Weekly World Numismatic News for October 10, 2021

The weekly numismatic news report is late for the same reason the U.S. Mint cannot run an ordering system. It seems that the dangers to online systems are growing.

Every week, I am receiving reports from collectors being scammed by Chinese counterfeiters. People are providing pointers to websites and other sellers that are pushing counterfeit coins. The most common coin is the American Silver Eagle.

Last week, the parent company of HiBid, one of the largest online auction platform after eBay, was struck with a ransomeware attack. HiBid was taken down Thursday, September 30 through Monday, October 4. To add insult to injury, HiBid crashed again on Sunday, October 10 because bidders overloaded their systems.

As I am looking for new business opportunities, several eBay sellers are also looking for alternate selling venues. They are complaining about how eBay has handled the conversion to charging sales tax collection. New programs do not include the small sellers. Although eBay has always preferred high-volume sellers, now they are adding programs to benefit those that sell high-value items. And some sellers are reporting driven crazy by eBay’s new payment system.

With all this happening, then how does one buy online? I have been buying from eBay. It has been a convenient way to find interesting out-of-print numismatic books and tokens from New York. My other buying venues have been the U.S. Mint, the Royal Mint, and Apmex.

Maybe it’s time to look for other purchase venues.

 October 5, 2021
Two men have denied charges relating to a Viking hoard of historically important coins and silver worth almost £1m. Roger Pilling, 73, and Craig Best, 44, appeared before Durham Crown Court to plead not guilty to all charges.  → Read more at news.sky.com

 October 5, 2021
Over 600 coins unearthed in a field in western Zealand will initially go on display at Sorø Museum before moving to the capital It has emerged that a significant silver coin treasure from the late Viking Age has been discovered in Denmark.   → Read more at cphpost.dk

 October 6, 2021
A pensioner's secret stash of rare coins has sold for a staggering £185,000 at auction – well over double the estimate. John Cross, 72, from Canterbury, died with few knowing of his extraordinary collection, which has been described by experts as among the most important of its kind outside any UK museum.  → Read more at kentonline.co.uk
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The $1 Trillion Coin Will NEVER Be Struck

(Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

The $1 trillion coin concept turns up like a bad penny.

Also turning up are all pundits, politicos, reporters, and sycophants explaining why the U.S. Mint should or should not strike the coin. The problem is that EVERYONE IS WRONG!

Let’s look at the FACTS.

FACT: Before a coin leaves the U.S. Mint, the purchaser must pay for the coin.

The Federal Reserve purchases business strike coins at face value. The money is deposited in the U.S. Mint’s Public Enterprise Fund.

Collectors pay for collector coins through the U.S. Mint’s retail and e-commerce operations. When the money is collected, they deposit the funds in the U.S. Mint’s Public Enterprise Fund.

FACT: The United States Mint has successfully argued in court that a coin is not legal tender until it is paid for.

After the U.S. Mint discovered the existence of several 1933 Double Eagle coins that were supposedly melted, the Secret Service investigated and seized several coins. Through the 1950s, government lawyers argued that the coins were government property since the coin was never monetized.

During the case of the Farouk-Fenton double eagle coin, the government used the same argument. Even though there was an export license for the coin issued to King Farouk of Egypt, the government maintained that the lack of monetization made the coin illegal.

As part of the $7,590,020 paid for the 1933 Double Eagle in 2002, $20 of the purchase price was paid to the U.S. Government to monetize the coin. When Sotheby’s sold the coin in June for $18,872,250, the coin came with a certificate from the U.S. Mint declaring its Legal Tender status.

If the U.S. Mint does not monetize a coin until someone or entity buys it, then how will striking a $1 trillion coin help anything?

Even as crazy as government generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) may appear to the commercial market, Government GAAP still requires double-entry bookkeeping. In double-entry bookkeeping, if an asset is added to one part of the ledger, there must be a debit on another.

