Missing an opportunity with changing coin design programs

Since the introduction of the 50 State Quarters Program, there have been several changing design series on circulating coinage. All of the programs have been created to honor and celebrate the nation’s history in some way. It started in 1999 with the issuance of the quarter honoring Delaware, the first state to ratify the Constitution granting it the designation of being the first state to enter the Union.

Since 1999, there has been the following coin series issued by the U.S. Mint:

  • 2009 Lincoln Bicentennial One Cent Program
  • Westward Journey Nickel Series™
  • 50 State Quarters Program
  • 2009 District of Columbia and U.S. Territories Quarters Program
  • America the Beautiful Quarters® Program
  • Native American $1 Coin
  • Presidential $1 Coins

Although none of these series produced rare coins with the exception of errors and varieties, such as the 2004 Wisconsin extra leaf quarter and the 2005 Minnesota quarter with an extra tree, the only excitement was the novelty generated in 1999 with the new series.

Soon, the American Innovation $1 Coin will join this list. When the American Innovation $1 Coin Act (H.R. 770) finishes its procedural trek through Congress, it will be sent to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue for the President’s signature. There is no indication that the President will veto this bill.

The 14-year program will honor “American innovation and significant innovation and pioneering efforts of individuals or groups from each of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories.” Four one-dollar coins will be issued each year and issued alongside the Native American Dollar.

Although there is a bias in the numismatic industry against modern coinage, there is a fun aspect of the changing coin designs. Aside from breaking up the monotony, there is an educational aspect that people should take advantage of, even if you have college degrees.

2015-W Native American Dollar Enhanced Uncirculated Reverse celebrating the Mohawk Iron Workers

For example, why did the 2015 Native American $1 Coin feature the Mohawk Ironworkers? In short, the Mohawks were literally the backbones for which heavy ironwork relied upon in both Canada and the United States. Amongst their accomplishments are some of the famous landmarks of New York City including the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and work above the 80th floor on the World Trade Center twin towers.

Mohawk ironworkers were there following the attacks of September 11, 2001, to help clean up and rebuild the World Trade Center site. This is something I would not have known had they not appeared on the coin and asking why.

Regardless of the historical significance of these coins and the underappreciated beauty of the designs, the numismatic industry has not taken the opportunity to promote coin collecting using these changing programs. There is only one reason for the lack of interest from the community: ECONOMICS!

The American Numismatic Association is largely run by dealers who make their living by buying and selling rare coins and bullion. The trade in modern coinage, many items that anyone could find in pocket change, does not have a high rate of return. Therefore, most dealers are not interested.

Although dealers do have the right to earn a living the way they see fit, as part of the overall hobby, they tend to steer away from the modern coins and even downplay their significance to the hobby. This tends to perpetuate a myth that you cannot be a legitimate collector if you collect modern coins.

This attitude is a wasted opportunity for the industry. Aside from being an opportunity to promote the hobby but give people an outlet to learn something more than what they see on the cable news channels.

One of the problems with this program can also make it a positive is what will each of the states choose to represent innovation in their state or territory? Promoting numismatics as “history in your hand” can also be a lesson in history to help each state decide what to chose to best represent them on a coin. This is the best opportunity to use numismatics to promote the hobby and history by providing a conduit for discussion in each state.

What would constitute a state’s great innovation or innovator? Will New Jersey choose Thomas Edison? Will Alexander Graham Bell be Massachusetts’ choice? And what about Pennsylvania? There could be an interesting discussion about honoring Benjamin Franklin, George Westinghouse, or even Andrew Carnegie especially since neither of these men were born in the United States.

There will be a lot of innovation to chose from because there has been a lot of innovation during the country’s 242 years of existence. If you missed the announcement by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), they issued the 10 millionth patent on Tuesday, June 19, 2018. And that does not count the patents issued before 1836 when the numbering system was reset by the Patent Act of 1836.

However, the most significant problem with the Innovation $1 Coin is that it is a one-dollar coin. As long as Congress continues to not listen to reason and stops issuing the paper dollar, it does not matter what they do with the coin, it is not going to generate enough interest because the coin will not circulate.

Regardless of how many Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports are issued (GAO-13-164T) or the number of experts that endorse the elimination of the paper dollar for the coin, Congress refuses to address the issue. They point to surveys that show that most of the people older than 50 are against removing the paper dollar. Since this population constitutes the majority of the voters and, more significantly, campaign donors, the politicians are not about to make those people upset.

