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This week’s letters (08/09/11)

 

Update on the Aloha Project for Japan relief

Thank you very much for the article “ECs Fund Japan Relief” in the June 9 issue of Numismatic News. I appreciate your support of the Aloha Project.
I’ve been receiving responses every day, very kind notes and a number of responses with additional funds for the American Red Cross.
Through July 3, we are at about 60 percent of our goal, and we hope to achieve our total goal by the end of July. Responses have come in from about 23 U.S. states so far.
The Hawaii Red Cross has the Aloha Project listed on its website, www.hawaiiredcross.org. If you have a moment, please take a look, and consider donating to the cause.
Thank you very much to the numismatic community for the generosity shown.
Michael Mochizuki
Aiea, Hawaii

Rep. Paul’s competitive currencies won’t work

Since my Viewpoint article appeared in Numismatic News, April 11, 2011, I have seen quite a few interesting replies, both here in the Letters column and through my own blog. Most of the responses have been from supporters of Rep. Ron Paul’s rhetoric and political posture. In general, however, their comments reveal that those responding are commenting without actually reading what I wrote.
My criticism of Paul is based on the logic he uses to justify his stance. He uses examples that are not supported by historical fact.
For example, Paul likes to say that for the first 100 years of our country’s history, foreign coins circulated simultaneously with U.S. money. Supposedly, this historical precedent justifies his desire to see competitive currencies. However, Paul failed to understand that the reason foreign coins continued to circulate in the U.S. was because the government felt the U.S. Mint could not keep up with demand for coins, and coins were needed for commerce. This began to change after the U.S. Mint bought steam-powered coin presses that helped increase its ability to strike coins. By the time Congress changed the law, the majority of the coinage in circulation was made by the U.S. Mint.
By omitting the real reason why foreign coins continued to circulate in the U.S. until the passage of the Coinage Act of 1857, Paul makes the false assertion that the federal government made the use of foreign tender illegal to monopolize money and drive out competition. This ignores the facts, and the history of the U.S. Mint in the early U.S. economy.
In my original Viewpoint article, I cited Federalist No. 44, by James Madison, about the need for a country to regulate the value of its money to ensure free commerce amongst the states. Madison made this statement after observing the problems with the coin and currency exchanges across the states that existed under the Articles of Confederation. History shows that commerce improved after a common currency was created and regulated.
The United States is not the only entity to learn this lesson. The European Union, a loose confederation of independent European countries, has banded together to form a single economic zone with a single currency. This eliminated the conversion issues among neighbors in the same way that a single United States’ currency eliminated the conversion issues between states. Even though some of the countries have economic problems, those problems are not related to the common currency. The economic impact of a single Eurozone currency has strengthened the euro to the point that it is worth more than the U.S. dollar today.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and hoping for a different outcome. Unfortunately, Ron Paul has not learned the proper lessons from history. He wants to bring back a monetary policy that even the Europeans have learned is unsustainable. If Paul provides a compelling reason to go back to competitive currencies in the future, I am willing to listen. Until then, it is best that he and his followers learn more about the history he perverts for this own gain.
Scott Barman
Rockville, Md.

