I’ll take Government Agency for 600, Alex

As seen on the Friday, February 17, 2017 edition of Jeopardy!

(contestant) Government agency for 600.

Alex: It says it’s “connecting America through coins.”

(contestant buzzes in) “What is the Treasury?”

Alex: No, sorry. Anyone else?

(silence) BEEP-BEEP!

Alex: What is the U.S. Mint.

This was the last of the quarter-finals of the Jeopardy! College tournament. One would think that even if you were not in tune with the working of the U.S. Mint like we collectors that the word “coins” would be a big enough clue. At least one person had the right department!

It’s the weekend and the weather is warming here. I won’t get into a “get off my lawn”-like rant!

Jeopardy! hero graphics courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

A junk box find that is not junk

A few weekends ago, I was out picking when someone offered to sell a box of lapel pins and buttons. Most of the buttons were modern political mainly from the 1988 election through the 2008 election. There was a mix of both major parties along with a number of local and state races, primarily from Virginia.

The box was nothing remarkable. It was originally for high-priced basketball shoes from a well-known company in the western United States. Alongside many of the political buttons were lapel pins and some sports pins. I also noticed some buttons with cute sayings. While being stuck in the fingers I was thinking that I could buy the box and use it as junk filler at a show. Just like coin dealers have junk boxes, those of us in other collectible areas have our versions of junk boxes. In this case, I can lay them out in felt-lined trays and let buyers pick over them for a dollar each.

Flag and ribbon pins always sell. So do buttons that say, “I usually don’t wake up grumpy, I sometimes let him sleep.” This gets the ladies to laugh and look at some of my other items.

After setting up the card table I use to work on this type of sorting, I dumped the box in the middle of the table. Expecting to have to sort through a few hundred pins and buttons when I noticed a 2×2 flip on top of the pile. It was a coin sitting that was sitting in the bottom of the box now at the top of the list of things to look at.

At first glance, I noticed it was not a U.S. coin and thought that it just could be an uncirculated copper-nickel coin until I looked closer. Shifting my glasses to get a better view there was no mistaking the reverse design as a Mexican Liberatad. The 1984 Libertad is clearly marked “1 ONZA PLATA PURA” (1-ounce pure silver) with the obverse declaring it from “ESTADOS UNIDOS MEXICANOS” (United States of Mexico).

I found a beautiful, uncirculated 1984 Mexico Libertad worth more than what I paid for the box!

Although I love large silver coins, I have never owned a Libertad. Did you know that the edge of the Libertad has edge lettering? It reads “INDEPENDENCIA Y LIBERTAD” (Independence and Freedom). The distinctive mintmark of the Mexico Mint is on the reverse and has an overall great look.

I almost did not buy the box!

270 Pounds in Pennys

Let’s have some fun rather than talk about the mundane! Covering floors, cars, or any other surface using coins is not something new, but according to Matt Giles this has not been done in the United Kingdom. On the YouTube page where the video is posted, he writes:

When thinking about what to lay in the kitchen Amy came up with a fantastic idea inspired by what she had researched online. We saw a bunch of penny floor projects in the USA, it seemed a really popular way of creating a bespoke retro floor for any part of the house, but wasnt done in the UK. Challenge accepted!

We took 27,000 1p coins and decided to give our kitchen diner a new look. Each coin was individually glued to the floor which had been self levelled before hand and left to dry. After gluing down all the coins a black grout was applied to fill the gaps followed by a high gloss epoxy resin to cover and seal.

The end result is simply awesome. The floor looks stunning and the weeks of hard work has been worth the pain.

Seems like an inexpensive idea. Take £270 in pennys (yes, that is how the Brits spell the plural of penny), glue, grout, apply a high gloss epoxy resin, and take about two weeks of work to come up with something different. For anyone curious, £270 is currently equivalent to $337.88.

Maybe his video will inspire your creativity!

