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Category: Commemoratives

Finding Numismatic History in Unlikely Places

By Dan Duncan – Pinnacle-Rarities

Ezra Meeker – Champion of the Oregon Trail

Over the summer months our numismatic travels took us to great historical cities like Boston and Philadelphia. And this week we travel to Baltimore, another city rich in early Americana. Of course, across the nation there are local historical sites and, more specifically, sites of numismatic interest. Over the last 200 plus years, our mints have aided the extraction from a number of precious metal lodes. Now many of the once thriving businesses are gone, with a few remaining as mint and mining museums or historical landmarks.

Each place chronicles a rich history founded in capturing natural resources and refining them into tangible representations of our history. Living in the Northwest, we are thousands of miles from any of these sites. While some old mines exist in the state, the real history of Washington State lies in the old growth forests. The “American” history of the region is for all intent and purpose quite young. But, sometimes you don’t have to look far to find a piece of numismatic lore right in your own back yard.

Recently we took the family to a large state fair located in the city of Puyallup (pyoo-al-uh p). One of the town’s principal founders was a pioneer who travelled to the Oregon Territory in the mid-nineteenth century. He eventually settled in the foothills of Mt. Rainier. This man was Ezra Meeker. His contributions to the northwest are many, but he is best remembered nationally for his extensive work on having the Oregon Trail marked.

According to the Meeker Mansion website, “Ezra Meeker became the self-appointed champion of the Oregon Trail in 1906, when at the age of 76, accompanied by two oxen, a wagon, a driver and a dog, he made his way from his front yard to Washington D.C., by way of New York City.”

Meeker first took the Oregon Trail as a young man in 1852. A true pioneer, Ezra was lured by the promise of the new territories. Finally settling in a valley below Mt. Rainier, Meeker cleared his own land and eventually became an internationally successful hops farmer. His travels included a stint in Europe and a couple forays into the Alaskan territories.

Meeker was obviously impacted by his early trip out west. He had a connection to the Oregon Trail. He recognized it as a part of American history and felt it should be cherished and preserved. In his mid-seventies, he harnessed his oxen and retraced his steps from some 50 odd years ago in a Conestoga wagon. He deemed this trip the Oregon Trail Monument Expedition Trip. During this trip he promoted the trail awareness, lectured, handed out pamphlets and eventually gained a lot of publicity. Meeker met with Teddy Roosevelt, who agreed in principle to in some way recognize the Oregon Trail, but the bill died in Congress.

After returning to his home, Meeker wrote an acclaimed book on the subject entitled The Lost Trail, Meeker again braved the 2,000 mile trail with an ox drawn wagon in 1910. He was again to promote its preservation, but this time he intended to map the route. He was in favor of a transcontinental railroad along a similiar course, which he also intended to lobby for. Despite completing the trail, and the map, his second trip was somewhat of a failure. When he arrived out East he was contacted by the Senate and told not to come to D.C. After some other tribulations, he found his way back to Washington State. He continued to campaign, worked on a movie, lectured and published another book – Ox Team Days. Eventually he’s instrumental in the formation of the Oregon Trail Memorial Association. Through that organization he petitioned Congress getting final approval for the Oregon Trail Commemorative in 1926. The proceeds from the distrubution were used to mark the trail. (more…)

The Royal Mint’s Three Gold Coin Set to Commemorate the London 2012 Olympics

Faster Three-Coin Set to Commemorate the London 2012 Olympics

The Royal Mint launches its limited edition Gold Series – an exclusive three themed set created in fine 22 carat gold only. Inspired by the Olympic motto Faster, Higher, Stronger, the ‘Faster’ Series is the first set to go on sale in celebration of the 30th Olympiad in London 2012.

Including the rare £100 coin – the highest denomination for a coin available – the prestigious Gold Series is the ideal high-end memento of the first UK Olympics for over sixty years. With only 4,000 of these sets available to buy globally, this unique set is accompanied by an individually numbered Royal Mint certificate denoting the limited mintage of these coins and ensuring their high value investment in years to come.

The Faster Series coin set is presented in a luxurious hardwood walnut case with the Olympic Rings inscribed in gold foiling on the lid. The second and third three-coin sets of this singular collection, representing Altius (Higher) and Fortius (Stronger) will be available to purchase later in the countdown to London 2012.

Inspired by the classical heritage of the Olympic Games and combined with modern sporting achievement, each of the three coins in the distinctive Faster collection feature a different Roman God reflecting the first strand of the Olympic motto ‘Citius’ or ‘Faster’: Neptune, the God of the Sea, (1oz) watches over the sport of sailing; Diana, the Goddess of Hunting, (1/4oz) overlooks modern cyclists and Mercury, the God of Speed, (1/4oz) is depicted alongside track athletes.

The obverse of the coin has been designed by Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS with the Olympic reverse designed by sculptor John Bergdahl, who looked at both the classical and contemporary interpretations of the Olympic Games. Bergdahl explained: “The Olympic ideals span more than two and a half thousand years of history so I took inspiration from combining the classical ideology of the ancient Gods with images of modern athletes in modern attire and equipped with modern technology. And who knows, maybe those same Gods will still be smiling down on us in London 2012.”

Dave Knight, Director of Commemorative Coins, commented: “The Gold Series is incredibly exciting for us; it is the only collection in our London 2010 coin programme to feature the iconic Olympic rings and is the first ever £100 UK coin not featuring Britannia. As the name suggests, the collection is exclusively in gold and will not be available in any other metal. All these factors come together to make the Series highly prestigious and highly desirable. With the Faster set being the first launch from The Gold Series, I have no doubt that global demand will be incredibly strong and sell out quickly.” (more…)

Coin Profile: An Analysis of The Johnson-Blue Collection of Liberty Head Eagles

by Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

Every few years, an auction takes place that gives me a bad case of “Dinosaur Syndrome.” By this, I mean the coins bring so much more than what I bid that I think to myself that I’m a dinosaur and am out of touch with current Numismatic Reality. After I talk myself out of this and take a deep breath or two, I find that analyzing the sale is a useful tool for my bruised psyche.

