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Category: Items of Interest

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.

Bowers and Merena Auctions and Stacks Announce Merger

BOWERS AND MERENA AUCTIONS TO JOIN FORCES WITH STACK’S TO CREATE STACK’S-BOWERS NUMISMATICS

Spectrum Group International, Inc. (SPGZ.PK) announced today that its subsidiary Bowers and Merena Auctions, one of the world’s pre-eminent auctioneers of rare coins and currency, has entered into an agreement with Stack’s, the oldest rare coin retail and auction company in the U.S., to combine their operations.

The new company, which will be known as Stack’s-Bowers Numismatics, with a world coin division to be known as Stack’s-Bowers and Ponterio, will be owned 51% by Bowers and Merena Auctions and 49% by Stack’s. The closing, which is subject to the satisfaction of customary conditions, is expected to take place in early 2011.

Greg Roberts, president and chief executive officer of Spectrum Group (SGI), commented, “We believe that this combination, once consummated, will create a major player in the coin industry. Stack’s had over $65 million in aggregate sales in 2010 and between them, the two companies have handled many of the significant coin collections that have sold at public auction, including the Eliasberg Sales, the Norweb Sales and the Ford Collections.”

Bowers and Merena Auctions president Chris Napolitano, who will serve as president of the combined company, said, “I am honored and excited to lead this new venture, which combines two of the leading names in our industry. We consider Stack’s to be the crown jewel of coin auction houses and with this partnership, we have assembled a numismatic team that we believe to be unequaled in the industry. We look forward to continuing and expanding Stack’s auction and retail locations in mid-town Manhattan, which serve not only the greater New York metropolitan area but also the entire east coast.”

Added Mr. Roberts, “A significant factor for SGI in pursuing this merger was the opportunity to partner with Charles, Joel and Harold Anderson and the rest of the Anderson family, who own a controlling interest in Stacks. For years I have enjoyed a strong personal and professional relationship with the Andersons and now look forward to a long-lasting association with the family through Stack’s-Bowers Numismatics. We intend to continue the long tradition that the Stack family developed over many decades in New York. For years it has been a goal of ours to have a presence in NYC. With this partnership, we will achieve that goal at one of the most famous and prestigious addresses in the numismatics industry: 123 West 57th Street, New York, New York.”

Joel Anderson commented, “We are looking forward with great enthusiasm to the successful combination of these two fine companies. Both have rich histories of service with integrity to the numismatic community and together their combined resources and talents will bring new levels of service and value to the numismatic market. In addition, Charles, Harold and I have assembled some nice collections and we are pleased that Stack’s-Bowers Numismatics will be there for us when the time comes to sell.” (more…)

Odyssey Marine Exploration Comments on WikiLeaks Information

“Black Swan” and HMS Sussex projects named in Government Communications

Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. (NasdaqCM: OMEX) a pioneer in the field of deep ocean exploration, was named in several U.S. State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks and furnished to the media worldwide. Some of the released cables suggest that the State Department offered special assistance in the “Black Swan” case to Spanish officials in exchange for assistance in acquiring a French painting confiscated by the Nazis during World War II and now controlled by Spain.

The cables indicate that the U.S. Government also provided confidential documentation on Odyssey to Spain.

Other State Department cables contradict Spain’s claims and support Odyssey’s previously stated version of events relating to the company’s activities in Spain, including the HMS Sussex project and the boarding of Odyssey’s vessels.

“While we are obviously concerned about these implications regarding the ‘Black Swan’ case, we are attempting to obtain additional information before taking any specific actions. I have personally sent a letter to the Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, requesting additional information and a review of the position taken by the U.S. in the ‘Black Swan’ legal case,” stated Greg Stemm, Odyssey CEO. “The possibility that someone in the U.S. Government came up with this perfidious offer to sacrifice Odyssey, its thousands of shareholders, and the many jobs created by the company in exchange for the return of one painting to one individual is hard to believe. The WikiLeaks cables clearly show that we have worked cooperatively and transparently with both Spain and the State Department for many years, in spite of claims to the contrary. That fact makes the revelations all the more disappointing. The cables also make us wonder what other agreements may have taken place between U.S. Government officials and Spain regarding the amicus brief filed in support of Spain’s position in the ‘Black Swan’ case.”

“We’ve wondered why the United States changed its long standing position on sovereign immunity, which prior to this case was consistent with U.S. law, international law and U.S. naval regulations that in order for a foreign country’s ships and cargo to be immune from the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts they must be engaged in military, non-commercial activities,” stated Melinda MacConnel, Odyssey Vice President and General Counsel. “These released cables do call into question the motivation behind the amicus brief filed by the Executive Branch supporting Spain in the ‘Black Swan’ case.”

Additional cables released support Odyssey’s statements that, contrary to allegations of certain Spanish officials, the company always cooperated with the Spanish Government and that permits from the Spanish government were granted for work on the HMS Sussex project. The cables also demonstrate the obstructionist activities carried out by certain Spanish officials who had personal reasons for trying to prevent Odyssey from working on the Sussex. These obstructions took place even though Odyssey has an exclusive contract for the archaeological excavation of this UK sovereign immune warship (which was on a strictly military mission when it sank in 1694 off the coast of Gibraltar). Odyssey filed an affidavit in 2007 with a chronology of Odyssey’s interactions with the Spanish Government since 1998. It can be accessed at http://shipwreck.net/pdf/ExhibitE.pdf. The document contains entries that are corroborated by information in the State Department cables, which directly contradict claims by some Spanish officials and the Spanish media. (more…)

Three Big Rarities Offered at FUN Auctions

By Steve Roach – First published in the Jan. 3, 2011, Special Edition of Coin World – Rare Coin Market Report

For the past few years, arguably the main annual event for the rare coin market has been the massive Heritage auctions at the Florida United Numismatists convention, a major coin show that will take place during the first week of the new year in Tampa Jan. 6 to 9.

The multiday auctions and the packed bourse floor at FUN set the tone of the market for at least the year’s early months, as dealers reposition their inventories, and collectors make their first buys of the year.