A different numismatic gift idea

As the weather turns colder and the fowl shudder for other reasons, we turn our thoughts to what to give as gifts. As numismatists, we can always find something based on the hobby that would be nice and maybe spark interest in collecting. Or we can find something fun that is somewhat related for those we know will never be converted.

We begin the weekend that starts with Black Friday and extends to Cyber Monday, terms that have little meaning these days except as marketing mechanism, if we are not going to fight the crowds at least we can plan.

My planning began two weeks ago when I wanted to do something different for my coin club’s December meeting. As the club greeter, I set up a table at the door to give away tickets for door prizes and sell raffle tickets. Door prizes are usually low-value foreign coins or an unusual U.S. coin, such as one with a minor error. Since I am responsible for selecting the door prizes, I try to follow a theme and include at least one coin containing silver. The raffle is usually a small gold coin or a silver crown-like coin, depending on what the club treasurer can find.

Our December meetings are special in that it is our annual charity auction. Members donate items to the auction and everyone in attendance bids for what they want. All proceeds are donated to a local charity. This has been a club tradition dating back to its founding in 1959.

While thinking about the door prizes and raffle, I was scanning online auctions looking for ideas. One idea came when I stumbled across currency-like notes with holiday themes. When I found a $1 million note with “A Blue Christmas with Elvis” I knew I found a door prize. Since I was buying two for the coin club, I bought a few more to include in greeting cards that I will be mailing this year.

To be inclusive, the next search was to look for Chanukah currency. Although the selection was not as varied as the Christmas notes, I found one that looked nice and was going to satisfy the coin club and be added to my holiday cards.

Then my thoughts turned to the raffle. We try to raffle gold coins whenever we can buy them at a cheap enough price. However, with the price of gold over $1,200 per troy ounce and over $189 higher than it opened in January, finding something affordable was not easy. As I was searching I found a listing for 1-grain bars mounted on holiday-related cards. I know that 1 grain is not a lot of gold. In fact, it comes out to about $2.50 in gold. But to buy four at $5 per card to donate for the raffle where the proceeds go to charity, that would be something different.

After purchasing the four cards, I started searching for other gold bars and found everything from one-third of a gram and heavier. Even with the current price of gold, finding special bars that could be purchased for $25 or less gave me an idea to buy a few to include in cards to special people.

Of course, this type of gift giving is not for everyone. But if you want to do something with a numismatic theme and make it look special for not a lot of money, think about buying these light gold bars. I think you will impress your gift recipient.

HOLY COW!

Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs!
It only took 108 years!
I guess they need an update to the poem “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon
Tinker to Evers to Chance.

Obligitory numismatic content:

Cubs numismatic collectibles

Cubs numismatic collectibles can be purchase from the Highland Mint or MLBShop.com

Credits

Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar

The original bit coin.

The original bit coin.

Let’s not put the cart before the horse. We all have used adages. Some are centuries old when it was really something special when a penny saved was a penny earned. For some adages, things are not always what they seem which makes appearances deceiving.

In a comment about a technical issue, I was trying to explain that something would not work and exclaimed, “That isn’t worth two-bits.”

To the few people in the room within my age group, they understood what I said. Those younger than being eligible for AARP and those born outside of the United States did not understand. Since it is more blessed to give rather than receive, it gave me the opportunity to teach someone about the origin of money in the United States.

When the colonies were settled, George I was the King of England. Although the king ruled from an ocean away, the governors sent to manage the colonies on his behalf were under strict orders to not allow the colonists to coin money. An exception was made during a small period in the 17th century, colonists had to make due with the low-value copper coinage the king and his governors allowed.

Even with a standing army in the colonies, the governors could not control the commerce. Instead, they applied duties and fees for allowing the colonists to trade with the rest of the Western Hemisphere. Notice that there were no taxes because only the king could tax the royal subjects. Governors could levy duties to run the colonies. They also took kickbacks and bribes in order to get their way.

