Weekly World Numismatic News for January 14, 2018

One of my favorite quotes is from philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist George Santayana who wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I was reminded about this quote while reading the news and stumbling over a story “Stamp Out the Sexist Legacy of the Dollar Coin” by Addison Nugent.

The Susan B. Anthony dollar coin was introduced in 1979 with much fanfare for being the first coin to honor a woman. The coin was a failure because it was confused with a quarter

Ms. Nugent, who revealed that she is distantly related to suffragette Susan B. Anthony, laments the lack of women on United States coins and currency. She rightly points out that Susan B. Anthony was “the first nonfictional woman to grace the face of the dollar coin” only to complain later that the coin was removed later.

Nugent complains that the design of the coins and the fact that they use the visage of a female as the reason these dollar coins have not been successful. What Nugent failed to do is learn from history and the facts.

The failure of the Susan B. Anthony dollar was not because the coin depicted a woman or was called the “Agony Dollars” (I had never heard this term before reading the article). The coin failed because of the decision to make it too close to the size to the Washington quarter, had reeded edges like the Washington quarter, and on a simple glance was consistently confused with the Washington quarter. The confusion made the coin very unpopular in the United States but continues to find usage in other countries whose currency is based on the U.S. dollar.

The unveiling of the Sacagawea Dollar design at the White House with (L-R) First Lady Hillary Clinton, Sacagawea Model Randy’L He-dow Teton, and Designer Glenna Goodacre.

When it came time for Congress to recognize the failure of the Susan B. Anthony Dollar, Congress approved a new design and went out of their way to select another historic woman to feature on the coin. After several suggestions, Sacagawea, the Shoshone guide of the Lewis and Clark expedition, was eventually chosen to appear on a coin that was to be golden in color and a smooth edge. When the designs were reviewed, Treasury picked Glenna Goodacre’s design with the profile of Sacagawea in three-quarter view and her infant son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, carried on her back. It is considered one of the best circulating coin designs of the modern era.

Nugent then wrongly notes that “Sacagawea coins were pulled from circulation from 2002-2008 and from 2012 onward.” I do not know where she gets her facts from, but the reality is that the U.S. Mint, Department of the Treasury, and Federal Reserve does not recall paper currency or coins from circulation. What happens is that when there is no demand for a coin the Federal Reserve stops ordering them from the U.S. Mint.

The reason that the dollar coin does not circulate is not that it depicts a woman. The dollar coin does not circulate because the public has chosen paper over a coin. Even though studies have shown that the public can adopt and that there would be a savings to the government if the paper dollar was no longer printed (see the Government Accountability report GAO-13-164T), Congress does not have the intestinal fortitude to eliminate the paper dollar.

To add insult to the facts, Nugent does not take into consideration that the Sacagawea dollar was changed starting in 2009 to the Native American $1 Coin Program. While Sacagawea continues to appear on the obverse, the reverse honors Native American history. The last I looked the Native American population has undergone a significant negative history in the United States.

Another fact that Nugent does not acknowledge is that even though the U.S. Mint does not produce these coins for circulation they are produced for the collector market. In addition to being included in mint and proof sets, there have been special sets created with Native American coin honoring their accomplishments. Aside from being able to purchase these coins at face value in any U.S. Mint and Bureau of Engraving and Printing facility open to the public, you can also go to any bank and request they obtain a roll for you from the Federal Reserve.

Series 1886 $1 Silver Certificate featuring Martha Washington (Fr #217)

Nugent’s complaints also do not consider the appearance of women and minorities on commemorative coins or that the first woman to appear on circulating currency was Martha Washington. Our first First Lady’s portrait appeared on the $1 Silver Certificate between 1891 and 1896.

Although I agree with Nugent that United States coins and currency should be more diverse and I am in favor of removing Andrew Jackson, who was responsible for the Trail of Tears, from the $20 note, it is difficult to side with any argument whose purpose is based on factual errors.

And now the news…

 January 7, 2018

Popular online magazine Atlas Obscura recently became the latest to probe the question of how an 11th century Viking penny came to rest on the coast of Maine. In the decades since the 1957 discovery by amateur archaeologists, it’s been denounced as a hoax, validated by scholars, denounced as a hoax again and — as recently as this past November — validated by scholars again. → Read more at thinkmaine.bangordailynews.com


 January 8, 2018

A similar coin sold for more than £4,000 in a 2011 auction, but Jason has gone down the correct route of declaring it as treasure → Read more at plymouthherald.co.uk


 January 8, 2018

The U.S. dollar coin has been the only American currency to regularly feature women. With these leading ladies now ousted, it's time to toss the coin. → Read more at ozy.com


 January 8, 2018

The United Kingdom’s round pound coin will no longer be accepted as a form of payment for services and retail purchases in shops after February 28. → Read more at iomtoday.co.im


 January 8, 2018

When Eric Lawes set off for a field in Hoxne village, Suffolk on November 16, 1992, it wasn’t on a treasure hunt. The metal detector he’d received as a retirement gift was meant to find a hammer lost on the farmland. → Read more at smithsonianmag.com


 January 9, 2018

JAMES Grear started selling coins with his best mate Henry when they were just 18. The pair were fed up with working as labourers on a building site in Bristol earning up to £9 per hour and decided… → Read more at thesun.co.uk