Just prior to the 2010 Boston ANA convention, Stack’s sold a specialized group of Liberty Head eagles that they named the “Johnson Blue” collection. These coins were interesting for a number of reasons. First of all, they were clearly fresh to the market and, I am told, many of them were purchased by the consignor back in the 1980’s. Secondly, the coins mostly had original surfaces with a nice crusty appearance; a welcome change from the usual processed better date Liberty Head eagles that one sees available in today’s market. Finally, there were a number of dates that you typically don’t see much anymore (such as 1863, 1864 and 1865) in grades that were above-average.

I had a feeling that this was going to be a strong sale, but the final results were pretty stunning to me. In some cases my bids were close to winning a lot; in other cases they were laughably distant from the eventual final bid. Let’s take a look at some of the more significant eagles in this collection and ponder on their prices.

1842-O, Graded MS61 by PCGS. Lot 1094.

Stack’s sort of underplayed this lot in the catalog, but New Orleans eagle collectors knew that this was a special coin. There are just three Uncirculated examples known to me and this fresh example had excellent color and surfaces. The last Uncirculated piece to sell was Superior 5/08: 103, graded MS61 by NGC and pedigreed to the S.S. Republic shipwreck. It brought $29,900 but I discounted this price as the coin was not attractive. But given this prior sales record, I bid $40,000 for the Johnson-Blue example and thought I had a decent shot of buying it. I wasn’t even close. The coin brought $74,750 which, to me, is an incredibly strong price and one that shows me the depth of this market.

1848-O, Graded AU55 by PCGS. Lot 1101.

This was a nice example of a date that isn’t really all that rare in the higher AU grades. I figured it would grade AU58 at NGC. There have been at least seven different auction records between $5,000 and $6,000 in the last six years for AU55 coins and a nice AU58 is worth $7,500 to $8,500. This coin brought $12,650, or around double what I would have paid. And results like this set the tone for the whole evening. (more…)

Coin Profile: The Farouk-Norweb 1915 No S Panama-Pacific Half Dollar in Gold

One of Only Two Known

Heritage will be offering one of only two known 1915 P50C Panama-Pacific Half Dollars struck in Gold (Judd-1960 PR64 NGC) during the Boston ANA Signature Sale in August Lot # 13007.

The design is the same as the regular-issue 1915-S Panama-Pacific commemorative half, but lacking the normal S mintmark. Struck in gold with a reeded edge. Other S-less Panama-Pacific half dollar patterns are also known in silver and copper. These extremely rare patterns were clearly clandestine strikes, produced at the Philadelphia Mint before mintmark punches were applied to the working dies. There are two known examples of the gold half dollar, both struck on cut-down, struck Saint-Gaudens double eagle coins. Similar examples are known of the 1915 Panama-Pacific gold dollar and of the round and octagonal fifty dollar pieces, all lacking the S mintmark. The website USPatterns.com comments of the pieces, “These could be die trials but it seems that they were really struck for profit.”

Pollock comments in his United States Patterns and Related Issues:

“Farran Zerbe, who was involved in the coining and distribution of the Panama-Pacific commemoratives in California, has been quoted by Walter Breen as saying that specimens ‘may have been struck as trial pieces at the Philadelphia Mint by the instructions of the Secretary of the Treasury, who was a coin collector.’ The Secretary of the Treasury at the time was W.G. McAdoo of New York, a name familiar to students of U.S. paper money.”

Anthony Swiatek, in his Commemorative Coins of the United States (2001), writes much more unequivocally concerning the 1915 Pan-Pac half dollar, “Extremely rare trial pieces, made at the Philadelphia Mint, were struck without the S Mint mark. Two were created in gold, six in silver and four in copper for Treasury Secretary William Gibbs McAdoo–a coin collector!”

Further along, Pollock records his notes on the present specimen:

“Careful examination of the Farouk-Norweb coin [the present coin, listed as No. 2 in the Census below] reveals planchet file marks and traces of an undertype, indicating that the half dollar dies were impressed on a cut-down $20 gold coin, which had been filed to remove high-relief details. This piece is remarkably thick: 2.4 mm at the edge versus 2.1 mm for a regular-issue Panama-Pacific half dollar.

“The characteristics of the coin suggest that it was made clandestinely. Since the piece is overstruck instead of being made using a new planchet of normal thickness, it can be inferred that there was a desire on the part of the manufacturer that no mention of the piece be made in the bullion account books, and thus it may have been produced secretly at the Mint in the same manner as the 1913 Liberty nickel or the Class III 1804 dollar. The only other known example of the variety [listed as No. 1 below] is reportedly also struck over a cut-down $20 gold piece.” (more…)

The Original Commemorative Quarter

1893 Isabella QuarterContent Partner: Pinnacle-Rarities

We’ve entered the last year of the popular modern commemorative quarter program. For better or worse, all fifty states have created designs and the final mintages will hit the nation’s cash registers during the remainder of the year. While I find these final five designs attractive, they (like their modern predecessors) lack the historical depth and symbolisms many of their classic commemorative cousins encompassed. And, as I look over the 2008 proof set that just crossed my desk, my mind goes back to the original commemorative quarter.

