SCOTUS Cops Out

The ten 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles confiscated by the government from Joan Lanbord, daughter of Israel Switt.

Without a lot of fanfare, the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of the ten 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle coins found by Joan Langbord, daughter of Philadelphia jeweler Israel Switt.

Shortly after the sale of the Farouk-Fenton 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle coin, currently the example that is legal to own, in 2002 for $7.59 million at auction ($10.23 million accounting for inflation), Joan Langbord, daughter of Israel Switt, was searching through her late father’s boxes and found ten of these coins. Langbord then sent the coins to the U.S. Mint to authenticate. After a period of time, the Langbords inquired about the coins. They were told the coins were genuine and would not return them, calling them stolen items.

Langbord and her son Roy Langbord hired Barry Berke to help retrieve the coins. Berke was the attorney for British coin dealer Stephen Fenton who was arrested by the U.S. Secret Service when trying to buy the coin at the famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York in 1996. Berke negotiated Fenton’s release from prison and the subsequent sale at the July 2002 auction.

After the U.S. Mint refused to return the coins, the Langbords sued the government in 2006. The case went to trial in 2011 with a jury verdict against the Langbords. After the ruling, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Romero, the government’s lead attorney in the case, came out with a courthouse statement, “People of the United States of America have been vindicated.” Do you feel vindicated?

The case was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia.

In a hearing in 2015, Judge Marjorie O. Rendell ruled that the government was too aggressive in its actions and that the lower court judge erred in evidence handling. A subsequent three-judge panel upheld Judge Rendell’s ruling and ordered the government to return the coins.

The government appealed the ruling and asked for a full-circuit hearing. Called a ruling en banc, in 2016, a full panel of 12 judges ruled 9-3 that they agreed the lower court made mistakes in the presentation of evidence but they did not feel that there was not enough evidence that could overturn the ruling. The Appellate Court overturned the appeals and reinstated the original verdict.

Berke, on behalf of the Langbords, asked the Supreme Court to review the ruling of the Third Circuit. Officially, it is called a petition for a writ of certiorari. The petition was filed on October 28, 2016.

On April 17, the petition was denied. Justice Neil Gorsuch did not take part in the decision since he was not on the bench at the time the petition was filed.

Attempts to contact Burke have not been successful.

The inconsistency of how the government has handled the many different cases of coins that were not supposed to be in public hands is infuriating. Although the government has a history of confiscating the 1933 Double Eagles, the 1913 Liberty Head Nickels remain out of government control while the 1974-D Aluminum Cent was confiscated, while the 1974 Aluminum Cent pattern that was allegedly given to janitor by a member of congress was allowed to be sold at auction.

Patterns were never supposed to leave the U.S. Mint yet after the William Woodin served as Franklin Roosevelt’s first Secretary of the Treasury, the government has not tried to confiscate patterns. Woodin was a collector of patterns and trial coins who also had Roosevelt exempt “rare and unusual coin types” when writing the order to withdraw gold from private hands.

Even if the Third Circuit agreed that the evidence was not handled properly by the lower-court judge under the terms of the law, how can they tell whether a retrial would yield a different outcome? Why not return the case and retry the case?

While I love reading a good conspiracy theory, I find many difficult to understand how all of the moving parts can work in unison for or against anything. However, there are aspects of this story where a good conspiracy theorist could spin quite a tale.

Saying, “there ought to be a law” is usually not the real answer to many problems. However, maybe it is time to reconsider that feeling to force the government to act consistently. Considering how congress has turned dysfunction into fine art, I do not see this ever happening.

Do you still feel vindicated?

How many foreign coins at the U.S. Mint

1968 Canada 10-cents coin struck by the U.S. Mint

Continuing my self-education into the subject of foreign coin production at the U.S. Mint, the data was normalized to the point where it can be determined the number of coins that were struck for foreign countries. Although the publication I am using as a primary reference, Domestic and Foreign Coins Manufactured by the Mints of the United States, has a table, it is not complete.

After adding the coins struck for Iceland as part of the 2000 Leif Ericsson commemorative program and the coins struck at the Manila Mint, it appears that the Mints of the United States have produced over 10.75 billion coins and sold nearly 650 million planchets to foreign countries. That is over 11.4 billion pieces produced by the U.S. Mint from 1875 through 2000 that were not intended to circulate in the United States.

