A cricket hopped into the grading room

Today marks the third weekend of the college football season. Sunday is the second weekend of the NFL season. Autumn begins on Wednesday, and there are 43 days until Halloween.

Want to celebrate Halloween in style? Why not bid on an encapsulated cricket!

Slabbed cricket up for auction from the Collection of Fred Weinberg at GreatCollection Auctions (GreatCollection photo)

Up for bid at GreatCollection Auctions is a PCGS holder with the remains of a cricket. Yes, a real cricket.

According to GreatCollections, “back in the 1990s, there was a cricket disturbing the coin graders at PCGS, until one of them caught it and put it in a slab. It was then the subject at a high level meeting of graders where it was decided to give it to error expert Mr. Fred Weinberg.”

It was recently on display at the last World’s Fair of Money.

After more than 20 years, the carcass is a bit fragile. If nothing else, it proves that the slabs are not air-tight. If the slabs were air-tight, the carcass would not deteriorate.

Although the slab does not have a grade, the folks at GreatCollections said that they “would grade the cricket a solid MS-65 Full Head (Detached).”

As of Friday, September 17, the high bid is $2,900 with 54 bids. The auction will end on Halloween at 4:05 PM PST.

What started as a joke is now a fun part of numismatic lore.

Here’s an interview from CoinWeek with Fred Weinberg talking about the “error”:

Weekly World Numismatic News for September 6, 2021

Welcome to the Labor Day Edition of the Weekly World Numismatic News!

The story that caught my eye is that the members of Accredited Precious Metals Dealers (APMD) of the Professional Numismatists Guild (PMG) predicted their end-of-year prices for precious metals.

According to the APMD members, the year-end predictions are as follows:

  • Gold: $1,897
  • Silver: $28
  • Platinum: $1,153

Their estimates are the “mean averages of price predictions made by 25 accredited dealers” of the APMD. Members of the APMD “based their forecasts on years of being on the front lines of the bullion markets.” In other words, their predictions are as reliable as those that predict the pro football and basketball drafts.

With all due respect to the APMD and their members, every forecast I have heard while carefully watching the markets as a buyer has been bullish. It is very rare to hear anyone that is involved with this market make a bearish prediction.

Let’s have some fun with this. In the next few days, I will make my predictions along with the logic behind my prediction. Then I will create a graph to monitor the markets compared to our predictions. Let’s see how we do after the market closes on December 31!

Image courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

And now the news…

 August 26, 2021
While excavating the ancient city of Phangoria, located north of the Black Sea, in the Taman peninsula of southern Russia, archaeologists made an odd discovery: A single copper coin, minted in the year 1570, far far away in the Cypriot city of Famagusta.  → Read more at haaretz.com

 August 27, 2021
Dealing with a recently passed away parent’s belongings is always a tough subject. It’s never just about the stuff – it’s about the memories and the emotions it all brings up, not to mention disagreements with siblings and partners about what to do with it all.  → Read more at goodmenproject.com

 September 2, 2021
Money, money, money, money, ah so not just the song. But, the real thing. During the height of the pandemic, remember the shortages of toilet paper, paper products, disinfectant, hand sanitizer and yes, money, coins to be exact.  → Read more at poconorecord.com

 September 3, 2021
By K Rajan Chennai: A finely made thin silver punch-marked coin weighing 2.2g unearthed at Keeladi in the seventh season of excavation this year holds key to the history of trading routes spanning the subcontinent and beyond — till Sri Lanka in the south and Afghanistan in the northwest  → Read more at timesofindia.indiatimes.com

 September 4, 2021
Cree artist Sheila Orr designed a collectors coin for the Royal Canadian Mint, depicting the fur trade from a Cree perspective. It was released earlier this summer.  → Read more at cbc.ca
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Acknowledging the U.S. Mint’s Accomplishments

Coining machines striking one-cent coins at the U.S. Branch Mint in Philadelphia.

The U.S. Mint has made it easy for the numismatic industry to complain. However, numismatists and the public should commend the U.S. Mint for its performance since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the recent media availability, U.S. Mint Director David Ryder said that the U.S. Mint is the only sovereign mint in the world to produce its bullion products since the start of the pandemic without interruption.

When COVID-19 affected the entire population, nobody understood the virus. In a panic, the entire world shut down. We did not understand the effects, but people were getting sick, requiring ventilators and scarce resources, and filling hospitals. For the U.S. Mint, there was an outbreak at the West Point Mint that affected production. They moved production to Philadelphia while those in West Point went into quarantine.

Like many critical businesses, the U.S. Mint reworked its schedule, added health precautions to keep workers safe, and continued production. While the numismatic world was worried about grading bullion coins from Philadelphia as an attempt to make a buck, the U.S. Mint was dealing with the health and safety of their workers.

It puts the industry’s selfishness in perspective.

Analysts give us many reasons why precious metals have risen, and the demand for bullion coins defies the usual analysis. Still, the U.S. Mint has been operating to supply a clamoring market.

