Proof reading is one way to avoid errors

2016 Mark Twain Commemorative Silver Dollar

2016 Mark Twain Commemorative Silver Dollar

One of the greatest mysteries of 2016, so far, has been resolved! According to Dave Harper at Numismatic News, the delay in the release of the 2016 Mark Twain Silver Dollar commemorative coin was because the of the Certificate of Authenticity.

Originally, both the press release and apparently the COA from the U.S. Mint announced that the reverse design included Jim and Huck from the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. This error seemed to pass a lot of people who read the books, including me. Jim, who was Miss Watson’s slave who befriended Huckleberry Finn, appeared in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Oops!

Apparently, someone forgot to proof read everything and the COAs were printed with the same information. Rather than distribute the wrong COA, which would have been interesting, the U.S. Mint had them reprinted. Citing an inventory issue, they delayed the sale of the silver dollar. It was not the inventory of coins that was the problem. It was the inventory of the complete package including the COA that caused the delay.

Packaging errors usually do not bring a premium. While they can be amusing, collectors have treated packaging errors as a nuisance. This would have been a fun error to keep around.

As an aside, I noticed that the 2016-W Mark Twain $5 Gold Proof Coin is listed as “Currently Unavailable” on the U.S. Mint’s website. The uncirculated coin is still available. Although there is a mintage limit of 100,000 gold coins regardless of strike type, there is no indication if this is the result of a sell out or a lack of inventory. Stay tuned.

2016-W Mark Twain $5 Commemorative Gold Coin

2016-W Mark Twain $5 Commemorative Gold Coin

Images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

December 2015 Numismatic Legislation

Congress ended the calendar year with a proverbial bang. Aside from actually passing a budget, they passed a comprehensive transportation bill that not only has the possibility of raising our infrastructure grade from a D– to a D (hey… it’s an improvement), but in a few short words will have a big impact on the U.S. Mint.

H.R. 22: Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act
Sponsor: Sen. Rodney Davis (R-IL)
• Introduced: January 6, 2015
• Passed House of Representatives on January 6, 2015
• Passed Senate with amendments on July 30, 2015
• Conference report presented to Senate on November 5, 2015
• Conference committee convened November 18, 2015
• Conference report agreed on by the House and Senate on December 3, 2015
• Signed by the President on December 4, 2015 to become Public Law 114-94

Read the details of this law at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr22

If you want to read my analysis of the impact to the U.S. Mint from this law, see the following four-part series:

  1. Transportation drives numismatic changes
  2. Now with more silver
  3. Palladium arcadium
  4. Transportation silver eagles

Transportation Silver Eagles

2015 American Silver Eagle Bullion CoinAt the end of my last report on how the recent transportation bill will have an effect on coin collectors, I said that I would discuss how the new law will impact American Silver Eagle collectors. After taking a little time off for holiday festivities, we are going to look at the impact and unintended consequences of congress.

To review, earlier this month congress passed and the president signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act or the “FAST Act” (H.R. 22; now Public Law 114-94). It is a comprehensive transportation bill that is over 490 pages long with one third of those paged dedicated to items other than transportation. Buried deep in the document is Title LXXIII, “Bullion and Collectible Coin Production Efficiency and Cost Savings” section. For today’s post, we look at Section 73002:

Sec. 73002. American Eagle Silver Bullion 30th Anniversary
Proof and uncirculated versions of coins issued by the Secretary of the Treasury pursuant to subsection (e) of section 5112 of title 31, United States Code, during calendar year 2016 shall have a smooth edge incused with a designation that notes the 30th anniversary of the first issue of coins under such subsection.

If you are not familiar with “subsection (e) of section 5112 of title 31, United States Code” (31 U.S.C. § 5112(e)), it is the part of the law that authorizes the American Silver Eagle program. It says that these coins are to 40.6 millimeters in diameter containing 31.103 grams (one troy ounce) of .999 fine silver with a symbolic design of Liberty on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse.

Along with the prescribed elements the coin will have a reeded edge. It is this reeded edge requirement that may be causing a problem.

As written, Section 73002 does not say that the 2016 coin with a smooth edge with an inscription designating as the 30th anniversary of the first issue is for a special collectible. It is written as a blanket statement for all coins issued in 2016. Because of the word issued, the U.S. Mint is going to cancel the 2015 Limited Edition Silver Proof set.

