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Category: General Collecting

Five Things You Can Do to Make Your Coins Worth More

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

If you have been collecting rare coins for more than a few years, there is a good chance that you have “found money” in your holdings. What I mean by this is that there are a number of things that you can do–often with little or no cost–that can significantly improve the appearance and value of your coins. Here are five suggestions:

1. Send Your Coins to CAC. CAC is now well established as an important factor in the high-end segment of the market. In certain areas, CAC coins trade for a nice premium and there is no doubt in my mind that a CAC sticker makes a coin more marketable. Submitting a coin to CAC is very inexpensive; typically just $10 to $20 per item. Another thing that’s nice about submitting coins to CAC is that you are getting an expert’s opinion (in this case John Albanese) for next to nothing. You might try sending a sample of your five best coins to CAC. If you get CAC approval on all five coins, you know you are doing something right. If only one or two get the coveted “green bean” then you can assume that the dealer you are buying from needs to be replaced.

2. Attribute Your Coins. Let’s say that you are a date collector of early half eagles. It makes sense to purchase the Bass-Dannreuther book on early gold to attribute all your coins to “BD” numbers. You might get lucky and find that one of the coins that you own is a very rare die variety. This isn’t necessarily an immediate financial upgrade, as it would be in a series like Bust half dollars or Large cents which are avidly collected by variety. But wouldn’t you rather keep the potential financial upgrade for yourself than to read on page three of Coin World how some lucky collector just cherry-picked an excessively rare variety of 1806 half eagle? Also, if PCGS or NGC attributes varieties in the series you collect and you find a good variety, have it marked on the slab.

3. Pedigree Your Coins. If you have a coin from a famous collection like Bass, Garrett, Eliasberg or Norweb, a pedigree can add value. Some coins from these collection are clearly marked on the PCGS or NGC insert. But there are hundreds of others that have “lost” their pedigree for one reason or another. I’d suggest that you purchase all of the major auction catalogs in the area that you specialize in and spend a few hours searching through them. Your coin(s) may have a different appearance than they did in an earlier sale, but if they have an obvious mark this will make it easy to trace them. If a great pedigree is easy to prove, send the coin along with a xerox of the catalog page to PCGS or NGC.

4. Reslab Your Coins. Please note that I didn’t say “regrade” your coins. That’s another subject entirely and one that, if you have coins in old green label or “fatty” holders, I do not necessarily think will add value to your coins. What I mean by “reslabbing” is that many coins are in holders that show severe scuffing, wear, or dullness. A great coin can look just so-so if the holder it’s in doesn’t present itself well. I know this sounds a little hokey but its no different than deep-cleaning your house when you get ready to sell it. If all of your coins are in pretty, fresh slabs it is going to make your coins look nicer. (more…)

Gold Confiscation Past and Present

There was a recent article posted  by David Ganz in Numismatics News titled “Protect Your Gold Against Seizure” (actually it is just the first part of a multi-part article), where several topics were discussed, not the least of which was FDR’s Executive order from April 5, 1933.

Many “Gold Bugs” in addition to just regular investors who have moved into the gold marketplace are concerned that if the economic crisis worsens, there is or might be the possibility that we could see new efforts to confiscate gold on the part of the government.

Indeed the Glen Beck-Goldine controversy with NY Congressman Anthony Weiner is in part about what Rep Weiner calls misleading statements and fear-mongering on the part of Beck and Goldline, to use the 1933 Executive order to steer buyers into numismatic coins (and common date foreign gold coins) which were exempt under the 1933 confiscation order, rather than purchasing lower margin bullion products, such as American Gold Eagles, Krugerrands and the like.

CoinLink is going to have an article about the Beck-Goldline-Weiner story next week which is sure to piss off a number of people.

Back to David Ganz’s article. There were several thing in the piece that raised our eyebrows and were just interesting.  Mr Ganz is both an attorney and a highly intelligent and insightful coin enthusiast. We always follow his articles with the highest degree of interest.

FDR Ends Gold Standard in 1933

He related that there was some disagreement on whether or not FDR’s Executive order was indeed a confiscation order, or a request for voluntary compliance in the national interest.  It is true that the police did not come knocking at the doors to take all of their gold, but we would have to disagree with Maurice Rosen’s conclusion that this was a voluntary situation. Clearly Section 9 of the Executive Order  (See full text of Executive Order 6102 below) calls for a $10,000 fine and Up to 10 Years in prison for ‘non compliance. That does not sound very  “Voluntary” to me. (more…)

The Top Ten Mint State Saints

Much has been written about the $20 Saint-Gaudens series since it is quite possibly the most popular gold coin sought after today. I’d like to discuss the rarity/value relationship of the top ten scarcest dates, in mint state condition. I will exclude the 1933 from this discussion since there is only one coin legal to own and therefore unobtainable by the majority of registry collectors. Although most coins have appreciated in value over the last 10 years, the Saint-Gaudens series has been the area of some of the biggest increases. In compiling this list, PCGS and NGC population numbers are used as a starting point as well as CDN values over the last ten years. Needless to say, population report numbers are not entirely accurate due to resubmissions; however they do still represent a high degree of accuracy. The increasing popularity of registry sets makes such analysis important for current and future collectors. (All population data is current as of 2/2/07)

#10) 1908-S:

The 1908-S has the distinction of being the lowest mintage date (22,000) in the series (aside from the 1907 $20 High Relief) Since we are focusing on mint state examples today, some would be surprised to see this date in the top ten list, however with a certified PCGS population of 121 and an NGC population of 124 in all mint state grades I rank it number 10.

Most Uncirculated coins have soft satiny luster and an adequate strike. There are a small number of heavily abraded and unattractive lower grade mint state coins which came over from Europe in the last few years. None of those coins were above MS-63 in quality. This may be the reason that the CDN bid price has not adequately reflected this date’s value over the last 3 or 4 years. For example; 1908S has a current MS-63 CDN bid of $15,500. These have been trading at auction in the last year for between $19,578 and $21,850. The latter coin I purchased out of the ANR sale in Chicago, July of last year. Needless to say I resold the coin for a profit. The relative grey sheet value of the 1908S should therefore resemble the value of other key date Saints with equal rarity and population.

One date that comes to mind is the 1926-D. The combined certified population of both dates in MS-60-62 is 139(1908-S) and 123 for the 1926-D, roughly equal, yet the 26-D trades for over twice the price of the 08-S. Moreover in MS-63 the 1908-S has a certified population of only 31 while 1926-D has certified population of 50. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Defining Coin Doctoring and Dipping, Additions to the PCGS Lawsuit Against Alleged Coin Doctors

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #17

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I. The filing and re-filing of this lawsuit

Over the last forty years, especially from the late 1990s to 2006 or so, the coin collecting community has suffered from the terrible problem of coin doctoring; coins are deceptively altered for the purpose of tricking experts, particularly those employed by the PCGS and the NGC, into concluding that a coin is of higher quality than it was before it was doctored. The process of doctoring a coin reduces its level of quality and, in many (though not nearly all) cases, permanently damages the coin. Coins ranging in value from less than $50 to more than $1 million have been doctored.

In many instances, doctored coins ‘turn’ at a later time, as unintended byproducts of doctoring processes result in unsightly delayed chemical reactions or the decomposing of added matter on the doctored coins. It is not unusual for a coin doctor to deliberately harm (often permanently) a coin that grades MS-64 in order to try to deceive experts into believing that it grades MS-66.

John Feigenbaum is president of David Lawrence Rare Coins (DLRC), and has been involved in the coin business for more than twenty years. In 2004 and 2005, DLRC sold one of the fifteen greatest collections of classic (pre-1934) U.S. coins ever to be publicly auctioned. Feigenbaum says, “in general I [John] applaud PCGS for taking action on this matter, and I think they should take any and all actions in the future towards parties that are trying to slip doctored coins past them.”

In my column of June 2, I analyzed the CU-PCGS lawsuit against alleged coin doctors, which was filed in late May. I encourage readers who wish to learn about this lawsuit, its importance and its implications, to read my column of June 2nd. On Aug. 10, CU-PCGS filed a “second amended complaint” along with a new motion.

II. The basics of the lawsuit

Although technically PCGS is a subsidiary of Collectors Universe (CU) and it is CU that filed this lawsuit, the PCGS predates CU and the PCGS is the core of Collectors Universe. Further, the PCGS certifies coins. So, it is clear and helpful to refer to the plaintiff as the PCGS as the lawsuit concerns allegations that dealers deliberately submitted doctored coins to the PCGS, without disclosing intentionally added defects, for the purpose of deceiving graders at the PCGS into assigning higher grades to such coins than the coins would have merited before they were doctored. Coin doctoring, of course, reduces the grade of a coin, often to the point where the coin no longer merits a numerical grade.

