Using coins to spread protest messages

As I am working on a manuscript about counterfeiting coins and currency, I started to search the internet for the location of some information when I stumbled on The British Museum’s website. Rather than find something about counterfeiting, searching the term “defacing coins” lead me to the most recent Curator’s Corner blog entry by Thomas Hockenhull, the curator of Modern Money for The British Museum.

For this entry, Hockenhull found a 1903 large penny with the words “VOTES FOR WOMEN” engraved over the head of King Edward III. It was done as part of the suffragist protests in England prior to World War I. Although not much of a presenter, The British Museum recorded a video featuring Hockenhull describing the coin and his research into how it might have come into existence. Rather than rehash what he said, you can watch the video here:

I have not to been to London for many years, but I remember spending a day at The British Museum was a highlight of the trip. It is one of the great museums of the world and worth setting at least one day touring the museum. There is so much to see that if you love to see the living embodiment of history, consider spending more than a day.

In for a pound

The old Round Pound and the new 12-sided £1 coin

By the time the sun rises on the east coast of the United States, the Royal Mint, on behalf of HM Treasury, will have released the new 12-sided £1 coin. Billed as the most secure coin in the world, the Royal Mint touts the following security features:

  • 12–sided — its distinctive shape makes it instantly recognisable, even by touch.
  • Bimetallic — it is made of two metals. The outer ring is gold coloured (nickel-brass) and the inner ring is silver coloured (nickel-plated alloy).
  • Latent image — it has an image like a hologram that changes from a £ symbol to the number ‘1’ when the coin is seen from different angles.
  • Micro-lettering — it has very small lettering on the lower inside rim on both sides of the coin. One pound on the obverse heads side and the year of production on the reverse “tails” side, for example 2016 or 2017.
  • Milled edges — it has grooves on alternate sides.
  • Hidden High Security Feature — with a patented High Security Feature to protect it from counterfeiting into the future.

Of course, the Royal Mint is offering collectibles for the new pound that includes a “farewell” to the one being replaced nicknamed the “Round Pound.”

Design and production of the new pound coin have been nearly three years in the making following the discovery of a large number of counterfeit £1 coins. Sources estimated that about 3-percent of the £1 coins in circulation are fake amounting to more than 45 million counterfeit coins. These fakes are so convincing and very well constructed that they can be successfully used in vending machines for payment including in London’s Underground.

The coin-operated businesses in Britain began complaining three years about the changes with reports that only a small fraction of all vending machines will be able to accept the new coin. Each coin-operated machine will have to be reprogramed and recalibrated to detect a coin that will have a different weight, specific gravity, and the electromagnetic signature.

Amongst those systems not ready include the London Underground and several major supermarkets.

While watching the news, I found that British supermarkets charge for people to use their trollies, which are called shopping carts on this side of the pond. I do not know if it is a deposit similar to the carts available at the airports, but could you imagine having to pay to use a shopping cart at your local supermarket? I do not think that would go over well in the United States!

Back in October 2016, the Royal Mint published education material and test coins that the coin-operating machine companies could use to test their equipment. Some of these test coins have appeared for sale on websites like eBay. Since then, there have been weekly stories about the new coin and stories have appeared daily in the British media.

Now that the new £1 coin has been released, it will co-circulate with the round pound through October 15, 2017. Banks will only distribute the new £1 coins while stores and other businesses will be allowed to accept either. During that time, it is expected for coin-operated equipment to be converted as soon as possible.

On October 16, 2017, the round pound will be demonetized and lose all legal tender status. Once the round pound loses legal tender status, they may be exchanged at some banks and the Post Office. The plan is to end the exchange of the round pound by March 27, 2018.

For collectors, this is an opportunity to collect something that was once a real circulating coin. The current round pound came into existence in 1971 when the UK transition from the pounds, shillings, and pence (£sd) system based on the power of 12 to a decimal system, called decimalization. Of course, when this happened in 1971 the web did not exist and real paper newspapers were the primary means of spreading the information about the new currency. Based on reports, there were some issues during the one-year transition but there were no stories of tragedies once the new money was issued.

Somewhat like the end of the Canadian cent, this is the end for a significant circulating coin. Except the Canadians did not replace the cent while the British are exchanging coins.

The Trade Dollar

Before you write to me to explain about the Trade Dollar, I know it was demonetized in 1876. However, it gained legal tender status again as part of the Coinage Act of 1965.

