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Category: Profiles and Interviews

Profiles: Medal and Coin Artist Alex Shagin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video: Interviews with Martin Logies and Steve Contursi on the Sale of the 1794 Silver Dollar

The Neil/Carter/Contursi specimen 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar was sold in May for $7,850,000, setting a new record as the world’s most valuable rare coin. Graded PCGS Specimen-66, it is the finest known 1794 dollar and believed by several prominent experts to be the first silver dollar ever struck by the United States Mint.

It was sold by Steven L. Contursi, President of Rare Coin Wholesalers of Irvine, California, to the nonprofit Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation (CCEF) in Sunnyvale, California. Collector and numismatic researcher Martin Logies represented the foundation of which he is a director and its numismatic curator. The private sale was brokered by Greg Roberts, President and Chief Executive Officer of Spectrum Group International of Irvine, California.

From 2004 to 2009, the coin was a featured exhibit at the American Numismatic Association’s Edward C. Rochette Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and was displayed at a half dozen ANA World’s Fair of Money and National Money Show conventions around the country.

The 1984 Stack’s auction lot description in the Carter Collection sale stated, “It is perfectly conceivable that this coin was the very first 1794 Silver Dollar struck!” Over the decades, various numismatic researchers have stated a similar belief including Walter Breen, Jack Collins, John Dannreuther, David Hall and Logies who is author of the book, The Flowing Hair Silver Dollars of 1794.

David Lisot of CoinTelevision.com interviewed both the buyer, Martin Logies, Curator Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation and the seller, Steve Contursi, President of Rare Coin Wholesalers at the Long Beach Expo earlier this month.

CoinLink is pleased to be able to provide both of these interviews:

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Buyer of the 1794 Dollar for $7.85 Million: Martin Logies, Curator – Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation [9:18]

CCEF maintains several web sites to provide information about early American coins, including www.EarlyUSCoins.org and www.EarlyDollars.org that features an interactive “treasure hunters” guide for easily attributing early U.S. silver dollars by die variety. Another web site is planned, www.CCEFlibrary.org, that will be devoted to providing the public with access to the foundation’s extensive numismatic library.

“Of all the rarities I have seen or heard of, there is no doubt in my mind that this is the single most important of all, the very first silver dollar. This is the coin that has it all,” said Logies. (more…)

Coin Profile: 1849 Oregon Exchange Company Five Dollar Gold Territorial Coin

The news of the discovery of gold in California reached the Oregon Territory in late July 1848. That news was confirmed in Oregon City, seat of Clackamas County, on August 9 of that year, when the brig Henry docked with gold dust, arriving from San Francisco, and by October more than two-thirds of the men in Oregon had departed to seek treasure in the gold fields of California.

The Oregon Spectator, founded in 1846, one of the first newspapers west of the Mississippi River, was forced to stop publishing in 1848 “because its printer, with 3,000 officers, lawyers, physicians, farmers and mechanics were leaving for the gold fields.” (Kagin, Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States.)

By spring of the following year, gold dust had almost entirely replaced beaver and other fur pelts as the primary medium of exchange, although it traded at a substantial discount to silver coins (when available) and to its value at the Philadelphia Mint. Miners were losing money.

Against this backdrop, the Oregon Exchange Company was formed, with the express purpose of weighing and stamping gold.

Although Oregon was officially declared a territory of the United States on March 3, 1849–rendering any plan to coin gold clearly unconstitutional–several prominent residents determined to proceed with the plan.

PCGS Video:David McCarthy of Kagin’s tells the story of the 1849 $5 Oregon gold piece

The surnames of those residents were Kilborn, Magruder, Taylor, Abernethy, Willson, Rector, (Gill) Campbell, and Smith. Their initials K. M. T. A. W. R. G. S. appear around the rim of the five dollar gold pieces, which also picture a beaver on a log and a laurel wreath. In error, the initials T.O. (rather than O.T., for Oregon Territory) were stamped on the obverse.

