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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September 2017 Numismatic Legislation Review

Trying to follow the inner workings of politics is more frustrating than what you see on television news. Part of following the inner workings of Congress is to try to figure out what Congress will do next is not only understanding where legislation is in the process, what Congress calls “regular order,” but it also requires understanding who is asking for what favors in order to get pet projects passed.

As part of the House of Representatives’s regular order, they created a rule that two-thirds of the members must support a commemorative coin bill by being a co-sponsor before it will be considered in committee. This means that 287 members must sign-on as co-sponsors. Once the bill meets the threshold, the bill goes through the committee process.

Although both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act and The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act met that threshold, the threshold was met a while ago. This means the bills were supposed to go through the committee process except neither did. Both bills were introduced on the floor under a process called “suspension of the rules.” Under suspension of the rules, a bill may be brought to the floor for debate and vote without having to go through regular order.

When a bill is brought to the floor, there is a debate period determined by whoever is acting as the presiding officer. Both sides get to have their say, however, in these cases, the member who introduced the bill will stand up and provide a justification for the record as the only speaker. Once the debate period ends, the House votes on the bill.

Both bills were passed on a voice vote.

What can make following legislation frustrating is that there was no indication that these bills were going to be brought to the floor under suspension of the rules. I had asked a source whether this was done in order to curry favor with the sponsors. My source was uncertain as to why these bills were rushed to the floor.

Now it is on to the Senate. Let’s see how quickly they get to this legislation or whether it will be burried in committee.

H.R. 1235: Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-MA)
Introduced: February 27, 2017
Summary: This bill directs the Department of the Treasury to mint and issue not more than 50,000 $5 coins, 400,000 $1 coins, and 750,000 half-dollar coins in recognition and celebration of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.The coins shall be in the shape of a dome, and the design on the common reverse of the coins shall depict a basketball. Treasury shall hold a competition to determine the design of the common obverse of the coins, which shall be emblematic of the game of basketball.The bill requires all sales of such coins to include specified surcharges, which shall be paid by Treasury to the Hall to fund an endowment for increased operations and educational programming.
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Feb 27, 2017
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Sep 25, 2017
Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Sep 26, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR1235.
H.R. 2519: The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Timothy J. Walz (D-MN)
Introduced: May 18, 2017
Summary: This bill requires the Department of the Treasury to mint and issue commemorative coins in recognition and celebration of the 100th anniversary of the American Legion.Surcharges received from the sale of these coins shall be paid to the American Legion for costs related to promoting the importance of: (1) caring for those who have served, and those who are still serving, in the Armed Forces; and (2) maintaining patriotic values, strong families, and assistance for at-risk children.
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — May 18, 2017
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Sep 25, 2017
Received in the Senate. — Sep 26, 2017
Message on Senate action sent to the House. — Sep 29, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR2519.

Weekly Numismatic World News for September 24, 2017

On Monday, the U.S. Mint will begin selling palladium bullion coins to authorized purchasers. The opening price will probably be $976.44 per coin, which is 6.25-percent over the spot price of $919 per troy ounce.

Metal prices have not followed a path that market watchers are familiar with. Platinum is usually more expensive per troy ounce than gold but has been less while palladium usually tracks at half of the price of gold.

With all of the turmoil in the world, the price of gold is relatively flat with spikes for various activities in the news. But an investor who bought at the beginning of the year “complains” that the price is up only 12-percent for the year despite fundamentals that suggest a larger gain. Recent events have caused the price to jump, but one investor told me that gold is a safe bet but it is not a good bet if you are looking to make money.

A dealer that sells silver has called the market schizophrenic. There are swings in the prices that defy market logic. With stricter regulation, higher demand, and flat production growth, the price of silver should be climbing. But it is relatively flat for the year with a 6.4-percent grown.

Some are even suggesting that the silver market is being manipulated.

I do not know if the market is being manipulated, but the experts are telling me that something is not right.

 September 15, 2017

Even coin production mints make mistakes. If you have a coin that’s a product of one of these mistakes, it’s probably worth way more than face value. → Read more at rd.com


 September 17, 2017

Summary There is considerable evidence that silver is subject to considerable manipulation. Revelations of manipulation from regulatory investigations and lawsuits in recent years have led to the introduction of stricter regulations and oversight. → Read more at seekingalpha.com


 September 18, 2017

The second batch of commemorative coins minted for the funeral of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej have proved very popular after being available for reservations on Monday. Long queues were seen since early in the morning at designated venues nationwide. → Read more at nationmultimedia.com


 September 23, 2017

HYDERABAD: Hyderabad of yore had carved a niche of its own in the spheres of culture, commerce, language and festivals. → Read more at timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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Weekly Numismatic World News for September 17, 2017

My booth at DC Big Flea after setup. At least half of what you see was sold on 9/16!

