This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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The Liberty Dollar’s creator, Bernard von NotHaus, was convicted March 18 of “making coins resembling and similar to United States coins” and “issuing and passing Liberty Dollar coins intended for use as current money,” among other charges.
In other words, counterfeiting.
Where the federal jury in Statesville, N.C., and the prosecution sees counterfeiting, the coin hobby sees the creator of beautiful exonomia in gold and silver, or the advocate of the gold standard instead of unbacked paper money.
Federal officials also see gold. On April 4 a forfeiture trial will begin to determine whether the government is entitled to claim almost $7 million in Liberty Dollars and precious metals that was seized when von NotHaus was arrested more almost two years ago.
Von Nothaus also is facing multiple prison terms totaling 20 years and multiple fines that could total as much as $500,000 as well as loss of his seized property.
Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, likened the creation and potential use of Liberty Dollars this way: “Attempts to undermine the legitimate currency of this country are simply a unique form of domestic terrorism.”
That characterization caused a fire storm of protest online and in various newspapers by gold standard advocates.
Liberty Dollar coins were created in 1998, though they did not look any genuine U.S. coins, they used the dollar sign, “the words dollar, USA, Liberty, Trust in God and other devices that the Department of Justice said were “associated with legitimate U.S. coins.”
They were marketed by the Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve and Internal Revenue Code, or NORFED for short. It was based in Evansville, Ind.
The investigation began in 2005 and was conducted by FBI, the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Secret Service.
Von Nothaus is 67. He first rose to prominence among coin collectors for his operation of the private Royal Hawaiian Mint, which struck medals using the images and devices of the old Hawaiian kings and queens.