Charging Bull by Arturo DiModica is a bronze sculpture that stands in Bowling Green Park just south of the Financial District in lower Manhattan.
In my nearly 12 years of writing this blog and occasionally delving into the reasons for the fluctuating prices of precious metals and their impact on the numismatic market, there have been some fundamentals that have driven that market.
As I was reminded in one of the articles in today’s list, “Is Now The Time To Buy Gold?” predicting the price of gold is as easy as tracking the U.S. dollar and the stock markets. If the dollar weakens or the markets show insecurity, then the price of gold rises. What makes this tricky is that this is an either/or proposition that makes the theory sound easier than it is.
Simply, gold investing is used as a hedge against weakening currencies. If the currency loses its purchasing power, the price of gold rises. When stocks lose their asset values and are not providing returns to investors, currency may be strong but its buying power is not what it used to be, also known as inflation, then gold becomes a safe bet.
Silver is sometimes referred to as the “poor man’s investment” because of its lower price.
The tricky part is trying to predict what the markets are going to do. This is why when something happens that creates uncertainty, the markets react like a scared dog in a thunderstorm (one of my dogs becomes a basket case during thunderstorms).
The biggest problem is that uncertainty can come as quickly as a Tweet. It is amazing how one statement in 140-characters or less could move all of these markets. It is the business version of being scared of their own shadow.
For now, I am just going to stick to collecting coins. Aside from the satisfaction of the chase and accomplishment, my collection is worth more than what I paid. It is more fun and I know that when it is time to sell, I will make a profit.
As examples of hubris go, that of Hannibal (the Carthaginian general, not the fictional serial killer) takes some matching. And now German geochemists have added solid science to the evidence of historians and archeologists. → Read more at cosmosmagazine.com
Interesting money can you bring from journey. Disney dollars are traded one-to-one to the American, the Cuban peso is only for local residents, the coin 25 Euro in almost every country you can find unusual currency. Yes, and the usual money that we pay in the supermarkets, are often a pleasant and even beautiful reminder … → Read more at micetimes.asia
Bob Harwell has turned his childhood pastime of collecting coins into a profession, and now coins he collected are on display at a University of Georgia library. The display includes a complete set… → Read more at reporternewspapers.net
You need a quick amount of cash. After all, not every transaction can be made with a credit card. You hop in the car and drive to the bank to use the ATM. Within seconds, the machine spits out money and you drive away.
Early the next morning you look at the bills and notice that not only are they crisp new $20 Federal Reserve Notes but they are in sequence. A closer look and you think that you might have a good Liar’s Poker hand.
An ATM find: A Sequence of $20 Federal Reserve Notes
Then you take a closer look at the serial number and think you might have stumbled on something. That is when you realize that you might need to take that prescription from the ophthalmologist to a store and get your glasses changed!
Eight notes sooner and I would have picked up a $20 Federal Reserve Note with a cool serial Number!
Although a decent Liar’s Poker hand (a full-house), I almost had a repeater. Had I made to the ATM sooner, I could have found the note with a 4-digit serial repeater. Then, if the rest of the notes were in sequence, I would have sacrificed to go back for more money. After all, there would be someone who would be interested in buying serial number “92009200” and maybe the succeeding notes!
Now I am stuck hoping to win the $535 million after spending number “92009212” on Powerball tickets.
Did you know that someone made a movie about the $2 bill?
I was looking for information about early $2 notes and an Internet search discovered the page for The Two Dollar Bill Documentary.
Basically, it is a 1 hour 43 minute documentary about the $2 bill. Written and directed by John Bennardo, who has one other film to his credits, writes on the website that he wanted to learn more about the stack of $2 bills he kept in his desk draw. A year and several interviews later, Bennardo had a documentary.
It does not appear that the documentary had a wide distribution since I did not find anything about its showing. But for the low sales price of $9.99 you can by a DVD through their online store. It might be worth spending the $10 just to check out the documentary.
The Two Dollar Bill Documentary teaser trailer
All images courtesy of “The Two Dollar Bill Documentary.”
As I continue my research into history and technology of counterfeiting, I have been collecting historical statistics as to the problem of counterfeiting. I thought I would share the current statistics I found.
