Weekly Numismatic World News

Depending on how you look at the news, it was a quiet week in numismatics from around the world. One issue not being written about in the numismatic press are the ongoing problems local governments and some businesses are facing in the United Kingdom on their switch to the new pound coin. Aside from production issues, there are entities that are not ready for the new pound coin and may not be ready when the old round pound is demonetized in October.

The United Kingdom is a smaller country than the United States with fewer people and not as many smaller governments trying to control their own piece of grass. Yet, the change was announced almost three years in advance and the Royal Mint provided free test coins to anyone who asked and they are still not ready. One can only imagine the chaos that would occur in the United States if the same thing happened here!

The other big story that I am not including is those about Bitcoin and other so-called crypto-currencies. There are a lot of stories about “Initial Coin Offerings” (ICO) announcing another version of these contrived bit-created trading units. Unless crypto-currencies produce something numismatic-related that can be collected, it is the same as someone writing “This paper is worth $1” and using it for commerce. Without backing, both the crypto-currency and the paper are worth whatever someone will trade for it. Neither have real value and not a subject I plan to cover.

Now, time for the news!

• July 17, 2017

NEW ORLEANS – A local artist is drawing interest for a commemorative coin memorializing four Confederate-era monuments recently removed by the City of New Orleans. One Point Five Art, an artist based in Algiers who sells New Orleans-themed artwork on platforms such as Facebook, Ebay, and Etsy, has listed the “Monumental” New Orleans Commemorative Confederate Statue Coin for presale on Ebay. → Read more at wgno.com


• July 19, 2017

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The seas have not been kind this summer to treasure hunters looking for gold off the coast of Wabasso. So far, the crew of the Capitana has recovered only one gold coin, an Escudo minted in Mexico about 1714. → Read more at tcpalm.com


• July 19, 2017

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


• July 19, 2017

Experts were thrilled to discover the coin on a remote island in the Scottish Orkney archipelago. The coin, which is believed to date from the mid fourth-century A.D., was found during an excavation on the small island of Rousay, which is part of the Orkney islands off Scotland’s northeastern coast. → Read more at foxnews.com


• July 19, 2017

AN ancient Roman coin dating back around 1600 years has been discovered in Rousay, Orkney . Archaeologists unearthed the ancient copper alloy coin during a dig by teams working at the eroding beach at Swandro. → Read more at scotsman.com


• July 20, 2017

A rare gold coin from the time of the Byzantine Emperor Phocas was discovered during excavations at Rusokastro Fortress, which is located on a hill near Zhelyazovo village, in Burgas district in southeastern Bulgaria, quoted by the Bulgarian National Television. → Read more at novinite.com


• July 21, 2017

MANILA- The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is looking to launch redesigned coins with new security features before the end of the year. Central bank Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo said Friday that the new generation coins would be released and circulated within the year. → Read more at news.abs-cbn.com


• July 22, 2017

DENVER — The World’s Fair of Money® is coming to Denver, Colorado, August 1 – 5, 2017, and the public can see more than $1 billion of historic rare coins and colorful currency including $100,000 denomination bills, Colorado Gold Rush-era coins, a famous $3 million nickel and currency that was mistakenly misprinted with upside down serial numbers. → Read more at northdenvertribune.com

Coin Collectors News
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 Before a Bitcoin fan decides to flame my stance on crypto-currencies, I do have a technical background especially in the area of information security. I fully understand the principles of the block-chain technology behind these crypto-currencies and the games that can be played not only with the elements of the blockchain (remember, it is only a pseudo-random number generator), but also with the trading mechanisms. I have sound technical reasons behind my social responsibility for not being a fan.

Numismatic World News for the Week Ending July 15, 2017

I have lamented the ending of the weekly newsletter. I thought it would be fun to share the numismatic-related news from non-numismatic press from around the interwebs and grow into something interesting. To support generating the newsletter, I wrote some software to automate the process. These scripts are pretty cool if you ask me (I know you didn’t but I did). It is not fun letting good software go to waste. So I reworked the output to generate a version for the blog.

Each week, I will take no more than 10 stories from around the world and post them Sunday evening. These stories range from those about coin production, finds of ancient hoards, coin and currency issues from world government, bullion, and anything else that would concern the numismatic market in some way.

