Copper: Scientific Fact and Numismatic Fiction?

Copper is the third most common element in the world.

Copper is a versatile metal that has been exploited for many purposes since the Bronze Age that started roughly in 3300 BCE. It is as practical as wire carrying electricity and for cooking. It is used for its artistic qualities such as the Statue of Liberty. Copper is also a medium of exchange.

U.S. cents have been made of copper, steel, and copper plated zinc. What’s next?

Copper has a long history of being integrated with coins in the United States. From the first half and one cent coins of the late 18th century, every coin ever struck for circulation has contained copper, except for the 1943 Steel Cent.

When coins were struck using precious metals, more were struck using a majority of the precious metal, and the balance was copper. Although legislation required changes in the composition of the alloy, copper continued to provide the filler.

Precious metals, like gold and silver, do not oxidize. Copper will naturally oxidize. Copper oxidizes when it is exposed to the environment. Water, salts, and acids in the air will react with the copper that will cause a molecular change in copper that causes its color to change. A typical example of what happens when copper oxidizes is the Statue of Liberty. The copper statue is now a blue-green color after many years of enduring the elements. That blue-green color is known as verdigris.

In numismatics, the copper oxidation is apparent as the colors of the half-cent, one cent, and two cent coins oxidize. When a coin is the color of the initially polished planchette, it is said to have a red color. As the copper in the coin oxidizes, the color is described as red-brown, sometimes with a percentage of red to brown color. A brown coin is a coin whose red color has completely oxidized.

The oxidation process is natural and can not be stopped. It is possible to slow the process. Eventually, the copper will oxidize and turn every cent ever struck to brown.

Large Cent with Verdigris

Would this metal detector find be considered “artificial toning” (Image from CTTodd.com)

Numismatics does not consider the oxidation of copper as damage to a coin until the appearance of verdigris. Then the coin loses its value. However, verdigris is not damage. Verdigris is the result of the natural oxidation process.

As collectors, we have seen the natural oxidation of copper accelerated by artificial means. Coins stored in holders made of the synthetic polymer polyvinyl chloride (PVC) produce an acidic gas as it oxidizes accelerating the oxidation of the copper used to make coins. That acceleration can lead to the rapid breakdown of the PVC holder, causing it to appear as if it melted to coin. Numismatists call this damage. It is a natural reaction by the copper.

When copper oxidizes, it does not change its molecular structure but alters its form. If someone would test the surface of a cent with bright red color and one that has turned brown, both will test as being made of copper. The surface would have to examined on a molecular level to see how oxidation has reformatted the molecular structure.

Statue of Liberty

An example of how copper tones

Oxidation only changes the color on the surface. The Statue of Liberty is an example of this phenomenon. When the statue was conserved in the early 1980s, experts found that the verdigris covering the copper was no more than 6-8 millimeters (one-quarter of an inch) deep. As a testament to how copper can maintain its structure, it the restorers estimate that it had lost .01-percent of its surface in her 100 years of living in New York.

Although few would call the verdigris on the Statue of Liberty ugly, verdigris on a coin causes people to turn their heads away.

Another way that the oxidation of copper changes coins is when a coin becomes toned. Some collectors marvel at colors some coins become when the copper in the alloy oxidizes. Others see the coin as damaged. Both views are right.

From a scientific perspective, a toned coin shows the flaws within the alloy. If the alloy was a consistent mixture of metals, toning on every coin would be similar. Instead, the inconsistencies of how the copper is mixed with the primary metal is revealed in the pattern of the toning. This inconsistency makes toning difficult to predict and challenging to detect whether toning was through natural oxidation or by artificial means.

Experts claim they can tell the difference between natural and artificial toning. With certain exceptions, such as the toning from known contaminants like the lignin in paper and PVC, very few people can tell the difference without extensive examination. Specialized equipment such as microscopes that enhance the image using a type of radiography is the only way to determine the difference between natural and artificial toning. And that is not a perfect solution.

The third-party grading services can examine coins using specialized equipment and determine whether the coin was naturally or artificially toned. But they can only be reasonably sure. Without examining the surface to determine the type of contaminants that caused the oxidation, they can provide the best guess based on the evidence they can collect.

