Monday, June 30, 2014

Old Cent Whist

Penny Whimsy was written in the 1940's, but has been republished with corrections several times. The link below is for the 1990 version.  Don't be too put off at the price; I was able to find a used copy for less than $60.

Mine was cheap because it had been owned by Bowers and Merena and scribbled in here and there by a fellow named John Pack.  Book collectors don't like scribbling.

I don't mind scribbling at all, especially when it might be useful notes from a professional. It was just brackets and circling, though.

The book covers Large Cents from 1793 to 1814. I don't even own a single example of that type any longer, but I still like having this book, especially at such a low price. 

At the end of the book, Sheldon describes the game of Old Cent Whist.  As he tells it, some advanced collectors would sometimes gather with their collections and, starting with the first variety of 1793, bring out their coins one by one. Having the variety counted as one point, having it in the best condition counted as another.

Obviously few of us could play that game with old large cents today and perhaps not with anything except generic type coins.  

Buy this book at Amazon and help me support this site!

Clue for the second 2014 Silver Eagle Giveaway:  He had connections with Sheldon

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

The draped bust half cents

I have great affection for all of the "little sisters" - the half cents.  They are all low mintage, usually in the hundreds of thousands, sometimes in the tens, and rarely breaking a million. That's just original mintage; the estimated survival numbers are often very low. 

I like the Draped Bust design of 1800-1808 the best. It's a copy of the 1796-1807 Large Cent design, but I think it's much prettier in its diminutive form.

Image Courtesy of: Heritage Auction Galleries,

The smaller size makes Liberty seem sweeter and the reverse wreath is more delicate, at least to my eyes.

Before 1803, many of these were struck on cut down planchets of rejected large cents and sometimes the large cent design is actually visible. Many will show die misalignment like my 1806:

That's so common in these early coins that it carries no extra value and often won't even be mentioned unless really pronounced.

The true rarity of these coins is evidenced by the fact that the 1806 pictured above is considered rather common for the series, yet the original mintage of all varieties of 1806 was only 356,000 and it is estimated that only a few thousand survive today.  A few hoards of draped bust half cents have been discovered, but only of a few hundred pieces, so they barely deserve the name.

If you are interested in these under appreciated coins, I recommend getting a copy of "Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of United States Half Cents, 1793-1857".  It's out of print, but copies do turn up on Amazon.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Secret History of the First U.S. Mint: How Frank H. Stewart Destroyed, And Then Saved A National Treasure

This is a large, 8-1/2 x 11 book. That makes it wonderful for the hundreds of full color illustrations and photos, but the large size and the nearly 2.5 pound weight do make it somewhat uncomfortable to read.

I do recommend this book to those interested in numismatic history. An Amazon reviewer asserts that it is not devoted to numismatics, and it is true if you emphasize "devoted", but there are plenty of numismatic tidbits to be found and many pictures of the coins that are part of the story. Stewart's own collection is shown and discussed at length also.  There is a great deal of numismatic interest in this book.

That said, the authors do take their title seriously. This is the history of the first Mint; the land upon which it was built and the ownership of each parcel before and the Mint's operation, the details of each building, including which came first and the confusion that various other chroniclers have contributed, the people involved (primarily Frank Huling Stewart) and what happened to the buildings after the Mint itself moved on to larger quarters.

There are times when all the minutia gets both confusing and boring, but the depth of research and documentation is impressive and admirable.  As the authors explain, this work was originally intended to be a short article in the Numismatist but their research kept leading them deeper and deeper.

Any U.S. coins you may own dated before 1833 (excluding restrikes) were produced at this first Mint. For a good part of its history, men and horses provided all the energy needed; a 10 horsepower steam engine did not come until 1816, but even that was only used for drawing, rolling and some planchet cutting. Human muscle power still struck the coins until the second Mint in 1833.

This is a book worth owning if you enjoy coins and history.

Buy this book at Amazon and help me support this site!

