In this final installment of my look at the U.S. Mint’s current problems, I will translate the expletives I wrote in the margins of my notes into an editorial about what I learned.
The impression left by the U.S. Mint officials I spoke with is that the lawyers had more say over policy than the appointed director or the career executives. When questioned as to why the U.S. Mint did not implement additional cybersecurity measures against Internet robots, the answer was that the lawyers prevented a sound business decision.
I do not know why the lawyers prevented the U.S. Mint from implementing appropriate cybersecurity controls to prevent Internet robots and other abuses. Whatever the reason, it caused the U.S. Mint to violate the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). Ignorance of FISMA put the U.S. Mint’s cybersecurity in jeopardy during a time when the Internet is becoming more dangerous.
When I used to work as an information security contractor for the U.S. government, including with Treasury bureaus, agencies would work in anticipation of the passage of relevant laws. When I worked for the IRS, another Treasury bureau, the lawyers and analysts would work on the implementation requirements for the new law. They drafted everything from new forms to planning for the programming necessary to implement the new law. Other agencies did the same. If the lawyers prevented the U.S. Mint from anticipating the passage of a law, then the lawyers are overanalyzing the law. It is called being pedantic.
Where was the U.S. Mint management? The lawyers are supposed to provide advice. They are not supposed to be the final answer. Even though the U.S. Mint did not have a permanent director until David Ryder was confirmed by the Senate, someone was in charge. Why is that person not held responsible for the problems?What has David Ryder been doing since his confirmation in April 2018? During his confirmation hearing, Ryder spoke about his experience with the security of coinage. Why is he not concerned about the security of the U.S. Mint’s cyber assets?
Has Ryder even worked on the security of U.S. coinage? Criminals are duping the collecting public by peddling counterfeit American Silver Eagles. Why has the U.S. Mint not implemented security features in the American Eagle program? If the security of the physical currency is Ryder’s specialty, why has he not implemented it to protect the public?
This is not Ryder’s first rodeo. He was appointed the U.S. Mint director in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush. Ryder should understand how the government works. But his performance during his current appointment and the decisions he has made have the numismatic public questioning his competence.
When someone writes a critical opinion piece, they should provide possible solutions. In this case, I am not sure that any suggestion would work. The U.S. Mint does not listen to the collecting public. When they feign interest, the people who try to be responsive move along with the political winds, and new appointees ignore the lessons of the past under the guise of “Not invented here.”
A common problem among political appointees is that they come into any job thinking they know better than career appointees. It causes them to ignore the past and rediscover previous mistakes. I spent a career fixing the security problems caused by mistakes made by appointees.
I wonder if a civilian advisory board would help the U.S. Mint? The board would consist of experts in numismatics and government processes. But it will give the bureau someone to blame if something goes wrong because if I learned nothing else from my 25 years working for the government, career executives and appointees are collectively risk-averse.
The U.S. Mint announced the new ordering procedures for upcoming silver products and that there will be changes to the bulk purchase system. Most collectors met both news items with a collective yawn.
For many years the U.S. Mint has promised improvements for the collector and access to their products. During that time, the collecting public held their collective breaths hoping that they will get it right. After failing to show progress, collectors are not optimistic.
According to the U.S. Mint, the problems are a low supply of planchets and Internet robot ordering on a broken ordering system. The supply issue has acceptable reasons external to the Mint. The broken ordering system and managing against the bots is the direct responsibility of the U.S. Mint.
Even if they fix the ordering and distribution systems for the upcoming product, it will take a long time for the U.S. Mint to gain the trust of collectors.
And now the news…
Stories that do not appear on the front page of the printed edition or the top of a website rarely receive the attention of the headline writers. Unless there is a murder or other major crime, most local crime stories do not earn over-the-top headlines. This week’s news has three examples of mundane headlines that display a concerning pattern about counterfeit coins and currency.
Counterfeit money has been a problem since its invention. Governments try to stop criminals from counterfeiting, but their efforts almost seem inevitable. The new trend appears to be the small-time criminals caught trying to make money from selling fake money to survive.
Recent stories about the arrest of counterfeiters report that the people are not career criminals trying to get rich. Those who are getting arrested are using the counterfeits for survival. The world economy has deteriorated to the point that buying and selling counterfeit money was worth the risk to buy a scooter to use as primary transportation.
The people caught passing counterfeit money admit it is not a mistake. In the statements to the police, they admit to using counterfeits to fill to earn a survivable living. Authorities continue to look for the distributors of the counterfeits.
And now the news…
The rest of the Board of Governors will consist of:
- Mary Lynn Garrett
- Clifford Mishler
- Shanna Schmidt
- Michael Ellis
- Rob Oberth
- Charles Morgan
- Mark Lighterman
Although this was not my choice for leadership, I will support them for their two-year term. The President, Vice President, and the Board of Governors deserve the support of the entire membership regardless of what you thought about the election.
In responding to the last election, I wrote, “The ANA is at a critical juncture in its modern history. There is a societal change happening that is affecting many hobbies and traditional institutions.” Rather than the situation getting better, it has only heightened the urgency.