If you read the various numismatic forums, members share many formulas that they found to accelerate the oxidation of the copper in a coin. Some have even bragged how they were able to have the coins graded by the third-party grading services as being naturally toned. Collectors continue to chase these coins and pay additional premiums for them.

Another numismatic curiosity is the alleged conserving of coins to remove damaging oxidation. Unlike the oxidation of iron, which breaks down the molecular bonds of the alloy, the bonds of oxidized copper molecules remain strong. The green color is on the surface of the copper where it was in contact with the contaminants.

It is impossible to reverse the oxidation of copper. The only way to remove the oxidized copper that has turned to verdigris is to remove that layer of copper. When speaking with professionals that restore art and antiques, they admit that their methods of restoring copper involve removing the oxidized layers. They recognize the fact that it is the only way to restore the luster to copper.

However, numismatic conservation services make claims that they can safely remove the oxidation without damaging the surface of the coin. When asking a professional art restoration company whether this was true, they wondered how these companies could get away with making their false claims.

When shown example images of coin conservation found online, the professionals were able to explain how most of the cleaning was done using sonic tools or high pressure distilled water possibly mixed with baking soda to raise the alkaline level of the water. They did refer to this as a form of cleaning because it is designed to loosen the bonds between the contaminants and the metals.

One set of images showed the removal of verdigris on a coin. The expert said that the only way to remove the verdigris spots was the alter the surface of the coin by removing that layer of copper which changes the surface of the coin. It is an evasive procedure, yet the example images showed the coin before conservation and following the work in a third-party grading service holder not marked as having altered surfaces.

While sitting at a table where a bronze bust worth tens of thousands of dollars was in the process of conservation, this expert saw before and after images of silver and gold coins and wondered if the numismatic industry knew something the multi-billion dollar art industry did not.

Analyzing the Structure of a painting

Art restoration is so understood that a graphic like this does not cause controversy.

The art industry documents its conservation methods. Auction houses, insurance companies, dealers, and collectors know how art is conserved. They accept that the surface of the bust on the table is being altered to remove the verdigris spots. Once completed, the restored copper bust will be worth more to a collector, who will know about the restoration.

Similar openness does not exist in the numismatic industry. Numismatic conservation companies do not document their methods by calling them trade secrets. These coins are in third-party grading service holders without any indication of their conservation, and the auction companies are happy to sell them for thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What have we learned?

  • Every coin that has been struck for circulation by the U.S. Mint contains copper except for the 1943 Steel Cent.
  • Copper oxidized to the point of forming verdigris on the surface.
  • Oxidation only occurs on the surface that is in contact with the environment.
  • The rate of oxidation is controllable through proper handling.
  • Once copper oxidizes, it is not reversible.
  • It is not possible to remove oxidation without altering the copper surface.

The art world understands that conservation of copper requires altering the surface. It is accepted as part of an industry where significant works sell for tens- or hundreds-of-millions of dollars. The numismatic world hides behind alleged proprietary secrets and few questions about what they are doing.

Maybe it is time to ask the numismatic conservation companies to disclose what they are doing to understand whether they are altering the coins’ surface, or not. Maybe it is time to ask the third-party grading service why are they not disclosing that they are placing conserved coins in their holders. Maybe it is time to hold the auction companies and dealers responsible for not disclosing when a coin is conserved.

Maybe it is time the industry is honest with itself and honest with its collectors.

Weekly World Numismatic News for July 7, 2019

Steven Kenny

Newly named Artistic Infusion Program artist Steven Kenny (photo courtesy of www.stevenkenny.com)

Usually, news about a new artist selected for the Artistic Infusion Program is not big news in the numismatic community. The program currently has 13 artists including a few who were once employees of the U.S. Mint. But the recent announcement that Steven Kenny of St. Petersburg, Florida seemed a little unusual because of his artistic style.

Kenny’s primary work is surrealism, a style described as “irrational juxtaposition of images.” There are many different styles of surrealism that many artists have explored. One of the most famous surrealist artists was Salvador Dali.

The Beach by Steven Kenny

“The Beach” by Steven Kenny. Available as a print on his website.

