Last month I posted an article about a potential scam by a company named LIACOO selling American Silver Eagle coins from China. I ordered two coins to confirm my suspicion.
Two counterfeit American Silver Eagles purchased from LIACOO, a company based in China.
THE COINS ARE COUNTERFEIT! FAKES!
I ordered the coins on June 4, the day I posted the article. The coins were shipped from China to California to New Jersey to my office. LIACOO used the services of Newgistics, which is now a subsidiary of Pitney-Bowes. By using a logistics company in this manner, they can hide behind the anonymity of the service.
Contacting Pitney-Bowes is nearly impossible. I left a very public message on Twitter. Let’s see if they respond.
When the coins arrived, I opened the package and started to examine the contents. The coins are in a slab-like holder similar to the Coin World holders but without the Coin World logo. At first glance, they look fine, and then a closer look revealed problems.
My first impression was that there are almost no rims on the coin. A closer look at the obverse, and the font is too thin for the LIBERTY around the coin. Then I turned the coin over to focus on the U in United. It is missing the tail on the right side of the U. I did not need to see any more to be convinced this was a fake coin.
The font for LIBERTY is too thin. Also, the stars in her flag draped over the shoulder are too small.
Aside from the rims being to thin, look at the U in United and the dash between SILVER and ONE. These are not correct for the 2020 ASE.
Finally, I removed the coin to weigh it. An American Silver Eagle is supposed to weigh just slightly more than one troy ounce because it is only .999 silver. Since my scale only measures grams to the tenths of ounces, it should have weighed 31.1 grams. It weighed 25 grams.
The coin is not magnetic.
I will investigate further, but I wanted to report my initial findings.
DO NOT BUY CHEAP EAGLES FROM RANDOM WEBSITES!
I bought these coins to prove my point. I knew I was potentially buying fakes. I spent less than $30 for education aids.
Unfortunately, two correspondents wrote to tell me they each bought ten coins from different dealers. They spent $19.95 per coin. Both lost over $200 with the shipping costs.
IF YOU CANNOT IDENTIFY THE DEALER, THEIR EXACT LOCATION, AND THEIR BUSINESS STATUS, THEN DO NOT BUY THEIR COINS!
LIACOO is a scam. It is a company based in China. DO NOT BUT FROM THEM!
When talking about markets, the central theme is that investors hate instability. Whether the conversation is with the professional market maker or the individual investor, there is much uncertainty in the current marketplace.
When equity markets become unstable, investors run to cash or cash equivalents. Cash equivalents include investments like bonds, especially those issued by stable governments. The other investment they run to is precious metals.
Gold is the primary safe-haven for investors. As a society, we have given this mineral an intrinsic value and trade it for a premium. With the panic of the U.S. Mint closing the West Point Mint for a short time, investors started buying platinum. The most popular form to purchase these metals is in coins where we saw the South African Platinum Elephant coins sell out its 2,000 coin production.
With the markets scrambling, it has opened up the door to scammers trying to cash in on the panic buying. Scammers use tactics like selling overpriced and overhyped coins, counterfeits, and not delivering coins after purchasing.
These scams are not new. Last year, the Accredited Precious Metals Dealer (APMD) program warned against scammers as the prices jumped. Unfortunately, the problem has only become worse.
Please do not fall for these scams. If you have any questions, contact a reputable dealer from the APMD, Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG), Industry Council for Tangible Assets (ICTA), or the American Numismatic Association dealer directories. You will be glad you did!
And now the news…
May 18, 2020
Nervous investors have been pouring into the gold and silver markets over the past two months. Money Metals Exchange is proud to have helped almost 20,000 new customers with a precious metals purchase in recent weeks, many of whom came over from other dealers struggling with inventory shortages and ridiculous delivery delays.
→ Read more at fxstreet.com
May 19, 2020
While the covid-19 pandemic has had a negative effect on the platinum market — including price, demand and supply — results for Q1 2020 show the net effect is less than feared, and the outlook for 2020 is better than expected, according the latest quarterly report by the World Platinum Investment Council (WPIC).
→ Read more at mining.com
May 21, 2020
Investors seeking a haven from the economic turmoil created by the coronavirus pandemic are snapping up platinum coins engraved with African wildlife.
→ Read more at ca.finance.yahoo.com
May 22, 2020
Kakinada: Cyclonic storm Amphan may have caused heavy damage in parts of Odisha and West Bengal, but the rains it brought in its wake helped unearth a treasure trove of silver coins of British India era in a village in north coastal Andhra.