In many cases, the Innovation $1 Coin will be a repeat of history. Its potential popularity will fail as Congress hopes to socially engineer excitement in the way they tried to do for the Presidential dollar coins. That was deemed a failure that forced then-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to order the U.S. Mint to reduce the production of these coins. This was after certain members of Congress showed its collective stupidy by introducing a bill to prematurely end the program.

There is so much potential for the Innovation $1 Coin to be a great program and to generate publicity for the hobby. But as long as the coin does not circulate and Congress refuses to deal with the situation appropriately, it will be a coin that only existing collectors will take interest in and become a lost opportunity for everyone.

Weekly World Numismatic News for June 24, 2018

Two dollar coins on the way to be stamped at the Royal Australian Mint
(Image courtesy of ABC Canberra: Louise Maher)

On June 20, 1988, the Royal Australian Mint replaced its two dollar currency note with a coin. This year, they are celebrating the coin’s 30th anniversary. It was introduced four years after replacing the dollar paper note with a coin (1984).

Similarly, the Royal Mint introduced the one-pound coin in 1983 and the Bank of England stopped issuing one-pound currency in 1984.

The Royal Canadian Mint introduced the dollar coin, nicknamed the Loonie, in 1987 while the Bank of Canda ceased issuing the paper dollar.

The euro entered began circulating as a continental currency beginning in January 2002. When it was introduced, they issued one- and two-euro coins and the lowest denomination paper currency was the 5 euro note.

According to the International Monetary Fund, after the United States, the European Union has the world’s second largest economy even though it is not ranked as a country. When considering countries, the second largest economy is China followed by Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Canada is the world’s tenth largest economy.

Of the Top Ten, only the United States and China issue their unit currency as paper. However, because of economic controls and exchange rate, most of the Chinese economy is based on the Renminbi (the People’s Money). Small change is popular in urban areas and paper is more common in rural areas.

But the Chinese economy is heavily regulated within the country. Of the Top 20 economies identified by the International Monetary Fund, only the United States and China issues its unit currency as paper notes. Most countries issue a note of two of their base units and many are considering replacing their five unit note with a coin.

Yet the United States, the country with the largest economy on earth, the one that people say should be the leader lags behind every country except China by producing a one dollar paper note.

The lack of paper currency has not hurt these other economies. In fact, it helps because coins last longer than paper currency. Also, it is better for the government because, for every one-dollar coin produced, the government makes 68-cents in seignorage (with the dollar coins costing an estimated 32-cents each to produce).

Replacing paper mone with the coin does not seem to have hurt other economies, yet the issue raises the ire of some who wants to call this a conspiracy against the people. It makes economic sense to move in this direction and should we not be all in favor of doing things in our own economic benefit?

And now the news…

 June 19, 2018

The durability of the $2 coin means it could be around for decades to come, despite Australia’s shift towards a cashless society. → Read more at abc.net.au


 June 20, 2018

Sofia. 34,000 fake coins were found in the home of the main member of a criminal group involved in counterfeit money making and distribution, prosecutor Nikolay Dimitrov said during a briefing. → Read more at focus-fen.net


 June 20, 2018

A sterling effort in more ways than one. → Read more at breakingnews.ie


 June 21, 2018

A graduate of Glenwood High School in Chatham designed Illinois’ bicentennial coin, which is available for preorder for $45 on the state treasurer’s website. → Read more at ilnews.org


 June 21, 2018

Residents in Puerto Rico were left without power for months after Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico, and experts estimate that around 4,640 people died. But the Environmental Protection Agency thinks it did an A-plus job responding to the disaster. → Read more at thehill.com


 June 23, 2018

On this day in 1775, the Second Continental Congress issued $2 million in bills of credit. → Read more at politico.com


 June 23, 2018

The National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) and Crane Currency on June 22 signed the Agreement of Cooperation in the field of currency production, the central bank’s press service reports. → Read more at ukrinform.net


 June 24, 2018

Under President Trump, once stately medallions have gotten glitzier, and at least one featured a Trump property. Ethics watchdogs are worried. → Read more at nytimes.com

Coin Collectors News
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Why I will not attend Whitman Expo this weekend

Usually, I would have a bit of excitement as the Whitman Baltimore Expo is to be held this weekend. After my previous experiences, not only am I not excited, I am not going.

When Whitman bought the Baltimore Coin and Currency Expo, they did a good job making a destination show on the east coast. It looked like they added some resources and injected new ideas that make a good show better.