Clue for the second 2014 Silver Eagle GiveawayDefinitely a striking fellow

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

2014 Kennedy Commemorative

In August the U.S. Mint will be offering 50th anniversary Kennedy half dollars.

Given the recent debacles at the Mint, it will be interesting to see whether there are many orders and how well the mint handles them.

There will be three sets available: a four coin .900 set (one from each mint), a two coin clad set Philadelphia and Denver, and a 3/4 ounce .999 gold version.

I had decided to swear off buying anything from the Mint, but I will have to make an exception for this. I will buy the four coin set as I think that will be the most important to collectors. I'll ignore the clad and the gold.

Unfortunately, the four coin set apparently will be offered in four different finishes, a ploy to increase sales. I don't like reverse proofs, but that will be one of the coins, so if I want the others, that comes with them.

That leaves the issue of orders.

I've said this before: I think first day orders should be limited to one order per address.  Perhaps that should run for two or three days and then (if not sold out) raised to say four per address, but  not let anyone who ordered singles order again quite yet.   If not sold out after another week, open the gates to unlimited and no restrictions from previous orders,

If you are a collector, you would have a better chance of getting at least one of the issue. If you want to take a chance to get more, hold off and wait.

Dealers would still hire people to buy these coins, but they'd have to decide whether to get fewer right away or take a chance on being able to order later.  Whatever their decision, collectors would have a better chance of getting their coins.

Note: All my coins are in a safe deposit box. I keep nothing in my home.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Robert Bashlow Restrikes

Robert S. Bashlow was a New York coin dealer who is famous for his restrikes of numerous coins. I can remember seeing his ads in coin magazines in the 1960's, particularly the one for the Continental Dollar in the August 1962 Numismatic Scrapbook.  I wasn't interested in his earlier Confederate Cent restrike, but I was tempted by the Continental Dollar.  I don't know why I finally decided against it - the $2.50 price was certainly not an issue.

So, fifty plus years later, I paid $195.00 for this one.

Bashlow also restruck other coins. In addition to the 1861 Confederate Cent and this Continental Dollar, he did restrikes of 1616 Sommer Islands, J.J. Conway $5 gold and the 1861 Confederate States Half Dollar.   There was also an 1814 dime, but those were seized and destroyed along with the die.

If he did others, I don't recall them and can't find them searching Google or eBay.

Robert Socrates Bashlow died in a hotel fire in 1979 at the age of 40. Apparently, he was musical prodigy as a child, and had a connection to both Walter Breen and William Sheldon.

He wrote a book on avoiding the draft and was known for practical jokes and hoaxes in addition to dabbling in pornography.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Henning Counterfeit Nickels

In 1954, a fellow named Francis Leroy Henning counterfeited several hundred thousand nickels dated 1939, 1944, 1946, 1947 and 1953.  That may seem like an odd coin counterfeit, but it wasn't quite as insane as it sounds because a nickel then had the same purchasing power as fifty cents or more would have today. Henning assumed that nobody would notice his fakes as they were only nickels.

He made a mistake in choosing 1944, though, because he wasn't aware that date should have a large mintmark on the reverse, even for Philadelphia minted coins (which carried no mintmark at that time). Henning's counterfeits had no mintmark.

If you find a 1944 nickel without a mintmark, it's a Henning counterfeit. Interestingly, although the FBI siezed what they could when they arrested Henning, they seem to be uninterested in these coins when they appear for sale today.

A diagnostic for Henning nickels of any date is a messed up "R" on the reverse.

However, Henning claimed to have made 6 reverse dies and 6 obverse dies. Not all have that screwy "R".   Some other clues are that a Henning may be overweight (significantly more than 5 grams), though not all are. Henning nickels are porous looking, lacking detail and may lack full rims. Some have raised dots inside the "M" of "UNUM"

Supposedly Henning branched out to other dates because when he took some of his first efforts to the bank, a teller commented that it was odd that all the dates were the same. Having the extra expense of more dies may have upset his profit margins; after conviction he is said to have claimed that he actually lost money overall.