ENJOY!

• July 10, 2017

It's time to start checking your pockets again, as a rare pound coin with a manufacturing fault has been valued at £3,000. A coin collector from Hull spotted the error on his new £1 coin and immediately contacted the Royal Mint to find out if it was a genuine coin which could therefore be extremely rare and sought-after. → Read more at cosmopolitan.com


• July 10, 2017

Summary Silver fundamentals released by the Silver Institute for 2016 show reduced demand, with a smaller deficit compared to 2015 Silver is reacting to investment news such as interest rate rises, and has since the second half of 2016 → Read more at seekingalpha.com


• July 10, 2017

The Prince of Wales has struck a commemorative coin to mark the Duke of Edinburgh's retirement from public duties. One side of the £1 coin bears the image of Prince Philip and the phrase "Non sibi sed patriae", meaning "not for self, but country". → Read more at bbc.com


• July 11, 2017

BERLIN — A giant gold coin that was stolen from a museum in the heart of Berlin this year was probably smashed or melted down and will most likely never be recovered, the authorities said on Wednesday, as they announced four arrests, including that of a museum security guard. → Read more at nytimes.com


• July 11, 2017

A Beaumont man is facing up to 20 years in federal prison for an alleged scheme involving $5.4 million in rare coins. Westley Pollard Jr., 42, was arrested Wednesday morning and charged with 11 counts of mail fraud, according to a statement from the U.S. → Read more at beaumontenterprise.com


• July 11, 2017

DEFECTIVE quids — previously dubbed the “most secure in the world†— have been slowly cropping up online with many selling for hundreds of pounds. But are these errors really that common and why do they make your coins collectable? → Read more at thesun.co.uk


• July 11, 2017

Governor of the Bank of Jamaica (BoJ) Brian Wynter says a shortage of coins will ease later this month. He told Parliament's Economy and Productions Committee Wednesday that there is currently a shortage of $20 coins. → Read more at jamaica-gleaner.com


• July 12, 2017

HOW much is a dollar worth? If it falls between the car seat cushions, or it gets lost in the washing machine, it’s worth big bucks to Ronnie Shahar. Every year, countries all over the world ship millions of tonnes of scrap metal to processing plants in China, India and South-East Asia, the remains of old cars, vehicles, washing machines and vending machines. → Read more at news.com.au


• July 14, 2017

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi commemorated the birthday of Shrimad Rajchandra — the spiritual guide of Mahatma Gandhi — by launching two commemorative coins of Rs. 150 and Rs. 10 on June 29 at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. → Read more at indiawest.com

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New ANA President and Board

The American Numismatic Association announced today that Gary Adkins will be the associations 60th President. Gary will take office during the World’s Fair of Money.

Adkins won with 62-percent of the vote.

Don Kagin, who ran unopposed, will be the next Vice President.

With seven available position for the Board of Governors and eight candidates, only Adam Crum was not elected. Crum was a newcomer to the ANA election process and was one of my choices for that reason. He needs to stay engaged and try again in the future. The ANA needs new people and new perspectives.

The election for ANA President was really the only consequential race and I am pleased with the outcome. I wish the new leadership luck and will support them in whatever way I can.

By the way, I think that at least one of the Board of Governors will reach his term limit of five terms for the next election cycle. I hope that this may convince more people to run for the Board of Governors during the next election in 2019. If not, run anyway. The ANA needs new voices and new ideas from all members of the hobby!

Jovita Carranza Sworn in as 44th Treasurer

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, right, administer the oath of office to Jovita Carranza, left, as the 44th Treasurer of the U.S., Monday, June 19, 2017, at the Treasury Department in Washington. Jovita Carranza’s daughter Klaudene Carranze, holds the Bible and her goddaughter Lily Hobbs stands second from right. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

Through the din of Washington, it was lightly reported that Jovita Carranza was sworn in as the 44th Treasurer of the United States on June 19, 2017, by Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. Joining Carranza at the ceremony was her daughter Klaudene Carranza and goddaughter Lily Hobbs.

