Weekly World Numismatic News for November 17, 2019

American Eagle 2019 One Ounce Silver Enhanced Reverse Proof CoinThe biggest numismatic-related news of the week that not reported in many media outlets. It was the failure of the U.S. Mint to deal with a high volume of orders for what everyone anticipated would be a popular product.

On November 14, 2019, the numismatic community rushed to the U.S. Mint website. It flooded their call center attempting to purchase the 2019 American Eagle One Ounce Silver Enhanced Reverse Proof Coin. As with almost all of their past launches, the U.S. Mint e-commerce systems failed the collecting community.

Collectors reported web failures, outages, and disconnection on the telephone trying to order the product. I was first alerted of a problem by a family member and my mailbox filled with readers who experienced similar issues.

After hearing the criticism, the U.S. Mint issued the following statement:

At the moment of launch, there were 99,000 people online and 4700 callers waiting to purchase the American Eagle 2019 One Ounce Silver Enhanced Reverse Proof Coin (19XE). Completed orders were processed until all inventory was sold. We are constantly seeking feedback from our customers, and rest assured your voice is being heard.

To try to spin this further, on Friday, the U.S. Mint issued the following statement:

Yesterday, the Mint catalog website had more than 150,000 unique visitors and 1.6 million page views in the first hour of sales of the American Eagle 2019 One Ounce Silver Enhanced Reverse Proof Coin (19XE). For context, the catalog website’s previous highest traffic and page views were for the Apollo 11 product launch, when we had 124,000 visitors in one day and 863,000 page views in one hour. We are pleased with the numismatic community’s response to this product. The volume of traffic did briefly slow down our site response. However, after the first two minutes we were able to process over 1800 orders per minute on average. Completed orders were processed until all inventory was sold. Additionally, we identified approximately 5% of traffic as coming from bots, including 3% of traffic from a single IP address, of which zero orders were processed.

With all due respect to the U.S. Mint, if this is beyond your capacity, then the competence of the Mint and their contractor (aren’t they contracted with Pitney-Bowes?) are in question. There are e-commerce systems that have higher capacity requirements and service their customers better.

The failure of their e-commerce system is not a new problem for the U.S. Mint. We can go back through the history of this blog to note how badly they have implemented their e-commerce systems.

Frankly, I am not surprised. Years ago, when I was a contractor within the Department of the Treasury, I had to listen to how the U.S. Mint’s systems were built to be greater and better than anyone else in the department. Their technology directors touted their capacity and their capabilities over all the other bureaus. They used these reasons to allow them to separate themselves and to avoid integration with other systems, even suggesting that they be the central integrators for the department.

Even though I have not worked within the Treasury Department in many years, the results and the spin published by their public relations department demonstrates that the chutzpah continues.

For four years, the U.S. Mint has been holding forums to try to learn from collectors what they expect. One thing they have not learned is to fix the mechanisms that provide collector access to U.S. Mint products. It is time for the U.S. Mint to stop talking and do something. Their problems have surpassed annoying and are bordering on malfeasance!

And now the news…

 November 12, 2019
We all have them, worth almost nothing, but still can be useful. They are the little button-sized ¢5 coins that fill up your pockets or coin jar, that the Banco Central (Central Bank) will stop minting starting January 1, 2020.  → Read more at qcostarica.com

 November 12, 2019
LOWELL, Mich. — When 43-year-old Jason Faraj entered Collector’s Korner in Lowell, the smooth-talking antiques aficionado gained the trust of the store owner and left with more than $5,700 in merchandise.  → Read more at wzzm13.com
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My First Numismatic Auction

UPDATE: The auction is online and begins to close at 7:00 PM on Sunday, November 3, 2019!

1878 Liberty $2 1/2 Quarter Eagle Gold Coin

Lot #1: Beautiful classic Liberty Head $2½ quarter eagle gold coin in a Capital Plastics holder.

One of the reasons for my limited posting is that I started a business in collectibles and estate downsizing. Until now, I had not received many numismatic consignments. The few numismatic items that consignors have brought in were not exciting.

A few weeks ago, someone walked into the shop and asked about consigning coins. The coins were something he inherited and did not know what to do with them. Then my consignor removed an 1878 Liberty $2½ quarter eagle gold coin in a Capital Plastics holder. It is a beautiful coin in hand. It looks uncirculated.

Although the 1984 U.S. Olympics Commemorative Set sare not popular, he handed two of the three-coin sets with the gold coin.

He continued to empty the bag, and I found Morgan and Peace dollars, Seated Liberty quarters, and a few other coins.