Some expensive coins were sold at the 2010 FUN Heritage auction, including $3,737,500 realized for one of finest known examples of the 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin, tying the third-place record for the largest sum ever paid at auction for a single U.S. coin.

Two other million-dollar coins traded hands in the 2010 Heritage FUN auctions: a 1927-D Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagle graded Mint State 66, which sold for $1,495,000, and an 1874 Dana Bickford gold $10 eagle pattern in Proof 65 deep cameo, which sold above expectations for $1,265,000.

In total, more than $36.5 million in coins traded hands at the 2010 Heritage official FUN coin auctions.

While the new year’s first auction lacks an obvious million-dollar superstar on the level of the 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent piece, three exceptional coins could prove dazzling.

Perhaps the most noteworthy is an 1852-O Coronet $20 double eagle graded MS-65. It is the finest known example of the date and the catalog description states that it is “quite likely the finest New Orleans twenty of any date.”

In 2009, a Specimen 63 1856-O Coronet double eagle realized $1,437,500. In addition, 1850 to 1866 New Orleans Mint double eagles enjoy a healthy popularity.

Since the offered 1852-O Coronet double eagle has been off the market for more than 30 years, it’s anyone’s guess as to what this grand condition rarity will bring.

Another New Orleans Mint gold coin may also soar – the finest collectible 1909-O Indian Head $5 half eagle, graded MS-66. The lot description counts 19 examples graded MS-64 to MS-66 and the issue is the key to the series. The offered example last sold publicly in May 1998 as part of the Thaine B. Price Collection for $374,000, where it was described by auctioneer David Akers as “the finest collectible example of the rarest issue in the entire series.” (more…)

Pricing Controversy with New 5 oz. “America the Beautiful” Bullion Coins

The U.S. Mint’s Dec. 1 announcement that the new 2010 America the Beautiful 5-ounce .999 fine silver bullion quarter dollars were to go on sale December 6th was canceled earlier this week over Mint concerns and complaints that the much anticipated coins were being overpriced.

The US mint does not distribute its bullion products directly to the public, but rather uses a network of 11 “Primary Distributors” who purchase the coins from the US Mint at $9.75 over the spot price of silver, and then in turn mostly wholesale these out to retail dealers. Few of these Primary Distributors have retail facilities.

Here is a list of the Primary Distributors:

  • A-Mark Precious Metals
  • Coins ‘N Things Inc.
  • MTB
  • Scotia Mocatta
  • Dillon Gage of Dallas
  • Prudential Securities Inc.
  • The Gold Center
  • American Precious Metals Exchange, Inc. (APMEX)
  • Commerzbank International (Luxembourg)
  • Deutsche Bank A.G. (Germany)
  • Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo K.K. (Japan)

As part of the December 1st announcement, the Mint surprisingly drastically reduced the mintage’s for the much anticipated 5 oz  America the Beautiful Bullion coins from an anticipated 100,000 coin  (for each of the 5 designs this year), to a mere 33,000.

After the announcement, APMEX decided to offer the 2010 5 coin set to customers and allow them to pre-order the coins from their website. Apmex is one of the few Primary Distributors that maintains a retail presence  through their website (which is excellent by the way). The 5 coin set was being offered at $1,395.

Obviously with such limited supplies, the large (3 inches in diameter) bullion coins were expected to be in hot demand .

However within hours of this pre-launch offering, complaints started to be registered with the US Mint because Apmex, responding to the anticipated demand and low mintages, had placed a $130.00 premium per coin on the set.

Apmex customers didn’t seem to mind the hefty premiums too much because within 19 hours after the posted  pre-launch offer, they had sold 1000 sets. But the US Mint did mind. In fact they halted the release of the new 5 oz coins to review the situation. (more…)

Useless Money: Production “Error” to Cause Delay in New $100 Bill Debut

The US government said it is still trying to identify the source of the production glitch that forced it to postpone introducing the new $100 bill and could force it to shred hundreds of millions of error-ridden bills. The issue stems from what officials called a “problem with sporadic creasing of the paper during printing” that resulted in blanks spots on some of the newly redesigned bills.

Officials at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing are working with Crane & Co., the Massachusetts company which has supplied the government with paper for currency for more than 130 years, to identify what caused the errors, but it’s unclear if the problem was caused by Crane’s paper or some other element of the printing process.

A person familiar with the situation said that at the height of the printing process, as many as 30 percent of the bills rolling off the printing press included the flaw, leading to the production shut down.

The government said it believes most of the 1.1 billion bills already printed can be salvaged, but any of the bills that were misprinted will have to be shredded.

According to a source familiar with the matter, the bills are the most costly ever produced, with a per-note cost of about 12 cents—twice the cost of a conventional bill. That means the government spent about $120 million to produce bills it can’t use. On top of that, it is not yet clear how much more it will cost to sort the existing horde of hundred dollar bills.

Sorting such a huge quantity of bills by hand, the officials estimate, could take between 20 and 30 years. Using a mechanized system, they think they could sort the massive pile of bills in about one year. (more…)

Using Ancient Coins to Map Trade Routes in Mediterranean Europe

Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton have launched a research project in which nuclear radiation is used to identify changes in metal content among ancient Greek and Roman coins held in a world-class collection amassed at the university since the 1940s.

By probing the metal content of coins exchanged thousands of years ago in Mediterranean Europe, the scientists have discovered a new way to map ancient trade patterns, to retrace economic ups and downs at the dawn of Western Civilization and even to shed new light on the collapse of the Roman Empire.

“As we determine what the coins are made of, we are then able to reconstruct ancient trade routes, understand the development of economies and even determine the extent of counterfeiting,” McMaster archeologist Dr.Spencer Pope states in a project summary issued Tuesday. “This research will help us link the archeological to the historical to understand how we, as a society, got to where we are today.”

A joint project between the university’s classics department and its department of medical physics and applied radiation sciences, the ancient coin initiative involves x-ray analysis and a “proton microprobe” to determine how much silver, bronze or gold is contained in each piece of money.