 January 10, 2018

State Police are working to find the owners of a large bicentennial medallion coin. It was recovered months ago, but no one has stepped up to claim it. → Read more at mpnnow.com


 January 10, 2018

Colonial Williamsburg has acquired a rare and iconic Danish abolitionist medal that commemorates a royal edict to end the slave trade. The bronze medal was struck in 1792 and is one of only a handful known to exist, according to a Colonial Williamsburg Foundation press release. → Read more at wydaily.com


 January 10, 2018

By Baek Byung-yeul Organizers for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics unveiled a new limited coin set for the Winter Games, Wednesday. At the building of Poongsan Corporation in Seoul, the maker of the PyeongChang Olympics commemorative bill, the organizing committee made public the new package. → Read more at m.koreatimes.co.kr


 January 12, 2018

Grip the handle and turn the crank. Watch the roller turn. Wait for that clink, reach into the little door. → Read more at stltoday.com

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U.S. Mint Bombs on WWI Commem Sets

World War I Centennial 2018 Silver Dollar

The U.S. Mint just announced the availability of the World War I Centennial Silver Dollar and the World War I Centennial Silver Dollar and Medal Sets will begin on January 17, 2018. But what they announced does not make sense for collectors.

Of course, the U.S. Mint will sell an uncirculated and proof silver dollar that will come in their usual display cases with a Certificate of Authenticity. These are the coins that are required under the authorizing law (World War I American Veterans Centennial Commemorative Coin Act, Public Law 113-212) that were designed by LeRoy Transfield.

The U.S. Mint will also be selling five silver medals that will be issued in conjunction with the 2018 World War I Centennial Silver Dollar. Each medal, composed of 90 percent silver, pays homage to branches of the U.S. Armed Forces that were active in World War I: Army, Marine Corps, Air Service, Navy, and Coast Guard. Medal designs were announced last October. However, the U.S. Mint will only be selling the medals as part of a set with the silver dollar.

World War I Centennial 2018 Silver Dollar and Army Medal Set

By not selling the silver medals individually or as a set, if a collector wants to add all five to a collection, it will cost $99.95 per set ($499.75 total) and will require the purchase of five commemorative silver dollars.

Since there are no more surviving veterans of World War I, one can only assume that the commemorative coin and medal sets are being marketed to those that want to remember the service of those veterans. Creating these sets in this context makes sense. It does not make sense for the collector or for someone whose family did not serve in World War I or wants to just collect the medals.

This short-sightedness by the U.S. Mint may hinder potential sales of the commemorative coin whose proceeds are to benefit the United States Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars, an organization responsible for making sure we do not forget those who served.

With the decline in silver prices and the market interest in investing in silver at its lowest since before the Great Recession, a short-sighted decision like this will limit the sale of silver medals. This will lower the income and seigniorage the U.S. Mint will collect after seeing a decline in the sales of bullion-related products.

If the U.S. Mint cannot get this right, then maybe they should have a more broad community discussion so they can better understand the potential collector market because on this, they bombed!

Images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

Learning from the news of the day

Although this blog is about numismatics, there are times when the news of the day reminds us that we not perfect beings and there are lessons learned that should apply to the hobby.

For the last few months, there have been reports about how sexual harassment has been pervasive in industries where men hold a great deal of power. Most people are not surprised when politicians are caught up in these types of activities because we do not hold these people in high regard.

Stories out of the entertainment industry should not be surprising either. It is a system where the “talent,” the faces you see on the television or movie screen, are treated better (or worse) than spoiled children. When I worked for NBC in the early 1990s, I saw first-hand how the talent could do no wrong while their behinds were kissed by the production staff. This created an air of omnipotence that also lead to people being treated badly, something I witnessed regularly.

While there are bad actors in every industry, there seems to be a pattern in male-dominated industries. This is why there is an emphasis on teaching science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to girls in order to break the stereotypes. In fact, go to the website of almost any small tech company and look at the list of employees. Not only are most of the employees male, most are white, and what they call diversity includes a male from India or Taiwan. The women listed are in support roles and have no technical responsibility. There are also very few people over 40 years old in most of those companies.

Numismatics is no better. Although the current executive director of the American Numismatic Association is a woman and there quite a few women helping to support the ANA in Colorado Springs, it is not often you see a woman serve on the ANA Board of Governors. The last one was Laura Sperber. While I have disagreed with Sperber, I respect the fact that not only she is a successful business person and had the wherewithal to run for the Board of Governors.

The last time a woman ran for ANA President was in 2009 when Patti Finner, whom I endorsed, lost to Cliff Mishler.

Go to any coin show and count the number of women and minorities behind the tables. A few small shows I have attended were only represented by older white men. At the recent Baltimore Expo although there were a few women, the only one I encountered is one I regularly see who carries foreign currency who is not a native of the United States.

These attitudes are not sustainable for the hobby and society.

Look at the backlash that came when it was announced that the Department of the Treasury wanted to change the portrait on the $20 note to a woman. She would replace Andrew Jackson who ignored treaties and supported the Indian Removal Act that led to the Trail of Tears, an action that is a stain on the nation’s history. There was opposition to these policies during that time. But as Senator William L. Marcy (D-NY) said in defense of Jackson, “To the victor belong the spoils.” One of those spoils is that they get to write the history books and chose figures like Jackson to (dis)honor currency.