Since the appointment of Georgia Neese Clark by President Harry S. Truman in 1949, there have been 16 women appointed as Treasurer of the United States. Carranza is the seventh Latina to hold the job and the fourth straight since the appointment of Rosario Marin in 2001 by President George W. Bush.

Carranza will oversee the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and U.S. Mint. Since there have been problems reported with Cabinet secretaries getting senior officials to be accepted by the head of the presidential personnel office, the current structure at the U.S. Mint will stay in place. Carranza will take an active role overseeing the mint until a director is appointed.

Image courtesy of the Wasihngton Post

Stolen Ancient Coins and Art helps fund ISIS

Amateur photos of stolen coins — like this, taken from a cache of images held by a middleman — are sent from phone to phone in the underground trade.

If counterfeit Canadian currency or badly made British pound errors were not enough, the focus is now being placed on antiquities stolen by ISIS from captured areas in Syria and Iraq. The proceeds have been used to fund their activities.

A Wall Street Journal report said that Swiss authorities have been investigating Ali and Hicham Aboutaam, owners of the Phoenix Ancient Art Company with offices in New York and Geneva. It is alleged that items that they have been trading in artifacts looted by ISIS.

In one famous video, ISIS militants were shown destroying artifacts with the voice-over declaring, “These idols and pagans for people in the past centuries were worshiped instead of Allah. When Allah ordered to destroy and remove them, it was an easy matter. We don’t care, even if it costs billions of dollars.”

That may have been a ruse by only showing a few items destroyed since it is estimated that ISIS generates $100-250 million per year selling looted antiquities on the black market.

While art and statues are easy to trace, coins are a different story. Coins can be carried easily in pockets, wrapped in clothes, or just “innocently” thrown into luggage and smuggled anywhere in the world. Detection is difficult and without documentation, they may be difficult to trace.

Reports in the international media note that weak laws and the lure of significant profits have kept the sales of artifacts and looted coins moving through the system. Looted coins have been sold on sites like eBay and Etsy without fear of reprisals because their provenance cannot be proven.

Even though the 1970 UNESCO Convention was agreed upon to stop archaeological pillaging and trafficking of cultural property, the way it is implemented in most countries is to recover the item at its final destination and not in transit. An unsuspecting collector or dealer could be in the position of one of these looted coins but have to face the consequences if they are caught.

The sale of these coins supports ISIS and their terrorist activities. Even after the coins have changed hands several times, they could circulate through the industry and be used by dealers down the like who will continue to trade the coins and using the profits to help fund ISIS.

It would be easy to say to resist buying ancient Syrian or Persian coins, but there are coins that were not stolen and can be legitimately owned. This might be an area that the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild should weigh in on behalf their community.

Until then, try to limit your purchases to reputable dealers and dealers you know.

Wall Street Journal Video

Image courtesy of BuzzFeed News.

May 2017 Numismatic Legislation Review

Just because congress is dysfunctional does not mean they cannot curry favor with various constituencies. This month we see bills introduced for a Coast Guard and American Legion 100th Anniversary commemorative coins programs. Both are worthy organizations but given the toxic nature of Congress, who knows if these commemorative programs will be passed.

To pair with the Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings (COINS) Act (S. 759) introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), there is now a version introduced in the house (H.R. 2299). Even though it is a good idea, it will not be supported in the current environment.

I wish some of these bills had a chance….

H.R. 2299: Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings Act of 2017
Sponsor: Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY)
• Summary: To save taxpayers money by improving the manufacturing and distribution of coins and notes.
• Introduced: May 2, 2017
• Last Action: May 2, 2017: Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-hr2299.

H.R. 2317: United States Coast Guard Commemorative Coin Act of 2017
Sponsor: Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT)
• Introduced: May 3, 2017
• Last Action: May 3, 2017: Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR2317.

S. 1021: United States Coast Guard Commemorative Coin Act of 2017
Sponsor: Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-CT)
• Introduced: May 3, 2017
• Last Action: May 3, 2017: Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S1021.

S. 1182: The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Sen. Todd Young (R-IN)
• Introduced: May 18, 2017
• Last Action: May 18, 2017: Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S1182.

H.R. 2519: The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz (D-MN)
• Introduced: May 18, 2017
• Last Action: May 18, 2017: Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR2519.

