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This Week's Letters (10/14/09)

A selection of letter from readers of Numismatic News to Editor, Dave Harper.
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Rochester club to mark 100th anniversary


I am a past president (No. 65 in 1977) of the Rochester (N.Y.) Numismatic Association. I also am the current chairman of the Membership Committee, the Medal Committee and the Coin Show Committee.
We wish to thank you very much for the article that you printed on page 29 of the June 30 issue of the Numismatic News about “Rochester association honors 96th president.” We are especially grateful for the inclusion of the pictures of the Presidential, Long Service, Speaking, and Writing Award medals described in the article. As you can tell, we are a very active club. We have 21 members who have been members for 40 or more years, with a total of over 150 members in several states. The club now has issued a series of 96 2-inch bronze Presidential medals, one for each president since 1912 – no one has been president more than once. The RNA is one of the oldest continuously meeting coin clubs in America, where, “You collect more than coins … you collect many fine friends along the way.”
We encourage speech preparation (including research) and presentation at our meetings; we honor members for writing articles for our club newsletter or other numismatic publications; and we ask for numismatic dialog via our Web site – A membership application form may be found at the Web site. As opportunities present themselves, we further numismatic education in the local schools, libraries and museum.
The Association will marking its 100th anniversary on Jan. 4, 2012. We are Branch No. 2 and Life Club No. 8 of the American Numismatic Association. A 2012 Activities Committee has been formed and those members are well into plans for activities throughout the 2011 - 2012 meeting season to celebrate this achievement.
We will be very grateful if you will travel this celebratory road with us and chronicle our activities as they occur. We will keep you abreast of our plans as they develop.

Bill Coe
Rochester, N.Y.

Choose other parks for Wyo., S.D. quarters

It was with great interest to read the list of national parks and other national monuments that the U.S. Mint plans to use for the next decade (NN, Sept. 22). However, I was disappointed in the parks selected for two states: Wyoming (2010) and South Dakota (2013). Yellowstone was used on commemorative coins in 1999 and Mount Rushmore was on coins in 1991 (50th anniversary) and the South Dakota quarter of 2006. I suggest that Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming and Badlands National Park in South Dakota be used as possible replacements. Also, New Jersey’s use of the Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty parks (2017) should be more directed at the Ellis Island buildings.
Also a correction in the story: Oregon’s Mt. Hood National Forest will be the first national forest in the series, not the one in Puerto Rico.
Keep up the great work. I look forward to seeing the new quarters. I’ll probably see them before I see a 2009 Lincoln cent in circulation!

Gerry Rasmussen
Lacey, Wash

Mt. Hood first national forest on new quarters

Just a quick correction to your recent story announcing the America the Beautiful Quarter Program. The article incorrectly states that El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico will be the first national forest featured in the series in 2012. Actually, the Mt. Hood National Forest in Oregon will be the first in 2010.
As a native Oregonian who grew up in the shadow of Mt. Hood, I was happy to see this selection for Oregon.

Gary B. Marks
Ketchum, Idaho

With too many Mint issues, time to quit

Kudos to Tim Day on his remarks from “Viewpoint” on coin collecting. I agree with him 100 percent as I too have been collecting since 1968 and lately I have become discouraged with all the issues coming from the Mint. They are definitely concerned only on how much money they make and could care less about collectors.
Now they are talking about a 56-coin series of quarters similar to the 50 state quarters. I have tried to sell my collection to several dealers and I was informed that my collection was worth a lot less than what I had paid for it. I bit the bullet and sold my collection to a dealer who said he pays the highest prices, but I ended up on the short end of it.
I finally now can sleep at night knowing that I finally gave up what I thought was to be a life-long hobby. I can now save my money for either health insurance or a much needed vacation.

Joe Aguiar
Address withheld

New Lincoln cents offer mini history lessons

After working all night, I went to my local arts and crafts store to pick up some items on Sept. 15. I was a little disappointed because they did not have exactly what I needed. My mood improved greatly when I was handed one of the new Professional Life Lincoln cents. I enjoy showing my newest finds with my co-workers and helping them learn about the U.S.A. as most of them are from Asian countries.
Thanks for letting us collectors share our finds with others.

Helen Desens
Secretary of Covina Coin Club
Covina, Calif.