While exploring Kenny’s website, you can see he has an interesting take on surrealism. Most of his works appear to be his take on portraits of different types of people adapting to their environment in unique ways. But these works go beyond that simple description, which is usually the case with artists who specialize in surrealism. His work has a simplicity that the more you look at them, the more that you can see complex themes formed by the image.

The way Kenny approaches a subject makes his selection to the AIP a fascinating choice. The U.S. Mint has always had a problem figuring out how to create designs for complex subjects. It is one thing to design a coin with an organization’s logo or the bust of a person, but what about design a coin for a national park, a forest, or an event?

Although seeing a surrealistic design on a coin would be interesting, someone with a background in surrealism has a different view that has the potential to improve on coin designs.

Kenny’s selection to the AIP is a very interesting move for the U.S. Mint. Whoever made the selection should be praised for not only selecting a talented artist but one with a different perspective.

I encourage everyone to explore Steven Kenny’s website to see more about his art.

And now the news…

 June 30, 2019

Using powerful infrared light, researchers have found a way to tint metal without dyes or pigments – with scientific implications far beyond coin-collecting  → Read more at theglobeandmail.com


 July 2, 2019

The U.S. Mint selected St. Petersburg surrealist painter Steven Kenny to create designs for coins.  → Read more at abcactionnews.com


 July 3, 2019

PHOTO: “MIR”  → Read more at galpost.com


 July 3, 2019

To continue, please click the box below to let us know you're not a robot.  → Read more at bloomberg.com


 July 3, 2019

 → Read more at kitco.com


 July 4, 2019

A rare gold solidus dating back 1,600 years has been found by a group of Israeli students in the Galilee region.  → Read more at sci-news.com


 July 4, 2019

A treasure trove of Arab coins dating back some 1,000 years has been discovered in an old German cemetery near the Baltic coast.  → Read more at thefirstnews.com

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May 2019 Numismatic Legislation Review

The legislative review is back after taking a month hiatus since there was nothing to report for April.

Legislation introduced in May is a bit different than others in that only one bill directly affects the section of the law that governs the U.S. Mint (Subchapter III of chapter 51 of title 31, United States Code). Let’s look at each of legislation submitted in May.

S. 1300: National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Introduced: May 2, 2019
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — May 2, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-S1300.

The National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act is a typical three-coin commemorative coin legislation ($5 gold, $1 silver, half-dollar clad) to raise money for a cause. If passed, this law will pay the surcharges to National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

H.R. 2559: Gold Reserve Transparency Act of 2019
Sponsor: Rep. Alexander X. Mooney (R-WV)
Introduced: May 7, 2019
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — May 7, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-HR2559.

The Gold Reserve Transparency Act of 2019 calls for a complete assay, inventory, and audit of gold reserves held by the federal government. The proposed law requires that the location of all gold is documented “including any gold in ‘deep storage,'” the security of those places, and any transactions of that gold.

If enacted, the Comptroller General of the United States do this audit for the past 15 years and have it completed within 12 months and every five years. The law would require the complete audit to be made public with the only exception of the physical security issues.

COMMENTARY: Given the nature of the economy and a lot of other factors are the gold holds that important? The Federal Reserve reports that the M1 money supply is over $3.7 trillion and the M2 is over $14.5 trillion. Think of the M1 as cash used in commerce. The M2 represents all money, including those in savings, securities, or may have circulating restrictions. Even if the government were to account for every grain of gold as reported an in U.S. Mint’s annual reports, that would represent less than 1-percent of the M1.

Gold holdings are irrelevant to the strength of the United States economy. Maintaining the M1 supply is more critical because it is a measure of activity. Economists fear wild tariffs since it will have a direct effect on the M1 money supply. Changes to the M1 will alter the demand for the products produced by the U.S. Mint and Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

H.R. 2558: To define the dollar as a fixed weight of gold.
Sponsor: Rep. Alexander X. Mooney (R-WV)
Introduced: May 7, 2019
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — May 7, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-HR2558.

H.R. 2558 would require the Secretary of the Treasury “define the dollar in terms of a fixed weight of gold, based on that day’s closing market price of gold” and allow Federal Reserve Notes to be exchangeable for gold at that statutory rate.