1 Gram TAYER Gold Ingot

1 Gram TAYER Gold Ingot

While unpacking another consignment, there was a 1 gram gold bar mixed in amongst the papers.

Finally, someone brought in the few Israeli coins and medals his late father owned.

Put it all together, add a few of my surplus coins, and there are 54 total coins in my company’s current auction.

Here is a small sample of some of the coins in this auction:

We do ship!

If you want more than coins, check out the rest of the auction which includes sports autographs (like a Joe Montana autographed football), art (two prints from Yaacov Agam), a Black Forest Cukoo Clock (it works!), and so much more. Feel free to peruse the entire 284 lot auction.

But don’t forget the coins, including this 2005 Canadian Silver Maple Leaf silver bullion coin with a Rooster Privy Mark.

Fight Finished!

The talk around the Washington, DC metropolitan area is not what is happening on Pennsylvania Avenue. It is what will be happening on Constitution Avenue starting at 2:00 PM on November 2. According to the Mayor’s office, the parade for the World Champion Washington Nationals will begin on Constitution Avenue NW at 15th Street NW and end on Pennsylvania Avenue NW at 3rd Street.

A rally will be held at the end of the parade route.

If you are a baseball fan, you hope that every World Series goes six or seven games. Most of the drama comes in those last two games. This series was no different.

Obligatory numismatic content:

Fans of the Nationals can purchase a commemorative plaque from the Danbury Mint that includes a bronze medal. This is an uncompensated message only used so that I had something numismatic to add!

Weekly World Numismatic News for October 27, 2019

2019 UK Peter Rabbit 50p Silver Proof Coin

Reverse of the 2019 Peter Rabbit 50p Silver Proof Coin. Peter Rabbit was created by Beatrix Potter. (Image courtesy of the Royal Mint)

At least once per month, one story that catches my eye and causes a reaction. Many times I let it pass without comment because I know there is more to the story than what the news reports. This time I looked a bit deeper.

Mints around the world do business differently than the U.S. Mint. In many cases, these mints are public corporations or private corporations contracted to strike coins on behalf of the government. Very few are state agencies like the U.S. Mint.

From what I can tell, the United States is the only country where coin design is governed by the whim of 535 people whose design esthetics are eclipsed by their inability to understand the effects of their decisions. In other countries, themes and designs are managed through the mint in cooperation with the central bank and the government.

In the United Kingdom, the committee advising the Royal Mint has a membership of ten men and three women. According to reports, this committee is usually lead by a Cabinet Minister. It is the practice that the minister is selected from the House of the Lords, the least powerful branch of the government.

As it turns out, most of the Lords are male. Since the chair of the committee selects the members, most of the members of the committee are male.

A Controversy is now brewing in the U.K. because a proposal to honor Emily and Charlotte Bronte with commemorative coins were rejected. Even U.S. educated children know about the Bronte sisters having been assigned to read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre in school.

It is not the first time that the committee rejected the selection of a woman author. The committee had decided not to honor Enid Blyton, a children’s author. Blyton wrote over 600 children’s books that echoed her conservative and moral lifestyle. Although she continues to be criticized by more literary critics, her books remain popular.

The committee decided that Blyton was not worthy of the honor.

The British women authors are up in arms over the decision. But could this be a tempest in a teapot?

This year, the Royal Mint issued coins celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Gruffalo and Mouse. The Gruffalo is a children’s book written by Julia Donaldson. The book is about a mouse’s adventures walking through the woods until it meets the mythical Gruffalo.

The award-winning book was translated into 59 languages and made into an animated short film.

Although the Royal Mint did not honor Donaldson on a coin, her characters are so honored.

The Royal Mint has also issued 50p coins honoring Paddington Bear, a character that became popular in the United States through the movie. While Michael Bond wrote Paddington Bear, the books were initially illustrated by Peggy Fortnum.

We learned that whether committees or politicians design coins, they will get it wrong. We also learned that maybe we should stop trying to put humans on coins because regardless of the decision, someone is going to be upset. Sometimes, it is not worth the hassle.

