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This week’s letters (10/23/12)

 

Half dollar, Hawaii quarter turn up in change
Today was a perfect day for downtown shopping. Yes, I got a 1992-P half dollar in change, but from the coin shop. Yesterday, I got a 2012-D Hawaii quarter from a vending machine when I bought my OJ.
Ginger Rapsus
Chicago, Ill.

Lincoln cent flown to Mars was carelessly chosen
In my opinion it was inappropriate for a circulated 1909 Lincoln cent to be chosen as the coin flown along to Mars, since the year 1909 is not relevant to the space journey or the red planet, but is merely arbitrary. And choosing any particular circulated cent is carelessly capricious. So what if it’s the first year of production of Lincoln cents, how is that pertinent? Why not an uncirculated 2011 Lincoln cent instead, to correspond with the launch date? In future times, when this Mars rover is examined by later beings, at least a 2011 cent would be an artifact having some relevance.
Mike G. Price
Address withheld

Modern commemoratives: coins or bullion?
In my most recent (Sept. 25) issue of Numismatic News, Jeff Nevis ponders the question, “Is (the American Silver Eagle) a coin or bullion?”
I have always considered the silver American Eagle as bullion. This item is called “Non-Circulating Legal Tender” (NCLT) because it states a value of $1 and can be used by banks transferring money between themselves if needed. But the “coin” (because it is round, like a coin) is .999 “pure” silver, as stated on the reverse, as well as the weight, and therefore should be considered bullion. I prefer to call them “silver bullion rounds” because they are bullion and round.
In the years prior to 1965, we had silver coins – dimes through dollars. They were minted with 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper (sometimes described as .900 fine) and circulated throughout the land. These, like the bullion rounds, were authorized by the government but meant for circulation. Unlike the bullion rounds, coins do not state a weight or purity of the coin. (Today’s circulating coins do not contain any silver at all.)
I would be more inclined to ask Mr. Nevis’ question concerning the modern commemoratives: “Are they coins or bullion?” All the commemorative coins are authorized by the government and have a stated value (50 cents or one dollar), but some are minted in silver, gold (.900 fine), or the “regular” copper-nickel clad copper composition and rarely, if ever, circulate. Like their earlier counterparts, the commemoratives of the early to mid 1900s were sold at a premium for collectors. They were put in circulation and considered legal tender as well as coins. For this writer, the jury is still out on whether or not to call the modern commemoratives bullion or coin.
Bill Tuttle,
Cleveland, Ohio

Presentation matters with history-related coin issues
I just received my order from the Mint for the 2012 platinum proof Eagle. The theme of the platinum Eagles, which are part of a multi-year series, is on the six principles in the preamble of the Constitution. This year, the focus is on “providing for the common defense.”
The beautiful coin came packaged in a clear capsule within a triple-faced folder, richly lettered and decorated with the information on its place in the Constitution along with the coin specifications. The coin itself is of course a frosted proof for the Statue of Liberty and the Minuteman figure with a brilliant mirror-like background that can only be realized in the best proof state. The coin is really a work of art. The folder portion is properly encased in a deep blue binder that sets sharply within a beautiful presentation box.
Now, one would have to ask themselves why someone would plunk this beautiful coin out of its beautiful presentation setting and plop it into a plastic “sarcophagus” with a bar-coded Numismatic Guaranty Corporation grading assessment as to whether it merits a grade 69 or 70. With this extreme quality of coins, it’s unmentionable to have something as low as a grade 68 or less. The lovely presentation material with information for future generations is simply discarded or occasionally sold separately on eBay. If you want to purchase such a coin in the future, it will most likely be in its NGC grading case rather than with the material that it came with, outlining its context in our nation’s history.
First of all, what is really the difference between being a 69 or 70 grade? There is optimum quality in these Mint productions. The grade is a hair-splitting difference in a subjective opinion. Should we go further and discuss whether a coin should have been a 69.3 or a 69.7 grade, if such a thing is worth talking about? Don’t people have enough to look at rather than scrutinizing such fine nuances, many likely imaginary? There are flowers, fall-colored leaves, national parks to visit and so many other things to enjoy rather than developing eye strain over this.
And doesn’t the presentation material have some inherent benefit when associated with the coin? And down the road, don’t you think it would be more valuable to a collector to have the coin with its original certification and accompanying provenance than in a bar-coded, 30-year-old plastic case that will have to be opened and the coin re-graded to assess whether the case itself wasn’t just a Chinese-mass-produced counterfeit? Minute scratches from the re-grading process could even affect the original coin by a few tenths of a grade number.
For these types of ultra-high quality coins, the current obsession with grading is really over-the-top and injurious to the hobby. The meaning of the coin and its historical perspective can be lost in the process, and isn’t this really what our hobby is all about?
Philip Dudt
North Bethesda, Md.

Heller far off the mark with idea of doctored gold bars
Well, I think this latest piece (in the Sept. 25 e-newsletter) leaves no doubt that Patrick Heller is mentally unstable. He actually accuses the federal government of doctoring gold bars!
First off, I don’t think the U.S. has ever sold gold bars to the public, and we haven’t transferred them to a foreign country in decades.
Second, the gold we have is audited and also not very meaningful since it is our economy that backs up the dollar, not gold reserves, so there’s really neither opportunity nor need to doctor gold bars. But to those who seek out conspiracy theories, that is the first place they’d go.
Simcha Kuritzky
Address withheld

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