The most common counterfeited denomination is the 20s, be they dollars, pounds, euros, or pesos. For currencies whose values are significantly lower than the dollar, such as the yuan, or whose currencies have no real fractions, like the yen, the most common counterfeited denomination is the 100 unit.
The top note is a counterfeit $100 note, the bottom is a legitimate note
In the past few years, many countries and central banks have released new currency with additional anti-counterfeiting technologies. Canada is currently in the process to transition to the cotton bond currency to a polymer substrate. Since starting the transition, the Bank of Canada is reporting a decrease of 141,502 notes in 2007 ($3.3 million in value) to 17,492 in 2016 ($900,000 in value). For Canada, this is a decrease in 88-percent of the number of notes passed and a decrease of 73-percent in value.
Detecting counterfeit £1 coins, the genuine coin has edge lettering (left), the counterfeit does not.
A few months ago, the Royal Mint began the process of issuing a 12-sided pound coin to replace the round-pound because about 2.5 percent of 1.6 billion of 1 pound coins are counterfeit. Although this has been a painful process, the Brits will continue the transition which calls for demonetizing the round-pound by October 15, 2017.
The Bank of England began issuing currency using the polymer substrate starting with the £5 notes. The paper fiver was withdrawn on May 5, 2017 (withdraw the £5 on 5/5… get it?!). Plans continue to issue the £10 note in September.
The move to polymer notes was prompted because of a spike in counterfeiting in 2012. Spiking at more than 746,000 counterfeiting notes with a value of £13.71 million, the Bank of England reports that 347,000 counterfeit notes valued at £7.47 million were confiscated in 2016.
Eurozone has had more problems with counterfeit €2 coins than currency.
The European Central Bank reports that counterfeiting remains low in the Eurozone and even reduced by 20.7-percent from 2015 to 2016. Of the notes counterfeited, the €20 and €50 notes make up 80.3-percent of the most counterfeited currency. Surprisingly, the €100 (at 9.7-percent) and €500 notes (4.9-percent) are not as widely counterfeited. However, the ECB has other concerns with these high denomination notes since the €500 notes are a favorite amongst the cash-based illegal trade because it takes fewer notes to carry a high-volume of currency. One study noted that the €500 note was referred to as the “Bin-Laden” for its added convenience.
The ECB is in the process of transitioning their currency to the new Europa Series. A new €50 note was issued this past April. Aside from new designs, the Europa series uses some of the advanced technologies to prevent counterfeiting but does so on cotton bond. Currently, there is no plan to use the polymer substrate for the Euro notes.
As opposed to other central banks, the People’s Bank of China (PBC) is not as forthcoming with information. But when they do something, news reporters can obtain some nuggets of information from Chinese officials. When the PBC unveiled new 100 yuan notes with additional counterfeiting features, they reported to the Wall Street Journal that police confiscated 532 million yuan ($85.6 million) in counterfeit bills in 2014. The most commonly counterfeited notes were 50 yuan and 100 yuan bills but there have been increases in lower denominations.
Click on the image to read a nice description (in English) on identifying genuine Mexican currency
Mexico has been undergoing a slow conversion to polymer notes. Currently, the 20- and 50-peso notes are made using polymer and the new generation of 100-peso notes are made of polymer. Higher denominations continue to be printed on cotton bond but incorporate a number of advanced anti-counterfeiting features other countries are using. The Bank of Mexico has not announced plans to convert higher denominations but a representative reported that the plan is to print future special issues on cotton bond, such as the 100-peso banknote commemorating The 100th Anniversary of The Enactment of the Constitution issued last February.
Statistics published by the Bank of Mexico reports a decrease in the number of counterfeit currency from 70.7 per million issued to 61.8 per million notes issued. This represents a decrease of 12.6-percent. When the Bank of Mexico issued the new polymer 20- and 50-peso notes in 2014, they experienced a drop in 36.9-percent in counterfeiting.
It is not a surprise that the world’s most use currency and the currency that most world trade is based is the most counterfeited currency in the world. There is also more United States currency in circulation that any other, including the Euro. According to the Federal Reserve, there is approximately $1.49 trillion in Federal Reserve notes circulation. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco says that 31.1-percent of those notes is the ubiquitous dollar and 26-percent are $100 Federal Reserve Notes mostly held overseas.