He may have made a half million of these. When he learned that the FBI suspected him, he supposedly dumped his dies and some 200,000 coins in a river. The FBI only recovered 14,000.  Henning paid a $5,000 fine ($40,000 or so in today's money) and was sentenced to three years in prison (and apparently three more for counterfeiting five dollar bills!).

If he did make six obverse dies and they were different dates, we only know of five, so it is possible that another year could be discovered.  Any 1956 nickel you own might have been made from blanks seized at the time of his arrest, melted and reused by the Mint.

Dwight H. Stuckey The Counterfeit 1944 Jefferson Nickel
Henning Counterfeit Nickel
Henning Nickels
Definitive Tests for Henning Nickels

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Daniel Carr's 1975 Quarter

Like all of Daniel's Fantasy issues, these were over struck on real coins; in this case real silver Washington Quarters.

A total of 831 pieces were minted, some with a Bicentennial reverse and some with the normal reverse seen here.  For this particular die combination, 176 were produced.  You can see the various possibilities at  “1933” and “1975” Washington Quarters – Production Blog.

I don't see this particular piece attracting much interest over time. There's really nothing special about 1975 other than that no real quarters were made that have that date.  Many collectors wouldn't even realize that it is not a genuine coin!

Clue for the second 2014 Silver Eagle GiveawayThe rain in Spain wouldn't have saved him.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Summer Hours

It's June and good weather is rolling in.  We'll be switching to a reduced publishing schedule now, posting on Monday, Wednesday and Friday only.

We'll resume our normal schedule in October.  

Clue for the second 2014 Silver Eagle Giveaway: "It's Greek to me!"

Note: All my coins are in a safe deposit box. I keep nothing in my home.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Eckfeldt family and the U.S. Mint

The Eckfield family was involved with the U.S. Mint from its very beginning until 1929. Their contributions to numismatics are incredible, ranging from engraving the first dies to illegally striking 1804 dollars and other coins.

Adam Eckfeldt designed and provided equipment for the nascent mint and is thought to have designed the 1792 half dime. He cut the obverse die for the 1792 Birch cent and designed the Wreath Cent reverse as well as the first half cents.

In 1796, he was appointed Assistant Coiner and became Chief Coiner in 1814. He began setting aside carefully struck coins for a Mint Coin collection. Less legally, he caused missing dates to be restruck. That collection eventually became the Smithsonian National Numismatic Collection.

Officially, Eckfeldt  retired in 1839, but unofficially continued to work at the Mint long after. He died in 1852. His son, Jacob Reese Eckfeldr, worked as Chief Assayer for the Mint from 1832 to 1872 and Jacob's son (Jacob Bausch Eckfeldt) worked for the Mint from 1865 to 1929.

Jacob Reese Eckfeldt became world famous for challenging the London Royal Mint over substandard sovereigns. He was found correct in spite of their insistence otherwise.

The grandson of Adam's stepbrother was George J. Eckfeldt. He and his son Theodore worked at the Mint and are said to be responsible for proof restrikes of 1851-1853 Silver Dollars. Theodore is also likely the one responsible for the Class 2 restrikes of the 1804 dollars in the late 1850's.

Further reading:

"Was George J. Eckfeldt related to Adam Eckfeldt?"

"Liberty Seated Dollars, Guide to Collecting and Investing"

"The Secret History of the First U.S. Mint"


Note: All my coins are in a safe deposit box. I keep nothing in my home.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The American Numismatic Association's Numismatist Magazine

Way back in the 70's, I was a member of the ANA - the American Numismatic Association.  When my interest in coins rekindled this year, I joined again and was happy to see that the Numismatist magazine  is available online along with several years of back issues.

My happiness was short lived. As I read through the back issues, I became uncomfortable. Certainly some of the articles appeared to be authoritative and well researched. But others are obviously not, which makes me hesitant to accept anything published there as fact.