The 1893 Isabella Quarter, was created for the Columbian Exposition. $10,000 of the funds intended for the Board of Lady Mangers at the Expo was delivered in the form of forty thousand of these commemorative quarters. The board had been formed at the urging of woman’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony, who felt both genders should be represented in the managerial makeup of this great national project the expo had become. The inclusion of a coin to commemorate female contributions to industry seems almost trifling by today’s standards. But the Woman’s Suffrage movement was full steam ahead at the time. In fact, women didn’t legally win the right to vote until Colorado adapted an amendment to allow them to do so, during this year, 1893. A cause Anthony had championed over the previous two and a half decades. What seems like just a novel idea now, was a veritable coup at the time. The quarter served not only to raise money for the cause, but as a sort of name recognition ad for the woman’s rights movement. And it fueled the growing fires of suffrage. The coins were to be sold at the fair for $1 each. A premium over face that was obscene to some. For this and a variety of other reasons, thousands went unsold during the fair. The balance was slowly sold off to dealers during the coming decade.

The dies were prepared by Charles Barber, presumably from sketches done by Kenyon Cox. Later research has brought this into question. But regardless of where the original ideas came from, the coin is wrought with symbolism – especially the reverse. The use of a monarch on the obverse is somewhat controversial, but considering what event the coin was supposed to commemorate, it was a natural choice. Queen Isabella was the backing Christopher Columbus needed to fund his adventure. The reverse is simply described in most numismatic literature as a kneeling woman holding a distaff, the spool used to hold unspun cotton. This image is now reported to represent “woman in industry.” This may be the case but, Barber’s image would have meant a lot more to the people in his time. (more…)

Thematic Collecting of US Silver Commemorative Coins

By Kathleen Duncan – Pinnacle Rarities

The silver commemoratives produced between 1892 and 1954 are remarkably adaptable in terms of collectibility. Most collectors assemble a standard fifty piece type set which includes a single example of each basic half dollar type plus the Isabella quarter and the Lafayette dollar. This set can then be expanded to fifty-three coins with the addition of the basic major varieties: 1921 Alabama 2×2, 1922 Grant With Star and the 1921 Missouri 2×4. Taking this a step further, the collector can assemble a complete 144 piece set which contains an example of the branch mint and multiple year issues, where applicable.

What about the more casual collector who likes silver commemoratives but who doesn’t have the resources (or perhaps level of interest) to delve this deeply into these issues? We recommend thematic (or topical collecting) which is very popular in the field of stamps and which can be very well adapted to silver commemoratives.

In a nutshell, a thematic collecting of silver commemoratives takes a group of approximately four to six coins which are tied together by a basic theme. Four examples which we find appealing are as follows:

(NOTE: Because of the relative availability of these coins in lower grades, we suggest the collector stick to PCGS or NGC graded examples in the Mint State-66 to Mint State-67 range. The values listed below are for attractive, nice quality coins.)

I. Civil War Issues

There are a number of commemorative half dollars that are related to battles or great leaders of the Civil War. Listed alphabetically (along with the year in which they were issues), these are as follows:

* Antietam (1937). This issue was produced to commemorate the 75th anniversary of this epic Maryland battle. It is a very affordable coin with nice MS-66 examples currently valued around $750-1,000 and MS-67’s at $1,350-1,650. (more…)

An Introduction to Commemoratives Coins

By Kathleen Duncan of Pinnacle-Rarities

Texas Commemorative Half DollarThis is the place to start learning if you’re unfamiliar with US Commemorative Coins.

What are commemorative coins, you ask?

Commemorative coins are coins issued by the US Mints to recognize the achievements of the Nation. The are coins, and not medals or medallions, because they are monetized, they have a face value and can be used as money, for example a half dollar coin. They differ from regular issue US Coin because they are are struck primarily for collectors, rather than to circulate as money although they are legal tender. Most commemorative coins were struck in conjunction with a large exhibition and festival where they were sold for collectors. The legislation allowing for the issuance of these coins normally also assigned an agency to oversee the distribution or sale. These coins were sold to collectors at a premium to their face value, say $1.00 for a half dollar coin. The two main uses of the proceeds of sale were to raise money for a monument to be built or to defray the costs of the celebration.

How to collect commemoratives.

Between 1892 and 1954, there were just 50 different silver commemoratives and nine different gold issues authorized by Congress and produced. Because many of these coins were issued for multiple years, were struck at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints, and were issued with subtle design variations, there are a total of 144 different silver coins and 13 gold commemoratives.

When collectors buy one coin of each design, they are assembling a Type Set. This is the most popular way to collect silver commemorative coins, the 50-coin set. Most collectors of gold commemoratives will purchase the nine gold dollars and two quarter eagles ($2.50 gold coins) and build a set of 11 coins. Excluded are the two scarce Panama-Pacific $50 issues – visit the Panama-Pacific Gold Commemoratives page by using the scroll-list above to learn why. With that said, there is no one way or best way to collect US commemorative coins. Collectors owe it to themselves to take ownership of their own collections. They should buy what they like and what is interesting to them. Many advanced collectors choose to buy only the five issue related to the Civil War, to buy the ten coins with ships on them, etc. There are nine issues that relate to the western United States, and this has always been a particularly interesting yet overlooked subset. (more…)

Finest PCGS Certified 1915-S Panama-Pacific $50 Round Gold Commemorative to be sold in Baltimore

The highest-denomination Commemorative coins ever struck in the United States Mint, the 1915-S Fifty-Dollar gold pieces were produced for sale at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915. Ostensibly held to celebrate the completion and opening of the Panama Canal, the Exposition also provided the city of San Francisco with an opportunity to showcase its revival after the devastating earthquake of 1906.

The Fifty-Dollar gold pieces were authorized by Congress with a specified mintage of 3,000 coins. This figure is further subdivided into 1,500 examples each for the octagonal and round types. Both exhibit essentially the same design, the obverse with a bust of the goddess Athena (Minerva in Roman mythology) wearing a crested helmet pushed back on top of her head. The goddess holds a shield upon which is inscribed the date 1915 in Roman numerals MCMXV. The field above the central device is inscribed with the motto IN GOD WE TRUST, the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is above and the denomination FIFTY DOLLARS is below. The use of Athena is due to her status as the goddess of wisdom, skill, agriculture, horticulture, spinning and weaving–all of which are critical to the economy of California.