COMMENTARY: This is a backhanded attempt to return the United States to the gold standard without the sufficient backing of gold that will support this effort. With the money supply being over $14 trillion, trying to match the amount of gold at market value to every U.S. dollar would cause a devaluation of the currency that it would not be economically viable to do business in or with the United States.

Further, the market price of gold is set by private banks, metals dealers, mining companies, and other financial companies from all over the world through the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). Given the makeup of their membership, this bill will allow this market that includes people from Bahrain, China, Switzerland, Russia, and other countries where the United States may have disputes to have direct influence over the strength of the U.S. dollar.

The introduction of a bill like this makes for good talking points for a constituency that is ignorant of the ramifications of this law. It is not sound policy given the nature of the markets.

H.R. 2630: Cash Always Should be Honored Act
Sponsor: Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-RI)
Introduced: May 9, 2019
Referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. — May 9, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-HR2630.

The Cash Always Should be Honored (CASH) Act states that “It shall be unlawful for any physical retail establishment to refuse to accept legal tender as payment for any products or services offered for sale by such physical retail establishment.” The bill allows exemptions for online and telephone-based transactions.

COMMENTARY: Although I believe in the power of spending the products of the U.S. Mint and Bureau of Engraving and Printing over using electronic means, it should not be the government’s place to tell anyone how to conduct business.

Another short-sighted bill that does not consider the modern economy because it does not consider changes to the concept of a physical retail establishment. For example, what about mobile-based commerce? Would the rideshare companies be required to take cash? What about the plumber who comes to fix your sink? What about the food truck where you might buy lunch?

For the numismatists, how would this affect dealers at a coin show? Will you be required to carry around a wad of currency to buy coins? Would there be a distinction between the dealer who only sells at shows versus a dealer with a shop who travels to shows?

It is another bill that looks better as part of talking points than its effects on the real economy.

H.R. 2650: Payment Choice Act of 2019
Sponsor: Rep. Donald M. Payne (D-NJ)
Introduced: May 9, 2019
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — May 9, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-HR2650.

This Payment Choice Act of 2019 is similar to the CASH Act in that it will prohibit any business from refusing “to accept United States legal tender of cash as payment for goods or services,” post signs saying that the establishment will not accept cash, or charge a higher price for paying in cash. The bill exempts “any goods or services sold to the public by telephone, mail, or internet.”

COMMENTARY: See the commentary for the CASH Act, above.

Weekly World Numismatic News for June 2, 2019

The most interesting news of the week was not printed by a media outlet but by the Government Printing Office. On May 23, 2019, the GPO published an entry in the Federal Register saying that the U.S. Mint has priced the Pride of Two Nations Limited Edition Two-Coin Set at $139.95.

Which two nations? Of course, if this is coming from the U.S. Mint, one of the countries is the United States. However, several reports claim that the second nation is Canada.

According to a source, the set will include a proof one-ounce American Silver Eagle coin and a proof one-ounce silver Canada Maple Leaf with a unique privy mark. There was no further information as to what the privy mark will be.

Production will be limited to 250,000 sets, according to the source.

The coins will be packaged and marketed by the U.S. Mint. The Royal Canadian Mint will also take orders for the set that will be fulfilled by the logistics contractor working for the U.S. Mint.

The source did not have information about the packaging.

The set will go on sale at the beginning of the World’s Fair of Money via Internet and telephone ordering only. Falling under the category that we can no longer have nice things, the U.S. Mint’s reticence to open sales at shows is a result of the fiasco that occurred when they released the 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Gold Proof coin at that year’s World’s Fair of Money.

Of course, no dealer was penalized by the American Numismatic Association for disrupting the World’s Fair of Money or setting the conditions that disrupted the distription outside of the Denver Mint.

And now the news…

 May 28, 2019

ST. GEORGE — Glen Canyon National Recreation Area’s investigation of centuries-old Spanish coins that were turned into the park has provisionally concluded the coins are authentic. However, according to a news release from the National Park Service, the two small coins were probably part of a modern coin collection, perhaps accidentally or intentionally dropped by a visitor to Lake Powell.  → Read more at stgeorgeutah.com


 May 29, 2019

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include the newest mock-up of the Harriet Tubman currency from the advocacy group Women on 20s. WASHINGTON – The Trump administration says it needs until 2028 to release a new $20 bill featuring abolitionist hero Harriet Tubman.  → Read more at usatoday.com


 June 1, 2019

The coins and a silver ingot, believed to be worth £500,000, were seized in Durham and Lancashire.  → Read more at bbc.com


 June 1, 2019

Is the current 1p piece the least valuable British coin since the currency was unified in 1707?  → Read more at bbc.com

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POLL: Where are all the W mint quarters?

