RED BOOK SALE!

POLL: Do you collect modern U.S. coins?

1976 Washington Quarter with my favorite, the Drummer Boy reverse

This past weekend, I had a discussion with someone I met at an estate sale about collecting modern versus classic coins. Although I recognize the differences in collecting each type, I think that after 53 years, it is time to give modern coins a chance.

The modern era of United States coins begins in 1965 when silver was removed from circulating coins except for the Kennedy half-dollar. The silver content of the half-dollar was reduced to 40-percent and clad around a copper core while the dime and quarter were copper-nickel clad, as they are today. It would not be until 1982 when the cent was changed from being 95-percent copper to being copper-plated zinc coins. The nickel has used the same copper-nickel composition since the release of the 1883 Liberty Head nickel except for the World War II issues.

For the average collector under 40 years old, coins have always been copper-nickel clad and the cent has always been made from copper-plated zinc. For a significant amount of their lives, the reverse of the Lincoln cent always had the Lincoln Memorial and the reverses of the quarter have been changing ever since they can remember. While many of us grew up with single designs, those of us who were around for the Bicentennial will remember the special reverses produced for the quarters, half-dollars, and dollar coins. In fact, the Drummer Boy reverse of the dual-dated 1776-1976 quarters remains my all-time favorite circulating commemorative reverse.

Maybe it is time to give modern coins more respect. What do you think?

Do you collect modern coins? If so, how?










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What’s with the silver Liberty Medals?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red Books are here!

Whitman Publishing debuted the 71st edition of A Guide Book of United States Coins at the Whitman Expo on March 31, 2017. Early orders have been taken and some retailers are still waiting for their orders to arrive. For the hobby, waiting for the new Red Books is an annual rite of passage, even though some do not buy the book.

Over the years, the Red Book has been updated to include more color, better images, and more information. With the work of Q. David Bowers and the Whitman staff filling out the library of books about every coin type, mint and proof sets, and even a Red Book for the Red Book, there is an incentive to increase the purchase pattern.

Then there’s MEGA RED, the phonebook-sized version that includes more information, in-depth analysis of some coins, and more items including significant tokens and major errors. For those not old enough to remember the phonebook, a relic caused by the Internet, if you lived in a densely-populated area, the 1500-page MEGA RED book is about as thick as the telephone book used to be in those areas.

Contributors page from the 71st Edition of the Red Book

There is something a little different in this version of the Red Book. If you open to the Contributors page you will see the name of your favorite numismatic blogger. Last year, I responded to a call for pricing contributors to the Red Book. We provided an area of expertise and were assigned to submit the prices for our area. I volunteered to work on modern coin prices.

Modern coins are those classified as being struck after 1964 when silver was removed from most U.S. coins. These are the coins that some dealers do not show a lot of love for because they are not perceived as worth the effort to sell. Although some of that has changed since the State Quarters were first introduced in 1999, the hobby should show more respect to these coins especially since we are 53 years into the modern era.

Although many feel that the Red Book pricing is obsolete when it comes out, it is still a good guide to understanding the foundation of pricing even if there is are market fluctuations. Thus, it would not hurt to get these prices closer to being correct, especially for the upcoming collectors. After all, this is a “guide,” not a price list.

Lapel pin given to Red Book contributors

For my part, I would attend shows with a worksheet I created of modern prices. The worksheet is stored on my iDevices and was editable as I attended shows and looked at coins online. When I noticed a glaring difference between what was once printed in the Red Book versus what I was seeing on the bourse floor, I would note the changes in my worksheet. Using this information, I would take the average of the prices and use that to recommend updates.

Using modern terms, the coin prices reported by the Red Book is the result of crowdsourcing. Volunteers enter prices and the editors make the final determination from the input provides. It is not a perfect system but it works in an area where coin pricing is more of an art and not a science. Although I did not check to see how my recommended updates affected the prices in this edition of the Red Book. I just hope it helps.

March 2017 Numismatic Legislation Review

If you think congress is dysfunctional based on what you see on the television news, try working behind the scenes. Recently, I met someone who started working for the government in 1972, before the explosion of the Watergate scandal. With the environment being so toxic, he decided to join the march of government employees into retirement. Very senior government employees with significant institutional knowledge are leaving the government in droves. This is not going to turn out well for the people these agencies are supposed to serve.

In the mean time, here is the legislative review for bills that will probably languish in committee for the forseeable future.

H.R. 1582: Duty First Act
Sponsor: Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK)
• Introduced: March 16, 2017
• Summary: To require the Secretary of Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the 100 year anniversary of the 1st Infantry Division.
• Last Action: Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services: March 16, 2017

Track this bill at http://bit.ly/115-HR1582

H.R. 1683: National Purple Heart Hall of Honor Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY)
• Introduced: March 22, 2017
• Summary: To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor.
• Last Action: Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services: March 22, 2017

Tack this bill at http://bit.ly/115-HR1683

S. 759: Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings Act of 2017
• Sponsor: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
• Introduced: March 29, 2017
• Summary: To save taxpayers money by improving the manufacturing and distribution of coins and notes.
• Last action: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs March 29, 2017

Track this bill at http://bit.ly/115-S759

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

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

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

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

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

The Coinage Act of 1792

coinage_act_1792
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