Royal Mint video show their striking standards

Royal Mint Striking Standards

Royal Mint Striking Standards

The Royal Mint, an institution that can trace its history back over 1100 years, has produced a video describing their striking standards for bullion coins. The video titled “What is the difference between Proof, Brilliant Uncirculated and Bullion coins?” interviews some of the people on the multi-step journey to create the dies and strikes for different bullion coins.

As part of the article and video they discuss the differences between the three types of uncirculated commemorative coin finish: Proof, Brilliant Uncirculated, and Bullion. For the Royal Mint, proof are the highest standards followed by brilliant uncirculated then bullion.

While this may be intuitive to experienced collectors, novice and new collectors may be confused by the difference. The Royal Mint does a very good job at explaining the difference in a short, well produced video. It should be interesting to the beginning and expert collector to see how another mint does their work.

Image and video courtesy of the Royal Mint.

ANA Election Results

American Numismatic Association Executive Director Kim Kiick announced the official election results. Since the president and vice president ran unopposed, these offices are as follows:

Jeff Garrett (Lexington, KY)

Vice President:
Gary Adkins (Minneapolis, MN)

For the Board of Governors, there were four incumbents running who were re-elected. Of the three other seats vacated by Gary Adkins (who became Vice President), Scott Rottinghaus, Jeff Swindling and Laura Sperber (who did not seek re-election), one is making a return to the Board of Governors, the current president rejoins the Board, and the board adds one new member. The ANA Board of Governors is as follows:

Board of Governors:
Col. Steve Ellsworth, Ret. (Clifton, VA) – 3,705 votes
Dr. Donald H. Kagin (Tiburon, CA) – 3,451 votes
Walter Ostromecki Jr. (Encino, CA) – 3,319 votes
Dr. Ralph Ross (Sugar Land, TX) – 3,222 votes
Greg Lyon (St. Louis, MO) – 2,982 votes
Thomas A. Mulvaney (Lexington, KY) – 2,746 votes
Paul Montgomery (Oklahoma City, OK) – 2,407 votes

The candidates that were not elected are as follows:

  • Brian Hendelson (Bridgewater, NJ) – 2,221 votes
  • Christopher Marchase (Colorado Springs, CO) – 2,006 votes
  • Oded Paz (Arco, ID) – 1,950 votes
  • Richard Jozefiak (Madison, AL) – 1,872 votes
  • Steve D’Ippolito (Peyton, CO) – 1,844 votes

In the event that any of the new board members cannot serve, the next-highest vote-getter will fill that seat for the rest of the two-year term.

The new board members will be sworn-in at the annual ANA Banquet on Friday, Aug. 14, at the World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, Ill. Garrett will become the Association’s 59th president, succeeding current President Walter Ostromecki.

COMMENTARY: All men and only one minority. No wonder hobby participation is shrinking. Only the investors and speculators are fueling the top end. Sure, there may be some kids, but there is no outreach to girls and minorities making it appear that the hobby is not welcoming. I hope this is something that can be addressed sooner rather than later!

Finally, if you want to see the announcement, you can watch it here:

Why 7.2 billion notes

Bureau of Engraving and PrintingLast week, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing announced that the Federal Reserve had ordered the printing of 7.2 million Federal Reserve Notes for Fiscal Year 2015. This represents over $188 billion in currency.

According to the Federal Reserve, the number of notes they order depends on the predicted growth in demand and the predicted number of notes that have to be destroyed because they are not usable any more. Both growth and demand are predicted to include world-wide usage of the United States Federal Reserve Note as it is the standard currency for many transaction. In addition to the demand and destruction is the predicted replacement of the old $100 Federal Reserve Note with the new note that has more advanced currency features. While the Federal Reserve will not recall the old $100 notes, they are removing them from circulation as they arrive back into the Federal Reserve system.

The following table is how the Federal Reserve says they broke down their order for 2015:

Denomination Number of Notes Dollar Value
$1 2,451,200,000 $2,451,200,000
$2 32,000,000 $64,000,000
$5 755,200,000 $3,776,000,000
$10 627,200,000 $6,272,000,000
$20 1,868,800,000 $37,376,000,000
$50 220,800,000 $11,040,000,000
$100 1,276,800,000 $127,680,000,000
Total 7,232,000,000 $188,659,200,000

Included with the order are the notes that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing will sell to collectors. These are the same notes that collectors can purchase online at and when the Bureau of Engraving and Printing attends shows.

As part of the announcement, the Federal Reserve released a video explaining how they decide the amount of currency to order.

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Video courtesy of the Federal Reserve and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing

U.S. Mint previews new online catalog

United States MintAfter a few years of playing with the look-and-feel of their website, the U.S. Mint is in the process of redesigning and reprogramming their online catalog.

