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This Week's Letters (5/13/09)

A selection of letters  from readers of Numismatic News to editor, Dave Harper.
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I have been getting more disappointed with the Mint over the years. They seem to have lost their partnership with the collector.
This whole Lincoln penny episode has been one big disaster. A hundred year anniversary of one of the greatest coins of all times, and it has been a struggle for collectors to even get their hands on them without paying an arm and a leg.
My son happened to go visit a friend in Philadelphia this last week. I said go do what I have always wanted to do, visit the Mint. He did and enjoyed it. My motive for him to stop in was I thought of all places, I should finally be able to get a couple of rolls of the new pennies.
The Mint has produced 284,400,000 new Lincoln pennies as of March. We collectors can’t get them at the local banks. We have to pay $15 at the Mint or $30 or more through the secondary market. You would think at the Mint, since they have made by now 300 million pennies, you could pick up a roll or two. The answer would be no.
They produce so many pennies the banks don’t need them. The Mint must be loaded, and now they will start producing another 300 million of the next one in the series, and so on. Why don’t they cut production and show they still care about the collectors. I am not interested in all the high-priced gold and platinum coins, as I am a simple collector with a limited budget. Or as we say at the local clubs, the forgotten collectors.


Gary Weber
Lansing, Ill.

On April 21 I got in change a new 2009-D Lincoln cent. It is the one with the log cabin reverse.
I live in southern California. I got the coin in Camarillo, Calif. Just thought you may like to know.
I enjoy the Letters column.
Tony Gambino
Newbury Park, Calif.
Nice book goes with new $20 UHR
I just got my book for the 2009 Saint-Gaudens $20 UHR coin. My order went in during the second hour of the initial offering. The coin arrived earlier this month. Nice book.

Ronald Walling
Ottawa, Ill.

Montana should be praised for its “bone head” quarter. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans there were millions upon millions of bison in North America. They were a primary food supply for the people who lived here then and are a remarkable part of the culture and history of what was to become Montana.
To put the bull elk on the Montana quarter as Gary Marks wanted would have made it a “tourist token” like so many of the other state quarters. Come to Montana and hunt elk (and spend money). Other state quarters that are “tourist tokens” are my own state Colorado and Minnesota, for instance. Come ski (and spend money) in our Colorado mountains. No hint of the great contribution from the plains such as agriculture and oil. In Minnesota it’s come and fish in our 10,000 lakes (and spend money). No hint of Minnesota’s world famous iron mines or its great agricultural output.
On the other hand, some states should be proud; take for instance, Alabama and its Helen Keller, Iowa, and its school house, Oklahoma and its scissor-tail, and yes, Montana and its bison.
I have, however, some questions about the bison on the “bone head” quarter. On modern bison (Bison bison), the very tips of the horns stick straight up. The horns on Montana’s quarter don’t quite make it straight up. They, in fact, more closely resemble the horns of Bison occidentalis. Montana’s quarter bison is a skull, not a living bison. Maybe that is significant! Bison occidentalis became extinct about 5,000 years ago. Perhaps the “bone head quarter” should be the “fossil head quarter.”

Kendell Dickinson
Lakewood, Colo.

P.S. In my recent letter I pointed out that the horns on Montana’s bone-headquarter looked more like an extinct species of bison than the modern bison. I now believe that is a mistake. The Montana skull is not a bison of any kind, it is a cattle skull. Compare the Montana skull with the Canadian version and you will see what I mean.

The sort of poisonous messages that I have read about David Ganz’s travel related articles (such as the one from Ralph Owens, March 17, pages 15 and 18) that are based on “speaking to other NN readers” are no less potentially annoying than the articles the writer claims are out of place in NN.
He didn’t speak to me and I suspect that he cherry picked among people from whom he knew he could get remarks that would support his individual point of view. I personally enjoy Mr. Ganz’s articles about coins just as I enjoy his writing about other things (including traveling). If collecting coins for over 50 years makes people only want to hear about coins and grading and “the one I lost at auction” then the number of normal people that harbor other interests in addition to coins is fatally bound to go down.
George Orwell described a world (1984) in which Big Brother was watching over you and being different from the run of the mill is bad. Let’s indeed talk about coins but let’s not forget that coins reflect history, geography, social relations and many other things and the more experience you accumulate the more you will know. Maybe Mr. Owens should try and make a trip someplace (even outside the U.S.) just to see that the world is indeed alive. There seems to be a new zealot born every day that wants to preach to humanity what is interesting and what is not or what is good and what is bad. No thanks. If you don’t like the article just ignore it and move on.