W is more than the 23rd letter of the Latin-based alphabet. While it is the chemical symbol for tungsten and used as an abbreviation for watt, in numismatics, it is an elusive mintmark found on only by a few dedicated hunters.

With 2 million quarters produced by for each of the five National Parks Quarters issued in 2019, it represents from 0.5 to 1-percent of the total production for each coin. Yet being in the shadows of the nation’s capital and running a business that sees a lot of cash, the only W mint quarters I have found were shown to me by a customer asking about them.

Most of the reports of W mintmark quarter finds have been from roll hunters. They buy rolls from the bank and search. But I have searched the rolls I buy for the shop and not found any W mintmark quarters.

I might offer a bounty for someone bringing one into my shop. I am not sure what I have to trade. I have a roll of 40-percent silver half-dollars I used to give to children when they come in and show an interested in coin collecting. That might be a fair trade!

How about you?

Have you found a W mint quarter?





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Weekly World Numismatic News for April 14, 2019

Fifty cents = $5,000: The two Quarter Quest-winning PCGS First Discovery 2019-W Lowell quarter dollars side-by-side. (Photo credit: Professional Coin Grading Service www.PCGS.com.)

This week, the Professional Coin Grading Service announced that they would provide a $5,000 for the first collector to send in a new 2019-W Lowell National Historical Park quarter. By Friday, PCGS announced that two people won the prize. Each will receive $2,500.

During the week, I had two occasions to go to the bank and purchase rolls of quarters. Even though I asked for new rolls, most of the quarters I received were either from 2018 or non-W mint quarters from 2019. In the shop, I checked every quarter received for payment and when I received quarters in change.

The competitive side of me wanted to be the first, or amongst the first to find one of these quarters. Even after running errands earlier today, I did not find any coin struck in 2019.

PCGS is still rewarding those who find the W mint quarters with special labels and cash prizes. Even though the top prize was claimed, I want to find one in change!

And now the news…

 April 8, 2019

When you rifle around in your purse for some change soon, you might be lucky enough to pull out a new 50 cent coin, launched today by the Royal Australian Mint to celebrate the International Year of Indigenous Languages.  → Read more at theconversation.com


 April 9, 2019

Country continues tradition of honoring icons of art and science over politicians on its currency.  → Read more at soranews24.com


 April 9, 2019

Australia has issued a new coin celebrating some of the country’s indigenous languages, many of which are at risk of extinction.  → Read more at cnn.com


 April 10, 2019

Why is gold valuable? For thousands of years, gold has functioned as a store of wealth that sees its value climb in times of economic or societal unrest. Gold jewelry has been a sought-after luxury good since before the dawn of the first civilizations.  → Read more at gainesvillecoins.com


 April 10, 2019

SARANAC LAKE — Stephen Krupka’s metal detector beeped and wailed as he passed it over the soft ground Tuesday afternoon. “Looks like we’ve got a nickel signal here,” he said. Kneeling down, he took out a serrated hand trowel and cut a plug of grass from Denny Park on the corner of Pine Street and Bloomingdale Avenue.  → Read more at adirondackdailyenterprise.com


 April 11, 2019

A treasure hunter has struck it rich after digging up a 500-year-old gold coin that could be worth more than £4,000 ($5,200), but refuses to part with his rare find. Gareth Millward unearthed the coin in a field near Ashbourne, Derbyshire, and says it is the highlight of his four-year hobby.  → Read more at dailymail.co.uk


 April 12, 2019

(Kitco News) – Wall Street is split on the near-term direction of gold prices, while Main Street remains bullish, according to the weekly Kitco News gold survey.  → Read more at kitco.com

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 The Hunt Is On! (Apr 11, 2019)

 

Weekly World Numismatic News for April 7, 2019

A few weeks ago, I wrote that when the U.S. Mint issues new coins into circulation, the U.S. media does not say much. Again, other than the American Legion promoting their commemorative coin, finding news in the non-numismatic press is rare.