→ Read more at timesofindia.indiatimes.com
Even as some areas of the country are easing quarantine restrictions, the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home. Although the United States has 4.25-percent of the world’s population, it has 33.19-percent of the reported cases of the disease with a death rate of 5.77-percent.
The dangers of the novel coronavirus are not only to older people, who dominate the hobby, reports that younger people who may not have shown symptoms have experienced strokes. Even the youngest children are showing symptoms that resemble Kawasaki disease.
I know it is a financially and mentally tough situation. The business I worked hard to build was beginning to break through when Maryland ordered non-essential companies to close. When I am not working alone to organize a warehouse, I am finding solace in numismatics.
During the last few weeks, I have been reducing the to-be-read pile of books. But I am beginning to run out of books. I am looking for something different. Since I like history and tying history with numismatics, I am looking to learn something new. With a tight budget, I am also looking for something new that does not cost much.
I found four entries to my Quarantine Reading List that are interesting and have taught me something. The best thing about each of the books is that each is available online.
U.S. Mint Modern Era
Other than the formation of the U.S. Mint, there is no single seminal event that marks its history than the elimination of silver from circulating coinage. It is the dividing line between what is considered classical coinage and the modern era.
When you find information about the era, it discusses the discussion and the result that created clad coinage. But when you dig into the policy, there is a bigger story. As with a lot of history, the details help us understand the road to where we are today.
The road to modern coinage began with changes in the laws and policies at the U.S. Mint. The one place that every law and policy announcement documented is in the “Annual Report of the Director of the Mint Fiscal Year June 30, 1965.”
What makes this over 300-page document interesting to read are the details that are no longer present in present-day Annual Reports. The text reprints congressional testimony, reports, announcements, policies, and the laws that affected the U.S. Mint. Since this report covers the last half of calendar year 1964 and the first half of calendar year 1965, it is ideally situated to document the government’s action from silver to clad coinage.
The first numbered page begins with the text of the Coinage Act of 1965.
For those that like charts and data, you can go to page 201 to read the section on “The World’s Monetary Stocks of Gold, Silver, and Coins in 1964.” It is a look at circulating coinage of the entire world for 1964. It is a fascinating view that the U.S. Mint stopped doing in 1972.
Download your copy of this Annual Report → here.
While looking for records about colonial currency, I stumbled on an electronic copy of Description of the Paper Money Issued by the Continental Congress of the United States and the Several Colonies by John W. Haseltine, published in 1872. Haseltine was a dealer, auctioneer, and cataloger of many collectibles, including coins. Many of his catalogs were sparsely illustrated, but the listings have proven invaluable.
Paper Money Issued by the Continental Congress is one of those catalogs. Its contents are nothing more than lists of colonial currency issued in the 18th century. It is a useful reference for anyone with interest in the currency of that era. Download a copy → here.
If you want a colonial currency reference that is more extensive, you can download The Early Paper Money of America by Eric P. Newman → here.
Branch Mints and Gold Coins
Did you know that the Charlotte Mint was the first branch mint outside of Philadelphia? Authorized in 1835 following the gold strike at the Reed Gold Mine, it became operational in 1838. The Charlotte branch mint was closed when the building was seized in 1861 by the Confederacy during the Civil War.
When I wanted to learn more about the Charlotte Mint, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Charlotte Mint Gold Coins, 1838-1861 by Douglas Winter is available to read online or to download. The book is an easy read with illustrations, and a catalog of the coins struck at the mint. You can find the book → here.
The branch mint in Dahlonega, Georgia, opened after Charlotte also to mint gold coins from a nearby gold strike. Dahlonega was also seized by the Confederacy in 1861 and did not reopened.
Gold coins minted at Dahlonega carry the “D” mintmark. Since Dahlonega only struck gold coins and gold coins were not struck in Denver, this has not been an issue. To read about the colorful history of this branch mint, read Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint 1838-1861, Second Edition, by Douglas Winter. The book is similar in format to Winter’s Charlotte book. You can find this book → here.
Winter did write books about the gold coins struck at the New Orleans and Carson City Mints, but I had not read either book at the time of this writing. These books and more free resources are available through the Newman Numismatic Portal.
Contrary to popular belief, you can put metal in your microwave oven. It will not make your oven explode or catch fire. But that does not mean it is a safe thing to do.
Microwaves work by shooting electrons at whatever it finds. The electrons create friction as it passes through the surfaces and generates heat. These electrons cannot pass through a metal surface. When you try to microwave metal, you will see sparks as the electrons skip over the metal surface.