Claude H. Ostfeld
Portsmouth, N.H

On Friday, April 24, I received one shiny, new Lincoln Log Cabin cent in change at a cafe in Grand Junction, Tenn. This is in extreme southwest Tennessee near Memphis.
This is the first of the new cents I’ve seen. The lady at checkout searched for me, but could not find another one in the register.

David Smith
Somerville, Tenn.

I’m disappointed that there is not a 1909-2009 PDS VDB wheatie! The coin that started it all. Like the half-cent the cent is a poor man’s coin of today.
I feel we need a new cent issue in 2009 after the four Lincolns are minted. The same way as the Indian cent went into history, so should the Lincoln cent. Whatever they do, I pray they do not lose it like they have with the $1 Presidents, which are a joke.

Douglas Ivey
McAlester, Okla.

I’ve been a collector since 1963. I have every Lincoln cent since 1909, including all of the variants, except the 1922 plain, which I will eventually acquire. In addition to collecting Lincoln roll sets, I will also be purchasing the individual uncirculated and proof coins to continue my individual coin set collection.
We dumped the traditional investment markets many years ago and started collecting, in earnest, with an eye on using numismatics as a hedge toward retirement. Because of several good purchases at auctions (one man’s need to absolutely sell something can be an outright boon to another collector), we’ve fared extremely well from that perspective and will soon be selling several coins, via Sotheby’s, to fully pay for our retirement home in Michigan.
We’ve potentially sold our home in Chicago and, if all goes as planned, will be able to live completely without any debt whatsoever because of a collection that started when I brought back a few silver dollars from Yellowstone National Park while on a vacation with my grandparents in 1963 at age 11. Our new home will be on 39 acres in Michigan, heated with a wood burning stove, in an incredibly designed home built by a custom home designer and woodworker for him and his wife when he retired in 1994.
The house is extremely energy efficient and we’ll add 19.5 KM of solar electric to take back about $450 from the local electric utility instead of paying each month. The wood burning stove will be kept glowing with the dead trees from the property and we’ll be able to concentrate on enjoying both my numismatics as well as nature and the local community as we grow older.

Bruce Barnes
Chicago, Ill.

I wonder if the director of the U.S, Mint realizes the absurdity of the packing procedures used by its new shipping contractor. They are appallingly wasteful.
Using my last order as an example: I ordered three items; a Presidential First Day Cover, the First Spouse bronze medal set (four coins in plastic in an envelope, and one first spouse bronze medal. Stacked together that made up a small package of about 4 by 7 inches. All would have fit into light cushioned envelope. The items were shipped to me separately even though they were in stock when ordered rather than back ordered, as the usual case.
The First Day Cover was received in a box measuring 3 by 11 by 5 inches stuffed with paper. The Spouse bronze medals were received in a box 4.5 by 6 by 11 inches also stuffed with paper. What an atrocious waste of precious resources not to mention the extra shipping costs.
Further, I order as many items as I can at the same time to save shipping costs. The U.S. Mint, however, breaks up the items and ships them separately. Thank goodness they aren’t charging me for the extra shipping but doing that must cost them more. Apparently they don’t care. Small wonder the prices of coins continue to escalate. They must be in order to cover wasteful shipping practices.
The situation described above is not an isolated one. It seems to have been the norm since the changing of shippers.

Arnold L. Rothenbuescher
Venice, Fla.

I have been reading with great enjoyment the two Viewpoint stories by Dave Lembke, as well as the many different letters both agreeing and disagreeing with what Mr. Lembke did or more accurately did not do. All the drama about the wife’s death trap car aside (I think Mr. Lembke was just trying to bolster his defense.), I think he hit the nail on the head especially with the second Viewpoint story.
While I agree with Mr. Wagenhoffer, there was no mention of any junk box in the original story, it is clear the items sold were sold as common silver from the price given. So what if one or more of the coins turns out to be a peach of a find as was the case here. I often purchase rolls from my bank. Am I now required to tell the bank I found some 90 percent silver Kennedy half dollars and pay them a premium over the roll price? How about all those so called “unsearched by us” wheat cent bags for sale in all the trade papers and magazines. If I find a 1909-S-VDB, am I to assume I should send the dealer a check for an additional few hundred dollars because I found a gem?
Let’s be honest, we all look for those hidden gems in rolls, junk boxes, common lots and silver bags. And not one of us expects to pay additional funds if we find one and the dealer does not expect us to either I am sure. I am surprised not more people are upset at the prices some dealers are charging for the Lincoln birthplace cent singles and rolls. Or with the U.S. Mint for their outrageous markup for the same. Checked my order the other day by the way and was told it was “in stock” yet being held in reserve. Gee, and I didn’t even know the U.S. Mint offered this service of reserving my coins for me. Only a few have lamented that every mail-order dealer and many television hawkers already have this “so hard to get cent” while others have theirs in reserve with Uncle Sam.
Your encapsulated coins were fine until someone decided to print new fangled green stickers to tell you again they are fine. What exactly does unsearched “by us” mean any way? Who is us? The ones placing the ad but others on their staff did or some other close friend?
Palladium coins suggested by the two Senators from the only state that mines palladium is my favorite. How about “landfill” coins? Long Island has plenty of landfill we can mine for material. Not too many coming to the defense of those ripped off weekly by so many scams in this hobby we love sadly to say. So let’s just say “atta boy” to Mr. Lembke and admit we all wish it was us and let’s deal with the real problems with our favorite pastime (business).