The following table shows the number of coins produced for each country:

Country Number of pieces produced Country Number of pieces produced
Argentina (Blanks)1 64,058,334 Hawaii2 1,950,000
Australia 168,000,000 Honduras 115,929,500
Belgian Congo 25,000,000 Iceland 143,324
Belgium 25,000,000 Indo-China 135,270,000
Bolivia 30,000,000 Israel 91,000
Brazil (Blanks)1 406,249,266 Korea 295,000,000
Canada 85,170,000 Liberia 56,744,679
China 39,720,096 Mexico 91,076,840
China, Republic Of (Taiwan) 428,172,000 Mexico (Blanks)1 175,714,411
Colombia 133,461,872 Nepal 195,608
Costa Rica 131,798,820 Netherlands 562,500,000
Cuba 496,559,888 Netherlands East Indies 1,716,368,000
Curacao 12,000,000 Nicaragua 26,080,000
Dominican Republic 76,954,297 Panama (Republic) 193,838,428
Ecuador 214,451,060 Peru 761,067,479
El Salvador 226,695,351 Philippines3 3,690,543,252
Ethiopia 375,433,730 Poland 6,000,000
Fiji 4,800,000 Saudi Arabia 124,712,574
France 50,000,000 Siam (Thailand) 20,000,000
Greenland 100,000 Surianam (Netherlands Guiana) 21,195,000
Guatemala 7,835,000 Syria 7,350,000
Haiti 90,324,000 Venezuela 306,762,944
Blanks (planchets)
Coins
TOTAL
646,022,011
10,754,294,742
11,400,316,753
Notes
1 Listings marked “(Blanks)” were those countries who purchased blanks and not struck coins.
2 Coins produced prior to Hawaii becoming a state.
3 Includes coins struck at Manila Mint.

I expected to see the number of coins struck for the Philippines to be very high. What surprised me were the volume of coins struck for the Dutch East Indies. Combine that number with the total for the Netherlands, the U.S. Mint has struck over 2 billion coins for them.

Some of the countries on the list are interesting like striking coins for Cuba until 1960, two years into Fidel Castro’s reign. France was also a surprise until I looked at the data and noticed that the coins were struck in 1944, post World War II. In 1968 and 1969, the Philadelphia Mint struck over 85 million 10 cent coins for Canada. This must have been a capacity issue by the Royal Canadian Mint which I will investigate at another time.

NOTE: For the non-technical among the readers, data normalization the process of organizing the data and making it consistent for use in a database. It makes programming easier when all of the data is consistent. Unfortunately, the data on foreign coin production from the U.S. Mint is formatted so that it can easily be printed. I am trying to fix that.
Credits

  • Image of the U.S. Mint struck Canadian 10-cent coins courtesy of Canadian Numismatist Daniel W. Gosling. See this page for more information on the 1968-69 Canadian 10-cent coins.

Foreign coins at the U.S. Mint

When looking for reference materials, there is nothing better than finding the authoritative source

During this past week, I have been working on two projects to satisfy my curiosity. One of those projects was to find and document all of the coins the U.S. Mint has produced for foreign governments. One of the questions I wanted to be answered was what was the first coin the U.S. Mint produced that was not for the United States and what was the last.

Finding most of the information was easy. After searching a number of online archives and digitized publications, especially the Newman Numismatic Portal hosted at Washington University in St. Louis, most of what I was looking for was printed in the publication Domestic and Foreign Coins Manufactured by the Mints of the United States.

Although I have a printed copy, it would be easier if someone else digitized the book. After poking around a few archives, I found a digital copy and downloaded the entire image as a PDF. Although other formats were available, the PDF image was the most complete and the only one that my optical character recognition (OCR) program was successful in converting the printed page to something a computer can understand.

These printed tables have been updated ever since the Bureau of the Mint began to publish this compilation, which appears to begin around 1905. Prior, bits and pieces have been added to the Director’s report which was submitted to congress as part of a larger report by the Department of the Treasury. The problem is that the tables were created in a matter that would be easier to typeset using the technology of the time. It is not optimal for the person that wants to digitize the information.

I will spare the details, but it took more than two weeks of part-time work to extract the data and format it in a way that made sense for a computer. Even though I felt that it might have been faster to manually transcribe the data, the work will benefit future projects.

Not coincidentally, the last time the Mint published this book was in 1980, the last year they stopped striking accepting orders to strike coins for foreign countries.

The first coins struck by the Mint for a foreign government was the 1876 one centavo and 2½ centavo coins for Venezuela. In 1875, the Mint in Philadelphia struck 8 million of the one centavo and 1.5 million 2½ centavos coins for Venezuela. The composition is reported as being an alloy of copper, nickel, and zinc but there is no record of the ratio.