Some chefs have discovered ways of using aluminum foil to direct the electrons to use the skipping electrons to add extra heat to one area of the food. As part of the process, the electrons speed up before finding someplace to go. Another technique is to cover areas to minimize the reaction.
Regardless of how you try to control the flow of electrons, they have to find someplace to go. The reaction is the basis of chemistry. A free electron looks to bond with an atom that has more protons than electrons. It balances the equation.
This basic science lesson is to help explain why you do not want to microwave your currency.
You might have heard that using your microwave oven would help kill the COVID-19 virus. Some research says it is plausible, but the idea is for food. If you have any questions about whether your takeout order is safe, put it in your microwave. You can also heat your food in an oven or on your stovetop. As long as you cook the food to over 140°F (60°C), you will kill most pathogens.
But what happens when you put money in your microwave? It will burn!
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has produced currency notes with a security thread to thwart counterfeiting since 2003. The security thread is a thin ribbon of metal embedded into the currency paper. Hold the currency up to the light, and it will tell you what the denomination should be. On the $100 note, it is a wider strip with a distinct look.
When you microwave money, the electrons will strike the metal thread, pick up speed, and look for a place to land. The next softest material is the currency paper around the security thread. The increase in friction on the currency paper will cause the paper to burn.
Think of it like this: rub your hands together for a few seconds. You will feel your skin begin to heat. Now multiply your hand rubbing by the speed of an electron flying by, and the friction will burn your hands. That is what is happening to the paper.
If you do burn currency paper, bring all the pieces to your bank. The bank will exchange the notes for ones that are not burned and will send them back to the Federal Reserve for disposal.
First, if you are working with collectibles, DO NOT CLEAN YOUR COLLECTIBLE COINS AND CURRENCY! Cleaning collectible coins, currency, tokens, and medals will reduce their collector value. Just don’t do it!
There are many ways you can clean your circulating pocket change. You can wipe them with a disinfectant, including 70% rubbing alcohol or a household wipe that contains alcohol and Dimethylbenzyl Ammonium Chloride (Clorox and Lyson bleach-free wipes contain this chemical). Another method is to wash coins using warm water and a dish cleaning detergent. Finally, leave coins in your pocket when you wash your pants. The only problem with washing coins with clothes is the racket your dryer will make, and you may dent the drum. Currency may require a warm iron to make flat again.
Another method is using ultra-violet (UV) light.
UV light is classified into three categories depending on the wavelength. UV-A is the longest wave length. UV-B is considered a medium wave length. UV-C is the shortest wavelength. It is also the most deadly.
Image courtesy of Phonesoap, a smartphone cleaning device that uses UV-C light.
The short wavelength of UV-C light will penetrate cell walls and kill the DNA within the cells. We are protected from the Sun’s UV-C light by the Ozone Layer of the Earth’s atmosphere. By destroying the Ozone Layer, we let the Sun’s UV-C light penetrate the atmosphere increasing skin cancers.
While UV-C is altering your DNA to create cancers, it is also killing germs using the same properties to alter its DNA.
You can buy lightbulbs that generate UV-C light. However, if you create a UV-C disinfecting station, be careful. Shining UV-C light randomly will cause skin damage worse than a tanning bed. A tanning bed mixes the spectrum of UV light and filter most UV-C light. But a dedicated UV-C light is not good for your body.
Since UV-C light does not generate a lot of heat, you can create an enclosed disinfecting station using almost any material. One example is to create a box using poster board with the edges sealed with duct tape. Cut a hole in the top for the light and then seal the hole with the duct tape. Place your currency inside the box and leave it for 15 minutes.
If you spend a little more money, you could purchase a wall timer. Set the time for the light to turn on after you leave the room and to turn off 15 minutes later. Do not go into the room until the process completes.
There are commercially made devices made with sealed chambers and timers.
Finally, if you want the safest way to disinfect your money, place it in a plastic bag that seals. Close the bag most of the way. Leave about an inch unsealed. Then let the bag sit in a sunny area for about 24 hours. The natural UV-C light will disinfect the money. When you are ready, remove the money and throw the bag away. Use a clean bag for the next round.
Of course, you can avoid all of this by using a credit card that you can clean with a disinfecting wipe when you get home. Contactless payments, like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay are also alternatives to paying with cash.
It’s that time of year, boys and girls. It’s scam time!
All the little suckers
collectors are home captivated by what’s on televison. Let’s see if we can suck them in
catch their eyes to separate them from their money
sell them common material
great coins at inflated
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!