John Murphy
Lindenhurst, N.Y.

Robert W. Julian’s writings have always been well documented from official sources. I do not disagree with his reporting, but feel justified in challenging some of his conclusions where Hard Times tokens are concerned.
His splendid article in the April 28 issue is propped up by the published antagonisms of Mint Director Robert Patterson over the circulation (to the detriment of the Mint’s profitable seigniorage on copper cents) of these unofficial pieces of the 1830s.
Bob calls the Panic of 1837 a “recession” then describes the bank failures of 1839-42 a “depression.” He states the 1837 recession lasted only a year after May and this may be technically correct as the banks resumed specie (coin) payments in May 1838. I’m confident my good friend will respond to this critique and explain his rationals for recession and depression.
He states “very few merchant tokens were struck after the spring of 1838.” The evidence for this? Cochran bellfounder copper (HT 211) is dated 1844 for example and Illinois pieces dated 1845 are available (though a year after Lyman Low’s cutoff date 1844).
He adds “just when the first (HTT’s) began to be seen in the marketplace is uncertain.” This assumes the pieces dated 1834, 1835 and 1836 may not be true Hard Times tokens, yet his lead illustration in the article is of the “running boar” type, clearly dated 1834 – HT numbers 9 through 11 are common (rarities 1 to 3).
In an 1849 letter about these tokens, Patterson said the legal attacks by federal attorneys “put a stop to the business.” Patterson was very wrong then. How else to explain continuous circulation of HTT’s into the 1850s and beyond – as countermarked pieces conclusively prove? (See 2004’s Standard Catalog of U.S. Tokens 1700-1900.)
The article is superbly illustrated with color photos of the tokens and, overall, does a great service to readers by exposing these colorful artifacts of the Jacksonian Era to today’s collectors, many of whom may not be familiar with them. My critique should not be considered more than just that.

Russell Rulau
Iola, Wis.

I live in Florida and have been to many banks trying to find rolls of the new cent. I was able to obtain two rolls so far after trying 15 to 20 different banks.

Keith Borrelli
Clearwater, Fla.

Today is Sunday, May 3. It is our annual monthly trip to Albany, N.Y. The show was once again its usual routine. Lots of lookers some buyers and sellers. It apeared that the gold dealers were doing a brisk business.
I went to my usual dealer who sells all the states quarters. I needed a few for some of my grandchildren. I paid for two Puerto Rico D quarters. I had to pay 75 cents each due to the fact that the Mint scaled down the amount of quarters issued. It really didn’t hurt too much. The dealer actually apologized for raising it by 25 cents.
I went to another dealer and it cost me 50 cents for the newest Lincoln cent. So for $1 I recieved the P and D cents. She was a bit angry that she couldn’t get her supply from the Mint as she has done so in the past. She told me she went on eBay and bought a box of cents, P’s and D’s. She is angry at the Mint also. Another dealer was talking to me about the silver proofs, halves and dollars he purchased from the Mint. He was angry about having his order canceled by the Mint in respect with his Lincoln dollar coin. He did have the Ben Franklin dollars, both design kinds. I myself had only one varity. I will go back and get the one I need.
As you can see dealers are not happy with what has been taking place at the Mint. One happy purchase was the regular proof District of Columbus and territories quarter proof set. It must of been a deal because it cost me $19. No waiting for this to come in the mail. My friend had around $300 to $400 to spend and he could’t get any dealer who was willing to make a deal with him for any Barbers he wanted to buy.
We always have a good time when we go to Albany, N.Y.

Dean Davis
Poughkeepsie, NY.

