A Look at the American Eagles: The American Silver Eagles (UPDATED)

This is first article of a 4 part series:

NOTE: This is an updated article that was first published on September 18, 2018.

After the Coinage Act of 1965 removed silver from United States coinage, the federal government held the silver in the national stockpile. By the 1980s, the supply that far exceeded the needs of the national stockpile. Following several years of discussion that almost led to the bulk auction and sale of the silver, congress decided to use the silver to create a silver investment coin, the American Silver Eagle.

The American Silver Eagle program was so successful that following the depletion of the Defense National Stockpile in 2002, the original law was changed to continue the program by purchasing silver from U.S.-based mines at market prices to be used for future production.

American Silver Eagle Design

The obverse of the coin is the much-beloved design that was used on the Walking Liberty Half-Dollar coin from 1916 to 1947, designed by Adolph A. Weinman, a former student of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The reverse features a heraldic eagle using a design by John Mercanti. Mercanti engraved both sides of the coin that including copying Weinman’s original design. Mercanti would later become the 12th Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint.

American Silver Eagle Specifications
 Composition .999 Fine Silver
 Weight One Troy Ounce (31.103 grams)
 Diameter 40.6 mm (1.598 inches)
 Thickness 2.98 mm (0.1173 inches)
 Edge Reeded
 Face Value $1.00
 Designers Adolph A. Weinman (obverse), John Mercanti (reverse)
 Engraver John Mercanti

Bullion American Silver Eagle Coins

The American Silver Eagle program produces bullion coins for the investment market and collectible versions of these coins. As bullion coins, the U.S. Mint tries to eliminate the factors that drive the price of collectible coins (mintage, rarity, and condition) by making each coin the same. The U.S. Mint strikes American Silver Eagle to meet the market demand and can be stuck at any branch mint. Bullion coins do not have a mintmark.

The U.S. Mint does not sell bullion coins directly to the public. They sell the coins to “Authorized Purchasers,” who then resell the coins to the market. Although the American Silver Eagle bullion coins are produced for the investment market, some people collect these coins.

As with other investments, American Silver Eagle bullion coins are subject to taxes when sold. Please consult with a financial advisor or tax professional for any tax implications.

Mint of Origin for Bullion Coins

The U.S. Mint branch facility in West Point, New York, has been the primary manufacturer of American Silver Eagle bullion coins. Over the years, the mint facilities in San Francisco and Philadelphia have supplemented production.

Following an investigation, researchers learned that the U.S. Mint struck American Silver Eagle bullion coins at San Francisco and Philadelphia from 2011-2017. Some have tried to use shipping records from the U.S. Mint, shipping labels, packaging materials, and other means to try to investigate the origin of the coins.

In 2015, the industry thought they understand how to tell which Mint struck the coins. According to a statement issued by the U.S. Mint in 2018, the Philadelphia Mint produced 79,640 bullion coins. However, 140 coins were “condemned” and not issued. They shipped 79,500 coins to West Point for distribution to authorized purchasers. Although the boxes contain labels and serial numbers, there was no attempt made to separate the coins by Mint. Further, the U.S. Mint acknowledges that they identified cases of duplicate labels and tracking numbers written on the box. The information creates a reasonable doubt as to determine the manufacturer of the coins.

The third-party grading services believe they identified strike characteristics of the 2015 bullion coins that occurred at the Philadelphia Mint. They have encased American Silver Eagle bullion coins with labels noting their Philadelphia pedigree with no additional evidence.

In 2020, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic caused the U.S. Mint branch at West Point to close temporarily. In order to keep up with production, the U.S. Mint struck 240,000 bullion coins in Philadelphia.

The third-party grading services asked the U.S. Mint about the production of these coins. Rather than leave the industry guessing, the U.S. Mint identified which boxes contained American Silver Eagle bullion coins struck in Philadelphia. The grading services are noting the origin of the bullion coin on the label of their slab.

Unlike the 2015(-P) coins, the 2020(-P) coins have an identifiable trail that leaves little doubt to the origin of the coins.

Collector American Silver Eagle Coins

The U.S. Mint produces collector versions of the American Silver Eagle are sold directly to the public in specialty packaging. The U.S. Mint sells American Silver Eagle proof coins in a specially made capsule stored in a blue velvet-covered case in a blue box with a Certificate of Authenticity.

Beginning in 2006, the U.S. Mint has produced an uncirculated business strike coin for the collector market. Most uncirculated American Silver Eagle collector coins are struck in West Point and bear the “W” mintmark. Uncirculated coins are burnished, a process by treating the surface with fine particles to give the surface a smooth, satin finish. The U.S. Mint sells these coins in a capsule with packaging that varies from year to year.

The U.S. Mint has produced coins with reverse proof and enhanced uncirculated finishes. A reverse proof coin is when the elements show a mirror-like appearance and the fields have a matte finish.

In 2009, the U.S. Mint was unprepared for the financial collapse that increased the demand for silver bullion coins. So that the U.S. Mint could produce the coins to meet the investor demand, the U.S. Mint did not produce collector American Silver Eagle coins. Although the American Silver Eagle proof coin returned to the market in 2010, the U.S. Mint did not produce uncirculated burnished coins.

American Silver Eagle collector coins returned in 2011.

OGP vs. GRADED

2018-W American Silver Eagle Proof in Original Government Package

Collector American Silver Eagle coins can be purchased either in their original government package or graded. When searching for coins that are in their original government packaging on most online auction sites, it is recommended that you add “OGP” as part of the search.