Face it, the U.S. Mint has not been the paragon of customer service. Their website and fulfillment process has been severely lacking. There were times when the site would crash after releasing high demand products including the limited edition American Eagle anniversary coins. Other than the re-skinning of the site, the U.S. Mint web presence has been a disaster.

Beginning in fiscal year 2014 (October 2013), the U.S. Mint awarded a contract to PFSweb to streamline fulfillment and re-design the web-based catalog and ordering service. The new website is due to be released at the beginning of fiscal year 2015 (October 2014). However, the impact of PFSweb has been felt with the better processing of online and telephone orders.

On September 9, the U.S. Mint released a video giving a preview of the new website. It maintains the color scheme the U.S. Mint has been using while adding flatter elements that have become the in-style of today’s website. According to the video, there will be a virtual tour coming soon. I will keep an eye out for that announcement.

In the mean time, here is the U.S. Mint video:

Change for a Dollar

Time has come that there is once again change coming to the money in your pocket. This one is so subtle that you may not even notice the difference.

Changes to the $1 Note

Changes to the $1 Note

Last week, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing announced that as part of new cost savings measures, BEP will be producing the $1 Federal Reserve Note using a process that prints 50 notes per sheet rather than the old 32 units. The 50 note sheets will be Series 2013 notes and feature the signatures of the Secretary of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew and Treasurer of the United States Rosa Gumataotao Rios. The ever so slight but significant design change will be to the note-position identifier.

For those who do not collect currency, the note-position identifier is the little letter followed by a number that identifies where on the sheet the note was printed. On the $1 FRN, the note position identifier is on the left side of the front of the note under the “1” and next to the Federal Reserve branch number.

Change in the Note Position Identifier

Change in the Note Position Identifier

On the new 50 note sheets, the note-position identifier will feature a code with both the letter and number the same size. The only way to determine whether the note was printed on a 32-unit sheet or a 50-unit sheet is by looking at the note-position identifier.

As part of this change, the BEP is also changing the position identifier code mechanism. On the 32 note sheets, the notes printed four-across and eight-down were divided into four eight-note blocks (or quadrants). Each block was given a number in columns where the top-left quadrant was #1, the bottom left was #2, top-right was #3, and bottom-right was #4. Within the quadrants, the note positions were lettered A-D in the first column and E-H in the second column. If you found a note with the note-position code of H3, the note would have been printed in the fourth row and fourth column of the sheet.

The new 50 note sheets simplifies the note-position numbering by assigning a letter to each of the 10 rows (A-J) and a number to each of the five columns. On this sheet, H3 would now be located on the eighth row and third column.

Position Identification layout of 32-note sheet

A1 E1 A3 E3
B1 F1 B3 F3
C1 G1 C3 G3
D1 H1 D3 H3
A2 E2 A4 E4
B2 F2 B4 F4
C2 G2 C4 G4
D2 H2 D4 H4
Position Identification layout of 50-note sheet

A1 A2 A3 A4 A5
B1 B2 B3 B4 B5
C1 C2 C3 C4 C5
D1 D2 D3 D4 D5
E1 E2 E3 E4 E5
F1 F2 F3 F4 F5
G1 G2 G3 G4 G5
H1 H2 H3 H4 H5
I1 I2 I3 I4 I5
J1 J2 J3 J4 J5

BEP has begun to deliver the new notes to the Federal Reserve currency distribution operations in all 12 Federal Reserve district branches. These new notes will enter circulation as per the policies of each branch. BEP has not said whether they will sell the 50-note sheets as part of their uncut currency products.

The $1 FRN is the first note to be printed on 50-note sheets. Over time, the BEP will transition the printing of other notes to 50-note sheets with the only design change being the subtle change in the note-position identifier.
As part of this change, the Federal Reserve created a video explaining the changes. You can watch the video here:

Images courtesy of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Baseball gold is called out

2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Proof $5 gold coin obverse

2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Proof $5 gold coin obverse

The U.S. Mint reports that the $5 gold National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin has sold out. It may be the fastest sell out of any gold commemorative coin in the modern commemorative era lasting only through the first weekend.

It has been speculated that the U.S. Mint will strike more coins than the law (Public Law 108–291 [PDF]) allows on order from the Secretary of the Treasury. No official decision has been announced by either the U.S. Mint or the Department of the Treasury. However, it is questioned whether it is legal for the Secretary to make this decision unilaterally or requires an act of congress. There seems to be evidence that someone had previously approved an increase for the 2005 Marine Corps Commemorative dollar, but there is no authoritative source for proof.