For those concerned over proposals that the United States change composition of various coins, including the one-cent coin that costs 1.5-cents to produce, watching how the UK handles the change will provide an insight as to how it might be handled here. Except for one problem: The United States does not demonetize coins (see the note in the box to the right). Every coin produced by the U.S. Mint can be used as legal tender at their face value, although it would be foolish to spend a Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle for its $20 face value since its gold content would be worth more!

It will be interesting to see how stiff those proverbial stiff upper lips hold up during this transition.

All images, videos, and British-style English text courtesy of the Royal Mint.

How money was made in Ottawa in 1920

1920 Image of the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa

I am a firm believer that in order to understand how things evolved to the way they are today, we have to study the past. History teaches us lessons that we should learn from in order to not make the same mistakes and understand how to continue the evolution. This is why when I find old video showing how things were previously done, I watch it several times to see what I can learn about the past.

Take the video below, for example. It is titled “How money is Made” and appears to have been made for the Royal Canadian Mint by a company called Mogull Brothers Film Library in New York.

A quick bit of Internet research shows the company was founded and run by Charles Mogull (1898-1986) in Brooklyn, New York. Mogull Brothers were one of the early content creation pioneers. They would shoot a film on various subjects, edit them into smaller features, and sell the features to companies that would use them in larger compilations. Their content would be everything from features like the one they created for the Royal Canadian Mint, news events, interviews, show promotions, etc. and footage they would buy from photographers. The little information I could find on Mogull suggests that the company ceased operation in the late 1950s.

As for the film, the architecture of the original Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa looks like a castle. I believe I read somewhere that the Royal Canadian Mint still uses the building as storage. To see this marvelous looking structure and to visit the Mint appears to be a good excuse to visit the Canadian capital.

It is a silent film that the person who posted it to YouTube added music. Even with the music, you can see how film technology has changed. Rather than being able to overlay the wording over the image, a process called keying, printed cards are used to describe the content and spliced into the film.

At the moment the film shows the making of the dies, they show the dies of a 1920 Canadian one cent coin with the image of George V. It was under George V, shortly after his ascension to the throne, that the Parliament Act 1911 transferred a lot of governing power to the House of Commons and started the erosion of monarch’s power.

Although we are well into the industrial revolution, the mix of automation and human interaction is fascinating. For example, starting around the 8-minute mark, there is a man bouncing the coins listening for its distinctive ring that silver coins make when bounced on a hard surface. Nowadays, machines with sensors and computers check the coins for quality. Even circulating coins are rarely touched by human hands.

Finally, as a little comic relief, when the film shows the title cards, look in the lower right corner at the graphics they chose to use. The filmmaker tried to use the graphics to emphasize something about what you will see next.

Now enjoy the show:

270 Pounds in Pennys

Let’s have some fun rather than talk about the mundane! Covering floors, cars, or any other surface using coins is not something new, but according to Matt Giles this has not been done in the United Kingdom. On the YouTube page where the video is posted, he writes:

When thinking about what to lay in the kitchen Amy came up with a fantastic idea inspired by what she had researched online. We saw a bunch of penny floor projects in the USA, it seemed a really popular way of creating a bespoke retro floor for any part of the house, but wasnt done in the UK. Challenge accepted!

We took 27,000 1p coins and decided to give our kitchen diner a new look. Each coin was individually glued to the floor which had been self levelled before hand and left to dry. After gluing down all the coins a black grout was applied to fill the gaps followed by a high gloss epoxy resin to cover and seal.

The end result is simply awesome. The floor looks stunning and the weeks of hard work has been worth the pain.

Seems like an inexpensive idea. Take £270 in pennys (yes, that is how the Brits spell the plural of penny), glue, grout, apply a high gloss epoxy resin, and take about two weeks of work to come up with something different. For anyone curious, £270 is currently equivalent to $337.88.

Maybe his video will inspire your creativity!

West Point Gold

Gold storage at West Point in 1942 (screen grab)

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.

Video courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

What do you think it’s worth?

1809 Madison Indian Peace MedalFinding coins in pocket change can be a lot of fun. Then there are those who find hoards of coins buried in the ground or just stored somewhere that people forgot. From shipwrecks to treasure hunts, we all dream of finding the next jackpot somewhere.

On your great grandfather’s farm, a worker was plowing the field and found a silver medal. It has the image of President James Madison on one side and what looks like a peace medal on the other. Rather than letting go, great grandpa traded three hogs for the medal.