Although there were other examples I could point to, the one that caused me to actually groan was a retelling of the nonsensical story of "Josh Tatum" and gold plated 1883 No Cents nickels. It ended with a twist I hadn't heard before:
Josh Tatum's flirt with the Law gave birth to the phrase, "I'm just joshing you."
As any decent dictionary will tell you that "josh", meaning teasing or joking, has been in use for decades prior to 1883, that's plainly nonsense.  The rest of the story is too: there are no police records or newspaper reports of any Josh Tatum attempting to pass gold plated nickels as a deaf mute or otherwise. In fact, the story seems to have been made up in the 1960's.  Plainly there is no fact checking at the Numismatist!

Interestingly, someone rehashed that story at a coin forum I frequent. When I pointed out the facts, he retorted that it was "just a coin related story I found amusing and thought others might as well".

Yes, amusing. Untrue, but amusing. Shall I send in an equally amusing story concerning how my grandfather stole a hat from Victor D. Brenner in 1909? I promise you, it's a worthy tale and it explains where the phrase "I'll eat my hat!" came from.  None of it's true, but hey, it's  a coin related story I found amusing and I thought others might as well!

If it were not for the discount coin insurance, I would not be renewing my ANA subscription next year. Even at that, I may not.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Daniel Carr's 1945 Roosevelt Dime

Franklin Delano Roosevelt died in office in 1945, but Roosevelt dimes began in 1946. Carr's fantasy piece is dated 1945 and, like all Moonlight Mint fantasies, was overstruck on genuine coins, Roosevelt dimes in this case.

248 of this coin design were struck before the dies were destroyed.  As is typical with these, a few were struck over other coins - in this case, three on US Mint copper-nickel clad dime blanks. Daniel keeps those. It will be interesting when these fantasy-fantasies do finally come on the market.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

PCGS Secure service

PCGS Secure is a certification option when sending coins to be graded and authenticated. Among other features, it includes a "high quality" photo.  Don't confuse that with Trueview℠ photos, those are much different.  The photos that come with PCGS Secure are good quality (although older submissions may not be), but they aren't anything you'd frame and hang on a wall.

You also get a gold shield on your slab.

Some PCGS pages refer to PCGS Secure Plus™.  Apparently that was the nomenclature at one time, but they seem to have dropped that, perhaps because of confusion with Plus (+) grades. PCGS Secure Plus™ seems to simply be PCGS Secure now.

Certain coins require Secure Service: All World (non-U.S.) coins except for Modern service level coins dated 1965 to date and any coin valued at $50,000 or higher. The fee is higher.

Secure Service is more than just a picture and a gold shield. According to their website, the coins are "laser scanned" and recorded in a database.  They say
If a PCGS Secure-certified coin is ever lost or stolen and subsequently resubmitted to PCGS, it can be identified and the recovery process will begin for the rightful owner.
 The laser scan is presumably recording the topography of the coin very accurately. I can see how that could help if a coin had been stolen and removed from the slab. If such a coin were recovered by law enforcement, a scan record could help prove original ownership. However, the resubmission scenario above assumes that a second submission also requested Secure service and I think that's not likely.

The coins are also "sniffed" for chemical traces of doctoring.

Watch carefully as the operator places the coin into the sniffer. She isn't wearing gloves and it looks to me that she may have touched the surfaces as she adjusts it. Of course this is just a demo, but I hope they do wear gloves when handling real coins!

In my opinion, it would be better if PCGS simply defaulted to Secure service or at least forced it at a lower value - say $200 or so. It doesn't cost that much more and adds a great deal more than the standard service. I'm going to do that for anything I send in the future.

By the way, NGC automatically takes photos of your coin in its slab.
Started in October 2008, this ambitious initiative involves NGC capturing and storing a digital image of nearly every coin that it certifies. These “security images” are intended to combat counterfeit and tampered holders by showing the encapsulated coin prior to its shipment from NGC. A prospective buyer can enter an NGC certification number online to access images and certification data.
PCGS should be doing at least that much!

