Those of us who normally do not celebrate a holiday on December 25 was able to celebrate the lighting of the fifth Chanukah candle. For those who do not know the story of Chanukah: after the Maccabees drove the Greeks from Holy Land, the people went to clean up and rededicate the Second Temple in Jerusalem. When they went to light the menorah, they found a one-day supply of olive oil that was not contaminated. Knowing that it would take a week to manufacture more olive oil, the people lit the menorah for the dedication. That one-day supply of oil kept the menorah lit for eight days. Chanukah is the celebration of that miracle.

A tradition that came out this era was the play with the dreidle. A dreidle is a four-sided top with the Hebrew letters of the phrase (transliterated) &ldquot;nes gadol hayah sham” which means “a great miracle happened there.” In Israel, the last word is replaced with “po” meaning “here.” To play, players start with an ante and one person spins the dreidle. Depending on which letter the dreidle lands is what the spinner does. Using the order of the Hebrew phrase, the moves are (Nun) to give or get nothing, (Gimel) get everything in the pot, (Hey) get half of what is in the pot, and (Shin or Peh) means to pay into the pot. Yes, it’s a gambling game.

While anything can be used to play dreidle, it is traditional for parents to give children Chanukah gelt to play. Although we think of gelt as money, it can take any form of exchange. One of my favorite types of gelt is chocolate gelt. Little disks of chocolate that resembles the coin of the relm.

My wife indulged my passion for gelt by giving me chocolate gelt and a few gift cards. I had found other gold foil-covered disks that look like quarters and halves, but her choice of chocolate was better than mine. Now I have to go find someone to play dreidle—one can never have enough chocolate!

Regardless of what you celebrate, may you find happiness and peace in your celebration and a hope that 2009 is better than 2008!

Holiday Cheer

Happy Holidays!

Whatever holiday you celebrate, I wish you good cheer, good health, peace, and hope you find a key coin in your pocket change!

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was first celebrated in 1621 by the settlers at Plymouth, Massachusetts. George Washington was the first to issue a proclamation honoring Thanksgiving during his presidency. The only other president to issue a Thanksgiving proclamation was James Madison. It was Abraham Lincoln who issued a proclamation that made Thanksgiving Day a national annual event. Ironically, the first national observance of Thanksgiving under this proclamation came a week after the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg.

Be thankful for your life.
Be thankful for your family.
Be thankful for our hobby.
Be thankful for everything.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Image of 1936 Gettysburg Commemorative Half Dollar courtesy of the US Mint.

Millions of Nickels Cover I-95

Over 3 million nickels were strewn all over the southbound lanes of I-95 in Brevard County, Florida after two trucks collided on Wednesday. The truck that caused the accident was carrying the nickels from the US Mint in Philadelphia to the Federal Reserve in Miami for public distribution. The Miami facility is a branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

The crashed caused the closing of the southbound lanes for over 5 hours.

Reports say that the truck carrying the nickels struck another truck from behind causing both semis to jack knife. The accident killed William Sherman, 61, the guard who was sleeping in the back of the cab. William Rohrman, 54, was driving and was taken to a local hospital. The driver of the other truck was not hurt.

Florida State Troopers protected the scene until the U.S. Secret Service arrived. They estimated that $185,000 in nickels spilled out onto the roadway.

The report said that the U.S. Mint uses private haulers in regular trucks to transport money so that they blend in with the rest of traffic for security reasons. The private company is responsible for all of the money they haul.

Image courtesy of WFTV-9 of Orlando, Fla.

The Collector Market

As the first weeks of spring and the fiscal quarter, there seems to be a lot of activity in the numismatic markets. Even as the precious metals market is fluctuating like a running roller coaster, the numismatic market seems to be going like gang busters. Numismatic News is reporting that Heritage Auction Galleries will auction an original, not restrike, 1804 dollar at the next Central States Numismatic Society convention. The coin is certified MS65 by NGC and is expected to be sold for the highest price for a silver dollar.

A reader sent an email asking if I thought the growth was pushing the ordinary collector out of the market. My initial reaction was to look at what the trade press was writing about high end, rare coins, and think that I could not afford those coins. Even the “low end” coins selling over $100,000 is out of my price range. I was ready to answer “yes, the ordinary collector is not part of this market.”

Then I looked at my own collecting activities. After all, I consider myself an ordinary collector. As the market grew and the economy turned, rather than gather many collections, I am concentrating on a few item types. For example, my New York connection was able to add some nice items from a variety of sources. All are interesting and inexpensive collectibles.

When I answered, I told my correspondent that maybe the generalist collector could be priced out of the market, but a collector with a passion and goal can still find affordable numismatic items for their collection. There is nothing wrong with creating specific collecting goals and I encourage you to find yours.

Happy Collecting!

Did You Hear Coin Chat Radio?

Friday, March 14 marked the first online broadcast of Coin Chat Radio. Broadcasting from the Iola, Wisconsin, home of Krause Publications, Coin Chat Radio is a one hour weekly report on the numismatic industry. Shows are hosted by Bob Van Ryzin, editor of Coins magazine, and rebroadcast every hour from the site.

