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!

Update on U.S. Mint Leadership

On the first official working day of the new administration, I received the following from the U.S. Mint Office of Corporate Communications:

Dave Motl will serve as Acting Principal Deputy Director until the new Administration selects the individual(s) who will lead the Mint going forward. (Mr. Motl previously was serving as Chief Administrative Officer. )

The U.S. Mint has not updated their website at the time this is written. When they do, we will learn more about Mr. Motl.

Until then, stay tuned. We will keep an eye on the country’s only manufacturer of legal tender coins.

End of the Term, What Now?

January 20, 2017, marks the end of the Presidency of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States. At noon the 45th president will be inaugurated.

Also, as of noon, Obama’s appointments to Executive Branch positions will resign from their position to be filled by the new president’s appointment. Of the people resigning are Secretary of the Treasury Jacob “Jack” Lew and Principal Deputy Director of the U.S. Mint Matthew Rhett Jeppson. Jeppson was nominated to be the 39th Director but the nomination died with the end of the 114th congress.

Attempts to contact the U.S. Mint to ask them about the bureau’s leadership starting Friday has gone unanswered.

The position of Treasurer of the United States would have also resigned but is currently vacant after the July 2016 resignation of Rosie Rios. Treasurer of the United States is a presidential appointment that does not require Senate confirmation.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is not affected by a change in administrations because the position of the director is a career appointment. Len Olijar will remain Director of the BEP as long as he is a government employee in good standing.

Members of the Federal Reserve Board are appointed but they are not considered part of the Executive Branch. The Fed is independent and the Fed Chair, the Federal Reserve Board, and the president of the regional Federal Reserve Banks are appointed to four-year terms irrespective of political timelines. Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve, has announced she will serve her full her full four-year term that will expire on February 3, 2018.

The Plum Book, which documents more than 9,000 Federal civil service leadership and support positions in the executive and legislative branches, lists quite a number of positions that supports numismatic production. Of course, significant changes will be reported here!

POLL: Are you buying the new American Liberty gold coin?

2017-W American Liberty Gold Coin to be issued in celebration of the 225th Anniversary of the U.S. Mint

When the U.S. Mint made the announcement about the American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin, they mentioned that the coin will begin selling on April 6, 2017.

As a coin with one troy ounce of 24-karat gold, the coin will be at least the spot price of gold plus a premium to account for manufacturing costs and seigniorage (profit). Using the U.S. Mint’s pricing guidelines and their pricing chart, the price of the 24-karat Gold Buffalo Proof coin would be $1,540. However, given that this coin will require extra labor since it will be a high-relief coin and that the U.S. Mint will likely sell these coins in a fancy presentation box, the costs will likely to be higher. I would not be surprised to see these coins to sell at least $100 more than the gold Buffaloes.

What do you think? Will buy one of these coins?

Will you buy the 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin?

No, I do not buy or cannot afford a gold coin. (48%, 32 Votes)
I'm not sure. (18%, 12 Votes)
Absolutely! It's gorgeous! (15%, 10 Votes)
I probably will. (10%, 7 Votes)
May be, it might be a good investment. (9%, 6 Votes)

Total Voters: 67

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The Allegory of Liberty

The latest “controversy” surrounding the U.S. Mint is that the depiction of Lady Liberty on the new U.S. Mint 225th Anniversary 24-karat gold coin is depicted by an African-American woman.

This comes after 225 years of depicting Liberty as a white woman—or is it? (see below) What has caused even a bigger stir in some sectors was in the statement released by the U.S. Mint, they say that this “is the first in a series of 24-karat gold coins that will feature designs which depict an allegorical Liberty in a variety of contemporary forms-including designs representing Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Indian-Americans among others—to reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States.”

I saw one blog post ask, “How dare they do this?” Followed by asking, “What’s next, a Mexican?”

If these folks would stop fomenting and learn a bit about history, this is part of the evolution of how we have depicted Liberty since the discovery of the New World

One of the first uses of woman as allegorical figures at back to the goddess of ancient Greece and Rome. Both gods and goddesses were allegorical figures of the power they represented using an exaggerated version of the human forms they knew about. Using woman as strong, matronly-like figures guarding over a country’s sovereignty like a protective figure.

