The numismatic news of the week of the week is the appointment of Joseph Menna as the 13th Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint.
Although the position of Chief Engraver was abolished in 1996 as an appointed position, Mint Director Edmund Moy resumed the position and appointed John Mercanti as the 12th Chief Engraver. The position was vacant since Mercanti’s resignation in 2010.
Many references cite Public Law 104-208 as the law that eliminated the Chief Engraver position. That bill is the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997. As with a lot of these omnibus acts, there is a lot of “stuff” packed into this law, but there does not appear to be a reference to the Chief Engraver.
In fact, a search the term “chief engraver” at govinfo.gov, the site for the Government Printing Office shows no public or private law with those words. The GPO has nearly every bill and public law for the past 100 years available for full-text search.
This is something to look into.
In the mean time, congratulations Joe Menna!
And now the news…
A 300-year-old British coin has sold at auction for a world-record price of £845,000. The five guinea 'Vigo' coin dates to 1703 and was made using gold seized by the British from a Spanish treasure ship at the Battle of Vigo Bay. → Read more at dailymail.co.uk
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Hundreds of students took part Saturday in a robotics competition at Southern New Hampshire University. And the event came with an assignment from inventor Dean Kamen: He wants every student to get involved with an effort to honor a New Hampshire hero. → Read more at wmur.com
More than a decade ago Aries Cheung, a Toronto-based artist, graphic designer and filmmaker, was approached by a representative from the Royal Canadian Mint. Would he like to enter a competition for a new series of coins to celebrate the Lunar New Year? → Read more at scmp.com
With only a portion of the facility excavated, the archeologists found nine areas that could have been used as part of coin production. There was one kiln site that was likely used to create porcelain coin molds and eight ash pits. They also found copper coins, coin mold fragments, and other items that were used as part of the coining process.
The China Numismatic Society told news sources that the inscriptions on the molds date the facility to 9-23 AD and corresponds to the reign of Wang Mang of the Han Dynasty.
Finds like this shows how the use of money and numismatics can lead to better understanding of societies what may have been lost.
And now the news…
It’s been dubbed one of the loveliest coins ever minted and, almost two centuries after it was struck, it’s making headlines again. A rare gold five pound coin, featuring an idealised image of Queen Victoria in the early years of her reign, has sold for a six-figure sum at a private auction. → Read more at royalcentral.co.uk
Archaeologists discover fragments of ceramic moulds, copper coins and a kiln site where an ancient government office once stood → Read more at scmp.com
“There used to be this thing called money,” people will say in the future. And children will laugh. “You’re joking,” they’ll say. → Read more at bostonglobe.com
Secret Service members are reportedly exchanging challenge coins that take a jab at the ongoing partial government shutdown. → Read more at thehill.com
The best-known U.S. Mint building in San Francisco is at Fifth and Mission streets, right across the street from the Chronicle building. The Old Mint is an imposing classical structure, but it’s been retired as a money-making plant for more than 80 years. By the early 1930s, the building was too antiquated to meet the increased demand for coins. So the U.S. Treasury found a second location, at Duboce and Buchanan streets, where a natural rock promontory could function as another layer of security. A search through The Chronicle’s archive uncovered photos of the construction of the New Mint in 1936, as well as the coin production work happening inside. → Read more at sfchronicle.com
The Royal Canadian Mint has uncovered the identity of the soldier who inspired its new silver dollar coin, which commemorates the sacrifice of Canadian soldiers on D-Day. → Read more at cbc.ca
A 10-year-old Indian boy who lives in Oman has collected more than 500 coins from across 120 countries. → Read more at timesofoman.com
While the story about the currywurst commemorative coin seemed like something to poke fun at, I was reminded that Staatliche Münze Berlin, the Berlin State Mint (www.muenze-berlin.de), is not an official government mint. It is a private mint that has been contracted by the German government to assist in producing coins. Their website reports that they produce one-fifth (20-percent) of all German coins.
Reports suggest that the Staatliche Münze Berlin has been under contract to Latvia to produce legal tender coins since 2014.
It appears that Staatliche Münze Berlin would be to Germany as the Pobjoy Mint is to the United Kingdom. Both a private mints that are contracted to strict legal tender coins that create their own commemorative.
This might mean we are safe from coins commemorating poutine and haggis. However, the idea of mixing curry with ketchup may be worth a try!