But it seems to have plateaued.

For the last few years, if you did not go to this show on Thursday or Friday, the number of dealers staying around has diminished to the point of not being worth attending over the weekend.

If you work or have other conflicts then you might want to consider not wasting your time.

In my case, I have a lot of work to do in setting up a new business. I will be in the shop all morning and will be waiting for someone to deliver some display items in the afternoon. I have to finish setting up by Monday so that the final occupancy inspection can take place—the county wants to ensure that the place is accessible according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). I cannot open the shop without this inspection completed.

I could take the time to go up on Sunday, but the last time I did that I counted less than 25 dealers. It is not worth the 42-mile one-way trip with the cost of gas going up and the tolls.

And it does not seem that Whitman is trying to improve the situation.

Sure, they added “**Limited Dealers**” to their schedule but that does not warn the visitor that in two or three convention center halls there will be less than 25 dealers.

If I wait until next Saturday I can go to a local show and see more than 25 dealers. It will be a shorter drive, no tolls, and the dealers are closer together so that I will not waste my time crossing empty aisles.

This is really sad because I have always considered this “my show.” My show is dying and I do not know if Whitman really cares!

#ALLCAPS

Congratulations to the
Washington Capitals

2017-18 STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS!
First Stanley Cup Championship in the franchise’s 44 year history.

Just a small gathering in Downtown Washington

Image of the 2017 125th Anniversary of the Stanley Cup® 3-ounce silver Commemorative Coin courtesy of the Royal Canadian Mint.

Weekly World Numismatic News for June 3, 2018

Zimbabwe’s 2009 $100 trillion hyperinflation note

For those of you who do not like where politics and policy cross the line into numismatics, this post is not for you. Skip past the beginning into the news section below.

In the news this week was a story about the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe touting the adoption of Chinese currency for general use in the country as circulating currency.

Zimbabwe’s economy has seen wild swings between massive inflation and significant economic stagnation that has caused currency fluctuations so bad that the country has given up managing its own currency. The economic problems have created a hyperinflation currency with notes printed with denominations as high as 100 Trillion Zimbabwean Dollars. So many of these notes were printed that any collector can buy them for $5-10 each.

Because of trade restrictions, Zimbabweans turned to United States currency smuggled from outside of the country. The supply of United States currency was so limited that some had begun the practice of cleaning the paper because people were carrying their currency in their underwear and new notes were difficult to come by.

Following negotiations with the United States, the RBZ was able to obtain new currency notes and offered an exchange to its residents. But that is where the negotiations ended. Upon the change of administrations, the current Department of the Treasury stopped negotiating with Zimbabwe and other African nations to introduce additional trade in United States dollars.

As the United States began to abandon these countries, the Chinese stepped in. The Chinese government has been negotiating with these countries and have made several inroads, especially in Africa. Zimbabwe is just the latest to announce that they could adopt the Yuan as their currency.

Although Zimbabwe is not an influential economy, it expands the Chinese economic base in Africa. By chipping away at the United States economic influence, it reduces the impact of the dollar on the continent that could have an effect on numismatics.

Africa continues to have the largest deposits of precious metals. Southern African regions have the world’s most active gold, silver, and platinum mines that if the United States loses influence in the region could have a negative effect on worldwide precious metals prices.

It is not a matter of the golden rule, “He who has the gold rules,” it is a matter of who controls the flow of gold from those mines. If the Chinese control the economic engine that runs those mines, they can use that influence to make or break the markets as they see fit. The ripple effect could not only bring higher precious metals prices but worldwide economic instability.

History has taught us that market manipulating does not work except if the manipulators have a backup plan. In this case, the Chinese are using their treasury as the backup plan. They are amassing economic power that could manipulate markets to the point that would cause prices to rise.

Currently, precious metals prices are set by arrangement with the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) based on the daily auction prices in London. This is known as the London Fix Price. The market uses United States dollars for its pricing. However, if the dollar loses its economic power because the Chinese are controlling the markets where the metals are mined, it will affect the cost of everything.

In the short term, economic factors will affect the price of bullion being produced by the U.S. Mint since those prices are based on LBMA price averages. Collectors and investors will be hit first. After that, it would be a short time before economic instability hits everyone else.