2014 Limited Edition Silver Set (LS3) will be on sale until December 30, 2015 at noon.

2014 Limited Edition Silver Set (LS3) will be on sale until December 30, 2015 at noon.

The Limited Edition Silver Proof set consists of a dime, all five quarters, and a Kennedy Half-dollar struck in 90-percent silver. The set also includes an American Silver Eagle packaged in a special case. Originally, the 2015 Limited Edition Silver Proof set was to be released on November 23. It was reported that issues with packaging has delayed the issuance of this set. Because of the delay, the U.S. Mint was supposed to start selling the set on December 30 in order to meet its legal requirement to sell the coins in the same year as issued. While they can carry over the sets to subsequent years, they have to start selling them in 2015.

However, that word “issued” causes a problem. If the coins are part of a packaging production, the coins may not have been struck in 2016 but the sets are being issued in 2016, then the 2015 could be violating the law. It is that ambiguity in a law passed by congress that will cause the 2015 Limited Edition Silver Proof set from being released.

Sausage making at its finest!

Images courtesy of the U.S. Mint

Now with more silver

2014 Kennedy Half-Dollar 50th Anniversary Silver SetIn our short saga of How the Congress Turns (our stomachs), we are going to look at the next and last provision of how the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act” or the “FAST Act” (H.R. 22) will impact collectors. Returning to Title LXXIII, Section 73001 we find:

Title 31, United States Code, is amended —

(1) in section 5112 —
. . .
(B) in subsection (t)(6)(B), by striking 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper and inserting not less than 90 percent silver; and
. . .
(2) in section 5132(a)(2)(B)(i), by striking 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper and inserting not less than 90 percent silver.

The result of the corrections is to change the requirement to strike silver coins with a composition that contains 90-percent silver, to the requirement that the coins must contain at a minimum 90-percent silver. By making these changes, it allows the U.S. Mint to use pure silver planchets to strike coins.

The U.S. Mint has been asking congress to end the practice of requiring silver coins to be 90-percent silver. Earlier, it was learned that pure silver planchets would be cheaper to produce than to find the few suppliers who would create “dirtied” blanks.

Congress finally listened (for a change).

2013 Mount Rushmore QuarterThe change in the law happens in two parts. Paragraph (B) makes the change for the balance of the America the Beautiful Quarters Program including the 5-ounce bullion coin. Section (2) changes the Administrative part of the code (31 U.S.C. § 5132(a)(2)(B)(i)) that covers all other coins. A problem with the way these corrections were written it does not affect commemorative coin programs unless the U.S. Mint’s general counsel feels that this law covers all coins. While the U.S. Mint is likely to interpret the law the way that benefits them, the wording does not cover commemoratives.

Missing from these corrections the similar language for gold coins. Unless the U.S. Mint will interpret the gold coin changes as permission to change the commemorative coin programs, gold coins will remain 90-percent gold.

As I write this I am reminded about famous quote by the first Chancellor of Germany Otto von Bismarck: “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.”

Next, we introduce another collectible that congress has mandated to be produced by the U.S. Mint.

Mount Rushmore quarter image courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

Look… up in the sky! What’s up doc?

2015 Canada Bugs Bunny $20 Silver Coin

2015 Canada Bugs Bunny $20 Silver Coin

Back in October I wrote about the Royal Canadian Mint’s “$20 for $20” series of .9999 pure silver coins being sold with a face value of $20.00 in Canadian funds. A few weeks after that post I bought the Bugs Bunny and Superman silver coins.

Even though both coins were ordered at the same time, they were shipped separately. Packaged in plain envelopes with a nondescript United States address, the Bugs Bunny coin arrived four weeks later and the Superman coin arrived 10 days later. It appears like the Royal Canadian Mint is either mailing them from the United States or using a fulfillment center to do the mailing. In either case, shipping was free!

Coins are placed in a plastic capsule, which I hope is archival safe, with that capsule placed in a clear plastic envelope. The envelop is “sealed” with a sticker and then glued to the card. The card has the information about the coin in both English and French. All of the extra paperwork was added to the Superman coin, but that was inconsequential to the presentation.