“We use multiple systems to look for a number of metals — gold, copper, silver — present in the outer layer of the coins,” said radiation scientist Michael Farquharson. “Then we use the McMaster Nuclear Reactor to penetrate deeper into the coin to determine whether or not the coin was plated with a different material than it was actually made of.”

“For the Roman period, there are many crises that can be recognized in the numismatic record,” said Pope, describing one “budget crunch” during Punic Wars of the 3rd century B.C., when Rome was battling Carthage — centred in present-day Tunisia — for control of the Mediterranean world.

“We can see metal coins begin to have more base metal — junk metal — added to ‘debase’ the coins,” he noted. “As Rome and other cities fall into crises and get into economic trouble, more bronze coins appear (rather than silver), and even these are diluted by tin or lead.” So far, about 20 coins have undergone this “deep probe”. (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…)

Morton & Eden’s London Sale of Medals, Decorations and World Orders Nets £880,578

Auctioneer James Morton said he was extremely pleased with the results of Morton & Eden’s London sale of British War Medals and Decorations Russian and World Orders and Medals, on Tuesday November 30, 2010.

He said: “Once again there was strong interest in high quality Russian Orders, Medals and Decorations, highlighted by the £180,000 achieved against an estimate of £30,000-40,000 for the cover lot, a privately-made Russian First Class Order of St Anne.

“There were solid prices for British material, but rather less interest in gallantry medals and it was disappointing that the Iraq Military Cross awarded to Private Ryan Copping failed to find a buyer. However, we hope it will be sold privately soon.

“Another highlight was the dispersal of a small collection of Chinese Orders of the Double Dragon Type 2, which while not of the greatest rarity, were keenly contested by bidders in the room, by commission bidders and on the Internet and five telephones. Amid great excitement, the collection realised a total of more than £72,000, to the delight of the U.S. collector who had spent a lifetime acquiring and studying them.”

Also of note was the £2,620 obtained for a Military General Service Medal (1793-1814) awarded to a Maltese recipient and the £5,760 (hammer) paid for another, awarded to a Prussian man, born in Coblenz, who enlisted in the UK and served with the 5 Battalion 60th Foot.

Photo Caption: Russia, Order of St Alexander Nevsky circa 1837-39

SALE TOTAL: £880,578 SOLD BY VALUE: 68%

Lot 213
*Russia, Order of St Anne, First Class, a privately-made sash badge in gold, diamonds and enamels, by ?? (or ??), St Petersburg, dated 1856, marked on suspension ring; of ‘bulbous’ form with central painted enamel portrait of the Saint surrounded by sixteen diamonds, spandrels and riband carrier also set with diamonds and angles of reverse embellished with scroll engraving, height 59.5mm (including suspension ring), width 53.8mm, carrier 38mm, very slight enamel loss at top edge of cross on reverse, of excellent quality, good extremely fine
Estimate: £30,000-40,000 SOLD FOR £180,000 Purchased by European private collector

Lot 274
*Armenia, a rare Pair of Awards attributed to Nikolai Pyotrevich Nazaryan, comprising:

i) Order of the Red Banner of Labour of Armenia, type 1, in silver and enamels, maker’s mark CC, 88 zolotniki fine, impressed no. 83 on reverse and also with original separate backplate similarly marked and numbered (but 84 zolotniki fine), well-worn overall, screwplate lacking and with losses to enamel, generally fine;

ii) Star of Armenia, badge in silver and enamels, the central medallion (originally rivetted or wired) damaged and crudely re-fixed with solder, hammer-and-sickle missing and small diameter screwpost with worn threads, fair (2)

Offered with original named Order Book for the Order of the Red Banner of Labour, dated 17th February 1940, giving the date of award no. 83 as 1st January 1939, with a photograph of the recipient in later life, well-worn; and a Former Red Partisan’s Identity Booklet, 1930’s, this with a replacement period photograph with blind-embossed N.K.V.D. stamp, also heavily worn
Estimate: £60,000-80,000 SOLD FOR £84,900 Purchased by US dealer bidding for a client (more…)

Multi-year Gold Bull Market Is Firmly Intact

Adam Crum – Monaco Rare Coins

Critics Believe Second Round of Quantitative Easing By the Fed Will Further Devalue the Dollar and Create Inflation

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has been quoted as saying he would fly over the United States and drop dollars from a helicopter should it be necessary.

Sans helicopter, for the time being at any rate, the Federal Reserve has announced that it plans to breathe new life into the economy with additional quantitative easing, a series of Treasury purchases starting with $600,000,000 that may ultimately total $1 trillion or more according to some sources. With the U.S. economy expanding at just 2 percent annually in the third quarter of this year and the jobless rate apparently stalled at about 9.6 percent, the Fed was pressured to do something to stimulate the economy.

Bernanke explained to students at Jacksonville University that a second round of easing will enable the Fed to accomplish its two Congressional mandates, ensuring full employment and stable prices while preventing deflation and generating some “good” inflation.

Critics say the dollar will weaken and create inflation

Critics believe that the dollar will weaken as these purchases (accomplished by printing money) increase the Fed’s balance sheet. Inflation is fueled by a weaker dollar as the real price of goods and services becomes more expensive. Using past research and her own models, Goldman Sachs strategist Robin Brooks suggests the dollar will need to drop a great deal more than the Federal Reserve thinks in order to meet the central bank’s inflation target.

“Substantial additional monetary stimulus is needed for the Fed to meet its dual mandate on inflation and employment,” wrote Brooks after the Fed’s announcement. She has raised her estimate for the total size of this second round of quantitative easing from $1 trillion to $2 trillion. “If indeed the Fed sees the dollar as one of its key policy levers for preventing inflation from staying below its mandate for a prolonged period, the dollar needs to fall a lot further from here,” says Brooks.

The big question is when Bernanke discovers that the plan isn’t working, how much farther could the dollar fall? This controversial plan of additional quantitative easing takes the Fed into essentially uncharted waters and puts the dollar at risk of crashing. Frankly, these additional bond purchases could be more destructive than critics even think if inflation is ignited when the economy finally comes around. (more…)

Coin Profile: Roman Finish 1909 Half Eagle Gold Coin

The proof five dollar coinage of 1907 through 1909 provides quite an object lesson in the evolution of Mint technology and consumer tastes. The 1907 Liberty Head proof, last of the series, was produced in a mostly brilliant or “semibrilliant” proof format that was introduced in 1902; as a result, most proof gold from 1902-1907 lacks much cameo contrast–half eagles or otherwise.