Prior to the discovery of North America, Britain had Britannia. Britannia was the allegorical figure as the protector of the British Empire. Named for the Greek and Roman term for the geographical region, Britannia is usually seated facing the water. Although most images has her seated on a shroud-covered seat, sometimes Britannia is depicted sitting on a horse. She is wearing a helmet, hold a trident and a shield emblazoned with the Union Jack to show she is the protector and ruler of the seas. It is not a coincidence that Christian Gobrecht’s Seated Liberty design is similar to the design used for Britannia.

1672 Britannia copper coin

1854 Seated Liberty Quarter with rays and no arrows

When the first European settlers arrived, they used the image of an “Indian Queen, a voluptuous, but stern Native American woman dressed in little more than head feathers. Portrayed sitting astride a giant armadillo or sporting a tomahawk, the Indian Queen represented exoticism, danger and adventure: attributes that 16th- and 17th-century explorers most associated with their new land.”

As colonization grew and the native American tribes and the settlers were not getting along (you would also be angry if these outsiders were pushing you off your native lands), her looks were softened to look more Anglican in appearance trying to represent what was perceived as a less hostile look.

The look of Liberty has changed with the artist that have designed her image. The most famous image of Liberty is the statue by Frédéric Bartholdi titled “Liberty Enlightening the World,” or more commonly known as the Statue of Liberty. Bartholdi, a French sculptor, reportedly used his mother as the model for the statue’s face. This makes the most famous depiction of Lady Liberty a French woman.

Two of the most famous and different depictions of Liberty were created by George T. Morgan and Anthony de Francisci. Morgan used actress Anna Willess Williams as the model for his design noting that her profiles was the most perfect he had ever seen. For the Peace dollar, de Francisci used the portrait of his wife, Teresa, as the model. With rays instead of a crown or a headdress departing from previous designs, using the image of Teresa de Francisci means that an Italian-born woman was depicted as Lady Liberty since she was born in Naples, Italy.

1879-S Morgan Dollar

1921-D Peace Dollar

Historical Note

Many references claim that Martin Van Buren was the first U.S. born president because he was born in 1782, after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. However, the Treaty of Paris, which established the United States as a new country, was not signed until September 3, 1783. Although the colonies declared itself independent in 1776, the United States was legally not a country until the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

These are also not the first examples of someone not being born in the United States being depicted on U.S. coinage. In 1892 and 1893 the U.S. Mint produced the Columbian half dollars with the image of Italian-born Christopher Columbus. Although these coins were only struck as a commemorative, they were circulated and used in commerce. However, the first coin struck for circulation that included the image of a foreign-born person was the Washington quarter. George Washington was born in the British Colony of Virginia in 1732 as a British subject. In fact, the first nine presidents were born British subjects in the colonies. It was not until John Tyler succeeded William Henry Harrison as president in 1841 when a United States-born citizen became president. Tyler was born in 1790 in the State of Virginia.

Although there are many examples of African-Americans appearing on commemorative coins. In the Classical Commemorative Era, the U.S. Mint issued the 1946-1951 Booker T. Washington and 1951-1954 George Washington Carver/Booker T. Washington Commemorative half-dollars. Modern Era Commemoratives include the 1998 Black Revolutionary War Patriots Silver Dollar featuring the portrait of Crispus Attucks, 1997 Jackie Robinson commemorative coins, and 2007 Little Rock Nine Silver Dollar featuring the legs of the Little Rock Nine being lead to class.

For circulating coins, the reverse of the 2002 Missouri State Quarter features William Clark’s slave York paddling the canoe with both Meriweather Lewis and Clark in the boat. The reverse of the 2009 District of Columbia quarter honors Duke Ellington.

Do not forget that Sacagawea is a non-Anglican being featured on a circulating coin, even though the coin really does not circulate.

But is this the first African-American Lady Liberty?

1933 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle (obverse)

Finally, there is a claim that the model used by Augustus Saint-Gaudens for the design of $20 double-eagle gold coin was Harriette Eugenia “ Hettie” Anderson. Hettie Anderson was an African-American model from South Carolina considered an extraordinary beauty. Anderson was known to pose for Saint-Gaudens and many other artists with connections to Saint-Gaudens, such as Adolph Weinman.

