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Category: General Collecting

PMG Announces Second-Generation Holder

The next generation  PMG label and holder is scheduled for release on Jan. 3, 2011.

PMG will begin use of a new generation holder on January 3, 2011. All notes encapsulated after that date by PMG will automatically be placed in the new holder. Additionally, the new holder will be used for on-site grading during the Florida United Numismatists (FUN) convention in January. This holder marks the first design iteration of the PMG holder since the company launched in 2005. The second-generation PMG holder is made from the same high-quality inert materials and is very similar in shape and overall aesthetics; however, it features new, highly sophisticated anti-counterfeiting and tampering-prevention technologies.

While PMG has not had any reported instances of holder tampering or counterfeiting, the company’s mandate requires periodic reviews of the security of its products. PMG was able to take advantage of advances and technologies used by other Certified Collectibles Group companies, including NGC, in their own certification holders. Ultimately, the holder was upgraded to maintain PMG’s leadership role and the strong preference for its certification holder among currency collectors.

“Our newest label and holder fully satisfies PMG’s combined objectives of exceptional visual display, security and long-term preservation,” comments PMG Grader Richard Stelzer.

Some of the changes will be almost invisible. For example, the label in the second-generation PMG holder includes a conservation-grade UV fiber paper, as did the previous version, but also includes a new UV watermark. These features are not visible under normal light, but when viewed under ultraviolet light these features help confirm the authenticity of PMG product.

Additionally, spot metallic-foil and holographic patterns have been added to the label design and borders. A state-of-the-art hologram is also now fused directly to the label paper. All of these features combine to make the PMG label virtually impossible to reproduce.

The outside holder itself has also undergone important changes. The holder’s sealed edges now include an embossed pattern. The custom design relies on a unique safe-sealing method pioneered by Certified Collectibles Group. The complex repeating texture includes the PMG logo and other elements within the seal that also confirm the quality and thoroughness of the holder seal.

For more information or to have your notes encapsulated in the newest PMG holder, contact PMG customer service at 1-877-PMG-5570 or service@PMGnotes.com.

Wikileaks Reveals State Dept Deal with Spain In Black Swan Treasure Lawsuit

For years, Odyssey Marine has been in litigation with the Spanish government over a 17 tons of gold and silver coins that Odyssey discovered from “The Black Swan”.

The 19th-century shipwreck at the heart of the dispute with Odyssey Marine Exploration is the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes — a Spanish warship sunk by the British navy southwest of Portugal in 1804 with more than 200 people on board.

The Legal Proceedings:

Odyssey announced in May 2007 it had discovered the wreck in the Atlantic and raised 500,000 silver coins and other artifacts worth an estimated US$500 million (€324 million). The coins and artifacts were brought into the United States with a valid export license and imported legally pursuant to U.S. law. Odyssey brought the artifacts under the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court by filing an Admiralty arrest action. This procedure allows any legitimate claimant with an interest in the property to make a claim.

Spain went to the U.S. federal court claiming ownership of the treasure and the case is currently set for Oral Arguments tentatively scheduled to take place during the week of February 28, 2011 at the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Additional appeals have been filed by groups who have presented documentation indicating that if Spain is correct, and the recovered cargo originated from the Mercedes, they are descendants of the owners of Mercedes’ cargo and have legitimate property rights. Those claimants have recognized Odyssey’s archaeological recovery efforts and have acknowledged Odyssey’s right to a salvage award. (more…)

Scott Travers’ ‘Survival Manual’ Now Available in Seventh Edition

(New York, NY) – Gold and grading share the spotlight in The Coin Collector’s Survival Manual, Seventh Edition, the just-released latest edition of the perennial hobby bestseller by award-winning author Scott A. Travers. Published by Random House, this thoroughly updated 400-page book also contains two new and timely fact-filled chapters; one on buying and selling gold coins and other precious metal items, the other on recent innovations in coin grading.

With gold scaling record-high price levels, Travers examines the impact the precious metals boom is having on the rare coin market. Citing one expert’s prediction that gold might soar to $10,000 an ounce, he shows why this is not far-fetched. A new section of the book looks at possible negative effects for collectors and dealers if burdensome IRS 1099 reporting requirements are not changed before their scheduled implementation in 2012.

Travers also provides pointers on how to avoid being victimized when buying or selling valuables containing precious metal, and goes behind the scenes to show in detail how buyers determine the value of gold and silver in items they buy from the public. Travers reveals insider secrets for getting the most money when selling gold and silver coins, jewelry or “scrap.”

He cautions that high-profile gold buyers who advertise extensively often pay rock-bottom prices, “luring cash-starved victims with slick TV commercials or eye-catching newspaper ads promising ‘top dollar’ for the gold that’s sitting idle in their jewelry boxes or drawers.”

A new chapter titled “A Grade Leap Forward” explores what Travers calls “the new math of coin grading” – the enhancement made possible in early 2010 when the Professional Coin Grading Service introduced its PCGS Secure Plus™ system and added intermediate “plus” (+) designations to coins at the high end of their grade level. The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America (NGC) soon began offering similar grading.

Exclusive first-time photographs show the differences between “regular” and “plus” grades.

Travers also explains how Secure Plus™ combats coin “doctoring” and shares insiders’ tips on how to get the greatest value when buying and selling PCGS and NGC plus-grade coins.

Hundreds of never-before-published digitized coin images give readers a clear look at subtle grading nuances and ways to detect altered coins. In a beefed-up color section, surprising photos reveal how the same coin was given different grades by leading services. It also shows examples of difficult-to-detect doctored and altered coins, plus endangered coins rescued from harm’s way through proper conservation.

Exclusive color photographs pinpoint how to distinguish between Morgan dollars and Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles that are Mint State-65 and Mint State 65+ — a small difference in grade that can make a significant difference in marketplace value. (more…)

Which Civil War Gold Coins Will Be Promoted in 2011?

I don’t consider myself to be a real pro when it comes to rare coin promotion but even I know a no-brainer when I see it. 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, you can bet that rare coin promotion gurus who are far more clever than I have been preparing for this event for some time.

So if you are Joe Coin Promoter and you are gearing up for the Civil War Sesquicentennial in 2011, what kind of gold coins can you get enough of to do a promotion? Let’s go denomination by denomination and figure this out.

I. Gold Dollars

Only two mints made gold dollars in 1861: Philadelphia and Dahlonega. The 1861-P is common and cheap; the 1861-D is rare and expensive. The 1861-D is unpromotable; it is too rare to accumulate in quantity and is already too expensive. A clever dealer could probably stealthily buy 40-50 1861-P gold dollars in lower Mint State grades over the course of a year and have enough coins to promote. He could probably find as many 1862-P gold dollars and maybe have as many as 100 coins in total. I would have to wonder, though, if the intended audience for this promotion would get excited about gold dollars as they are small, common and not really “sexy.” As a collector I’d probably avoid stockpiling any Civil War gold dollars to ride the coattails of a promotion.

II. Quarter Eagles

Two mints made quarter eagles in 1861: Philadelphia and San Francisco. The 1861-S is unheralded but scarce and I doubt if you could put together a group of more than three or four over the course of a year. The 1861-P is common in grades up to MS63 and it might be possible to accumulate enough to promote. I like the promotional possibilities of this issue and it might not be a bad idea for a collector to buy a few MS62 to MS63 pieces and see if prices increase in the next few years. None of the other Civil War Philadelphia issues can be found in enough quanity to promote. The San Francisco issues are all rare but it might be possible to put together a rag-tag group of circulated examples.

III. Three Dollar Gold Pieces

You couldn’t promote threes in Uncircirculated as all of the Civil War issues are rare enough and expensive enough to preclude this. But you might actually be able to acculate a few dozen nice circulated pieces. This promotion actually makes sense to me as the three dollar denomination is odd and interesting and it would appeal to non-collectors. It is also out of favor right now so the possibility of buying a fair quantity exists. The 1861-64 dates are all moderately scarce but available in the EF-AU range for less than $4,000 per coin. As a promotion bandwagon jumper, these three dollar gold pieces kind of make sense to me. (more…)

PNG 2011 YN Scholarship Competition Begins

(Fallbrook, California) — The Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) will provide a scholarship to a deserving young numismatist (YN) to attend the 2011 American Numismatic Association (ANA) Summer Seminar in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This is the seventh consecutive year of PNG YN scholarships for the popular, annual ANA program.

“The scholarship will cover airfare, tuition for one of the two week-long Summer Seminar sessions in June or July, meals and six nights of dormitory accommodations on the campus of Colorado College, site of the ANA headquarters,” said PNG Executive Director Robert Brueggeman.

