In the late 1970s, Conrad Braun started a company named the Gold Standard Corporation. In the years it operated, it issued a variety of gold, silver and platinum pieces containing stated amounts of metal content.
For some of the designs, the company depicted famous economists generally regarded as free-market advocates such as Adam Smith, Friedrich A. Hayek and Henry Hazlitt. Others portrayed noted hard asset advocates including James U. Blanchard, Nicholas Deak and Edward C. Harwood. Later, a small quantity of pieces were issued depicting Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Kennedy, or with various religious themes and figures. Unfortunately, when Braun and GSC ran upon hard times, some of their output turned out to have less than the stated metal content.
Earlier this century, the National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve Act and the Internal Revenue Code (NORFED) issued varying sizes of silver, gold and copper pieces titled “Liberty Dollars.” The issues were an attempt by NORFED organizer Bernard von Nothaus, who previously was the mintmaster at a private company called the Royal Hawaiian Mint, to provide a hard-money circulating medium to compete against the unbacked coins and paper money produced by the U.S. Treasury. These pieces had dollar signs and numerals on them showing the intended “face value” at which they were meant to be used in everyday commerce.
Unfortunately, the “Liberty Dollar” issues bore enough similarities to U.S .government coins in size, denomination and design elements, that von Nothaus was eventually charged with and convicted of counterfeiting. An interesting side note to this prosecution was that the U.S. government tested and confirmed that the pieces contained their full stated metal content and purity. It also happened that the intrinsic value of these pieces appreciated against the U.S. dollar by the time his case came to trial, so it was not possible to accuse von Nothaus of defrauding his customers.
While most “Liberty Dollar” designs portrayed a likeness of the head of the Statue of Liberty, some 2008 issues showed longtime free-market gold advocate Congressman Ron Paul (then R-Texas). At the time, Paul was running (unsuccessfully) for the Republican Party nomination for U.S. President. The Ron Paul pieces were and continue to be relatively popular with collectors.
For his conviction Von Nothaus was sentenced to time served before trial and an in-home probationary period, which ended about a year ago. This week he unveiled his newest creation – the Trump Dollar. Around the portrait of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump are the words “Trump The Government.” To the right side is the phrase “World Peace.” Across the bottom reads “Vote Trump 2016.”
At the top of the reverse are the words “Vote Non Politician.” Around the inside rim reads “Free Speech For Political Purpose Not To Be Used As Currency Money.” At the lower left are the words “Liberty Dollar 888.lib.dollar.” To the lower right is a dollar sign followed by numbers (“25” for the one ounce silver, “2000” for the one ounce fine gold, and “5” for the avoirdupois one ounce copper) “MSRP” (meaning Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price), and “TrumpDollar.us.” At the bottom of the reverse it states “Trump Dollar™”, a statement of the weight, and the copyright indication.
These issues seek to capitalize on voter dissatisfaction with the existing political class and the anger felt by many who distrust politicians and the “badly broken political process.”
Does this new product honor someone who advances free-market economics or is an advocate of hard money? I doubt it. On that basis, Donald Trump does not merit his depiction on private “coins.” I say that even though, in 2011, a national precious metals bullion retailer leased space from Trump in New York City using three kilogram-size pure gold ingots for the security deposit.
If you were to ask the average Trump supporter, I suspect that few would identify the candidate as a free-market or hard money advocate. Still, it is possible that the perceived widespread public disenfranchisement with the political process just might result in the “Trump Dollar” becoming the best-selling private “coin” ever. [Note: Neither Liberty Coin Service nor I have any connection or financial interest in this issue.]
Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He is the owner emeritus and communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes “Liberty’s Outlook,” a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at http://www.libertycoinservice.com. Other commentaries are available at Coin Week (http://www.coinweek.com). His radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at http://www.1320wils.com).
More Collecting Resources
• Come on down to the Chicago International Coin Fair in Rosemont, Ill. on April 14 to 17, 2016 to see impressive world coins, meet new collectors and participate in Heritage Auction’s fantastic coin auction.
• Keep up to date on prices for Canada, United States and Mexico coinage with the 2016 North American Coins & Prices guide.