Prop Movie Money continues to be a problem because people just do not look!
According to the United States Secret Service in their 2015 Annual Report, the latest available, they prevented the circulation of over $58 million in counterfeit U.S. currency resulting in the arrest of 796 criminals and closing 145 manufacturing operations. Of the $58 million counterfeited, $28 million, about half, of the bogus U.S. currency was seized prior to it being circulated.
The $20 bill is the most commonly counterfeited banknote in the U.S., while overseas counterfeiters are more likely to make fake $100 bills.
In every report downloaded from the various governments and central banks regarding the security of their currency, it is a common theme that the vast majority of counterfeiting would have a minimal impact if people would just look for the anti-counterfeiting measures these entities go through great lengths to add to the currency. Whether it is not looking for the edge lettering on the old round-pound or the recent cut-and-paste of the security features of Canadian currency, there would be few problems if people would just look.
Canada counterfiet currnecy image courtesy of CTV News.
Counterfeit round-pound image courtesy of BBC News
Police in Vancouver, British Columbia has discovered that criminals are altering the new polymer notes to create counterfeits that are being passed in the region. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Bank of Canada are warning merchants that criminals are splicing $5 bills to remove the holographic strips and add them to color-copied $100 notes to make them seem less suspicious.
In order to make sure that the clear window in the polymer notes does not raise suspicion, clear packing tape has been used on the altered $5 notes to cover the alteration.
Discovered in Metro Vancouver, police found that a careful examination of the notes shows that the $5 notes can be altered in a way that does not raise suspicion while creating $100 notes that has been passed with little notice, until recently.
A representative from the Bank of Canada says that criminals are preying on the fact that people are not verifying the notes. The Bank of Canada issued a release urging merchants to check the notes for more than one of the security features.
Travelers to Canada and United States dealers that accept Canadian currency as a convenience to their customers from north of the border should learn about the embedded security features before accepting these notes. Visit the Bank of Canada Banknote website for more information as to how to recognize legitimate currency.
Clarification Update: The three lower denomination Canadian notes ($5, $10, and $20) are made using the polymer substrate. The higher denomination note ($50 and $100) are still made with rag bond paper. These notes are scheduled to be converted to polymer in the next few years.
Anti-counterfeiting features on the front of the Canadian polymer $20 note
Anti-counterfeiting features on the back of the Canadian polymer $20 note
All currency images courtesy of the Bank of Canada.
I feel so comfortable saying this that I will not qualify that statement with, “few will argue that ….” When you are the first American to strap yourself into a tiny capsule that is forced into space on top of the Atlas LV-3B rocket, essentially a huge Roman candle, there is no argument on his status in history.
Glenn was not only the first American in space but is also the oldest person ever to go to space. In 1998, at the age of 77, Glenn rode on Discovery on STS-95 as part of a study by the National Institute of Aging. Although the study was not criticized, the selection of Glenn was. While there will be an asterisk in history about the criticism, it will not diminish Glenn’s place in history.
While out looking for collectible inventory, I came across an auction of memorabilia from the widow of a crewman that was aboard the ship that picked up Glenn after he splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean.
On February 20, 1962, Glenn blasted off from Cape Canaveral on Friendship 7 for what ended up being a 4-hour 55-minute flight into history. During the flight, a sensor noted that a heat shield had loosened and could endanger his re-entry. Glenn was ordered to leave a solid-fueled retrorocket pack in place to protect the shield.
Parade in Florida on February 24, 1962 following the return of John Glenn.
John Glenn and General McElroy
Although Glenn’s re-entry was calculated, he carried a note that read, “I am a stranger. I come in peace. Take me to your leader and there will be a massive reward for you in eternity” in several languages, in case he splashed down in an area where the Navy was not positioned.
According to the auction house, two ships were in position based on the projections as to where Friendship 7 was supposed to splash down in the Atlantic. A third was positioned further south and then moved when calculations suggested that the retrorocket pack would change the trajectory of the capsule. When Friendship 7 splashed down further south than expected there was a race amongst the three ships to see who could pick up Glenn and etch their names into history.