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

1964 Kennedy Half Dollar Reverses

There are two obverse varieties of Proof half dollars in 1964. The first is called the "Accented Hair" and it looks like this.

It's called Accented Hair because of the hair detail as shown in this close up.

Compare that to the second style:

Very obviously different.

Now, when they changed the obverse, they also changed the reverse. The Accented variety has this reverse.  Note the position of the top star which is very close to E Pluribus Unum
and the shape of the G in the initials.

The redesigned proof usually has this reverse. The top star is farther away and the G is more flared in the serif.

That's the typical reverse, but there are non-accented hair proofs with the accented hair reverse.

The question is, how many? Opinions differ - some say there are many of these, others insist that they are more rare.  See for various opinions.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Daniel Carr's 1910 Indian Cent

This was the first Daniel Carr piece I bought. Like other Moonlight Mint fantasies, these were overstruck on real coins - in this case real Indian Head cents.  

I had seen his earlier 1964 Peace Dollar advertised, but I was not actively collecting at that time and it seemed expensive, so I passed it by. I wish now that I had not, so when I saw this issue, I ordered immediately.

There were no Indian Head cents made in 1910 and no cents at the Denver Mint until 1911.  The mintage of these fantasies was 432 in total and 132 of those were the die state shown above. 

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Second 2014 Silver Eagle Giveaway Starts Monday June 9th

Name the Numismatist Giveaway

Yes, I'm giving away another 2014 Silver Eagle. The contest starts Monday, June 9th and will end on July 31st.

Silver Eagles are made by the United States Mint and are one Troy ounce of .999 silver. Their value depends upon the spot price of silver, which is around $19.00 per ounce right now.

Monex Live Silver Price

This one is a little harder than the first giveaway.

Sometime in June, one of my blog posts will casually mention the middle name of a certain numismatist.  That's what you need to know to win!

If nobody gets the answer, I'll draw a winner from those who answered incorrectly.

Don't bother to go looking now - the post with that name hasn't been posted yet and may not be anytime soon - but it will be posted before the end of June and you have until the end of July to find it!

And remember - this person was a numismatist.  He was not just someone who had something to do with money like a bank president. That's an important clue!

If I get more than than 200 entries, I'll double the first prize to two  Silver Eagles AND award a second prize of one Silver Eagle.

Also: be sure to tell your friends, because I'm not announcing this on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else (doesn't mean you can't do so, of course).

THERE WILL BE CLUES IN OTHER POSTS.  These are important, because more than one middle name is mentioned!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: All my coins are in a safe deposit box. I keep nothing in my home.

Is the 1877 Indian Head Cent really a rare coin?

There's no doubt that prices for the 1877 Indian Head Cent are high. Even in the lowest grades, these sell for several hundred dollars and go up rapidly as the grade improves.  The coin showed here sold at auction in 2006 for $115,000.

Photo courtesy Heritage Auctions, used by permission

There is also no doubt that the mintage is low: 852,500 reported and researchers note that only one reverse die is known, so the real mintage may be 200,000 or less.

And yet, these coins are not hard to find.  I've seen hundreds in my lifetime and even found one once in a purse of junk that a woman brought to sell. I just checked eBay for these and found 175 being offered for sale and over 200 sold so far this year.  Heritage Auctions lists over 2,000 sales at their site and between PCGS and NGC alone, over 6,500 1877's have been graded and slabbed. Some of those may be the same coin resubmitted, but if you want an 1877 for your collection, all you need is the money - these are not hard to acquire!

So why the high price?

Part of it may be psychological. When the Lincoln Cent was introduced in 1909, there was a sudden surge in coin collecting. Many, many people started collecting Indian Heads then and the low mintage of the 1877 sticks out like a sore thumb.   All other dates are in the millions and even tens of millions; the 1877 was obviously more rare.   Large and small hoards of Indian Heads were squirreled away after 1909 and that obviously included many, many 1877's pulled from circulation.