Slabbing, grading practices are frustrating

It seems a lot has been written about the U.S. Mint lately concerning quality and lapsed times of delivery. Perhaps I have just been lucky so far but I have not had any of these problems. My mint and proof sets have always been of the highest quality and delivered when or before they said they would. I have to agree with the amount of profit the U.S. Mint has taken on these products as a bit excessive, but I guess when you are the only source for a product this is to be expected.
What disturbs me more than the Mint and its practices is the idea that a 2009 Lincoln cent because it was slabbed and has some special “do dah” first day of issue or day of release printed on the label and has been overly graded MS-68 or MS-69 gives some dealers the idea that a $100 or better price tag is warranted. Really, $100? And add some disclaimer that only 13 of these are possible (don’t know how they come to that conclusion) and you really are gouging beyond even where the Mint has left off.
I just received three Walking Liberty halves with the “S” mint dated 1941,’42, and ‘43 advertised as beautifully uncirculated (Gem BU). Upon examination it was clear even to my novice eyes that on the obverse, Liberty’s head, left hand and the folds of her gown were worn almost flat as were the eagle’s feathers on the reverse. Oh, it sparkled like a Gem all right, but the best we could call these were beautifully dipped and/or cleaned and did not even rise to AU as to condition. This disturbs me far more than the bit more than they should have profit the Mint asks. But that’s just me.

John Murphy
Lindenhurst, N.Y.

Coins cost less to use than paper money

There is something much more tactile about the feel of a coin than of a piece of paper. I just don’t think people would ever put up with paper over metal even if the metal is only worth barely more than the paper.
Funny thing is if people would realize how much they would save in tax dollars by going to coins just up to the $5 mark there should be an out cry against paper money. The average paper lasts about 17 months, the coin lasts at least 30 years. You don’t have any expense in disposing of coins where you are being taxed to properly rid your economy of worn and damaged notes. It just doesn’t make sense.
By the way, the only way any dollar value coin will be accepted is by just pulling the paper out of circulation. Believe me, they will then be easily accepted. I have been totally outraged ever since I found out the process paper money actually goes through. Even the lowly $1 bill requires a unique serial number that must be tracked. Keeping a database of all serial numbers of notes doesn’t just happen by itself. We are paying people to do this. And I really don’t want to get started on pennies. We should have gotten rid of them years ago. It costs more to produce than it’s worth.
We are truly a society of keeping our ways. No matter how much it costs.
David, thanks for your forum. Even if every now and then some of us use it to vent.

Jim Palmiter
Macon, Ga.

Coin collector soured by bad selling experiences

Tim Day has hit the head of the nail on the coffin of the coin dealers! Paper money is where it’s at!
The comment about one day the dealer’s coin is a treasure to be held as almost impossible to find but then it turns into common junk is true. Would be nice to hear them say, “Give ya one-tenth of what you bought it for yesterday.”
Being honest is not the way of life for them! That’s what burnt me out in the whole deal. The ol’ “what’s mine is the best thing in the world and yours ain’t worth the dirt on the floor!” This kind of behavior drove me away from the organized coin arena.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was when a well-heeled teacher always flowing with gold, real old currency and didn’t mind letting the whole club know he was rich, begged me to sell a couple of better items I had at a discount! Like a fly bugging you, won’t leave you alone, he finally convinced me to “help him out” and I made the sale. Well, I don’t need to tell you that was my last meeting! I was tired of being the bait for the vultures and have switched to honestly selling on eBay.
On another note, now that things are gittin’ back to normal after the last eight years, I’m able to renew my subscription to good ol’ Numismatic News due to a program from our great President. It has enabled me to gain a footing with my home and it looks like I’ll make it after all! So, with bright light at the end of the tunnel, I had to come “home” to NN!

Craig D. Hueser
Central Calif.