Forget the political arguments about the debt. When the government needs money, it sells bonds to finance its obligation. The bond is the created asset, as the coin. The asset is purchased, adding cash to the general treasury. In bookkeeping terms, an asset entry and an associated debit entry.

Who is going to buy the coin?

The Federal Reserve is not going to buy the coin. Bonds, warrants, and other investments have tangible returns. The investments have value and can be traded on the equity markets keeping the books balanced. What happens if $1 trillion is tied up in a non-investing asset?

If the Federal Reserve buys the coin, the general treasury may see a $1 trillion windfall, but the Federal Reserve will have $1 trillion less economic power. It is $1 trillion less in short-term loans to large financial institutions and quantitative easing that is keeping the economy in control.

If the Federal Reserve buys the $1 trillion coin, it will create a $1 trillion hole in the economy.

The U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the monetary value of all goods and services, is estimated at $22.675 trillion. Taking $1 trillion out of the economy will reduce the economy by 4.4-percent.

As the Great Recession of 2008 raged, the GDP lost 1-percent of its value by 2009. If a one percent drop caused the most significant economic calamity since the Great Depression, what will happen if the GDP contracts by more than 4-percent?

Of course, Congress can pass a law that changes how the U.S. Mint determines the legal tender status of coinage they manufacture. But the likelihood of that happening is about the same as the U.S. Mint striking a $1 trillion coin.

Weekly World Numismatic News for September 26, 2021

David J. Ryder, Director of the U.S. Mint.

The news of the week came on a Friday night news dump by the Treasury Department, announcing that David J. Ryder will resign as U.S. Mint Director as of September 30, 2021. Alison Doone will become the U.S. Mint’s Acting Director.

Ryder served as the 34th and 39th Director after being appointed by two different administrations. Ryder came into this term touting his work with physical money security. During his confirmation hearing, Ryder said he worked for Secure Products, a company focused on developing anti-counterfeiting solutions for currency and branded products. Ryder also testified that he was involved in developing the Royal Mint’s new 12-sided one-pound coin.

The U.S. Mint claims security measures built into the new American Silver and Gold Eagle coins. However, there do not seem to be breakthroughs similar to those used by the Royal Mint and Canadian Royal Mint on their bullion products.

Ryder may want his legacy to be introducing new products, but the public will remember the colossal failure of the U.S. Mint’s e-commerce system. As Director, he was supposed to oversee the entire operation and not just one aspect. Those failures will weigh on his legacy.

Alison Doone is a career civil servant who entered the Senior Executive Service (SES) in 2004. After working at several other agencies, Doone served as the Mint’s Chief Administrative Officer since March 2021.

The Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 requires the president to send a nomination to the Senate within 90 days to fill a vacant position. During that time, an acting director can serve in that role for only 180 days. As we saw in the 2,629 days (7 years, 2 months, and 13 days) between the resignation of Edmund Moy and the confirmation of David Ryder, the government has ways to get around the law to maintain operational consistency.

And now the news…

 September 17, 2021
If artifacts could talk, we’d love to hear this one’s tale.  This pierced German coin from the 17th century was recovered during a systematic excavation at the Jacob Jackson Home Site, part of Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park (HATU).   → Read more at nmscarcheologylab.wordpress.com

 September 17, 2021
Readers of a certain age will remember the florin, or flóirín as it was in Irish. Those of an uncertain age will even recall when it was Ireland’s two-shilling coin, complete with the leaping salmon of Percy Metcalfe’s classic 1928 design.   → Read more at irishtimes.com

 September 22, 2021
The coin, known as the Triple Unite, was minted in Oxford in 1643 during the English Civil War and had the value of 60 shillings, or three pounds.  → Read more at bbc.com

 September 23, 2021
LAKE MARY, Fla. – A Florida teenager recently made a spectacular find while on an ocean dive: a rare gold coin believed to be from the 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet.  → Read more at fox35orlando.com

 September 24, 2021
(CNN) — Two amateur free divers have found one of the largest collections of Roman coins in Europe off the east coast of Spain. Luis Lens and César Gimeno were diving off the island of Portitxol in Xàbia on August 24 when they found eight coins, before further dives by archaeologists returned another 45 coins, according to a press release from the University of Alicante on Tuesday.  → Read more at edition.cnn.com
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 New Name for ANA Accolade (Sep 21, 2021)

 

Stop me if you’ve heard this before…

I like big silver coins.