When I placed my order on 26 Mar for the Braille dollars, I was told shipment would begin on 1 April. Not receiving the coins in mid-April, I checked and was informed the ship date would be 30 April. Now I am told shipment will begin on 31 May. When 31 May rolls around, shipment will begin 30 June. I think customers should see the contract that the US Mint has with their subcontractor. It appears the subcontractor is not performing the contract in terms of the agreement and is subject to liquidated damages. Liquidated Damages in my definition is a “self applied tourniquet between the shoulder and chin”. If the subcontractor is not performing in accordance with the contract with the US mint and it is the Mint’s fault, then the subcontractor can submit claims against the US Mint for their not living up to the terms of the contract. You can obtain a copy of the contract under the freedom of information act (FOIA) and print it in Numismatic News. Due to the incompetence of either the subcontactor or the US Mint or BOTH, I think all subscribers of Numismatic News should see that contract. At this time, I am in an “optical rectitis’” mode questioning myself for ordering anything in the future from the US Mint.

Marco Ramius
El Paso, TX

read with great interest the wonderful article in the recent NN on the Jeannette medal. I have a particular interest in this, as I have a specimen. Mine is engraved to the ship’s Chinese cook, and is missing the ribbon and top bar. Some years ago I found replicas of this Mint Medal on eBay, complete with top bar. I should have bought one, to at least have a replacement ribbon/bar. I also have a two-volume book on the Jeannette expedition.
Neat piece. Great article.
Rich Hartzog

World Exonumia
Rockford IL

I have been reading with interest the problems folks are having in acquiring the new Lincoln cents through normal commercial channels. I live just outside Asheville, NC over hundred miles from the fed in Charlotte and over 180 miles from the fed in Atlanta. On 4/30 I decided to check out the situation for myself not really expecting too much. On my first stop at Wal-Mart, I received three log cabin cents in change for my purchase and I asked if she had more. I purchased a complete roll from Wal-Mart. The next stop at Lowe’s for bedding plants netted two more and I asked if she had more so I purchased another roll. I figured that was enough so I did not stop by any banks, but apparently the cents are reaching the commercial outlets so whoever Wal-Mart and Lowe’s banks with has them in quantity and are finally reaching the people who want them, we just need to have a little patience. Thanks for your sounding board,

Neil Robertson
Leicester, NC

Purchased some 2009-D cent rolls yesterday from my local bank. I was putting 5 of them in air tite tubes when I noticed 2 dark coins in one and one dark coin in another, the other 3 were all shinny new. I’ve done this many times but never found used (circulated coins) in “new rolls” from the bank. The 2 were 2006-D and 1999-D, the 1 was 2004-D. Any idea why/how this could of happened?

Doug Higginbotham
Phoenix, Ariz.

Editor’s note: The Mint does not roll coins for the banking system, private firms do, so obviously they mixed supplies. Thanks for sharing.

Shame on the United States Mint and their go-to market tactics. When we the citizens have to start paying premiums for Pennies meant for general circulation, it’s time to overhaul the system and start over. They have been pickig the pockets of half-dollar collectors since 2002, since no business strikes were issued for general circulation without a premium being paid.Now the 2009 Lincoln Penny fiasco. Maybe one of our illustrious U.S. representatives will initiate a bill to stop the highway robbery of dedicated United States Coin Collectors.No I will not =be purchasing any of the Lincoln Penny Rolls unless I pay 50 cents for it.Shame on the United States Mint. In conclusion why don’t they make the Silver Proof Set, A real Silver Proof Set, by making the Penny ,Nickel and Dollar Coins in Silver:that would stir new life into the program, and actually make it what it is supposed to be SILVER.Frustraterd,Angry Collector Bill Zearfoss Yuba City California

I just received an interesting and perhaps unique piece from the United States Mint on May 2 ‘09. I included a picture, as a file attachment,
unfortunately the quality is not so good. The item is a 2009 Presidential $1 Coin Proof Set. What makes this set so interesting is, what appears to be a strand of human hair has been encased over the Zachary Taylor Proof Coin. It runs, left to right, from approximately the 8:30 position to the 5:30 position, curving though Taylor’s left nostril. The hair does not go beyond the edge of the coin. It took the Mint over a month to ship me my order but receiving a set like this made it worth the wait. Just thought I would share this interesting find.