“All young numismatists between the ages of 13 and 22 are eligible to enter and are cordially invited to apply for the scholarship. Entrants must submit a short essay outlining why they should be chosen as the 2011 scholarship recipient. The deadline for receipt of the entries is March 31, 2011,” said PNG President Paul Montgomery.

Entries must include the applicant’s name and contact information. The essays can be sent by email to info@PNGdealers.com or by mail to the PNG Executive Director, 28441 Rancho California Road, Suite 106, Temecula, CA 92590.

The two separate 2011 ANA Summer Seminar week-long sessions will be held Saturday, June 25, to Friday July 1, and from Saturday, July 2, to Friday, July 8. Participants ranging from teenagers to senior citizens spend 25 hours taking one course of their choice about specific coins or paper money or the hobby’s technical or business aspects. Additional information about the Summer Seminar sessions can be found on the ANA website, www.money.org.

“We are thankful that the PNG recognizes the value of providing young collectors a chance to realize their full numismatic potential, and offering a scholarship to the ANA’s Summer Seminar is a great start. We want to thank the PNG for generosity in providing this YN scholarship and for promoting the ANA’s education programs,” said Susan M. McMillan, ANA Education Project Manager.

Photo caption: picture taken at the Chase Manhattan Money Museum circa 1945 when Vernon Brown was curator. Image from The E-Sylum

The money to pay for the annual PNG YN Scholarship is administered from PNG’s Gerald Bauman Memorial Fund. Bauman, who died in 2001, served for many years as a prominent coin dealer with Manfra, Tordella & Brookes in New York City.

The PNG is a nonprofit organization composed of many of the top rare coin and paper money dealers in the United States and seven other countries. PNG member-dealers must adhere to a strict Code of Ethics in the buying and selling of numismatic merchandise. For additional information, visit online at www.PNGdealers.com or call (951) 587-8300.

Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Book Auction to be Held in NYC in January

On January 8, 2011, numismatic booksellers Kolbe & Fanning will conduct a public auction sale at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City in conjunction with the New York International Numismatic Convention.

The sale features 500 lots of rare and desirable works of numismatic interest, including highlights from the superb Alan Luedeking Latin American numismatic Library, classic nineteenth- and early twentieth-century works on Russian coins and medals from the library of Dr. Ira Rezak, the Dr. Jeff Hosford collection of Crosbyana, key works on ancient coins, and great classic works on American numismatics, some from the library of the New Netherlands Coin Company. Additional consignors to the sale include Norwegian numismatist Jan Olav Aamlid, Minnesota dealer Allan Davisson and the estate of the late Northern California coin dealer Robert R. Johnson.

There are any number of rarities in the sale, covering the numismatic spectrum.

A printed catalogue may be obtained by sending $25 to: KOLBE & FANNING NUMISMATIC BOOKSELLERS LLC, 141 W JOHNSTOWN ROAD, GAHANNA OH 43230-2700. The catalogue is also accessible free of charge at Kolbe & Fanning website: www.numislit.com.

The sale features no fewer than seven original editions of Sylvester Crosby’s Early Coins of America, including two from the library of the author and five other quite special copies. Other American rarities include an original 1925 Browning work on quarter dollars annotated by Walter Breen; a nice 1921 John Story Jenks sale with original photographic plates; three Eckfeldt and Du Bois works featuring actual gold examples from the California Gold Rush; a superb deluxe leather-bound set of the virtually unknown 1881 edition of Loubat’s Medallic History of the United States; all three of James Mease’s extremely rare 1821-1838 works on United States numismatics, the earliest works on the topic written from a numismatic perspective; B. Max Mehl’s own set of Mehl’s Numismatic Monthly; George Woodside’s own annotated copy, with plates, of the 1892 sale catalogue of his collection of United States pattern coins; the unique and extensive numismatic archive of Chicagoan Michael A. Powills, a noted coin collector prominent in American Numismatic Association affairs and the leading numismatic book dealer of his time, containing many thousands of letters from the key movers and shakers in American numismatics, circa 1930-1980; papers relating to the Dr. John E. Wilkison collection of United States pattern gold coins; and a deluxe edition of Valentine’s famed 1924 work on fractional currency, annotated by Walter Breen.

Classic works on medieval and modern coins and medals include a superb set of the 1791 Beskrivelse over Danske Mynter og Medailler from the library of the Prime Minister of Denmark, along with other classic works on Scandinavian numismatics including the extremely rare supplement to the Beskrivelse; a number of rare and important 16th- and 17th-century merchant guides, often termed “Coin Books”; several very rare works on coining technology; rarities on Scottish and English numismatics from the Allan Davisson library; the first 21 volumes of Rivista Italiana, 1888-1908; the firm’s own annotated copies of over 300 Glendining & Co. auction catalogues, 1966-1986; and two leather-bound presentation volumes on Canadian numismatics written by Alfred Sandham. (more…)

Higher premiums don’t seem to hinder demand for Silver American Eagle Coins

By Steve Roach – the Rare Coin Market ReportCoin World

While bullion markets continue their wild fluctuations, demand for American Eagle 1-ounce silver bullion coins remains vibrant.

In October, the United States Mint increased the premium charged to its authorized purchasers for American Eagle silver bullion coins from $1.50 to $2 per coin. The premium was increased in 2009 from $1.40 to $1.50 per coin and in 2008 from $1.25 to $1.40 per coin.

While Proof American Eagle silver coins may be purchased directly from the Mint, the Mint sells the silver bullion coins only to dealers in minimum 25,000-coin shipments.

However, the premium increase seems to have had no noticeable impact on demand, as the Mint has sold more than 30 million silver American Eagles thus far in 2010, eclipsing 2009’s sales record of 28,766,500 pieces.

Surely silver hitting 30-year highs including a flirtation with $29 earlier in November has helped keep demand for the attractive and easily portable silver American Eagles robust. Demand for the coins throughout the holiday gift-giving season will mean that 2010 sales figures will continue to climb.

Proof 2010-W American Eagle silver coins went on sale Nov. 19, priced at $45.95, with a 100-coin household limit.

The Mint’s Web site already warns customers of possible ordering delays on Nov. 19, due to the deluge of customers who are likely to order in light of “unusually high demand.”

Until Proof 2010-W coins enter the marketplace, wholesalers are paying up to $57 for earlier Proof American Eagle silver coins in original Mint packaging.

Grading service population reports show that 2010 American Eagle silver bullion coins are extremely well-produced. Of the 44,160 graded by Professional Coin Grading Service so far this year, a whopping 36,470 pieces have received Mint State 70 grades. Currently PCGS MS-70 2010 silver American Eagles are selling in online auctions for $60 to $100, while certified MS-69 representatives can be found for around $35 and uncertified examples are seen at $30.

In large quantities, 2010 American Eagle silver bullion coins are available from wholesale dealers at silver spot price plus $2.60 per coin.

The DWN Rare Gold Coin Market Heat Index: 2010

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

As someone who is pretty attuned to the strengths and weaknesses of the rare gold coin market, I can accurately rate how well (or poorly) a specific series is performing. 2010 was an interesting year for gold coins. We saw tremendous price increases in gold bullion but many areas of the coin market were flat. In the first annual DWN Rare Gold Coin Market Heat Index (cue sizzling sound effect…), I am going to discuss the relative position(s) of the most commonly traded areas of the market.

This totally non-scientific study is keyed to the following ratings, which go from 1 to 10:

1. This series is so cold you couldn’t give the coins away
2-5: This series ranges from ice cold to moderate strength
6-9: This series ranges from strong to very strong
10: This series is en fuego

And without further ado, let’s talk hot or cold gold…

I. Gold Dollars

There is pretty solid overall collector support for gold dollars. While there do not appear to be many specialists working on complete sets, there are a number of collectors working on focused subsets; i.e., Dahlonega dollars, Civil War issues, etc. I would say that Type One branch mint dollars are probably the strongest overall segement of this market and the weakest is, clearly, high grade non-branch mint Type Two coins.

In the Type Three series, I am noticing some strength in very high quality Philadelphia issues from the 1870’s and 1880’s. In most cases, the coins that are the strongest are PCGS graded MS67 and better pieces with great eye appeal. The Charlotte and Dahlonega market is very bifurcated. Top quality original pieces in all grades are very strong while overgraded, non-original pieces are hard to sell even at a serious discount.

OVERALL RATING: 5. This denomination is collector-driven and reasonably strong as of the end of 2010. The coins showing the greatest demand include the very rare Dahlonega issues (1855-D, 1856-D and 1861-D), mintmarked Type Two coins in “collector grades” and Finest Known or high Condition Census Type Three issues graded by PCGS and approved by CAC.