The submission contract that each dealer signs to be a dealer-submitter of coins to the PCGS for grading and authentication prohibits dealer-submitters from sending in doctored coins for numerical grading. At the very least, it is argued that dealers who submit doctored coins for numerical grading have breached their respective contracts with the PCGS. Moreover, the PCGS argues in the lawsuit that such coin doctoring is in violation of several Federal and California State laws. Curiously, attorneys for the PCGS declare that conspiracies to doctor coins and submit them to the PCGS fall under RICO statutes, and are thus said by the PCGS to constitute racketeering.

Importantly, attorneys for the PCGS argue that coin doctoring is not just a civil offense, a racket and a breach of contract. Attorneys for the PCGS maintain that coin doctoring is a crime under Title “18 U.S.C §331,” which is cited in the lawsuit as follows, “Whoever fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales or lightens any of the coins minted at the mints of the United States … [or] … Whoever fraudulently possesses, passes, utters, publishes, or sells, or attempts to pass, utter, publish or sell … any such coin, knowing the same to be altered, defaced, mutilated, impaired, diminished, falsified, scaled or lightened … Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years or both.” (more…)

Tips on Selling Your Coins Via Dealer Consignment

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

Many retail dealers, myself included, welcome consignments from collectors. It’s a great way to increase the size of a dealer’s inventory without laying out cash and it is often an excellent source for dealers to place useful, fresh attractive coins to new or existing clients. As a potential consignor, what are some of the questions you should be asking a dealer and what are some of the expectations you should have?

1. What rate should you be paying a dealer?

I can’t speak for every dealer, so I’ll share this from a DWN perspective. I generally charge between 5 and 10% to sell a coin on consignment. I’ve heard of dealers charging more than 10% and that seems a bit on the gouge-y side. On the other hand, to expect a dealer to sell your coins for less than 5% is unreasonable unless you are talking about a very low spread item like bullion or generics (which probably shouldn’t be consigned to dealers in the first place).

2. What should my expectations be as a consignor?

Obviously, your first expectation is for the coin to sell. But there should be other expectations as well. You should expect a dealer to work hard at selling your coins. This means listing them promptly on his website, imaging them, giving them good descriptions and offering them directly (via phone or email) to existing clients. You should expect clear, concise paperwork from the dealer including a receipt stating the terms and conditions of the consignment. You should expect prompt payment with good funds. And you should expect honesty and integrity. No games, no “funny stuff.”

3. What sort of payment terms should I expect?

There is no set answer to this so, once again, I’ll share with you how I take care of payment. First of all, I am very careful to sell consigned coins to collectors or dealers who I know will pay me. There are certain dealers, for instance, whose check I absolutely will not take. I wouldn’t sell these guys any of my own coins so why would I subject a collector to the risk of “will I or won’t I get paid?” I generally pay clients for coins within a few days of being paid myself; a few days usually meaning two or three. In the case of having multiple coins on consignment from one collector, I pay them as they sell. I never wait until the end of a deal to pay the consignor and I don’t think that’s fair, unless that’s what the consignor requests.
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HOW TO PRICE VERY RARE COINS

By Doug Winter CoinLink Content Partner

If you collect very rare or finest known coins, figuring out what to pay for an item that you need for your collection can be difficult. Here is a real-life example of how I came up with what I believe to be an accurate value for a one-of-a-kind coin.

The coin that we are going to use as our Coin Pricing Lab Experiment is the Finest Known 1860-C half eagle; an item that my firm recently handled.

When analyzing any complicated, rare issue, there are at least four things that I give major consideration to:

1860-C Half Eagle 1. Establishing rarity

2. Determining comparables

3. Gauging the depth of the market

4. How nice is the coin for the grade and for the issue

So let’s take the scenario that I am bidding on this 1860-C half eagle at auction (as opposed to selling it by private treaty) and assisting Collector X. The first thing that I am going to help him with is a basic understanding of the rarity of the issue.

According to the soon-to-be-released third edition of my book on Charlotte gold coinage, the 1860-C half eagle is a moderately scarce issue with an estimated 125-150 pieces known. My best estimate is that there are seven to eight properly graded Uncirculated examples with one in MS64 (the present example) as well as at least two or three in MS63. I would suggest to Collector X that he remember that with as many as three known in MS63, the chances are pretty good that at least one will magically transform into a second MS64 in the future. And should this happen—and his coin is no longer “population 1 with none better”– it will lose value.

Most collectors eventually check out the PCGS and NGC population reports. As of April 2008, PCGS had graded a total of eleven 1860-C half eagles in Uncirculated while NGC had graded twenty-five (!) in Uncirculated for a combined total of thirty-six. Now, I would be quick to tell this collector that these figures are dramatically inflated by resubmissions and that virtually every 1860-C half eagle that I have seen in a PCGS or NGC slab below MS62 is debatable about whether or not it truly is Uncirculated. But there is no denying the fact that there are enough purported Uncirculated 1860-C half eagles out there to make this MS64 lose a bit of its luster. It is a scarce coin but not one that could be called a fundamental rarity as it is readily obtainable in circulated grades and even available in the lower Uncirculated grades from time to time. (more…)

Coin Collecting – Set Premiums: Fact or Fiction?

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

One of the things that new collectors are often told is that if they build a set, the collective value of the coins will be greater than the individual value when it is time to sell. Is this correct or is it just clever marketing hype?

I believe that the answer to this question is yes, no and maybe. Let’s take a random example of a set–Charlotte quarter eagles–and look at instances where there would or would not be a premium factor established upon completion.

There is, in theory, a clear-cut instance of when a set of Charlotte quarter eagles would gain value if it were complete. This would occur if all the coins were very high high grade and the set would be almost impossible to duplicate at any price. But what if the coins themselves are not as impressive as the plastic they reside in? I have seen sets of Charlotte quarter eagles in which all the coins were accorded very high grades by PCGS and NGC but the coins themselves were unimpressive; some were recolored while others were puttied. Among well-informed collectors of Charlotte quarter eagles there are high grade sets that are famous for having great coins and there are sets that are (in)famous for having coins that are “maxed out” and unappealing despite impressive grades.

A set of Charlotte quarter eagles might not have to be high grade to be impressive and to gain value on a completed basis. I have seen sets where all of the coins were “only” in the EF to AU range but the individual coins were gorgeous with matched natural color, nice surfaces and strikes and strong overall eye appeal. In this instance, I think a set could gain as much as 10-15% premium. The reason it would gain value is that a potential buyer would realize that in today’s market–where most Charlotte quarter eagles are stripped-n-dipped–the opportunity to acquire high quality coins is rare; and the opportunity to acquire a complete set of them is even more rare.

An instance where a “maybe” answer might have to be given is with a clearly mixed quality set. I know of a few sets of Charlotte quarter eagles where the quality is wildly uneven. There might be a common date in EF45 which isn’t very nice alongside a rare date in MS63 that is spectacular. This lends itself to a sort of numismatic version of “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Would you pay a premium for a set that had some great coins but which you knew that you would be forced to do significant upgrades on others? I think the answer has to be made on a case-by-case basis. If the highlights off the set were enough to offset the low-lights than I think a premium factor would be in order; just maybe not the 10-15% that I mentioned above.

There are other instances where I think that a set premium would be in order. I would pay a healthy premium for a set that all the coins had good pedigrees (not necessarily famous pedigrees but they may have come from good retail dealers or not-so-famous auctions that have a high regard among specialists). I would pay a premium for a set of coins that were original. And I would probably pay a premium for a set of early gold coins in which each piece was better produced than usual. (more…)

Legend Offers Suggestions on Building Sets in Coin Collecting

Laura Sperber – Legend Numismatics

There is no magic wand or crystal ball that can tell you when the coin market will turn red hot again or when prices will finally rise across the board. Until then, there are many areas you can explore that we feel have awesome potential-and are actually completable.

GOLD BUGS READ THIS:

Its very interesting that we see the masses buying Saints in MS64 and higher. People have always enjoyed the feel of bigger gold. Because of this, many Gold Type coins have been drifting and actually have come down in value. WE SUGGEST YOU BUILD AN MS64 AND HIGHER GOLD TYPE SET. You can put in it whatever you want. So buy a slight better Gold Dollar for very little premium or buy an MS65 $3 Gold piece-of which we have seen so few around recently. All Indian Gold in GEM has actually fallen recently-and they are NOT easy coins to find.