Christopher Mull
Reading, PA

I don’t understand why collectors will pay much higher than face value for the new Lincoln cents that are so slowly entering circulation. Eight dollars for fifty Lincoln cents. Is it because the present “scarcity” of the cents translates into profits in a few years, I hardly think so. The fact the collectors are buying them in rolls and saving them means there were will be an abundant supply of these coins for many, many years. This collector is going to sit back and wait for the coins to hit circulation - and eventually they will - and get the coins I want at face.
I also do not understand why US coins, packaged by the Mint have to come with a Certificate Of Authenticity. No one other than the Mint has the authority to mint and issue coins. Inherently, this is an implied COA; no printed statement attesting to the validity of the coins is necessary. Would anyone purchase a counterfeit coin, not knowing it was a fake without examining it first because it was accompanied with such a certificate vouching for the integrity of the coin? I would hope not, but then again people have come to depend too much on such “certificates” and coins coming with such “papers” seem to convince many collectors of the genuineness of the piece.

Harry Norkin
Thousand Oaks, CA

I placed an order for the two roll Lincoln cents on 3-13-09. From that day until 4-15-09 (33 days) they were “in stock and reserved”. By the way I live in St. Paul, MN. On 4-15-09 they arrived in Indianapolis, IN and departed the same day to SACRAMENTO, CA and arrived there five days later on 4-20-09. Next day they departed SACRAMENTO, CA headed for New Berlin, Wisconsin (a suburb of Milwaukee). That took three days arriving 4-24-09. They departed New Berlin and arrived in Brooklyn Center, MN (a suburb of Minneapolis, MN) three days later (4-27-09) They departed B.C. the same day and for some strange reason they traveled 80 miles N.W. of Minneapolis to St. Joseph, MN, near St Cloud, MN where they were tendered to the USPS. Finally, on 4-30-09 they arrived at the St Paul post office where my box is located. Total time from order to receipt was 48 days. I found this experience rather amusing and not the norm I’m sure. Thinking about it now I doubt if Abe Lincoln himself EVER traveled that far in his life...

John Steinhoff
St Paul, MN

Let’s finish the waste of time and space on this issue right now! Certainly there are collectors and dealers who are on both sides of this continuing whining over ethics...SNARF! Mr. Davis Lembke went through a number of silver dollars from a tray (junkbox or low grade, who cares?) and he picked out what he liked and paid for them...the dealer was satisfied and so was he. At home he discovered a rarity... WHOOJA! He spent the money from selling the coin for a better car for his wife...the money came in handy, and really only cost him $8...wish I were that lucky.

So he grieves over whether or not he did the right thing, Letters to the Editor go both ways...all this is doing (like my letter here) is taking up space on a DONE DEAL! It’s a waste of space to argue an issue that is gone...goodbye! BUT because of his actions last year he may have saved his wife’s life in that car accident with the drunk driver.
Seems he did something good out of a chance circumstance. How many of you readers of NN would have bought your spouse a car from coin profits? Yah I bet!

A number of years ago I was standing in front of a rather robust dealer eating his hand (sandwich) and he had a large tray of lower grade silver dollars going at $8 each. I casually asked if there were any CCs in the box, and he just burped out ‘you wiiish.’ I spent over an hour getting my hands filthy going through 100s of coins, making a pile of the ones I liked. I held up a number of silvers and he said what he wanted and I paid him. As I walked away with my treasures I told him I really wanted to thank him for the two (VG8 1878 and 1893) CCs. Ta Ta! So you see I don’t have any issue when I go through a junk or low grade tray...goodies exist out there if you look and dig (and now I wear rubber gloves to keep my hands clean when I go through a junk box). Now Mr. Lembke and you readers, drop the issue, let it go. If you were in his place and you returned the coin as an unfair purchase all you’d get is a moment’s satisfaction and your refund...if you kept the coin it would still be a legal sale and you were very lucky!
Now end this week after week rant on what is or isn’t’s OVER! Whether Mr. Lembke did right or wrong is only God’s business and he will take care of it one way or another...His recollections of winning purchases and losing buys is what we all’s part of both the fun of searching and the pain of learning lessons. If indeed Mr. Lembke has come out $10Gs ahead in 26 years of collecting (and he is more diverse than I am in my collecting) then he deserves whatever he finds as he is doing what some dealers don’t do...recognize a deal. Too many dealers only think about sales between themselves and other dealers and forget that 98% of the people at all shows are collectors. I have bought and been burned several times, some of the coins I still retian and now years later their value finally reached the cost I paid for them...others I still wouldn’t use as washers. Every collector has good and bad days. Same with Dealers. Tha ti part of what makes the whole collecting thing fun and keeps you coming back, or after a few bad trades/purchases you’d quit.
So we’ve read enough about a trade that one lucky man questioned. Time to start whining about some other issue like the Lincoln Cent shortage...I live west of the Mississippi...where are the Denvers? Like hell if I’m gonna paid $10-20 a roll for common cents.

Louis Schain
Address withheld