Did someone say something about a square con?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carson City Mint (1866)

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

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

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

The United States is not going cashless… oh, look at that butterfly!

With the discovery of every new technology, there are the inevitable predictions that it will make the old ways obsolete. Although the automobile reduced the reliance on horses, the basics of the internal combustion engine have not changed in over 100 years. Take away the electronics around the engine, the technology increasing the air intake, and cleaning up the exhaust, and you still have an engine block with pistons that go up and down in the classic suck-bang-blow rhythm that was used in the Model T.

The latest technology that is being touted as being the doom for physical money, which can also be the end of numismatics, is cryptocurrency.

There are two aspects of cryptocurrency that its fans say are its biggest strength. First, it is not bound by the traditional means of generating wealth. You can think of cryptocurrency as digital gold. It is mined using computers and a lot of complex arithmetic to generate one unit of the currency, sometimes referred to as a bitcoin. Like physical gold, there is some work required to mine for these bitcoins. It lies in the ability to create a computing environment capable of performing these intensive mathematical operations. You may not be panning for gold but you might spend as much on equipment and travel.

For a good basic description of the blockchain technology, see the article on Medium.

The other aspect about cryptocurrency is that the blockchain technology allows for both anonymous and secure transactions. Think of the blockchain as a giant ledger that is copied wherever bitcoin is accepted with regular updates. There is no single source that could control the ledger nor is there a single point of failure.

However, both its strengths are its greatest weaknesses.

While the value of money is regulated by their respective government there are no blockchain regulations. There is no regulation on the number of generated bitcoins but is arbitrarily set by the creator of the cryptocurrency. There is no guarantee of value as a state-sponsored currency. Bitcoin investors are betting on the value of electronics and math, something many of these investors does not fully understand.

The blockchain also provides its own problems. In order to use the cryptocurrency, you have to have your own copy of the ledger and be able to pass the information to the party you want to pay. Think about having a checkbook with everyone’s information. You cannot read the information because it is encrypted but you have to have a copy. Then you need to pay someone. You hand over the checkbook in order to complete the transaction.

Think about the amount of data that would be if the blockchain supported 1,000 people. What would it take to support 1 million people? What if the government decided that everyone would do their business in bitcoin and everyone would have to have a way to deal with the blockchain in order to facilitate payments. How cumbersome will that ledger be if all 325.7 million people in the United States had to carry that around?

Each blockchain is its own entity. While you can trade in bitcoins on the same blockchain, you may have to participate in more than one blockchain if you want to accept bitcoins from several different people. It is like different currencies today. I can go anywhere in the United States and use dollars. But if I wanted to go to Canada, I can either arrange an exchange or find someone who will trade.

Cryptocurrency that has to operate across different blockchains is just like going to Europe and having to change your dollars for euros.

1881 Tracy’s Counterfeit Detector and Bank Note Reporter (Image courtesy of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society)

As with anything that is computer-based and managed, there is always the security issues. Blockchains have been hacked. Although most of the hacks are based on compromised passwords, each hack yields millions of dollars in stolen cryptocurrency to the hackers and everyone who then does business with them on the same blockchain.

Eventually, this will lead to a cryptocurrency version of a Bank Note Reporter and Counterfeit Detector as was popular during the broken banknote period. Then it will be followed by a Cryptocurrency Act similar to the Currency Act that ended the broken banknote period proving George Santayana right as we repeat history.

Cryptocurrency is the darling of the technology industry and those in the financial industry that trade in high-risk investments. Even traditional financial services companies are spending a limited amount of risk capital on cryptocurrency investments. However, by all statistics, the number of consumers using cryptocurrency for transactions is less than 1-percent.

If Not Cryptocurrency The What About Credit Cards

Credit and debit cards remain the primary target that proponents of a cashless society use to promote their agenda. However, when faced with the realities of life in the United States, there are three statistics that work against their arguments:

  1. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the printer of United States currency, reports a year-over-year increase in production of just over 4-percent.
  2. The U.S. Mint, the manufacturer of United States coinage, is reporting a year-over-year increase of 6-percent striking circulating coinage.
  3. According to CreditCards.com, “In 2013, 20 percent of whites did not have access to a credit card compared with 47 percent of African-Americans and 30 percent of Latinos.”

The primary customer for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and U.S. Mint is the Federal Reserve. If the Federal Reserve needs the money for its operations, they buy it from these government bureaus. The Federal Reserve only orders what it needs. If it does not need the money, then it is not produced.

Aside from the over 50-percent of the population without access to credit cards, there continues to be a demand for physical currency. Whether the currency is used in a vending machine or to buy other items, cash is still king and shows no sign of slowing.

While there continues to be a demand for the products from the U.S. Mint and Bureau of Engraving and Printing, these bureaus will continue to produce coins and currency giving us more opportunity to collect their products.

Missing an opportunity with changing coin design programs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly World Numismatic News for June 24, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now the news…

 June 19, 2018

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


 June 20, 2018

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


 June 20, 2018

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


 June 21, 2018

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


 June 21, 2018

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


 June 23, 2018

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


 June 23, 2018

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


 June 24, 2018

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

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

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

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

But it seems to have plateaued.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#ALLCAPS

Congratulations to the
Washington Capitals

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

Just a small gathering in Downtown Washington

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

Weekly World Numismatic News for June 3, 2018

Zimbabwe’s 2009 $100 trillion hyperinflation note

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now the news…

 May 27, 2018

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


 May 27, 2018

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


 May 28, 2018

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


 May 29, 2018

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


 May 29, 2018

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


 June 1, 2018

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


 June 1, 2018

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


 June 3, 2018

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

Coin Collectors News
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21 Down, 4 To Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trumping a Challenge Coin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That leaves five left.

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you still feel vindicated?

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