U.S. Mint to stop taking mail orders

When official Washington has an announcement or news that they want to bury as much as possible, they issue press releases after 5:00 PM on Friday, especially before a holiday weekend. Although this type of announcement was coming sooner or later, the U.S. Mint announced that they will stop accepting and filling orders mailed to them after September 30, 2017, the end of the 2017 federal government fiscal year (FY2017).

Beginning on October 1, 2017, the only option to order products directly from the U.S. Mint will be through their online catalog or via telephone at 1-800-USA-MINT (872-6468). Telephone orders may be placed seven days a week from 8:00 AM to midnight Eastern Time.

The U.S. Mint tried this once before but after a lot of pushback from congress the policy was reversed and they just removed the order insert from their promotional mailings. This announcement sets the cut-off date one year later than the previous announcement.

This will probably not sit well specifically with older collectors that have not adapted to the online world. Unfortunately, these are becoming the vast minority of collectors since the U.S. Mint fills more orders from online purchases than any other option. In fact, when you call the toll-free number to order, the customer service representative (CSR) is using the same website that the rest of us are doing to enter your order. I found this out when I called to inquire about and order and questioned the CSR about what she was doing.

With the youngest of the Baby Boomer generation becoming 53 this year, the markets are geared for the GenX, Millenials (GenY), and GenZ (those born after 2000). The U.S. Mint has to keep up with the markets while being able to hold down costs. Removing the snail mail option will help keep costs down. As a member of the Baby Boomer generation, with my own AARP card, I do not remember the last time I purchased something from the U.S. Mint by mail or telephone. Almost everything I have bought has either been online or when the U.S. Mint has had a presence at coin shows.

Even my father, who was born before World War II, orders using the U.S. Mint’s website!

Do not worry if you do not want to use the website. The U.S. Mint will not be ending their telephone ordering system anytime in the near future. Telephone ordering allows the U.S. Mint to support universal access even for those whose abilities prevent the use of the website or who may not have access to the Internet, for whatever reason. It is part of the laws and mandates to keep the government accessible to all of its constituents. Until the technology is available to support universal access online, then the telephone ordering system will continue to be there as an alternative.

Royal Mint admits errors exist in new pound coins

The old Round Pound and the new 12-sided £1 coin

With the introduction of the COINS Act Cents (S. 759) and Sensibility Act (H.R. 2067), there is a possibility that the U.S. Mint will be required to make changes in the coinage it produces for circulation. Although the chances of either of these bills being passed are not very good, we can watch what is going on across the pond to see how a smaller country, albeit with a significant economy, handles a change in their coinage.

After three years of design and production plans, the Royal Mint has produced what they are calling the most secure coin ever. The 12-sided, bimetallic coin includes micro-lettering, a latent image that is like a hologram, and something embedded in the metal to change its electromagnetic signature so that coin operated machines can detect counterfeits. These changes were made necessary by an effort criminals made to flood the market with counterfeit the previous £1 coin.

Initially, there have been complaints about coin-op systems not being able to accept the coin. Everyone from parking lots with metered and machined payment to the London Underground has been seen as not ready for the change even though the Royal Mint produced test coins in 2016 to help businesses convert. In England, where supermarkets charge to use the shopping cart in a manner that U.S. airports charge to use luggage carts, some major chains have unlocked their carts because they cannot accept the new £1 coins.

Acceptance is not the only problem they have run into. The new pound coins appear to have errors.

The first error to show up caused people to think that the coin was being counterfeited when the thistle on the reverse did not strike properly. The Royal Mint confirmed that these were not counterfeits. They were errors in the minting process. Although it was reported that the Royal Mint did not examine the coins, after seeing the images they said:

As you would expect, we have tight quality controls in place, however variances will always occur in a small number of coins, particularly in the striking process, due to the high volumes and speed of production.

First new £1 coin error found with missing detail on the thistle

Next came the center-melt error. A woman in Birmingham found a coin that looks like the copper-nickel center melted across the coin. When minting bimetallic coins, the centers are supposed to expand in order to fuse it to the outer layers. The design crossed over the edges of the two metals to help with the anti-counterfeiting and to make sure the metals are locked into place. Since the coin is struck evenly, it is likely that either the alloy making up the center contains more of the softer nickel than specified, or that the coin was struck as second time causing the already fused centers to melt because of the friction.