Fazzari adds confusion to grading issue

I’m sure Michael Fazzari is an excellent coin grader, and I appreciate the effort he undertook to help us understand the basis for the evolution in coin grading in his Sept. 8 article, “Yesterday’s AU May be Today’s MS Coin.”
Like Mr. Fazzari, I, too, was struck by David Bowers’ frank statement in his new book, Grading Coins by Photographs, about how coin grading has changed to be more liberal. However, I am afraid that Mr. Fazzari badly missed the mark in his explanations about the current state of more liberal coin grading and only added more confusion to this controversial area of numismatics.
First, he tries to give an example of a $1 gold coin that was in a pile of old coins and junk on his desk. After he “carefully removed” it (from what, his desk?), it “became a gem, uncirculated specimen.” So what made it become a gem, uncirculated specimen Mr. Fazzari? He added that the coin was definitely circulated! Well, which was it? Did Mr. Fazzari over grade the coin? The remaining part of this example suddenly introduces a mysterious, unnamed female who consults with several dealers about the coin, and it came back as a hair lined AU-55. If this last narrative doesn’t seem to make sense, neither did the original article. If there was a point to it, I didn’t get it, and I was totally confounded.
Mr. Fazzari notes that he was there 25 years ago to see it happen when the coin grading standards changed and spoke against it. He makes it sound like it all happened in one day (which of course it didn’t), but he gives no details as to how he spoke against it, what his points were, or who he spoke to. Then he shifts gears and tries to explain why standards should change (apparently he is no longer speaking against it). Two reasons he gives: collectors need to buy coins in the highest grades and strictly uncirculated coins by the old standards are truly rare. He seems to be implying that if something is too rare, the coin grading community should just blithely create high-grade coins to satisfy demand for a product. He never speculates on what happens to the “truly rare” coins. Do they remain lumped together with the not-so-truly rare coins and graded the same, or does a new, even-higher grade need to be created to accommodate them? (This actually seems to be happening with innovations such as CAC stickers that are applied to slabs, but Mr. Fazzari doesn’t address this at all).
As a reason for why grading standards should change, Mr. Fazzari gives an example of a rare, original, highly-preserved Barber half, the likes of which he had never seen before. It made all the uncirculated halves he had seen before seem dull by comparison. Truly amazingly, he then states, “Thankfully, with the coming of the major grading services, today’s collector can find coins as nice as that Barber relatively easily.” What does this mean? Are the grading services minting nice, original old coins again? Did the grading services find some significant hoards? Or are they artificially creating rarities by assigning under served high grades to some coins that don’t deserve them? I assume he means the latter, a situation which is definitely not good for the hobby.
Later in the article, Mr. Fazzari goes on to say that he recommends to his grading students that they set their own standards for what uncirculated means. Talk about chaos in the hobby! This is all very astonishing and confusing to a person like me who has been in the hobby for many years and has stayed fairly current with the concepts of technical grading and market grading. Although David Bowers acknowledged that grading standards have changed, I don’t think he meant to imply that rare coins are being, or should be, “created” by the grading services. I’m afraid Mr. Fazzari has left us all more confused than enlightened.

Dick Wells
Fern Park, Fla.

Error coins just not worth the money

Rare it is to receive a copy of Numismatic News without a front page story on the most recently discovered Mint irregularity. The latest is the 1992 “close AM” variety cent, which your writer says could possibly be worth $10,000+.
Now I’m a live and let live guy, and I believe that people should forever have the freedom to spend their money on anything that tickles their fancy. Having said that, anyone who spends that kind of money on this baby should have his head examined.
A hundred collectors and/or dealers could look at this coin without seeing anything out of the ordinary, because the very tiny difference between this variety and a “normal” 1992 can barely be discerned with the naked eye. If you’re not specifically looking for the “close AM,”, you’ll never find it. And now that its existence has been verified by competent authority, I’m betting that a multitude of examples of this “rarity” will surface once those people with lots of time on their hands finish searching through a zillion bags of modern pennies to isolate the 1992s and put them under a 10-power glass.
As you might guess, I am rather down on all modern errors and varieties. The state quarter series were chock full of them, and the Presidential dollar series had even more. I’m wondering how, in this era of computerized quality control, the Mint can produce so much junk. Is that outfit infested with incompetent employees, or are there dishonest workers turning out intentional “errors” or varieties for profit? I know that I’m not the only one who believes that the minting of the Wisconsin “extra leaf” quarters, for example, was almost certainly intentional.
As far as I’m concerned, there never again will be an error with the bona fides of the 1955 double die cent, the 1942/1 dime, or the 1918/17-S quarter. Like the Major League Baseball records set in the steroids era, I don’t view most modern errors and varieties as being unquestionably legitimate.
But hey, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and we numismatists have a big tent. I just hope no innocent gets burned by buying the 1992 close AM for big bucks. The darned thing looks pretty much identical to ordinary spending money, and its population could well be huge.