2015 Canada Superman $20 Silver Coin

2015 Canada Superman $20 Silver Coin

Both coins are a little bigger than the U.S. quarter dollar. The quarter is 24.26 millimeters and the Canadian $20 coins are 27 millimeters. While the U.S. quarter contains 5.670 grams of a copper-nickel alloy, the Canadian $20 coins contain 7.96 grams of silver. At the current exchange rate (1 USD = 1.393 CAD), the coin’s face value is equivalent to 14.3584 USD. With the current silver value of $14.16, the melt value of these coins are $3.62.

Before you go unleash yourself on the costs, remember that the $10.74 “markup” also includes manufacturing and packaging costs, shipping, and license fees the Royal Canadian Mint has to pay to Warner Brothers.

Growing up watching Bugs Bunny on television on the weekends and the reruns of the The Adventures of Superman after school starring George Reeves makes these a special collectible.

These are also struck coins without color enhancements. Although the texture is similar to that of the U.S. Mint’s enhanced uncirculated coins, as sculptured works of art, they are very accurate images and beautifully made.

It may be too late to buy these for a holiday present, unless you put an “I.O.U.” in the box. Maybe if you are near the Royal Canadian Mint facility in Ottawa you can check out their physical storefront. You may want to call ahead before making the trip expecting to find these coins.

Packaging Images
2015 Canada Bugs Bunny $20 Silver Coin Packaging
2015 Canada Superman $20 Silver Coin Packaging

Summary of November 2015 Legislation

I know that there is little the U.S. Mint can do without congress’s permission, but sometimes sifting through what congress is doing can be tiresome. There is so much good that congress can do but the political in-fighting is so insidious that all one can do is shake their head in disgust. At least there is one interesting item to report:

H.R. 22: Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act
Sponsor: Sen. Rodney Davis (R-IL)
• Introduced: January 6, 2015
• Passed House of Representatives on January 6, 2015
• Passed Senate with amendments on July 30, 2015
• Conference report presented to Senate on November 5, 2015
• Conference committee convened November 18, 2015
• Of significance to numismatics:

  • SEC. 73002. AMERICAN EAGLE SILVER BULLION 30TH ANNIVERSARY: Proof and uncirculated versions of ASE coins during 2016 shall have a smooth edge incused with a designation that notes the 30th anniversary of the first issue of coins.

Track this bill at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr22

In other words, congress is mandating a 30th Anniversary American Silver Eagle set. I wonder if it will match the 25th Anniversary set?

2011 American Silver Eagle 25th Anniversary Set

2011 American Silver Eagle 25th Anniversary Set

Image of American Eagle set courtesy of the U.S. Mint

U.S. Mint winding down Eagle production

2015 American Silver Eagle Bullion CoinAs we wind down to the end of the year, the U.S. Mint has been announcing their end of the year production availability for 2015 American Eagle bullion coins. Starting with the announcement on November 14, 2015 that the quarter ounce $10 gold American Eagle bullion coin has sold out and no more will be produced. For 2015, the U.S. Mint has sold 39,500 ounces of quarter ounce American Eagle bullion coin representing 158,000 coins. This represents a 33-percent increase from 2014.

A few days later on November 18, the U.S. Mint announced that the one-tenth ounce American Eagle gold bullion coin has been sold out. For the year, the U.S. Mint produced 980,000 of the one-tenth ounce gold American Eagle proof coins representing 98,000 ounces of gold. This year’s production is a bit more than 73-percent increase over the 565,000 coins struck in 2014.

UPDATE: In a 4:35 PM note (24-Nov-15), the U.S. Mint has announced that the one-ounce gold American Eagle bullion coin has sold out! Orders for 2016 bullion coins will begin on January 11, 2016.

The day after announcing that they will be restricting the production of the American Silver Eagle bullion coins to 1 million coins per week, the U.S. Mint announced that they will continue to produce the coins through the week of December 7, 2015. They anticipate that this will cover their full weekly allocation through Monday, December 14, 2015.

With the price of silver dropping, the U.S. Mint has produced 42,929,500 American Silver Eagle bullion coins to this point. Considering the allocation of 1 million coins per week with four weeks left of sales, the final total of silver coins should be between 46-47 million coins. This would be an increase over last year’s record of 44,006,000.