And now the news…

 May 27, 2018

If you visit Stones River National Battlefield and Cemetery, you'll likely see coins on the top of many tombstones. According to park workers, the small mementos are a way some choose to pay their respects to the fallen soldier, and each kind of coin has a different meaning. → Read more at newschannel5.com


 May 27, 2018

In this edition of East Idaho Newsmakers, Nate Eaton speaks with Randy’L Teton. Teton is a Fort Hall native and is featured on the US Sacagawea dollar gold coin. She is the only living person to currently appear on a United States coin. During their conversation, Teton shares the fascinating story of how she ended … → Read more at eastidahonews.com


 May 28, 2018

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The Finance Ministry said Friday that it will issue a silver coin to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 1868 start of the country’s Meiji period, which ended in 1912. → Read more at the-japan-news.com


 May 29, 2018

Ahmed Mohamed Fahmy Yousef has spent the last academic year at the University of Colorado conducting research on learning technologies and instructional design in computer science education. → Read more at dailycamera.com


 May 29, 2018

Tawanda Musarurwa, Harare Bureau The adoption of Renmimbi/Yuan as a reserve currency, will help the country repay loans and grants from China, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has said. → Read more at chronicle.co.zw


 June 1, 2018

Archaeologists in Egypt have unearthed a 2,200-year-old gold coin depicting the ancient King Ptolemy III, an ancestor of the famed Cleopatra. → Read more at foxnews.com


 June 1, 2018

An ancient Egyptian coin discovered in far north Queensland has researchers questioning how it got there. → Read more at abc.net.au


 June 3, 2018

The Royal Canadian Mint unveiled their first-ever panda-themed coin at the Calgary Zoo. → Read more at thestar.com

Coin Collectors News
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21 Down, 4 To Go

One of the ten 1933 Saint-Gaudens $20 Double Eagle gold coins from the Longbord Hoard confiscated by the U.S. Mint

A week ago when I wrote about the Coin World report that the U.S. Mint knows about more 1933 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle gold coins private hands. I had questioned their reasons why. Coin World followed up with the U.S. Mint and received an answer: because the one known that was in domestic hands is now stored with the 10 Langbord coins at the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox.

Coin World reported that the previous owner, who wishes to stay anonymous, turned in the coin because he did not want to be caught with the coin that federal courts ruled was stolen government property. Department of the Treasury and U.S. Mint officials have been instructed by the Department of Justice not to go into any further details about the case.

Since it has been assumed that 25 of these coins were taken from the Philadelphia Mint, that leaves four left at large.

According to Coin World, “The Secret Service still has on its books a directive to seize any extant 1933 double eagles as stolen government property.” However, other coins, patterns, and fantasy pieces including the five 1913 Liberty Head Nickels and the 1974 Lincoln Cent trial strike made from aluminum are still in private hands.

As long as this bogus double standard remains the policy of the federal government, we will likely never know whether the rumored 1964 Peace Dollars are real.

Trumping a Challenge Coin

USA-North Korean Summit Challenge Coin created by the White House Communications Agency

Those of us committed to numismatics as a hobby has recently seen terms thrown around about a challenge coin that is more damaging to the hobby than anything that has been argued amongst ourselves.

The challenge coin in question was created by the White House Communications Agency (WHCA) for the now-canceled summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jung-Un. The partisan nature of our national politics and now the status of the summit has created a false narrative about the challenge coins that do not do the hobby any favors.

To set the record straight, a challenge coin is not a coin. A coin is a disk, usually made from metal, formed into a disk of standardized weight and stamped with a standard design to enable it to circulate as money authorized by a government body. In the United States, only the U.S. Mint is authorized to manufacture coins.

Challenge coins are medals with an organization or event logo or emblem that are part of a tradition to honor service. Challenge coins are part of a military tradition that started during World War I when Ivy League students went to war and created these coins as an act of camaraderie.

According to legend, a World War I pilot was shot down behind enemy lines and captured by German soldiers. Since the pilot kept the coin in a pouch around his neck, the Germans did not confiscate his coin. That evening, the pilot was kept in a French-German town that was bombarded in the evening by allied forces. The pilot escaped during the bombing. During the next day, the pilot came upon a French military unit who was told to watch for German soldiers posing as citizens. To prevent from being arrested and executed by the French soldiers, the pilot showed them his challenge coin. One of the soldiers recognized the insignia and delayed the execution until they were able to verify the pilot’s identity. Once the story spread, a tradition was born!