Imagine my surprise when perusing my search of numismatic-related news in the media comes up with an article about the upcoming “W” mint quarters! The story appears on al.com, the website of The Birmingham News dedicated to cover the news for Alabama.

For those who did not see the news, last week, the U.S. Mint announced that for the first time, they would be adding the current War in the Pacific (Northern Mariana Islands) quarter America the Beautiful Quarter Series to bags of coins in Philadelphia and Denver. It will take a few weeks before these quarters will appear in circulation.

The article was a summary of the U.S. Mint press release with additional information about the America the Beautiful Quarters.

Kudos to the reporter, Leada Gore, and al.com for publishing this story!

And now the news…

 March 27, 2019

SPRINGFIELD — Heads up, artists. The United States Mint is hosting a design competition looking for artists capable of creating the obverse, or heads, side of new commemorative U.S. Coins celebrating the game of basketball and benefitting the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  → Read more at masslive.com


 April 2, 2019

Often it isn’t until a recession or times of economic/financial panic occur that middle-class Americans and conservative investors truly consider the impact of gold on their portfolio. While diversifying into precious metals shouldn’t be a decision you make without research, there are opportunities to invest lightly so you can begin to understand the potential that certain metals might have for your financial future when the dollar dips, but gold and silver stay stable, perhaps even growing.  → Read more at topnewsgazette.com


 April 3, 2019

The U.S Mint is releasing new limited edition quarters.  → Read more at al.com


 April 4, 2019

Two metal detectorists who discovered an unprecedented treasure trove of coins after searching for 30 years may be wishing that finders were indeed keepers. Richard Miles, 56, and Reg Mead, 77, are at odds with officials over the valuation of their discovery in Jersey that is recognised as the world’s largest hoard of Celtic coins.  → Read more at thetimes.co.uk


 April 5, 2019

An amateur metal detectorist scouring the grounds of a field in Kent has discovered a perfectly preserved gold coin dating back almost 2,000 years. It is emblazoned with the face of Emperor Allectu who is being touted as the first Brexiteer after he took Britain out of the Roman Empire during his reign around 293AD.  → Read more at dailymail.co.uk


 April 5, 2019

The owner of a Vancouver coin shop who defrauded customers out of $1.4 million was sentenced in federal court Friday to four years in prison.  → Read more at columbian.com

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Brace yourself, the U.S. Mint is about to release another product for the kids

Although the U.S. Mint has not formally announced it, on March 28, 2019, they will make the 2019 Explore and Discover Coin Set (Product Code 19XGB) available to the general public. It is the second of three sets to be issued this year designed to get kids interested in coins.

This set features new characters they call the Mighty Minters.™ According to the U.S. Mint, the Might Minters are “fun, diverse, and relatable ambassadors to children, parents, and gift-givers. Each character projects its own style while introducing a variety of new Mint products to kids.” Although the concept may seem cheesy to us alleged adults, those who deal with the diverse population daily understands that in order to get the younger people interested they have to be engaged on their level.

I know. I know. It was different when we grew up. Back then you could still find silver coins in pocket change. Wheatback cents were about as common as Memorial cents are today. People even tried to use Susan B. Anthony dollars in their daily lives before confusing it with a quarter.

But that was the past.

Today’s children have a much different view on things. For one, if they are 18 years old or younger, they were born after 9/11 or were an infant and do not remember what happened. They grew up with the Internet, smartphones, and computers everywhere doing nearly everything. You can get access to everything at almost any time while their parents always bought things online.

Not only is money still important but the United States government owns the world’s largest money manufacturing business. No other mint manufactures, sells, or is more profitable than the United State Mint. It is an agency that does not get enough credit for producing billions of dollars of goods that our economy thrives on.

The U.S. Mint’s products are useful and collectible. And while there have been a few design issues, it is able to produce millions of versions of the art that people carry around daily and with an error rate that should make any company envious.

Errors are a fun aspect of the hobby because the rate of the errors is low. This is likely why the U.S. Mint is including a blank one cent planchet in the set. Not only does it show what a coin looks like before it is struck, but it also introduces kids to error collecting.