Dealers and collectors will remove the collector American Silver Eagle coins from their original government package in order to submit them to a third-party grading service for grading. Collectors who prefer the encapsulated coins are not concerned with the package. Some dealers will sell the package without the coin for a few dollars, but for collectors of graded coins, this is not a priority.

2007 Reverse Variety

In 2008, the U.S. Mint updated the reverse dies of the American Silver Eagle, giving it a slightly different appearance. The reverse die was only supposed to be used on collector American Silver Eagle coins in 2008 before being used for bullion coins in 2009.

As a result of the human factor required with operating the minting equipment at the West Point Mint, the reverse dies used for the 2007 American Silver Eagle coins were mated with 2008 collector coins creating a new variety for collectors. These coins are known as a 2008-W Silver Eagle Reverse of 2007 Variety.

2008-W Silver Eagle Reverse of 2007 Variety
(Image courtesy of the Silver Eagle Guide)

The 1995-W

Tenth Anniversary American Eagle Set

In 1995, the U.S. Mint created the 10th Anniversary American Eagle set to celebrate the program’s decade. The set contained a 1995-W American Silver Eagle proof coin that was made available only to collectors buying the set. Collectors wanting to add the 1995-W American Silver Eagle proof coin to their collection had to purchase the entire five-coin set that included four American Gold Eagle proof coins ($5, $10, $25, and $50 gold American Eagles). The $999 price for the set helped limit the number of coins sold.

As gold prices have risen, collectors sold the gold coins separately. However, the limited availability has caused the 1995-W American Silver Eagle to rise significantly on the secondary market. Cost to purchase this coin averages about $5,000-6, depending on the grade and finding the entire set with the American Gold Eagle coins in their original government package averages over $8,000.

Special Sets

The Philadelphia SetIn 1993, the U.S. Mint offered The Philadelphia Set, which was issued to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the striking of the first official U.S. coins at the Philadelphia Mint. This set included each of the Proof American Gold and Silver Eagles struck at the Philadelphia Mint and containing the “P” mintmark. The set included a 1993-P Proof Silver Eagle along with the one-half ounce, one-quarter ounce, and one-tenth ounce 1993-P Proof Gold Eagles. Also included was a silver Philadelphia Bicentennial Medal, which specially produced for this numismatic product.

To mark the launch of the new American Platinum Eagle bullion and collector coin series, the U.S. Mint offered the 1997 Impressions of Liberty Set. This set contained the one ounce 1997-W Proof Platinum Eagle, one ounce 1997-W Proof Gold Eagle, and one ounce 1997-P Proof Silver Eagle. Production was limited to 5,000 individually numbered units. The serial number for each set was engraved on a brass plate affixed to the wooden display case.

In 2004, the U.S. Mint worked with the United Kingdom’s Royal Mint to create a numismatic product containing the silver bullion coins from each country. The Legacies of Freedom Set contained one 2003 American Silver Eagle bullion coin and one 2002 British Silver Britannia bullion coin. The special packaging highlighted the importance of the two national icons.

To celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the founding of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the 220th Anniversary of the United States Mint, the two bureaus joined together to release the 2012 Making American History Coin and Currency Set. The set contained a 2012-S American Silver Eagle Proof coin and a $5 note with a serial number beginning in “150.”

As part of the 2016 Ronald Reagan Coin and Chronicles Set the U.S. Mint included a 2016 Proof American Silver Eagle along with a 2016 Ronald Reagan Presidential reverse proof dollar, and a Nancy Reagan Bronze Medal. To complete the set, it included a presidential portrait produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and an informational booklet about President Reagan.

In 2019, the U.S. Mint partnered with the Royal Canadian Mint to issue the Pride of Two Nations silver coin set. The set contained a reverse proof American Silver Eagle struck at West Point and a reverse proof Silver Maple Leaf struck at the Royal Canadian Mint’s facility in Ottawa, Ontario. Production was limited to 100,000 sets in the United States and 10,000 sets in Canada.

Later in 2019, the U.S. Mint released an Enhanced Reverse Proof coin struck at the San Francisco Mint. Its mintage limit of 30,000 coins is less than the number of 1995-W coins issued.

Annual Sets

To extend the product line, the U.S. Mint began to create special annual issue sets to entice people to collect U.S. Mint products. The first annual set containing an American Silver Eagle coin was the Annual Uncirculated Dollar Coin Set. First offered in 2007, the set includes the issued uncirculated Presidential dollar coins, an uncirculated Native American dollar coin, and an uncirculated American Silver Eagle. Since the Presidential Dollar Program ended in 2016, it is unclear whether the U.S. Mint will issue the set in 2017.

Since 2012, the U.S. Mint has been producing the Limited Edition Silver Proof Set that contains 90% silver versions of the year’s five America the Beautiful Quarters, Kennedy Half Dollar, and Roosevelt Dime, along with the standard annual Proof American Silver Eagle. Sets are limited to 50,000 units annually.

Starting in 2013, the U.S. Mint has been producing the Congratulations Set as part of a new line of products targeted towards gift-giving occasions. The set includes the standard annual Proof Silver Eagle within specially designed packaging that allows the gift giver to add a personalized message.

Anniversary Sets

2011 American Silver Eagle 25th Anniversary Set

Since the American Eagle Program has been one of the most successful programs in the history of the U.S. Mint, they have used its popularity to extend the product line. Aside from celebrating the anniversary of the program, the U.S. Mint has produced anniversary sets to celebrate Mint facilities.