As a show of camaraderie, units began to issue specially designed coins to each other. The challenge came when members drew their challenge coin and slapped it on the table, the rest of the members with them must produce their challenge coin. If someone does not have their challenge coin, that person must buy a round of drinks for the group. The challenge is used as a morale builder amongst the group.

Challenge coins regained popularity around 1991 with the veterans and descendants of the Pacific Fleet honoring the service of those who survived and did not survive on the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. They saw wider acceptance, especially outside of the military, following the attacks on September 11, 2001. As retired military members began to lead security-related civilian agencies, the use of challenge coins grew beyond the military.

The challenge coin in question is the product of a military organization.

The WHCA was founded in 1942 as the White House Signal Corps to provide communications for the White House. It is their job to make sure that whenever and wherever the presidents needs to communicate with the government or foreign leaders that he can do so and securely if needed. It is under the jurisdiction of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).

This is not the same agency as the White House Communications Director. That position was vacated by Hope Hicks in March 2018. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders would report directly to the Communications Director, not the WHCA.

Since 2003, WHCA has created challenge coins for nearly all overseas travel by the president. Only the secret travels to war zones when the president made surprised visits to U.S. troops were not honored with a challenge coin.

In this case, the challenge coin that made the news was made for the members of the advance team whose job it is to make all of the arrangements for a safe and successful trip.

The U.S. Mint does not produce these challenge coins. An approved manufacturer is contracted to design and strike the medals. That contractor works with the WHCA to create the design. After the design is approved, a limited number of medals are produced.

Everyone who is part of the mission receives a challenge coin. Some journalists who fly on Air Force One may receive challenge coins, most do not accept them. Former NBC News Anchor Brian Williams admitted to collecting Challenge Coins during a broadcast in 2009.

The inventory is separated to make sure that enough challenge coins are available to everyone making the trip and a few who were left behind on support duty. For example, one is probably set aside for Sarah Sanders who does not travel as much. As the first Press Secretary who is a mother with children still at home, she understandably stays nearby to care for them.

The rest are offered for sale in the White House Gift Shop.

The White House Gift Shop (WHGS) is located in the White House and open to anyone able to visit. It is a separate organization from any of the agencies mentioned. If you cannot visit, everything the gift shop offers is available on their website at whitehousegiftshop.com. This includes challenge coins.

Reporters covering the White House spotted the WHCA Challenge Coin in the WHGS, took a picture and used their social media access to report its existence.

Irrespective of the political arguments being made over the subject matter, there is nothing illegal or morally wrong with the challenge coin. Although government funds were used to create the coin, those funds are included as part of the budget passed by Congress. Yes, the WHCA has a budgetary line item for the creation of challenge coins to help with the morale of the military detachment to the White House.

One of the reasons I looked into this issue was to find out who designed the coin. The artist did such a good job that I would recommend that they apply for the Artistic Infusion Program with the U.S. Mint. It is a fantastic representation for those participating as part of the advance team. The artwork and symbolism were really nicely executed. Using the enameled flags in the background leaving the two leaders to stand out without the enameled finish has a strikingly good look.

It is one of the best design I have seen for a challenge coin representing an event.

This challenge coin is no longer for sale in the WHGS. The webpage for the medal was changed to note that a new challenge coin will be designed for the event by the same artist who designed the WHCA challenge coin. The CEO of the WHGS published a note saying that the new challenge coin will be similar to the WHCA challenge coin. If you are interested, you can order one from their website.

The U.S. Mint is not doing its job going after more 1933 Double Eagles

The ten 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles confiscated by the government from Joan Lanbord, daughter of Israel Switt.

Coin World reported that the U.S. Mint knows about more 1933 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle gold coins in private hands.

For those who have not read Illegal Tender by David Tripp or Double Eagle by Allison Frankel, aside from both being worth reading, they claim that 25 of these coins were illegally removed from the Philadelphia Mint. Of those 25 coins, nine were confiscated during the 1940s and 1950s by the Secret Service, ten are from the Langbord Hoard stored at the Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, and one is the Farouk-Fenton example which is the subject of the books.

That leaves five left.

During the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatics (PAN) spring show, U.S. Mint Senior Legal Counsel Greg Weinman said that he knows where one is located in the United States, one is in Europe, and a third is somewhere else. The location of the last two is not known.

It can be speculated that the “somewhere else” may be in Egypt. On February 8, 2008, the Moscow News Weekly reported that a version of the coin was found in Egypt in an old box that was owned by the discoverer’s father (web archive link). Although there had been a lot of speculation that coin might not be genuine, there has been no further reports as to the disposition of this coin.