ALL PROOF BARBERS

HELLO! We KNOW these are incredible values. For years we preached about PR64’s. They have since gone up and are ok, but you can do better in the higher grades. BUY PR 65-67 coins. You can build a COMPLETE 24 coin PR Barber 10C set in 66 for UNDER $60,000.00. Or how about a PR barber Quarter set in PR65? That about $50,000.00. The beauty is the coins look great and MOST have mintage’s of UNDER 1,000 pieces. We only own maybe one or two PR Barbers total-so do NOT accuse us of manipulating pr hyping a market to our benefit!

PROOF LIBERTY NICKELS

Do a PR65/66 Set. Even a semi mixed set of them should cost SUBSTANTIALLY UNDER $25,000.00! These are beautiful coins! You can’t go to a major show and finish the set in day, but you can build a set over a few months.

PROOF TWENTY CENT SET

There are ONLY 4 coins in this set-two of which are Proof ONLY! This set supplies it all: rarity, obsolete, beauty,and affordability. A set in PR64 can be built for UNDER $25,000.00. Or, go for the BEST and do a PR66 set: $50,000.00. Its all up to your tastes and budget.

WALKERS

We have learned from our McClaren Collection that the short set of Walkers (1941 PDS-1947 PD) in MS65/66 is probably one of the most popular collected areas in all of coins. Stunning GEM MS66 Walkers can be purchased for around $225-$275.00. Even the rare 1941S PCGS MS66 will only cost you $2,250.00 or so.

OUR ALL TIME FAVORITE RECOMMENDATION:

Build a Type set. A Type set is a representative of a series. It can contain the 50C 1905 PCGS MS68 we recently bought and sold for over $135,000.00, or it can contain an MS66 PL Morgan for $225.00. You simply pick the BEST examples you can afford and like. By building a Type set, opportunity does NOT pass by you. (more…)

Coins With Shady Pasts

The U.S. Treasury’s high-handed seizure of a 1933 St. Gaudens Double Eagle from a British dealer lured to America under false pretenses by a Secret Service Agent posing as a buyer for the coin is outrageous to me, and should be highly disturbing to you, the collector. The arrest of this dealer, Stephen Fenton, and of his American agent, Jay Parrino, on charges of allegedly possessing stolen U.S. government property is frightening to all of us.

Popular legend has long held that no 1933 Double Eagles were ever “officially” released by the U.S. Treasury, and that somehow this made them illegal to possess (other than the two specimens “officially” given by the Treasury to the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution). This is despite the fact that several 1933 $20s were publicly advertised and sold in the numismatic market between 1933 and 1944, at which point the Treasury suddenly and arbitrarily decided that they could not be sold after all, and began seizing them and destroying them!

Although most common gold coins were required to be surrendered to the U.S. Treasury at face value by the Gold Surrender Act of 1933 and the Gold Reserve Act of 1934, the laws specifically exempted “gold coins having a recognized special value to collectors of rare and unusual coins” from the requirement, and the 1933 Double Eagle certainly qualified as a rare and unusual coin. These laws were ultimately nullified by Public Law 93-373, which made all forms of gold legal for Americans to own again and was signed into law by President Gerald Ford on August 14, 1974, and again by Executive Order 11825, promulgated by Ford on December 31, 1974.

This would appear to make the 1933 $20s legal to own now, a point arguably subject to debate and interpretation when the Treasury began seizing them in 1944. However, the Treasury now claims, without substantiation, that the 1933 $20s are actually stolen government property, a charge significantly not raised by the Treasury when two earlier victims of government seizure in the late 1940s and early 1950s sued the government for the return of their property.

Those lawsuits were conducted at a time when the Gold Surrender Act was in effect to support the Treasury’s otherwise weak position. In both cases the litigants abandoned their efforts in the face of the endless legal fees incurred in challenging Uncle Sam’s deep pockets. However, neither litigant was ever faced with the threat of criminal prosecution.
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Prices for Proof American Eagle Gold Coins Tumble

By Steve Roach – First published in the Aug. 30, 2010, issue of Coin World

Proof American Eagle gold coins have provided some sparks in the marketplace this past year, but the fast fall in prices over the past several weeks serves as a reminder that what goes up usually comes down.

Some major buyers have stopped buying these and prices have fallen sharply.

For some smaller dealers who were stockpiling the coins in anticipation of continued demand, the change in the market means they have lost substantial money, for now, as the coins are now worth substantially less than what the dealers paid for them.

During July, several large dealers were paying between $1,950 and $2,000 per ounce for Proof American Eagle gold coins in original Mint packaging – the inner and outer boxes, original capsules and original certificate of authenticity with the same year as the coins.

For example, on July 14 a major wholesaler was paying $2,025 per ounce; the dealer’s price gradually declined to $1,900 July 26. Then on July 27 the dealer’s buy price went down to $1,850. On July 29 in the morning the dealer’s buy price was $1,830 and by the afternoon it went to $1,800. On Aug. 3, the price hit $1,750 and then, with orders filled, that dealer stopped buying.

Incidentally, the price of gold on July 26 was $1,189 per ounce and the price on Aug. 3 was $1,184, meaning that the drop in demand was not directly related to the bullion market.

On Aug. 6, when gold increased to $1,205 per ounce, one dealer offered $1,650 per ounce for coins with original packaging, and for coins without the packaging, the price dropped sharply to $1,400 per ounce.

If those who are closest to the market are not buying at the high levels that have characterized these Proof issues for the last year, are they doing this because they know something that we at Coin World don’t know?

On Aug. 6, the U.S. Mint told Coin World that no decision has been made as to whether Proof 2010-W American Eagle 1-ounce gold coins would be struck.

If the U.S. Mint releases Proof American Eagle gold bullion coins in 2010, supplies will increase and less pressure will be placed on the current supply, likely ending the bull market for these issues.

Mr. Roach maintains a website/blog titled The Rare Coin Market Report

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The rise in the number of collectors of rare U.S. coins and the importance of the PCGS & the NGC

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #15

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

Today’s topic relates to the number of people who collect rare or scarce U.S. coins, and, at least once in a while, spend more than $1000 on a single coin. The number of such collectors has grown tremendously since around 1998.

At various times since Sept. or Oct. 2008, a substantial number of collectors have stopped buying, not because of lack of interest, but rather because of their own personal financial circumstances. After all, in the middle of 2008, a rather severe recession began that negatively affected almost everyone. Further evidence of my point regarding the increase in numbers and in interest of coin collectors is found in the fact that rare U.S. coins went down in value to a much lesser extent than almost all other categories of assets.

There has only been a modest amount of attrition since coin markets peaked during the first seven to eight months of 2008. (Please see my remarks about coin markets in the following articles: O’Neal’s Eagles – Part1, Part 2; Queller’s Patterns; August 2009 Market Report – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3; and my Review of the Jan. 2010 Platinum Night event.)

Why is there is a reason to put forth such points now? After all, I could, and had planned to, write more about the terrific coins that I saw at the ANA Convention in Boston. (Please click to read last week’s column.) Unfortunately, very recently, in a print publication (CW), a widely recognized commentator (QDB) has put forth a theory that most “serious” collectors are well over fifty years old and that the number of coin collectors has not been increasing. This poorly reasoned theory needs to be addressed.

I. Young Adults and Coin Conventions

Without research, it can be logically deduced that most young adult collectors do not have the time to attend many first tier coin conventions or expos. Further, because of the growth of the Internet and other advances in technology, there is less to be gained, than before, by attending major conventions, though I still recommend attending them. If a majority of the collector-buyers at major events, like the ANA and FUN Conventions, are over the age of fifty, this does NOT prove that a majority of collectors who are seriously interested in expensive U.S. coins are over the age of fifty.

It should be obvious that most collectors between the ages of seventeen and fifty just do not have the time to attend ANA or FUN Conventions, or Long Beach Expos. Surely, many young adults in their twenties, thirties and forties, are busy with their careers and/or busy running their own businesses. A lot of people work ten hours a day to further their business or occupational pursuits, especially many of those collectors who spend more than $1000 per coin. It is also true that collectors in their twenties or thirties may be focused on their respective families.

