Since being ordered to stay-at-home, the number of queries about deals for coins from television commercials, infomercials, and the home shopping channels has risen. The number of readers for my article “DON’T BUY COINS ON TELEVISION” has quadrupled in the past week.
The questions are all the same: is it a good buy?
Usually, the answer is NO!
In “DON’T BUY COINS ON TELEVISION,” I compared the offer of a date run of 31 American Silver Eagles each graded NGC MS-69 to a full 34 coin set. I found that the television markup was 50-80% over other alternatives.
The experience with this television con came less than a week after someone came into my shop with a box of overpriced items that he purchased from a home shopping television show and places like the National Collectors Mint. In “The Sad State of Television Numismatics,” I wrote about this experience and some more things to watch out for, including gold-plated tributes that have less than 1-cent worth of gold.
So that you know that this is not new, back in 2011, I wrote about another infomercial that claimed the Presidential $1 Coins were “vanishing from circulation at an alarming rate” because collectors are hoarding them. It was another show where the statements made the overpriced items appear too good to be true.
The worst part of both television pitches is that they both used respected numismatic authors as props. While neither endorsed the products the announcer was pitching, their presence was an effort to give the pitch an air of legitimacy.
I know it is difficult for some to be home during the day. Many of us are used to working and not having this much time on our hands. But it is not the time to stop thinking about getting the best value out of your collection. If you see a pitch for coins on television that intrigues you, then stop, take notes, and do some research before picking up the phone or visiting that URL.
What do the price guides say about the price? If the items are in slabs, go to the price guides for NGC or PCGS and find out what they say the coins should be worth. Want an independent opinion? Check the prices with the Greysheet Price Guide or the Numismedia Fair Market Value Price Guide.
Are there other purchasing options? Use a search engine to search for others who may be selling the same items. Check online auction sites, like eBay.
If you do a little due diligence, you may find that you can purchase the same or similar numismatics at a better price. You might be able to find something with a better grade also at a lower price.
Please do not overpay for your collectibles. If you regret your purchase, then it takes the fun out of collecting. We have enough problems, don’t compound them. Relax and enjoy your collection!
As part of an action-filled month, there was one numismatic-related bill introduced in congress. Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) introduced the 1921 Silver Dollar Coin Anniversary Act (H.R. 6192) to allow the U.S. Mint to strike tributes to the 1921 Morgan and Peace Dollars.
H.R. 6192 is a replacement for the 1921 Silver Dollar Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 3757). That bill will die in committee because two commemorative coin bills are already the law. The Christa McAuliffe Commemorative Coin Act of 2019 (Public Law No. 116-65) and the National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act (as part of Public Law No. 116-94) will appear in 2021.
The new bill is different in that it is not a commemorative coin bill. It was introduced is a bullion bill, which means that the government will keep all of the seigniorage. It would have been nice to have a commemorative bill that would raise money for the ANA.
The bill also does not have an end date. If passed, the U.S. Mint can strike bullion Morgan and Peace silver dollars starting in 2021 and into eternity. Although reports claim that the U.S. Mint “does not currently have any intention of creating an ongoing program and issuing coins after 2021,” does not mean they will not change their mind.
The only change I would recommend is to amend the bill to be like the 24-karat gold bullion bill. Allow the U.S. Mint to use the Morgan and Peace dollar designs the first year but allow the U.S. Mint to come up with new designs every year. Consider how much more successful the 2017 Centennial Coins would have been if they were struck in silver.
H.R. 6192: 1921 Silver Dollar Coin Anniversary Act
Inspired by “These Chihuahuas are not dogs,” that I wrote in 2018, I challenged teachers to dig through a junk box of old banknotes and use them as a teaching tool. Since we are now practicing social distancing, that is not an option.
An option would be to talk to a dealer and ask if they could help. Go to the American Numismatic Association’s dealers directory at coin-dealer-directory.money.org and find one near by. Call them and ask if they can help you and your students.