The Anniversary sets issued are as follows:

  • 1995 American Eagle 10th Anniversary Set included a 1995-W American Silver Eagle Proof coin and four American Gold Eagle coins.
  • 2006 20th Anniversary American Silver Eagle Set was a special three-coin box set included a 2006-W American Silver Eagle with a burnished (satin) finish, a 2006-W American Silver Eagle Proof coin, and a 2006-P American Silver Eagle Reverse Proof coin.
  • 2011 25th Anniversary American Silver Eagle Set was a five-coin box set that contained five different coins. The U.S. Mint produced only 100,000 sets that sold out within the first 10 minutes they were offered online. This extremely popular set is averaging $800 on the secondary market in the original government package. The set includes the following coins:
    • 2011-W (West Point) American Silver Eagle Uncirculated coin
    • 2011-S (San Francisco) American Silver Eagle Uncirculated coin
    • 2011-W (West Point) American Silver Eagle Proof coin
    • 2011-P (Philadelphia) American Silver Eagle Reverse Proof coin
    • 2011 (no mintmark) American Silver Eagle Bullion coin
  • 2012 American Eagle San Francisco Two Coin Silver Proof Set was issued to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the current San Francisco Mint. The set included a 2012-S American Silver Eagle Proof coin and a 2012-S American Silver Eagle Reverse Proof Coin.
  • 2013 West Point American Silver Eagle Set was issued to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the facility in West Point, New York. The set included a 2013-W American Silver Eagle Reverse Proof coin and a 2013-W American Silver Eagle Enhanced Uncirculated coin. The set was instantly popular with collectors since it was the first appearance of the Enhanced Uncirculated finishing process.

Although the U.S. Mint did not issue a set to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the American Silver Eagle in 2016, West Point struck proof and burnished uncirculated collector coins with edge lettering that read “30TH ANNIVERSARY.”

Rolls and the Green Monster Box

Bullion coins are packaged in 20-coin hard plastic rolls with 25 rolls packed in a specially designed green box that contains 500 troy ounces of silver. The U.S. Mint seals the box before shipping them to authorized purchasers. The term Green Monster Box refers to the green box with 500 silver coins.

Resellers sell Green Monster Boxes with the intent of selling to investors. Resellers also sell unopened rolls from the Monster Box.

Sealed Green Monster Boxes have the benefit of being unsearched and unhandled since leaving the U.S. Mint. These boxes are usually offered for sale by bullion dealers at a small premium over the current market (spot) price of silver. Unsealed Monster Boxes with the U.S. Mint’s labels intact can attest to the authenticity of the coins.

In the next installment, we look at the American Gold Eagle coins.

All images courtesy of the U.S. Mint unless otherwise noted.

I like the idea of Privy Marks on US Coins

Hey, Coin Collectors Blog fans. I’m back! I have made several changes in my business to do more with less. These changes will give me more time to extend my numismatic writing. I have a backlog of issues and interests I want to talk about and will start to add content. Stay tuned. For now, here is something that I have been discussing with a few people via email.

2020-W Weir Farm Quarter

2020-W Weir Farm Quarter with privy mark
(U.S. Mint image via Coin World)

I have received a lot of emails about the U.S. Mint, who will be adding a privy mark to the 2020-W quarter. Although the reaction is mixed, more people seem to be against the move than being in favor.

Amongst the comments are “it is a gimmick,” “beneath the stature of the mint,” and “it’s ugly.” Some have admitted to not collecting or caring about modern coins. Others are regular critics of the U.S. Mint.

There is also a group of people with a pedantic image of the alleged integrity of the U.S. Mint. The same organization that has allowed the release of many patterns are a source of error coins available to the public, and one that has contradictory policies by attacking those with 1933 double eagles while doing nothing about the 1913 Liberty Head Nickels.

When it comes to the U.S. Mint’s policy history, it is as sketchy as any U.S. government agency. The difference is that its products have fans that will defend it because of the final results and not the process that came before it.

Since the U.S. Mint has legal restrictions as to what they can do when it comes to striking coins, I applaud whoever made this decision. We should be celebrating the end of World War II. Even though I was not alive at that time, we need to honor the sacrifice many Americans gave to ending totalitarianism and preventing an evil takeover of the world.

The U.S. Mint found a way to honor the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II without violating the law. I can’t wait to try to find these quarters in my change—or buy them from a dealer since I have had no luck finding W mint marked quarters in my pocket change.

Weekly World Numismatic News for February 16, 2020

2020 Native American $1 ReverseIn our never-ending quest to convince more people to be interested in coin collecting, this week’s news provided us with another example of “if you do something that people like, they will be interested.”

As the U.S. Mint released the Native American dollar coin with the image of Civil Rights leader Elizabeth Peratrovich, Alaskans are clamoring for a wider release of the coin. It is the first time since the early days of the small-dollar programs that there is a broad interest in $1 coins.

Elizabeth Peratrovich was an Alaskan native who was instrumental in having Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Law passed by the territorial government. It was the first anti-discrimination law of any type passed in the United States.

Alaskans are asking that the Federal Reserve release 5 million coins into general circulation. The Seattle Branch of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank is responsible for banking in Alaska.

The Alaska State Legislature passed a resolution requesting the Federal Reserve make these coins available to Alaskans.

Although the Federal Reserve has not publically responded, they should be talking with the U.S. Mint to strike the 5 million coins necessary to send to Alaska. The coins may not circulate, but it is an excellent promotion for coin collecting.