And now the news…

 October 21, 2019
BRYAN, Ohio — Tom Reed of Bryan, Ohio donated more than 50 books to the Williams County Public Library, which mainly center on numismatics, also known as coin collecting. Reed saw a need for books on coin collecting to be available to the public, and decided to offer many books from his personal collection to the Williams County Public Library, said a news release.  → Read more at kpcnews.com

 October 24, 2019
WINNIPEG—The Royal Canadian Mint has issued a new coin featuring a portrait of Louis Riel, an important Métis leader and the founder of Manitoba. The coin was launched on the 175th anniversary of Riel’s birth.  → Read more at thestar.com

 October 24, 2019
OSAKA — While a 500-yen coin may not go as far as it used to, at least it still weighs the same. That's the verdict of the annual weight test of coinage, which was held at the Japan Mint in Osaka's Kita Ward on Oct.  → Read more at asahi.com

 October 24, 2019
Hobo nickel is a term used to describe the 18th century sculptural art form of hand-engraving coins, resulting in miniature bas-relief sculptures that you can hold in the palm of your hand. While the ancient art is rarely practised today, Russian artist Roman Booteen keeps the craft alive with his extraordinary coin carving designs.  → Read more at mymodernmet.com

 October 24, 2019
The original 29 March 2019 design for the Brexit 50p. The date was changed to October 31 and now, presumably, will be altered again  Credit: Treasury A small batch of special Brexit 50p coins minted with October 31 are expected to become collectors' items now that it looks almost certain Britain will not have left the EU by then.  → Read more at telegraph.co.uk

 October 24, 2019
Are you a coin collector who wants to get a job in the coin business? Plenty of numismatic jobs are out there! Today, I’m going to show you how to find a job working with coins.  → Read more at coins.thefuntimesguide.com

 October 24, 2019
The production of thousands of special commemorative Brexit coins has been put on hold amid continuing uncertainty over when the UK will leave the EU. The Royal Mint had been asked to make new 50p pieces featuring the 31 October date on which the UK was due to leave and a message of "Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations".  → Read more at bbc.com

 October 24, 2019
An extremely rare 1879 $4 gold coin could sell for $1 million when it is auctioned next month. The 400 cent piece, known as the $4 Gold Stella, is valued at roughly $200,000 but could sell for $1 million, according to auction house Stack’s Bowers Galleries.  → Read more at foxnews.com

 October 26, 2019
– Umayyad, a historic Islamic coin which was made around 723AD has sold for £3.7m – Among the inscriptions said to be on the coin is one that reads "Mine of the Commander of the Faithful" – The coin was initially billed to sell £1.6m but increased at the auction because of much interest  → Read more at legit.ng

 October 26, 2019
Royal Mint bosses have been accused of sexism for rejecting plans to honour novelist sisters Emily and Charlotte Bronte with special coins. The Mint’s male-dominated advisory committee on commemorative coins was accused of failing to ‘take women seriously’ after snubbing the authors of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.  → Read more at dailymail.co.uk
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Weekly World Numismatic News for October 20, 2019

2019 American Innovaation $1 - DelawarePerusing the wide world of coins, I noticed that it is only here in the United States that collectors complain about modern coinage. Why?

My Twitter followers (@coinsblog) have seen the articles coming from the United Kingdom. U.K. news outlets have staff that follows the special issues from the Royal Mint that are selling for hundreds of times over their face value in online auctions. These coins have a limited run and are issued as circulating commemorative coins.

Similarly, the Royal Australian Mint recently released an alphabet series, similar to what the Royal Mint did in 2018. As part of the series, they created a stir when they used the letter “X” to highlight a small village in Western Australia. Aussies learned something about their own country.

In the United States, we bemoan new issues by the U.S. Mint. We look at the coins and come up with some reason to dislike them. Many of the reasons range from the parochial to the absurd.

Dealers do not like them because they make more money on selling you what they think are “better” coins. Rather than try to use the opportunity to get people interested and into their shop, they would rather sell a more expensive coin. Note to dealer: selling 100 coins at a $1 profit is the same as selling one coin for a $100 profit except that you now have 100 new customers rather than recycling old ones.

Another reason I hear is that modern coins are not worth the money and, therefore, not worth the time. Really? Are you collecting or investing? Are you enjoying your collection, or is it something to do?

Recently, I sold off my Morgan Dollar collection. I started the collection many years ago and realized that I did not have the eye for coins that I have today. I also lost interest.

2019 Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Quarter - IdahoSomeone asked what am I collecting today. I respond with modern circulating commemoratives. When I get a strange look, I have been responding with, “do you know what the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is?”

Who is Frank Church, and what is the River of No Return? If you paid attention to the American the Beautiful Quarters program, you would learn more about your own country. I did not know about this wilderness area in Idaho until I looked at the quarter.

I also learned that the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, both United States territories, have beautiful memorials to those who gave their lives in World War II.