The 1908 gold coins of the new Bela Lyon Pratt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens designs were launched with a new “matte” proof format that was all the rage in European mints of the era. The Robert Loewinger reference, Proof Gold Coinage of the United States, offers this:

“The [matte proof] process originally started in Belgium and was popularized in the Paris Mint. The finish was applied after striking and was made by sandblasting the coins at different forces and speeds with different sizes of grains of sand. Also pickling the coins in a weak acid was another technique that was used on these coins after striking.”

We are unsure how widespread the “pickling” was, but the sandblasting was a well-known, widespread Mint technique that produced a granular (sometimes fine, sometimes coarser), usually dark, subdued finish to the product, a function of the lack of normally reflective surfaces. The matte proof coins of 1908 are usually dark, brownish-gold to olive-brown, and they were extremely unpopular with collectors accustomed to a more brilliant finish.

The Mint in 1909 reverted to a lighter Roman or satin finish for proof gold. The updated Akers Handbook offers these thoughts:

“The proof 1909 introduced the Roman Gold proofing method in the Indian Half Eagle series, although at least one specimen was prepared using the dark matte finish of 1908. Despite having brighter, flashier surfaces than the proof 1908, the proof 1909 still failed to gain wide acceptance among the contemporary public The Mint melted many examples at year’s end. Interestingly, even though most survivors present as overall smooth, the issue has the lowest average grade in the entire proof Indian Half Eagle series.”

A  PR67 piece is being offering in the current 2010 October Stamford Coinfest Signature US Coin Auction #1145, and is one of the nicest survivors of the proof 1909 half eagle mintage, recorded as 78 pieces. It is one of six so graded at NGC, with but two coins finer.

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…)

The economic theory of the velocity of money

We received this email today which you may find interesting.

It was a slow day in a little East Texas town. The sun was beating down, and the streets were deserted. Times were tough, everybody was in debt, and everybody lived on credit…..

On this particular day a rich tourist from back east drove through town. He stopped at the motel and laid a $100 bill on the desk and said he wanted to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.

As soon as the man walked upstairs, the owner grabbed the bill and ran next door to pay his debt to the butcher.

The butcher took the $100 and ran down the street to retire his debt to the pig farmer. The pig farmer took the $100 and headed off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel.

The guy at the Farmer’s Co-op took the $100 and hurried to pay his debt to the local prostitute, who had also been facing hard times and had to offer her “services” on credit. The hooker rushed to the hotel to pay her room bill with the hotel owner.

The hotel proprietor then placed the $100 back on the counter so the rich traveler would not suspect anything.

At that moment the traveler came down the stairs, picked up the $100 bill, stated that the rooms were not satisfactory, pocketed the money, and promptly left town.

No one produced anything. No one earned anything. However, the whole town is now out of debt and now looks to the future with a lot more optimism.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the United States Government is conducting business today.

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 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.

Anti-Penny Video Rant . He Hates Nickels Too

Certainly it would be hard to logically justify the continued manufacture and use of the US penny from an economic standpoint.

The Penny costs 1.7 cents to produce and is worth only 1/26th of what it used to be worth when Lincoln was President.

In fact it is estimated that the US Mint loses over 70 Million dollars a year producing this denomination of US coinage.

Let us know what you think!  Is the Penny Useless? Should we get rid of it or Keep it?

Post a Comment

Pinnacle Rarities Trades Finest Known Walking Liberty Half

Elusive 1921-S PCGS MS66 is Placed through Private Treaty

Pinnacle Rarities is proud to announce the private treaty sale of the finest known 1921-S Walking Liberty half. The coin is graded MS66 and is the single finest graded at PCGS. The 1921-S is by far the rarest Walking Liberty half in the uncirculated grades, and is very elusive in the top gem grades.

Most of the early Walkers are tough, especially in gem or better. With the end of WWI, the early twenties saw a decrease in demand for circulating coinage. As such, the mintage figures for 1921 are low. The years surrounding the end of the war produced the series’ most prized dates.

For 1921 all three mint marks are elusive, and despite the slightly higher mintage from San Francisco, the bulk of them were heavily circulated or lost to attrition. Today surviving quality examples are scarce, Coinfacts gives this date a 9.1 in MS65 on a rarity scale of 1 – 10.

In relation to the other series keys, the 1921-S has a bit higher mintage. The lower circulated grades are more available than some more common dates. But as the condition reaches the extra-fine (XF) level, the date becomes increasingly tough. No date in the series has fewer coins graded in the uncirculated grades. Nothing is even close.

The 1919-D is considered by some the King of the Walker series. However, there are just 202 1921-S coins graded in the uncirculated grades and the next closest is the 19-D with 344. So, there are 142 more 19-D halves grading in MS60 or better then there are uncirculated 21-S halves.

In fact, Jeff Ambio author of Collecting & Strategies for Walking Liberty Half Dollars agrees, describing the date as “the rarest Walking Liberty Half in Mint State, (with) Choice examples having tremendous appeal in virtually any numismatic market.”

At Pinnacle Rarities, nothing gets sold on our website that we don’t want to buy back. Pinnacle Rarities takes pride in the fact that after decades of placing some of numismatic’s finest material, many of these rarities come back through our offices. This is a prime example. We have been lucky enough to trade this coin several times. We originally purchased this example from late numismatic icon – Jack Lee. We then placed it into the PCGS Hall of Fame GBW Collection. Although retired, that set still ranks as the all-time finest.

In 2004, we were fortunate enough to buy that collection. We again sold this example privately. When it was time to sell, that collector knew to call us first. And again, we found it a home in a very astute collector’s cabinet. We are unlikely to see this superb example again anytime soon. But rest assured, it has found a good home – no a GREAT home.