The reverse depicts Athena’s owl–symbol of wisdom–perched atop a branch of ponderosa pine. The Latin motto E PLURIBUS UNUM is present in the field behind the owl, the inscription PANAMA-PACIFIC EXPOSITION is above and the city SAN FRANCISCO is below. The octagonal pieces, but not the round coins, display an extra inner border with a dolphin device that signifies the continuous waterway created through the opening of the Panama Canal. The coin’s designer is Robert Aitken.

The price for Exposition attendees was $100 per Fifty-Dollar gold coin, a sum that also entitled the buyer to an example of the Panama-Pacific Half Dollar, Gold Dollar and Quarter Eagle at no extra charge. A complete five-piece set could be had for $200. These asking prices were apparently too high, however, and many examples of both the octagonal and round Fifties were eventually melted as unsold. The net mintage for the octagonal variant is just 645 coins, while that for the round type is a mere 483 pieces.

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Ten Most Significant U.S. Commemoratives Coins

By Thomas K. DeLorey – Copyright – Reprinted with permission. Harlan J Berk

Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries

When asked to write an article on the ten most significant U.S. commemorative coins for this issue, I chortled and thought to myself what an easy assignment this was going to be! I had just that day finished reading galleys for the commemorative coin section of the Coin World “Comprehensive Catalogue and Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins” edited by David T. Alexander and myself, and all of the material was fresh in my mind.

However, when I went back over the listings with a consideration in mind of their national importance rather than a straightforward documentation of them, I suddenly realized how hard it was going to be to find ten pieces that were truly significant! After weeding out the 14 state commemoratives and most of the town, county, island, mountain, trail, bridge and music center commemoratives, there were scarcely ten pieces left that were both national and significant. Here’s what I came up with, though you might disagree.

Number one on my list is the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition half dollar of 1892 and 1893, in part because the fact that Columbus landed in what we now call “the Americas” in 1492 was one of the major historical events of the last millennium, and in part because it was the first U.S. commemorative and set the stage for all that followed, good or bad.
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The second 100 Euro coin in the gold series “Crowns of the House of Habsburg” Released by Austian Mint Today

A Hat fit for a Prince The Crown of an Austrian Archduke

austrian_mint_crown_gold_110409The second 100 Euro coin in the gold series “Crowns of the House of Habsburg” will be released on Wednesday, 4th November. It is dedicated to the so-called “Archduke’s Hat”, a name derived from the red velvet cap within the crown itself.

The title of archduke was invented by Rudolf IV in the spurious document of 1358/59 called the privilegium maius. It was an attempt to assert the status of the House of Habsburg as the equal of any Prince Elector of the Holy Roman Empire. There exists a mediaeval portrait of Rudolf wearing a crown similar to the Archduke’s Hat. Early versions of the crown have not survived, being either broken up or melted down. In 1616, however, Archduke Maximilian III of Tyrol had the present Archduke’s Hat fashioned and he gave it to the Augustinian Abbey of Klosterneuburg just outside Vienna in honour of St. Leopold, whose tomb and shrine are still situated there to this day. The crown was not worn as such. There was no coronation. It was rather a symbol of authority and rank. It was brought into Vienna only for the ceremony of homage paid by the Estates of Lower Austria on the accession of a new Habsburg ruler. Even today the crown is not permitted to be outside the walls of the abbey for more than 30 days at a time.

The Archduke’s Hat is a diadem of eight golden peaks decorated with enamel, pearls and precious stones. Two pearl encrusted arches hold a sapphire mounted by a cross at their intersection. In the crown itself is a red velvet cap and the diadem is embedded in a circle of ermine, copying the hats worn by the Prince Electors. On the accession of a new ruler the crown was brought in procession into Vienna, conveyed in its own sedan chair. Along with other pieces of regalia such as orb and sceptre, it was presented to the new ruler and then carried in solemn procession from the palace to St. Stephen’s Cathedral for High Mass. (more…)

COLLECTING STRATEGIES FOR CLASSIC COMMEMORATIVES

by Kathleen Duncan of Pinnacle Rarities

pinnacle_commems_092409Between 1892 and 1954, there were 50 different silver commemoratives authorized by Congress: 48 Half Dollars along with a single Quarter and Dollar. Because many of these were issued for multiple years, were struck at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints, and were issued with subtle design variations, there are a total of 144 different silver coins that constitute the Classic Silver Commemorative category. Many of the coins were designed in contest by important sculptors and among them are some of the most creative examples of coinage art in all of numismatics. They also form an instructive history course of our nation, as each commemorates an important event.

Commemoratives differ from regular issue coins as they are struck primarily for collectors rather than to circulate as money, although they are legal tender. Most Classic Commemoratives were struck in conjunction with a large exhibition and festival. These coins were sold to collectors at a premium to their face value, typically to raise money for a monument to be built or to defray the costs of the particular celebration. The very first such exhibition was the 1892 Chicago World’s fair, which produced the 1892 Columbus Half Dollar, honoring the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World.

Silver Commemoratives can be assembled in nearly an endless number of ways, in all price ranges, making them an easy area to pursue. Purchasing one of each of the 50 unique designs is referred to as a type set. The ambitious pursuit of a complete set requires one of each of the 144 dates and mintmarks referenced above. If you prefer a less daunting task, you can choose among any number of sub segments to match your particular interests.
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Bassano Commemoratives to Highlight Los Angeles Offerings

Heritage’s pre-ANA Auction in Philadelphia in 2000 featured the wonderful Mercury Dime Collection of then New Jersey State Senator C. Louis Bassano. No coin in that set graded less than MS65 FB, and all the regular issues after 1934 were MS67 FB. Total prices realized were an incredible, chart-busting 274% of Bluesheet bid — and that didn’t even include his five wonder-gems that were off the Bluesheet charts! After the auction, Senator Bassano wrote to us: “Let me just say it: UNBELIEVABLE! The prices that Heritage realized… were simply unbelievable…. That Heritage sold my coins for double the most optimistic price that I had dreamed was equally unbelievable — at least until I received the check!”