American Silver Eagle bullion coin image courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

$20 for $15.41

Obverse of the Royal Canadian Mint $20 for $20 silver coins

Obverse of the Royal Canadian Mint $20 for $20 silver coins

Over the last few years, the Royal Canadian Mint has been producing a series of silver coins called “$20 for $20,” These are .9999 pure silver coins sold with the face value of $20 (in Canadian funds). They are available directly from the RCM to Canadian and United States buyers only.

The advantage to directly buying coins from the RCM is that the exchange rate is very favorable for us Yanks. At the time of writing, C$1 is worth about 77-cents in U.S. currency making a C$20 purchase about $15.41 in the U.S. Another advantage of purchasing coins from the RCM than a dealer is avoiding the dealer markup. One U.S.-based dealer is selling the current $20 Bugs Bunny silver coin for $19.95 in U.S. currency.

For U.S. buyers who use credit cards to purchase coins on the RCM website, while your credit card will be charged in Canadian funds, your bank will charge you a conversion fee. Conversion fees are different between financial institutions and you should consult them for their rates.

Reverse of the Royal Canadian Mint $20 for $20 silver coin featuring Bugs Bunny

Reverse of the Royal Canadian Mint $20 for $20 silver coin featuring Bugs Bunny

Are these coins really a good deal?

RCM’s $20 for $20 coins struck using 7.96 grams of silver. At 27 millimeters, it is comparable in size to the Canadian half-dollar (27.13 millimeters) and smaller than the U.S. half-dollar (30.61 millimeters). While a nice size, a coin containing 7.96 grams of silver is a little more than one-quarter of a troy ounce of the metal. With the cost of silver $15.92 per troy ounce (and the time of writing), the coin only contains $4.07 worth of silver ($5.25 in Canadian funds).

To put it another way, the silver value of the coin is 75-percent of its cost or 400-percent over its melt value!

Reverse of the Royal Canadian Mint $20 for $20 coin featuring “The Man of Steel”

Reverse of the Royal Canadian Mint $20 for $20 coin featuring “The Man of Steel”

Although the Bugs Bunny coin probably requires a licensing fee to be paid to Warner Brothers, the owner of the famous rabbit’s copyright, not all of the coins use copyright images. Even with production and packaging costs, are these coins worth the extra premium?

Questioning the program’s worth aside, both the Bugs Bunny and Superman coins are very cool designs. Aside from being engraved coins (not colored pictures) and struck as specimen coins (similar to the U.S. Mint’s enhanced uncirculated strikes), it is just plain fun to have coins with the image of childhood interests.

For a little more than $30 including fees and shipping, I can get two silver coins with iconic designs. It is not about collecting for value. It is collecting for fun!

2015 Canadian Bugs Bunny 1 kilogram silver proof coin

Weighing in at 1 kilogram of fine .999 silver, this enameled proof coin is does not cost $20! With a $250 face value, the Royal Canadian Mint is selling this coin for $2,350.95
($1,810.80 in the U.S. at the current exchange rate)

All images courtesy of the Royal Canadian Mint.

Making cents of the metals market

Reference price of metals for this post (does not update)

Reference price of metals for this post (does not update)

It has been a while since I tried to make sense of the metals markets for numismatics. Then again, it has been said that even the professionals cannot make sense of the markets, how do we expect an amateur to do so. After all, it was not long ago when analysts were asking when, not if, gold will hit $2,000 per ounce and silver will be $50. As I type this the spot price of gold is $1137.40 per ounce and silver is at $14.68.

Watching the price of gold has been interesting. Since the release of the 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy 2014 Half-Dollar Gold Proof Coin when the price of gold was set based on the $1,290.50 spot price, the trend of gold prices has been to go lower. Gold spot hit a low almost one year to the day of the release of the Kennedy gold coin on August 5, 2015 at $1,085.10. It has taken three weeks to bounce back a little.

Gold Chart for August to date (does not update)

Gold Chart for August to date (does not update)

I call silver the precious metal for the masses. Aside from being less expensive it is still considered a valuable commodity. Aside from the aesthetics of the color (I love the look of chrome on cars) you can really see a great design on a larger silver coin than a gold coin for a lower cost. For example, I like the look of the larger Silver Panda over the yellow gold Panda—and it is cheaper!