II. Quarter Eagles

This is perhaps the most mixed denomination in the entire U.S. gold oeuvre as the heat index ranges from borderline frigid to pretty toasty. Early quarter eagles are showing mixed collector support. These coins are still undervalued when compared to other early gold denominations but they are no longer “cheap.” Some weak auction results for overgraded 1796 No Stars and 1808 quarter eagles have lowered Trends but nice examples of these two significant dates are still in demand. Collectors of early quarter eagles are looking for value. They want either very rare issues that are underpriced (such as the 1826/5 or the 1834) or coins that are choice and original. (more…)

Ancient Coins: How old is “Ancient”?

By Wayne Sayles – Ancient Coin Collecting Blog

The classification of cultures generally tracks along two interrelated lines: chronological and geographical. For centuries, coin collectors struggled with the lack of a coherent system for cataloguing the vast array of issues from antiquity through the modern era. Joseph Eckhel (1737-1798), a secularized Jesuit abbot who served as numismatist to the imperial court of the Holy Roman Empire, devised a system for arranging coins geographically that is still in use today.

This system basically records coins in a progression beginning at the northeast quadrant of the Mediterranean basin and continuing from west to east, then south through the Levant and from east to west through northern Africa. Though far from perfect, nobody has yet devised a better approach for non-Roman coins. The classification of coins and cultures into chronological divisions is far more complex than the Echkel scheme.

Chronologically, the primary divisions of coinage are almost universally accepted as being Ancient, Medieval and Modern. Within the United States, collectors tend to separate U.S. coins from the modern coins of other nations by referring to the latter as “World Coins.” Coins in the West were first struck in Western Anatolia during the 7th century BC. The transition point between ancient and medieval is more difficult to date.

Some would argue that the end of the ancient period is coincident with the fall of Rome in AD 476. Others choose the accession of Anastasius I in AD 491 as the transition point. But, almost everyone who collects “Byzantine” coins thinks of them as being “ancient” even though they start with the accession of Anastasius and end in 1453 with the fall of Constantinople.

Likewise, coins struck in India and Central Asia are typically thought of as ancient up to the Islamic conquests, which did not happen at a single point in time.

Further complicating the chronological classification, coins of the post-Roman era in western Europe (e.g. Spain, Gaul, Britain and Germany) from as early as the sixth century AD are thought of by many as ‘Medieval”.

In fact, by the time of Constantinople’s fall, some coinage in western Europe is already being thought of by collectors and scholars as falling into the “Modern” or “World” classification. The incongruity is difficult to understand and even more difficult to explain to a new collector.

Illustration Note: [Above] Imago Mundi – Babylonian map, the oldest known world map, 6th century BCE .

From a purely practical point of view, the distinction may not be all that important. After all, a rose is a rose…. But, to a cataloguer it is frequently a conundrum. Perhaps the next Joseph Eckhel is reading these lines right now and conjuring up a system that will allow for the vastly differing cultural environments and reshape our definitions in a way that seems sensible.

7 Ways to Improve Your Coin Collection

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

Someone recently asked me a question that I thought was interesting and that merited a detailed response. To paraphrase this question, they basically asked me this: can you tell me some ways that I can improve my collection while spending little or no money?

Are there any actual ways that you can make your collection better without dropping a lot of coin (bad pun intended)? I believe that there are and here are a few that came to mind:

1. Bring Out Your Dead. Every collector has them. Duds. Bad deals. Low end duplicates. You know what I’m talking about: the Dead Zone of your collection. These coins may represent more value than you realize. As an example, I recently had a relatively expensive double eagle in stock that a collector wanted for his set but he had no extra money at the time. I had him send me a list of the dead coins he owned; bullion, generic Saints, Morgan dollar rolls, etc. The value of his “stuff” was considerably more than he realized and he was actually in a nice profit position on his bullion. The choice to trade spillage for one nice, rare coin was easy for him to make. And the good news was that he had enough money left over so that he can actively pursue another neat coin or two.

2. Attribute Your Coins. If you collect series like Bust half dollars or large cents you are probably already a die variety collector and all of your coins are properly attributed. But what if you are a collector of early half eagles and you have never bothered to attribute your coins to Bass-Dannreuther variety numbers? And what if one of your supposedly common half eagles turns out to be a very rare die variety that is worth a 30-50% premium? Seems like a no brainer to me. Even if you collect a series for which there is no standard reference work, it makes sense to examine your coins with a 10x glass and see if anything interesting is happening. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover a previously unknown mispunched date or a cool double date that has not been recorded.

3. Invest $500 to $1000 in improving your library. If you collect early gold coins you probably own the Bass Dannreuther book and a few other standard references. But do you own pertinent auction catalogs? It has long been my belief that one of the best uses of your money is a good library. You’ll get more enjoyment out of your coins if you know more about them and there is no better way to learn about a series, especially one that is somewhat obscure, than reading books and catalogs. If you don’t know which books or catalogs to pursue, ask a specialist dealer which ones he refers to or, better yet, contact a numismatic literature dealer and ask for some suggestions.

4. Improve your peripherals. If you are using an old, slow computer you are missing out on the “full experience” when it comes to coins. Not everyone has the luxury of owning a sporty, brand-new computer but with the price of monitors having dropped so considerably in the last few years treat yourself to a 16 inch or 18 inch flat screen monitor. It’s just a few hundred bucks and it sure beats viewing coin images on an old, low resolution screen. Spend some money on a good quality new magnifying glass and a high quality lamp to view your coins as well. You’re looking at $50-100 for a world-class loupe and around $100-150 for a professional quality halogen coin lamp. (more…)

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 Legacy of the Swiss Helvetia Gold Coin

The Swiss Helvetia (1897 – 1949) embodies Switzerland’s status as a financial center of the world. The coin’s long standing reputation among investors and collectors illustrates its outstanding beauty and quality. The Swiss Helvetia, like other European gold coins, has a rich and lengthy heritage.

Ancient Origins

The name “Helvetia” comes from the name of Switzerland during Roman times. Julius Caesar conquered the Helveti in 58 BCE, but the name for the currency was resurrected during the Helvetic Republic, when a standardized coinage was reestablished. Prior to 1798, approximately 75 different entities were minting coins in Switzerland. Each entity had its own corresponding monetary system, so there were at least 860 circulating coins in the country.

The Helvetic Republic lasted from 1798 to 1803. Its goal was the unification of the numerous cantons of Switzerland. During that period the government introduced a normalized currency based on the Berne thaler. These francs were equal to 1.5 French francs. Although the Helvetic Republic soon ended, the new monetary system served as a model for various cantons in the newly formed Swiss Confederacy.

Currency in Transition

The country’s regions readopted their individual currency systems, with some modifications. Between 1803 and 1850, approximately 22 cantons minted coins, but less than 15% of the circulating currency was local. The remaining 85% was foreign, acquired during Swiss mercenaries’ exploits. Private banks started printing currencies to supplement coinage. By 1848 the Swiss monetary system included over 8000 different currency types. This trend of accepting foreign money has endured to this day; many businesses in Switzerland still accept international denominations as payment.

The Swiss federal governments sought to end this complication with a new Federal Constitution of 1848, which specified that only the federal government could produce and issue money. Two years later the first Federal Coinage Act made the franc the official monetary unit for Switzerland. The franc would replace any other currency used by the various cantons. The term “Helvetia” resurfaced as a name for the franc, recalling the country’s ancient origins.

Since 1850, the Swiss Helvetia has undergone only one devaluation, in 1936. The coin’s value dropped 30%, along with that of the US dollar, the British pound, and the French franc. Like the rest of the industrialized world, Switzerland chose to abandon the gold standard that year. The value of the Swiss Helvetia has remained strong ever since.

Swiss Helvetias as Investments

Sometimes called “Vrenelis” after their obverse design, Swiss Helvetias minted in the late nineteenth and mid-twentieth century have gained popularity among investors. Their exquisite design and outstanding condition make them a natural choice.

On the coin’s obverse is a portrait of “Vreneli” the fabled “Swiss Miss” of the Alps. The reverse features the Swiss Coat of Arms and the wreath of the Republic. They are generally available in brilliant uncirculated quality. The excellent luster and engraving of the Swiss Helvetia supplement the coin’s intrinsic value. Investors who seek a unique and historical precious metal will find the Swiss Helvetia a wise and interesting addition to their portfolios. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Coins Minted After 1934 tend to be Very Common, 1793 to 1933 is the Classic Era – Part 2

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #23-Part2

A continuation of a Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

Usually, this column is published each Wednesday morning and not at other times. I came to believe, however, that this week’s topic is of tremendous importance and warrants two parts. [Click Here to View Part One] My survey of sophisticated collectors and expert dealers, shockingly, indicated that, while most realized that 1933/34 is the traditional dividing line between classic and modern U.S. coinage, few remembered or ever knew the primary reason. U.S. coins minted before 1934 are much scarcer than U.S. coins minted after 1934. Indeed, though there are a few exceptions, regular issue U.S. coins minted after 1934 are common.