Heritage is honored to now offer The Louis Bassano Collection of U.S. Commemoratives as a part of our 2009 August Los Angeles, CA US Coin Auction, taking place July 30-August 1. Every one of the nearly 150 beautiful coins in this collection grades MS66 or higher.

Senator Bassano was one of the most important and beloved figures in New Jersey politics. A three-decade veteran of the Legislature, he was first elected to public office in 1971, serving four terms as a Representative, and then more than two decades in the Senate. He garnered dozens of civic awards and honors for his service, and wrote many laws protecting public health and safety, focusing on issues affecting children, senior citizens, and the disabled.

His interest in old coins started during the 1950s, as his father’s business generated a tremendous amount of coinage. At the age of 8, he joined his Dad in searching for 1932-dated quarters. As he grew older, he continued to search through circulating coinage, working on sets of Walking Liberty halves, Mercury dimes, and silver dollars, key-date quarters, and other classic 20th century rarities. His appreciation for his coins stems from his enjoyment of history, “evidenced by travels to Rome, Greece, and Israel,” which he described as the “triangle of ancient civilization.” Coins are also an important part of American history, and he believed that “no series captures American history like the classic silver commemoratives.” (more…)

First Coin with Readable Braille Launches on March 26

Louis Braille Silver DollarUnited States Mint Director Ed Moy will present the Nation’s first coin with readable Braille at 10:00 a.m. on March 26, at the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. NFB President Marc Maurer will join in the presentation of the 2009 Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar, along with invited guests that include mathematician and inventor Abraham Nemeth; and National Aeronautics and Space Administration Assistant Administrator for Education Joyce Winterton. NFB first Vice President Frederic Schroeder will serve as the event’s Master of Ceremonies. The presentation includes a special videotaped message from U.S. Senator Christopher J. Dodd, one of the sponsors of Public Law 109-247-the Louis Braille Bicentennial-Braille Literacy Commemorative Coin Act.

The United States Mint, authorized by Public Law 109-247, is issuing the 2009 Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar to honor the life and work of the man who invented the Braille method of reading and writing by the blind that has allowed millions of blind people to be literate participants in their societies. The Public Law also provides that a portion of the proceeds from the sales of the commemorative coins is authorized to be paid to the NFB to further its programs to promote Braille literacy.

The 2009 Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar features a portrait of Louis Braille on the obverse (heads side). The reverse (tails side) design depicts a child reading a Braille book. The word INDEPENDENCE is displayed on a bookshelf behind the child and the word Braille, abbreviated BRL in Braille code, is featured in the upper field. (more…)

Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin Designs Unveiled

United States Mint Deputy Director Andrew Brunhart today unveiled designs for the 2009 Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Silver Dollar during the annual Dedication Day Ceremony at Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The unveiling took place on the 145th anniversary of the dedication of Soldiers’ National Cemetery, where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address in 1863. Renowned historical documentary director Ken Burns, Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania Vice President Ronald L. Hankey and Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission (ALBC) Co-Chairman Harold Holzer also participated in the ceremony.

“It is my great honor to represent the United States Mint on the 145th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address,” Deputy Director Brunhart said. “It is also my great privilege to introduce the designs for the 2009 Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Silver Dollar to the American people.”

The obverse (heads side) of the Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Silver Dollar was created by United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program Master Designer Justin Kunz and sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart. The image, symbolic of Lincoln’s strength and resolve, was inspired by Daniel Chester French’s famous sculpture of the President that sits inside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Inscriptions on the obverse are LIBERTY, IN GOD WE TRUST and 2009.

The coin’s reverse (tails side) was designed and executed by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill. The design features the following inscription: WE HERE HIGHLY RESOLVE THAT THESE DEAD SHALL NOT HAVE DIED IN VAIN – THAT THIS NATION, UNDER GOD, SHALL HAVE A NEW BIRTH OF FREEDOM – AND THAT GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE, SHALL NOT PERISH FROM THE EARTH. These immortal words-the last 43 words of the Gettysburg Address-are encircled by a laurel wreath. Above the wreath is the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Below the wreath, Lincoln’s signature is incused in the center of a curling banner. ONE DOLLAR and E PLURIBUS UNUM are incused on either side of his signature. (more…)

Unusual Items: 1915 50C Pan-Pac Half Dollar in Gold

1915 50C Pan Pac in Gold1915 50C Panama-Pacific Half Dollar, Judd-1960 (previously Judd-1793), Pollock-2031, R.8, PR64 NGC. Die trial issue of the 1915 Panama-Pacific half before the S mintmark was added. Struck in gold with a reeded edge. This remarkable coin is one of only two pieces known and its illustrious pedigree goes back as far as Virgil Brand.

The story of this coin is best related in the Pollock reference. Pollock had carefully examined the #1 specimen, the Farouk-Norweb coin, but the same history and mysterious circumstances apply to this piece: “…planchet file marks and traces of an undertype, indicating that the half dollar dies were impressed on a cut-down $20 gold coin, which had been filed to remove high-relief details.

NGC InsertThis piece is remarkably thick: 2.4 mm at the edge versus 2.1 mm for a regular-issue Panama-Pacific half dollar.

“The characteristics of the coin suggest that it was made clandestinely. Since the piece is overstruck instead of being made using a new planchet of normal thickness, it can be inferred that there was a desire on the part of the manufacturer that no mention of the piece be made in the bullion account books, and thus if may have been produced secretly at the Mint in the same manner as the 1913 Liberty nickel or the Class III 1804 dollar. The only other known example of the variety, listed as No. 2 in our census (this piece), is reportedly also struck over a cut down $20 gold piece.”