Too hard of a strike is likely to have caused the copper-nickel center to melt across the coin.

A European coin expert familiar with the bimetallic minting process suggested that the pressure on the presses were set too high. This caused the coin to not eject properly from the collar leaving it in the machine for a second strike. The second strike on the higher pressure caused the center to melt and position the coin in a way to force it to eject. He is looking for an example to make a closer examination.

A final error find was the separation of the center from the outer ring. Even though the Royal Mint has said that this is impossible and all but accused the person who found the error of a crime (destroying coins is a crime in the United Kingdom), it is possible for the parts to separate if the strike pressure is not hard enough to fuse the centers to the rings. If the melting centers are caused by too heavy of the strike, the removable centers are caused by too light of a strike.

A weak strike can prevent the two metals from fusing properly allowing them to separate

It is theorized that the Royal Mint has two possible issues: quality control when resetting the coining presses when changing the dies and a design that cannot handle the tolerances.

Even when dies are changed for coins struck on a planchet with a single metal, the press has to be adjusted to ensure the coins are struck with the proper force. Even if the dies are made by the same person and machines, they can be mounted millimeters off. Operators are supposed to run a few coins and check the striking tolerances. If the strike is too hard, it will cause the dies to wear quicker (the first error) and possible cause multiple strikes (the second error) when the coins get stuck in the collars. Set too soft and the friction does not generate enough heat to fuse the metals (third error).

Looking for errors on eBay’s UK site, errors include coins without Queen Elizabeth’s portrait and 2016 trial strikes given to merchants to test coin-op machines that ended up in circulation.

Trial strikes found without the effigy of Queen Elizabeth, II

While the Brits are having fun with the Royal Mint’s error, it is nothing like the “Godless Dollar” outrage by the easily offended when the edge lettering with “In God We Trust” was accidentally left off of the Presidential dollars. Maybe the United States cannot handle change to their change!

Credits

  • Thistle error image courtesy of The Sun.
  • Melted pound image courtesy of The Sun.
  • Separated pound image courtesy of gtgadget.

April 2017 Numismatic Legislation Review

Not to be outdone, Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) introduced the Cents and Sensibility Act in the House (H.R. 2067) in order to force the change in our change. Stivers’ bill would require that circulating coins “be produced primarily of steel” and that “ be treated in such a manner that the appearance of the coins, both when new and after they have been in circulation, is similar to the one-cent, five-cent, dime, and quarter dollar coins, respectively, produced before the date of the enactment of this subsection.” This differs from the Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings (COINS) Act (S. 759), introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), in that McCain’s bill would cease production of the one-cent coin, changes the composition of the five-cent coins, and ceases production of the $1 paper currency.

I don’t think either bill has a chance of being passed but if I had to pick one, I would prefer McCain’s COINS Act.

H.R. 2067: Cents and Sensibility Act
Sponsor: Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH)
• Introduced: April 6, 2017
• Summary: To amend title 31, United States Code, to save the American taxpayers money by immediately altering the metallic composition of the one-cent, five-cent, dime, and quarter dollar coins.
• Last Action: April 6, 2017: Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR2067.

S. 921: Duty First Act
Sponsor: Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS)
• Introduced: April 24, 2017
• Summary: A bill to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the 100 year anniversary of the 1st Infantry Division
• Last Action: April 28, 2017: Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S921.

H.R. 2256: To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in recognition of Christa McAuliffe.
Sponsor: Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI)
• Introduced: April 28, 2017
• Last Action: April 28, 2017: Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR2256.

Jovita Carranza nominated to be Treasurer

Jovita Carranza

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.

When confirmed Carranza will be the 44th Treasurer of the United States succeeding Rosie Rios who resigned on July 8, 2016.

Since the Series 2017 notes will carry Carranza and Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin’s signature, here is a view of what you might expect:

 
Rather ordinary considering the fun we had discussion Jack Lew’s Lewpts!

Signature images courtesy of CNN Money.

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