Collectors who have contacted me are not happy with the U.S. Mint. Many believe that the high limit (50 coins per “household”) was too high. When I posted images of the graded baseball coins, several commented that they felt that dealers “abused” their access to the immediate supply of coins that were available in the U.S. Mint booth at the Whitman Baltimore Expo that many collectors did not have a fair chance.

None of my correspondents would bemoan a dealer’s ability to make money on the secondary market. But to do so by taking advantage of the U.S. Mint’s inability to manage its market as the lone producer of U.S. commemorative coins was considered excessive by many. Although I sympathized with their point of view since I could not purchase one for my collection, I questioned whether the U.S. Mint has an obligation to just sell the coins or satisfy market forces. But as many pointed out, the U.S. Mint is a government agency and has a responsibility to the people of the United States and not just the corporations.

While at the Whitman show I spoke with one of the U.S. Mint employees who said that they should have limited the number of coins someone can purchase at one time. Although they did enforce lower limits on the supply of coins sold on Saturday, the damage had been done leaving collectors to scramble to buy the coins on the secondary market or order them online. Those of us who order the coins from the U.S. Mint online catalog will have to wait until June 21, according to the notice sent to me. However, the website is saying that the proof dollar is backordered until July 7 while the clad proof half-dollar is will be available on April 10.

Cassie McFarland holds up Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Dollar with her design

Cassie McFarland holds up Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Dollar with her design

Like many of my correspondents, it is difficult to believe that anyone at the U.S. Mint would be afraid that this commemorative would not sell. A simple search using your favorite search engine would have shown that the coverage of the striking of the first curved coin in U.S. Mint history was seen world wide. Even the image of Cassie McFarland, the artist whose design was selected for the obverse of the coin, holding one of the first strikes in her gloved hand was reproduced on news outlets throughout the world. You cannot buy that kind of publicity.

We are talking about baseball, America’s pastime. America’s game. Regardless of the accepted story of its founding, it is generally accepted that Major League Baseball was founded in 1869 making it the oldest organized league in North America. Not only was the coin released just before Opening Day for 2014, but the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball have been promoting this coin since the bill was signed.

To even hint that this was going to be a situation like the failure of the 2013 Girl Scout Commemorative would be very short sighted and foolish.

Maybe the U.S. Mint should review its sales processes than chase after pattern coins.

In the mean time, the U.S. Mint published a B-Roll for the National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative.

Coin image and B-Roll footage courtesy of the U.S. Mint.
Image of Cassie McFarland courtesy of the San Francisco Examiner.

Be on television, claim your 15 minutes of fame!

Installation of Vote McGovern and Mao paintings at the Warhol Museum.

Installation of Vote McGovern and Mao paintings at the Warhol Museum.

When you ask people what comes to mind when you mention Andy Warhol, usually the first thoughts are of his pop-art pieces like Campbell Soup cans, Marilyn Monroe, and even one of Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong. Warhol was an artist of phenomenal commercial success whose art and life fit the times which he lived.

Warhol was also a bit of a philosopher. His unique views were often quoted and made profound by the utter simplicity of his ideas. If you read his 1977 book, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, you will get a sense of his philosophy and a look at what the world was like in the mid-1970s.

Philosophers are usually considered weird or crazy until history gets to look back and see how profound they really were. This is the case with Andy Warhol. Arguably his most famous quote was, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Warhol said this in 1968, almost 35 years before social media and reality television would change how people became famous.

Are you looking for your 15 minutes of fame? Do you want to be on television with a real speaking role and not as part of a videobomb? Then I have learned of an opportunity for you.

If you have unique coins or currency or anything numismatic that you want to sell and want to be on television, then you can be on the History Channel hit series Pawn Stars at the World’s Famous Gold and Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas.

Gold and Silver Pawn ShopRecently, I had been contacted by one of the casting assistants from the production company that produces Pawn Stars looking for people to be on the show. They are looking for unique items and sellers to come into the shop. Not only will you be able to sell your item, but you will do it on television and meet the Pawn Stars. Maybe you can even meet the newly slimmed down Chumlee!

According to Left Field Pictures, the show’s production company:

If you will be visiting the Las Vegas area soon and have an amazing or unique item that you would like to sell on the show, we want to hear from you! Email us at:

Be sure to include the following info:

  • Your Name
  • Contact number
  • Description of your item (the more info the better!)
  • Detailed Photos of your item

If you and your item qualify and are selected, you could meet the Harrison’s and be on Pawn Stars!

PLEASE NOTE: the above information is required for all items in order to take them into consideration. We cannot offer appraisals for items that do not appear on the show.