Close examination shows fine file marks that presumably would have effaced the design of the double eagle. However, a small remnant of the undertype survives on the reverse with a faint trace of what appears to be an O and a period to its left, located between the H in HALF and U of UNITED.

Ex: Virgil Brand; B.G. Johnson; Celina Coin Co.; A. Friedman; 1979 ANA Sale (New England, 7/79), lot 1365, where it realized an amazing $27,000.
From The Sound Beach Collection. (#62267)

Sold in the Heritage 2003 November Signature Sale #334 Lot 11252 for $165,000

Unusual Items: 1903 Louisiana Purchase Cardboard Die Trial

Die Trial on Cardboard 1903 Louisiana PurchaseEditors Note: Every now and then we come across a numismatic items that we might have heard about but never seen, or in some instances had no knowledge of at all. This of course may be more of a function of our limited expertise than the fact that the item(s) is truly unique. So at the risk of being called a “dumb ass” (not the first time), we are going to create a new News category called “Unusual Items“. This will be an eclectic collection of the not-so-common items we stumble across during our daily search for worthwhile news and articles, and we hope that you will find this as informative and entertaining as we do.

These impressions in yellow cardboard measure 40 x 32 mm and show the obverse imprints of both the Jefferson and McKinley gold dollars with a slightly different pattern reverse.

Andrew Pollock assigned two numbers for this piece, apparently believing the obverses were on one card and the reverses on another. They should have received only one number.

NGC Holder with Cardboard Die TralThere are two examples known, but the second is very different from this piece. The other contains both obverses and six different reverses. That piece is permanently impounded in the Smithsonian.

This is the only cardboard impression available to collectors.

Cardboard impressions are obviously rare but they date back to 1849 for the gold dollar. Other impressions include the 1851 three cent silver, and the Isabella quarter (obverse and reverse). The reason for the Isabella strikings is evident from the writing on the back of each card: They are first strikings from the new dies. One might easily assume the gold dollar and three cent silver impressions were for the same purpose.

The purpose here is somewhat more enigmatic. With a pattern reverse included on this card, it is likely this was produced before the first day of issue, as a first day of issue would surely have included the adopted reverse.

The cardboard has a rich, deep gold color, obviously meant to suggest the gold dollars that were soon to be struck. Deeply impressed. Regarding condition, this piece is essentially as struck with no scratches or surface problems worthy of mention.

Used with Permission from CoinLink Content Partner Mike ByersMint Error News 

Antarctic Explorer Proof Coins Issued to Celebrate International Polar Year

Antarctic Explorer Proof CoinsThe Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland today (3 September) issued its 2008 €5 silver proof coin and the €100 gold proof coin to celebrate International Polar Year. The coins feature two famous Irish born Antarctic explorers Ernest Shackleton and Tom Crean. Their stricken vessel ‘The Endurance’ is also pictured in the distance on the coins trapped in the packed ice of Antarctica.

This is the first time the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland has issued a half troy ounce (15.55 grams in weight) gold coin denominated in Euro, with a legal tender denomination of €100.

In keeping with tradition, the national side of the coin depicts the 14 string Irish harp modelled on the ‘Brian Boru’ harp in Trinity College, Dublin. As an addition to the national side of the coin, a laurel wreath, a traditional symbol of excellence and integrity, surrounds the harp. The coins have been designed by renowned Irish artist, designer and medallist Thomas Ryan, RHA.

The coins are available individually in sterling silver which costs €50 and fine gold which costs €395 or as a special two-coin set which costs €440. A limited edition of 5,000 individual silver coins and 2,000 individual gold coins will be issued and there will also be a limited edition of 1,000 two-coin sets issued. An official order form for the coins is available from the Central Bank by phoning 1890 307 607 or from the website, www.centralbank.ie. (more…)

2008 United Kingdom Handover Ceremony Commemorative Coins

To celebrate the successful London 2012 bid and commemorate the Handover Ceremony of the Olympic Flag from Beijing to London on the 24 August 2008, the Royal Mint has struck a commemorative legal tender £2 coin available in 22 carat gold, sterling silver and base alloys.

The Design

The legal tender £2 coin features on its reverse the Olympic Flag and the London 2012 logo. This design has been created by the Royal Mint Engraving Team and has been authorised by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Surrounding the central design are the words ‘BEIJING 2008’ and ‘LONDON 2012’ along its outer ring, set against a backdrop of lines reminiscent of an athletics track.

The edge of the Handover Ceremony £2 coin features the inscription I CALL UPON THE YOUTH OF THE WORLD.

The 2008 United Kingdom Handover Ceremony £2 Brilliant Uncirculated Presentation Pack

This specially designed presentation pack is a delightful and affordable way of commemorating the outstanding success of the London 2012 bid and the official Handover Ceremony. (more…)

Royal Spanish Mint Issues Bicentenary War of Independence Set

Spanish Mint Bicentenary War of Independence Commemorative CoinsThe year 2008 will mark the Bicentenary of the War of Independence that brought Spain into combat with the forces of the First French Empire and triggered the uprising of May 2, 1808.

The Royal Spanish Mint has chosen to join in the celebration of this event of importance for Spain, which marked the beginning of a new historical cycle and produced a change in the previous political systems.

The five coins come blister-packed so as to wholly preserve the engraving and luster, and are presented in a deluxe jewel case together with the respective certificate of authenticity issued by the Royal Spanish Mint.

The coins may be acquired as single items, as a silver set comprising the Cincuentin and the three 8-real coins, or as the full set consisting of all five coins.
8 Escudos Gold
8-Escudos Gold  

The obverse features a reproduction of the oil painting “General José de Palafox on horseback” by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes.