The coin has fabulous in hand eye appeal. It is the sharpest struck 1921-S example we’ve encountered. While there is some weakness evident in the central devices, it has great detail with good hand definition and crisp eagle leg feathers. The surfaces are extremely clean with only a couple light hits on the obverse.

The reverse is faultless. Some light toning in the peripheries provides a pleasing palette of color represented along the rims. This coin has been the centerpiece to every collection it’s been in, and will likely never find an equal.

Fire Damaged Coins Conserved

Have you ever wondered what a coin collection might look like after it is pulled out of a house fire? The following is from the Numismatic Conservation Services (NCS) newsletter and shows the remarkable conservation of a cherished collection after a damaging fire.

“A house fire can be especially devastating to a prized coin collection. A once pristine, cherished collection can turn into a horrible blackened mass. However, with some careful conservation work, all is not lost.

The first stage in conserving a group of coins such as these pictured is to safely remove them from what remains of their holders. Removing coins entombed in deformed coin holders is a challenge. The standard methods of removing coins from third-party grading services’ holders are usually not an option. To make the task even more difficult, every coin and every holder is different. The heat of a house fire can melt the plastic that makes up the majority of quality coin holders. While still in the fire, this plastic, in the molten state, will combine with soot and other materials. After it has solidified, the conservator’s job is more difficult.

Once freed from the burnt plastic mass, the next step is to remove the small bits of adhered plastic from the surface of each of the coins as safely as possible. Different plastics react to conservation efforts in wildly different ways. Materials from the fire itself also adhere to the coins and have to be removed without damaging the surface of the coin. Coins can sometimes be left with lightly stained surfaces, often a result of the heat of the fire.

A pattern emerges as the collection is conserved. Coins in the best holders, those certified by third-party grading services such as NGC, are the best off. Coins housed in coin tubes and individual holders are often damaged by the action of the fire or necessary actions taken in the aftermath.

The conservation results on this group of coins can be described as better than expected. The classic gold coins came out especially well as did the Morgan and Peace Dollars. This collection was submitted to NCS by Liquid Bullion Coin & Collectibles of Houston, Texas. “Wow! NCS was a life saver for our client. He was afraid he had lost everything and came out with over $27,500 in Rare coins, Bullion, and Generic Gold,” commented Danny Lee, Liquid Bullion’s CEO.”

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Great Coins at the ANA Convention in Boston

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #14

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

When people talk about an ANA Convention, they tend to emphasize the coins that they bought or sold, rather than about the overall impact of the event. At any first or second tier coin show, collectors with modest budgets can find appealing coins. Collectors can also socialize with other collectors at a wide variety of coin related events. The Winter FUN Convention, the Summer ANA Convention, and very few other first tier events, are special for other reasons. Of course, educational programs and the meetings of specialty clubs are among these reasons. Multiple mammoth auctions, during a six to ten day period, in the same neighborhood, offer material of a tremendous variety and of startling depth in particular areas. While I will put forth some remarks regarding bourse and auction activity, I focus here, however, on the great coins that were present at this year’s ANA Convention and in the accompanying auctions in Boston.

Yes, readers of this column are aware that, for weeks, I have been writing about rarities that were offered in Boston at the B&M, Stack’s and Heritage auctions. In last week’s column, I covered some of the prices realized for famous rarities in the B&M auction. As I will discuss below, the Boyd-Cardinal 1794 dollar traded again.

In my column of July 28, I wrote about the Simpson Proof 1804 Eagle, a Kellogg $50 gold coin, the two Half Unions in the B&M sale, and an 1854-S Quarter Eagle in the Heritage auction. In my column of July 21, I covered the Platinum Night offerings of the collections of Dr. Claude Davis and Dr. Brandon Smith. In earlier columns, I analyzed the offerings in these Boston auctions of one-year type coins and Great Rarities. Before I provide further coinage of coins in auctions, I wish to emphasize that there was an impressive assortment of important rarities on the floor of the ANA Convention, many of which could have been easily viewed by all those who attended.

I. Rarities in Boston for Everyone to See

There is a need for collectors to understand and appreciate coins that they cannot afford. To comprehend the coins that a collector owns, he (or she) has to have some understanding, often subconsciously, of the values and traditions of coin collecting in the United States. Furthermore, to fully enjoy coin collecting, there is a need to learn about Great Rarities, famous coins in general, supergrade representatives of non-rare issues, and/or beautiful classic coins. These are central to the culture of coin collecting. Would it make sense for an art enthusiast to only view paintings that he (or she) can afford to buy?

Many (though not all) dealers in sophisticated material are delighted to show rarities to collectors who cannot afford to buy them. I realize that there are non-affluent collectors who feel too embarrassed to ask dealers to show expensive coins.

There were many great coins for all to see at this ANA Convention in Boston. The Smithsonian Institution had the incomparable 1849 Double Eagle and other rarities on display. Further, a collector allowed for the public display of the finest of two known 1861 Philadelphia Mint Double Eagles with the distinctive reverse (back) that was designed by Anthony Paquet. Additionally, the NGC had the Simpson collection Proof 1804 Eagle ($10 gold coin) on display, along with an 1804 Eagle ‘pattern’ that was struck in silver! (Please see my column of July 28.)

At the PCGS tables, there was a simply astounding display of the Peter Miller collection of Proof Half Cents and Proof Large Cents. I spent some time viewing Miller’s early Proof Large Cents. Though I am very tempted to write about them here, the characteristics of these are just too complicated to discuss in a weekly column. Someday, I will write a series on Proof Large Cents. All collectors, however, may see images of Miller’s copper coins in the PCGS registry, which is available online. Before actually purchasing such coins, however, I would strongly recommend consulting an expert in 19th century Proof coins, rather than an expert in die varieties of half cents and large cents, though I would not rule out the possibility that someone could be an expert in both areas.

The ‘Ship of Gold’ exhibit contained numerous historical items relating to the shipwreck of the S.S. Central America. The largest known gold bar from the era of the California gold rush was featured. Years ago, Adam Crum sold it for a reported price of “$8,000,000.” Other than the private sale of the ‘King of Siam’ Proof set in 2005, a numismatic item has not sold for more than $8,000,000.