The medal gets handed down from generation to generation until one of his ancestors takes the medal to Antiques Roadshow to find out what it is worth.

You are told that it is a silver James Madison Indian Peace Medal. The 1809 medal was designed by assistant engraver John Reich and struck at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. It is not the largest of the medals but at 2½-inches, it is a fairly significant medal.

What is it worth? See what Jason Preston of Jason Preston Art Advisory & Appraisals of Los Angeles said about the medal on Antiques Roadshow:

Did you guess right?

Image and video courtesy of WGBH and the Antiques Roadshow

Making new green with old green

5 lb. bag of shredded currency contains $10K in cash

5 lb. bag of shredded currency contains $10K in cash

What happens when the Federal Reserve shreds old money?

We have seen the many packages of shredded currency. From the little packages with $5.00 of shredded currency to 5 pound bags filled with approximately $10,000 shredded money, this was the primary way currency did not just get thrown away. Since 2014, the Federal Reserve has been working with recyclers across the country to turn that shredded cash into something else useful.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the Federal Reserve pushed for more recycling of currency in 2011. Since each Federal Reserve bank manages its own cash operations each works with local recyclers to provide the cash. In most cases, the recycler hauls away the shredded cash for no charge to the bank and turns it into other products.

Examples of what is done with the cash is that the San Francisco district supports burning of the shreds for “green power,” a fitting name for recycling U.S. currency. So does the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

The story caught my eye was about the New Orleans branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta that provides shredded currency to a company that composts the cash, mixes it with other soil so that it is used for growing vegetables.

If compost is not your idea of fun, how about using the shreds to make art:

"Another Day, Another Dollar" by Jason Hughes

“Another Day, Another Dollar”
Artist: Jason Hughes
Sadat Art for Peace (2012): First Prize, Category: 2 Dimensional
Medium: American Currency

Credits

How It’s Done: Packing Bullion Coins

American Silver Eagle Monster Box

American Silver Eagle Monster Box

When I am in the mood for the mental chewing gum that is television, I love to watch what I like to call documentary entertainment. The pros call it infotainment, information entertainment. These are cooking shows or a car-related show that takes a car with a problem and shows us how to fix them. Whether I am watching Chopped, Wheeler Dealers, or All Girls Garage I can find enough interesting watching.

Another of my guilty pleasures is How It’s Made on the Science Channel. How It’s Made is simply a show that will demonstrate how every day and other items are manufactured. I am fascinated by seeing the process of manufacturing. Some of the machines that are created to make our everyday items is fascinating. Take something simple as a pencil and think about how a company makes thousands over the course of a day and the non-standard machines required to do this.

The U.S. Mint infrequently posts videos about their coins, people and operations. What I find fascinating is the How It»s Made like videos that shows how they deal with the basic manufacturing process. In the latest video, the U.S. Mint shows how they package American Silver Eagle bullion coins into tubes for shipping to dealer.

The machine is called an Auto Tuber and can be found at the West Point branch mint where bullion coins are struck. After the coins are struck, they are laid flat on trays with the trays being stacked on a rack. From the rack, a machine takes one of the trays, places it next to the Auto Tuber, and pours the coins into the tracks. Using a suction cup fingers, the machine lifts the coins and places them into tube. The tubes are capped, weighed, packaged, inventoried, and sent for shipping.

At the end of the line is a human worker who picks up the packed green boxes you might have seen some dealers advertise for sale as “Monster Boxes” and places them on a pallet for shipping. That is where the one-minute journey ends.

BONUS VIDEO

Similar to the standard production videos is the proof set production video from the U.S. Mint in San Francisco that includes a similar machine that places the coins in the holders.

Credits

  • Monster box image courtesy of Wikipedia.
  • Videos courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

Coin thieves nabbed at Long Beach Expo

Stacks Bowers Long Beach Surveilance thumbnailWatchers of the @coinsblog Twitter feed have seen that I post storied of robberies of coin collections. These are heart breaking stories not because the owner lost something of value. They lost something of emotional value.

I have seen stories of a stash of mostly Morgan silver dollars that have been stolen from a dresser draw that the owner either has saved all of these years or were from a relative who saved them as part of a hedge from a depression. There was a story that a young single mother found gold coins in her late father’s house and was going to use the coins to care for her children only to have someone she trusted later steal the coins. Then the story of the Flying Eagle and Indian Head cent collection with most coins in almost uncirculated quality including a 1909-S coin put together by a late grandparent that was stolen while the family was on vacation.