Weinman said that there are no plans to go after the three coins where the U.S. Mint knows their location.

Why?

Following the trial in 2011 with a jury verdict against the Langbords. After the ruling, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Romero, the government’s lead attorney in the case, came out with a courthouse statement, “People of the United States of America have been vindicated.”

If the country is to be vindicated and the government has consistency in its argument that the coins are “chattel,” according to Weinman, then it is their legal obligation to have the U.S. Secret Service pursue the three known examples.

Otherwise, it could be said that the government has undergone selective prosecution and has given up its right to the ten in its possession or the five that are still in public hands.

It is these inconsistencies of policies with regard to these coins that could drive collectors away. While most people may never find or own one of these rare coins, what happens to those who might get lucky.

While the 1913 Liberty Head Nickels were not considered chattel because they were never struck for circulation, the government fought the finding of the 1974-D Aluminum cent forcing its return. The circumstances for the striking of both coins are similar but the government has treated each issue differently.

This is not a matter of integrity of the hobby. It is the integrity of the U.S. Mint and their bogus argument of what is or is not something they produced for whatever the reason. The integrity of the U.S. Mint can be questioned when they applied 21st century operating standards to the U.S. Mint of the 1930s in order to convince a “jury of peers,” none of which probably had a numismatic background questioning their ability to be peers, that these coins belonged to the government for it to hold like some almighty savior of us from the depths of fraudulence.

Do you still feel vindicated?

Add Scott Pruitt to the Challenge Coin ego list

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

There are politicians so full of themselves that they even have to show it off with challenge coins.

Scott Pruitt, the 14th Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has decided that rather than saving taxpayer money, he will spend additional money to have the EPA redesign the challenge coin that he uses on behalf of the EPA.

According to the New York Times, Pruitt wants to make the challenge coin bigger and to delete the EPA logo. According to a retired career EPA employee, it appears that Pruitt wants the coin to be all about him and not the agency.

The reverse side of the E.P.A. challenge coin conceived under Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, left, and the face of the coin issued when Gina McCarthy led the agency. (Photo Credit: Ron Slotkin/The New York Times)

“These coins represent the agency,” said Ronald Slotkin, who served as the director of the E.P.A.’s multimedia office. “But Pruitt wanted his coin to be bigger than everyone else’s and he wanted it in a way that represented him.”

It is reported that Pruitt does not like the agency seal because (brace yourself) he felt it looks like a marijuana leaf!

Pruitt is not the first agency head to extend his ego to challenge coins. Last fall, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke commissioned his own challenge coin. At the time, it was thought to be the only Cabinet-level official to have his own challenge coin.

In order to create a new challenge coin, the manufacturer must create new dies. Making new dies does have a cost, as opposed to either using an existing die or having an existing design reworked. According to the website of Challenge Coins Plus, the company The New York Times story said was involved with making other challenge coins for the EPA, if Pruitt wants a 2.5-inch coin, the mold fees are $100 per side ($200 for both sides). Once the molds are made, 2-sided colored coins are $5.57 each for 2,000 coins ($11,140) without customizations such as custom edges and capsules.

However, Pruitt is not stopping with challenge coins. He has ordered pens, notebooks, and leather binders to exclude the logo and replaced with his name in a larger font. All at an additional charge to taxpayers.

At least when the U.S. Mint fails, it does not cost the taxpayers any money since the U.S. Mint’s operations are paid by the seignorage and not from the general treasury.

I guess Pruitt will not be collecting this 2010 Republic of Benin Marijuana Scented Coin!

Who is hurting the hobby?

I write this blog from the perspective of a collector. I champion the collector. I think that collectors are the most qualified to determine the direction of the hobby. The collector is the consumer and the consumer is almost always right.

When it comes to helping with the direction of the hobby dealers should also have a say. Their input is important. But they should be there to support the collector because without collectors the dealers have no business. Dealers should not be dictating the direction of the hobby.

Are these sets hurting the hobby? Should the U.S. Mint stop producing them? (U.S. Mint image)

Recently, I was listening to The Coin Show podcast hosted by Matt Dinger, a dealer in Indianapolis, and Mike Noodle, a collector that says he works in a coin shop (I think he said it was a part-time gig), and became very concerned when Matt said that the U.S. Mint was hurting the hobby.