In general, it is unrealistic to expect a thirty-three year old entrepreneur to be staying up at night thinking about locating a Draped Bust, Small Eagle half dollar, completing a set of Three Cent Nickels, or assembling a type set of Proof Liberty Head gold coins. Of course, there is an occasional thirty-three year old, very affluent collector who devotes ten to twenty hours a week to studying coin related materials and to building his coin collection. Clearly, though, few thirty-something collectors will have the time to attend ANA or FUN Conventions. Therefore, QDB and also Doug Winter are correct in that collectors in the fifty to eighty year old range are more likely to engage in BOTH spending on rarities and extensive travel to coin events. It is indisputable, however, that there are many unseen coin collectors in their twenties, thirties and forties. (more…)

ANA Urges Members to Contact Congress to Repeal New 1099 Requirements

The American Numismatic Association urges its members to contact their members of Congress and ask to repeal a law that could significantly increase the paperwork burden on dealers and increase the risk of identity theft for all collectors who buy and sell numismatic material.

Under Section 9006 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as health care reform legislation, businesses will be required to report all goods and services purchased in excess of $600 with an IRS 1099 form. As written, the law would, beginning in 2012, require all coin dealers to report on IRS form 1099 all goods and services (totaled across a taxable year) they purchase from other dealers and customers in excess of $600.

While the legislation applies to all types of businesses, an unusual burden would be placed on numismatic dealers who, unlike most businesses, buy goods and services from each other and their retail clients. In addition, dealers will be required to gather personal information on all clients who sell them goods or services in excess of $600, including name, address and social security number.

“All dealers will be disproportionately and unfairly impacted by this legislation,” said ANA Executive Director Larry Shepherd. “As a former dealer, I can see how a small-to-medium-sized dealer could easily be required to submit 1,000 or more 1099s in a typical year, at very significant cost. In addition, all collectors would be forced to give out personal information that could increase the possibility of identity theft. This section of the healthcare reform bill is a nightmare for everyone in this hobby. We need to make sure that our voices are heard.”

Shepherd cautioned that the numismatic community should understand that this is not a new tax, but rather a method by which the IRS can collect more information in hopes that more taxpayers will report taxable income. The assumption is that the new regulation would generate about $17 billion over 10 years, increasing tax revenue to cover some of the costs of health care reform.

Already, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) has introduced HR 5141 to repeal this part of the health care reform act, and Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) has introduced a companion bill in the Senate, S. 3578. Both bills are titled “The Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act,” and will likely need more co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and Senate.

“The ANA urges everyone who loves this hobby to contact your representatives and urge them to sign on to HR 5141 and to contact both your senators and urge them to sign on to S. 3578,” Shepherd said.

The ANA has posted sample letters from dealers or collectors below and on its website at www.money.org.

For contact information on your members of Congress, go to www.house.gov or www.senate.gov. Anyone without a computer should contact the local office of your representative or senator, or call the U.S. Capitol at 202-224-3121. (more…)

All-Time Greatest Collection of Barber Half Dollars to be Auctioned in Boston, Part 2

by Greg Reynolds

In part 1, I introduced Dr. Duckor’s set of Barber Halves, mentioned the last two coins that he added, focused on his 1904-S half, and discussed the building of his set of Barber halves. Here in part 2, the historical and cultural importance of this set will be analyzed, with references to other landmark sets of Barber Halves. In my last weekly column, on Wed. Aug 4th, I discussed two other halves in Dr. Duckor’s set, both of which were previously in the Thaine Price collection, his 1893-O and 1895-S. (As usual, clickable links are in blue.)

IV. Gem Sets of Business Strike Barbers

Only a small number of collectors have attempted to assemble a set of gem quality Barber Half Dollars. These were minted from 1892 to 1915. Barber Dimes and Quarters were also first minted in 1892, though these continued until 1916. In low grades, Good-04 to Fine-12, a set of Barber Halves is easy to complete. Without consideration of the 1892 Micro O variety, Numismedia.com suggests that a whole set, in Good-04 grade, could be assembled for around $2500.

Generally, many collectors choose Barber Halves over Barber Quarters because a set of Barber Halves is easier to complete. An 1896-S quarter may cost as much as $1000 in Good condition, while a 1901-S quarter could easily cost more than $5000. So, kids and other beginners are often discouraged from Barber Quarters because they are concerned that they will never be able to complete a set. In grades of MS-65 and higher, though, Barber Halves are much more expensive than the quarters overall.

In many instances, when a collector becomes wealthy, he (or she) returns to some of the series that he collected when he had far less money, often to coin types that he collected as a kid or as a relatively young adult. As sets of circulated Barber Halves have been completed by so many collectors, I am surprised that so few advanced, wealthy collectors have sought to complete sets of gem quality Barber Halves. Such a quest may be very exciting.

Yes, gem quality Barber Halves have been worth significant sums of money since the late 1980s. From then to the present, however, it has often been type coin collectors and speculators that have demanded gem quality Barber Halves. Over the last century, there have been very few collectors, who strongly focused upon completing sets of gem quality, business strike Barber coins.

A perusal of catalogues of auctions of especially great collections from the 1940s to the 1970s demonstrates that minimal attention was given to Barber Halves. It seems that, in decades past, collectors of half dollars felt an obligation to include Barber Halves because traditional rules stipulate that a collection of classic half dollars should include all the dates that the respective collector could afford. In the traditions of coin collecting in the U.S., completion is a value of a high order.

Only in rare instances was a collection of business strike Barber Halves a focus. In addition to being the foremost researcher of U.S. Patterns, Saul Teichman has engaged in a tremendous amount of general research regarding great collections. “One point to remember is that Barber Halves were no big deal in the 1960s and early 1970s,” Teichman remarks, “many of these were under $100 in gem grade back then.”

Several of those who built the greatest U.S. coin collections of all time did, in fact, very much appreciate Barber Halves. Their respective collections featured numerous gem quality Barber Halves. (more…)

An Example of Yap Island Stone Money to be Auctioned During ANA’s Boston Coin Show

Yap Island is part of the Federated States of Micronesia, and is notable for its stone money, known as Rai: large doughnut-shaped, carved disks of (usually) calcite, up to 4 m (12 ft) in diameter (most are much smaller). The smallest can be as little as 3.5 centimetres (1.4 in) in diameter. These stones were probably little used before 1800, and the last pieces were produced in 1931. Prior to traders arriving at Yap, the Island Chief controlled the stones.

There are five major types of monies: Mmbul, Gaw, Fe’ or Rai, Yar, and Reng, this last being only 0.3 m (1 ft) in diameter. Many of them were brought from other islands, as far as New Guinea, but most came in ancient times from Palau. Their value is based on both the stone’s size and its history. Historically the Yapese valued the disks because the material looks like quartz, and these were the shiniest objects around. Eventually the stones became legal tender and were even mandatory in some payments.

The stones’ value was kept high due to the difficulty and hazards involved in obtaining them. To quarry the stones, Yapese adventurers had to sail to distant islands and deal with local inhabitants who were sometimes hostile. Once quarried, the disks had to be transported back to Yap on rafts towed behind wind-powered canoes. The scarcity of the disks, and the effort and peril required to get them, made them valuable to the Yapese.

In 1871 David Dean O’Keefe, a sea Captain from Savannah, Georgia was shipwrecked on the island. During his 30 years on the island, he obtained much fame in the islands, and considerable fortune, by gaining control of the stone quarrying. His exploits were brought to light in a 1954 film starring Burt Lancaster called, His Majesty O’Keefe. O’Keefe then traded these stones with the Yapese for other commodities such as sea cucumbers and copra. Although some of the O’Keefe stones are larger than the canoe-transported stones, they are less valuable than the earlier stones due to the comparative ease in which they were obtained. Approximately 6,800 of them are scattered around the island.

As no more disks are being produced or imported, this money supply is fixed. The islanders know who owns which piece but do not necessarily move them when ownership changes. Their size and weight (the largest ones require 20 adult men to carry) make them very difficult to move around. Although today the United States dollar is the currency used for everyday transactions in Yap, the stone disks are still used for more traditional or ceremonial exchange. The stone disks may change ownership during marriages, transfers of land title, or as compensation for damages suffered by an aggrieved party. It is now illegal to remove the stones from Yap Island, with severe penalties for disturbing the stones.

The piece Heritage is offering in its Boston Sale is a premium example of Yap Stone money, in exceptional condition: smooth round calcite stone with center hole quarried on Babekldaop Island, in the Pelew group of Islands, and transferred back to the island of Yap, 40 lb., 5 oz., 15-1/8 inches in diameter.

This Yap Stone belongs to the Numismatic Association of Southern California and was donated to the club many years ago by a primitive money collector. It has been displayed at numerous coin shows in California since becoming the property of the club. The NASC , in an effort to raise money for operating expenses, reluctantly consigned this wonderful item to Heritage for auction at the ANA.

Heritage, in their ongoing support of numismatics, has waived the seller’s fee, and 100% of the hammer price of the Yap Stone will go directly to the Numismatic Association of Southern California. Estimate: $5,000 – $6,000.

