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This Week's Letters (12/10/08)

This week's letters from readers of Numismatic News to editor, Dave Harper
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Ideas abound if chains of precedence broken


I think making the nickel the size of a half dime is nonsensical since both the nickel and half dime circulated concurrently from 1866 to 1873, and the size of the half dime made it inconvenient and easily lost. The nickel proved more popular. However, experimental patterns were made in 1868, 1869 and 1881 to resize coins for uniformity. The cent was made half dime sized and the 30 piece the size of a cent. Perhaps the present experiments should make the cent the size of near a half dime and the nickel close to a cent in size. Also, make them of aluminum bronze iff we are to save money and if the cent is to be retained. Aluminum bronze is cheap and attractive.
Another bad idea is the one Gary Marks has of Liberty coins being changed every year while we keep the presidential designs. We don’t have to keep the presidential designs on the denominations. We have rotating presidential designs on the dollar coins that therefore free up the other denominations for either Liberty or other famous Americans like Mark Twain, Edison, Tesla and Einstein, either native or naturalized. All of these could be rotated. I think is a better idea than what he is suggesting.
One good suggestion I did read where I work is that if there is a slowing of the economy, we should take all our saved changed sitting around in drawers, etc. that is unused and doing nothing to the banks to draw interest, and like seeds make the banks grow. There is no telling how much money is lying around. Why not let it pump up our economy by at least being in a bank rather than doing nothing? I suppose there are millions of dollar just lying around in jars, coffee cans, drawers, cigar boxes and so forth.
I read of Christmas stamps being issued as they have for years. Why not Christmas silver Eagles? People would love to buy them. I guess it’s alright for stamp collectors to have Christmas stamps, but if we collectors would like Christmas coins people would scream separation of church and state. Stamp collectors have always gotten away with murder while coin collectors have to walk a tight line. I never understood this and still do not.
Also, if our country is such a lover of sports – football, basketball, baseball and the like – then why can’t we come out with a colorized set of coins of the sports leagues like Canada is doing with its hockey leagues?
Certainly I am sure all these ideas will prove to be very popular. We just have to use our brains to think of new things to get out of the presidential box we have been imprisoned in for far too long.

Bob Olekson
Parma, Ohio

If it’s not on sale, it’s just a clearance

Recently you had an editorial about a word you had a real problem with in your dealings with the U.S. Mint. As I recall, the word was “bullion.” The same issue had a related article which puzzled me. I believe you said the Mint was getting rid of a lot of discontinued items. You called it a “clearance sale.” To me, a “sale” involves selling something at less than its usual price. I didn’t see anything to that effect in the article. Maybe I missed it. But if not, wouldn’t it simply be a “clearance?”
Question: How is it that your major advertisers can – and do – sell just-released business strikes of Mint products – presidential dollars and other items – for considerably more than their face value? Can’t they simply be gotten at the bank? I doubt they’re the most superior specimens. If they were, the ads would say so. I don’t go for that sort of thing, so I don’t know.

David Stone
Princeton Junction, N.J.

Ordered online, but Mint later says not available

Tough luck sale! I happened to be online Nov. 14 at 11 p.m. and had seen 2004 uncirculated sets for $16.95, and know that dealers are selling them for about $50 to $70 a set. Wow, what a bargain, so I thought? By 11:18 p.m. I had ordered 10 sets, and they were not sold out at that time!
I received an e-mail from the Mint with order #30445561 and order date 11/15/08, but at the bottom “Qty 10@$16.95 - Product not available.” What happened? Did they go to some friend of the Mint or some dealer? No wonder people are having less faith in our government.
Thanks so much.

Daniel Kuziela
Chicago, Ill.