The five dollar contains the reverse legend OREGON EXCHANGE COMPANY around the periphery, with 130 G. / NATIVE GOLD. / 5 D. in the center. The initials of two men were omitted from the ten dollar pieces struck later, and the T.O. was corrected to O.T.

The gold coinage was unalloyed with silver or copper, and succeeded in raising the price of gold dust from $12 to $16 as the pieces circulated. Alloy was purposely omitted to ensure that the pieces would be accepted regardless of variances in the purity of gold dust, but their inherent softness caused them to suffer in contact with the harder alloyed gold coinage from California–and their higher intrinsic value caused them to soon be melted. (more…)

A Western Assayer of the Mark Twain Period – The Wiegand Silver Ingots

by Fred N. Holabird with permission from Monaco Rare Coins

Introduction

Conrad Wiegand was a boisterous man who was born in Philadelphia, worked for the US Mint, and came to the California Gold Rush in the early 1850’s. He went to work for the US Branch Mint in San Francisco at or near its inception in 1854.

Wiegand was small in stature, but big in ideas, and even stronger still in his opinions. He was a devoutly religious person who saw such injustice in the world that he undertook the publishing of his own newspaper—two of them, in fact. His other passion was the metals question, particularly his political stance generally held by most miners that money should be in the form of circulating hard specie—gold and silver coinage and ingots. Wiegand’s outspoken nature repeatedly got him into trouble, especially during his life on the Comstock. He was severely physically assaulted and beaten twice, which endeared him to the likes of Sam Clemens. As he advanced in age, his mental troubles worsened. Ultimately, his life ended in a hangman’s noose at the age of fifty in Virginia City.

A number of his precious metal ingots exist today as testimony of his work as a mainstream western assayer. These include nearly every phase of gold, silver and copper bullion in which Wiegand worked, as well as examples of items used to promote monetary specie.

Background

Conrad Wiegand shared with friends in Virginia City that he was born in Philadelphia in March, 1830. His father was John Wiegand, a one-time banker and later surgical instrument manufacturer. His brothers included a pharmacist (Thomas) and an inventor (George). The family lived in Philadelphia. Conrad, however, soon disappeared from the written historical record of Philadelphia and all American census data.

In an interview later in life, Wiegand said that he “entered the assay department of the Philadelphia Mint on $1 a day for wages.” Wiegand apparently trained for several years at the Philadelphia Mint, and mention was made that he worked in New York as well, probably for a private assaying firm.

Wiegand Appointed Assayer, Branch Mint, San Francisco, 1854

In 1854 he was appointed by President Pierce to the Branch Mint at San Francisco as Assayer. By his own admission, he returned to the east coast shortly after to run the New York New Boys Club, then left that job to study for the ministry. Unsuccessful with the Boys Club, he worked for a stint at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. President Abraham Lincoln subsequently appointed him as assayer to the Branch Mint in San Francisco once again. Working again in San Francisco, he soon published an opinionated pamphlet promoting the use of gold and silver as circulating specie.

As one of the original presidential appointees of President Pierce for the US Branch Mint at San Francisco when it opened in 1854, Wiegand held special status. Information on this early period is scant. By 1855 he held the position with the Branch Mint as Assayer, though this may be near the time that he returned to New York for a short while. While working there, his naturally boisterous and vociferous nature came to the forefront almost immediately, particularly when the Vigilance Committee was formed and action later taken. Wiegand gave a public speech, reported October 12, 1856 on the moral aspects of the Casey matter. He also published at least one article under the pseudonym William Carroll. (more…)

Kris Oyster Interviewed, on Coins for Collectors, the future of Superior Galleries, Generic Gold, Paper Money, and more!

By Greg Reynolds

I. Who is Mr. Kris Oyster?

For around thirty-five years, Mr. Kris Oyster has been a coin dealer and he is currently well known on the nationwide show circuit. As the managing director of numismatics for DGSE, Oyster rose to fame when DGSE acquired Superior Galleries in 2007, as Superior has been a fixture in the coin business for many decades. Now, for the first time, he has agreed to be interviewed for a nationwide audience.