Over the last few years, we have learned that interesting themes have sold well. Look at the interest in the American Somoa National Park fruit bat design. It is a well-executed design that is very interesting and has people looking for the coin in change. It will likely be in the one America the Beautiful Quarter in the most demand.

Other commemorative coins did very well when there was an exciting topic. With no offense to the American Legion, an outstanding organization, but what was the difference in the interest between their commemorative coin and the National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative?

Remember the Girl Scouts’ commemorative coin fiasco?

You do not have to be a rocket scientist or a marketing guru to understand people will buy what they like. It is why the Royal Canadian Mint and the New Zealand Mint sign deals with entertainment companies to sell coins with movies, comics, and other images. These coins sell.

Unfortunately, we have a congress in the way that prevents the U.S. Mint from expanding its product line. Without being able to create collector coins for a new audience, we will continue to try to figure out ways to do the impossible: get more people interested in collecting coins.

And now the news…

 January 23, 2020
Antiques Road Trip is back on our screens this February 2020, with more antiques experts ready to haggle and bag a bargain. Each series follows the same premise, as two experts head out across the country, scouring for the best finds they can then take to auction.  → Read more at realitytitbit.com

 February 11, 2020
A collection of Celtic coins in a Jersey museum has received a Guinness World Record for the largest collection of Iron Age coins discovered in the United Kingdom or Ireland. The total number of coins found in the huge hoard was a staggering 69,347, overtaking the previous record of 54,951 coins held by a collection in Wiltshire.   → Read more at irishcentral.com

 February 11, 2020
OTTAWA — Willie O'Ree's image is on a plaque in the Hockey Hall of Fame, a likeness of his trademark fedora sits atop an NHL award that bears his name, and two hockey rinks in the United States and Canada are named in his honor.  → Read more at nhl.com

 February 13, 2020
The 2020 Native American $1 Coin depicts Alaska Native civil rights leader Elizabeth Peratrovich and a formline raven. (U.S. Mint)  → Read more at alaskapublic.org

 February 13, 2020
Before the $20 bill is redesigned, Harriet Tubman could appear on a coin.  → Read more at auburnpub.com

 February 14, 2020
Seven ancient coins were returned to the government of Cyprus Friday at a repatriation ceremony in Washington, D.C. (CBP Photo/Handout) BALTIMORE, MD — More than 10 years after federal agents in Baltimore discovered ancient coins in a search of cargo, they returned them to their rightful owner: the government of Cyprus.  → Read more at patch.com
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Weekly World Numismatic News for February 9, 2020

Carson City Mint Sesquicentennial Mold

Mold used to make the dies for the Carson City Mint Sesquicentennial medal. Image courtesy of the Nevada State Museum.

This past week, the Nevada State Museum celebrated the 150th anniversary of the United States Mint in Carson City. The Carson City Mint opened in 1870 to strike silver coins using silver from the Comstock Lode.

Although named for Henry Comstock, he did no discover the silver mines in the area. Comstock has the distinction of claiming a stake in the lode before selling his stake for thousands of dollars, an unreasonable sum at the time, and settling in Carson City. Comstock started a few businesses. His brashness and presence lent his name to the discovery.

Comstock is not a hero. He was known for being impatient, careless, lazy, and some accused him of being insane. Comstock committed suicide in 1870, leaving several failed businesses, a failed marriage, and sever debt in his wake.

After the discovery, it was expensive to transport the silver to San Francisco for processing. Nevada politicians lobbied congress for the formation of a branch mint to assay and strike coins. Congress authorized a mint in 1868 for nearby Carson City. The building opened for production in 1870. The Carson City branch mint struck silver and gold coins but in lesser amounts than the other mints making their coins highly collectible and more expensive because of their rarity.

Many consider the coins struck at Carson City to be amongst the most beautiful of all the coins. With the lower production totals, mint employees did not have to rush production, allowing them to create proper strikes. Of course, mistakes happen, and varieties of coins struck at the Carson City Mint are some of the most desirable.

A significant distinction of the coins struck in Carson City is that they bear the “CC” mintmark. It is the only two-character mintmark used on U.S. coins.

Production ended in 1893 with the reduced output from nearby silver mines. The building served as an Assay Office beginning in 1895. It closed following the gold recall of 1933. The State of Nevada purchased the building in 1939.

Today, the building houses the Nevada State Museum, where Coin Press No. 1 continues to strike commemorative half-ounce silver medals every month. There are only four known versions of this coin press in existence and the museum has the only working model.

For the sesquicentennial celebration, the museum struck a commemorative medal for the visitors. Visitors were able to purchase half-ounce silver planchets from the museum’s gift shop and bring them to the Coin Press No. 1 for striking. Because this was an on-demand process, you had to be at the museum to purchase one.

The Mint at Carson City is a symbol of U.S. history. It is where the old west meets modern commerce. From the reports, it sounds like the celebration went well. I hope to be able to visit the museum at some point in time.