Now collectors are lamenting the new American Innovation $1 coins. Why? Because they do not circulate? Then go pick up a roll and start spending them! You can show people the series that is beginning with honoring Annie Jump Cannon, who invented a system for classifying the stars still used today. Aside from being a Delaware native, Cannon was a suffragist and hearing impaired.

Stop being so stuck up about modern coins, buy a roll, and give someone a William Henry Harrison dollar. Then ask them why Harrison is so important to U.S. history? Pick a president who is not famous and do the same exercise.

If you have children, why not plan a trip based on the quarter that has been released. If you cannot travel to Guam to see the War in the Pacific National Park, then a trip to San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. You can also Remember the Alamo and visit a fascinating area of the country.

Collecting modern coins may not make the dealers rich or be a great investment. But there is enough material to have fun beyond just accumulating metal discs.

And now the news…

 October 10, 2019
Weet-Bix is given the “W” in an A-to-Z collection depicting “all things Australian.” Weet-Bix, a breakfast cereal manufactured by a Seventh-day Adventist health food company in Australia, is set to cement its icon status.  → Read more at adventistreview.org

 October 11, 2019
Finance minister Tito Mboweni on Friday finalised the designs for the 2020 silver Kruger Rand and the R25 Natura Series collectable coin due next year. He also gazetted an update to a coin design that makes a leopard featured in a Big 5 collectable coin series somewhat less angry.  → Read more at businessinsider.co.za

 October 12, 2019
As many as 96 varieties of coins used during the period of the Western Ganga dynasty, which ruled Karnataka, are among the attractions at the three-day philately and numismatic exhibition here. Among the other exhibits at the 12th State Level Philately Exhibition organised by the Karnataka Postal Circle are commemorative coins, Chinese gold panda coins, stamps on 100 years of Indian cinema.  → Read more at thehindu.com

 October 12, 2019
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A young Alaska Native woman left an impression on Alaska’s territorial Senate in 1945, delivering a speech that led to the passage of the nation’s first anti-discrimination law.  → Read more at seattletimes.com

 October 15, 2019
MURRELLS INLET — The ship owned by the richest man in America is giving up its gold, again. The North Carolina was a side-wheeled steam packet, a coastal transport that carried mail and was owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt.  → Read more at postandcourier.com

 October 16, 2019
One of the rarest coins in the world is set to sell at auction for an incredible £1.6million. The Umayyad gold dinar dates back to 723AD and was made from gold mined at a location owned by the Caliph – one of the successors to the Prophet Muhammad.  → Read more at dailymail.co.uk

 October 16, 2019
A Bunbury businessman has unearthed one of Australia’s rarest coins — worth more than $10,000 in mint condition —while birdwatching in the Goldfields outback. Mick Cross was photographing birds at Malcolm Dam near Leonora when he picked up a small coin sitting in the dirt metres from the popular camp site.  → Read more at thewest.com.au

 October 16, 2019
Calling all Antique Roadshow enthusiasts. Have you ever seen a large metal coin featuring an old lamp with the number 60 on it? After discovering this mysterious-looking coin among her Grandmmother’s collection, a woman from Chilliwack is asking the public if they have any idea what it is.  → Read more at coastmountainnews.com

 October 18, 2019
Nowadays, having savings and investments both have equal weight in importance and necessity as well. In terms of investments, there are a lot of options for you to choose from. These options range from stock investments to mutual funds to cryptocurrency.  → Read more at nuwireinvestor.com

 October 19, 2019
Binyamin Elkin, the six-year-old son of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Ze'ev Elkin discovered a 2,000-year-old coin from the City of David excavations at the President's Residence on Thursday.  → Read more at israelnationalnews.com
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Weekly World Numismatic News for October 13, 2019

Australian $1 X Coin

X is for Xantippe
(Image courtesy of the Royal Australian Mint)

George Santayana was a Spanish-American philosopher, writer, and poet who influenced many of the decision-makers in the early 20th Century. In 1905, Santayana wrote The Life of Reason: Reason in Common Sense, where he wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

In the chapter, Santayana was emphasizing the need to use every experience as a lesson to improve the future. The rest of the chapter discussed how to apply lessons from things that went well.

What does George Santayana have to do with numismatics? Numismaitcs has not learned from the past and making the same mistakes expecting a better outcome. In other words, the numismatic industry is fulfilling the axiom credited to Albert Einstien: “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

What are we doing wrong? Let’s look at it in the context of this week’s news. Following the lead of the Royal Mint, the Royal Australian Mint is producing 26 limited-edition circulating one-dollar coins with the letters A to Z along with a depiction of something Australian that represents that letter. They call it the Great Aussie Coin Hunt.