Currywurst is considered the national fast food delicacy of Germany. It is a pork sausage that has been sliced part of the way through, boiled then grilled, and served smothered with ketchup mixed with curry powder. Curry powder is sprinkled on top.
According to a friend who spent time working in Germany, currywurst stands are as ubiquitous in Berlin and many other cities as hot dog stands are in New York. Depending on the stand, they can be served on buns, with sauerkraut, or fries. Since returning to the United States several years ago, he says that his family enjoys the German dish frequently.
Coins have been used to commemorate many things. Commemorating food on coins is nothing new. Coins have been used to commemorate agricultural products like wheat and corn. But aside from the (in)famous bottlecap-shaped coin, I cannot remember when a coin was used to commemorate a prepared food.
Now that the Berlin State Mint has broken this barrier, who’s next? Will the Royal Canadian Mint produce a coin honoring poutine? Or will the Royal Australian Mnt grace a coin with Vegemite? I don’t even want to think about a coin commemorating haggis!
And now the news…
Click image to enlarge MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – A coin collector from Lewiston, Maine, with no prior connection to Middlebury, has donated more than 1,000 ancient coins to the Middlebury College Museum of Art. → Read more at middlebury.edu
A German coin manufacturer has commemorated the country’s love of currywurst with a speciality coin to mark 70 years since the savoury snack was first sold in Berlin. The silver alloy coin, made by Staatliche Munze Berlin, or the Berlin State Mint, features an image of the delicacy’s inventor alongside two giant sausages drowning in curry sauce and pierced with a wooden fork, as is tradition. → Read more at expressandstar.com
A silver medal-thaler, issued by Romanian ruler Constantin Brâncoveanu in 1713, sold for USD 16,000 at a numismatic auction in New York, Profit.ro reported. Brâncoveanu, who was a prince of Wallachia between 1688 and 1714, was deposed from his throne by Sultan Ahmed III. → Read more at romania-insider.com
New Delhi: A new book traces India's numismatic history through 133 rare coins which are illustrative of the country's antiquity, ethos and traditions. In Suvarna Mohur: India's Glorious History Illustrated through Rare Coins by Arun Ramamurthy, Indian history has been divided into 20 epochs. → Read more at firstpost.com
The Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services (MBVS) is pleased to announce the final design selection for the new State of Maine Honorable Service coin and plaque, which will honor all Maine veterans, past and present, regardless of their branch or era of service. → Read more at boothbayregister.com
SINGAPORE: The number of coins that a buyer can use in a single transaction will be streamlined and standardised to 20 coins per denomination after Parliament passed the Currency (Amendment) Bill on Monday (Jan 14). → Read more at channelnewsasia.com
Mobile coin exchange units are hitting the roads to encourage people to swap the loose change they have collected for easier to handle banknotes, so the coins can be recycled. The modified trucks, which are green and clearly marked with the Treasury Department logo, have a window along the side where the coins can be exchanged for notes of equal value. → Read more at bangkokpost.com
In Berlin, the participants of the most unusual robbery of recent years went on trial. Three young Arab migrants stole a considerable gold coin from the museum using only an ax handle, ropes, stairs, and carts. → Read more at en.crimerussia.com
Greater Houston Coin Club members have been on a mission to get kids involved in the hobby. → Read more at abc13.com
One of the more popular collector series is the Indian Head or Buffalo Nickels. Designed by James Earl Fraser, a student of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, this design was a continuation of President Theodore Roosevelt’s “pet crime” to change the look of the nation’s coinage.
Introduced in 1913, the coin features a right-facing Indian head (now called a Native American head). Although there have been claims by several tribal chiefs that they were the model, Fraser’s notes suggest the image was created using the features of several men.
The reverse features the image of a buffalo, which in reality is a North American bison. The 38 different types of buffaloes live in Africa and feature larger horns similar to a longhorn steer. Most are domesticated and are raised like cattle is in the United States. Bison are largely wild animals native to the western hemisphere. Aside from their shorter horns, they have beards hanging from their chin and heavier coats that allow them to survive in colder climates.
But that has not stopped people from referring to the coin as a Buffalo nickel. It is a design so popular that when it has been used in coinage, the available supply usually sells out.
Before I receive a deluge of email, the Jefferson nickels struck from 1942 through 1945 were struck on a planchet made from .560 copper, .350 silver, and .090 manganese and features a large mint mark over the image on Monticello on the reverse. This was done to reduce the use of copper and nickel needed for the war effort.