Greg Reynolds: Are you Managing Director of Numismatics for both DGSE and Superior Galleries? What does this job entail?

Kris Oyster: Yes, for both, and, as managing director, I am responsible for all aspects of the numismatic division of DGSE Companies nationwide .

GR: How long has DGSE been in business?

KO: DGSE has been a big name in rare coins since the firm was [organized] in 1977. I have been a coin dealer since the mid 1970’s. I became involved with DGSE in 1997. DGSE is a publicly traded company.

GR: Is DGSE well known to people in Texas?

KO: Dallas Gold and Silver is a household name in the Southwest. DGSE began in a local mall and has expanded into a hundred million dollar business. We are a major wholesaler and retailers of fine jewelry and diamonds as well as sports memorabilia,bullion products, rare coins and currency. Our revenue in 2008 was in excess of $105 million dollars. Rare coins and currency accounted for $17 million dollars of these sales in 2008. We are at almost all major coin shows as well as most regional venues. We have showrooms in Dallas and Euless, Texas, also near Charleston, South Carolina, and of course our Superior Galleries and Superior Gold and Diamond operations in Woodland Hills [in Los Angeles County]. My office is at the headquarters in Dallas. Gary Shepherd is our coin man in Euless and Brian Cohn handles our Charleston area operation.

GR: Do you serve collectors at all locations?

Yes, we even have a large cent expert on staff, Mike McKee. When I met Mike, he was 12 years old. He come into the DGSE headquarters store with his dad to buy [better-date] Lincoln pennies for his collection. We even buy and sell ancient coins. Ronnie Deschane is our on-hand consultant for ancients. Our coin expert in Euless, Gary Shepard, specializes in circulated U.S. coins that thousands of collectors want to buy, like Indian cents, Shield nickels, Barber coins, Morgan dollars, Liberty Seated series, and Extremely Fine to MS-63 19th century gold coins. We do a large business in not so expensive collector coins. We sell a big mix of collector coins, from colonial times to 2009 Proof sets. When I say that all collectors are welcome, I really mean it.

GR: What are your specialties?

KO: U.S. gold coins, U.S. paper money, and Morgan dollars. (more…)

Heidi Wastweet Appointed to the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee

Heidi Wastweet of Seattle, Washington was appointed to the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) to fill the seat reserved for a specialist in medallic sculpture.

Ms. Wastweet is a leading American Medallist and sculptor who specializes in bas-relief bronzes.

In conjunction with a wide variety of private mints she has produced over 1000 coins, medals, tokens and rare coin replicas since 1987. She was chief engraver for Sunshine Mint for 11 years and lead designer/sculptor for Global Mint for 5 years.

In 2001 she opened her own studio (www.wastweetstudio.com) and relocated from Idaho to Seattle Washington in 2002. She served as treasurer for the American Medallic Sculpture Association from 2003-2009 and is current president and founder of Seattle Sculpture Guild as well as a member of FIDEM.

She has been featured in Coin World and Coinage magazine and exhibits her non-commission work regularly including the National Sculpture Society in New York and the Norwegian Heritage Museum in Washington.

Medal and coin credits include a 7 coin set issued by the Sultanate of Darfur, the Dean’s Award for Seattle University School of Law, Alumnus Award for Stephen F. Austin University, Mayo Clinic visiting physicians medal, Stanford University Alumni medal and Island records Willie Nelson portrait. In addition to medalic art she has also created a number of public art pieces including a recent commission for the University of Washington’s Medal of Honor Monument in Seattle and eight bronze relief panels for 12 foot high church doors for St. Paul’s in Pensacola, Florida.