According to the article at, another Krause property, the one hour show “plans to offer a wide variety of programming to appeal to a divergent collecting community.” The first show featured an interview with Larry Shepherd, the newly appointed Executive Director of the ANA. It would be something that I would be interested in hearing—which is a problem since I have not heard the broadcast.

As this is written, there is no way of listening to the show except online when it is repeated on the Internet every hour. While this presents a lot of opportunities to listen, you have to be able to be at the computer at the top of the hour and have the time to sit with the computer. Although there are buttons at the bottom of the page to subscribe to an RSS feed and subscribe via iTunes, neither link provides any information and the iTunes link creates an error in the iTunes player.

One of the beauties of the Internet is the ability to time shift information. This way, a listener can download the content and listen when convenient. If it was available as a podcast, I could download the show to my iPod and listen while out and about or driving with the iPod connected to a car adapter. I have come to depend on podcast packages of information for keeping up with information.

As an information security professional, I am very reluctant to allow my browser to freely access the Internet. So another concern is that the Coin Chat Radio site uses a embedded player from a website in Germany. When I first visited, the Firefox plugin called NoScript prevented the site from being properly displayed. NoSript blocks the use of Javascript on a webpage, allowing me to investigate before allowing the script to run. After allowing the site to use Javascript, the player would not load. After a little investigation, I found that the player is being downloaded from

Although it does not appear that the code for the player does not contain malicious software, known as malware, it is a bit disconcerting when using a player from an off-shore source given the current state of Internet security where most of the attacks come from outside of the United States. While a site based United States could be a source of malware, if something where to happen, the violating site could be punished under US law whereas a foreign site is out of law enforcement’s jurisdiciton. I would feel more comfortable if the software used was from a source that was reviewed by a third-party, such as an industry publication, regardless of where it is from.

Coin Chat Radio has the potential to being a good resource should Krause Publications resolve these issues.

Season’s Greetings

Happy Holidays!

Whatever holiday you celebrate, I wish you good cheer, good health, peace, and hope you find a key coin in your pocket change!

Will You Collect Rare Coin Trading Cards?

Can you own a 1913 Liberty Head Nickel? What about a 1856 Flying Eagle Cent? Is there a 1907 High Relief Saint Gaudens Double Eagle in your future? Most of us commoners can only dream about owning one of these great rarities. But would it be interesting to have a unique collectible about these and other great coins?

A friend who is a baseball card collector and was searching the Internet looking for a a particular card. After doing a series of online searches he stumbled on a website that he thought I would be interested in seeing. Sure it was about trading cards, but not of baseball players. He said that these were trading cards of rare coins. I thought my friend was doing some early weekend celebrating, but it was such a different idea that I had to see for myself. His email had a link to When the page loaded, I was surprised to see that this company had partnered with the Upper Deck Company to create rare coin trading cards.

What an interesting idea! I probably will never own most of these rare coins, so why not supplement my collection with trading cards about them? According to the site, “Series 1” will be sold in foil packages at coin and hobby shops. Each package will have eight out of 500 different cards, one of 100 Lucky Penny card that will have an uncirculated Lincoln cent from 1930-70, and one bonus card. The bonus card has an assortment of prized to be claimed from the publishers.

The cards will be available in November from hobby shows with a suggested retail price of $5-6 per pack. Sweepstakes and other prizes are described on the site that include a 1907 High Relief Saint Gaudens Gold Double Eagle, a Trade Dollar, a 1799 Bust Dollar, and a trip to Washington for a visit to the Smithsonian Museum. It will be interesting to see if these cards generate interest in the numismatic community.

231 And Counting

The Continental Congress met on July 1, 1776 to take up the resolution of Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia. Lee had brought with him a resolution from the Virginia Convention to “propose to that respectable body to declare the United Colonies free and independent states” that was first heard on June 7, 1776. The July 1 meeting was the culmination of the resolution being documented by John Adams (Massachusetts), Roger Sherman (Connecticut), Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania), Robert R. Livingston (New York), and Thomas Jefferson (Virginia). Although the document went through some editing by Franklin and Adams, it was still Jefferson’s words that rang forth:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Asserting their right of freedom from the “the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States” was a bold move of this body. One that could land every one of them in jail, ruined, tortured, or dead. But these men, some of great means, risked everything and pursued a path of freedom and justice.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Accusing the King of crimes against the colonies and using his whim, and not laws, to rule the colonies was as immoral as it was illegal. Taxation without representation, the right to govern oneself, housing militia without permission, restricting trade, and suspending trial by jury were some of the accusations levied against the crown.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Even as Benjamin Franklin sought to try to negotiate with the King and his representatives, Franklin toiled with the Continentals as he saw that the King’s court was not negotiating in good faith.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

With a final unanimous vote, Richard Henry Lee’s resolution was passed on July 4, 1776. Copies were engrossed over night and formally signed on July 5, 1776 before being dispatched to the colonies.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

On this, the 231 anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, may you revel in the accomplishment and pray for peace in our time.

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