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Letters to the Editor: July 14, 2020

No Coin Shows for California

For the first time in many years, California does not have a single coin show in the listing section of Numismatic News. This happened in the June 23 edition. All shows this summer have been canceled amid dim prospects that public gatherings of over 10 people will be allowed by local governments.

What had started out as a 14-day stay-at-home quarantine has grown to over three months as citizens refuse to abide by simple Health Department requests such as wearing face masks in public. New cases continue to predictably pop up. With good deals virtually non-existent on the internet, the advertisers in Numismatic News seem to offer coins at relatively reasonable prices these days.

Local coin dealers are mostly open, some only by appointment. They continue to offer the best value for the money in a friendly atmosphere. Most California coin clubs will not hold any meetings through July. August meetings will be in limbo until a determination can be made that the virus is on the decline.

The “good old days” were as recent as February. Don’t you miss them?

Bruce R. Frohman
Modesto, Calif.

Privy Mark Quarters Seem to Be Hard to Come by

When the Weir Farm quarters were recently released, a couple buddies and I acquired some rolls to search for the “W” mintmark and WWII privy mark. So far we have opened 170 rolls of Weir Farm quarters issued by the Denver mint and have not been able to find a single “W”-minted specimen. Curiously, we have found a few American Samoa or “bat” quarters bearing the privy mark and “W” mintmarks.

So my questions are:

Isn’t it true that the “bat” quarters bearing the “W” mintmark weren’t supposed to be released until December since they were not yet authorized by Congress when the American Somoa quarters were originally issued last February? Why are the “bat” quarters now being mixed in with the Weir Farm quarters? Why are there no Weir Farm quarters bearing the “W” mint and privy mark? If you folks are in need of a story for an upcoming issue, there might be one here.

As a side note, so far with the Weir Farm quarters, we have never found more than two “bat” quarters with the privy mark and “W” mintmark in any single roll. The average find is one quarter per three to four rolls searched. In 2019 it was quite common for us to find multiple “W”-minted quarters in a single roll, and we probably found them in six or seven out of every 10 rolls searched. So last year we didn’t have to search nearly as many (20 rolls each) to get what we needed compared to what we have searched so far this year just to try to find one. They just don’t seem to be out there.

David Hegg
Watertown, S.D.

USPS Criticism Aimed at Agency, Not Employees

I didn’t realize that my comments on the USPS in the “Viewpoint” in the April 14 issue of Numismatic News would attract two criticisms. One said “Congress does not subsidize the Post Office. We do not get one red penny from Congress.”The latest critic wants me to apologize to all the USPS’ hard-working employees and said “The postal service has been financially independent (no subsidies, bailouts, etc.) since being reorganized in 1971.”

First, I referred to the USPS, a Federal agency, not its employees. Numismatic News letter-writers are almost weekly complaining or commenting about the policies of our Mint, another Federal agency. Certainly, my “Viewpoint” article commented on them as well. Nobody assumes those letter-writers are disparaging the Mint’s hardworking staff. Why assume that of me regarding the USPS? Political appointees and Congress make most of the critical decisions at the USPS, not the lower-level staffers that we all deal with daily.

Second, in a very technical sense, the USPS does not get actual cash from Congress, a separate branch of the government from the administration where actual cash is dispensed. However, the USPS has been operating at a deficit for years primarily because of the 2006 Postal Reform Act referenced by the second writer. None of us can choose the laws we want to follow and that goes for the USPS.

The requirements of the laws seem ridiculous to most people, except to the party that passed it. The law requires the USPS to fund the next 75 years of pension payments for its employees, whether it will pay those or not. No private enterprise or other government entity or branch is required to fund a pension like that. The law also requires a fee equivalent to income tax on USPS operations. Again, what other Federal agency does that? Most agencies pay pension expenses as they are incurred out of their current budget appropriations. These USPS pension payments have caused a good portion of their annual deficits.

How does the USPS make ends meet when it has deficits? It borrows cash from the Federal government. So, is it a subsidy or a loan? Technically, it is a loan or series of loans, but no private business could survive as the USPS has because investors would not keep lending them the money. Thus, to me, it is a technical fiction that the USPS is not subsidized. That conclusion does not disparage USPS workers. 

Finally, I will apologize for causing a non-numismatic issue and taking up space on something semi-political and relatively far afield from numismatics. Sorry, folks.

Ron Thompson
Decatur, Ga.

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