Regular listeners to The Coin Show knows that Matt is not a fan of modern coins and the products of the U.S. Mint. In fact, during the last show, he admitted to not carrying American Eagle coins because he does not want to support the U.S. Mint in damaging the hobby.

During the podcast, Mike came to the defense of U.S. Mint collectors but that defense was tempered when he said that collecting U.S. Mint products was for beginner collectors and that it was a way to start before the collector “graduate” to other collectibles.

I have questioned Matt and Mike in the past on Facebook but this time I felt their statements crossed a line. My regular readers know I can get hyperbolic but I try to remain respectful. As it happens on Facebook and anywhere else on the Internet, people cannot take the words at face value and have to read something into them.

This time I emphasized that not only do I collect U.S. Mint items but have not “graduated” to the type of collectibles Mike and Matt proclaim to be real collectibles. New readers can go through this blog and see how my collection can be classified as normal to eclectic.

After a lot of angry discussions (you will see a sample below) and some churlish responses from others (not Matt or Mike), I finally coaxed out the reasons for Matt’s hatred of modern U.S. Mint products. Unfortunately, it seems his reasons have more to do with the industry than the U.S. Mint.

According to Matt, the U.S. Mint is harming numismatics by selling annual sets like proof and mint sets at the prices they set. During the Facebook discussion, Matt and Sam Shafer, another Indianapolis-area dealer, said that they believe the U.S. Mint’s prices are too high.

From their perspective as dealers, they claim it is the U.S. Mint’s fault for the differences between the manufacturer’s suggested retail price the secondary market.

Using that logic, can I blame Chevrolet for the secondary market price of the 2014 Silverado I just purchased? If I tried, General Motors would laugh me under the tonneau cover of the truck! Yet, coin dealers are applauded for applying the same logic. This does not make sense.

How can you blame the manufacturer for the secondary market’s reaction?

Matt wrote, “I feel like the depreciation seen in modern sets is much more harmful to potential collectors or beginning collectors.”

I guess if General Motors followed that logic, they would stop making trucks!

But we are talking about collectibles. In that case, Topps, Fleer, and Upper Deck should stop producing baseball cards.

This is only an argument by dealers who would rather sell what they like and not take a broader view of the collecting market. In my new life, I am a collectibles and antiques dealer. The items I buy are either from the secondary market or I buy new items from manufacturers such as comic book and baseball card publishers.

This 1901 $10 Dollar Lewis and Clark Bison note (Fr# 122) was sold by a dealer at an antiques show by a dealer not complaining about the collecting market.

I have been in antiques and collectibles market as a part-time dealer for 10 years. During that time I have been selling at antique shows, flea markets, and online. I have met and spoken with dealers about the market and its volatility. Everyone I speak with survived the Great Recession of 2008. What I learned in these discussions is that ONLY the numismatic industry demands that its collectibles rise in value. If the coin does not increase in value it is not because the market has spoken. It has to be someone else’s fault. After all, these dealers have to be right so it must be the U.S. Mint’s fault.

The vast majority of dealers are very good and very reasonable. Many do understand the view of the collector and work with them. However, there is a subset of dealers that can be some of the most stubborn business people I know. They refuse to change with the market. Even if the market is not looking for their niche, they will not adapt to the market. Their mind is made up do not confuse them with facts.

They are also the most vocal in their opposition to market forces. Their usual retort is “you don’t understand, you’re not a dealer!”

With all due respect, I do not need to be a dealer to know that not changing with the times is doing more to hurt the hobby than the U.S. Mint is by doing its job.

Did you know that the Pobjoy Mint struck this coin under the authority of the British Virgin Islands. Is this good for the hobby? (Pobjoy Mint image)

Another argument is that the U.S. Mint has too many programs. Are they kidding me? Have they looked at the offering by the Royal Canadian, New Zealand, and Royal Mints? When was the last time they looked at the websites of the Perth Mint or the Pobjoy Mint? Comparatively, the U.S. Mint’s catalog looks bare!

The U.S. Mint does not offer dozens of non-circulating legal tender (NCLT) coins. U.S. Mint coins are struck and not painted. The U.S. Mint does not offer piedfort version of circulating coins or even coins guilt in gold or palladium. The U.S. Mint does not make deals with movie production companies, comic book publishers, or soft drink manufacturers to issue branded coins.

Every coin that the U.S. Mint offers for sale has an authorizing law limiting what they could produce. According to those laws, the U.S. Mint has to recover costs and is allowed to make a “reasonable” profit.