From the perspective of a collector, this is the most important and clearest dividing line in the whole history of U.S. coinage. As the basis for this dividing line is not well understood, I feel compelled to explain and prove its importance. I presented logical points and evidence in part 1, and I provide more evidence herein. I then discuss one major reason why it is imperative to emphasize this dividing line now; many people are spending substantial or even vast sums for very common coins, usually without really understanding the factors involved and the traditions of coin collecting in the U.S.

IV. Walking Liberty Half Dollars

As the somewhat recent sharp rises in the price of silver has affected the values of circulated Walking Liberty Half Dollars, it makes sense here to consider those that grade AU-50 or higher. As no Walkers were minted in Philadelphia that date from 1922 to 1933, it may not be suitable to analyze comparative values for Philadelphia Mint halves in terms of the 1933/34 dividing line. Therefore, I refer to Denver and San Francisco Mint halves. Of all the Denver Mint Walkers minted prior to 1934, the 1929-D is the least expensive and the least scarce.

In AU-50 grade, a 1929-D half is worth about three to more than ten times as much as any Denver Mint half dating from 1934 to 1945, with one exception, the 1938-D. The 1938-D is the only regular issue exception, of the half dollar denomination, to the 1933/34 dividing line between relatively scarce U.S. coins and relatively common coins. The 1938-D half is scarce, much more so than any other Denver Mint half dollar issue in the 1930s or later.

In regard to San Francisco Mint halves, there is no such exception. In AU-50 or higher grades, any pre-1934 S-Mint Walker is worth substantially more, usually from two to more than ten times as much, than any San Francisco Mint Walker from 1934-S to the last S-Mint Walking Liberty Half, 1946-S. In relative terms, pre-1934 San Francisco Mint halves are ‘very scarce’ and post-1934 San Francisco halves are quite common. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Coins Minted After 1934 tend to be Very Common, 1793 to 1933 is the Classic Era – Part One

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #23

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

Last week’s column was about dealer recommendations for new collectors who seek coins valued at $250, more or less, with consideration of a few that are valued at more than $1000. Among the experts that I interviewed, no one suggested buying coins minted after 1934. This column is devoted to an exploration of the topic of the 1933 to 1935 time period being a dividing line between classic and modern U.S. coins. This is not my opinion; it is an objective reality. Conclusive evidence will be provided herein.

A review of coin related publications in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s would suggest this dividing line. Indeed, quite a few dealers in classic U.S. coins used to include a statement relating to the years ‘1793 to 1933’ in their ads and pricelists. Almost always, leading auction firms emphasized coins in the 1793 to 1933 time period and still do so.

Why discuss this dividing line now? I am concerned about the amounts paid for condition rarities of the post-1934 era. I do not have a problem with a collector paying a large sum of money for a condition rarity if the coin issue in general is at least moderately scarce. It is wonderful that someone paid $138,000 for the Duckor 1904-S half dollar, which is PCGS graded MS-67. (Please click to read my two part series on Dr. Duckor’s halves, part 1 or part 2.) A low grade 1904-S half could be obtained for less than one hundred dollars. The 1904-S date, though, is scarce in general. The PCGS and the NGC together have certified less than two hundred different 1904-S halves, and probably more than two thousand uncertified 1904-S halves exist. Certainly, there are fewer than five thousand in existence, in all grades. For post-1934 coins, however, people often spend vast amounts for superb gem quality coins when hundreds of thousands or literally millions exist of the same respective coin issue.

If millions of a coin issue exist overall or thousands in MS-65 grade, how much should a MS-67 or higher grade representative of the same coin issue be worth? There is not an easy answer to the question. Of course, supply and demand determine prices in relatively free markets. I am not challenging the truthfulness of current price levels for supergrade modern coins. I am wondering whether the buyers have thought carefully about their demands. I am also wondering whether many sellers of post-1934 coins are, sometimes implicitly, misleading buyers, or are ignorant themselves. Anyone who can afford an inventory may become a coin dealer. In any event, in order to understand the distinction between classic U.S. coins and modern issues, there is a need to learn about both and about the dividing line between classic coins and modern issues.

I. The 1793-1933 Tradition

Referring to U.S. coins minted from 1793 to 1933 as classic coin issues is not arbitrary and it is not an accidental tradition. When polling dealers and collectors, I became aware that everyone seemed to remember the tradition of referring to 1933 or 1934 as a dividing line, but no one recollected the origins or meaning of the tradition. The true reason is that pre-1934 coins (with few exceptions) are much scarcer than post-1934 coins. (more…)

Profiles: Medal and Coin Artist Alex Shagin

Alex Shagin was born in Russia, near Leningrad, on January 21, 1947. Alexander George Shagin is the only child of George and Ekaterina Shagin. He studied at the Vera Mukhina School of Arts and Design, completing his education in 1971. Shortly after completing his education he was drafted into the soviet army where he spent a little over a year.

Following his discharge, he became an apprentice at the Leningrad Mint. As an apprentice, he submitted his diploma project, a medal of Peter the Great, to the Soviet authorities. His work was so admired that he was recommended for appointment as an artist of the mint. By 1974, Shagin had become a leading designer and sculptor.

In the 1970’s the Leningrad mint was involved mostly in the production of medals and commemorative coins. Shagin was responsible to produce at least one medal every two months. Although he was allowed a rather wide latitude in his work, all of his designs had to be approved by the Council of Art medals before they could be struck.

By the end of the 1970’s, Shagin began to become more and more concerned about the Soviet government’s control over his artistic expression. While visiting an exhibit of medals in Poland in 1978, Shagin was astonished to learn of the artistic freedom his Polish colleagues. During that visit Shagin became convinced that he had to seek artistic freedom in the West.

[iframe http://www.coinlink.com/Video/092310_shagin.html 544px 395px]

David Lisot of Coin Television Interviews Alex Shagin at the recent Long Beach Expo

Upon his return to Leningrad, Shagin applied for an exit visa. This so angered the Soviet officials that he was immediately relieved of his position. After waiting more than a year, during which time he had no means of earning a living, he was finally given an exit visa. In 1979 Shagin emigrated to the United States and now resides in Santa Monica, California where he continues his art.

He has works in museums and private collections around the world, including the Hermitage Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, Yad Vashem Museum, the British Museum and the Swedish Royal Medallic Collection. In 2002, as First Vice President of the American Medallic Sculpture Association (A.M.S.A.) he participated in the Federation Internationale de le Medaille (F.I.D.E.M.) congress by designing a special presentation medal for the American Delegation–The Medal of Liberty presented to twelve individuals by Ronald Reagan in 1986.

Each project Alex Shagin designs is a personal tribute to the freedom and democracy he found since immigrating to America from Russia in the 1980’s. His work on the Moscow Olympics (1980) and Los Angeles Olympics (1984) led to international recognition culminating in the American Numismatic Society’s Saltus Award in 1995. He has created works for the US Mint, Singapore Mint, Israel Government Mint, American Numismatic Association, Leningrad Mint, The White House (Ronald Reagan) to name a few.

Gold Coin Scam Victims: Where To Turn For Help

What do you do when a gold seller fails to deliver or the merchandise you received was not as described when you ordered it?  Who can you contact for help when you don’t receive payment for gold you’ve submitted to sell?

In two recent cases, “Howard” in Mississippi wired $20,000 several months ago to a California coin and bullion dealer to purchase gold coins, and “Richard” in Virginia sent $150,000 to the same dealer.  With the recent run-up in bullion prices they both would have made a nice profit, except they still have not received any gold from the dealer.  Howard laments, “All I’ve gotten is the run-around.”

“If you don’t know gold coins, you’d better know your gold coin dealer,” is the advice to collectors and investors from three nonprofit organizations: the American Numismatic Association (www.money.org), the Industry Council for Tangible Assets (www.ictaonline.org) and the Professional Numismatists Guild (www.pngdealers.com).

“There are many reputable, professional numismatists in the United States,” the three organizations emphasize.  “Before you make a purchase or offer something for sale, do your homework and check the dealer’s credentials.  For example, contact the Better Business Bureau to check the company’s BBB rating or if the company is even accredited by the BBB.”

A listing of Better Business Bureau accredited and rated companies nationwide can be found online at www.bbb.org.

The dealer that received the combined $170,000 in unfulfilled purchase orders from “Howard” and “Richard” had an “F” rating from the BBB.

Typically, dealers who are unresponsive to reasonable requests from customers seeking resolution of disputes are not involved in the mainstream of numismatics, but may advertise in prominent, mainstream news media.