As this is being posted I am packing up after working this past weekend at the DC Big Flea Market and Antique Show in Chantilly, Virginia. Since I have been working in the collectibles business, I have been trying to sell at one show a month with DC Big Flea being the show I work every other month. Aside from this show is close to home, I think I have found the right mix of items to be successful.

Working shows in the collectibles and antiques market is no different from a numismatic dealer on the bourse floor. Each dealer specializes in an area and tries to find the right mix of inventory and prices to make the show a success.

Although this sounds like common business sense, there are times when I go to shows and ask the dealers how they are doing I get grumbles from many and smiles from the rest. What I am guessing is that the grumblers have not adapted to the market trends.

I learned that turning over my inventory, regardless of the cost, is very important. Having stale inventory means that my money is tied up in that inventory and does not do me any good invested in that inventory. I have to find fresh items and make sure that those who are regulars and those who want to be regulars know that the next time they see me that I will have something new, even if it is in the category of merchandise I sell.

There are two lessons I have learned in the last few years. First, it is not going to hurt my bottom line if a customer asks for an additional discount such as another $5 or 10-percent off. It makes them feel like they found a bargain and I move the inventory. But that lesson is not possible without my second lesson is to treat the entire inventory as a single unit. By treating the inventory as a single unit, if I sell something at full price to someone who does not want to negotiate but sell the next item for a deeper discount, I am no better off than I thought I would have been.

With some exceptions, I think that many numismatic dealers get stuck with the idea, “this is what I paid so I have the get this price to at least break even.” If I worked that way my truck would come home loaded with inventory and more work to do. However, with the inventory sold, I now have the money to find something fresh for the next show.

Just something for the dealers to think about.

Now for this week’s news:

 September 11, 2017

The value of modern currency comes not from what it's made of, but what we all agree it's worth. → Read more at bbc.com


 September 11, 2017

The notion of money has been an important part of the human way of life for more than 2,900 years. When looking back at its origins, there is no doubt that the trade system has evolved considerably. As we mentioned before, bartering was used as the main system for the exchange of all kinds of goods and products. → Read more at thecostaricanews.com


 September 11, 2017

If anyone should not be on money, it’s Andrew Jackson. The 7th President of the United States hated paper money. He also hated Native Americans and loved having slaves, but for now, let’s focus on how he believed that the United States should only have gold and silver coins as currency. → Read more at harpersbazaar.com


 September 12, 2017

Ever throw in your two cents? Probably not like a visitor did recently at the Peoria County Courthouse. At the security checkpoint Aug. 31, someone left → Read more at pjstar.com


 September 12, 2017

In February of 1870, a sparkling new steam-powered coin press inside the United States Mint in Carson City struck its first coin, a Seated Liberty silver dollar with a crisp → Read more at elkodaily.com


 September 12, 2017

From Viking silver to Roman bronze, amateur treasure hunters in Europe locate all kinds of buried treasures with their metal detectors. Now, a new hoard is making headlines: As the ChronicleLive reports, the caretaker of a primary school in Northumberland, England used his own electronic device to find a stash of Medieval-era silver coins buried underneath the school's playground. → Read more at mentalfloss.com


 September 12, 2017

My friend Hugo Salinas Price, a tireless promoter of sound money, offers a Primer on the Mexican ‘Libertad’ Silver Ounce as a Vehicle for Savings of the Common Folk. This is a guest post by Hugo Salinas Price. → Read more at fxstreet.com


 September 13, 2017

India issued its first commemorative coin series back in 1964 in the honour of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. It was the same year of Nehru’s passing away. Over the last 53 years, commemorative coins have been issued for various reasons — some as uncirculated collectors items and others for mass circulation. → Read more at indianexpress.com


 September 14, 2017

One-cent coins as well as 10-cent and 25-cent coins will soon no longer be legal tender in Jamaica. (Photo: Jamaica Gleaner) → Read more at caribbean360.com


 September 16, 2017

The Big Maple Leaf was named the largest coin in the world by the Guinness World Records in 2007. But a group of thieves ensured its life in the public spotlight would be brief. → Read more at thedailybeast.com

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How the iPhone X can help numismatics

On September 12, Apple opened the Steve Jobs Theater on their new campus in Cupertino with an announcement of new hardware. There was the new Apple Watch 3, Apple TV-4K, and two new iPhones.

