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This week’s letters (11/29/11)

Large printings, mintages traced to war, turning profit

Earlier last month, the question of who is actually using all those newly printed $100 bills elicited many comments, though no one mentioned the most likely destination of those bills: Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. government has poured billions of dollars of cash into these countries since 2003. Much of it is still unaccounted for. Then there are the billions of dollars being exported, legally and illegally, to Europe, South America and other nations where U.S. currency trades alongside the euro or other sovereign currencies. Certainly, the majority of large denomination bills leave the U.S. forever.
I suspect the enormous America the Beautiful quarter production that still doesn’t seem to have made it into circulation have been purposely held back by the Federal Reserve, at the request of the U.S. Mint.
Why? For one thing, it certainly helps to increase the sale of rolls and other collector versions of what will ultimately be extremely common coins. This is a business after all, isn’t it?

Steve Gregory
Schaumburg, Ill.

Collector’s 2009 Saint-Gaudens $20 even rarer

I read your comments on the 2009 Ultra High Relief Saint-Gaudens $20 gold piece in the Nov. 1 issue. I fortunately purchased one from the Mint in 2009. It has prooflike surfaces and I find no flaws on the coin. Only 10.05 percent of these coins have prooflike surfaces. So only 0.1005 X 115,178 = 11,575 have prooflike surfaces. If the coin now is worth $15,000, then the annual appreciation over the 2.75 years has been about 151 percent per year. You had better buy one now before they get too expensive. At an annual appreciation rate of 151 percent per year, in five years, this coin could be worth $1.5 million if I have the math correct. I seriously doubt this will happen, even in MS-70 with prooflike surfaces. However they are a beautiful specimens to own.

Weimar White
Address withheld

Great U.S. currency finds can be found far from U.S.

Approximately six months ago, I wrote reporting on a 1918 Lincoln cent found in commerce during my military “sponsored” travels throughout the Middle East. I’m writing to you again to report an even more amazing find. On Oct. 17, while at a Life Support Area in Kuwait, I received in change from a Kuwaiti vendor a Series 1957 Priest/Anderson $1 Silver Certificate in fine condition. Was this note at one time a bank’s foreign currency reserve? How long has this certificate been used in Middle Eastern commerce? Only George knows. Unlike the 1918 cent Dave Harper so generously repatriated, I plan on using this note in my travels in Qatar. Believe it or not, the “greenback” is still “king” in commerce in the Middle East. Keep searching, great finds are still out there … everywhere.

Ssg. Jarrett Briscoe
APO, Kuwait

Mint mistreats collectors with anniversary sellout

I have collected proof American Eagles since the beginning of the program in 1986. As a collector, I planned on purchasing the American Eagle five-coin anniversary set when it went on sale on Oct. 27, but was out of town over that weekend. When I tried to purchase my set three days later, I was informed that the Mint had sold its entire quota of 100,000 sets over that weekend.
This is no way to treat collectors like me who have faithfully purchased these Eagle proofs from the very same Mint for the past 25 years. I suspect that dealers purchased the entire lot in great quantities and will now mark the sets up by 100 percent or more. This is a great disservice by the Mint to collectors for the advantage of greedy dealers. The Mint should now be required by popular demand or by Congress to produce enough sets to fully satisfy collector demand rather than setting an arbitrary limit on production for the benefit of dealers.
I am on the Mint’s list to receive product notifications by e-mail but received no notice whatsoever with respect to the anniversary set. I would never have even known about the 25th anniversary set if it weren’t for Numismatic News.
I would like to know precisely who in the Mint made the decision to limit the sets to 100,000, the basis, if any, on which that limit was set, whether the Mint even considered collector demand and whether powerful dealers had any influence over the decision to limit orders to 100,000. I hope you folks at Numismatic News will put the heat on the Mint and get to bottom of the totally botched program.

Don W. Crockett
Washington, D.C.

Collector finds record number of wheat-ear cents

I’ve been looking through boxes of cents for a long time, but yesterday I set my record for the number of wheat-ear cents I found in one $25 box.
I found 408 wheat-ear cents and I almost had a fit that I found that many.
When I opened the box and that four rolls had wheat ears showing, I knew that I was in for something good.
The wrappers were loose and the wheat-ear cents started falling out as I opened the rolls.
I always open and place the pennies on my desk in a big pile and I have a blast looking through them.
Here are just a few of the ones I found: 1916-S (1), 1917 (2), 1918 (1), 1919 (3), 1920 (1), 1921 (1), 1925 (1), 1926 (1), 1927 (1), 1929 (2), 1930 (2), 1930-D (1), 1934 (2), 1935 (4), 1936 (2), 1937 (5), 1938 (1), 1939 (5) and 1939-S (1).