Lot 21988 – 2010 August Boston, MA Signature ANA World Coin Auction #3010

Dominion Grading Service (DGS) to Discontinue Slabbing

DGS announced today that effective immediately, all grading and certification operations at Dominion Grading Service (DGS) has been discontinued.

In a statement posted on the David Lawrence Blog page, the following explaination was given:

“In the time since we started DGS, both PCGS and NGC have made great strides and improvements to their grading technologies and practices and we no longer feel that our services are needed. Additionally, CAC is doing a fantastic job of assessing the quality in PCGS and NGC holders.

As for DGS, we simply do not feel that there is enough demand for collector coins at this time to merit our further investment. We have discontinued grading at DGS at this time. If you have DGS-graded coins to sell, please offer them to us for sale. We remain committed to the quality and standards of our grading at DGS and we still make two-way markets in DGS-graded coins. ”

In April 2008 DLRC launched Dominion Grading Service using the assets of the old PCI grading services thay had purchases as a base. At the time John Feigenbaum said ” “we had initially planned to keep the PCI brand name, but we quickly realized that it would be impossible to overcome the confusion that would ensue as we endeavor to recalibrate the [PCI] grading standards. Therefore, we have decided to discontinue the PCI brand in favor of an all-new grading company named Dominion Grading Service.“

Although Dominion used the same holder as PCI, that’s where the similarities end. DGS grading was based on strict standards (i.e. Photograde, for circulated coins). On mint state coinage, DGS graded conservatively with a focus on eye appeal, freshness of surfaces (including originality) and marketability.

Some of the innovative concepts at DGS were:

1. AuthentiVIEW ™: DGS introduced a service called AuthentiVIEW ™ which was integral to the submission process. All coins submitted above the “Budget” tier (i.e. valued above $100) were imaged — and this imaged serve as an authentication tool for any DGS certified coin. Anyone was able to go online, enter a serial # and see an image of the coin in the holder after it was graded.

2. Visual Population Report: DGS was the first grading service to have an entirely visual population report on its web site. Users who wished to look up populations were able to see the AuthentiVIEW images of all the coins graded. Feigenbaum stated at the time, “We anticipate this to be a useful tool for all numismatists. Just imagine the ability to see every 1901-S quarter we’ve certified; or a more common coin like the 1933-S Walker. This visual archive will be available to everyone.”

3. Net Grading of Problem Coins: Coins that have been cleaned, repaired, or damaged in any way will be slabbed in the same holder and label as undamaged coins, but the holder will describe the problem without “net grading the coin”. Coins will not be double-punished. The actual best determination of grade will be stated along with the notation of the problem. For example a coin may be described as: DGS AU55: Lightly Cleaned, Reverse scratches. According to Feigenbaum, “most coins are not perfect or original and it’s a shame not to have them in holders.”

Aging Baby Boomers and Rare Gold Coin Prices

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

I recently received an email from a collector who asked what I thought were an extremely intelligent group of questions. In a nutshell, he asked the following. As boomers age, are we nearing a bubble in coin prices? At some point will the number of collectors with the financial means to collect rare gold decrease and will prices suffer accordingly?

Go to any coin show and you will see a disturbing trend. The buyers of most “serious” coins (i.e., coins priced at $1,000 and above) are in their 50’s or 60’s and the dealers selling them these coins tend to be at least the same age, if not older. There are not many young collectors at shows and the number of “A” level dealers in their 20’s and 30’s can be counted on one hand. This spells trouble for the coin market, right?

I contend that the answer is not as obvious or as clear-cut as it would seem to be. I am a keen student of the history of the numismatic marketplace and, as far as I can tell, ever since coin collecting became popular in the United States (in the late 1850’s/early 1860’s) it’s been a hobby that mainly attracts older people. Think about it: coins are expensive and people in their 20’s and 30’s have never had enough discretionary income to be making impulsive non-essential purchase. When you are 27 years old, you are thinking about buying a house and saving money for your child’s education; not deciding what series of 19th century gold coin to specialize in.

But the world has changed in the last generation or two and wealth is no longer the exclusive province of the middle-aged and the mature. For the first time that I can remember I have a few good clients who are younger than I am and these collectors tend to be self-made entrepreneurs.

In the 1950’s, many collectors grew old at around the same time and the hobby was in a precarious spot. Lots of great collections were coming on the market at the same time and it seemed unlikely that these coins would be absorbed. For a while, prices were depressed and the short-term outlook of the market was gloomy. But along came the roll craze of the early to mid-1960’s and the market was suddenly reinvigorated by young collectors; some of who became famous dealers who are active to this day.

In the mid to late-1970’s the same trend was occurring. Collectors were graying and lots of coins were coming on the market. All of a sudden, precious metals prices began to boom and lots of new blood came into the market. Two decades later it was the State Quarter program that jumpstarted a moribund market. Again and again, we have seen cycles of demand in the coin market and when things appeared gloomy, something would happen that infused youth into the hobby.

The X factor in today’s market—and the future coin market(s)–is, of course, the Internet. Unlike in 1960 or 1980 or in 1990, it will be easier to replace this generation of graying numismatists with younger buyers due to the accessibility of information and the ease of purchasing rare coins on-line. And there is another factor that I believe will come into play as well: foreign buyers.

As is well-known, huge middle-class and upper-class populations are being created in China and India. These are countries with an interest in American culture and cultures that greatly prize gold. It is possible (not likely, but possible) that new markets for American gold coins could develop in these countries and this, of course, would greatly change the dynamic of the future coin market.

My guess is that some time in the next decade or so, we will see a significant change in the demographics of the coin market. Many of today’s “super-collectors” are going to be net sellers in a decade or so and it is certainly possible that prices at some point could drop in the short-term. But if this scenario occurs, I think it is highly possible that this dip will be short-lived and that a new generation of eager collectors will fill the void.

Ancient Fuhonsen Coins May be Japan’s Oldest Minted Currency

Fuhonsen Coins from ASUKAJapan’s money economy began earlier than textbooks have described when archaeologists unveiled 33 bronze coins from the late seventh century unearthed in the village of Asuka, Nara Prefecture in 1998.

Now ten years latter, Nine Fuhonsen coins, which are thought to be the nation’s oldest form of minted currency, unearthed at a former site of Fujiwarakyu, the ancient capital from 694 to 710, in Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, differ slightly from previously discovered Fuhonsen coins, the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties

The finding suggests there may have been another mint in addtion to one discovered at Asukaike ruin in Asukamura.

Minor differences were found in the kanji character “Fu” used on the surface of the coins and a thicker frame surrounding a square hole in the center of the coins. The materials of four of the coins included arsenic and bismuth, and very pure copper.

The coins discovered in August 1998 at the Asukaike Ruins in Asuka, are older than the Wado Kaichin coins first minted in 708, thus bumping them from the archaeological record books as the nation’s first circulated money.

The bronze coins, whose existence has been known for some time, are called Fuhonsen, the name of a charm believed used during the Nara Period (710-784).
Empress jitoThe time at which Fuhonsen coins were minted falls into the Fujiwarakyo Period (694-710), which is based in modern-day Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, where three sovereigns — Empress Jito Emperor Monmu and Empress Genmei — once held court.

The research institute said the 1998 findings prove that Fujiwarakyo was aimed at creating a polity with solid political and economical structures based on the Taiho Code (Taiho Ritsuryo) of 701.

The code consisted of six volumes of penal law (ritsu) and 11 volumes of administrative law (ryo), modeled after the legal code of China’s Tang Dynasty (618-907). The researchers said the coins may have been cast under the order of Emperor Tenmu, husband of Empress Jito. (more…)

The Most Important Coin I’ve Ever Handled

By Mark Borckardt

During 30 years as a full time professional numismatist, I have had the opportunity to examine and handle many of the most important rarities in the American series, including two Brasher doubloons, all five 1913 Liberty nickels, two 1894-S dimes, and four 1804 silver dollars. I have handled 80 of the 100 greatest U.S. coins according to the study published by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth.

Last week I had the pleasure of examining and researching a coin that I believe carries more numismatic and historical importance than any of those coins mentioned above, or any other coin that I have ever handled. It is the 1907 Wire Rim Indian eagle with a plain edge. Only two plain edge specimens were struck, and they were the first Indian eagles ever created, to fulfill the wish of a dying man.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens was near death in the middle of July 1907. Dies for the Indian eagles had already been created, but the collar containing 46 stars was not completed. For that reason, the two plain edge coins were minted, one was sent to President Theodore Roosevelt, and the other was sent to Saint-Gaudens. The sculptor passed away a couple weeks later on August 3.