And now the news…

 February 3, 2020
The huge coin weighs five kilograms (Picture: The Goldsmiths’ Company/SWNS) A £5,000 coin that weighs five kilos and is big enough to eat your dinner off has been produced by the Royal Mint as part of a tradition going back more than 700 years.  → Read more at metro.co.uk

 February 4, 2020
A giant discovery of nearly 70,000 coins from the Iron Age has set a Guinness World Record for being the largest of its kind discovered in the British Isles. Discovered in January 2012, the collection of 69,347 coins was found in Jersey by metal detector enthusiasts Reg Mead and Richard Miles, British news agency SWNS reports.  → Read more at foxnews.com

 February 6, 2020
It was born out of Nevada's silver boom. The Carson City Mint coined our money for decades, until 1893 when it closed…later becoming the Nevada State Museum. But museum curator Robert Nylen told me it’s still famous for the coins: "The coins that came out of Carson City.  → Read more at ktvn.com

 February 6, 2020
(via Kamloops RCMP) Kamloops RCMP has a bit of spare change these days.  → Read more at kamloopsmatters.com

 February 8, 2020
(Kitco News) U.S. Mint gold coin sales saw a strong recovery in January after the weakest year on record in 2019.  → Read more at kitco.com

 February 8, 2020
Persistent archaeological treasure hunters have set a new Guinness World Record for the largest coin hoard ever discovered in the British Isles. This treasure story begun in the early 1980s after Reg Mead and Richard Miles read a report about a farmer on Jersey who many years earlier had discovered silver coins in an earthenware pot while pulling out a tree from a hedgerow.  → Read more at ancient-origins.net

 February 8, 2020
A PORTLAND resident has discovered another 'love token' at Church Ope Cove, prompting theories about what once took place on the sandy shores. Edward Dahl first found a silver sixpence, dating from 1696 during the reign of William III, back in 2018.  → Read more at dorsetecho.co.uk

 February 9, 2020
It is the second time in history when a coin issued by Latvijas Banka has been recognised the Coin of the Year. The innovative Honey Coin, created by the designer Artūrs Analts, won by a very wide margin, and, quoting the 1 February 2020 press release of the Numismatic News, "the day was sweet as honey" for Latvijas Banka.  → Read more at baltictimes.com
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Collectors are upset with the Mint but there may be a solution

2019 American Silver Eagle Enhance Revers Proof obverseThe result of the sale of the Enhanced Reverse Proof 2019-S American Eagle continues to reverberate through the hobby. Industry reporters continue to hear from collectors that they feel like the U.S. Mint is taking them for granted.

The biggest question is, how did all of these dealers get these coins in inventory? How did others find the stock to flip on sites like eBay?

Dealers and speculators are at it again. It is similar to the chaos they caused for the opening of the 2014 JFK 50th Anniversary Gold Proof Coin. They hired people to shand in line for them who caused a near riot. Now, they have taken these manners to cyberspace.

How can the U.S. Mint fix the issue?

The best answer I have heard came from William T. Gibbs at Coin World, who suggested a dedicated sales window for established customers. Gibbs wrote:

For popular limited edition coins like this one, the Mint should open the sales first to established customers — those individuals who qualify in some definable way as being loyal Mint customers. That could be based on such factors as dollars spent on Mint products over a period of time, or total years that a customer has bought items from the Mint. Open a 24-hour window catering to these customers only and then, if any coins remain, open sales to new customers.

What an excellent idea!

The U.S. Mint can create a “Collector’s Club” where non-commercial customers can earn points. The more points, the closer to the front of the line you get to access limited edition items. They can slowly add perqs for better customers, including levels for reduced and free shipping.

There is no reason to prevent the U.S. Mint from making the Collector’s Club a policy. The only question is whether they have the wherewithal to implement something like this. I do not think they do, but I hope they prove me wrong!

Weekly World Numismatic News for November 17, 2019

American Eagle 2019 One Ounce Silver Enhanced Reverse Proof CoinThe biggest numismatic-related news of the week that not reported in many media outlets. It was the failure of the U.S. Mint to deal with a high volume of orders for what everyone anticipated would be a popular product.

On November 14, 2019, the numismatic community rushed to the U.S. Mint website. It flooded their call center attempting to purchase the 2019 American Eagle One Ounce Silver Enhanced Reverse Proof Coin. As with almost all of their past launches, the U.S. Mint e-commerce systems failed the collecting community.

Collectors reported web failures, outages, and disconnection on the telephone trying to order the product. I was first alerted of a problem by a family member and my mailbox filled with readers who experienced similar issues.

After hearing the criticism, the U.S. Mint issued the following statement:

At the moment of launch, there were 99,000 people online and 4700 callers waiting to purchase the American Eagle 2019 One Ounce Silver Enhanced Reverse Proof Coin (19XE). Completed orders were processed until all inventory was sold. We are constantly seeking feedback from our customers, and rest assured your voice is being heard.

To try to spin this further, on Friday, the U.S. Mint issued the following statement:

Yesterday, the Mint catalog website had more than 150,000 unique visitors and 1.6 million page views in the first hour of sales of the American Eagle 2019 One Ounce Silver Enhanced Reverse Proof Coin (19XE). For context, the catalog website’s previous highest traffic and page views were for the Apollo 11 product launch, when we had 124,000 visitors in one day and 863,000 page views in one hour. We are pleased with the numismatic community’s response to this product. The volume of traffic did briefly slow down our site response. However, after the first two minutes we were able to process over 1800 orders per minute on average. Completed orders were processed until all inventory was sold. Additionally, we identified approximately 5% of traffic as coming from bots, including 3% of traffic from a single IP address, of which zero orders were processed.

With all due respect to the U.S. Mint, if this is beyond your capacity, then the competence of the Mint and their contractor (aren’t they contracted with Pitney-Bowes?) are in question. There are e-commerce systems that have higher capacity requirements and service their customers better.

The failure of their e-commerce system is not a new problem for the U.S. Mint. We can go back through the history of this blog to note how badly they have implemented their e-commerce systems.