Most dealers have junk boxes. Junk boxes are coins and currency that are not worth the time and expense to handle. Ask the dealer if a student sent a self-addressed and stamped envelope with $1.00 would the dealer send the student something from the junk box. Ask the dealer to send a mix of items to different students like United States coins older than the students, world coins, currency, and a few tokens.
Once the arrangements are complete, instruct the students to write a friendly letter (gets them used to communicating in full sentences without emojis), enclose a $1.00 bill and a self-addressed and stamped envelope, and mail it to the dealer. When they receive their numismatic items, have each research the history of the era of when the coin, currency, or token was issued.
Rather than picking a topic, it is a fun way to have the students select a topic and make history come to life.
If your online classroom uses technology like Zoom, then have each student to a presentation to the class. If the class is using forums or written means only, let them write a paper and submit it for a grade.
Like my token trip to Spain and Venezuela, it will give the students something tangible to use as part of their learning experience.
This time, the scheme was cooked up by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), a freshman member of Congress. Apparently, Tlaib read that the Federal Reserve has more than a $2 trillion surplus. Rather than allow the Fed to use it to sure up financial systems in a crisis, she wants to transfer the money out of the semi-autonomous agency and put it in the general treasury to fund her version of a stimulus.
It is not the first time in the last ten years this idea came up. Back in late 2012, conservative pundits pushed Congress to do the same thing. The drumbeat for this idea became so loud that cooler heads finally prevailed, and the jokes about how to design such a coin quickly faded into history.
Tlaib is trying to learn from history by proposing that not only should the coins be struck but transferred to the Federal Reserve. By removing the $2 trillion liability from the Treasury Department’s books, it places the debt on the Federal Reserve.
If we were to ignore the law (31 U.S.C. §5136) will require the U.S. Mint to deposit the money int into the United States Mint Public Enterprise Fund, the costs of striking these coins including the design and administration is required to be deducted from the $2 trillion. It is a small percentage of the total, but it counts.
Then there is the question of operating capital. What will the Federal Reserve do if it needs the money to keep banks open during this crisis? By taking its operating capital, the Federal Reserve will have to raise money on a market that will become more restrictive when the United States central bank cannot perform. One analyst said it would be like tying the Fed’s arms and throwing them into the deep end of the pool. Everyone will panic, jump in to save them, and will drown.
To make the ensuing chaos even worse, to prevent the bank failures and to prop up the bank-related insurance programs, like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Treasury will have to get very creative to fund the insurance program. Like they did in the late 1980s during the Savings and Loan fiasco, the Treasury had to sell bonds and bills to make the depositors whole. Back then, the economy was better, and there were willing buyers. Today, if the coronavirus crisis continues and worldwide investors become spooked because the Fed failed to help, the costs of that paper (interest rate) will skyrocket.
When the government borrows money on the open market at high interest rates, the payment for just the interest (servicing the debt) becomes part of the national debt.
Take two platinum coins and give them a face value of $1 trillion each. Make the Federal Reserve buy these coins. The result will be a ripple of actions disrupting everything, like when a stone is thrown in the middle of a calm lake.
There was a time when freshman members of Congress were pushed to the background and told to shut up and learn. It was to allow them to learn from more senior members and to prevent them from saying and doing stupid things. Maybe Congress should go back to that practice.
And now the news…
Currently, there are three numismatic-related podcasts. Today’s review will only look at the newest entry, the Coin World Podcast.
The Coin World Podcast is one-year old. It started on March 28, 2019, and features hosts Jeff Starck and Chris Bulfinch, both writers for Coin World. After one-year, Jeff and Chris have hit on a rhythm that makes it worth listening.
If you binge listen from the beginning, you will find that it takes Jeff and Chris a while to fix a number of their technical issues. As a listener of those early shows, I can tell you that the sound quality was not right and sometimes was grating. It took almost two months for them to work out those issues.
Even with the lousy sound quality, it is worth going back and listening, especially for the interviews. After the banter at the beginning, each episode features a conversation with someone in the numismatic industry.
Doing a “live” interview, as opposed to an interview for print, is that a broadcast interview has to flow in a way that makes sense. Aside from being able to flow, the interviewer has to anticipate what the listener wants to hear. They ask compelling questions and add logical followup. It makes for a great listen.