Roger W. Burdette has traced the issue in his reference Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1908 (Seneca Mill Press, LLC, 2006), and Michael F. Moran has also examined the issue in his 2008 reference Striking Change — The Great Collaboration of Theodore Roosevelt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens. In a July 28, 2008 Coin World article, P. Scott Rubin writes: “I received an important e-mail from Roger W. Burdette … that this coin was ‘…one of two plain edge pattern pieces struck in July 1907.’ Just as important, he informed me that one of the specimens went to Secretary of the Treasury Cortelyou and the other went to Augustus Saint-Gaudens… I learned that this was the only coin similar to those issued to the public designed by Saint-Gaudens that the artist saw before his death.” While we are unable to say with certainty that the present piece was the coin sent to Saint-Gaudens, it almost certainly is. The coin that went to Cortelyou was forwarded to President Roosevelt who returned it to the Mint. In all likelihood, the Cortelyou-Roosevelt coin was melted, as it does not appear among coins at the Smithsonian Institution.

It is thought that President Roosevelt returned the coin he received, and it is also believed that the coin sent to Saint-Gaudens was retained by the artist. It is my belief that the coin I handled is the exact coin that Saint-Gaudens received. Since all other Indian eagles and all double eagles of his design were minted after his death, this single coin seems to be the only coin of his own design that Saint-Gaudens ever saw in person.

This plain edge 1907 Wire Rim Indian eagle will be offered for sale as lot 3561 in the Platinum Night session of Heritage’s 2010 ANA auction in Boston. The Platinum Night session is scheduled for 6:00 PM EST on Wednesday, August 11. I hope to see many of you there, and hope that those unable to attend will be watching this historic offering on HA.com/live.

FREE Online Coin Collection Manager Now Available at NGC Collectors Society

NGC Collectors Society has unveiled its newest website feature today – a comprehensive Collection Manager. This new tool allows collectors to organize and track their entire coin collections online in a secure password-protected environment. It is completely free to use, and requires only a free NGC Collectors Society account for access.

Watch “Features at a Glance” video to learn more

The goal of the NGC Collectors Society is to enable collectors to build better collections by providing the tools, community and resources that they need. Through feedback received from members, new features are planned and developed. The addition of the Collection Manager is the most significant enhancement to the Collectors Society toolkit since the initial launch of the NGC Registry in 2002. Since that time, over 500,000 coins have been registered in nearly 60,000 individual NGC Registry Sets.

The Collection Manager relies on an easy-to-use and intuitive interface that allows collectors to maintain records of all the coins in their collections – including US, world and ancient coins, as well as certified and raw coins. In addition to keeping track of coins they currently own, collectors can store information about coins that they want to buy and coins they have already sold or traded. Current market values are automatically displayed for all US coins tracked in the Collection Manager. Accurate market information is supplied by leading, independent price guide NumisMedia.

One of the unique features of the Collection Manager is that it is seamlessly integrated with the NGC Registry, the most-advanced and largest online showcase of coin collections. As of today’s launch, coins included in NGC Registry Competitive Sets and Custom Sets (formerly called Signature Sets) are pre-loaded into the Collection Manager and are already available for private recordkeeping. A new feature is that, in addition to public Registry Sets, collectors can create private Customs Sets that are visible only to them. These private sets allow collectors to group coins to keep their collection organized, and unlike public sets, they can contain raw coins and coins graded by any company. As in the past, only NGC and PCGS certified coins can be displayed publicly in the NGC Registry.

Security and privacy of Collectors Society members is a high priority. Information tracked in the Collection Manager is visible only to the owner of a particular coin when logged-in to the Collectors Society and coins are never displayed publicly unless they are added to a Registry Set that is publicly visible. Purchase and sale records are always kept private and cannot be publicly displayed. To maintain collectors’ privacy, the owner of a set is only identified by a Public Name, a pseudonym supplied by the user. (more…)

The Story of the Two Greatest Gold Shipments In The History of the United States Mints

by Dr. Thomas F. Fitzgerald from the California Numismatist

Twice within a span of almost twenty-five years, all of the gold from the vaults of the 2nd San Francisco Mint, sometimes called the “Granite Lady,” was sent to the United States Mint in Denver, Colorado. Yet the story of these two operations could not have been more different. The first transfer was accomplished with so much secrecy that even the newspapers knew nothing of what was going on. But the second transfer was so well publicized that it included parades and search-lights calling attention to the shipments. This is the story of these two great shipments of gold.

The Very Secret Gold Transfer of 1908

In May 1897 newspaper editor and publisher Frank A. Leach accepted a political appointment by President McKinley to become the superintendent of the San Francisco Mint. He had wanted to divest himself of the newspaper business and this seemed like an ideal new career. Leach assumed his duties on August 1, 1897.

The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fires

It was a typical dawn in the Bay Area. Without warning a shaking of the earth occurred. It was 5:12 a.m. Wednesday, April 18, 1906! The “Great San Francisco Earthquake,” as it became known, was followed within seconds by a violent shaking that ruptured numerous gas lines resulting in dozens of fires. At the same time it was discovered the city’s water mains had been damaged. San Francisco, surrounded on three sides by water, could not battle the flames with water.

Just two years after the famous 1906 earthquake left the San Francisco mint’s surroundings in shambles, concerns about the mint’s storage capacity and security prompted the move of 331 million dollars worth of bullion to the mint in Denver.

Frank Leach made his way from his home in Oakland to the mint and, together with 50 mint employees and a squad of 10 soldiers, prepared to fight the inferno and save the mint. However, at the beginning of the struggle, the outcome was very much in doubt. The battle lasted for hours but shortly before 5:00 p.m. the fires were out and the building was saved. The men were able to leave the mint, return to their homes and reunite with their families.

More importantly for our story, the mint’s basement vaults that contained millions of dollars of gold and silver coins were saved. (more…)

What Makes Certain Coins Popular–and Others Unpopular?

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

I often make buying decisions based on a coin’s popularity. As an example, I will buy a coin like an 1839-O quarter eagle for stock because it is popular and I know it will sell. But I might pass on a rarer coin like an 1862-S quarter eagle because it is not a popular issue and it will be a harder coin to sell. This got me to to thinking: what makes one coin popular and another unpopular?

Certain 20th century series are popular with collectors because of a strong nostalgia factor. I would imagine most of the collectors who focus on Lincoln Cents or Mercury Dimes remember collecting them as a kid and the sense of accomplishment that they get from completing a set is an act of closure that extinguishes the nightmares they felt as kids about filling those pesky 1909-S VDB Cent and 1916-D Dime holes.

The nostalgia factor does not really apply to gold given the fact that circulation for these coins ended in the early 1930’s. There are certainly some collectors who can remember being given an Indian Head quarter eagle for the holidays by their grandparents or aunt and uncle. But I’m willing to bet that the majority of gold coin collectors are not working on a set of Charlotte half eagles because it rekindles pleasant childhood memories.

The word “promotion” gets a bad rap in numismatics. Yes, there are naughty promotions where worthless modern trinkets get hyped and sold to unsuspecting people for multiples of their true value. But in the better sense of the word, coin promotions can turn formerly unpopular series–like Type One Liberty Head double eagles–into popular ones. The key to a coin promotion is that it has to be sustained and it needs more market participants than the first wave to regenerate its initial success(es).

I mentioned the Type One double eagles series in the last paragraph. One of the most brilliant coin promotions of all time was the S.S. Central America.. The marketing group that owned the coins not only was able to sell them, they were able to generate enough new interest in this denomination that it impacted all Type Ones, not just the few dates that were included in the hoard.

A coin that is historic is always going to be popular. What represents “history” to be may not be what represents history to you. But I’m almost certain we can both agree that a gold coin produed in the 18th century–the first decade of the operations of the new U.S. Mint–is clearly historic. This is one reason why a coin like a 1795 half eagle or a 1799 eagle, while not truly “rare,” is still always going to have a very high level of demand among collectors.
(more…)

Numismatic Theatre Schedule Set for ANA Coin Show in Boston

Numismatic Theatre, a popular part of the American Numismatic Association’s convention education programs, has been finalized for the 2010 ANA World’s Fair of Money, Aug. 10-14 in Boston. Numismatic Theatre consists of 30-40 minute presentations given by ANA members on a wide range of topics. Presentations will be held Aug. 11 and Aug. 13-14 in Room 209 of the Hynes Convention Center.

