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This Week's Letters (11/10/08)

A selection of letters from readers of Numismatic News to editor Dave Harper from the November 18th issue.
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Blog captured vision of state quarter program


Your “Best of Buzz,” Numismatic News, Nov. 4, 2008, issue expressed beautifully how I envisioned and proposed the commemorative quarter program to the Congress of the United States when I appeared before the Banking Committee of the House of Representatives July 12, 1995.
The Mint had been overpricing and over promoting special commemorative issues from the early 1980s and on to this day. The results after 10 years of holding is that many of these were resold at a loss. It did discourage collectors for starting collections with “special commemoratives.”
The idea I had was to make a face value commemorative, possible to collect all from change and also to learn about our 50 states. The program as I proposed it was a great success and according to the American Numismatic Association and the Professional Numismatists Guild helped to develop a larger market for coins than ever existed before.
It was very exciting for us to see the first one issued for the state of Delaware and the continued interest to this very day by the public as well as collectors in acquiring those historic commemorative pieces.
I am very proud I was able to contribute to the growth of the hobby.

Harvey Stack
New York City

Excess damages interest in coin collecting hobby

It looks as though it is déjà vu all over again. What I mean is that the bullion market resembles the commemorative market in 1936 and the pattern market of the 1870s and 1880s. The commemorative market crashed in 1937 and the pattern market was stopped by Mint Director Kimball in 1887. Too many coins were being made and sold at fantastic prices. With the patterns it was a combination of all kinds of muled obverses and reverses, off metal varieties in copper and aluminum and also plain and reeded edge varieties. With the commemoratives it was a plethora of issues of different mints and years, some with stars and without stars, recombined obverses such as Arkansas and so forth. Both the pattern and commemorative crazes ended angrily and it was years after and even not before they were resumed. Now we are in a bullion craze that really appears to be a reincarnation of the pattern and commemorative crazes of former years.
The coin program started out innocently enough with gold and silver 1-ounce coins in 1986, almost exactly 100 years after the pattern bust. I thought it strange that they did not put mintmarks on the coins, but then they played around with mintmarks such as the 1995 silver Eagle only available in mint sets. Then they came out with platinum coins in two separate reverses. Later there were Buffalo coins in different finishes, both with and without mintmarks,. Later on there were different finishes: reverse proof, satin, etc. Later there were presidential first ladies. The initial sales were brisk, but now they have flagged. I do not feel that the market could sustain the pace for much longer.
My suggestion would be to just make 1-ounce and 1/10-ounce bullion coins since these are the most popular sizes and not the 1/4 and 1/2 coins. The math is wrong on the 1/4-ounce. $10 is not 1/4 of $50. Just have proof and unc. varieties, all with mintmarks just like the mint and proof sets. So what we would have would be mintmarked unc. and proof 1-ounce Saint-Gaudens, 1-ounce Buffalo and 1-ounce silver Eagle as well as 1/10-ounce versions.
This would make only 14 coins in all. In reality we would have only 14, not 16, since the silver would not be in the 1/10-ounce size. Fourteen bullion coins would be reasonable. No mintmarkless coins and no double designs separate for bullion and collector varieties that appear on the platinum coins. The first lady bullion coin series, since started, should finish but it was ill thought up. Gold is too pricey. Better to have had it on the silver Eagle series. One-ounce silver coins are more affordable.
I like the idea of a 2009 reissue of the Saint-Gaudens 1907 MCMVII pattern gold $20, but I feel it would be prohibitively expensive for most collectors so a face value brass issue should be made for circulation.
The state quarters and other circulating commemoratives are good for the hobby since it only costs collectors face value and they lose nothing. It is reminiscent of my early days of coin collecting, of finding coins in change. There is nothing wrong with these programs. I hope they continue with parks, historical figures, etc. It costs us only face value. The idea of 5-ounce silver copies is an ugly abomination. It is too expensive. Let’s keep it simple. If we do not do these things and go the way we have, we will soon be seeing a repeat of 1887 and 1937, which reverberated for years after.
Another thing I could never understand is the government’s greed of making and selling copper nickel clad half dollars for prices of what silver half dollars should be. In 1982 the commemorative half dollars were silver. Why did they disintegrate to clad with silver prices? If the halves are commemorative, why aren’t they silver? It’s a disgrace. Coin collectors want silver or else clad for circulating, not to pay for a clad half at silver prices when it isn’t silver.
I hope these suggestions are useful and can be implemented before the hobby crashes like the stock market appears to be. Too much of anything is no good and excesses damage interest. Let’s catch the chickens before they come home to roost or we will regret it for many years to come.

Bob Olekson
Parma, Ohio

Thanks for free table for ANA at shows

We want to sincerely thank the sponsors of the Silver Dollar and Rare Coin Expo and National and World Paper Money Conventions for giving the American Numismatic Association a free table at their respective shows at the St. Charles Convention Center.
We were able to sign up around 35 new members for the ANA, solicit donations and sign up patrons for the Portland, Ore., March, 2009 ANA-NMS. Thanks to Walter Magnus for donating the money for the coin show kit that was sent.

