous consent. — Aug 3, 2017
Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs discharged by Unanimous Consent. — Aug 3, 2017
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — May 18, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S1182.

H.R. 6635: To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the centennial of the establishment of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Sponsor: Rep. Brad R. Wenstrup (R-OH)
Introduced: July 26, 2018
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Jul 26, 2018
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR6635.

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