But how many people in the numismatic industry stood up for the decision? There were some defenders, but overall there was a deafening silence.

I have complained that the hobby is too white, male, and over the age of 50. I do not think this is sustainable in a changing world, says your blogger who is white, male and over the age of 50. And that can be evident by walking the bourse floor of any coin show.

The old boys club should stop being old and a club of boys. Embracing diversity will only help the hobby because it will bring in new people and new ideas.

Young Numismatist programs help but they should not be the only focus. There is a lack of programs to keep the YN interested and engaged after no longer being YNs. Both male and female YNs become disengaged as they reach young adulthood. I know it is a problem and I keep bringing this up as an issue, it is another time where the silence as to what can be done is defening!

Just because that is the way it has been does not mean it will be the same in the future.

The hobby needs diversity of all types. We need to not only find a way to attract more hobbyists under 50 years old, women, and non-caucasions.

I am open to suggestions!

As society grapples with the news about the dozens of men that have been accused of being general pigs and the far too many more that are not associated with the media and are not reported, this hobby has to look at itself and wonder why the bourse floor looks like an old boys club and is that sustainable.

Maybe it is time for the numismatic-related industries to be a leader and show how we can set the stereotypes aside and encourage diversity. Or as the business adage suggests: Diversify or Die!

Weekly World Numismatic News for November 26, 2017

The reason why I search for news about topics related to numismatics from outside the industry allows me to get an understanding of how others see numismatics. I find even the most innocuous story about a country considering redesigning their currency, a find of a coin thousands of years old, and how pocket change finds can lead to high bids on online auctions to be interesting.

I share these with you to inspire your collection and help promote the hobby.

But as I shared a few weeks ago, searching the news also comes with its distractions. The latest happens this time every year when the stories about a gold coin being dropped in those ubiquitous red kettles become prominent.

I am not against giving to charity. On the contrary, I think more people should be charitable with whatever they could give. If time is money then give your time. In fact, I am one of those people who believe that when someone reaches 18 years old they should be required to do two-years of public service. It does not have to be in the military but something to serve the public good.

However, dropping a gold coin into a red kettle may look good as news headlines but can really be more problems than they are worth.

As we know, selling a coin is not the easiest thing to do and when you do, you do not receive its full value. A dealer may raise the bid price of a coin from a charity to provide some charitable assistance, but most dealers are not going to buy the coin at full value—unless they are charitable. And this does not take into consideration the fluctuating price of the metals. Maybe, by the time the charity sells the coin, the market price drops and the coin is not worth as much as the day it was dropped into the kettle.

Rare coins may be more problematic. For the best value, those have to go to auction and as anyone who has sold merchandise in an auction, you never know what the hammer price will be. Selling anything at an auction is risky. While a quality rare coin may bring in more than the coin is worth, it can also do far worse.

Since gold is currently $1288 per ounce and considering that modern bullion coins have about a 15-percent numismatic premium, rather than buy a bullion coin and drop it into a kettle, take the $1481 in cash and drop that instead. You can do what an acquaintance does and wrap a few $100 notes around a $1 note so it looks like you are giving a few dollars. When they open the kettle and see hundreds of dollars in cash, they will be happy and will be able to use it for their work immediately without having to worry about selling the coin.

If you want to donate the proceeds from the sale of a coin to charity, that is wonderful. But sell the coin yourself. You are more qualified than these charities in obtaining value from the sale. Then donate the cash. It should not be about the ego boost from being written about in the newspapers. It should be about helping the charity. Which is more important?

And now the news…

 November 19, 2017

JAKARTA – Coin rubbing is a form of folk medication practised in Indonesia and other Southeast Asian and East Asian countries, such as Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, South Korea and southern China. → Read more at enca.com


 November 19, 2017

Russian artist Roman Booteen is a modern master in the art of the hobo nickel—a term used to describe the 18th century sculptural art form of hand-engraving coins. His latest extraordinary piece—titled Gold Bug—was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's short story, The Gold Bug. → Read more at mymodernmet.com


 November 20, 2017

(1) View gallery The Queen and Prince Phillip’s platinum wedding anniversary is being commemorated with a new coin, minted in Banstead. The coin is 130mm in diameter, weighs nearly 2kg and is encrusted with 70 diamonds, and the limited run of 70 coins will be hand-finished by the master craftsman at Pobjoy Mint. → Read more at epsomguardian.co.uk


 November 22, 2017

New coin to be put in circulation from Wednesday November 22 → Read more at gulfnews.com


 November 23, 2017

One of my favourite things is my Dad’s old horseshoe wallet where he kept his spare change and a rolled pipe cleaner or two. I used it for years after he died, packing it with British bronze 12-sided threepenny bits and shillings until I arrived in Australia and stuffed it with dollar coins and 50¢ dustbin lids. → Read more at sheppnews.com.au


 November 23, 2017

A treasure hunter has unearthed a haul of ancient gold coins, thought to have been buried with an Anglo-Saxon King nearly 1,500 years ago. Chris Kutler, 54, stumbled upon the coins after spending four days searching a 1,600 sq metre field in Chelmsford, Essex. → Read more at dailymail.co.uk


 November 24, 2017

After gold coin’s continued rally in the past month, which pushed…. → Read more at financialtribune.com


 November 24, 2017

The Apiary Fund Commemorative coin is a tribute to the traders who put in time, energy, and faith in their efforts to become funded traders. OREM, Utah November 24, 2017 In the spirit of those Amer… → Read more at nbherard.com


 November 25, 2017

One hundred years ago there was a shortage of pennies during WWI. → Read more at qconline.com

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Image courtesy of iSpot.tv, a still frame from a Salvation Army video ad.