A highlight of the presentations will be “The Development and Use of the Screw Press for Coin Production,” a two-hour panel discussion Aug. 13 from 3-5 p.m. Led by dealer and early U.S. coinage expert Brad Karoleff, the panel will discuss different aspects of early minting technology in the United States. Panelists include:

* John Dannreuther, author and former ANA Numismatist of the Year
* Dr. Richard Doty, curator, Smithsonian Institution National Numismatic Collection
* Bill Eckberg, noted half cent collector and researcher
* R. W. Julian, prolific numismatic writer and researcher
* Douglas Mudd, curator, ANA Edward C. Rochette Money Museum
* Craig Sholley, author famous for research into the U.S. Mint archives

Other highlights include “Money as a Social Reflection” with David Liu, 2010 ANA Harry W. Bass Jr. Numismatic Intern (Aug. 11, 9 a.m.); and “Engraver & Patriot Paul Revere: The Man & the Medal” with Jamie Franki, professor of art at the University of North Carolina and designer of the official ANA 119th anniversary convention medal (Aug. 14, 4 p.m.).

Below is a complete list of Numismatic Theatre presentations:

Wednesday, August 11

9 a.m. – “Money as a Social Reflection,” presented by David Liu

10 a.m. – “Henry Morgan: Brutal Pirate & Honored Statesman,” presented by Tom Sebring

11 a.m. – “The Liberty Paper Mill: A Cradle of the American Revolution,” presented by Peter Hopkins

12 p.m. – “Coin Grading for Beginners,” presented by William Robins

1 p.m. – “The Story of One 1786 M 5-3-B-2,” presented by Robert Moffatt

2 p.m. – “To Arms! A History of the American Revolution as Seen on Obsolete Bank Notes,” presented by C. John Ferreri

3 p.m. – “The Coin Finds from the Antioch Excavations – Revisited,” presented by Alan Stahl

4 p.m. – “Curious Currency of the World,” presented by Robert D. Leonard (more…)

To Ebay or Not to Ebay?

By Gary Tancer – Coin Gallery of Boca Raton

As a fellow E-bayer, I find the site a great place to buy and sell rare coins. However, caveat emptor is an important rule of thumb just like with any online coin or bullion auctions. Many of the top rare coin wholesalers list coins on Ebay and are willing to sell them for a small premium above wholesale prices. But beware of dealers who are auctioning their coins without any reserves set on them, for many times these items are subject to shill bidding. Shill bidding is the act of having someone run up the prices on auctions with the hope of causing the winning buyer to pay a higher price. Although Ebay has made great strides in policing this illegal practice, inevitably it still occurs.

Something else to keep in mind with Ebay is if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is not legitimate. For example, in the past few months, I purchased several raw gold coins which turned out to be counterfeit on later inspection. Buying raw coins can be especially tricky and requires more scrutiny due to their not being graded and authenticated, which makes for a higher susceptibility to alteration. When buying uncertified coins, it would be wise to only purchase them from established and reputable dealers with a strong feedback history. However, for coins over $250, I recommend buying them slabbed.

For a general rule while buying on Ebay, I would recommend to shop from dealers who offer some sort of guaranteed return privilege. This way, the buyer knows there is nothing to hide on the dealer’s end and can rest assured if satisfaction is not met by the item in person.

What are some of the major advantages of Ebay buying?

1. All In One Convenience

o You can search one site instead of hundreds to instantly find what you want
o Compare prices of the items you want as soon as you find them to pay the best price possible

2. Best Prices

* Sellers pay lower fees than at traditional auction houses, allowing them to offer a lower price to the buyer

3. Updates From Your Favorites
* If you have had a pleasurable experience buying from someone, give them positive feedback, and you can also save them as a favorite seller and receive email updates on their latest listings

Disadvantages of Ebay?

Like any high volume website, there exists the ever-present possibility of fraud. There are watchdogs on Ebay constantly monitoring the site, but it is impossible to prevent all wrongful listings. Always check people’s feedbacks, organizations, how long they have been on the site, and their about me page to determine if who you are dealing with is legitimate and trustworthy. Furthermore, Ebay also has their guarantee.

Remember, of course going to coin shows or buying from major coin auctions are still great ways to obtain fresh coins; however, if one does not have the time to physically attend such an auction or show, then Ebay is a great alternative to purchase coins at your convenience.

Gold to Shine in Forum at World’s Fair of Money

Two leading experts on the acquisition and trading of gold coins and bullion will provide a wealth of inside information on those subjects – free of charge – during the ANA World’s Fair of Money (www.WorldsFairOfMoney.com), the year’s biggest coin show, on Friday, August 13, 2010, at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

The experts, Scott A. Travers and Maurice H. Rosen, will be the featured speakers at Coin Collector’s Survival® Conference 2010, a 90-minute seminar that will give attendees useful information on how to “survive and thrive during the decade of gold.”

The Survival Conference will start at 10:30 a.m. August 13 in Room 200 of the convention center. Admission is free, and everyone who attends will receive a copy of one of the bestselling books authored by Travers, as well as a newsletter published by Rosen. The free books and newsletters will be vintage copies of earlier editions.

Travers is a nationally known New York City coin dealer, author and consumer advocate who has written more than half a dozen award-winning books, including The Coin Collector’s Survival Manual®, a hobby bestseller that will have its seventh edition published by Random House in November. The New York Times has described him as “the Ralph Nader of numismatics” for his consumer activism.

Rosen is a prominent professional numismatist and coin market analyst from Plainview, New York, whose influential Rosen Numismatic Advisory is recognized perennially as the outstanding newsletter in the field of rare coins and precious metals. He forecasts in the soon-to-be-published edition of the Survival Manual that “by the end of 2020, the price of gold in U.S. dollars will be $5,000 to $10,000 per ounce.”

Travers and Rosen both foresaw the tremendous advance in the market value of gold well before it began. Travers was predicting $1,000-an-ounce gold in books and articles several years beforehand, when the price was less than half that amount and barely one-third its present level of about $1,200.

Also taking part in the symposium will be Jerry Jordan, award-winning news editor of The Examiner, a newspaper in Beaumont, Texas, who wrote a series of articles exposing apparent abuses by traveling gold buyers. Jordan’s four-part series revealed that in many cases, the itinerant buyers – operating out of hotel suites – apparently offered unwary sellers a small fraction of the true value for their gold coins and jewelry.

How the Internet Has Changed the Rare Coin Market

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

The year was 1995. I can remember my wife Mary telling me that it was really important to establish a presence on the Internet; that it would be the future of the coin business. No way, I thought, people are still going to want to read print ads and receive mailed price lists. The Internet was slow and bulky and you could basically die of old age waiting for each coin image to come up on screen.

Sixteen years later, it seems that, as usual, she was right and I was wrong. The Internet has, along with third party grading, changed the coin market like nothing else in history. Why has the Internet been so good for the coin market and what are some of the changes that it has wrought?

The best thing about the Internet for all hobbies has been the dissemination of information. 10 to 15 years ago, if you wanted information about rare coins you had to dig for it. You could open a Redbook and get mintage figures and you could find information about die varieties in various specialized books. But like the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz, in the past, information was strictly controlled. If you were lucky, you were invited into the secret circle and given some of the information you needed. If you didn’t know the secret handshake, you were pretty much on your own.

The impact of the Internet can be felt in a numbers of distinct ways. One is the newest phenomenon of the Internet (better known as Internet 3.0): social networking. Back in the pre-web days if you wanted to meet and talk with other collectors, you had to join a local coin club or, if you were lucky and lived in a town with a good coin shop, you met at the bid board on Saturday and talked coins with other interested locals. Now, it is reasonably easy to connect with fellow collectors and share information, buy and sell coins, talk about which dealers are good or bad, etc. I would expect that Facebook will become a much more important platform for coin collectors in the coming year.

As I mentioned above, the Internet has given collectors access to information that was formerly difficult to acquire. Pricing information from auctions is easier to source than ever before. A decade ago, the only place that compiled annual auction data was Krause Publications’ annual auction prices realized book(s). These were expensive, not always complete and only provided a one-year window into specific series of coins. Today, sites such as Heritage.com and PCGS.com enable collectors to see 10 or even 20 years of auction results for a specific coin in a specific grade. This is critical information for determining what to pay for a coin or what to price a coin at when you are ready to sell. I would expect that better, more sophisticated coin pricing sites will be introduced in the coming years as well.

As recently as ten years ago, many dealers did not have a website and many of the ones that did featured clunky, slow moving sites. Today, coin websites are considerably more sophisticated and offer much better quality images and descriptions than before. The fact that collectors now feel comfortable enough to buy coins sight-unseen is a result of better technology (hello cable modems!) and it has greatly broadened the size and scope of the market.