Based on the experiences of the ANA, ICTA and PNG, and in consultation with law enforcement agencies, the three organizations suggest that buyers or sellers of gold coins who encounter problems consider taking these actions:

  • Make copies of all correspondence, receipts and transactions and if possible have copies of advertisements or the dates and times ads were broadcast.
  • Always contact the company directly to try to resolve the dispute.  Ask for the manager or company owner.
  • Take thorough notes of your conversation(s).

If the problem is still not resolved after a reasonable amount of time, contact the Customer Service and/or Advertising Departments of the news media organization(s) that published or broadcast the company’s advertisements and let them know about the problems.

The ANA, ICTA and PNG advise: “It’s your money, so do your homework before placing an order, and if there is a problem then don’t just sit back and wait.  Be persistent in your efforts to resolve the dispute. Follow up with the company you did business with and the agencies where you’ve filed a complaint.  You may also want to consult with an attorney.” (more…)

Ancient Coins: The Yin and Yang – A Smorgasbord of Views on Cultural Property

This week I was treated to a smorgasbord of views on cultural property from members of the archaeological and collecting communities.

On Tuesday morning, I listened with interest to the presentations of several archaeologists at the U.S. State Department’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) in Washington, DC. This was my fifth appearance at a CPAC hearing in as many years. In every case, the general tenor of oral comments by public presenters has reflected a dichotomy of interests—those of collectors versus those of nationalist governments (defended mainly by the archaeological community). The dividing line has always been clear, and not just in the rhetoric that is entered into the public record at these events. Even the informal assemblage of speakers prior to the event (call them gaggles, if you will) is indicative of the diverse philosophical views. I suppose it’s only natural for like-minded people to congregate, but the atmosphere is and has very much been one of “us and them” . This is not to say that either camp is overtly unfriendly, in fact the opposite is true. I think both camps try very hard to be polite and cordial in a personal sense. But camps there are, and gaggle they do.

The Collector camp is comprised mainly of collector advocacy groups. Occasionally, individual collectors, dealers or concerned citizens have appeared or have been represented by counsel. However, the lion’s share of opposition to Memorandums of Understanding these days has come from the Ancient Coin Collecting community and the Art Museum community. The former is represented by advocacy groups, like the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) and the American Numismatic Association (ANA), along with representatives of the numismatic trade and other non-profit organizations like Ancient Coins for Education. The latter is represented primarily by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD).

The proponents of Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) are primarily the representatives of governments seeking import restrictions and the archaeological community, including its related museums—most of which are institutional. The advocacy group Saving Antiquities For Everyone (SAFE) has consistently supported import restrictions, but has not appeared before CPAC in the public sessions lately. A rather late attempt by SAFE to compile and introduce a petition in support of the MOU with Greece was apparently aborted when it failed to meet the State Department imposed deadline for public comment. (more…)

A Numismatically Significant 1859-D Quarter Eagle

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

I recently bought and sold a seemingly innocuous 1859-D quarter eagle that had a great degree of numismatic significance. Before I explain why, let me give you a little background on the specific coin and on this issue in general.

This 1859-D quarter eagle has been graded as Fine-15 by PCGS. It is the single lowest graded example of this date seen by either service. In looking back through my records, I have seen very few that grade below Extremely Fine and certainly can’t recall a non-damaged Fine example.

The example I sold is problem-free and actually quite attractive despite its extensive wear. It shows nice natural coloration and the obverse is a full Very Fine from the standpoint of detail.

This is the final quarter eagle produced at the Dahlonega mint. But, for all intents and purposes, the death knell for this denomination at the Dahlonega mint had been spelled as early as 1854 when mintages figures declined precipitously from the 1840’s. In 1856, only 874 were struck; making this the lowest mintage figure of any coin ever produced at this branch mint. In 1857-D, the mintage increased to 2,364 but no quarter eagles were made in 1858. 1859 saw a resumption of the denomination but only to the tune of 2,244 coins. None were struck in 1860 and when the mint closed in 1861, no further plans had been made to coin quarter eagles.

The 1857-D and 1859-D are interesting issues among the quarter eagles from this mint. The grade distribution is different for these issues than for nearly all other coins from Dahlonega. The coins from the 1840’s and early 1850’s have what I regard as a typical distribution of survivors: most are in the VF-EF range with AU coins being scarce to rare and Uncirculated coins being very rare to extremely rare.

But in 1857 and 1859, the distribution curve looks different. These two dates are almost never seen in grades below EF and are most often seen in About Uncirculated. Both are rare in Uncirculated but not as much so as their very low mintage figures would suggest. There are as many as ten Uncirculated 1859-D quarter eagles known as well as another four or five dozen in About Uncirculated. This doesn’t seem like a lot of coins but when you consider that there are only 150 or so known from the original mintage, the fact that nearly half grade AU or better suggests that this issue didn’t circulate as freely as the quarter eagles from the 1840’s.

I had long believed that the 1859-D was an issue that saw very little circulation. The existence of the coin shown above is proof that at least a few examples did circulate. I don’t believe that this Fine-15 example was a pocket piece as it shows all the hallmarks of extensive natural circulation. Ironically, it is more rare in this grade than it is in Uncirculated and, to my way of thinking, this is one of the neater Dahlonega quarter eagles to have come up for sale this year: a highly circulated example of a date that was hitherto believed to have never seen extensive circulation. Considering that this coin cost its new owner well under $2,000 I think it is an amazing piece of Southern gold history.

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Advice for beginning and intermediate collectors of U.S. coins

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #22

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

Until CoinFest occurs at the end of the month, there will not be a live event conducted by any of the four leading auction firms of rare U.S. coins. Plus, I am not aware of any private sales of newsworthy rarities over the last week. So, this is a good time to address another topic. Often, I hear about collectors who have decided to start acquiring U.S. coins and who are unsure as to how to proceed.

Sometimes, adults who collected coins as kids wish to return. In many other instances, people who have never before bought a rare or very scarce coin wish to get started. Further, people who collect paintings, sculptures, baseball cards, antique silver objects, or rare books, frequently find themselves drawn to coins. This week’s theme of suggestions for beginners will, I hope, be of interest to many intermediate collectors as well.

I. U.S. Coins valued from $250 to $1000

The focus here is on advice for a collector who seeks U.S. coins valued at over $250 each. Of course, I realize that not everyone can afford to pay $250 for a coin. I am not ignoring people who cannot. I strongly believe, though, that collectors who buy $10 to $100 coins may learn by reading this column. In order to understand the coins that a collector owns, the collector needs to understand coins that he (or she) cannot afford. It is important for all collectors to learn about the values and traditions relating to the coin collecting community. Besides, I will devote a future column or article to coins valued in the $10 to $100 range.

Advice and suggestions put forth here are geared towards a collector who is just starting, though may be of use to any collector who is willing and able to spend $250 or more per coin. Suppose he (or she) has decided to collect U.S. coins and thus will not be considering (at least not yet) colonials, territorials, patterns, or world coins. Also, further suppose this collector is not likely to will spend hours studying books on die pairings or other technical matters.

In general, the average collector spends a limited amount of time reading about coins, and is much more likely to read articles than books. Indeed, most collectors I know do not take the time to read entire books on coins, though I would recommend doing so.

Most collectors wish to have fun. It is true, however, that beginning collectors tend to enjoy coins more after they spend a few weeks or months learning.

So, herein, consider a collector who plans, over a period of years, to buy plenty of coins in the $250 to $1000 range, plus a few that cost more or less. Such a collector is flexible. On occasion, this collector may spend $1000 to $3000 per coin. The emphasis here, though, is on getting started collecting U.S. coins in the $250 to $500 range.

Rather than focus on my own advice, I have asked experts to provide their respective opinions. I selected experts who are knowledgeable about a wide variety of U.S. coins in copper, nickel, silver and gold, and have each played different roles in the coin business. Moreover, it is beneficial for collectors to be aware of the views of several experts, especially from highly qualified people that may not be available to most collectors. Below, please find recommendations from John Albanese, Kris Oyster, Nick van der Laan, and Andy Lustig.

Before putting forth detailed recommendations from these four, I relay Ira Goldberg‘s more general advice. Ira is a partner in the Goldbergs auction firm and he has been a leader in the coin auction business for decades. (more…)

Coin Show Myth: The Long Beach Curse

By Pinnacle Rarities

Gold Closes Up, But the Myth Lives On

Before last week’s convention, I had a discussion about the myth referred to as the “Long Beach Curse.” The prevailing sentiment is that the spot price of gold always goes down during the week of the convention. This phenomenon is often bantered amongst gold dealers deciding whether to load up or unload inventories around these major conventions. During last week’s show, gold touched an all time high, and settled on Friday about nine dollars up for the week seemingly debunking the myth. A quick review of spot prices for the last decade’s thirty shows reveals the trend has some statistical backbone. However, the true curse has been the lack of quality material available for purchase. And this isn’t limited to the Long Beach Convention.