Frankly, I am not surprised. Years ago, when I was a contractor within the Department of the Treasury, I had to listen to how the U.S. Mint’s systems were built to be greater and better than anyone else in the department. Their technology directors touted their capacity and their capabilities over all the other bureaus. They used these reasons to allow them to separate themselves and to avoid integration with other systems, even suggesting that they be the central integrators for the department.

Even though I have not worked within the Treasury Department in many years, the results and the spin published by their public relations department demonstrates that the chutzpah continues.

For four years, the U.S. Mint has been holding forums to try to learn from collectors what they expect. One thing they have not learned is to fix the mechanisms that provide collector access to U.S. Mint products. It is time for the U.S. Mint to stop talking and do something. Their problems have surpassed annoying and are bordering on malfeasance!

And now the news…

 November 12, 2019
We all have them, worth almost nothing, but still can be useful. They are the little button-sized ¢5 coins that fill up your pockets or coin jar, that the Banco Central (Central Bank) will stop minting starting January 1, 2020.  → Read more at qcostarica.com

 November 12, 2019
LOWELL, Mich. — When 43-year-old Jason Faraj entered Collector’s Korner in Lowell, the smooth-talking antiques aficionado gained the trust of the store owner and left with more than $5,700 in merchandise.  → Read more at wzzm13.com
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Weekly World Numismatic News for October 20, 2019

2019 American Innovaation $1 - DelawarePerusing the wide world of coins, I noticed that it is only here in the United States that collectors complain about modern coinage. Why?

My Twitter followers (@coinsblog) have seen the articles coming from the United Kingdom. U.K. news outlets have staff that follows the special issues from the Royal Mint that are selling for hundreds of times over their face value in online auctions. These coins have a limited run and are issued as circulating commemorative coins.

Similarly, the Royal Australian Mint recently released an alphabet series, similar to what the Royal Mint did in 2018. As part of the series, they created a stir when they used the letter “X” to highlight a small village in Western Australia. Aussies learned something about their own country.

In the United States, we bemoan new issues by the U.S. Mint. We look at the coins and come up with some reason to dislike them. Many of the reasons range from the parochial to the absurd.

Dealers do not like them because they make more money on selling you what they think are “better” coins. Rather than try to use the opportunity to get people interested and into their shop, they would rather sell a more expensive coin. Note to dealer: selling 100 coins at a $1 profit is the same as selling one coin for a $100 profit except that you now have 100 new customers rather than recycling old ones.

Another reason I hear is that modern coins are not worth the money and, therefore, not worth the time. Really? Are you collecting or investing? Are you enjoying your collection, or is it something to do?

Recently, I sold off my Morgan Dollar collection. I started the collection many years ago and realized that I did not have the eye for coins that I have today. I also lost interest.

2019 Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Quarter - IdahoSomeone asked what am I collecting today. I respond with modern circulating commemoratives. When I get a strange look, I have been responding with, “do you know what the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is?”

Who is Frank Church, and what is the River of No Return? If you paid attention to the American the Beautiful Quarters program, you would learn more about your own country. I did not know about this wilderness area in Idaho until I looked at the quarter.

I also learned that the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, both United States territories, have beautiful memorials to those who gave their lives in World War II.

Now collectors are lamenting the new American Innovation $1 coins. Why? Because they do not circulate? Then go pick up a roll and start spending them! You can show people the series that is beginning with honoring Annie Jump Cannon, who invented a system for classifying the stars still used today. Aside from being a Delaware native, Cannon was a suffragist and hearing impaired.

Stop being so stuck up about modern coins, buy a roll, and give someone a William Henry Harrison dollar. Then ask them why Harrison is so important to U.S. history? Pick a president who is not famous and do the same exercise.

If you have children, why not plan a trip based on the quarter that has been released. If you cannot travel to Guam to see the War in the Pacific National Park, then a trip to San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. You can also Remember the Alamo and visit a fascinating area of the country.

Collecting modern coins may not make the dealers rich or be a great investment. But there is enough material to have fun beyond just accumulating metal discs.

And now the news…

 October 10, 2019
Weet-Bix is given the “W” in an A-to-Z collection depicting “all things Australian.” Weet-Bix, a breakfast cereal manufactured by a Seventh-day Adventist health food company in Australia, is set to cement its icon status.  → Read more at adventistreview.org

 October 11, 2019
Finance minister Tito Mboweni on Friday finalised the designs for the 2020 silver Kruger Rand and the R25 Natura Series collectable coin due next year. He also gazetted an update to a coin design that makes a leopard featured in a Big 5 collectable coin series somewhat less angry.  → Read more at businessinsider.co.za

 October 12, 2019
As many as 96 varieties of coins used during the period of the Western Ganga dynasty, which ruled Karnataka, are among the attractions at the three-day philately and numismatic exhibition here. Among the other exhibits at the 12th State Level Philately Exhibition organised by the Karnataka Postal Circle are commemorative coins, Chinese gold panda coins, stamps on 100 years of Indian cinema.  → Read more at thehindu.com

 October 12, 2019
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A young Alaska Native woman left an impression on Alaska’s territorial Senate in 1945, delivering a speech that led to the passage of the nation’s first anti-discrimination law.  → Read more at seattletimes.com

 October 15, 2019
MURRELLS INLET — The ship owned by the richest man in America is giving up its gold, again. The North Carolina was a side-wheeled steam packet, a coastal transport that carried mail and was owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt.  → Read more at postandcourier.com