Help novice collectors learn about hobby

I am a novice at this game and have had a subscription for a few months. I enjoy every issue and look forward to getting it every week. Many of your articles are very informative and sometimes provide a new direction for my enthusiasm.
Here comes the but. Being a model railroader and having gone through the changing levels of experience, knowledge and investment, I see the same lessons apply to coin collecting. Many times as we progress in our hobby we don’t look back. Today’s model railroader has digital command and control of his train. Power is a constant, with no need of the old block system wiring. Cars come ready to run and cost up to $40. In most cases supply cannot keep up with the market. However, there is still a lot of conventional equipment that has to be sold to make way for the new standards. All of us MR’s in the process of upgrading also have a lot of conventional equipment (upgrade or sell.)
For the modern coin collector – the young grandchild, the interested adolescent, the State quarter collector or the entry level collector – coins in the $200 to $500 range are not always in the affordable range. Even the $20 to $100 range may be at the novice collector’s limits. What to collect can be just as daunting as the price. The advice, “Buy the best you can afford” is a double-edged sword. If the best you can or are willing to afford now were G-4, what would the Saint-Gaudens collector think of this collection.
Looking at loftier goals is always encouraging. Trying to upgrade an entry level collection today would result in a Wall Street type collapse. If you sell it on eBay you might get lucky and break even. The pitfalls of this hobby are increased when you include the possibility of counterfeit coins or poor research.
Although this hobby deals with coins (pretty straight forward) it still requires a lot of research and direction so you don’t feel adrift in the middle of the ocean when trying to figure out what to buy or what is a good value.
You obviously attend more shows than I do, to date none. I would enjoy a series on how people get involved in the hobby and what they have learned from it or about it. Resources for articles could be YN groups, clubs, people from shows even dealers could have a lot to say to make this a more enjoyable and personable hobby. As in many hobbies there can be more enjoyment in sharing an experience than just storing it away.
Categories could include:
• How it started?
• Picking a direction.
• Redefining goals.
• The art of research.
• How to make your money do double or triple duty.
• Now that I have it, how do I protect it?
• Coin cleaning – this is such a taboo no one wants to talk about it. Not only deep cleaning (usually to be avoided), but also surface cleaning, what causes a film or haze to form on a coin (even in mylar flips) and how to safely remove it.
• Coin storage – acid free, long term.
• Time and money, time vs. money.
Reaching back is the best way to inspire young, novice, entry and intermediate level collectors whether it is a Lincoln memorial collection from circulation or a Morgan dollar collection painstakingly acquired. This is not a one time shot, just like the kindergarten teacher, every new class starts at the beginning. Articles need not cover a lifetime of experience, simply a time that was inspiring, informative or enjoyable that someone might want to share.
As I was writing this letter I received the Nov. 11 issue of NN. I enjoyed the article “Talk about coins to engage others in hobby.” Even your Letters article “Variety of factors hinder hobbyists’ pursuit” touched on a lot of what I was trying to get at. Dipping, over grading, the difference between uncirculated and BU or Ch BU. Good and timely issue.

Fred Melko
Panama City, Fla.

Keep looking for circulation finds

While the amount of finds a collector can make may have dropped off in 1964 or 1968, I would say there are still very good finds, you just have to look a little more than back then. I am 24 years old (not over 50) and I have found real silver dollars from 1879, 1883, 1921, 1922, 1923, etc. in rolls of Ike dollars in 2001-2002. I have found countless Walkers, Franklins, ‘64 JFKs, and 40 percent JFKs. Plus silver war nickels, wheat cents, silver dimes, quarters and even some good errors in change!
I have also added to the coins “out there.” I am the nut that wrote in a few months ago and told you that I, from time to time, spend at face value Indian cents, no date, or low grade Liberty and Buffalo nickels!
I truly think the circulation finds “era” is not an “era” at all, it’s ongoing throughout time! But if all adult collectors would spend those low grade coins that are in jars and boxes collecting dust, maybe kids could find them in change, start collecting, and when they are adults spend them again. The circle must not be broken!

Daniel Sheffer
Shelby, Mich.

Van Buren coin artist appreciates recognition

Your very kind commentary (Latest Presidential portrait works for me, 11/07) citing the eighth Presidential dollar coin honoring Martin Van Buren was very much appreciated by this designer.
As a U.S. Mint Artistic Infusion Program artist, I am deeply appreciative and very proud to submit designs for U.S. coins and medals and it’s always overwhelming when a design gets selected for minting.
Certainly, I take pride and satisfaction in all my work, but I find I must agree with you that the Van Buren dollar has a special sense of depth and presence.
As much as I like to feel that I performed my role successfully to capture the essence of this president’s likeness, character and personality, clearly the masterfully sculpted relief by Phebe Hemphill makes this coin excel.
As you know, the Mint sculptors and engravers are all highly accomplished artists and it is very gratifying to work in concert with them along with my AIP peers to endeavor to create coins of lasting beauty.
Again, sometimes we artists feel that we toil somewhat anonymously, but it is very gratifying to receive your recognition of these efforts.