Weekly Numismatic World News for November 19, 2017

Sometimes, I find it difficult to keep an open mind with some of the non-circulating legal tender (NCLT) coins that are on the market.

Some of the themes have started as interesting ideas have turned into blatant commercialism that I am not sure how to interpret its benefits to the hobby.

From superheroes to movie tie-ins to the cartoons, the themes are as varied as the grocery store shelves.

The latest NCLT that has me wondering about the future of the hobby is the 2018 Fiji Coca-Cola Bottle Cap-Shaped Dollar.

Yes, a Coca-Cola bottle cap-shaped coin with a face value of one Fijian dollar. The reverse of the coin is colored the famous Coca-Cola red with the script logo that is familiar to anyone who has passed by a Coca-Cola product. The obverse has the Fijian coat of arms, the date, and the specifications of the coin: 6 grams of .999 fine silver.

After looking at the specifications, the coin is 32.6 mm (1.283 inches) in diameter and I thought that the coins were going to be very thin.

Comparing the specification of this coin to pre-1965 United States coins that were made of .900 silver, the Washington quarter was made of 6.25 grams of silver and copper but was 24.3 mm (.957 inches) in diameter. The quarter is .25 grams heavier but 8.3 mm smaller. My caliper measured a 1960 uncirculated Washington quarter with a thickness of 1.75 mm.

Something closer is the size of the Kennedy half-dollar with a diameter of 30.6 mm (1.204) or 2 mm smaller than the Coco-Cola bottle cap coin. But the Kennedy half-dollar weighs 12.5 grams, more than double the Fijian coin.

To satisfy my curiosity, the caliper said that the uncirculated 1964 Kennedy half-dollar in my collection was 2.15 mm thick.

Not counting for the flare of the edges to resemble a bottle cap, the coin is probably 1 mm thick, less than the 1.35 mm of a 1955 Roosevelt dime I measured.

The coin is available for pre-order only from one company on eBay for $29.95 with free shipping. Expected shipping is on December 8, 2017.

The last time I checked, the listing reported that 1,481 of these coins were sold.

For the record, 6 grams of silver weighs .1929 troy ounces. With the price of silver currently at $17.31 per troy ounce, the coin contains $3.34 worth of silver.

If someone buys one of these coins, feel free to write a review. I will publish it here on the blog!

And now the news…

 November 13, 2017

BRENTWOOD — When milestones are reached in the armed forces, servicemen and women often receive a challenge coin, creating solidarity with others who share the same accomplishment. → Read more at fosters.com


 November 14, 2017

A hoard of 21 Islamic gold dinars, 2,200 silver coins, and gold artifacts dating to the 12th century CE has been unearthed by archaeologists digging at the Abbey of Cluny, a former Benedictine monastery in Cluny, Saône-et-Loire, France. → Read more at sci-news.com


 November 14, 2017

IF you've got one of these most sought-after 50p coins then you could be sitting on a tidy profit. The Sir Isaac Newton 50p coin was introduced into circulation in September and Brits are slowly starting to find it in their spare change. → Read more at thesun.co.uk


 November 15, 2017

An "exceptional and rare" medieval treasure trove including more than 2,200 gold and silver coins has been found in France in what has been called a "remarkable" discovery by archaeologists. It's the kind of discovery archaeologists dream of. → Read more at thelocal.fr


 November 15, 2017

It was just a strange old penny, a copper-nickel Indian Head minted in 1859, when the government was trying out different metals for one-cent pieces. A grandfather gave it to Eric Pfeiffer Newman in 1918, when he was 7, a little bonus for his nickel-a-week allowance. → Read more at nytimes.com


 November 16, 2017

A metal detectorist has tracked down a rare gold coin from Richard III's reign near to the site of the Battle of Bosworth. The Half Angel is one of just a handful of such coins that have survived from the king's two-year reign. → Read more at leicestermercury.co.uk


 November 17, 2017

Archaeologists with the National Center for Scientific Research and other institutions in France revealed today that they have unearthed 2,200 silver deniers and oboles, 21 Islamic gold dinars, a very expensive gold signet ring and other objects made of gold from the Abbey of Cluny, located in the department of Saône-et-Loire. → Read more at mining.com

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Images courtesy of Modern Coin Mart on eBay.

How the new tax bill will hurt numismatic businesses

The Industry Council for Tangible Assets (ICTA) issued an alert warning that a provision on the House of Representatives’s tax plan has the potential to hurt the numismatic industry and asked its members to contact their representatives to let them know of the issue.

Like many legislative actions, the bill was probably not targeted at the numismatic industry but at others where alleged abuses have allowed some to avoid paying taxes or reducing their tax burden. Some suggest that it is aimed at the burgeoning crypto-currency or Bitcoin economy.