Some like gold. Others like copper. I like silver.

Since 1986, I have been collecting American Silver Eagle Proof coins. It is a collection my later father started for me and, until 2019, purchased the individual proof coins. I supplemented the collection with the special sets that the U.S. Mint issued, but it is a nearly complete set of proof coins in their original government package.

Although I have to find the 1995-W anniversary set for the elusive 1995-W American Silver Eagle, I have been trying to keep the collection up to date. It is why I hung up on a business call to make sure I was logged in to the U.S. Mint website to purchase the Reverse Proof Two-Coin Set.

By 11:58 AM, I was on the page for the set. As the time counted down to noon, I refreshed the page waiting for the Add-to-Bag button.

I am probably not the only one pushing the refresh button two minutes until noon. Until the Add-to-Bag button appeared, the system was responsive. Of course, the page was likely cached by Cloudflare or my ISP (Comcast), but it was responsive. At the stroke of noon, all that ended.

The first thing we notice is that someone rebranded the Cloudflare gateway error page. Although I do not have inside information, I would bet that Cloudflare told the U.S. Mint to make it so that they don’t get blamed.

I wonder if Cloudflare demanded the U.S. Mint rebrand their gateway error page so that they don’t get the blame?

Another change is the HTML file that appeared as a text file. Under Safari, the file type kept downloading the information to my Downloads folder. Under Firefox, one of the systems in the chain treated me to a small HTML file.

Under the hood HTML output as a web page?

Somehow, a set made it into my bag, and I made it to the checkout page. I couldn’t use my stored credit card because I would see the Bad Gateway error. The card was next to me, and I furiously typed.

Suddenly, there was a new error. I don’t know what it means, but the U.S. Mint’s programmers did not know how to handle that error. How do I know that? The error message provided said so.

This is a new error. In my days as a programmer, we would be chastised for this type of error message!

According to several reports, the website crashed at the beginning of the process. It was difficult to tell, but the U.S. Mint admitted there were problems. They announced that there were products available at 1:19 PM on social media.

After stubborn persistance, I received the confirmation of my order at 12:48 PM.

I asked the U.S. Mint for comment. I will let you know what they say.

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.

POLL: Are you collecting 2021 coins?

New Change Find: a 2021 Roosevelt Dime

In my day job working within the collecting world, there are two hobbies whose collectors have arguments about which way is best. Comics collectors argue whose universe is better. Most of these arguments are Marvel versus DC comics, but there are interested collectors in the smaller and independent (indy) publishers. But you can go to a Comicon and find that the differences are all in fun.

U.S. numismatics collectors are different. On one side, there are the collectors of old coins. If the coin was not circulated and made of precious metals, then it is not worth collecting. They look at modern coins as “trinkets” or not worth their time. The rest of us will happily collect modern (post-1964) coins and the new issues by the U.S. Mint.

As an aside, my company sells sets of 50 State Quarters for higher prices than in 2019. Although there is an active market for this material, they sell for less than collectors paid in the 2000s.

Enough people are collecting modern material that the Treasury Inspector General has noticed the problems collectors have experienced with ordering from the U.S. Mint. Modern products are selling out as fast as they are offered, and premiums are rising 100-percent and higher on the secondary market.

For this poll, I am asking if you are collecting the coins produced by the U.S. Mint in 2021, then what are you collecting?

As always, your comments are welcome!
 

Are you collecting the new releases from the U.S. Mint?










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Inspector General to Investigate the U.S. Mint

According to Coin World, the Treasury Office of Inspector General (OIG) “may” investigate how the U.S. Mint has handled the sales of limited-edition numismatic collectibles. Coin World may have confirmed information provided to me on background.