Bob Atwater
Conway, S.C.

Collecting can be hobby without paying for coins

I enjoy reading the News, its letters and ads every week. I’ve been a “collector” of coins for 70 years, but have never purchased a coin.
I’m just watching my change and picking up any coins I see in the parking lot. The “pennies” and coins are useful to pay some sales taxes.
By the way, I am 88 years old.

Harold “Hal” Thurston
San Diego, Calif.

For greater profit, Mint should cater to collectors

Will the U.S. Mint ever sell a limited edition item fairly? They did when the Botanical Gardens set was issued: we were limited to two.
Who would ever need five sets unless they bought them to sell for a higher price?
You can still buy the “Limited Edition set.” There are thousands for sale on eBay today, one day after the sale.
The Mint scored by selling out but they lost in my book. If I worked for the Mint, I would consider this a loss. Their goal should be to sell out, but the goal also should be to distribute all the sets as fairly as possible to as many customers as possible to generate repeat business. They dropped the ball on that.
If everyone bought five sets, they are sold to a mere 20,000 speculators instead of 100,000 happy customers who would surely come back to purchase again if they are welcomed and taken care of by the U.S. Mint. Now they are eBay customers.
What should the Mint do? I think it should throw the limit down to two send everyone their sets and reopen sales. The Mint has become the lottery the winners will come back and the losers, it may never see again. But as a business owner, I look to the future care about my customers and know how to generate repeat business and my business has survived through this economy when my competitors failed.
Bottom line, if people do not get the chance to purchase every single Mint item fairly, they move on to other things that are easier to acquire at a fair price.
In my business, I would rather do five small jobs than one big one. The big job leads to one referral from the customer while the small jobs lead to five repeat customers and five referrals. It secures my future in my trade better than relying on that one contractor to provide all my jobs.
I am still a coin collector but not a coin buyer, the Mint lost me with the America The Beautiful sets and I doubt I will be purchasing coins from them any time soon.
If you want a five-coin Eagle set wait for awhile. I have no doubt prices will come down like they always do. The ATB 2011 set was over 5,000.00 when it was first issued. You can now buy it for a quarter of that price.
The U.S. Mint has no clue how to provide collectors with coins, I suggest they hire a competent person that can mange these things, they might bring collectors back to a hobby they love. But I’ve been suggesting that for the last 20 years.
I do not want my name or address in your magazine. I do not appreciate the comments you published about me when I wrote about the fiasco of the ATB sets. Your readers who commented about me after I pled to your magazine are idiots and I would never bash a fellow coin collector for any reason, like they did me. It is the main reason I do not comment anymore.

Name and address withheld

Concerns over cents, nickels ignore real issue

There are reported concerns that it costs more than a cent to make a cent and more than a nickel to make a nickel, and that the Mint is “losing” money on them. Not true.
Our government produces and maintains currency coins and paper bills, to facilitate the flow of commerce. Government bookkeeping methods aside, the cost of production is the cost of doing business; the cost of providing this service to the public. The cost of a single item in the system is irrelevant.
Consider: coins last about 30 years. A single coin’s expense will last over that 30-year time until the coin needs to be replaced in the system.
So long as a denomination functions in trade, it is viable, unless its intrinsic value becomes more than its face value, causing it no longer to circulate. Some don’t like cents, but I still get cents with almost every purchase I make.
All of this is not to say cost cutting isn’t wise. We should make cents and nickels out of less expensive metals, but not because “the Mint is losing money on them.”
Furthermore, if cents and nickels are “losing,” then dimes and quarters, etc., are “profiting.” Why pick out some part of the system to blame rather than considering the whole?
Now, take a look at paper money, which no one seems to do. While larger bills may last a few years, $1 bills need to be replaced in weeks and they’re not cheap. Over the lifespan of a coin, paper dollars cause a huge expense. We ought to circulate $5 coins as well as those pesky $1 coins.

P.M. deLaubenfels
Corvallis, Ore.

