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.
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!
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)
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
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.
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.
Year-to-date Gold Chart as of Dec 27, 2016
Year-to-date Silver Chart as of Dec 27, 2016
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!
Rhett Jeppson, Principal Deputy Director of the U.S. Mint
I recently found out that I have been wrong about the employment status of Rhett Jeppson, the current Principal Deputy Director of the U.S. Mint. Previously, I said that Jeppson is a member of the Senior Executive Service, the government executive program. He is not. Jeppson is was appointed by the President of the United States.
When a representative of the U.S. Mint contacted me to clarify the error, it was not clear as to what authority that Jeppson could be appointed as a “Principal Deputy Director” without confirmation by the Senate. A public policy attorney working for a public watchdog group believes that the White House used their discretionary authority to transfer Jeppson’s position from the Small Business Administration to the U.S. Mint. Although this is not confirmed, there was no other logical that could be found based on the law and public filings.
The U.S. Mint has been without a permanent director since Edmund Moy’s resignation became effective in January 2011. When Moy resigned, Richard Peterson became acting director, which he could do for a limited time, then became Deputy Director but in charge of everything. While that is not the technically correct term, essentially, Peterson was the acting director.
In September of 2012, President Obama nominated Bibiana Boerio, the former Managing Director of Jaguar Cars Ltd., for director. Since her nomination had not been acted upon, her nomination died in committee when congress adjourned following the 2012 election.
Peterson remained, essentially, the acting director until January 9, 2015, when it was announced that Jeppson was joining the U.S. Mint as Principal Deputy Director. His formal nomination was announced on Friday, July 9, 2015. Finally, the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing for his nomination on the Ides of March, Tuesday, March 15, 2016. Since then, as congress has done for most things they did not have to do to prevent a disaster, sat on the nomination.
Essentially, the clock has run out on Jeppson’s nomination. It is likely his appointment will not be reported out of committee and, like Boerio, will see his nomination fade into the ether.
According to the U.S. Mint, Jeppson was asked to tender his resignation effective on January 20, 2017, as have all Obama Administration appointees. It will be up to the next president to determine whether he stays.
Artist’s conception† of the common reverse for the 2019 Apollo 11 commemorative coin program.
Every year since coming into office, President Barack Obama and his family packs up and flies to Hawaii for an end of the year vacation. Obama was born in Hawaii and still has some family on Oahu. Before leaving Washington, he will sign whatever bills are sent to him by congress. According to the White House News Feed, President Obama signed the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act on Friday, December 16, 2016!
Based on my posts from the last few weeks, I am sure you can tell I have a fascination with space. In fact, if there is such thing as reincarnation, I want to come back in the future to be able to travel around the universe in a manner similar to what we see in the movies. It is sad that there is no real enthusiasm for space exploration as there was when Apollo 11 landed on the moon!
In July 1969, my family lived in the Long Island suburbs of New York. The year before Apollo 11, my father bought a new, large RCA color television. Aside from learning that the beginning and end of Wizard of Oz was in black-and-white, I was able to watch the launches of the world’s largest Roman candle, the Saturn V rocket. Before Skylab and the Shuttle programs, it was a marvel of human achievement. I loved watching the liftoffs from Cape Kennedy and always wanted to go see one in person. I never did get to see a rocket launched, but I hope to some day.
This was a time when kids went outside to play, even in the summer evenings. We played a lot of baseball-related games including setting up a “field” in the street. Nobody was in the street. We were all home watching television and watching overhead shots of Mission Control in Houston. Even through the television, you could sense the tension until Neil Armstrong announced, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. TheEagle has landed.”
It wasn’t until years later when I learned more about the Cold War when I understood why it was more important for the United States to land and walk on the moon first. All I knew was it was very cool that an American was up there. It made Star Trek seem possible!
The moon walk was Monday night. Again, we were staring at the television watching the enactments as to what to expect. There were mockups of the Lunar Module and astronauts demonstrating what Armstrong was supposed to do. I remember the concentration on the “D-Ring,” the D-shaped handle that Armstrong had to pull on to open the door that had the camera. There was a question that the ring had to survive the landing and that the door could have jammed. We would have a historical moment without it being recorded on video!
“These are the first pictures ever broadcast from the moon,” was the words by whoever was on television. I remember the words but not who said them. Pulling on the D-ring worked and the world was watching. We watched as Neil Armstrong climbed down the ladder onto the surface of the moon. After a brief stop to remove the cover on the plaque that was attached to the ladder, Armstrong put both feet on the footpad of the lunar module. After a quick bounce step from the footpad to the surface of the moon, Armstrong gave his famous like, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”
There has been a “controversy” about whether Armstrong said “… one small step for man,” or “… one small step for a man.” Whatever is the correct version does not take away from the feat and the fact that Neil Armstrong was the first human being to set foot on Earth’s only natural satellite!
While NASA was the inspiration for many of the modern technologies we enjoy today, only Apollo 11 took it to the level of defining U.S. technology. While Skylab and the Shuttle programs were far more advanced, Apollo 11 stands as one of the 20th-century’s most amazing feats.
Needless to say, I am excited!
Commemorative program issued in 2019
Required design elements:
Convex in shape “to more closely resemble the faceplate of the astronaut’s helmet of the time”
“The Secretary shall hold a juried, compensated competition to determine the design of the common obverse of the coins minted under this Act, with such design being emblematic of the United States space program leading up to the first manned Moon landing.”
Winning designer to receive no less than $5,000 for their design.