Apparently, it was common for the Mint to strike coins for foreign countries with the following year’s date. In one document, it explained that these coins were struck at the end of the year following the completion of the minting of United States coins. Since coin production and transportation was a bit slower than it is today, it allowed foreign governments to plan for their following year’s demand.

2000 Leif Ericson Icelandic Krónur Commemorative Silver Proof (Obverse)

The last coin produced for a foreign country was the 2000-W Leif Ericsson 1000 Krónur silver coin produced for Iceland as part of the Leif Ericsson commemorative issued in the United States. The last circulating coins the Mint produced for foreign governments were coins for the Dominican Republic and Panama in 1980.

One thing that none of these tables include are the coins struck at the Manila Mint. To help relieve the burden of making coins for the Philippines after they became a colony of the United States, the Mint was allowed to establish a branch mint in Manila. It is the only branch mint outside of the continental United States. The mint opened in 1920 and produced coins in one, five, ten, twenty, and fifty-centavo denominations. Coins struck by this mint bear either the “M” mintmark or no mintmark. The mint was closed in 1941 because of the outbreak of war.

Official records from the Manila Mint are difficult to find because they were not included in the regular Treasury reports. Using a combination of the colonial government reports to congress, which required a trip to the Library of Congress, and the Standard Catalog of World Coins, I was able to compile the data of coins produced in Manila.

Although the list is being edited for consistency in formatting (I like things accurate and pretty), the following is a summary of the coinage produced by the Manila Mint from 1920 through 1941:

Denomination Composition Diameter (mm) Weight (g) Mintage
 1 Centavo Bronze  5.30 25.00 142,310,195
 5 Centavos Copper-Nickel  4.75 19.00 32,242,041
10 Centavos .750 Silver, .250 Copper  2.00 16.70 16,413,038
20 Centavos .750 Silver, .250 Copper  4.00 21.00 13,123,046
50 Centavos .750 Silver, .250 Copper 10.00 27.50 2,736,763
Total Mintage 206,825,083

When the table is completed and I figure out a way to display the data in a useful form, I will upload it for everyone to reference. I know that there will be some that would disagree with adding the mintage from the Manila Mint to those located in the United States. But the Manila Mint was owned by the United States government at a time that the Philippines was a colony of the United States and was run by administrators that were part of the Mint’s reporting structure. As the editor of the data, that is enough reason for me to include it with the rest of the data of foreign coins produced by the U.S. Mint.

Credits

  • Venezuelan coin images courtesy of Monedas de Venezuela.
  • 2000 Leif Ericsson Krónur Proof coin image courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

What’s with the silver Liberty Medals?

I have delayed writing about my happenstance to attend the Whitman Baltimore Expo waiting for more information on something that was on display at the U.S. Mint booth.

I was not going to visit the Whitman Expo on April 1 because I had a meeting scheduled with a client. After the client canceled, I decided to turn the truck to downtown Baltimore toward the Convention Center. One of the reasons for going was to see the 2017 Liberty Gold coin. I thought it would be my only chance to see the coins since it is unlikely I will purchase one. When I walked to the U.S. Mint booth in Hall C, the gold coin was in a display case. What was next to it was far more intriguing.

On a spinning stand were two silver medals using the same design as the gold Liberty coin. One was a proof with a “W” mintmark on the reverse and the other a reverse proof with a “D” mintmark. The look of the medal in silver was fantastic! The eagle on the reverse really stands out on the proof whereas the calming look of the burnished finish of the reverse proof shows real artistry.

Further examination of the pictures suggests that the reverse proof may be considered enhanced uncirculated where the U.S. Mint laser treats dies to change the texture of the strike.

It appears that the medals are the same size as the silver planchets used for the American Silver Eagle coins. If they are using the same planchets, they would be 38.1 mm in diameter of one troy ounce of .999 silver.

The U.S. Mint did not announce the production of silver Liberty medals. U.S. Mint personnel attending the booth were not able to provide additional information. Email inquiries have not yet been answered.

NOTE: Readers of the “Numismatic World Newsletter” were provided a preview of the medals. The newsletter consists of numismatic-related news from non-numismatic sources and a brief article that will not be posted here. Sometimes, I will send items to subscribers before appearing on the blog. Click here to subscribe!

225

On April 2, 1792, President George Washington signed the Coinage Act of 1792 into law, giving birth to the United States Mint. David Rittenhouse was appointed as the first director of the Mint whose first job was to build or purchase the first government owned building. It would take four months to be able to have any type of operations in the new government building. The first coins were struck on July 30, 1792, allegedly using silverware provided by First Lady Martha Washington.