The third and most southern positioned ship, the U.S.S. Randolph (CV-15), was in the best position to recover Glenn and the capsule. In the race to the area of the capsule, the Randolph arrived first and pulled Glenn out of the Atlantic. Glenn remained aboard the Randolph where he was medically examined before the aircraft carrier docked in Florida on Friday, February 23, 1962.
Saturday was shore leave for the crew of the Randolph in Key West, Florida. To celebrate, Captain Claude C. (Buddy) Inskeep and select members of his crew were invited for a pleasure cruise aboard The Big Wheel fishing boat where a number of pictures and autographs were offered.
February 24, 1962 picture (L-R): Lyn Glenn, John Glenn, and Dave Glenn aboard The Big Wheel
Memento given to the crew who visited John Glenn and family aboard The Big Wheel
In the auction lot of memorabilia were pictures of John Glenn and his family, a memento picture of some of the people on board The Big Wheel along with a medal featuring John Glenn, and an autographed $1 silver certificate.
It is the silver certificate that makes this lot a very cool find. Technically, we could call this a short snorter since it is a signed piece of paper currency of members together on a trip. But these are not ordinary autographs. From top to bottom the autographs include John Glenn’s wife Annie Glenn; John H. Glenn, Jr.; (John David) Dave Glenn (son, then 17 years old); and (Carolyn Ann) Lyn Glen (daughter, then 15 years old). Below the printed signature of Treasurer Ivy Baker Priest is written “2-24-62.”
I have no doubt that the autographs and the memorabilia are authentic. It is something that you just cannot find every day! Even though I am a dealer and should sell what I purchase, I know that this is a memento from history and of a hero who passed last year. I know I can make a hefty profit from this purchase since I know I vastly underpaid what it is worth, but I am having a hard time considering letting them go.
Glenn family autographed “Short Snorter” dated February 24, 1962, four days after Glenn orbited the earth in Friendship 7
For now, I own them but might entertain offers. But the offers must knock my socks off because this is just too cool to consider anything else!
Letter found in the auction lot with the Glenn memorabilia
The First Day Cover (address redacted) that held the letter from Chemtronics, Inc.
The White House announced on Friday that Jovita Carranza will be nominated for Treasurer of the United States. Carranza had been a member of Trump campaign National Hispanic Advisory Council met with Trump in December about a position. Currently, she is acting director of the Small Business Administration.
The following biographical note was released by the White House:
Ms. Carranza currently is the Founder of JCR Group which provides services to companies and non-governmental organizations. She previously served as Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) under President George W. Bush, after receiving unanimous confirmation. Prior to her service in SBA, Carranza had a distinguished career at United Parcel Service where she started as a part-time, night-shift box handler and worked her way up to be the highest ranking Latina in company history where she served as president of Latin America and Caribbean operations. Ms. Carranza earned her MBA from the University of Miami in Florida. She also has received executive, management and financial training at the INSEAD Business School in Paris, France; Michigan State University; and the University of Chicago.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) once again introduced the Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings Act of 2017 (COINS Act). Similar to the same bill he introduced in the last congress, the COINS Act (S. 759) proposed to end the production of the $1 Federal Reserve Note, reduce the production cost of the five cent coin by changing its composition, and eliminating the one cent coin. Mike Enzi (R-WY) is a co-sponsor.
“With our country facing $20 trillion in debt, Congress must act to protect the American taxpayer,” in a statement issued by McCain’s staff. “By reforming and modernizing America’s outdated currency system, this commonsense bill would bring about billions in savings without raising taxes.”
Of course “common sense” has a very different definition in Washington than the rest of the country. The first attempt to introduce a bill to end the production of the $1 note started in 1991 by then Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) and died at the end of the 102nd Congress. Kolbe introduced the legislation every session until his retirement in 2007 following the adjournment of the 109th congress. McCain has introduced the bill in the last three sessions of congress.
“Change can be hard sometimes, but switching to a dollar coin could save our country $150 million a year,” Enzi said. “Our country is in a difficult financial position because we didn’t value the cost of the dollars we spent. We can’t afford to keep that up, and these innovative opportunities are a way to save taxpayer money that is really just being wasted with each new dollar we print and penny we mint.”
I am sure that the usual arguments about eliminating the paper dollar will come up again. Even though a GAO report has shown that eliminating the paper dollar could save the government about $4.4 billion in production and handling costs, economic surveys have claimed a potential $16-18 billion benefit for the government.