The reaction to the pandemic showed that the ANA is an organization bogged down by people with old ideas and very little creativity when it comes to adapting to the changing culture. The ANA and its Board of Governors were dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century to survive and not because they wanted growth.
At the time, the ANA looked clueless because the leadership of the Board of Governors was clueless. When they took the reigns off the people at the ANA headquarters, it was evident that they were working in the Association’s best interest despite the Board’s dysfunction. While the people at the headquarters were helping the ANA to survive while working from home, the Board seemed lost.
As I said two years ago, the status quo is no longer acceptable. Zoom is yesterday’s technology and not something to use to build a future. There are better technologies that have emerged from the pandemic that the ANA can use to expand its outreach.
In addition to the technology, the ANA must become a leader in consumer protection for the hobby. For the last year, the number of Chinese counterfeits has increased. Scammers are using new tactics to fool buyers into thinking they are getting a deal on silver coins. Rather than help the public, the ANA has been silent.
The ANA must be the organization to lead the effort against these counterfeits. They can partner with National Coin & Bullion Association (formerly ICTA) and the Professional Numismatic Guild (PNG) to create a nationwide anti-counterfeit education program. A plan can be formulated by the fall, with a national education program occurring shortly after.
President-elect Ross made his platform about education. Here is the first idea to make an educational impact for the ANA.
Overall, 19,027 ANA members were eligible to vote in this election. That is down from 19,737 in 2019. There were 5,560 votes cast, representing 29.22 of the eligible voters. That is down from 31.06 percent in 2019.
Fewer members and fewer voters are just one legacy of this past Board of Governors. If the ANA does not find ways to better engage with members and draw in new members, these numbers will be reduced in 2023.
If members have ideas that could help the ANA, let them know what you think. As a member, your input carries weight, and you should be able to participate. When you do write, please keep it respectful and include your membership number.
It is your ANA. Your ANA needs your input. Support the new Board and help them find their direction.
Note About the Makeup of the Board
Following the announcement, there were two persistent comments appearing in my Inbox about the demographics of the Board of Governors. I am very disturbed by the comments.
I do not subscribe to the idea that a person is not qualified for the job because of demographic characteristics. I never have. This is not because I am “woke,” but this is how I have been for as long as I can remember.
I will not respond well to a statement like, “I don’t like this person because…” and insert some ridiculous demographic reason. Let us all get along and work together to make the ANA better.
On April 14, 2013, I posted my 1,000th article.
Today, July 6, 2021, I am posting my 2,000th article!
When I started this blog, there were few websites for coin collectors. Numismatic publications were barely online. Their web presence was used to lure subscribers to their print editions. Since starting this blog, there has been a growth in numismatic news outlets and other information. I welcome everyone who has joined me online.
It has been 6,003 days since my first post. That translates into 16 years, 5 months, and 8 days. Over that time, many of those producing numismatic information has come and gone. However, after 2,000 posts, I am still here as the sole author of everything posted here.
I did not know what would happen as I kept writing, but I never thought about reaching 2,000 or lasting more than 16 years!
To those who have been around from the beginning, thank you for staying with me.
To those who joined since the beginning, thank you for reading.
The week’s surprise news is that the Certified Collectibles Group (CCG), Numismatic Guarantee Corporation’s (NGC) parent company, sold a majority stake in its company to a private equity firm.
The report notes that the deal with The Blackstone Group was for more than $100 million and places CCG’s valuation at more than $500 million.
In November 2020, a group led by D1 Capital Partners purchased Collectors Universe, the parent company of Professional Coin Grading Service, for $700 million. D1 then took the company private in December.
Private equity firms (PEF) like The Blackstone Group and D1 Captial Partners work to bring together clients use the power of their capital and influence to invest in companies. They take over the companies with the intent of growing them and increasing their profits.
Although private equity firms will infuse the businesses with money, they are not known to do what is best for the industry they enter. They are strictly bottom-line focused. Companies purchased by a PEF have deteriorated because they paid too much for the company and have to pay off that debt and assume the liabilities of the company they purchases.
Another big problem with a PEF is the turnover of staff. The PEF will look to have its people run the businesses in a manner that may not sit well with current employees. When key executives start to leave, it is an indication that the shift in the business culture has begun.The previous week, PCGS announced that President Brett Charville has announced he will be leaving the company. Charville became PCGS president in January 2019, succeeding Don Willis. The press release did not mention Charville’s future, nor was there any announcement from another numismatic-related organization announcing his hiring. Based on the history of executive interactions with private equity firms, it is likely that Charville is the first key executive of Collectors Universe to experience the impact of being purchased by a PFE.
The top two grading services owned by private equity firms question what will happen to the collecting hobbies? Will NGC continue its relationship with the ANA? Will the push for these companies to make more money cause a loosening of grading standards? Or will these firms now have the money to increase the use of technology to enhance the authentication process? Whatever is going to happen, the transition begins this summer and likely will not be felt until the end of the year.
And now the news…