Joel Iskowitz
Woodstock, N.Y.

Retain motto, reject King James Bible coin

I certainly enjoyed reading the various letters from both sides regarding the “In God We Trust” debate as well as the King James Bible commemorative discussion. After some careful review and thought, I find myself in favor of the first and opposed to the latter. Let me explain my reasoning.
First, I must declare that I am a doubter. Although I was raised with the best intentions in a Christian household, I have always questioned some of the more dubious and unbelievable aspects of that religion. Lacking the blind faith to bridge the obvious gaps in some of the more incredible stories, I have concluded that the Bible is a wonderful collection of legends and parables designed to provide a rational framework around which we may build good and useful lives. With regard to God, I personally suspect that man created God in his own image. I often see how God has evolved from unforgiving and malevalent (Old Testament) to kind and forgiving (New Testament). It seems that as man becomes more civilized, so does his God.
In any event, I’d like to address the issue of “In God We Trust” on coins. I love to read and study history, and I am certain, as are most of us, that God or the concept of God was at the very heart of the formation of this country. In fact, religion was so important to our founders that the Constitution guaranteed that only people, not governments, should establish religions. To do otherwise would leave open the possiblity of a government or country being run by, say...the Taliban.
When “In God We Trust” was added to our coinage in 1864, the United States was facing its darkest hour and was in the midst of being completely torn asunder. Which of us hasn’t taken a glance upward and murmured a “please God” when faced with dire circumstances. The “In God We Trust” motto is meaningful and important statement from our history. As such, it should be retained on coinage for all times, if only to remind us that this nation has persevered when it faced greater dangers than whether or not our TV sets will still work next February. Despite the fact that I am a “doubter,” I see a greater meaning from “In God We Trust” and do not feel threatened by it or think that the Mint is instructing me to find religion.
Commemorating the King James Version of the Bible on a U.S. coin is another matter altogether. There is no doubt that this book has had a great impact throughout the world. However, I don’t think that singling out any one religious writing for commemoration on a coin is appropriate. With all the political correctness of society these days, we would somehow end up a “Religious Writings Coin Program” probably featuring a reverse-proof Talmud and a burnished Koran. This would no doubt outrage the TV preachers (where on this earth do these guys find such horrible toupees?) and somehow the entire program would deteriorate into an overblown and unnecessary controversy. Leave the commemoration of specific religious writings to the churches. Furthermore, the production of coins for this purpose could be easily handled by the Franklin Mint.
In conclusion, let me state that I did not intend to offend any one religion or person with this comment (with the exception of toupee-wearing TV preachers). Although I do not share the same religious beliefs as the majority, I do respect churches and the charitable work they do in our country and throughout the world. Any organization or community based on goodness or charity should be appreciated by all, and I will not question anyone’s beliefs simply because they may differ from mine. The fact that we all co-exist under one flag shows that the ideals and dreams of the founding fathers are being fulfilled. In the United States, we can live as “one nation, under God” and still know that every citizen’s rights and beliefs are protected and preserved.

Chris Nakles
Latrobe, Pa.

Motto can go, but don’t touch date on coins

I am a Christian. I possess the ability to think rationally. I use logic before I act or speak (on a good day). I think atheists should have a national holiday ... April 1.
Anyone who has a problem with “In God We Trust” has a problem with a meaningless phrase. “God” if left undefined can be replaced with “Snorfula.” It wouldn’t offend me.
I’ll be offended when they remove the year from the coins. I know from the year on the coin that the letters “AD” are tacitly implied. “Year of OUR Lord.” So if those people who wish to be offended want something to be offended by, let them be offended by Jesus of Nazareth. He is the “OUR Lord” implied by the year. If I live to see some other calendar displayed on the money, I will not accept it. In OUR Lord we trust. Just as our founders did (the founders of Pennsylvania). The two parties of this “great” republic swear to defend/uphold the Constitution, and yet our money is worthless as a store of wealth. At least we’re fortunate enough to have it still operating as a medium of exchange. Perhaps it’s time to scrap the Republic/Federation and put our trust where it should be and look for a kingdom.
James Moyer
Akron, Pa.
Die-break errors found on Arizona P quarters
Read your article on the Arizona state quarter die-break errors. I checked my rolls and came across the following P die-breaks:
1. Reverse die-break covering the J and I initials with partial covering of the M.
2. Same type but the M is intact and the J and I are only partially covered.
3. Reverse die break in 1912 date resulting in two dots of metal on top of the leg of the 2.
4. Same type but instead of two metal dots, there is a single bar of metal on top of the bottom leg of the two.
The rolls came from a local bank in central Florida.
Thank you for the educational articles in your paper. Keep them coming.