When the public is asked about eliminating the paper dollar, the arguments usually line up along generational lines. Surveys have shown that Baby Boomers (those born before 1964) and those older are overwhelmingly not in favor of eliminating the the paper note. The GenXers, those born 1965-1980, are almost evenly divided while the Millenials, those born since 1980, do not care because they are mostly tied to their credit and debit cards.
The Baby Boomer that writes this blog is in favor of eliminating the paper dollar. In the past, he was in favor of eliminating the one cent coin but is beginning to have second thoughts.
For the longest time, the Massachusetts delegation have held these types of bills back. This is because the Dalton, Massachusetts based Crane & Co., the maker of currency paper, has been the exclusive currency paper supplier to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing since 1879. Although Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has become a more powerful figure in the Senate, she is not a favorite amongst the majority and is tolerated by the more centrist members of her own party. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) does not have the gravitas either of his predecessors, the late Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, to yield influence. The only power the Senators have would be to filibuster any measure that would eliminate the $1 note. Sen. Warren has railed against military-related spending for non-essential equipment so that members of congress could keep these jobs in their districts. Would she be willing to follow her lead that could reduce the revenue of a company in her home state?
There are times that while we are having fun collecting coins, currency, exonumia, and the like, there is a real world out there with real issues. For some, this hobby can be an escape from that reality.
On Wednesday, the Bank of England announced that they were looking into the issue where their new polymer notes contain traces of tallow. According to the supplier of the pellets that are used to make the polymer substrate, tallow is used in the resin it sources from a supplier to make those polymer pellets. It was a low-key response to an issue that was made bigger by the British vegan community.
While writing a snarky response, my Twitter feed blew up with the news of the attack on the Westminster Bridge and near Parliament Square in London. I stopped writing and turned on the news. Having once walked on that bridge there was a sinking feeling I could not shake.
We know that five people have died, including a police officer and the attacker. One was a man from Utah on the last leg of a 25th Anniversary trip with his wife. She was amongst the reported 50 people injured and one of the 31 requiring hospital treatment. One woman was so scared she jumped off the bridge and into the Thames River
MI5, the United Kingdom’s internal security force, arrested seven men and four women on terrorism charges. One of the women posted bail, the other 10 are still in custody. They have collected over 2,700 pieces of evidence that they will be studying.
Although I am not a “run-and-hide” type, I find it difficult to be snarky given the recent events, even if the story deserves that type of treatment. I am sure that the heartbreak of tallow will return to the news and will give me a chance to have fun at their expense. But for now, let’s wish the best for the people who were injured and the families of those who are mourning.
How would you like to find one of these at a flea market?
There are buying options for numismatics that go beyond online auctions, shows, and shops. You may be missing some opportunities if you do not consider exploring other collectibles markets. Since my business interests have me working in other areas of the collectibles markets, here are some of the places I have found numismatics and had fun at the same time.
Estate Sales and Auctions
In my current business, I am able to buy inventory from estate sales and estate auctions. Most estate sales are either the lifetime accumulation of a deceased loved one or a forced sell-off of assets mainly as part of a court-ordered restructuring. An estate sale company will come into a home, stage it for a sale, add prices to everything and open the house for the public to buy what they want.
Adding prices mean tagging the items with a price that the company running the estate sale thinks is a fair price for the item. This tagging also has these sales also called Tag Sales. When it comes to tagging, some companies are better than others. After they pick the better items, the rest of the house is tagged either at prices too low or prices too high because most of the estate sales company do not know about the items they sell. They might use an average price of similar items they sold in the past or they just pull prices out of the air.
Estate sale companies have little to know expertise with coins and currency which is reflected in their prices. I cannot tell you how many times that I have walked into an estate sale and seen common date Morgan and Peace dollars priced at over market value.
Case of foreign coins at a flea market
Unfortunately, many of these companies are not interested in learning about how to price coins. During a recent estate sale, I found quite a number of Walking Liberty half dollars. Most were in the VG-XF range. Some were better dates but none were the 1921 key date coins. Using the Numismedia Fair Market Value pricing guide I came up with a bulk price that I feel was fair for the entire lot. Unfortunately for the company, it was less than 50-percent below their price and about 20-percent lower than the fair market value. I am a reseller and I need to be able to make a profit. The manager on site acted as if I told him his baby was ugly.