While my interest is more of aesthetics and the costs between purchasing the different types of coins, you can get into a situation where the composition determines the price of a coin. After all, the most expensive coin to sell at auction was a 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar with a rare die variety. For a non-precious metal coin, you can always look at the 1913 Liberty Head Nickels whose composition is 75-percent copper and 25-percent nickel. Sales of these coins have averaged around $3-5 million in the last few auctions.

Rare and key date coins notwithstanding, more people can afford silver than gold. As a result, we have seen a rise in the collecting of silver non-circulated legal tender (NCLT) coins. Although I am not a fan of many of these designs, the various mints creating them would stop if there was not a market for them. Since this is what people are buying, the mints are striking.

To some degree, the price of silver may be inconsequential to the cost of some of these NCLT sets. Coins like the Looney Tunes and DC Comics sets from the Royal Canadian Mint; Star Wars, Disney, and Dr. Who sets from the New Zealand Mint are priced to include royalties that will have to be paid to their respective copyright holders.

Then there are the countries of Somalia, Niue, Tuvalu, and the Marshall Islands that do have their own mints but license their names or contract other mints to strike coins for them. Even though these coins may not require licensing fees, many are made with popular themes to entice collectors to purchase them. Seigniorage then goes to both the mint striking the coins and the general treasuries of country whose name is on the coin.


 
Most mints will float the price of their bullion coins to reflect market forces but not the price of NCLT coins. Even the U.S. Mint does not adjust the price of commemorative coins if the price of the metals drops.

While there are collectors that view their collection in terms of its value and others collecting as an investment of those of us who collect for the sake of collecting, the dropping of metals prices can be seen as an opportunity to buy some nice collectibles cheaper than otherwise. However, never underestimate the greed of some of these mints and the companies that sign agreements with them that will keep your prices high.

I wonder how these coins will fare on the aftermarket in the future?

Image Credits

  • Charts courtesy of Kitco.
  • Looney Tunes coin images courtesy of the Royal Canadian Mint.
  • Somalia motorcycle and sports car coins from author’s personal collection.

Weekend pocket change find

Every evening I empty my pockets and look at the change that I accumulate during the day. Since I almost exclusively use cash (it is safer than credit cards), I end up with at least a dollar in change. Last week, I pulled out my change and took a glance and saw a nickel that was a bit darker than the others.

Moving it aside so I can look in a better light, I was able to separate a bicentennial quarter and wheat back cent from the other coins before dumping the rest into a pitcher I keep on my dresser. After dropping the quarter and wheatie into a bank where I save these coins, I picked up the dark nickel and went to find a better light.

To make things easier I looked at the reverse to see if it was I suspected and found a large “P” over Monticello confirming that I found a war nickel. For the date, I needed to find my loupe to help my aging eyes focus to tell me that I found a 1942-P war nickel.

1942-P Jefferson "War" Nickel obverse

1942-P Jefferson “War” Nickel obverse

1942-P Jefferson "War" Nickel reverse

1942-P Jefferson “War” Nickel reverse

War nickels were struck by the U.S. Mint from mid-1942 through 1945 of an alloy that contained 56-percent copper, 35-percent silver, and 9-percent manganese. Removing the nickel and reducing the amount of copper used in these coins helped save these metals so that they can be used to produce military supplies. One specific need was the copper that went into the brass alloy used to produce bullets.

Looking at the coin and various grading images, if I sent it to a third-party grading service to be graded, it would probably be returned as a VG-8 since it has a little more definition than a flatter G-4. It could be argued that since the rims are more defined that it could be closer to a VG-10, but I would not represent this coin at that grade—besides, it is not for sale! Given that, what kind of profit did I made over the 5-cents face value.

According to the NumisMedia Price Guide, the current value of a 1942-P war nickel in VG-8 condition is $1.01. That is a 96-cent profit!

But what about the silver value? As I type this, Coinflation reports that the metal value of the coin (at the time writing this) is 85-cents with the silver value of 84-cents. That price is based on 0.0563 troy ounces of silver with the current price of silver at $14.88 per troy ounce.

Either way, I made a small profit on the coin and will add it to my hoard of interesting pocket change finds.

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