I think that early surge and the great disparity in mintage figures pushed up the perceived value higher than is justified by the actual rarity. It's interesting to note that PCGS estimates the "all grades" survival of 1877 Indian Cents to be around 5,000 pieces .  They estimate the 1878, which sells for a fraction of the 1877 prices, at 4,000 surviving! The same is true for a number of other dates.

By the way, the PCGS estimate of 5,000 seems odd when you realize that over 6,000 have been graded just by PCGS and NGC alone.  Yes, some may be duplicates and crossovers, but I think it more likely that they are simply wrong. There are also a great many unslabbed 1877's out there, and yes, some may be fakes, but the whole picture seems to paint a much less rare coin.

So, while there may only have been a few hundred thousand minted, quite a few were yanked from circulation and are available to buy today. The 1877 is an expensive coin, but it's not truly rare.

Note: All my coins are in a safe deposit box. I keep nothing in my home.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Numismatic Art by Charles Daughtrey

Chuck Daughtrey has produced a series of numismatically related drawings.  These are available at very reasonable prices from

Each is limited to 250 hand signed, numbered 11" x 14" prints.  Here's Victor D. Brenner:

Copyright Charles Daughtrey, used by permission

Friday, June 6, 2014

The gold Baseball Hall of Fames came yesterday

My order for gold BHOF's came yesterday. Two of them look good, but one may have a scratch.

I can't be sure. I think it is on the coin, but it could be on the capsule. The only way I could be sure would be to pop it out of the capsule. As I'm not the most adroit person, I'm afraid that I might screw that up and damage the coin.
Under the microscope, I can see something in that area. That makes me think it is more likely to be on the coin.

I decided to just send them all to PCGS. I chose Modern, Secure Plus, and added TrueView. I like the Secure Plus slab, especially for gold and the TrueView will make it easier to see why PCGS blinked if the coins are not PF70.

It is unfortunate that the Mint is so sloppy with expensive proofs. Scratches shouldn't happen. The other two coins don't appear to have scratches, but there are small scraps of black fibers sealed in with the coins. That really shouldn't happen either.  Although I think we already pay enough of a premium to expect better, I'd rather pay more if that's what it would take for better quality control.

Note: All my coins are in a safe deposit box. I keep nothing in my home.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Morgan Dollar: America's Love Affair with a Legendary Coin

According to the Amazon page, this book is supposed to be released on June 24th, so I placed a pre-order. To my complete surprise, Fedex delivered it today, June 5th.

This is a year by year, highly detailed examination of Morgan dollars. Not by die variety like the VAM book, but the history of each coin: changes to dies, certified population and price guides, plus historical trivia related to the coin, its mint or Morgan himself. It's a market study and a history lesson with Morgan Dollars as the backdrop.

Each year is illustrated with high-resolution photographs from the Coronet Collection, the PCGS Number One Finest Morgan Dollar registry set of all time.

If you are a serious collector of Morgans, you'll probably want this.

Buy this book at Amazon and help me support this site!

Note: All my coins are in a safe deposit box. I keep nothing in my home.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Coin Collecting Forums Reviewed

Coin related forums are a great way for you to find other coin collectors to talk to and to learn from. There are a great many of these to choose from, but I'm only going to look at a few here.

Collectors Universe

This was the first forum I joined after I returned to coin collecting.  It's a very active forum, though the software is outdated and very clumsy to use.

Many dealers and advanced collectors can be found here. You can get a lot of help here and learn from very knowledgable people. For example, I was able to get authoritative answers on an obscure token in just minutes.

On the other hand, this can be a rough and tumble place. Arguments break out frequently and criticism can be harsh and very personal.  I feel that the value of the knowledge there far outweighs that and the clunky software. Forum

This forum covers both coins and raw bullion. It is much more active in the bullion and rounds areas than in coin collecting issues, but there are a few true numismatists posting there, so you can find interesting discussions. This does not have the broad range of expertise found at Collectors Universe, but it is an active forum with many posts daily. The software is modern and easy to use.