The Explore and Discover Coin Set introduce kids to the full range of circulating products produced by the U.S. Mint including the longest running design in the Mint’s history: Victor D. Brenner’s Lincon cent design.

In addition to a 2019 Jefferson Nickel and Roosevelt Dime, they are introduced to the Kennedy Half-Dollar. One of the quickest coin designs ever produced, the Kennedy half-dollar is not circulated as half-dollars once were. Although there are a lot of theories as to why half-dollars stopped circulating, one was that the 1964 half-dollar, which was made using an alloy that was 90-percent silver, was saved by many in honor of the slain president coupled with the coin shortage that followed effectively ended the coin’s circulation.

Also in the set is the first 2019-issued Lowell National Historical Park Quarter and 2019 Native American $1 Coin featuring American Indians in the Space Program honoring the achievement of Native Americans dating back to Mary Golda Ross (Cherokee Nation), the first Native American engineer at NASA.

These are two coins that should help kids not only learn about the coins but also about the subjects they depict. This should not discount the dollar coin’s obverse of Sacagawea carrying her baby, Jean Paul Baptiste.

It is another opportunity for the hobby purists to weigh in on how the U.S. Mint is getting it wrong before it sells out!

Numismatic Purists Heads are Exploding

Last week, the U.S. Mint reported that the sales of the Rocket Ship Set is close to being a sellout. With an announced limit of 50,000 sets, they said that 46,762 were sold.

The Rocket Ship Set is a coin product produced for kids to tie in with the space theme generated by the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Commemorative Coin program. The set contains two coins: an uncirculated 2019 Kennedy Half Dollar an a proof Native American $1 Coin honoring American Indians in the Space Program. The coins are mounted on a card shaped like a rocket ship that glows in the dark and can be set up to stand up on a desk, shelf, or anywhere else.

The text an the card explains the significance of the coins in honoring the space program written for children.

When the set was announced, there was a lot of commentary how the U.S. Mint was wrong for doing this. I read and received emails saying that this is the wrong way to reach children that many thought this set would barely reach 15,000 units sold.

While the numismatic snobs were throwing around adjectives like “dumb” and “stupid” claiming it is “bad for the hobby” and wondering out too loud what the U.S. Mint was thinking, customers bought up 93½-percent of the available inventory in two-weeks!

Although we do not know how many of the sales are to dealers or other institutional buyers, the fact that there is that level of interest suggests the U.S. Mint might have a better idea as to what’s good for the hobby than the snobs.

Weekly World Numismatic News for February 10, 2019

The numismatic news of the week of the week is the appointment of Joseph Menna as the 13th Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint.

Although the position of Chief Engraver was abolished in 1996 as an appointed position, Mint Director Edmund Moy resumed the position and appointed John Mercanti as the 12th Chief Engraver. The position was vacant since Mercanti’s resignation in 2010.

Many references cite Public Law 104-208 as the law that eliminated the Chief Engraver position. That bill is the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997. As with a lot of these omnibus acts, there is a lot of “stuff” packed into this law, but there does not appear to be a reference to the Chief Engraver.

In fact, a search the term “chief engraver” at govinfo.gov, the site for the Government Printing Office shows no public or private law with those words. The GPO has nearly every bill and public law for the past 100 years available for full-text search.

This is something to look into.

In the mean time, congratulations Joe Menna!

And now the news…

 January 30, 2019

A 300-year-old British coin has sold at auction for a world-record price of £845,000. The five guinea 'Vigo' coin dates to 1703 and was made using gold seized by the British from a Spanish treasure ship at the Battle of Vigo Bay.  → Read more at dailymail.co.uk


 February 3, 2019

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Hundreds of students took part Saturday in a robotics competition at Southern New Hampshire University. And the event came with an assignment from inventor Dean Kamen: He wants every student to get involved with an effort to honor a New Hampshire hero.  → Read more at wmur.com


 February 5, 2019

More than a decade ago Aries Cheung, a Toronto-based artist, graphic designer and filmmaker, was approached by a representative from the Royal Canadian Mint. Would he like to enter a competition for a new series of coins to celebrate the Lunar New Year?  → Read more at scmp.com

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