Stephen F. Maziarz Jr.
Lake Placid, Fla.

Bullion coin prices: You win some, lose some

I have been reading the letters that are complaining about the price drop in the four-coin platinum set and all I can say is “Come on people!”
Every person who ordered this set knew that platinum is a bullion item and that as such the price goes up and believe it or not it goes down to. So they got caught in a price drop. What do they do as coin collectors? They cry, call their congressman, write to David harper and anyone else they think might give them satisfaction.
Let’s turn it around for a minute. Say that the price went up. You would not hear one complaint. Everyone would be telling their friends how smart they were. Their chest would be puffed out as they told everyone who would listen that they knew it would go up. All of a sudden the country would have a huge increase in bullion experts and everyone would be happy.
Well, it just doesn’t happen that way with bullion, coins or even life. We as coin collectors and bullion buyers have to take the bad with the good. We have to take responsibility for the things we buy and at what price we buy them. We all have to admit that prices were a little crazy and an adjustment was bound to happen. We as collectors always think we need to be the first one to get every new thing that comes out. But when you do this with bullion items you are inevitably going to get caught in a price drop sooner or later.
The problem is that no one likes to make mistakes or in this day and age take responsibility for their own actions. We don’t need a 30-day waiting period. We need to think about what we are doing and ask if this a smart thing to do. Will I lose money on this and if I do can I afford it or will I have a true reason to be upset?
This is not a Mint problem, it is a collector attitude problem. We have to realize that we cannot win every time. We are all bound to make mistakes and when we do we have to learn to live with it.
Does that mean we like it? Heck no. We hate it but that is no reason to blame the Mint. Have I had problems with the mint? Yes. Have I lost money because of price drops? You bet. But I took the chance and most of the time I win, but just like everyone else sometimes I lose. Just live with it and move on.

Marcel Lopez
Lander ,Wyo.

Mint makes right move to downsize offerings

I read with interest in the Nov. 25 issue of Numismatic News the U.S. Mint’s cutting of products. I believe the Mint has over-extended its offerings to solely profit from collectors. It is time to downsize and offer collectors reasonable and not redundant products. My opinions regarding the Mint’s decisions follow.
I have never purchased a platinum Eagle and have no intention to do so. They were never issued in years past for circulation. The Mint has chosen to retain the 1 ounce proof only. That’s fine for collectors who desire one. The other options are financially prohibitive for most people. The Mint made an excellent decision with the platinum Eagles.
The uncirculated gold Eagles will be gone. I believe that is a good idea as well. As a collector, I purchase a four-coin set annually but only in proof. If only the 1 ounce proof had been retained it would not have upset me.
Now for the Buffalo gold coins. Again I concur with the Mint’s decision to eliminate the uncirculated versions. But I don’t understand why the Proof ½, ¼, and one-tenth ounce coins will be abolished. It appears to be inconsistent comparing the Mint’s gold Eagle decision. I’ll still buy the 1 ounce proof Buffalo.
Concerning the silver Eagle dollars, there was no change for the future – uncirculated and proofs both. Great! It’s a beautiful design. When I travel, usually to Italy to visit family and friends, I’ll buy a roll of 20 and give them to my friends’ children. One year there was a couple from Scotland who got married in St. Agnello. When I returned to the hotel they invited me for a drink, the men still wearing their kilts. I gave the bride and groom a silver Eagle and they were thrilled.
As for the U.S. Presidential dollar coins, good for the Mint. Buy the four-coin set each year. Everyone knows there will be four. Why separate them individually? There are obvious cost-savings by eliminating individual distributions.

Dr. John G. Hamer
Bradford, Mass.