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.
Last month, the American Numismatic Association announced that they have partnered with Numismatic Guarantee Corporation (NGC) to launch the ANA Coin Registry.
According to the ANA press release, the ANA Registry will accept coins graded by NGC and Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). The ANA Registry will be the only service that will allow both NGC and PCGS graded coins.
NGC has been a partner with the ANA for 25-years making it a natural choice to implement this program. Since NGC once allowed PCGS graded coins to count in their registry program, the facilities continue to exist for them to create a similar program for the ANA.
Participation is open to any collector. ANA members will receive a special icon of recognition next to their sets.
What is missing from the registry is the ability to include ANACS and ICG graded coins. Regardless of the opinion of these companies, they are competitive services to NGC and PCGS with a legitimate niche in the market.
By excluding ANACS and ICG, the ANA is telling the public that they decided who the best third-party grading services are. It is not the job of the ANA to pick market winners. Let the collecting public decide.
One advantage that ANACS and ICG has is that there are no memberships required to submit coins for grading. Anyone can directly submit coins to either company. Although ANA members can directly submit coins to NGC without an additional membership, only PCGS members can submit coins for grading.
Allowing open submission policies will allow for more people to participate. They can collect what they like and send it to ANACS and ICG without having to spend extra money or rely on a member. It will create greater access to casual collectors who might become more series if they can participate.
Could there be other reasons for not including ANACS and ICG? Since anyone can submit coins to ANACS and ICG, how will the dealers make money? If a collector buys a coin online or from another collector and sends their coins to ANACS or ICG for grading, how will the dealers make money?
Further, dealers have their own biases. They decided which grading service they like the best based on many factors, including perception and financial reasons. Whatever these reasons are should not be the policy of the ANA.
If the ANA is to fulfill its mission to encourage people to study and collect money and related items, then they cannot be picking market winners and losers. The ANA must revisit this policy and include the entire market without bias.
Over the years, I have heard from many people regarding the problems with mailorder numismatics. Every few months, someone writes and asks about the value of something they bought from a non-numismatic magazine or from something they saw on television.
My answers tend to be upsetting because the market does not value these items as the television hucksters do.
Recently, I wrote about the experience with someone who brought in a box of coins he bought from television and magazines. I described his reaction as “The look on his face when I told him was as if I kicked his dog.” Then I was provided an example of why my words land very hard.
Sunday’s are my day off. Even though I have personal work to catch up on, I will play couch potato and watch television. This past Sunday, I entered the wrong number in the remote and landed on the Fox Business channel.
On the weekend, when the markets are not open, the business channels broadcast other programming. At this time, Fox Business was airing an infomercial for Coins TV.
When I tuned in, the camera was panning a display with graded American Silver Eagle coins. Of course, I stopped to stare at the shiny silver coins. Then I heard the pitch.
The pitchman is Rick Tomaska, owner of Rare Collectibles TV. Tomaska seemed pleasant and appeared knowledgable. His pitch was selling a date run of American Silver Eagle graded MS-69 by NGC for $1,995.00. It almost seemed reasonable until it was made clear that the pitch was for a date run of 31 coins from 1986-2016.
Is $1,995.00 a good deal for the 31 coins? My first instinct was to check the price guides. Since the online Greysheet does not include the retail price for graded bullion coins (why?), I used two other guides: Numismedia Fair Market Value Price Guide and the price guide from NGC. Based on a grade of MS-69, the guides provided the following information based on prices for the 1986-2016 34-coin set:
34 coins @ MS-69
|NGC Price Guide
34 coins @ MS-69
31 coins @ MS-69
But Numismedia and NGC are price guides. Guides are not the retail prices a collector would pay. So we turn to the interwebs to search for “date run American Silver Eagle coins.” The search returned several entries on the first page that was not RCTV.
Taking the top three entries from the search, only one dealer was sold out. The others offered a complete set of 34 coins, 1986-2019, graded MS-69 by NGC for considerably less than Tomaska’s price. To be fair, where there was a difference between the cash and credit prices, I used the credit card price, which is usually higher. Then I searched eBay and sorted for the lowest price. The following is what I found:
||Coins in Set
||Average per coin
|eBay Seller constitutionclct
For the eBay dealer who was charging for shipping, the cost per coin was the lowest even after adding the shipping costs to the total price.
JM Bullion and Mint Products.com are reputable companies. Both firms are worth considering if you do not feel comfortable making this purchase from an eBay seller. Note that these companies will base the price of their bullion coins on the current spot price of silver. Their retail prices may fluctuate.