Although the web-based ordering has sort-of worked, I reported on the systemic issues facing the U.S. Mint in moving forward. In summary, my investigation found:

  1. The alleged silver shortage was not a shortage of silver but a failure of the U.S. Mint to manage its supply chain properly.
  2. The U.S Mint’s insistence that Internet robots (BOTs) were the cause of their web-based issues was the symptom of a more significant problem that they have not learned from their past mistakes.
  3. The U.S. Mint’s management managing like they were afraid of repercussions because the lawyers said so. The way it sounded, the U.S. Mint management was not managing but taking instructions. If they cannot manage, should they be replaced by lawyers?

An investigation by the Treasury OIG is an excellent first step. But experience has shown that an OIG report does not guarantee that U.S. Mint will fix the problems. I have seen government managers and appointees say all of the right things and do little to nothing.

It might require an act of Congress to fix the U.S. Mint. If it requires an act of Congress, don’t hold your breath waiting for changes.

Weekly World Numismatic News for August 15, 2021

Although this past week was the World’s Fair of Money, there was not much news surrounding the event. According to individual reports, people said that it was a good show even with the COVID precautions. It was similar to reports from The National, which was held in the Stephens Convention Center the week before.

The week’s biggest news was the U.S. Mint publishing the lot numbers used to label the boxes with the American Eagle bullion coins.

Until last year, the U.S. Mint has not identified where they strike the American Eagle bullion coins. Spokespeople emphasize that since their production is for the investment market, the mint location is not relevant. Of course, collectors view the market differently. Dealers and third-party grading services have tried to determine where the coins were struck based on shipping labels and other factors. Although they are reasonably sure, there are mistakes in their assumptions.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the West Point Mint to close temporarily. To keep up with production, the U.S. Mint struck 240,000 bullion coins in Philadelphia. The third-party grading services asked the U.S. Mint about the production of these coins. Rather than leave the industry guessing, the U.S. Mint identified which boxes contained American Silver Eagle bullion coins struck in Philadelphia. As a result, the third-party grading services accurately noted the origin of the bullion coin on the label of their slab.

U.S. Mint Error Label on American Silver Eagle bullion boxes

The U.S. Mint reports that some of the boxes marked with “BF” should not have the “F” since they were not part of the first production run.

Without the industry asking, the U.S. Mint released the lot information about the American Eagle bullion coins this year. Making this remarkable is the U.S. Mint broke published the lot numbers for the Type 1 and Type 2 reverses for both the silver and gold bullion coins. In fact, they noted that a few boxes had labeling errors incorrectly marking some of the coins as part of the first production.

Although the U.S. Mint has claimed it was always considerate to the collector community, it is the first time they voluntarily provided this information without prompting. Could the U.S. Mint finally be learning from past mistakes? Time will only tell.

American Eagle Bullion Lot Information

And now the news…

 August 9, 2021
The 2,600-year-old site produced highly standardized “spade money,” possibly on government orders  → Read more at smithsonianmag.com

 August 9, 2021
'Remarkable' collection of 52 Tudor, Stuart and Commonwealth coins is set to sell for £500,000 at auction — including a Henry VIII coin struck in tribute to his first wife Catherine of Aragon  → Read more at dailymail.co.uk

 August 11, 2021
A scavenger hunt at a Talmud-era village in northern Israel took a surprising turn on Tuesday when an Israeli girl found a 1,500-year-old bronze coin.  → Read more at israelhayom.com

 August 11, 2021
While out camping with family on the beach, Yotam Dahan discovers 13-pound lump of coins from about 1,700 years ago which archeologists speculate belonged to a merchant ship that wrecked ashore  → Read more at ynetnews.com

 August 11, 2021
TEHRAN – Iranian authorities have seized some ancient coins from an illegal digger in the western province of Ilam, the provincial tourism chief announced on Wednesday.  → Read more at tehrantimes.com
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