Like every five-cents coin made since the introduction of the 1883 Liberty Head or “V” nickel, the planchet is made from an alloy of 75-percent copper and 25-percent nickel. Most vending machines will not be able to tell the difference between a Buffalo nickel and a Jefferson nickel.
The coin’s ability to be used in vending machines and how a worn coin could pass the unwatchful eye of a cashier, it is possible to find a Buffalo nickel in change. Although there are very few of these coins remain in circulation, avid change hunters say they can find one every 12-16 months.
This was the case when a reader found what was thought to be a 1914-D Buffalo nickel. Although not a rare or key date, a 1914-D coin could be worth upwards of $70-80 in good (G-4) condition. Finding a Denver mint coin from that year would be better than finding a Philadelphia mint coin since a coin in good (G-4) condition would be worth $16-18.
But this coin was different. Rather than having a “D” mintmark on the reverse, the “D” was backward!
Prior to the U.S. Mint creating dies with mintmarks in Philadelphia, they would send dies to the branch mints without mintmarks. The coiners at the branch mint would use a punch to imprint the mintmark into the die before striking coins. Of course, this manual process was not perfect and there are cases of mispunched, repunched, overpunched, and other such errors.
There have been cases of a mintmark that was punched horizontally into the die. Those mintmarks were repunched correctly. Coins from the San Francisco mint has had errors where the “S” is punched upside down known as an inverted mintmark. This is a fun error to find because noticing this error requires a careful eye and patience along with understanding the shape of the “S” in the font used.However, there is no reference that mentions a backward punched mintmark.
Adding or removing mintmarks is a common method to artificially change the value of a coin. Remove the “S” from a 1921 Walking Liberty half-dollar and watch its value raise by 300-percent. Or practice adding a “D” to a 1914 Buffalo nickel to make a 400-percent profit.
After checking several references and speaking with two dealers, I sat with a box of Buffalo nickels I have to compare the mintmarks to the one on the coin. Additionally, I consulted with the images at PCGS Photograde. After all, it could be a real, undiscovered error.
The first thing I noticed on the image and with the coins I have on hand is that the mintmark on this coin is too defined for the grade. When comparing the coin to the images on Photograde, if the coin was sent in for grading it would probably be assigned a grade of G-6 of VG-8. Because of the worn rims, this coin would not grade higher than VG-8 and could be assigned a G-4.
As I was looking at the coins, those that would grade VG-8 or lower with worn rims also had mintmarks that were almost worn into the rim. In more than a dozen examples from my box, the mintmarks on all of the low-grade coins showed the rims and mintmark worn together.
Another aspect of the mintmark that bothered me was that the “D” seemed smaller than those on the coins I was looking at. For comparison, I pulled out my album with higher grade Buffalo nickels and found that the mintmark was similar in size to those in higher grades.
Then there is the coloring around the mintmark. Comparing it to the examples in my box, the dirt patterns around the “D” seems off. While the coloring around all of the letters appears to be uneven, there appears to be a consistent line around the “D.” In fact, the coloring at the bottom of the “D” is inconsistent with that of the other letters around it.
If I had the coin in hand, I would be able to examine it closer with a 15x loupe. I would even attempt to pick at it with a toothpick to see if the “D” would fall off. However, given all of the issues with the coin based on the images alone, I am reasonably certain that the “D” was added by someone outside of the U.S. Mint.
Of course, if you have your own theories then please post them as a comment, below.
After my last post about the Staatliche Münze Berlin, the Berlin State Mint, a few German readers provided a lesson in the political structure of Germany to understand the institution’s role in the country’s coin production. Unlike what I wrote previously,...read more
Some of the best finds are accidental. In China, archeologists were working in an area when the rain uncovered an ancient mint in 2017. The area of discovery was not where they were searching but a staging location. With only a portion of the facility excavated, the...read more
It seems that in my attempt to highlight numismatic-related news from somewhere other than the United States I may have done my wurst! While the story about the currywurst commemorative coin seemed like something to poke fun at, I was reminded that Staatliche Münze...read more
It is interesting to see what some countries choose to commemorate on coins. For Staatliche Munze Berlin, the Berlin State Mint, they chose to commemorate the 70th anniversary of currywurst. Currywurst is considered the national fast food delicacy of Germany. It is a...read more