Collusion between coin graders and telemarketers
I am an avid reader of Numismatic News and the letters from readers. Having read Steve Gregory’s letter, published July 12, 2011, I must say I totally agree with him.
Personally, I have only dealt with one grading service, but I have firsthand experience of being told one thing one day and something completely different the next. I have experienced rude customer service, and worse, I have been totally ignored by management, even after sending certified letters.
It is impossible for small dealers, with less than $250,000 in inventory, to obtain any fair deal or unique, saleable labels, like those that are easily available to large dealers, from any grading service. In fact, grading services would rather sell to telemarketers, who gouge an unsuspecting and largely uninformed public. How many times have you heard, “this coin is exclusive to our company?”
The marketing of 2011 silver Eagles “struck at the San Francisco Mint” is only the latest example of what Mr. Gregory rightly calls collusion. While I do not believe in greater government involvement in the hobby, clearly the Mint should be looking at this specific case very closely. It is no wonder that the number of real collectors has decreased as the number of telemarketers continues to increase.
Case in point, I received two silver Eagles graded MS-70, both with flaws visible to the naked eye. When I tried to discuss this with the firm, I was given nothing but an onerous and expensive regrading process, with no guarantee that I would recoup all of the money I had put into the coin, even if they agreed the original grade was incorrect. It is hard to see that there is any real guarantee.
Why aren’t the FTC, FCC or any other of a dozen alphabet soup federal agencies not involved in investigating this hoax? The auto companies could not provide such a warranty and get away with it.
There is only one way to put an end to coin grade inflation and useless products. All of us, collectors, dealers, the numismatic industry, auction houses who rely on coin grades and the press, have to say that we are not going to take this exploitation anymore.
Collectors should only buy coins they have personally inspected from local dealers. Keep your local economy growing.
Additionally, collectors should refuse to send in coins for grading unless they are provided with an honest, 100 percent guarantee that if they do not agree with the coin grade, they get all of their money back, shipping, buyer’s premium, insurance and everything else, no questions asked. Grading services must also honor what their customer service representatives promise, even if it is wrong. A little incentive to actually train their employees is apparently needed. Fairness and clarity in charges is also necessary.
Telemarketers must do the same.  Return policies should be clear and easy to understand, not “get a return number and wait.” Like Mr. Gregory, I have been ignored when trying to return coins to a telemarketer. It was a test, which not too surprisingly, they failed. Collectors should be entitled to get their money back, shipping included, when returning items.
Collectors must retake control of the industry. We are the ones who support its existence in the first place. Can you imagine if none of the “struck at the San Francisco Mint” 2011 silver Eagles sold? Don’t you think that would send a message? What if the Mint issued, but couldn’t sell, commemoratives, gold or silver coins?
Someone would wake up and begin to address the issues. We must also ask why telemarketers always get new coin releases first, even if we, the collectors, have had subscriptions for years. Why does the collecting public not come first?
Both the ANA and PNG must get involved, and begin to address the anger that continues to build in the collector community. Surely, they can find some way to begin to address these problems. Unfortunately, due to their rules, it is extremely hard for most collectors to become actively involved with these processes at a leadership level. My guess is that there are a “chosen few” who have some input.
I am quite sure that many of you have your own horror stories about grading services, telemarketers and the Mint.  Leaders only seem to listen when there are large numbers of people are complaining. We should fill the Letters section, and numismatic blogs, to the brim every day and month with these horror stories. Then, and only then, will it make a difference.
Ed Meyers
Jefferson City, Mo.

Coin collecting is about enjoyment, not money
I have been collecting U.S. coins since 1960, when I was 10 years old. My mother handed me 19 Indian Head cents that she had saved from circulation when she was a kid. I was fascinated by the design and the “ancient” nature of the dates.
My best friend’s brother was a coin collector. I took the cents to this older “professional,” and he helped me look up the coins in his Red Book. To my astonishment, there were a 1908-S and a 1909-S in the handful of coins that my mother had given me. Even at that age, I was aware of the difference in mintage figures in relation to the other coins listed, and I was hooked!
Over the years, I have become a devoted collector of many type coins, and my interests have changed as the years go by. Right now, I am intrigued by the 2010 ATB 5-ounce Yosemite coins. I have a bullion piece and I have a collector piece, and I am amazed at the difference in striking and appearance in the two. The bullion piece is far more attractive and boldly struck than the collector piece. What’s the deal? There is a chance that I will sell these silver pieces in the future, and I am pretty sure that only spot silver value will be offered. That’s OK by me. I have always been willing to sell coins that I have purchased in the past to allow me to purchase new coins as my interests changed.
I mostly buy coins from the very dealers that I have previously sold coins to. I am never shocked, dismayed or disappointed at the prices offered to buy my coins. I have the most powerful tool available to the collector, a Blue Book! Coin collecting, for me, is entertainment, fun that I am willing to pay for. I am also willing to help my local dealer stay in business; I really enjoy being in his store and sharing coin talk with him and his staff.
The message of this letter is simply that one must never be where one does not belong. If you want to make money, buy $5,000 in coins in MS-65 and hire a good auction house. If you want to collect coins, buy an 1861-O Seated Liberty half dollar or an 1857 Flying Eagle cent in F-12 and enjoy the beauty and the history. Remember, when you sell, think Blue!
Calvin Henry
Fresno, Calif.