Bullion production did slow down. The temporary closing of the West Point Mint reduced the resources they could use to produce bullion coins. There were also production problems by the U.S. Mint’s suppliers in producing the blanks they use. Those businesses were also facing COVID-19 issues that limited their capacity. And do not forget about the mines that could not operate or operated with limited capacity so they can protect their workers.

Ryder said that the procurement staff was diligent in using their resources to ensure the U.S. Mint had the materials to manufacture bullion.

Further limiting the U.S. Mint’s ability to manufacture bullion was the requirement to satisfy the orders for circulating coinage from the Federal Reserve.

As retailers were opening with new precautions, they reported that it was not easy to change because there were not enough coins. Headlines of a “coin shortage” became a topic. When the Federal Reserve investigated the issue, they found there were enough coins in the economy. Because the economy was not moving, circulating coinage was not circulating.

The problem was that the supply chain was interrupted and not moving as expected.

Coin Pusher in a penny arcade. Cambridge Midsummer Fair 2005 (Photograph © Andrew Dunn, cc-by-sa-2.0)

The U.S. Mint was ordered to increase circulating coin production to satisfy politicians and others who misinterpreted the problem. The Federal Reserve’s solution was similar to the coin pusher arcade game where you drop a coin into the slot, hoping it lands in the right place so that a moving bar can push more coins into the bin for you to collect as a prize. The game is a windfall for the arcade owner. The player rarely wins.

In the pandemic version of the game, the U.S. Mint manufactured coins so the Federal Reserve could dump billions into the economic hopper, hoping that some would fall out into the circulating economy.

In 2020, the U.S. Mint struck 14.774 BILLION coins, 23.7-percent more than they struck in 2019. Nearly every industry reported a reduction in demand and the ability to produce products. And the supply chain continues to affect production in some industries, including tech, where there is a shortage of computer chips. But the U.S. Mint was able to add over 14 BILLION coins to the economy.

The U.S. federal government continues to operate under mandatory pandemic-related protocols. As a federal bureau, the U.S. Mint continues to do its part to maintain social distancing and keeping its workers safe. No company, industry, or government has continued or boosted its production in this manner in the last 18 months.

Remember, the U.S. Mint does this without using any money from the general treasury. Their operating budget comes from the seignorage (profit) from the coin manufacturing process. When the profit exceeds their needs, a portion of the money is deposited in the general treasury. The more money the U.S. Mint makes, the more money they deposit in the general treasury. Talk about a money-making operation.

The U.S. Mint continues to have problems dealing with the collector market. Given the circumstances they have faced over the last 18 months, you have to admire their accomplishments.

Weekly World Numismatic News for August 29, 2021

The U.S. Mint attempts to fix their online ordering system, but to what effect?

This past week, the U.S. Mint held a press availability for the numismatic media. I highlighted the meeting after the discussion, which includes corrections. While the U.S. Mint appears to be working to rectify its e-commerce issues, there continue to be unaddressed problems.

A few weeks ago, I wrote that it was my impression “that the lawyers had more say over policy than the appointed director or the career executives.” It is not clear that the U.S. Mint has separated its policy decision from the advice of counsel.

Missing from the discussion is how the lawyers forced the U.S. Mint to violate the law. Even though they identified the Internet Robots (BOTs), the lawyers not allowing the U.S. Mint to resolve the problem puts the e-commerce system in violation of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). FISMA was passed in 2002 to require the government to protect computing resources.

Although it sounds like a technical issue, FISMA’s purpose is to allow bureaus like the U.S. Mint to protect public access to government resources. It also allows the government to do what is necessary to serve the public.

While the dealer community is part of the public, they are not the majority of the interested public. The U.S. Mint reported that only 18 authorized purchasers could access 10% of production at a 5% premium as part of its early access program.

The U.S. Mint deserves commendation for its ability to exceed production during the pandemic. Questions remain on the decisions on collector coin programs.

And now the news…

 August 24, 2021
OTTAWA, ON, Aug. 20, 2021 /CNW/ – The Royal Canadian Mint (the "Mint") is pleased to announce its financial results for the second quarter of 2021 that provide insight into our activities, the markets influencing our businesses and our expectations for the next 12 months.  → Read more at newswire.ca

 August 27, 2021
Hundreds of ancient coins looted from archaeological sites were found in a house in Bnei Brak, the Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced Monday. The artifacts were uncovered during an operation by the IAA’s Robbery Prevention Unit.  → Read more at jpost.com

 August 27, 2021
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — It was a slow day Aug. 1 when Nick Amelio was treasure salvaging near Corrigan's shipwreck, just south of Turtle Trail Beach.  → Read more at tcpalm.com

 August 27, 2021
Generally speaking, gold is the antithesis of fiat currencies and is viewed as a hedge against inflation.  → Read more at swfinstitute.org

 August 27, 2021
There are few things more alluring than buried treasure — preferably ancient and preferably gold. Historically, people tended to bury their coinage in times of trouble, intending to come back for it.  → Read more at independent.ie
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U.S. Mint Talks About Their Website and Ordering System

The U.S. Mint held a press availability for members of the numismatic media this morning. There will be more to say about the information presented, but the following are some highlights that will interest the numismatic community.