Collectors have continued to cull their collections as economic uncertainty has caused many to tighten their belts. However, they sell off the lesser quality material first. Spending habits have become more selective with the prevailing market focused on value and rarity. When major collections and true rarities enter this market the best quality material is quickly absorbed. The dregs are then recycled through dealer inventories and the myriad of auction houses that also clamor for fresh material. But rest assured, if you’ve been selective in your purchases and your collection was purchased for the coins it contains and not the plastic that contains it, you’re in good shape. The rare coin industry is alive and well – with an emphasis on “rare.” Looking at auction records over the last couple years, it’s easy to see quality and rarity still rule in this hobby of kings.

Now, back to that myth. During the last decade the spot price of gold has gone from a $256 in 2001 to $1297 (the Friday close after the latest Long Beach). It’s hard to imagine during this meteoric rise that the price of gold in any given week faltered. But overall, there were 19 of 30 weeks that showed declines in spot gold during the Long Beach convention. During the first five years of the decade, the rate of down cycles was an astounding three of four shows.

The number of down weeks is a bit padded as several of the weeks with advances only showed modest gains of $2 or less. So if you left the show early, the spot price would have been theoretically down for that show also. Regardless, with over three quarters of the conventions showing weak or down trends, it is no wonder the rumors started. The last five years have shown an improvement on the trend, but gold was still down at more than half the shows (eight of fifteen had declines).

So there is some statistical indications as to how the Long Beach Curse gained acceptance. But again, the real curse is one we recognize with all numismatic venues. There is an extremely diminished amount of quality material. True rarities and top pop condition rarities are commanding strong premiums, while the more common and lesser quality stuff has fallen stagnate. This increasing shift in the supply and demand equation coupled with an ever stronger precious metal price makes the outlook for rare coins seem bright – if only we could find the more coins.

A quick note to thank all our customers who have recently sold us coins or collections. Many of these items were exceptionally rare and of high quality. Thanks to you we have avoided the curse.

Gold’s astounding ride

By Steve Roach – Rare Coin Market Report Blog
First published in the Oct. 18, 2010, issue of Coin World

Gold continues to astound as it broke the $1,300 ounce level for the first time on Sept. 28, closing in New York at $1,306.60 an ounce.

The next day, gold hit a high of $1,313.20 before closing at $1,308.50.

In a nice contrast to the previous week’s House Subcommittee hearings focused on fighting fraud in the sale of gold coins, the Sept. 29 Wall Street Journal featured a front-page story that was overwhelmingly positive about gold’s potential to top $1,500 next year.

It focused on investors’ growing desire to hold actual gold in the form of coins and bars.

Reports by numerous analysts and banks seem to share a bullish view for gold, evidenced by a Sept. 28 report by Deutsche Bank that stated that $1,600 an ounce gold would not be surprising for 2012 and that gold would not be in a “bubble” until hitting $2,000.

The recent bull run-up in gold prices has been attributed to many things: continued uncertainty in the real estate market; concern about the value of currencies, especially China’s; low consumer confidence in the United States; and general concern about large central banks’ ability to control the money supply adequately.

But to collectors, one thing is clear: gold coins are much more expensive than they were in 2000, in large part due to the price of gold rising 353 percent over that time.

The increased threat of intrusive federal regulations in the coin industry, such as the recently introduced Coin and Precious Metal Disclosure Act (H.R. 6149) have done little to dampen the public’s appetite for gold coins.

But dealers have responded vocally to fight multiple pieces of legislation that could affect the coin market, forming political action committees aimed at fostering better communication between the coin community and legislators.

Many dealers reported that gold was the lone bright spot in the market at the recently completed Long Beach Coin, Stamp & Collectables Expo, where several market-makers elected to stay home, instead budgeting to attend the Whitman Coin and Collectibles Philadelphia Expo, another major show, scheduled for the following weekend.

The Dilemma of the Placeholder – Coin Collecting Strategy

By Doug Winter – www.RareGoldCoins.com

PlaceholderIf you collect a set (or sets) and are competing in the Set Registry, the chances are good that you’ve struggled with the Dilemma of the Placeholder. Let’s examine the Pros and Cons of buying a placeholder coin and try to decide whether this is a smart collecting strategy or not.

First off, let’s define what a “placeholder coin” is. I view a placeholder coin as one that you buy as a stop gap. As an example, say that you are assembling a set of Indian Head eagles. One of the few dates that you are missing is a 1911-D. One comes up for sale at auction in a grade lower than what you really want. You decide to buy it anyway because of the fact that it a) fills a gaping hole in your set and b) gives you a sufficient number of Registry Set points that you move up a notch and pass Collector X. Was this is a smart purchase or not?

Let’s look at the pros of buying a placeholder coin. The first is the measure of satisfaction that filling a really nagging hole can give. There is nothing more frustrating for our hypothetical collector than seeing a big ol’ ugly blank every time he looks at his set inventory – especially if he has a nice date run before and after the missing coin. Coin collecting is a very emotional hobby and the Karmic Value of filling a hole is hard to put a value on.

Another pro is the fact that a Placeholder coin might grow in appeal on the owner. I’m going to assume that as a collector you are smart enough to not buy something truly hideous and to at least hold out for a moderately attractive placeholder. You might learn that your placeholder is actually so rare that it represents the only coin that you are likely to have a shot to buy.

For some collectors a placeholder coin represents a practical decision. Let’s say for example that you are assembling a gold type set from the 19th and 20th centuries and that you don’t have the ability to spend $100,000+ on a nice 1808 quarter eagle. In this case, a decent looking coin in, say, an NCS holder with EF sharpness but with signs of an old cleaning at $40,000-50,000 might be a savvy purchase; especially given the fact that an uncleaned 1808 quarter eagle in this price range might take years and years to locate.

For every pro there is a con, so now let’s look at the cons of buying placeholder coins. To my way of thinking, the biggest con about a placeholder coin is the fact that you know you are going to have to replace it. Unless the market goes up in your series, you are probably going to lose money on it when you sell it. Let’s say, for example, that Collector Z buys the mythical 1911-D eagle we discussed above. He purchases one for $10,500 that’s decent but not really a great looking coin due to the presence of some marks on the obverse. A year later he finds the right coin and it’s going to cost him $27,500. Unless Collector Z has a buyback or “trade up” agreement with the dealer he bought it from he’s probably going to take a 10-15% hit on the coin. Let’s say he’s sells it at auction and nets $9,250; a loss of $1,250. This brings the actual cost of his new coin to $28,750. (more…)

What would happen if the United States lost its AAA credit rating?

by Adam Crum – Monaco Rare Coins

Two years ago‚ a company that performs financial research and analysis on commercial and government entities and has a 40% share in the world credit rating market warned the United States government that it risked losing its triple A rating if it didn’t get its finances under control. That company was Moody’s and the warning was motivated by the future of healthcare and Social Security costs and long before the present financial upheaval.

Does our government deserve a triple A credit rating?

While the U.S. government has had a triple A credit rating since 1917‚ there are those who feel that if the United States were any other country‚ its coveted top-tier credit rating might have been stripped away by now.

“For too long‚ the U.S. has delayed making the tough but necessary choices needed to reverse its deteriorating financial condition‚” David Walker‚ chief executive of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and a former comptroller general of the United States‚ recently wrote in the Financial Times. “One could even argue that our government does not deserve a AAA credit rating based on our current financial condition‚ structural fiscal imbalances and political stalemate.”

“The triple-A rating is undeserved‚” suggests Peter Morici‚ a professor of international business at the University of Maryland. “If Washington were a state capitol‚ we would have lost the AAA with the current budget.”