In a bill that is supposed to be business-friendly, under Title III, Subtitle D (Reform of Business-Related Exclusions, Deductions, Etc.), Section. 3303 (Like-Kind Exchanges of Real Property) has an innocuous statement that says:

Section 1031(a)(1) is amended by striking “property” each place it appears and inserting “real property”.

Section 1301(a)(1) refers to 26 U.S.C. §1301(a)(1) that currently says:

No gain or loss shall be recognized on the exchange of property held for productive use in a trade or business or for investment if such property is exchanged solely for property of like kind which is to be held either for productive use in a trade or business or for investment.

In plain English, this is the basis of the bartering economy. If I trade goods and services for goods and services, they are assumed to be a trade of even value and no taxes are paid on the transaction. The new bill (H.R. 1) will tax the barter economy.

In numismatic terms, a collector walks into to a coin shop with 10 Mercury dimes graded by one of the third-party grading services worth about $475 on the retail market. While talking to a dealer you see a nice 1928 Peace Dollar that he has marked $460 rather than selling the Mercury dimes for cash, you work out a trade with the dealer for the Peace Dollar. You make the trade and everyone is happy.

Under the current tax law, that is a “like kind” trade of items of value and not taxed as income.

If the bill that just passed the House is enacted, the dealer will be required to pay a tax on that that transaction.

The amount of the tax will be based on an interpretation of the law by the IRS which is where this could get very tricky.

If the dealer is taxed on the retail value of the trade, the dealer could be taxed on $15 of income if based on the dealer’s valuation of the transaction.

If the IRS requires the dealer to make a valuation based on prevailing market values, who sets those market values? Can the dealer use any price guide to determine the value of the coins? For example, if a price guide determines the Mercury dimes are worth $475 on the retail market as we assumed earlier, but the Peace dollar is worth $450 on one price guide but $480 on another, which guide does the dealer use? The dealer will either make $25 on the transaction, which is subject to taxation or lose $5 that will lower the dealer’s overall tax liability.

But the dealer does not buy at retail valuation. The cost of the inventory would be based on market values of the coins. Does the IRS allow the dealer to base the transaction on the “buy” cost of the coins? Based on the “buy” valuation the transaction may be closer to break-even.

The result will be more bookkeeping for the dealer and a tougher set of accounting rules when managing inventory. Managing inventory for a coin dealer is not like a regular retail store. Each coin is its only item and may be given its own identification (stock keeping unit, or SKU).

Most coin dealers are small businesses that are either sole proprietors or have a few employees. They either work at coin shows or have a few thousand square feet of retail space. Some are family operated business while others hire from the local community. Dealers make a living but it may not be enough to support the necessary change to their inventory management under the new tax law.

Eventually, this will make you, the collector, the loser.

First, it will eliminate the possibility of a trading because of the accounting problems. The dealer who has the Peace dollar in inventory that is not selling but can trade it for Mercury dimes that will sell quicker will not be able to happen. Of course, the dealer could buy the Mercury dimes for the same price as you buy the Peace dollars. The dealer could also be accused of a tax avoidance scheme which will make matters worse. Even if the accusation is not true, the IRS is notorious for treating these cases as “guilty until proven innocent.”

This can also drive dealers out of business.

If this drives small dealers out of business, then there will be no dealers to participate in local, small coin shows. With no dealers, those shows will end and so will your access to dealers to help you with your collection. With no smaller shows, you will have to travel further to find shows or will have lesser access to quality collectibles. Sure, you can purchase coins and currency online, but who will be there to answer questions? What happens if you are not happy with the purchase and you have to ship the coin back to the seller?

Ironically, the change proposed in H.R. 1 strengthens the trading of real estate and real property as “like kind” transaction.

This change in the tax law is not good for small business or the numismatic industry. Please contact your member of the House and Senators to let them know that the side effects of Title III Section 3303 will hurt the hobby we love!

If you do not know your member of Congress, you can call the Capitol switchboard operator at (202) 224-3121. They can transfer you to the appropriate representative.

If you are not sure what to say to the staffer who answers the phone, try the following:

Please tell the Representative/Senator that in H.R. 1, the new tax bill, Section 3303 of Title III may have the unintended consequences of hurting the barter economy and the numismatic industry. It will place a heavy accounting burden on coin dealers who are mostly small businesses that will damage the industry. I cannot express in any stronger terms how this change in the tax law will hurt this sector of the small business economy. Thank you for passing this message along.

Please call! Make your voice heard!

Weekly Numismatic World News for November 12, 2017

As I peruse the Interwebs for numismatic-related stories from non-numismatic sources, my searches are inundated with stories about Bitcoin, crypto-currencies, and blockchains. Most of the time, the stories are just noise given my objective to find information relevant to collectors including the issuance of circulating currencies and the impact of precious metals on the market.

While there is some use of the technologies as an indicator of a store of something resembling wealth or as a new method of providing electronic transactions, the concept of inventing a currency out of thin air—or electronic bits—is something that may be more dangerous than the stock market.

Bitcoin, which is a type of crypto-currency, is traded using a blockchain, a technology that provides a mechanism for secured transactions between parties. Like the Federal Reserve Note, it is an invented currency whose value is in the eye of the beholder. The only difference between the Federal Reserve Note and crypto-currency is that the worth of the paper currency is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government. Bitcoin has no backing, very little regulation, and could become as worthless as Enron stock as fast as it became worthless.