Mint management noted that the U.S. Mint is the only sovereign mint with continuing bullion production during the pandemic. In addition to the bullion coin production, the U.S. Mint has produced more circulating coins than any other time.

The U.S. Mint continues operating at the highest level while maintaining safety and controls to protect the employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although it is easy to criticize the U.S. Mint, it is commendable that the bureau continued production but manufacturing more products than ever in the last 18 months.

U.S. MINT DIRECTOR DAVID RYDER noted that sales at the U.S. Mint had been declining prior to his arrival. Part of the reason is that there was not a permanent director in almost nine years. Ryder saw his job as trying to expand the product line to increase interest in the numismatic process.

U.S. MINT ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF SALES AND MARKETING MATTHEW HOLBEN said that the U.S. Mint had faced unprecedented demand for its products during the “black swan event.” According to Holben, the U.S. Mint sold more proof American Silver Eagle Proof coins in under a half-hour than they sold in 2019.

The U.S. Mint has 18 dealers that are registered authorized purchasers of numismatic products. These 18 dealers can purchase up to 10-percent of the numismatic products before the public sale. They credit the reduction in attempts to use automated methods to order (BOTs) now that the dealers can determine their inventory.

U.S. MINT DEPUTY CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER KIRK GILLIS said that since the first 2021 Morgan Dollar release, the catalog website could process 217 peak orders per second, up from 96 peak orders per second.

Gillis reported that “up to 60% of the activity on the sites were BOTs” based on the drop in traffic demand since the May 24 launch of the 2021 Morgan Dollar products. He said that the U.S. Mint had implemented technology to reduce the impact of scripts and BOTs used to order products.

The U.S. Mint will explore pre-ordering and waiting room software similar to the processes used by the ticket purchasing systems. They are also looking into other rate-limiting technology.

Beyond the highlights, there are other issues to explore. Stay tuned!

CORRECTIONS
  • The website can process “217 peak orders per second, up from 96 peak orders per second.” It was originally reported as “270 orders per second, up from 90.”
  • Clarified the 60% reduction in BOT activity as being since the May 24 launch of the initial Morgan Dollar products.
Sorry for the confusion.

Weekly World Numismatic News for August 22, 2021

The ancient bundle of coins found on Habonim beach in Israel. (photo credit: OFIR HAYAT via The Jerusalem Post)

I regularly peruse online news sources looking for numismatic-related stories in non-numismatic media. The stories are not limited to geography or the news media. I find stories about numismatics on sites that cover news for different disciplines and industries.

Although I post a link to every story I read on Twitter, the stories I find the most interesting make it to the weekly post. Regular readers will notice that I find many stories about people finding ancient coins make the weekly post.

I do not collect ancient coins, but I am interested in their stories. Even though the concept of a minor was not offered when I went to college, I filled many of my electives with history and political science classes. So when I see stories about these discoveries, I read each article thoroughly. Most are very well written and include a context around the era that the coins are from.

Recently, a professor who teaches ancient history using coins to highlight his lectures said that much of what we know about rulers was learned from studying coins. He is excited about new finds because the coins could add to their knowledge of history.

While discussing the coin hoard unearthed in Israel, we discussed collecting ancient coins. He said that once the collector decides what to collect, they can compile a nice collection for the same amount of money as assembling a nice Mercury Dime collection.

An important suggestion was to buy ancient coins from a reputable dealer. It will prevent you from a claim that you have stolen cultural property by a foreign government. This is because the U.S. State Department Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) accepts any claim from any country without understanding how they hurt legitimate collectors. I have written many posts on this subject. Just search for ACCG (Ancient Coin Collectors Guild) to read those posts.

Even if you do not collect ancient coins, read the articles about the finds from around the world. The articles are fascinating and provide a look at the world’s collective history.

And now the news…

 August 18, 2021
Israeli archaeologists working for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) have discovered a Byzantine-era gold coin depicting Jesus’ Crucifixion. According to CBN News, the coin was one of several artifacts found during an excavation by Ramat Ha-Sharon, a city near Tel Aviv.  → Read more at christianheadlines.com

 August 18, 2021
This summer, tour guide Yotam Dahan was camping with his family on a beach near the town of Atlit, Israel, when he stumbled onto a greenish metal mass made up of 13 pounds of ancient coins.  → Read more at smithsonianmag.com

 August 18, 2021
August marks the 50th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s infamous decision to “close the gold window,” reneging on the U.S. government’s pledge to redeem dollars for gold. Although Nixon’s action spelled the end of the postwar Bretton Woods framework, the system in place circa 1970 was a pale shadow of the original gold standard.   → Read more at thehill.com

 August 18, 2021
The King of American Coins just fetched a princely, world-record sum. The single finest example of the 1804 US silver dollar sold for an astonishing $7.68 million at a Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction on Tuesday to become the most expensive coin of its kind.  → Read more at robbreport.com

 August 22, 2021
Madurai: Keeladi, with its rich storehouse of antiquities, has hogged the limelight, especially with the recent finding of a punch-marked silver coin dating back to the ancient Maurya dynasty. The silver coin was a hidden treasure with symbols of sun, flower and Nandi.  → Read more at dtnext.in
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