Although the Pound Sterling was the coin of the realm it was not available to the colonies. Instead, trading posts accepted the 8 reales coin, also known as the Thaler or Spanish Milled Dollar, as payment for goods and services. With the trade of high-cost goods like tobacco, cotton, and hides caught in the Appalachian Mountains the colonies relied more on the Spanish Milled Dollar than on the copper British coins.

Colonial governors ignored the growing economy, as they were able to satisfy the companies that sponsored the settlements and paid the taxes while lining their pockets. Colonists were able to make do with what was left.

A problem came about that everything could not be worth 8 reales and without subsidiary coinage, it was impossible to give change. Using the silver value of the coin, people would cut the coin into pieces in order to make subsidiary coinage. A milled dollar cut in half was a half-dollar. That half-dollar cut in half was a quarter-dollar and the quarter-dollar cut in half was called a bit.

The bit was the basic unit of commerce since prices were based on the bit. Of course, this was not a perfect solution. It was difficult to cut the quarter-dollars in half with great consistency which created problems when the bit was too small, called a short bit. Sometimes, goods or services would be adjusted to accommodate the short bit. Other times, short bits were supplemented with the English pennies that were allowed to circulate in the colonies.

Getting back to our adage, two bits were made from a quarter-dollar. Saying something was not worth two bits was either a negotiating tactic or someone wanted to use a short bit to pay for an item. Like many adages that have origins in the 17th and 18th centuries, the reason for their existence has been lost with time.

But arguing about its origin would be rocking the boat. We do know that some of our colonial ancestors should have measured twice and cut once to avoid the problem. But alas, there is no sense crying over spilled milk.

From my collection

Bit coin image courtesy of The Dreamer Comic by Laura Innes.

Follow me to the Roadshow

Although this is not numismatic-related, I thought my readers would like a different type of collectible diversion.

AntiquesRoadshowToday I will be attending the taping of Antiques Roadshow in Virginia Beach, Virginia. As a fan of the show, I am fascinated by the vintage and antique items people find, the stories behind them, and what they end up being worth. Of course they pick out the best stories and phenomenal values to feature on the broadcast, but one can only hope.

Although Antiques Roadshow does not appraise coins and currency, they would appraise medals, military awards, and even old stock certificates that were signed by famous business leaders. Unfortunately, I do not have any of those items to appraise. Since we are only allowed to bring two items to appraise, I am bringing the following:

The poster from Grand Valley State College (now Grand Valley State University) is from a pair of 1972 shows by humorists Dick Gregory and Mort Sahl. It was hung on campus and not made to last. I have not seen another like and and the only listing of it online is in the university’s library. This was picked at an estate sale for $10.00.

The music box is Swiss made and there is a faint hallmark that can be seen on the mechanism that suggests it was made around 1922. The motor works well and all of the teeth are attached and play loudly. The interesting thing about this music box is that it plays six 30-second arias. When it reaches the end of an aria, the mechanical mechanism will move the drum over to play the next one. After the sixth aria it will move the drum back to the first position. This was an auction buy which I forgot what I paid.

If you want to following along, you can follow the various social media outlets for my business Having-Fun Collectibles—after all, it is not numismatics.

It is common for people to use the hashtag #antiquesroadshow on all of these sites. I hope to remember to use this tag.

Have a good weekend!

Mint is Not for Sale!

No, the U.S. Mint is not being privatized or sold to anyone. Given the significance of the date, I thought I would add to the fun.

If you read the post carefully, you would have noticed:

  • The “Poboy Mint” was a play on Pobjoy Mint, the private mint based on Surrey, England. While the Pobjoy Mint strikes coins for other governments, particularly smaller members of the Commonwealth Realm, I don’t think they would be a candidate to buy U.S. government assets. Besides, they probably won’t make a good Po’ Boy sandwich!
  • The Chairman of the House Financial Committee is Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). I don’t know who Jed Harding is or if that is the name of a real person.
  • Similarly, the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee is Richard Shelby (R-AL). In trying to come up with a translated name, all I could think about was Carroll Shelby, the man who created the AC Cobra and later the Ford Mustang Cobra.
  • Brad Hoyle sounds like he should be a card game inventor but he is not Brendan Boyle (D-PA) who represents the Philadelphia district where the U.S. Mint is located.
  • While Dana Gillette sounds like she might be a top sports broadcaster or spokesperson, Diana DeGette (D-CO) represents the fine people of Denver.
  • MUSC doesn’t exist but musk is a substance secreted from a gland under the skin of a male musk deer that is used in perfumery. Without being mixed with other scents, musk does not smell good!
  • Finally, congress is on spring break and (thankfully) not in Washington!