Because of the treatment of blacks in America, Anderson’s part in Saint-Gaudens’ work was kept quiet. After his death, Homer, the artist’s son, edit Anderson out of his father’s unfinished autobiography. This information was later discovered by William E. Hagans. Hagen was researching the Swedish artist Anders Zorn, who worked with Saint-Gaudens. While reviewing Zorn’s work, he found a sketch Zorn made with Saint-Gaudens and a nude Hettie Anderson lying in the background. After further research, Hagen discovered that Anderson was modeling for Saint-Gaudens at the time he was designing the double-eagle. It was later that Homer Saint-Gaudens removed Anderson from the history of this coin’s design.

If this is true (see “Written out of History” on this page), then this is not the first time Lady Liberty was depicted as an African-American Woman!

Anders Zorn’s etching of Augustus Saint-Gaudens taken a break with a nude Hattie Anderson laying behind him.

Credits

  • Composite image of the American Liberty gold coin courtesy of coinews.net.
  • Image of Britannia coin courtesy of the Royal Mint.
  • Seated Liberty quarter image courtesy of Numista
  • Morgan and Peace dollar images courtesy of Wikipedia.
  • Anders Zorn etching of Augustus Saint-Gaudens image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Quick catch up…

Last I reported, I had travelled to Philadelphia to see the students at Juaniata Park Academy that we raised money to visit the U.S. Mint and Federal Reserve. I did make it to the school despite the flat tire and other problems my Chevy Avalanche experienced along the way. We did have a one-hour visit to talk about coins, currency, and the history they reveal. I had a lot of fun. Rather than talk about it in this update, I will write a longer post soon.

Counterfeiting is on the rise. The number of reported arrests for counterfeiters has increased. Some of it may be attributed to the largest seizure of counterfeit currency in Peru. Although not confirmed, there is speculation that the arrests in Peru provided leads into the distribution network. The Peru notes are amongst the best counterfeits produced outside of the United States. Unfortunately, there is no simple way to determine if you have one of these notes. The U.S. Secret Service has been advising cash-related businesses to be wary of people making unusual large cash purchases.

The U.S. Mint is preparing for an increase in sale of bullion American Eagle coins. Gold is down over $230 since its high in July or $151 since the election. Even with the strong dollar, the lower price of gold and the trust in the American Eagle coin is driving buyers to authorized dealers. One dealer said that 2017 pre-orders are their highest in a while.

The market for silver is facing a similar downward slide. From the $20.17 close in the beginning of August, the price as this is being written is $15.90. A 21-percent drop in silver spot prices is quite large over this period and greater than the 17-percent drop in the gold spot price.

Lower spot prices may be driving speculators to the market. Since the Federal Reserve Board increased the discount rate, the rate they charge for overnight loans to their large customers that are required to have a certain amount of liquidity at market close, by 250 basis points (.25 percent), there are some that believe that the markets are getting ready for a shift. Precious metals are always used as a hedge against inflation investments and may be a sign that some are expecting an economic crash.

A future post will discuss the coin-op industry’s reaction (albeit late reaction) to the GAO Report U.S. Coins: Implications of Changing Medal Compositions (GAO-16-177, Dec. 10, 2015). It appears to be an attempt for the coin-op industry to fight composition changes in U.S. coinage. Although most of their argument reads like a complaint that they do not want to undergo the cost of converting machines, they do make a point in that some of the alternatives has the potential to create a market for counterfeiting coins that would hurt the economy. One example they site is that it may be easier to counterfeit plated steel coins because the technology that checks for electromagnetic signatures of the coins would not be able to detect a real coin from a slug.

Following my post about the scrap industry not being able to return mutilated coins to the U.S. Mint I was contacted by someone in the industry who thanked me for the story. I was asked to emphasize that although the current court case involves companies based in China, the problems affect scrap dealers throughout the United States. Following this conversation, I was able to speak with a broker who has been buying scrap coins from smaller companies who said that the U.S. Mint has been discussing a way forward but in a way that makes it sound like they are not happy with having to deal with this situation. The U.S. Mint will not comment as long as there is an active case in federal courts.

The Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act is now Public Law 114-282. Although I am not a collector of commemorative coins other than for topics that interest me, I am interested in this topic. Although I am a fan of silver coins, I am going to try to buy the gold Apollo 11 commemorative coin. I have two years to save my pennies!

Finally, I am working on creating a weekly newsletter opt-in containing numismatic-related stories from non-numismatic media sources from around the world. I will curate the news that appears in the newsletter but want to automate some of the processes. Automation of the workflow is in progress. Watch for the signup process to appear here soon!

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