To anyone who expressed an interest, the staff at Legacy Rare Coins was delighted to show Prooflike 1857-S Double Eagles ($20 gold coins) that were recovered from the wreck of the S.S. Central America. For more information about the shipwreck and these coins, please see my recent article on Prooflike 1857-S Double Eagles. I admit that I was very curious about these Prooflike San Francisco Mint Double Eagles, which I had never thoroughly examined before, and that Legacy Rare Coins supported my research in this area. (more…)

Prooflike 1857-S Double Eagle Gold Coins from the Shipwreck of the S. S. Central America

by Greg Reynolds

In 1987, there was the greatest discovery of a shipwreck relating to the history of the United States. Yes, other shipwrecks may be especially important to the history of Spain and Latin America. The loss of the S.S. Central America in Sept. 1857, however, had an impact on the history of the United States. Although a recession had already started in 1856, and a major insurance company failed in August 1857, the loss of this ship caused upheaval in financial markets and exacerbated the “Panic of 1857.”

The Library of Congress website reveals that the S. S. Central America “had aboard 581 persons, many carrying great personal wealth, and more than $1 million in commercial gold. [This ship] also bore a secret shipment of 15 tons of federal gold, valued at $20 per ounce, intended for the Eastern banks”. In this context, the Library of Congress website cites several pertinent, recognized 19th century books and other contemporary sources. “As banking institutions of the day dealt in specie (gold and silver coins instead of paper money) the loss of some thirty thousand pounds of gold reverberated through the financial community.” In October, many banks suffered terribly or failed altogether. There were ‘runs’ on many banks by depositors.

The crisis reached its worse point on Oct. 14, about a month after the sinking of the S. S. Central America, which was “Suspension Day, when banking was suspended in New York and throughout New England [http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/aug24.html.” The U.S. economy did not fully recover for years.

In the wreckage of the S. S. Central America, there were thousands of 1857-S Double Eagles ($20 gold coins), which were very scarce before the salvaging of the S.S. Central America. Of all the Double Eagles found in the wreckage, however, only fifty were designated as being Prooflike, and only seven as Deep Mirror Prooflike, by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). In late 1999 and/or early 2000, the PCGS certified and graded most of the coins found in this shipwreck. As far as I know, these fifty-seven PCGS certified 1857-S Double Eagles and one NGC certified 1858-S Double Eagle coins are the only reliably certified, Prooflike gold coins from the early years of the San Francisco Mint, which formally began striking coins in 1854.

I. The Rarity of Type One Prooflike Double Eagles

The 1857-S Double Eagles that the PCGS has designated as Prooflike are unusual in that it is generally the policy of the Professional Coin Grading Service to not designate gold coins as being ‘Prooflike.’ In a Dec. 2000 Christie’s auction, it is stated that a PCGS certified ‘MS-65 PL’ 1857-S is “Tied with two others for finest of 50 PL examples from the S.S. Central America treasure certified by PCGS.” According to the Christie’s cataloguer, who is an expert regarding the histories of coins found on shipwrecks, nineteen 1857-S Double Eagles are (or then were) PCGS certified as ‘MS-64 PL.’

Sources indicate just seven of the S. S. Central America 1857-S Double Eagles were designated as Deep Mirror Prooflike (DMPL) by the PCGS. The NGC has not designated any 1857-S Double Eagles as PL or DMPL. Before the finding of the wreck of the S. S. Central America, it is likely that no Prooflike 1957-S Double Eagles were known to exist. Furthermore, probably all (or almost all) of these certified Prooflike 1857-S Double Eagles are in PCGS holders with their respective original gold foil inserts (labels) that were specially designed for coins found in the wreck of the S.S. Central America. Therefore, it seems that there exist fifty-seven Prooflike (PL) or Deep Mirror Prooflike (DMPL) 1857-S Double Eagles. Only a handful of these have been publicly sold since the initial offerings in 2000 when coins from the S.S. Central America appeared in coin markets. (more…)

United States Mint Names 7 New Associate Designers From Artistic Infusion Program

The United States Mint today announced that seven new artists have been selected to participate in the Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) as Associate Designers. The AIP began in 2003 to help enrich and invigorate the design of U.S. coins and medals.

A call for artists was issued August 28, 2009, seeking up to 10 associate designers to supplement the current pool of artists under contract in the AIP. Applications were accepted on a rolling basis with three deadlines. The United States Mint received more than 150 applications from professional visual artists nationwide.

After the first two deadlines of November 9, 2009, and March 8, 2010, an official panel convened at United States Mint headquarters to review the qualifying applications. The panel was composed of representatives from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian and National Gallery of Art, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

After its review and evaluation, the panel recommended four artists after the November 9 deadline and three after the March 8 deadline. The new associate designers are:

* Paul Cainto Balan of Round Lake Heights, Illinois
* Chris Costello of Arlington, Massachusetts
* Barbara Fox of Little Valley, New York
* Thomas Hipschen of Arlington, Virginia
* Frank Morris of Memphis, Tennessee
* David Westwood of Lakewood, California
* Gary Whitley of Kelso, Washington

The final deadline for the 2009-2010 call for artists was July 6. There are three remaining AIP associate designer positions to be filled by the panel.

In the past, AIP artists have submitted successful designs for the 50 State Quarters® Program, American Eagle Platinum Coin Program, Presidential $1 Coin Program, First Spouse Gold Coin and Medal Program, America the Beautiful QuartersTM Program and others.

The AIP was specifically designed to develop and train a pool of talented external artists ready to work with the United States Mint’s in-house staff of sculptor-engravers to create new coin and medal designs. United States Mint Sculptor-Engravers model the designs submitted by the AIP artists. (more…)

The Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) Announces 2010 Outstanding Achievement Award Winners

The Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) presented its outstanding achievement awards for 2010 during the PNG Day banquet held in Boston, Massachusetts on August 9, 2010.