Although you may have issues with the way the federal government and the politicians have been conducting themselves, the government provides the backing to make sure that the currency you use has some representative value by law. It is called fiat money.

Crypto-currency not only has no intrinsic value, but it is not backed or supported by the government. It has no regulation and is worth what someone will provide in trade. The assignment of value to crypto-currency may be market driven but those who have seen the silver market of 1980, unregulated markets can cause significant problems.

The blockchains that protect the transactions are software creations. Software is what is used to provide the logic to the computer to do its job—or not do its job in the cases of Equifax, Target, Home Depot, the Office of Personnel Management, and any of the other servers you have heard attacked in the last few years.

Of course the most important thing to numismatists, crypto-currency has no presence in the physical world. You cannot create a collection of bitcoin since it really does not exist. And maybe that should be the question: if it does not have a physical form or a physical representation, is it really money?

And now the news…

 November 6, 2017

The Stellarton Legion is now the proud recipient of a Nova Scotia Highlanders ceremonial unit coin. And Stellarton Legion president Jack Chaisson was on hand to take personal delivery of the coin from Lieutenant-Colonel Colin Todd at Pictou Legion, after attending the county Remembrance Day ceremony in town Sunday. → Read more at ngnews.ca


 November 6, 2017

The Royal Mint has released its official Remembrance Day coin ahead of commemorations on Saturday. Stephen Taylor, a graphic designer at the Royal Mint, said his artwork was inspired by the world-famous war poem 'In Flanders Fields' by John McCrae. → Read more at standard.co.uk


 November 6, 2017

The Perth Mint has released a world-first silver coin in the shape of a figure eight. Likely to be a hit with Chinese coin collectors and buyers, only 8888 of the 2oz, 99.99 per cent silver coins will be released at a recommended retail price of $218. → Read more at thewest.com.au


 November 7, 2017

Bruderer UK, which has nearly 50 years’ experience creating world renown precision high speed presses, has installed a state-of-the-art machine into the Royal Mint’s Llantrisant facility, giving the world famous institution additional speed, capacity and flexibility. → Read more at expressandstar.com


 November 8, 2017

Gold isn’t so shiny anymore. Globally, demand for the precious metal has fallen to its lowest level since late 2009, according to the World Gold Council. In the third quarter of 2017, demand for the haven asset was 915 metric tons, 9% lower than a year earlier. → Read more at qz.com


 November 9, 2017

In January, 1999 Cassinelli Construction Co. was employed by Nevada State Public Works Department to remove a portion of Carolyn Street at the Nevada State Museum to construct a parking lot and build a small park facing Carson Street. → Read more at elkodaily.com


 November 9, 2017

Gold was once a common form of payment around the developed world, but after World War II the precious metal's influence began to wane. In 1971, when the United States finally put an end to the gold standard, the role of the yellow metal changed for good. → Read more at fool.com


 November 10, 2017

The Thank-A-Vet cenotaph memorial coin set, created for local veterans and their families as a keepsake, has been completed with the minting of the final two coins and creation of a pine display box. – Sean Allen/Metroland → Read more at brantnews.com


 November 11, 2017

The thing about money — we all need it. “Money bewitches people. They fret for it, and they sweat for it. → Read more at royalgazette.com

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Thoughts on this weekend’s Whitman Expo

Whitman Expo came to Baltimore this weekend to fill up three large halls in the Baltimore Convention Center. Like every Whitman Expo, dealers come from all over making it a must-attend east coast destination.

I was able to attend on Friday afternoon. It was not for long because I had to work half of the day. But it is always worth the trip.

Travelling to Baltimore on Friday is different than going on Saturday. First, the traffic between the Washington metro area and Baltimore is heavier. The traffic in Baltimore is also heavier especially on I-95 going through the city. And parking is a little more expensive because you compete with the business parking of downtown Baltimore. Someday, I will take the light rail that stops between the Convention Center and Camden Yards.

During a short visit to a show like Baltimore you either have to have a concise strategy or whatever objectives there are will not be fulfilled. This time I had no objectives and spent a lot of time talking with people.

Over the years I have met a lot of dealers and others while walking around I wanted to visit with some of these people. I also got to meet with one of the long-time readers of the blog. Bob is a frequent correspondent who came down from New Jersey on Amtrak to also visit the show. It was good to meet Bob and put a face on the real person behind the emails.

During the short time I spent on the bourse floor I learned a few things about the market:

  1. Sales are moderate but steady. Dealers are selling more online than in shows but see the shows as a valuable marketing tool. None of the dealers I spoke with are seeing the end of coin shows but can envision a reduction in the number of shows.
  2. Some dealers are diversifying their inventory from their core interests to other areas. One dealer noted that he was seeing more junk box searching than in the past. Although he thought that his sales were below average, he thought that the low-end sales would pick up on Saturday when younger people will attend.
  3. I thought there was a lot more silver than gold. One dealer that sells modern bullion coin such as American Eagles, Canadian Maple Leafs, and Chinese Pandas said that silver bullion was selling better than their gold counterparts. With silver trading under $17 per troy ounce, those interested in bullion are buying silver. He also attributed the interest in silver with some of the better silver issues like the Pandas and other non-circulating legal tender (NCLT) coins.
  4. Speaking of NCLT coins, I did not see a big selection. A dealer whose case included a few older issues said that the current NCLT issues may be too expensive for the market. It is one thing to issue themed coins that may be of interest but selling them has been a problem. Some people find it difficult to justify the selling of a one-ounce silver coin for more than four-times bullion value. This dealer thought that the licensing fees being paid for these images were probably driving up the price and driving their potential market away.