Here are just some of the reasons Mr. Walker and Professor Morici would make such statements:

* Equal to about 80 percent of total output of the United States‚ the Treasury Department recently reported that the total U.S. government debt is $11‚270‚547‚397‚564.64.
* With the U.S. relying on foreign buyers to keep its borrowing costs low‚ China and Japan alone hold more than $1.4 trillion of U.S. Treasury bonds as of March‚ according to U.S. Treasury data. A sovereign downgrade would certainly alarm at least some of those buyers.
* The Fed is now burdened by the same kind of toxic paper that has been plaguing private U.S. banks for several quarters.
* Leveraging its capital 48-to-1‚ Fed banks are holding total capital of just $45.7 billion against the sum total of $2.19 trillion in assets. Two years ago the ratio was only 27-to-1.
* The government’s $787 billion economic stimulus package and $700 billion bank bailout fund have strained the country’s resources and the jury is still out as to whether any of this will actually make a difference.
* The International Monetary Fund expects the debt-to-GDP ratio to hit 97.5 percent next year. Standard & Poor reaffirmed its AAA sovereign rating for the United States in January; however‚ the ratings agency also cautioned that the hundreds of billions of dollars committed to bailing out the banking sector would lead to a “noticeable deterioration in the U.S. fiscal profile.”
* The Chinese premier and the head of the People’s Bank of China have expressed concern over America’s long-term credit worthiness and the value of the dollar. China has also called for the creation of a new international reserve currency to replace the U.S. dollar.
* With a loss of 5.7 million jobs since December 2007‚ the number of workers collecting unemployment checks increased to a record of more than 6.6 million in the week ending May 9‚ the highest level of unemployment since 1983.
* The present economic situation in the U.S. is taking a huge chunk out of tax income‚ reported to be down 34%.
* Manufacturing in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic area shrank in May for the eighth straight month.
* States like California have been hit hard by the credit crunch and are struggling to arrange backing for municipal bonds and short-term debt.

(more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: 1856-O Double Eagles and other Great Rarities that I have seen

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #19

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

This week, I wish to focus upon the topic of viewing Great Rarities. This topic relates to several key concepts:

(1) To understand and appreciate Great Rarities, there is a need to see them.

(2) Viewing Great Rarities is important for coin enthusiasts, especially for those who cannot afford them. At a major art museum, most of the people viewing paintings cannot afford to buy such paintings or commensurable ones. They may still learn a great deal by seeing and interpreting works of art. Coin enthusiasts can and should learn about coins and examining Great Rarities is part of a learning process.

(3) Of course, I realize that many coin enthusiasts do not have the time or the resources to travel to view many Great Rarities. I hope that this is a reason, among other reasons, why coin enthusiasts read my columns and articles. Indeed, I hope that readers care about my interpretations of important coins, as I have devoted innumerable hours to viewing, analyzing, and writing about Great Rarities.

(4) I strongly maintain that, to be qualified to analyze coins, there is a need to carefully examine them. Further, to become an expert, there is a need to direct questions to experts, and I often do so. Certainly, viewing coins and asking questions are not the only criteria to qualify someone to analyze Great Rarities. These activities, though, are crucial to attaining knowledge in the field of rare U.S. coins.

(5) Though digital images of coins are sometimes wonderful, and imaging technology, along with its implementations, continues to improve, there is a great deal about many coins that cannot be seen in pictures. It is necessary to view actual coins to understand them. This will always be true.

(6) My comments below regarding many of the Great Rarities that I have seen are not meant to be boastful. Rather, such discussions relate to my qualifications and I wish to share my enthusiasm for Great Rarities with others.

Why discuss the topic of viewing Great Rarities now? While viewing the 1856-O Double Eagle ($20 gold coin) that Heritage will auction in Long Beach, I thought about the number of 1856-O Double Eagles that I have personally examined and then about some recent open discussions among coin enthusiasts regarding the “coolest” coins that each has held in his or her hands. I have seen at least seven different 1856-O Double Eagles.

I. 1856-O $20 Gold Coins

In the official auction for the Sept. Long Beach (CA) Expo, Heritage will offer a recently discovered 1856-O Double Eagle that is NGC graded “EF-45+.” In regards to how circulated, early New Orleans Mint Double Eagles are typically graded by the NGC, the “45+” grade is fair. I must admit, though, that there are several 1856-O Double Eagles that I like more than this one. Even so, this coin is sharply struck for the 1856-O issue and has minimal noticeable contact marks. It may not be easy to find a better one. All 1856-O Double Eagles, which I have seen, have been cleaned and/or dipped at one time or another. Type One (1850-66) Double Eagles have surged in popularity over the last ten years, and prices for rare dates of this type rose dramatically from 2003 to 2008.

“The two key collectible Type One Double Eagles are the 1854-O and the 1856-O. These have appreciated in value more than virtually any other United States gold coin in the last five to seven years,” declared Doug Winter in Oct. 2008.

In 2007, I wrote an article about 1856-O Double Eagles and I then focused upon a PCGS certified 1856-O that B&M auctioned in March 2007. On July 31, 2009, Heritage sold two 1856-O Double Eagles in one Platinum Night event. One of the two very much appealed to me. It is PCGS certified EF-45 and has a CAC sticker of approval. It has nice color and a great overall look. It scores particularly high in the category of originality.

Just weeks earlier, also in Los Angeles County, Heritage sold the special striking, ‘Specimen-63′ 1856-O in the official auction of the Spring 2009 Long Beach Expo. For years, I had dreamed about viewing that coin, and I was not disappointed. It is truly astounding. It is perhaps the most memorable and important of all New Orleans Mint gold coins. (more…)

Some Further Thoughts on Carson City Double Eagle Gold Coins

By Doug Winter – www.RareGoldCoins.com

I’ve been working on a third edition of my book on Carson City gold coins. For some odd reason, I’ve been working from back to front, meaning that I’ve done the new research of double eagles before following this with eagles and half eagles. I’ve been able to uncover some really eye-opening new information on the rarity and price levels of Carson City double eagles and I’d like to share a few tidbits.

The last Carson City book that I produced was published in 2001, so almost a full decade has passed. My first impression about the market for Carson City double eagles is that it has become far, far more active than ever. Prices have risen significantly since 2001, especially for rarities and for high grade pieces.

In 2001, the five rarest Carson City double eagles in terms of overall rarity (i.e., total known) were the 1870-CC, 1891-CC, 1871-CC, 1878-CC and 1879-CC (these last two issues were tied for fourth rarest). In 2010, the five rarest Carson City double eagles in terms of overall rarity are the 1870-CC, 1871-CC, 1891-CC, 1879-CC and 1885-CC (these last two issues were tied for fourth rarest).

The 1870-CC has remained an extremely rare coin, despite a surprisingly high frequency of auction appearance in the middle part of this decade. I had previously thought 35-45 were known. Today, I think that number is around 40-50. This includes a number of low grade coins and at least five or six that are either damaged or cleaned to the point that can not be graded by PCGS or NGC.

The rarity of the 1891-CC seems to have diminished quite a bit. I think there are two reasons for this. The first is that I overestimated its rarity in 2001. The second is that a significant number of examples have been found in Europe and other overseas sources. This date hasn’t become plentiful in higher grades but it is far more available in AU50 to AU55 than I ever remember it being before.

The 1871-CC seems more available as well. In 2001, this issue was very hard to find in any grade and it was almost never seen above AU50. Today it is more available and the number of coins graded AU53 to AU55 has risen dramatically. I would attribute much of this to gradeflation as the majority of the 1871-CC double eagles that I see in AU53 and AU55 holders are “enthusiastically” graded, to say the least. In properly graded Mint State, the 1871-CC remains exceedingly rare.

A date whose rarity has become more apparent is the 1885-CC. In the 2001 edition of my book, this date was not even listed in the top six rarest Carson City double eagles. I now rank it as being tied for fourth along with the 1879-CC.

Everyone loves a sleeper, right? The dates that I believe are underrated (and undervalued) in the Carson City double eagle series include the 1872-CC, 1877-CC, 1882-CC and 1892-CC.

In higher grades (AU50 and above), the rarity scale of the Carson City double eagle series has remained remarkably consistent. In 2001, I stated that the 1870-CC, 1871-CC, 1879-CC, 1878-CC, 1891-CC and 1872-CC were, in that order, the six rarest issues. In 2010, I believe the six rarest are the 1870-CC, 1871-CC, 1878-CC, 1879-CC, 1872-CC and 1891-CC. In other words, the same six dates are still the keys in higher grades but there are now some minor changes in the order. (more…)

September Coin Market Report

By Vic Bozarth – Bozarth Numismatics
Vic is our Newest CoinLink Content Partner. He will be providing Regular Market Reports and articles

As I write this on Labor Day 2010, I can’t help but reflect on the trends I have seen in the coin business over the last 25 years. Generally speaking the coin business during the Summer months, June through August, is flat. Of course, the ANA Show highlights the Summer show schedule, but other than the marathon it has become, the other shows are somewhat sparsely attended and well ‘flat’. With only a couple of exceptions, the Summer doldrums have lived up to their name. People are on vacation, taking time off, and hopefully spending some time with family and friends. Thank goodness Summer is over. Let’s do some business.

Business picks up during the Fall and early Winter months. Folks are done with their vacations, the weather is forcing them inside, and the coin market recognizes this most years and gets more active. We are already starting to see this trend in the bullion markets.

The two big questions you should focus on are: Where is the business going this Fall? How can you best take advantage of the market as it stands right now?