Common reverse design “shall be a representation of a close-up of the famous ‘Buzz Aldrin on the Moon’ photograph taken July 20, 1969, showing just the visor and part of the helmet of astronaut Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, in which the visor reflects the image of the United States flag, astronaut Neil Armstrong, and the lunar lander.”
Coins that will be on sale are coins that were left over when the sale was closed earlier this year, orders that were not completed for many reasons including credit cards that could not be processed, and a few returns that are not “spoiled.” If you order, you will not receive coins that were damaged and return.
While we cannot tour or see inside the Bullion Repository at Fort Knox, Kentucky, the U.S. Mint just released a B-Roll video of scenes inside the gold repository at the West Point Mint.
Gold stored at West Point is called “working stock.” This is the gold that the U.S. Mint uses for striking coins. Depending on the demand, the gold you will see in the video will not be there in a year. It will be used for American Gold Eagles, gold commemoratives, and gold medals cast for congress and the president.
West Point has been called “The Fort Knox of Silver” because it is where the U.S. silver reserve is located. It is also the location for the working stock of silver used by the U.S. Mint. All of the U.S. Mint facilities have working stock of silver used to strike silver coinage. However, since most gold production is struck out of West Point and Philadelphia, most of the working stock of gold is in those facilities.
West Point is the primary manufacturer of gold bullion coins.
In the video at the 50-second mark, someone is weighing a bar of gold. He says the manufacturer claim is that it weighs 400.100 (troy ounces) but actually weighs 400.096. A gold bar weighing 400.096 troy ounces is 12.444 kilograms or 27.435 pounds. With the price of gold currently $1,176.60 per troy ounce (as this is being written), the melt value of that gold bar, which is .9999 fine looking at the stamp on the bar, is $470,752.95.
Last year, the U.S. Mint suspended its Mutilated Coin Redemption Program when it alleged that a company in New Jersey was importing counterfeit coins from China to redeem as mutilated coins. Formal charges were brought against the persons involved in March and the U.S. Mint extended the suspension indefinitely last May.
The mutilated coin redemption industry is a multi-million dollar business. Most of the businesses involved with this industry are recyclers that find coins in cars and machines that are recycled. Recycling these metals require the use of heavy machinery that takes apart the items and compresses them to transport to processors. Six compressed cars can take up the same amount of space as one full-size car. More can fit in the same space if the metal is shredded.
Although some of the coins are removed from the cars, others end up in the machinery. After processing through high pressure and high heat, the found coins are in no condition to be sent to banks for redemption. Most of the time, these coins are cut, bent, or badly scorched making them impossible to process using normal coin counting mechanisms. According to an industry representative, recyclers can find an average of over $2 per car and over $10 in coin-operated machines as they are taken apart and crushed.
Coin-operated machines are not as well made as people suspect. For every time you might have had a coin “stuck” and lost in the machine, the coin might have dropped into an area outside of the coin bin and between internal parts. When the machines are serviced, the coins are usually dumped into bags and taken back to the company to be placed into coin counting machines. In many cases, the count between the expected amount of money and the number of items sold are not exact. This type of “shrinkage” is part of their business risk plans.
When the coin-operated machines are taken out of service, many are cleaned and inspected for loose coins. But the way the machines are designed, it is common that many coins are missed. They will continue to stay within the machine until it is discarded for scrap.
Cars and other machines sometimes gain a second life overseas. Machines are sold as surplus, repaired by their new owners and put into service around the world. These machines end up in the recycle system when they fall beyond the ability to be repaired. International recyclers recover U.S. coins from these cars and coin-operated machines. This is not including the scrap cars that are shipped overseas for recycling. Brokers buy the coins from recyclers and ship them to the United States. Currently, there is an estimated $1 million in mutilated coins being held by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) while the redemption program is suspended. It is also estimated that more than $50 million in mutilated coins are being stored overseas while shipments are suspended.
As the mutilated coins accumulate, recyclers are now paying for storage and security over and above their regular business expenses. Some have sold their mutilated coins to other recyclers and brokers at a discount to avoid paying the storage costs. Those accumulating these mutilated coins are hedging on the mutilated coin-recycling program being restarted soon.
Brokers handling the import of these coins have filed suit against the CBP for blocking and holding the shipments of mutilated coins. Plaintiffs cite a report from a company called FormerFeds Group, a company made up of former federal lawyers and other senior officials, that said the accusation of importing mutilated coins from China is not true and that the amount of “junk” (non-coins in the batch) are within tolerances of the program. They are requesting that the court grants an order to release the coins and to compel the U.S. Mint to resume the Mutilated Coin Redemption Program.
Hong Kong-based Wealthy Max Ltd. publicly opened and sampled 13 tonnes of mutilated U.S. coins waiting for shipment in Hong Kong. The coins come from piles of metal generated by automotive shredders and via incinerated waste streams.
Without fanfare, the U.S. Mint published a request in the Federal Register (81 FR 75922) asking for comments regarding the Mutilated Coin Exchange Program to supplement the information it has already gathered. The notice was published on November 1, 2016, without a follow up from the U.S. Mint press office. The U.S. Mint allowed for a two-week comment period that ended on November 15, 2016.
According to the Federal Register, the “Mint is considering include requiring participant certification, coinage material authentication, chain of custody information, and annual submission limitations.” They were seeking comment on that and other possible factors to better secure the program. There is no indication as to whether this is tied to the case brought by the brokers handling foreign recycling.
Coins make up a very small minority of the amount of scrap in the recycling stream. But with the problems caused by the U.S. Mint’s refusal to properly deal with this issue, it is taking up a lot of time and money both here in the United States and with long time business partners abroad.