Decline in paper money, coin art sparks collecting

I love the Oct. 11 article by Paul M. Green. As most who do eventually get into collecting paper money, I have been a coin collector much longer, since about 9 or 10 years old. It’s true that when issued paper money is of large quantities printed and not many survive to make it into someone’s collection. But the day has come, about 20 years ago, that all the real artwork and beauty that paper money had is now gone. It has evolved into a piece of paper with all sorts of anti-counterfeit measures and the fine, exquisite engraving a thing of the past.
But not to despair for like the mythical bird, the phoenix, rising from the ashes, all this sparks a greater interest in collecting the paper money that we once knew. The reason why coin collecting (and the lure of coins) is an earlier and deeply rooted affair with most of us is probably because of just that fact. As toddlers, we grew up and really got to know coins, but paper money didn’t really become a part of our lives until we found ourselves grown up with a job, when we turned into what that toddler called old folk.
I hope both coin and paper money collecting continue to live on for a long time. To the coin collector who looks on paper money with disdain and as a threat to coins, just remember there is danger lurking that is much more dangerous. It’s called electronic transactions and the credit card.
Who knows, maybe there will be a society of credit card collectors? I hope not.
I can relate to many of your articles as I am 64 years old. Yep, we’re what that toddler called “old folk.”
I would also really like to see an article on rarity scales on coins and obsolete currency. One of my prime objectives is collecting local obsolete notes. Fractional currency could also be many other interesting articles.

Floyd Aunspach
Honey Grove, Pa.

May 24 ‘Best of Buzz’ hits the mark on collecting

From the “Best of Buzz” on May 24, the comment “the beauty of coin collecting is that you can do anything you want,” is absolutely correct.
In Spring of 1946, when I was 9 years old, my father returned from Germany. He brought with him a steel box containing coins of the world, mostly Europe, from 1760 until the 1930s. My father always insisted these coins were “liberated.” Father was a combat infantryman, 104th Infantry Division.
During my grade school and high school years, I continued to search for interesting (to me) world coins. The children collecting U.S. coins by date and mintmarks often ridiculed my coins.
However, I continued my quest or goal of collecting world coins from as many different issuing authorities as possible.
Grade is always important, but I will accept a Fine until I can find an XF. The goal for me is to “find” as many German States, Italian States, Swiss Cantons and other special issue coins as possible from 1750-1870, plus or minus.
My collecting goal was established early in my life and has not changed since Spring 1946. I am still enjoying the excitement of my two recent acquisitions: a 5-kruezer, 1748 Wurzburg (Germany) in XF and a 1 soldd 1826 Lucca (Italy) in F.
To most coin folks, probably no big deal, however I had never before found these coins in a dealer’s inventory. I do not buy off the internet, only face to face from real folks.
I do not ridicule any collector’s goal or type of items collected. As you say, folks can tailor collecting to our own interests.
I have watched coin collecting go from collecting to investing to bullion dealing, however, I keep walking the path seeking coins that I do not have issued by a specific place.
There is no end to this quest (except for crossing the “great divide”). Thanks for your enlightening words on how to collect. I appreciate them.

Jay Furry
Huntington Beach, Calif.

Many treasures still to be found in circulation

I would like to say that you can still find some nice coins in circulation. A couple weeks ago, I was in a convenience store. I noticed that they had a $25 box of pennies. I asked the clerk if I may buy two rolls from her, at face value.
When I opened up the first roll, the first coin I found was a 1909 VDB in XF condition. In the second roll, I found a 1952 wheat penny. Oh yeah, and I also found 16 of what I was really looking for to begin with, copper pennies.
Around a week later, my fiance, who knows that I love to look at coins that come back in change, gave me some to look through. I found a 1999-S Clad New Jersey quarter.

Kevin Greiner
Rialto, Calif.

HSNAC well-trafficked, over 1,700 registered attendees

It has been several years since we attended the Hawaii State Numismatic Association Convention hosted by the Honolulu Coin Club and this year’s event was probably the best one we ever attended. It was held at the beautiful Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu, on Oct. 28-30, 2011. The registered public attendance was 1,700. It had a soldout bourse of 75 tables, along with club tables and educational exhibits. The lighting was excellent, and the large room was carpeted.
A highlight of the show was the two-day Scout Merit Badge Clinic chaired by Patti Finner which had an attendance of 175 scouts along with 72 family members. The convention was chaired by Marion Kendrick, and the security was handled by Honolulu Coin President Greg Hunt. We don’t think any coin club in the world gets behind a convention like the members of the HSNA and HCC. Though the convention center sets up the tables and covers them, the coin club members take care of the set-up and breakdown of the cases, lights and clamps.
From the opening of the show right up until closing on Sunday, the flow of traffic was very good. This show is attended by many mainland dealers who not only come over for the outstanding weather and attractions, but also the excellent business they do at their tables. About 20 dealers were still conducting business at closing on Sunday. Representing the American Numismatic Association, we were able to sign up 25 new members and pass out giveaways to the visitors. We received a donation from Joe Kaminski, the owner of Kaminski Coin Co. from Wisconsin Dells, Wis., for the shipment of the Coin Show Kit. We want to thank the HSNA and HCC along with Marion Kendrick and Greg Hunt for allowing the ANA to have a table at their show.

John and Nancy Wilson
Ocala, Fla.

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