Some letters are easy, like G for G’Day or V for Vegemite. Others do not have obvious names. When it came to X, the Royal Australian Mint picked Xantippe.

What is Xantippe?

Aussies were perplexed when trying to figure out who, what, or where Xantippe could be. That is when the Royal Australian Mint revealed that Xantippe is a small farming town in Western Australia.

For the Royal Australian Mint, it was the perfect way to get the message out about the new dollar coins. It caused a minor yet fun controversy that had the county talking about the series creating excitement about finding the coins.

In the UK, the Royal Mint had a similar program called The Great British Coin Hunt. In 2018, the Royal Mint issued 10 pence coins struck with British themes. Along with the other limited edition 50 pence themed coins, the Royal Mint keeps Brittons interested in coins by generating excitement about each release.

In the United States, we also saw excitement about looking for coins. We saw an increased awareness of coin collecting during the 50 States Quarters Program. Earlier this year, there was some interest shown over the release of the W mint quarters. The interest was not as strong as the 50 State Quarters, but people heard about the coin.

But that was for National Coin Week. What has happened since then?

Learn from the positive: by advertising, getting the word out, and promoting the coins, the US Mint is capable of getting people interested. By having the numismatic industry join them, people were paying attention.

Since the end of Nation Coin Week, the numismatic industry has been silent to those outside of the hobby. Most of the promotion has been like preaching to the choir. We get it. We got it. But you cannot keep an industry going that outsiders are claiming is dying.

Numismatics is not dying or near death. Like every hobby, it has problems to overcome. The first step to better health is to expand the base. The only way that could happen is if the numismatic industry does something radical: reach out consistently to everyone.

It is time to learn what worked in the past and stop doing the same things over again.

We can learn lessons from other industries. What about the collector car industry? Nearly 20 years ago, the collector car industry existed but was not that strong. The thought was that getting into cars was expensive, time-consuming, and confusing. Then Discovery Networks fell over the answer.

For Discovery, it started as HDNet, a television channel where they experimented with high definition content. They would create something in high definition and air it on HDNet to test the public’s reaction. Interestingly, the shows about cars were their most highly rated content. Then they contracted with Mecum Auctions to broadcast their events, and the ratings for a niche cable channel were higher than expected.

HDNet was renamed to Velocity. Now it is owned by Motor Trend, who rebranded the channel in its name.

Although the car hobby business was doing well, the trade publications point to the rise of HDNet and Velocity as a reason that the hobby is doing better than ever.

What can we learn from putting cars on television? First, there is an interested market out there that may not know where to turn for information. The shows provide both knowledge and entertainment. While there are shows that have a doctrine-like attitude, most are inclusive of all styles and interests.

Just like in numismatics, there is no single way to collect and enjoy cars. And like cars, there is a lot that can be used to teach everyone about history.

There was a multi-part series about the growth of the auto industry that followed many of the early titans, including Henry Ford, William Durant, and Walter Chrysler. One of the segments was their reactions to World War II, while the story was about how the automotive industry also showed how the country participated in the war effort.

What stories can be told about the 1943 steel cent? What about the “Shotgun Shell” cents struck in 1944 by recycling spent shells picked up from the training field?

How about some fun shows? Numismatic Jeopardy, where the questions are based on answers derived from something numismatic-related. For example, “It’s called the Old Line State.” The answer is on the reverse of the 2000 Maryland State Quarter!

Revive the old PBS show History Detectives and do it with numismatics. After all, they did investigate a coin said to be associated with Annie Oakley and a $6 Continental Currency note found in Omaha.

These are a few ideas. I am sure that others can come up with better ones.

Then again, that may mean that the industry will have to break out of its niche comfort zone and embrace something different.

And now the news…

 October 4, 2019

Metal detectorists have made many amazing discoveries down the years in Britain, with a great hoard of 2,600 coins just revealed last month. But there are strict rules regarding archaeological finds made by detectorists.  → Read more at ancient-origins.net


 October 6, 2019

The Royal Australian Mint is producing 26 limited-edition legal tender coins that will be given out as change at post offices over the coming weeks. The A to Z of Australiana could see you pocketing a Neighbours , Weet-Bix or didgeridoo $1 coin in your small change.  → Read more at news.com.au


 October 8, 2019

The UK’s Treasury plans to commemorate Brexit by minting millions of 50 pence ($0.61) coins. But like many of the Conservative government’s recent moves, there is a major flaw: the imprint date will be the Oct.  → Read more at qz.com

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