What I particularly like about MCF is the friendly nature of the posters. Of course there can be squabbles, but overall this is a much friendlier place than most.

Also unusual is that owners and staff of the parent company regularly participate in the forum, answering questions and contributing new content.

Postscript: Metal stackers tend toward the right wing conservative side. I got tired of the constant Obama bashing and more. The forum does have a rule against political diatribe, but when I asked them to enforce it, they refused.  I then asked that my account be deleted.

Coin Talk

Another very active forum. The level of numismatic knowledge is spotty, with many naive posts of the "What is this worth" nature, complete with a fuzzy picture of a dateless buffalo nickel. The software is modern and easy to use.

However, if you can ignore that, there is value to be found here. 

This is a tightly controlled forum - read the rules of conduct carefully. I did not, and earned a seven day ban for a comment that wouldn't have even been noticed at most other forums. The moderators enforce the rules tightly, which has caused griping that you can easily find with a little Googling. Simply put, obey the rules and you'll have no problem.

Coin Community

An active board with reasonably modern software.  A good level of expertise and, like MCM, a general sense of friendliness missing from some other boards. The topics are tightly focused, but you can view at a higher level or drill in.

Collectors Society

Not a very active forum and uses outdated software.  They do, however, have an interesting and useful "What You need to know" section which contains basic information about numismatic topics. Unfortunately, although that information can be quite good, its value is sometimes diminished by poorly formatted articles that are hard to read and references to images that do not exist.

Coin People

This is not a very active forum, but does seem to do more with world and ancients than with U.S.   The software is better than Collectors Universe, but not on par with Coin Talk and MCM.

Coin Help

The front page of Coin Help promises much, but the actual content is thin.  Still, you might enjoy browsing through it. The forum section is not very active and tho software is old and clumsy.

Please let me know of any forums that should be added.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Second shipment of Baseball Hall of Fame Gold seems to be happening

It seems that a long delayed second wave of BHOF gold is finally shipping from the mint.

At a coin forum today someone said their credit card was hit on the 28th and when they called, the rep said it should ship the first week of June.

Another person said their order # 42926xxx shipped yesterday (Monday) morning.

My order 42927xxx hit my credit card on the 28th and was shipped today, June 3rd.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Moisture and your coins

Years back, I never gave moisture a second thought. I should have - my safe was located in our basement and that basement certainly got musty, but I never thought about the contents of the safe. I guess I was lucky - I remember some wheat cents corroding, but it wasn't even that many of those and nothing else was harmed.

Still, I read that dire consequences can befall your coins if you don't prevent high humidity. That worried me, so I started investigating.

My first concern was my safe deposit boxes. That's where everything really valuable is and it's also where I have the least control over conditions. The vault is on the same floor as the teller area and is air conditioned, so I feel that's probably fairly safe, but people do recommend desiccant.

My home safe, which only has papers and low value coins, also needs desiccant.  There is more need here than at the bank, because we almost never run air conditioning. We have central air, but neither my wife nor I like it, so it takes really brutal conditions to get us to turn it on. Therefore, the safe definitely needs protection.

But what to get?  The most common form of desiccant is that "blue indicating" silica gel and apparently there are some health concerns with that:

Cobalt Chloride has been classified by IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) in Group 2B. Which states Cobalt Chloride is possibly carcinogenic to humans. Very toxic to aquatic organisms. May cause long term adverse effects in the environment.
I found an "orange indicating" silica gel at Amazon:

Is that safer? I don't know, but I ordered one.

But will that be enough?  I found this "Use Silica Gel and Desiccants for Maximum Results"  which says I'd need about 60 grams for the safe.  The box I ordered is 40 grams, so I guess I'll need another or will need to regenerate it more often.   I think I'll just try the one first and see how often it needs to be baked.