 October 16, 2019
One of the rarest coins in the world is set to sell at auction for an incredible £1.6million. The Umayyad gold dinar dates back to 723AD and was made from gold mined at a location owned by the Caliph – one of the successors to the Prophet Muhammad.  → Read more at dailymail.co.uk

 October 16, 2019
A Bunbury businessman has unearthed one of Australia’s rarest coins — worth more than $10,000 in mint condition —while birdwatching in the Goldfields outback. Mick Cross was photographing birds at Malcolm Dam near Leonora when he picked up a small coin sitting in the dirt metres from the popular camp site.  → Read more at thewest.com.au

 October 16, 2019
Calling all Antique Roadshow enthusiasts. Have you ever seen a large metal coin featuring an old lamp with the number 60 on it? After discovering this mysterious-looking coin among her Grandmmother’s collection, a woman from Chilliwack is asking the public if they have any idea what it is.  → Read more at coastmountainnews.com

 October 18, 2019
Nowadays, having savings and investments both have equal weight in importance and necessity as well. In terms of investments, there are a lot of options for you to choose from. These options range from stock investments to mutual funds to cryptocurrency.  → Read more at nuwireinvestor.com

 October 19, 2019
Binyamin Elkin, the six-year-old son of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Ze'ev Elkin discovered a 2,000-year-old coin from the City of David excavations at the President's Residence on Thursday.  → Read more at israelnationalnews.com
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Weekly World Numismatic News for October 13, 2019

Australian $1 X Coin

X is for Xantippe
(Image courtesy of the Royal Australian Mint)

George Santayana was a Spanish-American philosopher, writer, and poet who influenced many of the decision-makers in the early 20th Century. In 1905, Santayana wrote The Life of Reason: Reason in Common Sense, where he wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

In the chapter, Santayana was emphasizing the need to use every experience as a lesson to improve the future. The rest of the chapter discussed how to apply lessons from things that went well.

What does George Santayana have to do with numismatics? Numismaitcs has not learned from the past and making the same mistakes expecting a better outcome. In other words, the numismatic industry is fulfilling the axiom credited to Albert Einstien: “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

What are we doing wrong? Let’s look at it in the context of this week’s news. Following the lead of the Royal Mint, the Royal Australian Mint is producing 26 limited-edition circulating one-dollar coins with the letters A to Z along with a depiction of something Australian that represents that letter. They call it the Great Aussie Coin Hunt.

Some letters are easy, like G for G’Day or V for Vegemite. Others do not have obvious names. When it came to X, the Royal Australian Mint picked Xantippe.

What is Xantippe?

Aussies were perplexed when trying to figure out who, what, or where Xantippe could be. That is when the Royal Australian Mint revealed that Xantippe is a small farming town in Western Australia.

For the Royal Australian Mint, it was the perfect way to get the message out about the new dollar coins. It caused a minor yet fun controversy that had the county talking about the series creating excitement about finding the coins.

In the UK, the Royal Mint had a similar program called The Great British Coin Hunt. In 2018, the Royal Mint issued 10 pence coins struck with British themes. Along with the other limited edition 50 pence themed coins, the Royal Mint keeps Brittons interested in coins by generating excitement about each release.

In the United States, we also saw excitement about looking for coins. We saw an increased awareness of coin collecting during the 50 States Quarters Program. Earlier this year, there was some interest shown over the release of the W mint quarters. The interest was not as strong as the 50 State Quarters, but people heard about the coin.

But that was for National Coin Week. What has happened since then?

Learn from the positive: by advertising, getting the word out, and promoting the coins, the US Mint is capable of getting people interested. By having the numismatic industry join them, people were paying attention.

Since the end of Nation Coin Week, the numismatic industry has been silent to those outside of the hobby. Most of the promotion has been like preaching to the choir. We get it. We got it. But you cannot keep an industry going that outsiders are claiming is dying.

Numismatics is not dying or near death. Like every hobby, it has problems to overcome. The first step to better health is to expand the base. The only way that could happen is if the numismatic industry does something radical: reach out consistently to everyone.

It is time to learn what worked in the past and stop doing the same things over again.

We can learn lessons from other industries. What about the collector car industry? Nearly 20 years ago, the collector car industry existed but was not that strong. The thought was that getting into cars was expensive, time-consuming, and confusing. Then Discovery Networks fell over the answer.

For Discovery, it started as HDNet, a television channel where they experimented with high definition content. They would create something in high definition and air it on HDNet to test the public’s reaction. Interestingly, the shows about cars were their most highly rated content. Then they contracted with Mecum Auctions to broadcast their events, and the ratings for a niche cable channel were higher than expected.

HDNet was renamed to Velocity. Now it is owned by Motor Trend, who rebranded the channel in its name.

Although the car hobby business was doing well, the trade publications point to the rise of HDNet and Velocity as a reason that the hobby is doing better than ever.

What can we learn from putting cars on television? First, there is an interested market out there that may not know where to turn for information. The shows provide both knowledge and entertainment. While there are shows that have a doctrine-like attitude, most are inclusive of all styles and interests.

Just like in numismatics, there is no single way to collect and enjoy cars. And like cars, there is a lot that can be used to teach everyone about history.

There was a multi-part series about the growth of the auto industry that followed many of the early titans, including Henry Ford, William Durant, and Walter Chrysler. One of the segments was their reactions to World War II, while the story was about how the automotive industry also showed how the country participated in the war effort.