Another interesting aspect of the show is the number of non-numismatic items for sale. There were two dealers whose cases contained only jewelry. Most of the jewelry were quality items and estate pieces but I was surprised there were two dealers whose inventory was exclusively jewelry. A few dealers I have seen in the past also had cases of jewelry. One said that the rings he was selling were an accumulation of many years and found that the market was more receptive to the jewelry.

In addition to the jewelry, a dealer was selling used music compact discs (CD) and another had African artifacts including a beautiful silver necklace. Some of the currency dealers also had historical papers, letters, ledgers, and other ephemera that only has a tangential tie to numismatics.

Last week I asked how dealers would respond to the market. It looks like some dealers have turned to inventory diversity and including non-numismatic collectibles. If it helps bring in more collectors, it might be a good move.

Time for the olde guard to wake up to new technology

SinoTech Stereo Microscope with USB interface

I have a tremendous amount of respect for the people who have been in the numismatic industry and has been responsible for keeping alive and solid over the last number of years. Their knowledge of the art and business of numismatics are invaluable. I wish some would write more about what they know.

However, the area where they are lacking is the science of numismatics. The part where technology has been able to automate to perform mundane work and do the finest details that many factories have increased output while reducing the workforce. It is their inability to grasp new technologies that have been holding back the growth of numismatics.

Recently, someone with great numismatic credentials said that you cannot teach grading using computers.

When I was working in non-civilian agencies, we would call that BRAVO SIERRA (from the phonetic alphabet meaning “B.S.”).

It used to be that video technology prevented images from being shown in detail. This goes back to the day from the old television standards were the picture was 525 scan lines (the number of passes the across the screen it took to form the picture) drawn about 30 times per second (the frame rate). This was different from early computers that drew fine dots on the screen. At the point color monitors entered the market, most were 640 dots wide by 480 dots tall which was a little smaller than your standard television screen.

Technology has advanced beyond what we had with the old cathode ray tube (CRT) television and monitor. Now, you can buy a monitor that attaches to your computer that has the same resolution as your television. What we call “4K High Definition” is 4096 pixels wide by 2160 pixels tall or over six time the size of the old monitors.

The iMac I am using has a display that is 5120 pixels tall by 2880 pixels wide and the iPhone 6 Plus in my pocket has a display that has 401 pixels per inch resolution. Think about that for a moment… every square inch of an image will use 160,801 individual dots to display on a device that fits into my back pocket!

These monitors are not only larger but the pixels are denser, meaning they are smaller and closer together. When in the old days you can look into the television and see jagged edges, you closeup look now shows smooth lines.

Go look at the specification of the smartphones and tablets that are on the market. They make television that was being sold as little as 10 years ago look like something out of ancient history.

Cameras are also better. Most smartphones can shoot images of over 8 megapixels up to 20 megapixels with image sensors that surpass what was on the market as late as 5 years ago. The amount of image data these cameras can capture are remarkable!

Can you guess the grade?

There are a lot of industries that use this technology for critical image analysis. The growing telemedicine field uses the imaging to allow a doctor to examine patients from anywhere including some of the most rural parts of the world. A nurse in the middle of a jungle can draw blood, put the slide in a machine that will take images and perform other data analysis and send it back to a doctor thousands of miles away to help diagnose illnesses.

Manufacturers of parts for your automobile and the airplanes you fly us this image analysis to check for imperfections in metal parts including difficult to spot stress fractures to prevent breakdowns. That should be comforting driving down the road at 60 MPH or 30,000 feet in the air.

Even the food industry uses this imaging technology to prevent foreign substances from being packaged and landing on the grocery store shelf. Remember the opening theme from Laverne & Shirley where they are on the bottling line watching for bottles without caps? That job does not exist anymore. Computers with imaging technology not only watch for those bottles but can spot one that is not filled correctly and if something other than beer was placed in the bottle.

If we can trust the imaging technology for medicine, vehicle safety, and food integrity, why can’t we trust imaging technology to grade coins?

Images taken with an iPhone 6 Plus

This is not to suggest that we can start grading coins by computer tomorrow but we can start soon. Programs have to be written to support the type of image analysis that would be required to determine an MS-69 coin from an MS-70. In fact, we may see fewer MS-70 coins using computer image analysis because the closer we look the more flaws we will find.

Professional Coin Grading Service provides the tip of this iceberg with the PCGS Photograde app. Whether you use the online service or one of the mobile apps, detailed imaging, and high definition displays can show you the details necessary. In fact, in a video PCGS produced about Photograde, they note how you can see the scratches on the imaged coin.

Images from PCGS Photograde App on the iPhone

If you can use the high definition images to see the details of coins, then the first step would be to use those images and the knowledge of grading to grade coins. Digital images can be transmitted anywhere there is a connection using the proper teaching platform.

With all due respect to the numismatic expert that said to me that you cannot teach grading using the computers, it is time to evolve from the early 2010s and see how technology has evolved to make it possible.