The reverse shows an adaptation of the engraving entitled “How brave!”, one of the most dramatic plates from Goya’s “Disasters of War” series, housed in the National Chalcography.

Cincuentín Silver

The obverse reproduces the oil painting entitled “May 3, 1808 in Madrid: the executions by firing squad on the mountain called Príncipe Pío “, painted by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes.

The reverse depicts an adaptation from Goya’s oil painting “May 2, 1808 in Madrid: the battle with the Mamelukes”, housed in the Prado Museum. (more…)

Olympic coin: 22 pounds of gold, a mere $1 million

10 Kilo Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Gold CoinBy Nicole Garrison-Sprenger
It could double as a shot put, but it’s worth a little too much to chuck in the dirt.

A 22-pound gold coin commemorating the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing is waiting in Burnsville for someone to plunk down $1 million for a piece of history. Now, if you’re a big fan of the Olympics, you could fly to Beijing, stay for a week, watch the Games live and buy a T-shirt for considerably less. But a million dollars for a coin that isn’t even old?

It turns out, a solid-gold coin that weighs as much as a 1-year-old child doesn’t come along every day.

The coin released by the China Mint is the biggest Olympic coin made to date, said Douglas Mudd, a curator at the American Numismatic Association money museum. “Twenty-two pounds — that’s a lot of gold,” he said. At present, Mudd said, “The coin market is very hot. We’re seeing record prices at practically every auction.”

Gold is selling for about $928 an ounce, which would make the jumbo coin that Burnsville-based GovMint.com is selling worth roughly $245,000 melted down. (Precious metals are measured in troy pounds, which contain 12 troy ounces.) Plus, the coin — with the Beijing 2008 Games logo on one side and an image of a Chinese temple towering above Olympic athletes on the other — is one of only 29 issued, and the only one released for sale in the United States. Seven inches in diameter, it comes in an ornate carved box of African Blackwood with a 35-pound carved stone dragon perched on top.

Read Full Article Here

Japan to mint coins featuring Tale of Genji, Iwami silver mine

New Japanese Commemorative CoinsThe Japanese government is creating 94 types of commemorative 500 and 1,000 yen coins, including special coins for each prefecture. The designs for Kyoto and Shimane (pictured) were announced by Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga.

The 1,000-yen coins for Kyoto and Shimane will be sterling silver, weigh 31.1 grams and measure 40 millimeters in diameter. The government will mint a total of 100,000 of each coin.

The Kyoto coin features a scene from the classic work penned by Murasaki Shikibu (Lady Murasaki), depicting romances among members of the court in medieval Kyoto.

It will be issued before the millennial anniversary Nov. 1 of the Tale of Genji, which first appeared in recorded history in 1008.

The Shimane coin will be minted to celebrate the addition last year of the centuries-old Iwami silver mine to the World Heritage List of the U.N. Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The reverse side of the coins will have a uniform design for all 47 prefectures, featuring snow crystals, cherry blossoms and a crescent moon.

These will be among 94 types of 500- and 1000-yen coins for each of Japan’s 47 prefectures that will be released over the next eight years to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the going into force of the Local Autonomy Law, according to the Finance Ministry.

The government decided on the design of the two coins after releasing the Hokkaido coin in time for this year’s July 7-9 Group of Eight summit to be held in the Lake Toya resort area there. (more…)

Swiss Confederation issues ‘Year of Planet’ Gold Commemorative

Swiss Mint Gold Coomemorative 2008The Swiss Confederation is launching a new gold commemorative coin as part of the UN Year of Planet Earth celebration. The gold coin has a face value of 50 Swiss francs, and the mintage is limted to 6000.

International Year of Planet Earth
The United Nations have declared the year 2008 as the “International Year of Planet Earth”. World-wide activities on the subject of earth sciences will be co-ordinated by UNESCO, the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) and other UN or-ganisations.

What do earth sciences mean to our society? How does the exploration of the earth contribute towards a safer and wealthier world? Geophysicists and scientists will be looking into the answers to these questions during the years 2007 – 2009. In Switzer-land, the Science et Cité Foundation and the Swiss Academy for Natural Sciences are organising BaseCamp09, a road show that will visit six Swiss cities and is in-tended for the general public. The BaseCamp consists of a basic exhibition on envi-ronmental changes and explains the work of the research community. BaseCamp09 visitors will experience the gradual climate change with their own eyes and ears.

The designer of the “International Year of Planet Earth” gold coin is artist Claude Sandoz from Lucerne, who has a wealth of experience in designing coin motifs from past projects for Swissmint. For the Planet Earth, he places mankind in the centre of three globes. The Earth lays at man’s feet and one stands on his head. Man also car-ries it gently in his hands. The gold coin with a face value of 50 Swiss francs is avail-able in “proof coin” minting quality

The proceeds form the sale will go to promote cultural projects throughout Switzer-land, and can be purchased directly from the Swiss Mint

House passes coin program bills

By David L. Ganz for Numismatic News

Commemorative CoinsIt seemed like it was raining coinage legislation on Capitol Hill in May as the House of Representatives passed bill after bill that sets up new coin programs. If the Senate concurs, and the President signs the measures into law, the face of coin collecting will likely not be the same. Replacing it will be a quilt work of new programs and directions.

First and foremost on the scene was the double eagle ultra-high relief in gold, and a second version in palladium. See separate story on Page 4.
Other legislation makes for one of the busiest numismatic Congresses in recent memory:

Star-Spangled Banner and War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemorative Coin Act (Under House consideration May 13 when squabbles broke out among the Democrats and Republicans, but passed under unanimous consent May 15. Referred to Senate Banking Committee May 19 after being Received from House) [H.R. 2894.]