Patrick Heller of Liberty Coin Service in Michigan was given the Abe Kosoff Founders Award presented in recognition of a PNG member-dealer who has made a significant contribution to the Guild or to the numismatic fraternity in general. “Pat has shown enthusiastic leadership, dedication and selfless sharing of knowledge,” said Gary Adkins, who chaired the Kosoff committee. The award is named after PNG’s Founding President

Prolific author and prominent dealer, Q. David Bowers of New Hampshire, received one of the two Robert Friedberg Awards presented at the PNG Day banquet in Boston, August 9, 2010, and was also honored for 50 years of membership in the Professional Numismatists Guild. (Photo courtesy of Donn Pearlman. All rights reserved.)

David Hall, President of Collectors Universe, Inc. and a co-founder of Professional Coin Grading Service, received the PNG Significant Contribution Award “for years of dedication and significant contributions to numismatics,” according to committee co-chairs Dana Samuelson and Barry Stuppler.

New Jersey coin dealer Ken Starrett was presented with the Sol Kaplan Award. He assisted in the recovery of coins stolen from long-time PNG member-dealer Julian Leidman of Maryland, according to Kaplan committee chair, Jeffrey Bernberg. Jointly presented by the PNG and the Lewis M. Reagan Foundation to people who have helped fight fraud and thievery in the numismatic profession, the award is named after a former PNG President who was responsible for the apprehension of several people suspected of numismatic-related crimes.

Paul Whitnah, a Texas collector and travel agent, received the Art Kagin Ambassador Award “for his many decades of volunteering and tireless support of the entire numismatic community,” according to Kagin committee chair Fred Weinberg. The award is named after a former PNG President who provided distinguished service as an advocate of numismatic goodwill.

(Paul Whitnah of Texas received the PNG’s 2010 Art Kagin Award in recognition of his decades of professional assistance to PNG member-dealers and volunteer work in the numismatic community. (Photo courtesy of Donn Pearlman. All rights reserved.)

Book authors Q. David Bowers and Cory Frampton each received a Robert Friedberg Award. Committee chair Tom Denly said Bowers received the award “in honor of his exemplary work on the Whitman Encyclopedia of U.S. Paper Money,” and Frampton received the award “in honor of his exemplary work on Mexican Paper Money.” The Friedberg award is named in honor of a well-known publisher and author of numismatic reference books.

Bowers also was recognized for 50 years of PNG membership. PNG Executive Director Robert Brueggeman announced that Bowers is being given lifetime membership in the organization, only the fifth person in PNG history to be so honored. Bowers joined the PNG in 1960 and holds membership number 58.

Three 25-year members were honored: John Wilkison (#351), PNG Immediate Past President Gary Adkins (#352) and Larry Stack (#355). All three joined the organization in 1985. (more…)

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.”

All-Time Greatest Collection of Barber Half Dollars to be Auctioned in Boston, Part 1

by Greg Reynolds

On Wed., Aug 11, during the Platinum Night event of the Summer 2010 ANA auction in Boston, the all-time greatest collection of Barber Half Dollars will be auctioned. This set was assembled and consigned by Dr. Steven Duckor.

I. Overview

Here in part 1, I will introduce Dr. Duckor’s collection, mention the last two coins that were added, focus on his 1904-S half, and discuss the evolution of his set of Barber halves. In part 2, the historical and cultural importance of this set will be analyzed, along with references to other landmark sets of Barber Halves, including those of Thaine Price, Louis Eliasberg and the Norweb family. Plus, there will be some additional information in at least one of my Wednesday morning columns. Please read tomorrow’s column.

All of Dr. Duckor’s coins are authenticated, graded, and encapsulated by the Professional Coin Grading Service. During the Spring, the entire set was re-evaluated by the PCGS under the new SecurePlus™ program. Twenty-seven of Duckor’s halves received plus grades, Duckor himself reports, and “one coin fully upgraded to the next grade.”

In accordance with the rules of the PCGS registry, Duckor’s primary set has a “weighted” grade point average of “66.776.” With inclusion of the rare and recognized 1892 Micro O variety, his GPA drops a little to “66.72” The second ‘current finest’ set is owned by Dr. Peter Shireman and it is third on the “all-time” list. My guess, though, is that the Thaine Price collection is superior to that of Shireman. In accordance with current grading criteria, some of Price’s coins would merit higher grades than these received in the 1990s.

I am not referring to Dr. Duckor’s set of Barber Half Dollars as the ‘all-time’ best because it is the number one “All-Time Finest” in the PCGS registry, though this is so. I am referring to it as the greatest collection of business strike Barber Halves of all time because it is superior to any other, better than those that were disbursed before the PCGS was founded, and better than those that include a mix of PCGS and NGC certified coins. I have spent considerable time researching and analyzing the topic of business strike Barber Half Dollars.

Actually, so few collectors have even attempted to assemble gem quality, complete sets of business strike Barber Halves, it was not that difficult to determine that the Duckor collection is the greatest of all time. References to other sets of Barber Halves are central to an understanding of Dr. Duckor’s set. In terms of the culture of coin collecting, Dr. Duckor’s set of Barber Halves is perhaps the most important collection to be auctioned in Boston this August, even though tens of millions of dollars worth of rare coins, including several wonderful collections, will be sold.

Unfortunately, I am not able here to extensively discuss many of the individual Barber Halves in the collection. The objectives of this two-part series are to explain the importance of this set, to provide information about its evolution, to relate it to other sets of Barber Halves, and to discuss the meaning of this set in the context of the history and traditions of coin collecting in the United States. I will mention a few specific Barber Halves in my weekly columns, starting tomorrow.

Mark Borckardt, surely, did an admirable job of cataloguing Dr. Duckor’s coins. I strongly recommend that collectors read the catalogue. Even collectors who cannot afford these halves will find the catalogue to be educational and interesting. In order to understand the coins that a collector possesses, it is necessary for him or her to learn about coins that are not affordable. (more…)

PNG Adopts Coin “Doctoring” Definition

The Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) has created a definition of coin “doctoring” and now officially included it as one of the prohibitions in the organization’s By-Laws.

“The deliberate and unacceptable alteration of a coin in an effort to deceive is a complex matter. Everyone seems to know what coin ‘doctoring’ means, but it’s a difficult thing to concisely and substantively define,” said Paul Montgomery, PNG President.