One of the biggest changes we have seen in the last decade as a result of the Internet is a restructuring of the auction market. One coin auction firm responded better to technological advances in the last ten years and as a result they have basically decimated their competition. Ten years ago, the vast majority of coins sold at auction were purchased by dealers who were sitting in the room. Today, most lots sell to Internet bidders. Its a little unnerving for a new collector to walk into a coin auction and see it basically empty (with the notable exceptions being the FUN and ANA sales which still attract good crowds or very important specialized collections) but to be told that the auction is in fact a rousing success and that there are hundreds of active bidders participating. (more…)

History of Coins: TWO-BITS, FOUR-BITS, SIX-BITS, EIGHT…

by Leon F McClellan as published on columnarios.com

Columnario and a CobHave you ever wondered why a United States quarter-dollar is called “two-bits”? Or, a half-dollar “four-bits”? Do you know why we call our basic monetary unit “dollar” instead of something else?

Two-bits, four-bits, six-bits and eight-bits make reference to the eight-reales silver coin of New Spain and Mexico. It is also called piece of eight and circulated in the English Colonies and freely in the USA following the Revolutionary War. As a matter of fact, the eight-reales coin was legal tender in the United States until 1857 and was the world’s most used coin at one time. It is the renowned piece of eight that became part of the Spanish Main pirate lore.

The coins minted until 1734 technically, are called a cob coins, because they were originally made by hand stamping “tail ends of bars” or “cabos de barra”, which were sliced as planchets from rudely cast, more or less round, bullion bars which were assayed and carefully weighed. “Cabo” might well have given us the name of cob, although it does mean a lump or small mass (as of coal). The second definition comes from the Dutch “kubb”.

Cob coinage was made at the first mint in the Americas in Mexico City, established in 1535. Authorized by a Spanish Royal Decree dated 14 September 1519 to melt, cast, mark and put aside the royal-fifth of the gold and silver being collected from the Aztecs in Mexico City (Tenochtitlan). He used the palace of Axay catl (father of Moctezuma II) for the task. This may be considered the first foundry of New Spain and of all North America.

When Cortes moved into a home in 1521 in what is today the Mexico City suburb of Coyoacn, he established the second foundry in order to meet the demand for currency and produced “more than 130,000 castellanos”, according to information in documents collected by Francisco Antonio de Lorenzana. “Castellano” (Castilian) was the current coin of the time. These were the first cobs of the New World. The royal fifth was faithfully sent to Spain in the Spanish galleons.

When the Viceroyalty of New Spain was established by Spanish Royal Decree signed by the Queen of Spain the 11th of May of 1535, the Casa de Moneda (house of coin or mint) was formally established. Beginning sometime in April of 1536, according to the best estimates, the first mint of the Americas started coining operations.

Cobs did not start pouring-out into world marketplaces until the reign of Phillip II, after 1556. These crudely minted reales (literally, royals) of silver were undated until 1580 when some were and others were not marked with the year of coinage. The first pieces of eight were struck in Spain, as early as 1497, although it was not until after 1572 that the Casa de Moneda in Mexico City struck them. Before that time, only denominations smaller than eight-reales were struck in Mexico. (more…)

San Francisco Double Eagles Gold Coins: A Date by Date Analysis Part Two

By Doug Winter – www.RareGoldCoins.com

The second part of this study on San Francisco double eagles deals with the Type Two issues struck from 1866 to 1876. [EDITOR: Click Here To Read Part One]

There are no absolute rarities in this series as with the Type One issues but there are a number condition rarities as well as affordable dates that are easy to locate in Extremely Fine and About Uncirculated grades.

Let’s take a look at each date and focus on the higher grade coins as these tend to be the most interesting Type Two double eagles from this mint.

1866-S With Motto:

After a small number of No Motto double eagles were struck in San Francisco in 1866, the change was made to the new With Motto design. The 1866-S With Motto is desirable as a first year of issue date but it is not really rare in terms of overall rarity. It tends to be found in lower grades (EF40 to AU50) and is nearly always seen with heavily abraded surfaces and poor eye appeal. It is scarce in properly graded AU55 to AU58 and rare in Uncirculated with an estimated two to three dozen known. It is extremely rare in MS62 above and none have been graded better than this by PCGS or NGC. The population figures in MS61 seem to be very inflated at both services and a few of the coins that I have seen in MS61 holders are marginal at best for the grade. The current auction record is $39,100 set by Bowers and Merena 7/06: 1667, graded MS62 by PCGS.

1867-S:

The 1867-S is a bit more available than the 1866-S With Motto in terms of overall rarity. In Uncirculated it is actually more rare with an estimated 15 or so known. The finest is a single MS63 at NGC; another five or six are known in MS62. This date is typically seen with a flat strike, very “ticky” surfaces and poor luster. Examples with good eye appeal are quite hard to locate and are worth a good premium over typical coins. Properly graded AU55 to AU58 pieces are very scarce and any example that grades above MS61 is extremely rare. The current auction record is $22,425 set all the way back in 2002 by Superior during the ANA auction; this was for a coin graded MS62 that is still the best that I can recall having seen.

1868-S:

The 1868-S is the most common Type Two double eagle from San Francisco struck during the 1860’s. It is plentiful in grades below AU55 but it is scarce in properly graded AU58 and rare in Uncirculated. I think there are around three dozen known in Uncirculated with most in the MS60 to MS61. Above MS61, the 1868-S is extremely rare. The highest graded is a single MS64 at NGC; the services have combined to grade four in MS62 with just one of these at PCGS. This date comes better struck than the 1866-S and 1867-S and has better luster as well. Like all San Francisco double eagles of this type, it is plagued by excessive surface marks. The natural coloration is often a pleasing rose-gold; others are found with orange-gold or greenish-gold hues. The current auction record was set by Heritage 2006 ANA: 5644, an NGC MS62 that sold for $32,200.
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WHY YOU STILL NEED A COIN EXPERT FOR ADVICE ON PURCHASING COINS

By Gary Tancer – Coin Gallery of Boca Raton

With any investment: stocks, bonds, real estate, collectibles; if you do not have extensive knowledge in that field, it is always advisable to consult an expert. The coin business is no exception to this rule.

The advent of grading services such as PCGS in 1986, and NGC in 1987 was extremely beneficial to the collector or investor because they no longer had to rely on the seller for the grade of a coin who, let’s face it, usually had a vested interest. However, the third party grading services, which have no interest in the selling of coins, simply collect a fee for selecting a grade they judge appropriate.

In a perfect world, any amateur could use the internet or weekly sheets available to get a good idea of the value of a coin based on its grade. Unfortunately, this alone will only get someone so far.

The grading services, in my opinion, do a decent job grading; however, lately we have seen that there can be dramatic differences between the pricing of a coin for the same grade. This is why I am writing this article. In an ideal world, an MS 65 is an MS 65, and every coin graded would have the exact same value, but, as most people are realizing, this is not the case.

There are several factors in the determination of a graded coin’s value. Luster, color, and originality are only a few attributes that can add or detract from the value of a given coin compared to another of the exact same type. This is seen especially in auction prices realized; how a coin with the same date and same grading service, can have a 10%-100% variation in price. For example, in April of this year, a 1911-D $2 ½ in NGC AU58 sold at auction for $8625. Two months later, another 1911-D in NGC AU58 sold for $5463. In another April auction, a 1914-S $5 Indian in NGC AU58 sold for $805 while, in the same auction, another coin of the same date, grade and grading service sold for $546.

Today there exists CAC, PCGS Secure Plus, and NGC Secure Plus; though, these also can be confusing with regard to which coins are worth the high end of the spectrum and which are worth the low end. The reason for these new services is because mistakes happen, and grade inflation has occurred over the last 24 years.

In my opinion, CAC does a fabulous job and has made their presence felt in the coin business today. But as far as PCGS Secure and NGC Secure, they are too newly established for me to voice an opinion. This leads back to the title of the article. Even though many feel CAC does a great job, there remain plenty of quality coins that are highly desirable that do not meet their strict standards. That’s why expert coin graders/dealers are still needed to interpret anything and everything in between.

The difficulty is finding these expert dealers and building trust and a rapport. Most quality retailers deal directly with their customers or have educated employees working for them. You can research a dealer to see how long they have been in business, if they are active in going to coin shows and their membership in professional associations. A final factor in determining a high-quality numismatic dealer will be how receptive he is to buying coins back that he sold. I, for one, look forward to buying back any coins I’ve recommended to my customers in the past.