Gold and Silver bullion prices are moving up. While we specialize in rare high grade U.S. coins, we recognize and believe that bullion prices will continue to rise. How can you take advantage of this trend. U.S. gold coins are a great way to both hold and invest in bullion and take advantage of the low premiums that they currently carry in relation to their historic price levels. Let me illustrate this with an example.

During the last couple of months of 2009, gold bullion price levels bounced around $1200 per ounce. The ‘blue’ chip U.S. gold type coins that are most bullion sensitive, $10 and $20 gold coins, were extremely active.

The market peaked in late 2009 and to illustrate this I have listed wholesale price levels for actively traded gold coins then vs. now. Note the difference in the price of gold itself.

2009 Spot Gold $1195/ounce ……… 2010 Spot Gold $1250/ounce

Coin Type & Grade 2009 2010
$10 Liberty Gold MS63: $1500 $1000
$10 Liberty Gold MS64: $2400 $1600
$10 Indian Gold MS63: $1600 $1040
$10 Indian Gold MS64: $2400 $1650
$20 Liberty Gold MS63: $2600 $1800
$20 Liberty Gold MS64: $3300 $2250
$20 Saint Gold MS64: $1900 $1650
$20 Saint Gold MS65: $2600 $2010

What I am trying to illustrate is how ‘demand’ can really affect the wholesale price levels of coins, especially gold. During late 2009 there were some major institutional orders for these type of coins. This pushed demand/prices up and we sold into this peak of the market. Currently U.S. type gold coins are trading for significantly less yet the price for gold bullion is nearly $1250 per ounce. Do you see the disparity? (more…)

Coin Collecting: Do We Still Have a $20 Hobby ?

By Mark Benvenuto – The California Numismatist Magazine

If you are like many collectors, you may have spent a bit of time wondering just where our hobby has been going since 2007. With the economic slump, then the proclamations of recovery, you can’t help but wonder where that recovery really is when gold flirts with price tags like $1,250 per ounce, and when silver gets close to $20 per ounce. It makes a person wonder if there I still anything out there that doesn’t automatically have a hefty price tag slapped on it.

For all of us who pine for some bygone day when coins were cheap (if there ever really was one), we present for your collecting pleasure a laundry list of what can still be added to a collection for $20. Here we go.

First: Dealer bargain bins of cents, nickels, dimes, and quarters.

If you have always been the type of collector to wander past these jumbled, often chaotic offerings, slow down. Smell the roses, as it were. Dealers often buy large numbers of coins for a select few within the group that they know they can sell for a profit. This isn’t being crafty, sneaky, or cheap. Dealers have to live and have to eat. The coin business isn’t the grocery business, meaning you can’t eat what you don’t sell. The profit they make the difference between what they spend for a coin, and what they sell it for it what keeps the food on their tables. So, what happens to the many coins in a purchase that aren’t really big ticket items, but that might have been purchased along with those potential gems? They end up in the bargain bin.

Also known as the junk box, dealer bargain bins can be the home of some wonderful U.S. coins. Proof quarters, nickels, dimes, and cents that have been cracked out of US Mint cases sometimes end up here, often for only a dollar or two. A person with a bit of patience can assemble a date run of any or all of these denominations. Additionally, there are plenty of bins that have been sorted according to denomination and series. Wheat back cents come quickly to mind as a coin that ends up in plenty of “copper bargain bins,” if that is a proper term. Loads of these go for much less than a dollar per coin.

Older Jefferson nickels, as well as well-circulated Buffalo nickels, are also the stuff of bargain bins. Silver isn’t entirely absent from the bargain bin either. Roosevelt dimes are often found in them, as well as some of the more common Mercury dimes. A person with a keen eye and some patience can assemble some good looking date runs for $20 or less. If you move up to quarters, you’ll receive less of them for your $20 than you will dimes, but some careful searching can land you a handful of silver Washington, or even Standing Liberty, quarters. Certainly, these won’t be mint state specimens, but they can still be handsome coins.

Second: Silver dollars in circulated, but attractive conditions.

Okay, if smaller U.S. coins aren’t your bag, there are still some bargains to be had among what are arguably the most collected of US silver coins, the Morgan and Peace dollars. Those big, fat Morgans are not entirely out of reach, although $20 will only get you one. The common dates, such as the 1879, the 1880, the 1880-S and the 1881-S to name a few examples, can be had for about $20 each in grades such as very fine. Again, these aren’t mint state gems, but they aren’t dogs either.

The tail end of the Morgan dollar series also has a few promising items. Specifically, the 1921, as well as its siblings from Denver and San Francisco, can all be had for about $20 per coin in a grade such as extra fine. There’s a pretty trio that a person on a budget can still collect. The Peace dollars are just about always check by jowl with the Morgans when it comes to dealer selections. The most common Peace dollar is the 1922, with a mintage of a whopping 51.7 million coins to its official tally. Today you can nab one in almost uncirculated condition for $20. But don’t stop with just this one Peace dollar. Take a look through any of the reference price lists and you’ll find several of these large, silver disks that list at just about the same price tag. (more…)

GUEST COMMENTARY: Coin Doctors – CAN’T STOP NOW

All Editorial and Commentaries posted on CoinLink represent the opinions of the author(s), who are soley responsible for this content. All points of view are encouraged and comments are welcomed.

By Laura Sperber – Hot Topics Blog

I say a heart-felt thanks to everyone who has emailed me support concerning the fight against coin doctors the past several months. Due to my hectic travel schedule, sometimes I just can’t respond to all your emails-but do know I read EVERY SINGLE ONE!

EVEN IF YOU ARE A NOT BIG DEALER, YOU COUNT

Every single person counts and is needed in this fight. Every single person has a voice that counts. Do not think there is nothing you can do.

You do not have to right on a blog like I do, you can just talk to your fellow collectors or dealers, at shows, clubs, or wherever. Send an email or a letter to the grading services, the numismatic organization, or the coin papers. The more “pressure” that is put applied, the better the results will be. If people don’t speak up it will be back to biz as usual for these bad guys.

A small dealer came up to me at the PCGS Invitational. He told me “I support you 100%”. He told me how badly he HATES the docs and anyone who is a mule for them. He told me how he has told one dealer friend why he won’t do business with him anymore and how he shoos away the docs from buying his coins. But he was upset because he felt he has no where to speak out. I told him if he can write a letter to an editor of a publication that’s great. I also told him-his voice has already spoken and he is a HUGE help. He definitely has the “RIGHT” attitude. Just imagine if very non doc did what he did-or had his attitude. I believe he also told me he is quitting the PNG.

At this point, the PNG has PROVEN (to me, in my opinion) with out any doubt to be the most WORTHLESS organization ever formed in coins when it comes to protecting the consumer and the coins themselves. As predicted, the PNG came up with a definition of coin doctoring and then all has been quiet since. I was totally disgusted that one of the PROVEN trouble makers of the PCGS lawsuit proudly displayed his PNG flag and was set up and doing business PNG day. That is a slap to EVERYONE (from the smallest collector to the biggest dealers). Meanwhile a high ranking PNG official told me he thought I was grandstanding on these issues for publicity. That’s why nothing makes me prouder than NOT being a PNG member.

I BELIEVE THIS IS THE BACKBONE OF TODAY’S PROBLEMS

Nothing disgusts me more than how dealers-especially young dealers disrespect the coin business. I watch the brightest potential talent all lean toward being “crack out” dealers and eventually fading in to full coin doctoring. Why isn’t the PNG working to scare them straight? Why can’t they educate them that coins are a treasure that need to be carefully saved in their original form? We desperately need to break this negative attitude or in 20-30 years it is a real possibility that the % of coins that will have been messed with in as high as 50%. The docs are all about making money. They will do whatever they can to a coin to gain a profit.

All the dealers refuse to blame their buddies or are in pure denial about the issues. So many dealers tell me I am so wrong and that its the grading services who should catch the bad coins. Here is what they need to wake up too: DEALERS WHO FEEL ITS THEIR RIGHT TO VIOLATE THE GRADING SERVICES SUBMISSION CONTRACTS AND FRAUDULENTY SUBMIT “WORKED ON” COINS. Key word: FRAUD. These guys should not only be exposed, but they should be forced to pay back ALL their ill gotten gains in multiples and perform numismatic community service of retraining and supporting dealers from NOT being doctors.

THE PCGS LAWSUIT HAS STARTED TO SHOW SOME CHANGE

I was speaking with John Albanese (the founder and finalizer at CAC). He confirmed to me that the amount of “messed with” coins he has seen since the lawsuit has been seriously reduced. That’s a huge plus. But that does not mean these rats are on the run. As evidenced in a Coin World Article recently, even after the lawsuit was filed one of the defendants still had the disgusting audacity to be ready to doctor more coins. So as you can see, this is nasty and serious war against sick and greedy individuals. (more…)