In short:

Like the Orson Well’s broadcast of The War of the Worlds, all you had to do is change the channel (or check another source).

That was fun!

Stand by for more on the Whitman Baltimore Spring Expo.

Congress Votes to Privatize the Mint

In what is seen as an election year move during a late night session, congress voted mostly along party lines to sell the U.S. Mint and its assets to a private corporation headed by the founders of the Poboy Mint.

The measure moved quickly through congress after the bill was introduced by House Banking Committee Chairman Jed Harding. In his floor statement, Harding said that he and his senate counterpart Carroll Cobra have been discussing this with interested companies and other members for more than a year. They see it as a way to make money without making money.

Under the terms of the agreement, the current U.S. Mint properties will be leased to the Mint of the United States Corporation (MUSC), the new entity being created for this venture. They are required to use these facilities for 50 years at which time either party can end the agreement with 120-days notice.

Rep. Brad Hoyle said that he worked hard to ensure that the facility in Philadelphia remained. “The Mint employs a lot of people in Philadelphia,” Hoyle said. “We just couldn’t see all those jobs leaving.”

“Besides,” Hoyle continued, “how would it look if the city where the Mint started would lose the Mint after all these years? It would be devastating to our local economy.”

Dana Gillette, who represents Denver was note as upbeat. Gillette disagrees with the privatization efforts saying, “I know the constitution does not say that the government doesn’t have to own the Mint, but this is a bit too far.”

The transfer to MUSC will begin immediately, ending 224 years of operating as a government entity.

Board games going cashless! What’s this world coming to?!

Monopoly Ultimate Banking, a cashless version of the famous board game.

Monopoly Ultimate Banking, a cashless version of the famous board game.

Could toy maker Hasbro be projecting the future of money?

At the 2016 New York Toy Fair, Hasbro announced that it will release an “update” the famedMonopoly game creating the Monopoly Ultimate Banking Game where the cash has been eliminated for electronic bank cards. The bank is now a hand-held unit that will scan the bank cards to make transactions.

As part of the game, the bank card is used to pay rent, taxes from the cards, and buy property. The new property cards will now have bar codes for the players to scan in order to make the purchase or mortgage their property.

This version of Monopoly will still have Chance cards. Previews suggest that the Community Chest cards have been eliminated. Chance cards will now allow for market crashes, fluctuations in rent, and other “real life” scenarios faced in the modern age.

Hasbro does have an Electronic Banking edition that uses a similar hand-held device. A Hasbro representative said that the Electronic Banking edition is the traditional Monopoly game using the bank card technology. It does not have the ability to scan property cards for transactions and requires more manual input than will be allowed for the Ultimate Banking Game.

Recently, the advocates for a cashless society or one that uses a limited amount of physical currency have been on their virtual soapboxes trying to find every reason to eliminate cash. One story that appeared on the CNBC website reported about a San Francisco-area restauranteur who tried to accept only credit cards had to reverse the decision because of backlash from customers.

There are segments of our culture who do not trust banks. There are industries that work better when the transactions are made in cash. There are some of us who do not like the electronic trail non-cash transactions create. These are only some of the reason cash will continue to live on.

Hasbro said that the Monopoly Ultimate Banking Game will be released later this summer. My only question is will it support house rules like double payment for landing on Go or having the taxes paid to the Free Parking pool for the next player that lands there?

All images courtesy of Mashable.

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