The Coinage Act of 1792 set the basis of U.S. coins to be the dollar that would be on par with the Spanish Milled Dollar (8 Reales). It established gold coins for the Eagle ($10), Half Eagles ($5), and Quarter Eagles ($2.50). The half dollar, quarter dollar, dismes, and half dismes were to be struck in silver while the cent and half-cent would be struck in copper.

The law outlines how the Mint operates in order to preserve its integrity and sets the basis for making debasement (such as shaving the metals from the edge) and counterfeiting illegal acts. Over the years, we learned that the laws required for self-oversight that was akin to the foxes guarding the hen house (see the stories of the 1913 Liberty Nickles and 1933 Double Eagles).

From good economic times to bad politics, the US Mint has been working for 225 years to meet the demands for circulating coinage while creating objects that drive the passion of numismatists.

Let’s raise a cheer and wish the US Mint a Happy Birthday!

The Coinage Act of 1792

coinage_act_1792

Finding error dies

Lincoln Cent Dies from the Denver Mint

In the hunt for something interesting, I stumbled across two listings on eBay for a two error dies from the Denver Mint being sold by noted error expert Fred Weinberg. These Lincoln cent dies are not dies with errors but dies with part of the design still visible.

Dies from the U.S. Mint makes for an interesting collectible. Standing about 2½ inches tall and about 1¼ inches across the base where it is loaded into the coining press, it is really an unremarkable piece of metal. Weighing 192 grams (about 6.8 ounces), the only distinguishing marks on the die is the serial number stamped on the base.

Before being discarded, workers at the U.S. Mint are supposed to completely grind off the design so that it cannot be used to strike counterfeit coins. Even though it is not cost effective to flood the U.S. economy with counterfeit Lincoln cents, the U.S. Mint does not want to take the chance someone will try. Once the design is removed from the die it can become a collectible.

Close-up images of the dies make the visible design look more dramatic than in person. After all, the images were likely taken with a macro lens on a die used to strike a coin 19.05 mm (0.750 inches) in diameter. Even so, the idea was fascinating enough for me to submit bids high enough to win both dies.

The first “error” die was used to strike the obverse of 1993-D Lincoln cents. This die is not completely filed down since it does show some of Lincoln’s hair. Although not a large area, there is enough of the incuse portion of the die’s section to be able to identify it as hair and providing a good guess as to where it would be on the coin. The sticker in the image was placed there by the seller. I decided to leave the sticker.

The other error die was used to strike the reverse of 1994-D Lincoln cents. In this case, the “error” is very subtle. There are two lines that would have been where the bottom two steps of the Lincoln Memorial would have been. Based on the placement, these would be to the center-right of the Lincoln statue in the monument. In the image, it is at the bottom of the “R.” I do not know why the “CR” is written on the die but I am not removing it, for now.

I do not know how Fred Weinberg finds these items but they are fascinating. The next time you go to a show you should check out his inventory. He finds some really interesting errors that have to be seen to be believed.
 

Looking down on the Lincoln Cent “error” dies. The 1994-D reverse die is on the left, The 1993-D obverse die is on the right.

Single images courtesy of Fred Weinberg & Co.

I’ll take Government Agency for 600, Alex

As seen on the Friday, February 17, 2017 edition of Jeopardy!

(contestant) Government agency for 600.

Alex: It says it’s “connecting America through coins.”

(contestant buzzes in) “What is the Treasury?”

Alex: No, sorry. Anyone else?

(silence) BEEP-BEEP!

Alex: What is the U.S. Mint.

This was the last of the quarter-finals of the Jeopardy! College tournament. One would think that even if you were not in tune with the working of the U.S. Mint like we collectors that the word “coins” would be a big enough clue. At least one person had the right department!

It’s the weekend and the weather is warming here. I won’t get into a “get off my lawn”-like rant!

Jeopardy! hero graphics courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

POLL: Should the ANA and PNG warn consumers about 2017-P purchases?

One day of 2017-P pocket change finds

Yesterday, I wrote about sales of 2017-P Lincoln cents selling at nearly 20-times face value online. These are coins in production that the U.S. Mint will continue to strike until December 2017 at a pace that should yield over 5 billion coins.

At the end of the post, I wrote:

Maybe it is time for the American Numismatic Association and Professional Numismatic Guild to issue a statement warning the public. If these organizations are about protecting the collector, here is a clear case of price gouging that they should show concern!

Is this something that either the American Numismatic Association and Professional Numismatic Guild should be involved with? PNG did issue a warning about “so called “Trump Coins,’” why not make the public aware that they have all year to purchase 2017-P Lincoln cents?

What do you think?
 