While these are heartbreaking, it is great to hear about the community working together to capture a thief.

Two thieves went to the Long Beach Expo looking to cash in on their ill-gotten gain when a dealer thought he recognized the coins as described from an earlier robbery. The dealer notified on-site security who apprehended the criminals. They were handed over the Long Beach police.

It is wonderful that the community will pay attention to these unfortunate incidents and help law enforcement recover these coins!

This is the press release was issued on behalf of Positive Protection, Inc.Positive Protection, Inc. of Temecula, California, and in cooperation with Stack’s Bowers Galleries of Santa Ana, California.

Positive Protection Guard Tackles
Suspected Coin Thief In Long Beach
(Long Beach, California) — A suspected thief was tackled by a Positive Protection, Inc. (www.ppius.com) security guard as he tried to escape at the Long Beach Coin, Currency, Stamp & Sports Collectible Expo (www.LongBeachExpo.com) on Friday, June 10, 2016. An alleged accomplice with a backpack containing more than $300,000 of rare coins was also taken into custody.
Both suspects were turned over to Long Beach police on suspicion of burglary, robbery and possession of stolen property. Two other suspects were arrested the next day and more stolen coins were recovered.
“They reportedly were trying to sell coins at the Long Beach Expo in the Long Beach Convention Center. One dealer they approached, Karl Stephens, thought the coins they were offering had been stolen earlier in a robbery in the San Bernardino, California area,” said Patrick Coward, a guard for Positive Protection of Temecula, California, a company that provides security services for coin and jewelry dealers.
“When the suspects tried to leave, the dealer shouted out to stop them. I was nearby and when one suspect started to run I chased him and tackled him at the door. Additional security personnel from the show helped subdue him. The second suspect was stopped without a problem at the door as he tried leave. His backpack was filled with more than 100 ancient coins and other gold and silver coins worth more than $300,000,” explained Coward, a former New York City homicide detective.
The brief chase and the tackle were captured on surveillance video at the booth of Stack’s Bowers Galleries (www.stacksbowers.com) of Santa Ana, California and New York City.
“With the help of a knowledgeable dealer and the fast action of trained security professionals, two suspected thieves were caught and valuable, stolen rare coins have been recovered,” said Robert Brueggeman, President of Positive Protection which provides on-site security for all the Whitman Expo and American Numismatic Association convention shows. “We always want a safe, enjoyable environment for dealers and the public at these collectible shows, but we also must always be on alert.”
A day after the capture of the two suspects at the coin show, Long Beach Police arrested two more suspects who reportedly came to retrieve the car of the first two suspects. Investigators recovered from the car what is believed to be the remainder of the stolen rare coins.

This surveillance video shows Positive Protection, Inc. security guard and former New York City Police homicide detective Patrick Coward on the left as he immediately chased and tackled a suspected coin thief when the suspect tried to flee from a coin show in Long Beach, California on Friday, June 10, 2016. His alleged accomplice is then stopped at the door while carrying a backpack with a reported $300,000 in rare coins believed stolen in an earlier theft in the San Bernardino, California area.

Stacks Bowers Long Beach Surveillance Video

Video courtesy of Stack’s Bowers Galleries.

Sacagawea on the new $20 designs

Obverse of the 2009-present Native American Dollar

Obverse of the 2009-present Native American Dollar featuring the portrait of Sacagawea

Last month, Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew announced a series of design changes that will occur on United States currency. These changes will be phased in over 10 years to coincide with the production schedules in place currency redesign.

I will go into the more details of the changes at a later date, but during my travels around the interwebs I came across a television news report from KIFI, the ABC affiliate in Fort Hall, Idaho. Although it is like every other news story it has one feature that no other news outlet was able to add to their story: an interview with Randy’L Teton.

Randy’L Teton is a member of the Shoshone-Cree tribe who was the model for Glenna Goodacre’s design for the Sacagawea dollar coin. Teton was a student at the University of New Mexico majoring in art history and was working for the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum in Santa Fe when Goodacre visited looking for Shoshone woman to be her model since no images of Sacagawea exist. Teton was chosen for as the model.

For anyone who has not seen or heard Ms. Teton, here is the video of KIFI’s report:

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