When you buy from these television advertisements, you will overpay.
To help enforce the issue, the JM Bullion website said that they would buy a complete date set of American Silver Eagle bullion coins for $1,094.12 when I looked up the price. If you purchased the set advertised on television, you would be LOSING $900!
As part of the pitch, if you ordered the set, Tomaska would send a copy of the 4th Edition of American Silver Eagle: A Guide to the U.S. Bullion Coin Program autographed by Miles Standish, the book’s co-author, who was present with Tomaska.
What is sad is that Miles Standish joined Tomaska as part of this infomercial. Although Standish did not assist Tomaska in his pitch for the set, his presence is an appearance of legitimacy. It is similar to the appearance of past ANA President David Ganz on an infomercial. Neither endorsed the product that was being sold, but their presence was used to suggest otherwise.
I would not recommend buying coins or any collectible from a television show. Every collectible I have seen being hawked on television was 45-60 percent over what might be considered wholesale value for its market.
As a small business owner, I would be foolish to criticize someone for making a profit. It’s the Ameican way. However, there is a difference between making a profit and price gouging. It is why I am warning you against purchasing collectibles from a pitch on television.
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!
The found coin, a 1914-D Buffalo Nickel (obverse)
The reverse of the found 1914-D with an alleged “Inverted D” mintmark
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.
A closer look at the “inverted” D 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.
According to PCGS Photograde, this 1921 Buffalo Nickel represents a VG8 grade.
Look at the “D” mintmark on this 1929-D nickel graded F12 as part of PCGS Photograde
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.
PCGS Photograde images courtesy of PCGS and can be found here
This week’s most disturbing story was that a New Jersey man was arrested selling counterfeit gold coins and bars while posing as an officer for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).
Image of fake ATF badge Jonathan A. Kirschner used to lure his victims. On June 25 Kirchner pleaded guilty to impersonating an ATF agent and selling and importing counterfeit coins and precious metals bars.
Jonathan A. Kirschner, 34, of Moorestown, NJ, pleaded guilty to impersonating an ATF agent and unlawfully importing counterfeit coins and bullion into the United States.
Kirschner, who used the alias “Jonathan Kratcher,” sold fake gold bars to a collector for $11,000 in cash. When the collector brought them to a dealer it was determined they were fakes. The dealer reported the incident to Industry Council for Tangible Assets Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force (ICTA ACTF) who reported it to federal law enforcement.
After being caught, Kirschner admitted to also selling 59 fake Morgan dollars and importing the bogus coins and bullion from other countries, including China.
Even though Kirschner had a badge that looked real, it is likely that he did not have a Personal Identity Verification (PIV) card that every employee and contractor to the United States federal government is supposed to carry. Those in the military may also know this as a Common Access Card (CAC). Regardless of the name, the format is the same and should be included with the badge to properly identify the law enforcement officer.
The requirement for PIV cards as a common control came as a result of President George W. Bush issuing Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12) that called for a mandatory, government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification issued by the federal government to its employees and to the employees of federal contractors.
Anatomy of a United States federal PIV card
If you have any question as to the identity of any federal government official, you are allowed to ask for further identification. They must show their PIV card to confirm their identity. When you look at the PIV card, make sure the name and picture match the person in front of you. Also, ensure the agency on the card matches the agency the person claims to be from. It is not enough for the PIV card to say the person works for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS does not do direct law enforcement. It should say that the PIV card was issued by the ATF, U.S. Secret Service, or any other appropriate law enforcement agency including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Before you buy expensive coins and bullion from a stranger you may want to take a lesson from foreign policy: trust but verify.
And now the news…
June 25, 2018
He wore an ATF badge when meeting with his victims to put them at ease, authorities said. → Read more at patch.com
June 26, 2018
Vancouverite Alexandra Lefort’s passions for painting and planetary science came together when the opportunity presented itself to design the Royal Canadian Mint’s latest silver coin.Gr… → Read more at vancouversun.com
June 26, 2018
Fake currency was used in elaborate satanic hoax in Scandinavia in 1970s → Read more at theguardian.com
June 27, 2018
Jonathan A. Kirschner sold fake gold bars and Morgan dollars. → Read more at philly.com
June 30, 2018
If a colonial U.S. coin is jangling in your pocket, consider a visit to Paul Padget’s corner booth this weekend. → Read more at cincinnati.com
June 30, 2018
Since 2006, the metals used to make nickels have exceeded the value of the coin itself. → Read more at qz.com