Should the ANA and PNG issue a warning about overpaying for 2017-P Lincoln Cents

Yes, that is their job! (37%, 11 Votes)
Yes they should but I don't think they will. (37%, 11 Votes)
I am just not sure. (17%, 5 Votes)
No, they should stay out of the market. Caveat Emptor! (10%, 3 Votes)
Maybe one of them should, but not both. (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 30

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2017-P Cents are special, but not THAT special!

2017-P Lincoln Cents are selling for high multiples over face value

Sometimes, I do not understand collectors and the speculation market.

I had read a few stories about the one-year-only 2017-P Lincoln cent selling for high multiples online. I had to check it out for myself. What I found are rolls of uncirculated Lincoln cent selling for upward of 20-times face value!

Since the U.S. Mint did not announce that they would be adding the “P” mintmark to the one-cent coin as a one year issue, there has been a frenzy of interest. It seems to the point of overpaying for a coin that is really not worth more than its face value!

These are business strike coins, struck for circulation. They are the coins ordered by the Federal Reserve to satisfy the nation’s commerce. Although they have a mintmark “P,” the U.S. Mint will strike billions of these coins. In 2016, the Philadelphia mint struck over 4 billion one cent coins—4,698,000,000 to be exact.

According to the U.S. Mint production figures, 515,200,000 of the 2017-P Lincoln Cents were struck. Extended out over 12 months, that means the U.S. Mint will strike over 6 BILLION of these coins.

One day of 2017-P pocket change finds

Before typing this blog post, I checked my pocket change to see how many I had. Since I empty the change from my pocket daily, I found five coins just from my daily travels on Saturday.

This is an unfortunate state of society. The collective ADD and instant satisfaction will have people spending more than they should only to be disappointed later when the coins are not worth more than face value. It will be like those who bought 50 State Quarters on the home shopping channels only to later realize they would be lucky if they could recover half of what they paid.

I understand that online sellers are trying to satisfy the market. Capitalism at its most greedy. But it is not good for the hobby.

Maybe it is time for the American Numismatic Association and Professional Numismatic Guild to issue a statement warning the public. If these organizations are about protecting the collector, here is a clear case of price gouging that they should show concern!

2017-P

On April 2, 2017, the U.S. Mint will be celebrating its 225th Anniversary. It marks 225 years since the passage and signing of the Coinage Act of 1792. During the year, the U.S. Mint will be doing a number of things to celebrate including issuing the new American Liberty Gold Coin.

The U.S. Mint has also issued a 2017-P Lincoln Cent with a mintmark. It is the first and the only year the U.S. Mint will be issuing a mintmark on the one-cent coin that is already in circulation. Finding two in pocket change makes it one of my earliest new years find.

A pair of 2017-P Lincoln Cents found in pocket change

Coins struck in Philadelphia from the founding of the Mint in 1793 until 1980 did not include a mintmark. The exception was the Type 2 Jefferson nickels minted using the wartime alloy from 1942-1945. Coins struck using the silver-copper-manganese alloy feature a large mintmark above Monticello, including a “P” for Philadelphia.

In 1979, Susan B. Anthony dollars struck in Philadelphia included the “P” mintmark.

Gold, silver, and platinum coins struck for the American Eagle bullion market do not include a mintmark. Although most of these coins are struck at the Philadelphia and West Point facilities, San Francisco and Denver have produced American Eagle bullion coins also without mintmarks.

Beginning in 1980, all circulating coins struck in Philadelphia include the “P” mintmark except for the Lincoln cent until now.

A mintmark is part of the coin design that tells which mint the coins were produced. Using mintmarks to identify where coins were made began in ancient Greece. Coins that were released into circulation were required to have a “Magistrate Mark,” a distinct mark representing the magistrate in charge of producing the coin. If a coin was to have problems, whether by accident or on purpose, the government knows who the responsible party was.

The law does not require the U.S. Mint to add mintmarks to U.S. coins. It never has. However, the Coinage Act of 1965 (Pub.L. 89–81, 79 Stat. 254) eliminated the mintmark on coins for up to five years. When the U.S. Mint felt that the coinage crisis that led to this law was no longer a factor, they seized upon the “up to” language to return mintmarks to circulating coins in 1968.

The U.S. Mint did not announce that they will be issuing 2017-P cents. It came as a surprise to pocket-change hunters who just found them. When asked, the U.S. Mint confirmed that the coins will have a mintmark and that they will be issued only in 2017.

When asked whether there will be special packaging that includes the 2017-P Lincoln cent, a spokesperson for the U.S. Mint said that they were not prepared to comment on that question. Stay tuned!

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