Some of the numismatic items I have seen on the show include encased postage, a collection of Republic of Texas currency, rare tokens issued by mining companies to their employees, and shipwreck gold coins. I have also seen Charmy Harker, The Penny Lady, on the show. You might have seen Harker’s exhibit “Penny Potpourri” at recent coin shows, she appeared on Pawn Stars in 2012. She tried to sell a World War II-era aerial bomber camera to Corey. It was quite a treat to see someone you know on television!

If you appear on the show, contact me. Not only do I want to hear about it but I would like to interview you about your experience. Take some pictures and I will extend your 15 minutes of fame here!

Image of the Warhol Museum courtesy of the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
Gold and Silver Pawn Shop logo courtesy of the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop.

Kids can do the best work

Last week, the U.S. Mint announced the winners of the Kid’s Baseball Coin Design Challenge from their website and on YouTube. The announcement was made by U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios, who has been the most active Treasurer with the collector community.

Since children 13 and under were not allowed to compete for the National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coin, a program was set up to allow youngsters to participate. Here is the announcement video from Treasurer Rios:

Frankly, forgetting the fact that these are children and their drawing is not refined, some of these kids had better concepts for coins than some of the adults. Considering the winner of the adult contest was a college student (or a recent graduate) maybe younger designers are the future of coin design. Judge for yourself, here are the three winners of each age group:

I wonder if the winners could be introduced to Heidi Wastweet, medal artist who is also a member of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. I visit her website to admire Wastweet’s work and wonder why she’s on the CCAC and not designing coins and medals for the U.S. Mint. Can you imagine if any of these kids can get lessons from Wastweet? We would be looking at great future for coin design if this could happen.

One can only dream.

Winning coin images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

New $100 bills released

New $100 Federal Reserve NoteWith the fanfare of a hard cough, the Federal Reserve released the new $100 Federal Reserve Note on Tuesday, October 8, 2013 to financial institutions. Various factors will effect how quickly these notes are seen in circulation including the demand and ordering policy of the financial institutions. In fact, the launch was introduced with a video by Sonja Danburg, Program Manager of the U.S. Currency Education Program at the Federal Reserve.

This launch is three years in the making as Bureau of Engraving and Printing reported problems with folding during the printing of the new notes. The announcement on April 21, 2010 said that the new notes would be released on February 10, 2011. On October 1, 2010, the Federal Reserve announced that the new note would be delayed. Later, the folding problems were revealed following a report released by the Treasury Office of the Inspector General.

The reason for the new notes are for the addition of security features. Aside from the ecurity thread, portrait watermark, color-shifting ink, microprinting, and the strategic use of color, the new note has a 3-D security ribbon and the use of color-shifting ink used to reveal a bell in the inkwell. If you look at the blue ribbon on the front of the note, tilt the note and watch the bells on the ribbon change to “100s” as the reflection of light changes. The 3-D ribbon is embedded in the paper and not printed. Looking at the copper-colored inkwell on the front of the note, tilting the note will reveal a bell that was embedded using color-shifting ink. Using these light sensitive features, the Federal Reserve hopes to significantly reduce the number of counterfeit notes, especially overseas where half of the $100 notes are known to circulate.

The Federal Reserve released a video about the new anti-counterfeiting features:

As an aside, the Bank of England recently announced that they will be transitioning to polymer banknotes by 2015.

Baby don’t you want to go


Come on, Baby don’t you wanna go
Hidehey, baby don’t you wanna go
Back to that same old place
Sweet home Chicago

Few things make me happier than music. I have been listening and playing music since I was young and learned to play the clarinet in elementary school. This was before I learned about collecting coins. As I get ready to fly to Chicago for this year’s World’s Fair of Money I keep hearing the Blues Brothers singing “Sweet Home Chicago!”

I don’t care what the critics say, the Blue Brothers is one of my favorite guilty pleasure movies!

While you have image of Jake and Elwood Blues dancing on the stage at the Palace Hotel with the Chicago Police and the Good Ol’ Boys looking for justice and revenge, I am on my way to the Windy City to join other American Numismatic Association members in this year’s convention.

Over the next few days, I will be tweeting from the convention center. You can either follow @coinsblog on Twitter or use the widget on the right side of this page. I will also be adding pictures to Pinterest on the board I set up for this show. I will also try to provide a daily update here.

In the mean time, did you know that Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the designer of the last $20 gold double eagle and $10 eagle coins made for circulation also created statues that are in Chicago?

Stay tuned for reports from Chicago!


  • Chicago collage is the box cover of the “Sweet Home Chicago” puzzle from Buffalo Games.
  • Clip from the Blues Brothers is probably copyrighted by someone but it’s on YouTube and now linked here.
  • Images of the statues by Augustus Saint Gaudens from the blog Public Art in Chicago.

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