What stories can be told about the 1943 steel cent? What about the “Shotgun Shell” cents struck in 1944 by recycling spent shells picked up from the training field?

How about some fun shows? Numismatic Jeopardy, where the questions are based on answers derived from something numismatic-related. For example, “It’s called the Old Line State.” The answer is on the reverse of the 2000 Maryland State Quarter!

Revive the old PBS show History Detectives and do it with numismatics. After all, they did investigate a coin said to be associated with Annie Oakley and a $6 Continental Currency note found in Omaha.

These are a few ideas. I am sure that others can come up with better ones.

Then again, that may mean that the industry will have to break out of its niche comfort zone and embrace something different.

And now the news…

 October 4, 2019

Metal detectorists have made many amazing discoveries down the years in Britain, with a great hoard of 2,600 coins just revealed last month. But there are strict rules regarding archaeological finds made by detectorists.  → Read more at ancient-origins.net


 October 6, 2019

The Royal Australian Mint is producing 26 limited-edition legal tender coins that will be given out as change at post offices over the coming weeks. The A to Z of Australiana could see you pocketing a Neighbours , Weet-Bix or didgeridoo $1 coin in your small change.  → Read more at news.com.au


 October 8, 2019

The UK’s Treasury plans to commemorate Brexit by minting millions of 50 pence ($0.61) coins. But like many of the Conservative government’s recent moves, there is a major flaw: the imprint date will be the Oct.  → Read more at qz.com

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Basketball Hall of Fame Commem Unveiled

During a ceremony at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts on September 6, the U.S. Mint unveiled the design for the 2020 Hall of Fame commemorative coin.

The obverse of the coin, designed by Artistic Infusion Program artist Pheobe Hemphill, has an image looking down into the net from the rim. Superimposed on above the rim are three players: a man, woman, and wheelchair player, reaching for a ball.

The design is something that represents the Basketball Hall of Fame. As opposed to Halls of Fame from other sports, the Basketball Hall of Fame honors the best basketball players from any arena, not just from the professional leagues.

The reverse of the curved coin, designed by Artistic Infusion Program artist Justin Kunz, the image of a basketball as it is about to drop into the basket. While using the image of a ball is similar to what the U.S. Mint used for the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin, this one is a little different. For this commemorative coin, the ball does not take up the entire side, leaving a distinct rim around the ball. Also, the ball will be on the concave side of the coin.

Line drawings of coin designs do not provide the perspective of the final product, making it difficult to judge. The design unveiled in Springfield appears to have a lot of potentials. Let’s hope that the final product can be just as nice.

Although U.S. Mint Director David Ryder once mentioned something about selective coloring on this coin, there has been no formal announcement from the U.S. Mint.

A video of the ceremony is available on the NBA’s website.

Some random thoughts…

Although it has been a while since I have posted something outside of the Weekly World Numismatic News, it does not mean that I have been idle. Here are some random thoughts:

Glenn B Smedley Medal

2019 Glenn B Smedley Medal

First, I want to thank the American Numismatic Association Board of Governors for awarding me the 2019 Glenn Smedley Memorial Award. It is an honor! I wish I could have been there for the award ceremony.

ANA President Steve Ellsworth asked me to continue as Chair of the Technology Committee. I accepted his appointment. Steve has a different vision for how to move forward. Change is a good thing and will work with him and the Board to do what is best for the ANA.

There continues to be work to do for the ANA to add technology to the numismatic experience. One of the areas I would like to include more technology are the exhibits. After speaking with one person familiar with the exhibiting process, I think there are ways to add technology without technology overshadowing the numismatic content. I will have a proposal shortly. Stay tuned.

2007 Somalia Motorcycle Coins
I love these coins but is this the direction the U.S. Mint should go?

Not long ago, U.S. Mint Director David Ryder said that there might be a chance to add color to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coins. I have had a mixed feeling about adding color to coins. There are some cases where the color acted as an enhancer. Other times, some mints produced coins that were discs with prints. I will wait until the design is released to decide how I feel about the Mint’s attempt with color.

There are many collectibles whose values have declined over the last year, including some collector coins. One area that remains low are those collector sets produced by the television hucksters or the private mints. These firms overhype the value of their wares to convince buyers that they should purchase them as an investment. Recently, I handled an estate with several items purchased from QVC and the Franklin Mint. All of the coins were overpriced. The family was upset when I provided my valuation. I will talk about this more in a future post.

Another article idea that is inspired by my business is the difference between collecting and investing. Although some people like to try to mix the two, most of the time, the result is that the investor does not create a compelling collection while most of the collectors create value without trying.

I sold my silver Pandas. I lost interest after the composition was changed but the hype has kept the prices up. Hype is not a long-term strategy.

Recently, I decided to liquidate part of my collection. As part of the process, I realized how much I have learned over the years. It is a real case of “the more you know, the more you realize what you don’t know.” I learned several lessons during this process, including not to trust my judgment. In one case, coins I graded years ago were over graded. If I would have used the tools and knowledge, I have today, and the grades would be different.

Finally, I am still waiting to find a “W” quarter in change. I have yet to see one. Most of the people I know that are looking for these quarters are roll hunting. If I were into conspiracies, I would suggest that the Mint did this on purpose to increase the demand for quarters. People would demand rolls of quarters, forcing the Federal Reserve to order more.

Considering the U.S. Mint is a government agency, I bet they are storing most of the quarters in Area 51! After all, if we are going into conspiracy theories, we might as well go all of the way!

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