As with a lot of podcasts, Jeff and Chris open with the news. While they do report the news, they do let some of their opinions show through. The way they add their opinion is not overt but enough to get their point across in a way that does not alienate a listener who might disagree.
A recent feature is a discussion of this period in numismatic history. Jeff and Chris would reference something that happened and read a contemporary account. They will also read letters that appeared in Coin World from years ago to prove the axiom, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Combining history with contemporary accounts gives the feature a more exciting feel than just reciting facts. They should do this more with other discussions, especially with the library they have access to at Coin World.
After a year together, Jeff and Chris have developed a pleasant on-air rapport and a rhythm that makes the podcast worth the time to listen. However, whenever listening to the podcast, it feels as if something is missing before the interview. I know the P.T. Barnum once said, “Always leave them wanting more.” But there should be something else to add that one extra punch.
Having been a listener since Episode 1, the improvements have made a difference, and the interviews are enough to keep listeners coming back for more. I grade the podcast and MS-65, noting that there is a little room to add that one thing that can give it a grade boost.
Congratulations to Jeff Stark and Chris Bullfinch for making it to the first anniversary of the Coin World Podcast!
With most of the country in some a state of quarantine, there may be time to expand our numismatic knowledge. Collecting can be fun, but learning about your collection will give it more meaning.
If you continue to watch cable news, you are going to think the world will end tomorrow. While the situation is serious and deserves attention, you need to find time to think about something else.
Keeping Up With The News of Numismatics
When you turn off the television, here is where you can read about the latest in numismatics:
- news.coinsblog.ws – full press releases and pictures from news sources without commentary.
- coinworld.com – Coin World magazine online
- numismaticnews.net – Numismatic News online; look on the right side of the page for the links to their other (former Krause Publication) magazines.
- CoinNews.net – One of the oldest online news sites that does a good job in covering numismatic-related news.
- CoinUpdate.com – A news site that is more of an aggregator of numismatic-related news.
- CoinWeek.com – A good, comprehensive site on numismatic-related news.
- CoinsWeekly.com – Germany-based website (in English) with more international news. You should subscribe to their newsletter. You will receive an email summary of the world’s numismatic news every Thursday.
Precious Metals Market News
If you want to read about the markets, there are many news sites to read. However, if you are only looking for news from a source that concentrates on the metals market, then Kitco (kitco.com) is the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in this space. Kitco employs analysts and writers to look at the market from different angles.
Amazingly, the wealth of information Kitco provides is free. The free data, including the free charts and graphs that many websites use, is supported by advertisements, selling bullion, and a premium news service for the serious investor.
Podcasts have been around for many years dating back to the release of Apple’s iPod. In the beginning, podcasts were simple audio files passed around the Internet by maverick content creators to share knowledge, entertain, educate, or have fun. There are also video podcasts for on-demand viewing.
Today, podcasting is a big business. Many media outlets are producing podcasts. There are also companies whose business model is to create podcasts. There is at least one podcast for every taste. There are also many ways to listen to podcasts. Rather than discuss it here, search for “how to listen to a podcast” to learn more.
Here are three numismatic-related podcasts for your listening pleasure:
- Coin Show Radio – The oldest of the numismatic-related podcasts. The Hosts, Mike & Matt, have a little fun bringing the news and talking coins.
- CoinWeek Podcast – Although it has been around a while, I keep forgetting to subscribe when I pick up my phone, so I did it now. I will let you know what I think at some point.
- Coin World Podcast – The newest entry in the numismatic-related podcast world has become one of my favorite podcasts. One of the reasons to listen to this podcast is for the interviews. Jeff Stark and Chris Bullfinch are good interviewers and deserve a listen.
That should keep you busy for a while. Next time, I will look at other resources.
Do you want to add these links to your browser’s bookmarks? Right-click (or Mac users can CTRL-Click) on the button to the right and select whatever option your browser requires to save the file to hard drive. Import the file as an “HTML Bookmark” file to add these links to your browser’s bookmarks.