“After extensive discussions and consultation with both Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), the official grading service of PNG, and with executives of the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), the PNG has created its first formal definition of coin doctoring,” Montgomery added.

PNG already required disclosure of information about altered coins.

“Section seven of the PNG Code of Ethics specifically states that PNG member-dealers must refrain from knowingly dealing in counterfeit, altered or repaired numismatic items without fully disclosing their status to their customers. Section four of the Code prohibits misrepresenting the quality of a coin,” said PNG Executive Director Robert Brueggeman.

“Adding a more specific definition of coin doctoring is a major step toward helping the PNG review any complaints against members accused of compromising ethical standards established by the organization. We now have an enforceable criterion for our membership.”

The PNG Board of Directors has adopted this initial definition:

Coin doctoring is the action of a person or the enabling of another to alter a coin’s surface or appearance, usually to diminish or conceal defects, and thereby represent the condition or value of a coin as being superior to its actual condition or value.

Among the practices defined as doctoring are effacing hairlines by polishing or manipulating the surfaces of proof coins, applying substances to the surface of coins to hide marks and defects, hiding marks or otherwise changing the appearance of a coin by adding toning, adding chemicals or otherwise manipulating the surfaces to create “cameo” frost on the devices of proof coins, and making a coin appear more fully struck by re-engraving portions of the devices, such as re-engraving bands on the reverse of a Mercury Dime or adding head detail to a Standing Liberty Quarter.

Altering dates or mintmarks or other struck portions of a coin to make it appear to be from a mint date or type other than that of origin, and altering business strike coins to make them resemble proof issues are also examples of coin doctoring. This definition is not intended to be all-inclusive, but only illustrative of forms of coin doctoring.

“As of today, no one has filed any formal complaints with PNG or presented evidence directly to the PNG of alleged coin doctoring by any of its members. However, we have been closely monitoring developments, and are taking action regarding a civil court lawsuit over alleged coin doctoring that was filed by PCGS in May of this year,” said Brueggeman.

Founded in 1955, the Professional Numismatists Guild is a nonprofit organization composed of many of the top rare coin and paper money dealers in the United States and other countries. PNG member-dealers must adhere to a strict Code of Ethics in the buying and selling of numismatic items. For additional information and the locations of PNG member-dealers, call (760) 728-1300 or visit online at www.PNGdealers.com.

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…)

1796 Bust Quarter from the Norweb Collection in Heritage Coin Auction

In his 1796 Mint report, dated November 29, Elias Boudinot discussed some of the problems that faced the fledgling Mint in Philadelphia: “He has seen, with regret, an opinion generally prevailing, that the establishment is unnecessarily expensive, and less productive than was rationally expected by its advocates and friends.” Among the problems was free coinage, meaning that the government paid the cost of refining silver and gold deposits, including the cost of copper that was necessary for alloy purposes. Boudinot continued: “not only the original cost of the works, and the salaries of the stated officers, fall on the public, but also the whole amount of the workmanship, with the alloy, wastage, and contingent losses.”

During the period from July 18, 1794 to November 12, 1796, a total of 39 deposits of silver were brought to the Mint. Among those were five deposits in August 1794 that were the exact fineness of standard silver (89.24% pure). Only seven of the remaining 34 deposits were lower-purity than standard silver, but those seven deposits totaled 98,556 gross ounces of silver, or nearly 25% of all the silver deposited during that 29-month period. The result was a necessity for the Mint to supply more than 2,100 pounds of copper to bring the silver deposits up to standard. At the prevailing rates, the cost of that copper alone was approximately $560. Copper collectors will be quick to point out that the cost of the alloy was equal to a little over 70,000 additional large cents that could have been minted.

The 5,894 quarter dollars minted in the second quarter of 1796 were included among the silver coins minted at the time. Attempts to correlate silver deposit data from the 1796 Mint Report to coinage delivery records have failed, but research continues. Comparing those records does indicate an approximate delay of three months, suggesting that the silver contained in the coins was deposited around the first of the year.

The 1796 quarters were the first of their kind, featuring the Draped Bust obverse modeled from the work of Gilbert Stuart, and the Small Eagle reverse that would soon be replaced with a Heraldic Eagle design. These are one-year type coins, the first quarter dollars ever minted, and a low-mintage issue. Total production included the 5,894 coins struck in 1796, and 252 additional pieces coined in February 1797. Modern research into die states shows that the Browning-2 quarters, with the High 6 date position, were the first coined, adding to the importance of this coin.

More than a dozen Gem Mint State 1796 quarters still exist, although few of them have the strike of this example. On nearly all known examples, the eagle’s head and neck are flat and indistinct, with the leaves above showing no detail. Although minor adjustment marks affect the strike on the present coin, the head still shows nearly full design definition. Breen claimed in his Proof Encyclopedia that “The weakness at eagle’s head is characteristic of the design and is not to be attributed to imperfect striking.” The mere existence of sharp heads on pieces such as the Norweb specimen clearly show that Breen was incorrect. However, the vast majority of pieces have poorly defined head and neck details on the reverse. Finding an example with full details at that location is a rare numismatic event.

This boldly defined Gem is one of the finest existing 1796 quarters. Steel, russet, and sea-green toning enhances the underlying deep golden appearance. The fields are fully and obviously prooflike. Besides the bold definition on the head, the wing feathers are sharp, and the rock below the eagle has full detail. The border dentils, especially on the obverse, are bold and wide, providing a wonderful frame for the design elements. An early die state example, the Norweb Gem is struck from perfect dies, adding credence to the idea that it is a special presentation strike. A few light adjustment marks on the reverse are visible, but they hardly affect the incredible beauty of this piece. The cataloger for the Norweb Collection suggested that this is a special piece: “This is quite possibly a presentation coin, of the type which years ago used to be called Proof, struck, as Walter Breen suggests, at the beginning of coinage of the denomination on April 9, 1796.” The combined attributes of this incredible coin from the Norweb Collection ensure that it will delight collectors for generations to come. (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…)