John and Nancy Wilson,
National Volunteers, Ocala, Fla

Dollar coin push must begin with collectors

I recently received my latest (Oct. 21) edition of Numismatic News and read the Letters column first, as I always do and enjoy. I would like to pose a suggestion to the readers who are bemoaning the use and “promotion” of the U.S. dollar coin.
The only way the U.S. is going to have the dollar coin circulate is for the citizens (beginning with us numismatists) to ask the banks for the coins and, after taking and putting away a coin or two in your collection, circulate them yourself at stores, restaurants and other places where possible recirculation could occur. Don’t wait for someone else to push the use of the dollar coins. Start pushing yourself. Just recently, I gave five John Quincy Adams dollars as partial payment to my foot doctor. The doctor accepted them and thought it was clever.
I agree with other readers that the dollar coin won’t be widely accepted with the paper dollar still around. All of us readers who are in favor of circulating the dollar coin should write to the our respective governmental representatives to eliminate the paper dollar in favor of the dollar coin. Those many years ago when the Canadians eliminated their paper $1 and $2 notes, I’m sure there were grumblings about the change. But now they’re used to it. The switch to metal from paper would also, for a short term, help the U.S. economy as vending machines would have to be retooled to accept the coins. Here in Cleveland, our transit system has vending machines for fares that take bills from $1 to $20 (no $2 bills are accepted) and gives back only coins (no cents or half dollars) in change for the fare boxes.

William B. Tuttle
Cleveland, Ohio

Flooded library gets books from F+W Media

I would like to take this opportunity to thank F+W Media for there generosity in donating many numismatic books to the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Public Library system that was hard hit by a 500-year flood last spring. This great community literary outreach will always be remembered in that the books will be used by fellow numismatics who desire to further there education.
In addition, I would like to encourage Numismatic News readers to consider donating numismatic educational material to your local public and school libraries during the upcoming holiday season.

Gary Lewis
Cape Coral, Fla.

Tip for making 2008 proof box fit all coins

I, too, have bought Mint boxes for my proof sets. The 2007 sets came with the Presidential dollars in a separate box so they could be left out. The 2008 did not. I fixed mine this way. The separator is glued in and can be removed. Then remove the separation hump with an exacto knife on one end and the 2008 proof box will fit. It’s not too neat or pretty but works.
As to Mr. Price’s selling proof/mint sets, I’ll pay double what you paid for your 1999 and 2001 silver proof sets.

Robert J. Morris
Roswell, N.M.

Silver dollar Scout coin too expensive for youths

I cannot believe that a bill to produce a commemorative coin for the Boy Scouts of America and only make it as a silver dollar at about $35 each. Why isn’t there a half dollar coin for $10 or $15 that a young person could afford. The typical dues for a Boy Scout is about $1 per week so a silver dollar would cost about the value of about two-thirds of a year dues and beyond the purchasing power of most 11-15-year-old boys. If any program ever needed a young collector’s edition it is this one.

Bill Lonergan
Santa Susana, Calif

History no justification for opposing KJB coin

As James Sparks took issue with a letter written by John Murphy promoting a commemorative coin honoring the King James Bible, I now take issue with James for his rationale against this coin. Personally, I think a coin of this type like many modern commems really doesn’t need to be issued. It seems like just another sales opportunity for the Mint. However, using historical revisionism as justification for not issuing it as Mr. Sparks has done is wrong.
First off, arguing that the tenets of Christianity weren’t followed by our nation’s founders in the writing of their documents because most of them were deists and did not believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible is like arguing that because I drive a Chevy I won’t know how to drive a Ford. A belief in the deity of Jesus Christ isn’t necessary to believe in the value of the Bible; even Islam holds the gospels to be prophetic. Try reading some of Franklin’s writings on the subject of Jesus and Christianity some time, or some of Washington’s prayers, or the last paragraph of Jefferson’s Danbury Baptist Association letter to see what the founding father’s thought.
Secondly, hearing that most of the founding fathers were deists – without any proof to support the statement – is getting a bit old. Combining the signers of the Declaration of Independence, signers of the Articles of Confederation and the framers of the Constitution gives a total of six known deists and 106 men who professed to one of the Christian denominations. Even if you add the other 17 men whose religious affiliation is unknown, the deist side falls far short of being the majority you claim.
Finally, citing the treaty with Tripoli is hardly a slam dunk for your viewpoint. Considering the nature of the treaty, the time it was written, and the state of our merchant and naval fleets, it seems more worded for political expediency than anything else. There are far too many other documents written by the founding fathers starting decades earlier which show a belief in and a respect for the Bible and Christianity. Washington’s inaugural is one that comes to mind (an event that was immediately followed by the President and Congress all attending a sermon at St. Paul’s Church in NYC). Oh, yes. Your statement that the only mention of religion in the Constitution is one of exclusion is also wrong. The establishment clause as interpreted by Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist’s actually is in support of religion, not its exclusion. The separation viewpoint wouldn’t exist for at least another 150 years.

Joe Paonessa
Racine, Wis.