20th Century Gold Club Holds Fascinating Meeting During FUN Convention

By Greg Reynolds for CoinLink

I. Introduction to the Club and this Meeting

On Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010, the 20th Century Gold Club conducted their fifth meeting at a hotel near the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando where the January FUN Convention was held. In the field of choice and rare U.S. coins, the annual Winter FUN Convention is one of the leading events of the year.

This club is private, small, exclusive, and sophisticated. I am honored to have been invited to attend. Moreover, I feel privileged to have the cooperation of the founders for the purpose of writing about the proceedings and communicating the educational and other purposes of this club to coin enthusiasts at large. Some of the presentations and discussions at the event were truly fascinating and the enthusiasm of the members for coins filled the atmosphere. The event was stimulating and fun.

The current president, Jay Brahin, directed the meeting. The speakers were David Hall, John Albanese and John Dannreuther. David Hall is the primary founder of the PCGS and he is currently the CEO of its parent company. Hall is an expert in early 20th century U.S. gold coins.

Hall spoke about the new PCGS program of identifying coins that each have a market value of $1 million or more, the “Million Dollar Club.” I asked if coins in museums are included, and I was surprised that they are with rather specific estimated values. I also asked why the two unique 1797 Half Eagles in the Smithsonian are not on the list. Reportedly, these two 1797s are the only known survivors of two different, readily apparent varieties. Additionally, Hall voiced intriguing comments regarding PCGS estimates of the values of 1933 Double Eagles.

In the second part of David Hall’s presentation, he introduced the results of research at the PCGS regarding the market values in 1970 of Saint Gaudens Double Eagles. The tricky part of such research is determining how specific coins in 1970 have or would be later graded by the PCGS, so price appreciation of specific dates in specific grades can be tracked and analyzed. Though David Akers voiced a critical remark or two regarding such values, most of the members of the club were impressed by the data and astonished by how low the prices were for such terrific coins in 1970. As an aside, note that Dr. Duckor has long argued that gem quality, better-date early 20th century gold coins were not really appreciated until the 1980s. One of the purposes of the club is to bring about a greater appreciation of early 20th century gold coins. (more…)

A Father and Son Coin Collecting Team

By Laura Sperber – Legend Numismatics Hot Topics

BACKGROUND: Legend Numismatics recently purchased the Boyd 1870-S Seated Dollar Graded PCGS Genuine for this dynamic father/son duo from the Bowers and Merena Sale in Baltimore. Thay had just about finished with their AU/MS Seated Dollar Collection and dreamed about owning a 70-S. Here is a portion of Laura’s Hot Topics Post:

1870-s_dollar_bm_111409In all my years of dealing I have seen all types of collectors. Since the registry craze started I have seen more ego maniacs then true collectors. Seeing this father/son team work is not only refreshing, but its a heart warming story of interaction as well.

Today, I only know of one other true “team” building a collection (I am not talking about daddy just forking over money-I am talking about a true working pair). They travel to some shows, they look at their coins when ever they can, they both love coins.

One thing that impresses me the most, they are all about the coins. They couldn’t give a hoot about the registry. Their whole take on coins and collecting them is fabulous! I hope this Hot Topics can inspire more familys to collect as a unit.

Here is the story (as written by the teenage son) about their collecting endevors of Seated Dollars:

The MNS Joint Venture Seated dollar set is being put together by my father and I. We started collecting in 2002 or 2003 with liberty nickels and within 3 years we had a whole set, and up to 4-5 of some dates with a nearly complete second set. Time to look for a new series.

The Seated dollar set was our second set we set out to tackle. It presented a challenge at a reasonable cost in the XF grade range that we started to look at. A few XF’s in and a tough decision had to be made. Take the plunge or not. I was able to locate a choice XF 1873-cc in a dealers website and it was an easy decision. The coin was in our possession and quickly followed by an 1871-cc in XF. Some of the keys were down and there was no turning back from here.
(more…)

Gold Medal Deserved for Numismatic Role

Edward William Brooke, III.By David Ganz for Numimaster

Edward W. Brooke III, who served two terms as junior senator from Massachusetts from 1967 to 1979, has been voted a congressional gold medal by the Senate where he served and the House of Representatives. He will join the ranks of about 185 other men and women with this coveted award.