But what is reasonable? This is a question that has a lot of valid arguments on both sides. However, the U.S. Mint is subject to oversight by the Treasury Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and, occasionally, review by Congress’s Government Accountability Office (GAO). Neither oversight agency has produced a report saying that the U.S. Mint’s prices are unreasonable.

The U.S. Mint is selling what they manufacture at a price that the competent oversight agencies have not complained about. The only one complaining is by the dealers in the secondary market.

Why are these dealers complaining?

We get to the crux of the problem when Sam Shafer responds, “I would rather sell a customer a Morgan dollar than a set of glorified shiny pocket change.”

It does not take a rocket scientist to understand why a dealer would write that. A dealer makes more money selling Morgan dollars than modern coins. It is about business, not about what the U.S. Mint is doing. It is also a very reasonable response if the dealer would own up to the fact that it is about the impact to their business. Blaming the U.S. Mint is like crashing into a wall and blaming the wall for being there!

But Sam must have had some bad experiences: “How about you come down from your pedestal, put your loudspeaker up your rectum and work in a shop for a few years where you can witness the devastation of families first hand for a few years.”

This is a strong statement, even if you discount the placement of inanimate objects into bodily orifices they do not belong. What has the U.S. Mint done to cause “devastation?” The U.S. Mint sells products to those who want to buy them. You are not forced to buy from the U.S. Mint.

Sam continues, “While your [sic] at it maybe you can take up your glorious cause of finding homes for the 50 billon [sic] sets the government produced and bulk sold over the years to the collectors who assumed that 5 sets would better than 1.”

By Sam’s logic, it is the U.S. Mint’s fault that someone speculated and the investment did not pan out? Whose fault is that? Who told someone that buying these sets would be a good investment? Not the U.S. Mint! Where does the U.S. Mint say in any of its publications or website that coins make a solid investment? How could these speculators have come to this conclusion?

2018 Fiji Coca-Cola Bottle Cap-shaped coin is not a U.S. Mint product. It contains 6 grams of silver (about $3.20) and costs $29.95. Is this good for the hobby? (Modern Coin Mart image)

The U.S. Mint goes out of its way to avoid participating in the investment market. They do not represent any of their products as investment grade instruments. This is why the U.S. Mint does not sell investment bullion directly to the public. The government sells these products to distributors who will then sell to the dealers that will sell them to the public. The government is not involved in the price speculation of numismatic items.

The U.S. Mint does not even acknowledge historical and aftermarket pricing for the items they manufacture.

The U.S. Mint sells collectible coins. They do not sell investments.

Over the years, I have received more complaints about dealers than allegedly worthless State Quarters or the U.S. Mint’s annual sets. But why are coins allegedly worthless?

Did the U.S Mint make claims that these one-time-only coins are really special and that they would be the greatest thing since sliced bread?

This is not a U.S. Mint Product! (Danbury Mint image)

Did the U.S. Mint create rolls in sonically sealed plastic holders and tout them as the next great collectible?

Did the U.S Mint create books, boards, folders, albums, maps, touting this as a once-in-a-lifetime way to collect?

All this came from the secondary market. Who runs the secondary market? DEALERS!

DEALERS set the values for the coins based on what they sell them for.

DEALERS take coins and entomb them in sonically sealed plastic holders saying that this is how you should be collecting. They tell you one encapsulating service is better than another and then make you pay different prices if you use a service they do not like even if the number assigned as a grade is the same on both pieces of plastic.

DEALERS have convinced an entire class of collectors that if they do not have a plastic holder with this new, whiz-bang label that their collection is not complete.

Tragedy grips the industry when a Pawn Star is featured on a plastic holder’s label! (NGC image)

DEALERS have also complained about whose name and image have appeared on some of those labels.

DEALERS genuflect when someone puts a shiny green sticker on a plastic holder as if it was blessed by some deity. They prostrate themselves if the plastic holder is granted that divine gold sticker! After preaching this gospel to their flock, you are considered a heretic if you question the validity of the sticker and the motives of the sticker maker.

While the U.S. Mint is not perfect, the problems with the numismatic market have not been created by a tightly regulated government bureau. The problems come from the secondary market whether they are overstating the values of these items or demeaning collectibles that they cannot make a hefty profit on.

Maybe it is time for dealers to look in the mirror and ask whether the U.S. Mint is hurting the hobby or maybe they are refusing to recognize the problem is right in front of them.

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