Counterfeit coins just a drop in bucket of Chinese fakes
Why are coin collectors so concerned about Chinese counterfeit coins? What do they expect? Almost anything that comes from China is counterfeit. Black & Decker, DeWalt and Milwaukee power tools look like the real thing but certainly are not. These are examples; one could list thousands of items.
Thomas Baalman
Grinnell, Kan.
Coin shows best bet for purchasing coins
The Mint is as bad as it is going to get. They sold their soul to Authorized Purchasers and then they tried to rip the “faithful Mint buyers.” Worst of all, the graders – PCGS, NGC, ANACS, PCI – graded all the coins First Strike, making a ton of money for all TV stations selling coins. I feel sorry for all those people who bought those coins. The only way to buy coins are at coin shows through good and honest dealers. My Bible or call it want you want is through the Grey Sheet. I sit back and watch TV shows selling coins. Those people will never get their money back.
Richard Caprio
Plainfield, Ill.

‘Worst’ commems valuable to black community
I was very surprised by your article, “Commem designs rated best, worst” of June 28 by Phillip Lo Presti. I am a proud veteran of the United States Air Force WWII and the Korean Conflict and most important a proud black American of African descent. I have been an ardent coin collector for over 50 years. Notably, I am the owner of a number of the Washington-Carver and Booker T. Washington coins, both cited as two of the worst and, to my dismay, also deemed to be of little value.
Perhaps due to the haste to rush to the minting of the coins in question, the political fears of the period placed a greater emphasis on the production rather than intrinsic worth or aesthetic value. It is indeed a discredit to our nation that what should have been an opportunity to commemorate two of its native sons who had overcome the inhumanities of slavery and the injustice of “Jim Crow” to obtain great achievements was merely embarked upon only as a propaganda tool to fight the “Fear of the Red Menace” Communism. The coins lack of artistic value speaks to the total disregard for the people it was intended to impress.
In my opinion, the two afore mentioned coins are priceless to my people because even today they personify America’s willingness to do anything to fight off Communism on one hand while on the other hand promoting injustice to insure that a sizable number of its citizens maintain a second class status inclusive in the minting of a few poorly designed coins. These coins should be highly prized as symbols of “American Propaganda” and collected as such.
We as black Americans place an undiscriminating value and emotional worth on these few pieces of silver that represent to us our nation’s first attempt to honor members of our race as “Great Americans.”
God bless the U.S. Mint.
Thomas Daniel Summers
Bellview, Fla.

 

Nothing wrong with CoinStar machines
In the July 5th edition of Numismatic News, Ross Lovell questions the validity of the coin counting machines, and whether what he experienced is a defect, or a nationwide problem. In answer to his question, it is neither one.
First, every coin counting machine I’ve come across will state that there is a fee, usually 8 or 9 percent, for counting the coins. Sometimes there won’t be fees, but usually there are. The machine will have that notice on the screen before it starts, or immediately after, in the “Agreement Clause.”
Not all coins will be counted, and those that are not counted drop into the reject chute, below the scoops where the coins are deposited. Near the end of the transaction the machine will prompt you to check the reject chute for uncounted coins.
The U.S. coin counting machines will reject coins for several reasons. Some possibilities are listed below:
The counting chute for the coin is full, in which case any U.S. coin should be redeposited for a proper count.
The weight of the coin is off, or the size. That is, the thickness or diameter, of the coin is incorrect. For example, Wheat Back cents are heavier than their Memorial counterparts.
Silver coins, like dimes, quarters and halves prior to 1964, will be rejected.
Magnetic coins, like 1943 steel cents, and objects, like steel junction box “slugs,” will be rejected.
Canadian and foreign coins, as well as tokens, will drop to the reject chute.
If the coin is damaged or heavily corroded, the counting machine will not accept it.
Mr. Lovell, your bank manager should have told you about the charge for counting the coins in the machine, usually 9 percent. If he handed you various cents, nickels, and quarters from the reject chute, I hope you checked the coins for any good finds.
Whenever I pass by a Coinstar Coin Counter, I check the reject chute for any coins and tokens. Whenever you visit your bank, check the reject chute of that coin counter, there just might be some treasure there. There is nothing wrong with the machine.
Bill Tuttle,
Cleveland, Ohio

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