• It authorizes 350,000 silver dollars in 2012 and instructs the secretary of the Treasury to mint and issue $1 coins in commemoration of the bicentennial of the writing of the Star-Spangled Banner and the War of 1812. It requires a coin design emblematic of the War of 1812, particularly the battle for Fort McHenry that formed the basis for the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Read the Full Article by Mr. Ganz Here 

Royal Canadian Mint issues special centennial commemorative coins

Royal Canadian Mint 5-ounce gold and 5-ounce silver coinsCelebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Mint with special commemorative coins! It has been 100 years since Governor General Earl Grey activated the press to strike a fifty-cent piece, Canada’s first domestically produced coin. What would become known as the Royal Canadian Mint was officially open for business.

“Every commemorative coin produced by the Mint expresses a theme or ideal that reflects Canada’s heritage and values,” stated Mr. Ian E. Bennett, President and CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint. “These magnificent new coins capture the essence of Canada’s world-renowned mint during our centennial year and we are pleased to offer them as part of the celebrations.”

With a proud tradition in both silver and gold coin production, the Mint is issuing four commemorative numismatic coins to celebrate its monumental anniversary, all of which are now available.

5-ounce gold and 5-ounce silver coins

The exquisite craftsmanship and finish of the 5-ounce gold and 5-ounce silver coins enhance its design, the majestic architecture of the Ottawa Mint’s historic building on Sussex Drive. Bearing a face value of $500 and available for $8,159.95, the 5-ounce gold coin has been limited to a mintage of only 250. Its silver counterpart has a $50 face value and also captures the essence of Canada’s world-renowned Mint. Four thousand of these coins have been produced and are available for $369.95 CDN.(*) (more…)

New Zealand coins To Honor Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary Gold and silver coins featuring the late Sir Edmund Hillary against a backdrop of Mount Everest were released in New Zealand on Thursday, the 55th anniversary of his historic ascent of the world’s highest peak with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

New Zealand Post, which issued the commemorative coins, said part of the proceeds of their sale would go to the Himalayan Trust that Hillary established for the Sherpa people of Nepal.

One of New Zealand’s best loved national heroes, Sir Edmund Hillary’s life was filled with many great achievements that earned him worldwide fame.

The first man to conquer Mount Everest in 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary went on to devote much of his life to improving those of others, especially the people of his beloved Nepal.

Following his passing in January 2008, and with the exclusive support of Sir Edmund Hillary’s family, this very special New Zealand coin release pays tribute to this extraordinary but humble man who will be remembered for ever. (more…)

Congress’s $3.5 million ”Bake Sale” for the Boy Scouts

Boy Scouts Commemorative Coin a All right, it isn’t actually a bake sale, but it might as well be. On May 15, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5872, an act “To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the centennial of the Boy Scouts of America, and for other purposes.” The other purposes? The sale of the coins by the Secretary of the Treasury, with a surcharge on each coin sold to “be paid to the National Boy Scouts of America Foundation.” In other words, this is a congressionally mandated fundraiser for the Boy Scouts.

With the act allowing for up to 350,000 of this coin to be issued and fixing the surcharge at $10 per coin, the Boy Scouts could receive as much as $3.5 million from their sale. Never before, in the long history of U.S. government-issued commemorative coins, has this benefit been granted to an organization that promotes religion or discriminates based on religion.

What is a Commemorative Coin and How Does the Program Work?

A 1996 U.S. Mint report titled “Commemorative Coins Could Be More Profitable,” described the issuance of commemorative coins as follows: “Every commemorative coin program is authorized by an act of Congress. Congress authorizes commemorative coins primarily as a means of honoring certain events and individuals and raising funds for the coins’ sponsors. On occasion, the proceeds from commemorative coin sales are applied to the national debt. Commemorative coins are legal tender but are purchased and retained by collectors, rather than used as a circulating medium of exchange.”

Read Full Article Here 

Japan gets nature-themed 1,000-yen coin

Japan 1000 Yen Commemorative CoinA New 1,000-yen coin depicting Japanese red-crowned cranes flying in front of Hokkaido’s Lake Toya is to be produced ahead of the next G-8 summit, which will be held in Hokkaido.

The silver coin is the first in an 8-year series of 94 coins commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Local Autonomy Law. The coin is due to go on sale in time for the G-8 summit to be held at Hokkaido’s Lake Toya in July, and will be given to the leaders of each country there.

The 4-centimeter coin depicts two Japanese red-crowned cranes — an endangered species, whose population is slowly recovering due to conservation efforts — flying over Lake Toya.

A total of 100,000 coins will be issued, with buyers to be picked at random. Each coin will cost 6,000 yen.

Commemorative 500-yen coins will also be issued across the nation this year, going into full circulation by fiscal 2016.

Specifications:

Composition – Sterling Silver – Weight – 31.1 g – Diameter – 40 mm – Mintage – 100,000
Official Issue Date – July 1, 2008

New Bulgarian Commemorative of Seft III

Bulgarian Commemorative Coin - Thracian king Sevt IIIOn May 19 the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) will put in circulation a new commemorative coin with partial gold cover. The coin “Seft III” is part of the series “The Treasures of Bulgaria”.

A press conference is held today, May 17 at BNB dedicated to the coin’s presentation by Tzvetan Manchev, Depute Director of BNB.

The bronze cast of the head of Trakya’s ruler Seft III will also be displayed at BNB.

The head is a unique archaeological find discovered in 2004 by the famous Bulgarian archaeologist Doctor Georgi Kitov. Kitov is also among the presentation’s participants.

The head of the coin displays BNB’s symbol and the year 1869 as well as the coin’s nominal value of 10 BGN.

“Bulgarian National Bank” and the emission year 2008 are written around the perimeter of the coin’s head.

The head of the Thracian King Seft III is represented on the con’s tale with the words “The Treasures of Bulgaria” written on the perimeter and “Seft III” below the King’s head.

The coin will be sold by BNB for 69 BGN and its circulation will be 8000 coins. (more…)