Now 89 years old and living in Miami, with reported land holdings in Saint Marten, Brooke has had a life of firsts that Rep. Niki Tsongas recently recited: “the first African American elected to the United States Senate by popular vote. I am proud that he accomplished this feat in my home state of Massachusetts, which he represented from January 1967 until January 1979.”

She relates how, “He has been Captain Brooke, Professor Brooke, and Attorney General Brooke. He has fought for civil rights in our country and against apartheid in South Africa. For his many accomplishments, he has received numerous medals and awards, most notably the Bronze Star and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”

What is remarkable is that, “In a political world growing increasingly divisive and polarized, Sen. Brooke has always had the distinct ability to separate the political from the personal. My husband, Paul, ran for the Senate against Sen. Brooke in 1978. Although the race was tightly contested, Sen. Brooke was always respectful, always warm, and Paul, in turn, greatly admired him.”

Read Full Numismaster Article Here

$1 000 Gold Still Very Cheap – Interview with Greg McCoach

Greg McCoach - AmerigoldGreg McCoach is an entrepreneur, who has successfully started and run several businesses the past 22 years. For the last 7 of these years he has been involved with the precious metals industry as a bullion dealer, investor, and newsletter writer.

Mr. McCoach’s years of business experience and extensive personal contacts in the mining industry provide unique insights that have generated an impressive track record for The Mining Speculator since its inception in 2001. He also spreads his vast knowledge of the precious metals markets in a weekly column for Gold World.

Greg is also the President of AmeriGold, a gold bullion dealer.

TGR: Going to gold, what would you recommend our readers buy?

MCCOACH: I think people have to decide for themselves if they want to own the physical gold or paper representations of the metal, and they clearly need to understand what the differences are so they can make an intelligent decision for themselves. The paper representation would be gold ETFs or the Central Fund of Canada Ltd. (CEF AMEX). The mining stocks would also be paper representations. They don t represent physical gold themselves they represent a stock.

I own AmeriGold.com. I set that up back in 1999 so that my clients could have a safe and reliable place for trading buying and selling physical gold and silver, platinum and palladium with very low transaction costs. AmeriGold has done very well, particularly in the last six to eight months, when we ve had a ton of people who suddenly want to own the physical metals.

I like owning the physical metals it s just my opinion. Some people don t like it because it gets messy dealing with the physical metals you have to store it somewhere. You incur storage charges if you re putting it in a private safe or vault or depository or if you try to keep it in a safe deposit box of course, you ve got to pay for that. For myself, I just get a good fireproof safe, bolt it in from the inside into a concrete floor, and store it myself. Buy your physical metals.

Read Full Interview from IBT Commodities and Futures

Meet Fred Weinberg – Error Coin and Minting Process Expert

Fred Weinberg is the world-renowned expert in error coins and the coin minting process. Photo courtesy of Fred Weinberg.Fred Weinberg is easily one of the most well-known people in coin collecting. He is a specialist in error coins, the coins which result from mistakes and mishaps during the coin minting process. Chances are, if you’ve seen a handsome, bearded coin expert on television, it was Fred Weinberg, as he is probably one of the most consulted coin experts in the country. He has appeared on numerous TV news and radio shows, from the major networks to local affiliates, explaining the way the coins are made in his engaging and easy-going fashion. So, who is Fred Weinberg and how did he get to where he is today?

Fred has been collecting coins since the age of 12. He has been a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) for more than 38 years, and a member of the elite Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) for over 31 years.

In fact, Fred served as President of the PNG from 1999 to 2001. He is fascinated with the things that go wrong when coins are made, and loves trying to figure out why a coin turned out the way it did. As a result of a lifetime analyzing the way coins are struck, Fred is the go-to guy for important entities like PCGS, for which he is the official authenticator for major minting errors.

Read the Full About.com Article Here