That article also points out that regenerating requires many hours in an oven.  That could be inconvenient, especially in the summer.  Inexpensive as it is, buying these to throw away without regenerating seems very wasteful and offensive, but I might just buy a few more and save regeneration for the winter months.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Why did we make Trade Dollars?

Trade Dollars are a strange coin indeed.  They have a long history (see as these are coins that were readily accepted by other countries - hence the term "trade".  Sometimes these coins were simply ordinary circulating coins that became commonly used for world trade.  The Mexican Peso and the Austrian Thaler were examples. But Britain and Japan and the United States issued coins specifically designed for that purpose.

Our trade dollars were also a solution to a glut of silver bullion. We had stopped producing silver dollars in 1873, but silver production was increasing even as world demand for bullion decreased. I suggest reading U.S. TRADE DOLLARS 1873-1885 for details, but the upshot was that we needed to export more silver but could not.

Trade Dollars were the solution, at least until we started minting Morgans in 1878. The U.S. Trade Dollar was 420 grains, slightly heavier than than the Liberty Seated Dollar (which wasn't circulating anyway) and proudly marked to show that.

The reverse design is reminiscent of the Mexican peso and the obverse is not dissimilar to Britannia on English coins - no doubt that these choices were deliberate to smooth acceptance. Southern China accepted the coin officially in November of 1873.

So, if you were in possession of silver bullion that had no good market, you could bring it to one of our Mints and exchange it for shiny new Trade Dollars.  Load those onto a clipper ship heading for China and months later you'd have silk, spices or whatever other goods you had purchased in China.  This was a good deal for the silver producers, but it was also good for trade.

Northern China did not accept the Trade Dollar.  We started having problems at home, too, as the value of silver continued to drop. People could trade cheaply bought silver for Trade Dollars and use those dollars here in the United States. However, nobody wanted them, so the typical use was to foist them off as wages on workers who then had a hard time spending them at full value.  That finally led to the total stop of the minting of Trade Dollars.

From a numismatic point of view, it is ironic that China is now the source of many counterfeit Trade Dollars.  Some are very easy to detect, but some are better made. Here are some links that you may find helpful.

Coin Fake Detection - Valid Trade Dollar Types

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Neonumia (for lack of a better word)

I initially called certain coins "shark jumpers", implying that these are silly, desperate productions that are trying to raise waning interest in mint products. This Baseball Hall of Fame issue is a mild example.

Here is something much more extreme. It's sculpture with a coin as its base - definitely not something you'd carry in your pocket!

I don't know what's going to happen with these types of coins. Will collectors in general accept map shaped coins, folding coins, coins with embedded electronics? I don't know. My instinct is that most of these, maybe even all, are ridiculous and that they truly are "shark jumpers" destined for ignominy. Some day this whole period of strange designs might be looked at much as we look at the Dutch Tulip craze now - a brief aberration of sanity.

On the other hand, I could be wrong. Even if most coin collectors ignore them, enough may find them interesting that they won't be disdained and consigned to the dust heap of numismatic history. Collectors may very well include some in their type sets - I could see that happening with the Baseball Hall of Fame coins very easily.

Other collectors may even specialize in these. In fact, that's quite likely and that's why I coined the word "Neonumia" (New Money).  This is in the tradition of exonumia (outside of money), but as these are generally NCLT (non circulating legal tender), they obviously aren't that.  Neonumia works for me, at least until someone comes up with a better term.

No matter what, I don't think this phase has legs. I really don't expect it last very long. I expect that the market for new issues will dry up. Some of the originals may retain value, but I really think that soon enough a mint is going to announce yet another absurd "coin" and get not enough orders to pay the cost or even get no orders at all.  I can absolutely state that if the U.S. Mint came out with a football shaped coin next month, I would not order any and I suspect I'm not unusual.

So, do you have any neonumia in your collection?  Would you collect neonumia specifically? Would you buy that football coin?

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home.