Tom Felhofer
Luxemburg, Wis.

Anyone else have ants in rolls of cents?

I just received my U.S. Mint order of two two-roll sets of the Lincoln pennies Professional Life. Upon opening one of the white sealed boxes a dozen black ants came crawling out. I have never had this happen to me before and was wondering if others have had this happen. Have you ever heard of this?

Joseph Polchlopek
Address withheld

Box of cents yields pleasant surprise

I went to my local bank on Friday, Sept. 18, and purchased a $25 closed box of pennies. When I got home and opened it, to my surprise it was 50 rolls of 2009 Birthplace and Formative Years cents.
I have gone through about 10 rolls and have found a couple of minor die cracks. One starts at the corner of the cabin and goes under sculptor, Jim Licaretz, JL initials. Another goes through the designer, Richard Masters, R and touches the M and a third that goes through the O in ONE CENT and up to the P in Pluribus. Will go to the bank this week and hope to get a box of Formative Years.
Thanks for the best and informative paper around (Numismatic News), have been a subscriber for many years.

Daniel Kuziela
Chicago, Ill.

Corroded Lincoln cent discovered in change

Just a few lines to let you hear from me again. I’ve gotten some real nice Professional Life Lincoln cents, but I am enclosing a corroded “Log Splitting” cent I got at a local McDonald’s in change today.

Virgil Griffith Jr.
Camden, N.C.

Rolls of 2009 Lincoln cents mix designs

I received my two-roll set of Professional Life Lincoln cents on
Aug. 26 and I returned the set to the Mint the same day because the “P” mint roll had a Formative Years cent at one end. The other end had a “heads” cent showing so I could not tell if there was only the one incorrect coin, or two, or all in the roll, and as noted in your Sept. 22 issue, I was indeed reluctant to open the roll considering the cost.
On Sept. 21 I received the replacement two-roll set and guess what: the “P” mint roll has a “heads” cent at each end. So I still don’t know if I have a Professional Life “P” mint roll (but I’m guessing it is!). Oh well, when I sell or give the roll away in a few years the recipient can have the fun of opening it.
Love your publication!

Jerry Lattanzio
Croton, N.Y.

Rollie Finner’s death a loss to the hobby

I was saddened to hear of Rollie Finner’s passing.
I first met Rollie a number of years ago at a Michigan State Numismatic Society show and always enjoyed talking to him. He was very passionate about the hobby, and in particular, his speciality of the 1925 Norse American Centennial Medal struck by the United States Mint.
Indeed, it was his sharing, as an exhibitor, of his prize-winning collection of the octogonal Norse American Centennial medals (thick and thin silver) gold and large silver Norse medals, that inspired me to add a silver issue of this interesting medal to my collection. And as a fellow exhibitor, I greatly enjoyed our conversation about how he started his collection, and all the stories of how he acquired certain rare pieces over the years. Rollie was a gentleman scholar and always willing to share his knowledge with other collectors.
Rollie’s passing is a loss to the hobby, and particularly to Central States Numismatic Society where he most recently had served as editor of The Centinel. I most recently had the pleasure of working with him on an article I wrote for what became the last issue of The Centinel that he served as editor.
His selfless sharing of himself to hobby organizations like Central States Numismatic Society, his knowledge as an exhibitor and dealer, will be missed by all those who had the honor of knowing him.
My sincere sympathies to his family.

Steven Bieda
Warren, Mich.

Recession brings nice circulation finds

I just got a Birthplace roll at my local hardware store plus a few Formative Years cents at the local Ralph’s supermarket and a Mint State Guam quarter.
My other finds in change from a small liquor store on three different stops were a 1963, 1957 and 1934 silver Washington quarter. Since this recession started I’ve also found many wheat cents in my change. Wow!

Glenn Stoyan
Los Angeles, Calif.

DAV medal design a disservice to vets

What is with the Secretary of the Treasury, Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the Commission on Fine Arts? These individuals have done a disservice to our disabled veterans for choosing such a terrible design for the obverse of the 2010 Disabled American Veterans commemorative dollar.
Our disabled veterans deserve an obverse showing more than their boots, rather a full profile would have been a better choice. I don’t know why we are having commemoratives featuring boots either this time or for the 2007 Little Rock commemorative.

B. Reger
Newtown, Mo.