Outside of the tech press, everyone is focused on the iPhone X, “X” for the Roman numeral 10, a marvel of engineering but will cost $1,000. Breaking that $1,000 barrier is a big thing because it makes the iPhone X the most expensive smartphone on the market.

But I see another story that can be more important to a lot of other markets than the price of the device. It is the technology that can be industry altering.

Both the iPhone 8 and iPhone X have dual-lens cameras that are designed to enhance the use of photography. The new cameras have larger sensors that pick up more pixels of information with a processor that can better process the image.

It is the image processing and the iPhone’s ability to use the detailed images to map the terrain, textures, and to use augmented reality (AR) to enhance what the camera sees.

An area where this technology can help numismatics is with computer-based grading.

Computer-based grading was first tried in 1991 using the technology of the day. While it was a good start, the technology was just not ready for the ability to grade coins.

Apple proved that the technology is ready to try again.

Human-based grading has led to an environment of mistrust amongst the grading services. It is the failure of humans to be consistent in grading that leads to religious-like arguments as to which grading service is better. These failures have led the creation of verification services to check up on the ability of grading services to do their job.

The ability for the imaging process to visualize and analyze thousands of polygons on an image, the way imaging technology visualizes the three-dimensional surface, in such a way to allow for real-time expression processing and rendering can be used to assess the surface of a coin.

Another problem that can be resolved is the crack out game. Some people will crack coins out of their slabs to submit them to the grading services multiple times to play on the failure of humans to be consistent to try to have the coins graded higher. The information created based on the surface analysis of the coin will result in digital data that should be unique to each coin. Minute scratches and other environmental factors can help distinguish one coin from another in the same manner that there are subtle differences that can detect on identical twin from another.

Creating a digital signature for each coin will help prevent theft or help law enforcement use the information to track stolen items.

Imaging analysis can look at the surface to find alterations like the use of a chemical that would change the surface. Rather than using the “sniffing” technology that Professional Coin Grading Service has pioneered to find chemical additives, a surface analysis can detect chemical-based alterations to the surface.

Altered surface detection can also be used to detect unnatural toning. It will require teaching the imaging systems to detect the differences between natural and unnatural toning, but the long-term benefits to the hobby will be tremendous.

Device that could metallic analysis of a coin below the surface

Aside from grading consistency and the ability detect altered surface, it is possible to expand current technologies that will help detect the use of plated or other metal counterfeits. Devices that are able to visualize a few microns under the surface of the coin to detect the metal content along with the new visualization technologies will make it more difficult to pass counterfeit coins.

In the short term, this will not put the third-party grading services out of business but it will change their business. They will not be grading and regrading coins. The computer will analyze the coin, provide the owner with a report, and that report will be consistent regardless of the imaging process used. Otherwise, the coin was altered and you would know about it.

Counterfeit U.S. coins in counterfeit PCGS holders (Photo courtesy of PCGS.)

Eventually, this could eliminate the plastic slab that has been counterfeited. The coin itself becomes its own identifier and reduces the reliance on the slab.

This technology will eliminate the verification services. There will no need for a human to verify the human-based grading. After all, the fourth-party verification process is artificially driving up the costs of collector coins because of blind trust placed in humans verifying humans.

Although I spent nearly all of my adult life in the technology industry, I am not for technology completely taking over all aspects of our lives. There is a level of trust in the hardware and software that must be earned to have me feel comfortable with things like self-driving cars or even maintaining personal information (see the recent Equifax breach).

However, I am for the use of technology where it can solve a problem. Technology can solve the problem of inconsistent grading. Technology can solve the problem of coin identification. Technology can solve the problems with counterfeiting. Why not use technology to increase the trust in the numismatic market by fixing these problems?

It is now time that technology was put to use in the numismatic and collecting industries in order to create a level of assurance for the collector that their item is genuine and the condition is what the collectible is being represented as.

Credits

  • iPhone X image courtesy of Apple.
  • Niton scanner image by the author.
  • Counterfiet PCGS slabs courtesy of PCGS

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