Credits

Weekly Numismatic World News for October 22, 2017

The Coin Collectors Blog has been and always been about collecting numismatics in all forms from a collector’s point of view. As I am coming up on my 12th anniversary of writing this blog, I would like to address a few comments I have received via email.

As a reminder, a blog is short for “weblog” which, according to Wikipedia, “is a discussion or informational website published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete, often informal diary-style text entries (“posts”).” It is not a news site or a site that adheres to certain editorial form. Although news organizations now use blogs and blogging platforms, the Coin Collectors Blog is not pretending to be a news outlet.

When I started writing the Coin Collectors Blog in 2005, not only were there few coin collecting resources on the web, but there were no blogs. I wanted to provide some information, discussions, and (yes) opinions on every topic in the world of numismatics that I thought a collector would be interested in hearing about.

I also have made my interests clear. I will discuss everything that affects numismatics including the monetary policy that concerns the circulation of coins and currency and the people involved. This includes the politicians, both elected and appointed, that have direct involvement in any area that affects numismatics.

One of those politicians is Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin. As Secretary of the Treasury, he is in charge of every bureau in the Treasury Department including the U.S. Mint and Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Thus, what happens to Mnuchin can affect those bureaus. As far as I am concerned, that makes Mnuchin fair game for coverage on the Coin Collectors Blog.

After I reported about Mnuchin’s visit to Fort Knox, a U.S. Mint-managed facility, that both the Office of the Inspector General and a public interest group were looking into the travel and its costs. Since the story concerns the Secretary of the Treasury visiting a U.S. Mint facility, I felt it was my right and responsibility to report on.

Although there have been other issues with Mnuchin reported, they did not involve his department leadership as it pertained to the U.S. Mint or Bureau of Engraving and Printing. I did not feel it was appropriate to write about it on the Coin Collectors Blog.

More recently, I wrote about Secretary of the Interior Ryan K. Zinke having his own challenge coin. Although Zinke is not in charge of anything regarding the U.S. Mint or Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the fact that he has a challenge coin is significant. Collecting challenge coins is part of numismatics and any government agency official that decides to have his own challenge coin should be fair game.

In both cases, I was accused of stepping into politics in a bad way.

I know political discourse has changed, but I am still the same blogger who has covered numismatic bills in Congress, which there is a monthly status posting; nominations of Directors and Treasurers; defended the ancient coin collectors from the State Department; and posted a tribute to Mike Castle, the former Republican Congressman from Delaware who introduced many numismatic-related bills including that law that became the 50 State Quarters Coin Program.

It has and always will be my policy to keep the content of the Coin Collectors Blog on topics related to numismatics, numismatic production, collecting, and the conditions that affect this world, including the action of the government officials with oversight of the related organizations, especially if there is a direct effect on the industry.

Comments are welcome and encouraged, but I wish some of you would comment on the posts—and remember, comments are moderated to prevent spam only. Sometimes the email I receive is very creative but have been asked not to share. I hope that you reconsider next time.

Now for the news…

 October 15, 2017

Currency modernization will help secure our financial futures and save billions of dollars for taxpayers. → Read more at cnbc.com


 October 15, 2017

(ArtfixDaily.com) Richmond Hill, ON – Thursday, October 26 marks 888 Auctions’ inaugural auction dedicated to numismatic items with a special focus on Chinese gold and silver panda coins. The 426-lot auction will also be featuring rare coins from all over the world and will also be accompanied by 888 Auctions’ usual complement of Asian fine and decorative arts, including finely carved jadeite objects, porcelain ceramics, furniture and jewelry. → Read more at artfixdaily.com


 October 17, 2017

Share During the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – A.D. 9), the question of monetary freedom was vigorously debated. There were as yet no banks or paper money in China — money consisted solely of coin. → Read more at cato.org


 October 18, 2017

Summary Harry Dent used to say gold will fall to $250, then $400, now he says $700. What are we to believe? → Read more at seekingalpha.com


 October 18, 2017

Archeologists regularly stumble over troves of gold coins dating back centuries, proving that money is as old as civilisation itself. Cash, however, brings practical limitations when it comes to how much we can physically move about, which is why currencies also depend on a system of trust to allow easier representations of physical coins, gold etc. → Read more at thenational.ae


 October 20, 2017

BENGHAZI, Libya, Oct 20 (Reuters) – Authorities in eastern Libya will circulate their own coins for the first time to ease shortages of money, a central bank official said on Friday, in another sign of disunity in the country that has two rival governments in east and west. → Read more at af.reuters.com


 October 20, 2017

Noma Bar for Reader's DigestWhen Joan Langbord found ten gold coins in a family safe-deposit box in 2003, she knew she’d unburied a treasure. Langbord, then 75, had worked in her late father’s Philadelphia jewelry store her entire life, and she was fairly sure that the coins were 1933 double eagles. → Read more at rd.com


 October 20, 2017

The coins went out of circulation on October 15 but can still be deposited at banks, building societies and post offices → Read more at burtonmail.co.uk


 October 21, 2017

Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley stands beside the design for the back of the World War I commemorative coin, dubbed “poppies in the wire,” after he unveiled it Oct. 9, 2017 at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition. → Read more at aerotechnews.com

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