When I presented my offer, I told him that I understood the coin market and would explain how I came up with the price. I showed him the Numismedia Fair Market Value pricing guide and explaining that it is a retail price guide. Confused by the differences in grade pricing he questioned how to grade coins, I show him the condition of the coins compared to the images in the PCGS Photograde app. After being confused by everything he said that he would take a chance on his price and turned down my offer.
I returned to the estate sale on Sunday afternoon about a half-hour before closing and noticed that none of the coins sold. I lowered my offer to a small percentage above its melt value. The offer was declined. A week later I found out that the coins were brought to a local coin shop. Imagine their surprise when they were offered a price between my two prices.
If you go estate sale shopping for coins, be prepared to be patient. Even though it is not their merchandise, they act as if it is their personal property. Most will be reasonable if you are reasonable with them. I would recommend reviewing the “Negotiating” section in my post “How Are Coins Priced (Part II).”
Silver halves and Peace dollars found at a recent flea market
Estate auctions are very different than what most people are used to if their only experience has either been at coin shows or eBay. If you attend a live estate auction, there is a possibility to purchase bargains. But like any auction, two people can also drive the price of the coin higher than fair market value. Most auctioneers understand how coins are priced and how bullion-based coins should not sell below their current melt value.
In my experience, gold and U.S. Mint packaged items usually sell at prices greater than fair market value. I cannot tell you why a 1977 Proof Set would sell for $15 when it is valued at $8, but it happens at these auctions.
If you are not involved in this market, there is a world of online estate auctions that hides in the open. Online estate auctions are hosted on sites that are not quite well known outside of those of us who work and shop in this world. These auctions are simply a company imaging and posting the inventory online, managing the auction, collecting money, and making sure everyone is paid. Most companies will hold absolute auctions that run for 7-10 days with all items starting at $1.00.
For those who do not know, an absolute auction is one where the lots sell at whatever the price is when bidding ends, also known as the hammer price in reference to a hammer that is used during live auctions. Winners will also pay a buyer’s fee which average 15-percent of the hammer price.
Although it is possible to find bargains in these estate auctions, many times I have seen numismatic items sell for more than fair market value. This is not good if you are a re-seller but sellers are doing well.
Antique Shows and Flea Markets
I go to a lot of antique shows and flea markets. I will set up a table at a few flea markets in a month and do a big show at least every month. One big I regularly participate is D.C. Big Flea, the mid-Atlantic’s largest antiques show and flea market. The show attracts 400-700 vendors, depending if they can use the entire center, with a variety of antique, vintage, and collectible items.
German Notgeld found at a flea market
Although I will buy and sell some numismatics, I do not bring numismatics to these shows mainly because they do not sell as well as other items. But when I have a chance to walk around the tables, I can find a number of cases with numismatic items.
Buying numismatic items at these large shows can be problematic. One of the biggest problems is that the vendor might have bought the item at full price and has overpriced it to gain a profit. There was also the time that a vendor had bought a roll of American Silver Eagles, placed them into AirTite holders and was selling them at a premium similar to the collectible Eagles struck at West Point with the “W” mintmark. When I questioned his prices and showed him that he was charging a 100-percent markup based on the per-roll price at a known distributor, he bluntly told me how unhappy he was with my questioning.
Most dealers will not try to swindle you based on a false narrative of value. In fact, many appreciate the education including the pointer to online resources. They will negotiate, and if you are fair with them, they will be fair with you. Sometimes, you can find items that you might not see on a bourse floor. During the last show I attended, one dealer had a case with a lot of German Notgeld, most in Extra Fine and Uncirculated condition.
During a previous show, I found a dealer who emptied boxes of tokens, trinkets, buttons, and medals on a large table. It was a treasure hunter’s dream! Although I did not have time to do an extensive search, I did find a few small New York-related items that I had never seen before including a merchant token for a business I know existed into the 1970s.
Although estates sales and auctions, antiques shows, and flea markets could present problems because most of the dealers are not as knowledgeable, if you come armed with knowledge, patience, and be on your best behavior, you can find some good bargains.