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This week’s letters (07/03/12)

I just tried to order my two-coin proof Eagle set from the Mint. Guess what? The website is shut down for maintenance. Another black eye for the Mint.
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Issues with website continue to plague Mint
I just tried to order my two-coin proof Eagle set from the Mint. Guess what? The website is shut down for maintenance. Another black eye for the Mint.
John Fitzsimmons
Red Bluff, Calif.

Problems with Mint website frustrate collector
First, I’d like to say that I’ve been an avid reader and subscriber of Numismatic News for many years and I enjoy each weekly issue.
Now let’s talk about the Mint experience. Before noon today, I went on the Mint site and ordered the Star Spangled Banner Silver Proof. The whole process took less than five minutes.
I stayed on the site perusing the various Mint products for sale. At precisely noon, I attempted to order the S.F. two- coin set.
Before anything else, I received a pop-up from the Mint asking if I would like to participate in a survey after my visit was complete. I said yes.
To make a long story short, an hour and a half later I had completeld my transaction, only after getting kicked off the site twice. Because I was kicked off, my opportunity to participate in the feedback survey was lost. So I’m emailing you to vent my frustration.
It was bad enough not being able to get through on the 25th anniversary sets. It is my opinion that the reason for the initial onslaught is because, if there are going to be any coin errors, it will be during the initial ordering period. Consider the Washington smooth edge Presidential dollars as an example.
I can’t help but believe that some new product releases are intentionally sprinkled with an error or two just to spark interest. I read your article speculating about the cost of the aforementioned set and I went ahead and ordered them anyway, after I experienced the initial sticker shock of $149.95.
Louis Moreggi
Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Discovery of clad halves adds spark to collecting
I go through a lot of rolls of coins in search of better dates and surprises. Recently, I have been going through half rolls.
Besides the occasional 40 percent silver and impaired proof Kennedy, a number of AU-BU 2002 to date clad halves are popping up. The coins do not appear to be matte finish, all brilliant. They are a pleasant collecting bonus.
What happens to the left over mintages of “P” and “D” clad halves that do not sell in mint bags and rolls? Are any of the unsold halves sent out for circulation after Mint sales cease?
Please ask the United States Mint and share the answer with your readers.
Bruce D. Beasley
Clinton, Iowa

Return of half dime could help phase out cent
First, let’s face it, pennies should definitely be eliminated. No one even stoops to pick one up anymore and they are a pain to carry around in one’s pocket.
Next, the nickel, why hasn’t anyone addressed the production possibility of the former half dime, with the same inexpensive composition as the current dime? It worked well for nearly 100 years!
Don Yeier
Candor, N.Y.

Damaged duplicated order received from Mint
I have to concur with previous letters about shoddy coin quality and order fulfillment from the U.S. Mint. I finally received my first ever purchase, the Defenders of Freedom coin set. Three days later I received a second, unordered set. Interestingly, the second coin is badly hazed or scratched on the reverse, otherwise, I would just keep it to avoid the hassle of a return.
The worst part is that I have to pay for return shipping on a coin I never ordered. I was excited to order new coins, but I will likely not order again. I know others are finding similar quality control issues with the coins from the mint, but I haven’t yet read about readers receiving duplicate orders.
Gil Lara
Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Mint sets not worth the cost to collectors
Now that we have been flooded with information about the San Francisco Mint and its employees, I hope you will move on to another subject. Enough is enough.
The 75th Anniversary San Francisco two-coin set being produced to meet collector demand is a stupid move. Today is the fourth day for ordering this set at $149.95 ($75 per coin), with a fancy box, as others have so aptly described it, with a total of 115,059 sets ordered. That is barely over 28,764 sets ordered each day, which certainly is not an earth shattering number after all of the hype leading up to the opening bell.
It will be interesting to see what the total will be as time draws near to the closing bell. As many others have written in previous issues, many collectors will be unhappy that their two-coin set is not even worth the spot price for silver now or in the immediate future.
You have a great magazine and your column is well worth reading. Keep up the good work, David. By the way, I will not be purchasing this “Pink Elephant.”
Bill Peyton
St. Petersburg, Fla.

Hit and miss finds for Chicago collector
About six years ago I picked up 50 rolls of half dollars from my local bank just before Christmas and came up with 35, 90 percent and 19, 40 percent silver Kennedys.
When I tried this a couple more times and the number of scores fell off to less than two coins per 1,000. I decided this was just a lucky event and that was that.
But then, about three weeks ago, on one of my very rare bank visits, I decided to pick up $500 worth of dimes, quarters and nickels. Nickels are already worth more than 5 cents in melt value and the day may yet come when they can be legally melted so I figured I’d just keep them. What I found was actually amazing. 20 pristine gem BU+ gun metal blue nickels from 1955, 1956 and 1958.
I’m sure some kid will soon be in big trouble for raiding his parents’ collection. But, then I found seven silver quarters dating from 1936 to 1951 (VG-XF) and six Mercury dimes, mostly from the 1940s (VG-VF). This was then capped off with a solid VG Barber dime from 1910.
What makes this worthy of mention is my bank is located in a very populated suburb of Chicago where these types of finds are highly unlikely. This view was confirmed when I bought another $600 worth of dimes and quarters earlier this week. This turned up nada and then annoyed the bank clerk when I returned all of these worthless coins which he had to spend time recounting.
Steve Gregory
Schaumburg, Ill.

Cost of Mint sets not equal to the value of the coins
Recent letters to your great publication have debated whether the new San Francisco Mint Anniversary Eagle Set is truly collectible. Will it go up in value since there is no mintage limit? Who knows? The better question is why is the set so expensive?
Silver is currently below $30 an ounce, meaning the latest two-coin set contains only $60 in silver value but the price is 2.5 times that figure.
In October 2011, when the 25th Anniversary Set went on sale, silver was hovering around $34 per ounce and the five one-ounce silver Eagles gave that product $170 in silver content. The Mint’s price of $299.95 seems like a real bargain in light of this latest offering. What gives? I will not be buying any of these sets.
Mark Vezzola
San Diego, Calif.

Advice for purchasing coins on eBay
I have had a mostly positive experience buying from eBay. The most important lesson is becoming familiar with the eBay system and culture.
I initially dipped my toe into these waters by purchasing very modestly priced world coins, usually for $3 or less.
After about three to six months, I gained enough courage to buy more expensive coins like graded (slabbed) silver quarters. The most expensive piece I’ve bought so far was a MS-69 $50 platinum coin.
Of course, I sweated bullets until it arrived in the mail. However, this dealer gained my trust over time and I am sticking with him. In my opinion, the risk is mostly with the people, so cling to the best dealers you know.
The most important advice is always buy graded (slabbed) coins from the top services. Online, the photo is everything. Unfortunately, many coin sellers are not adept to photographing coins. Admittedly, it’s not an easy task. Often, coins look blurry, are overexposed and lack essential detail. If you are going to sell, you must master photographing coins.
Below is my condensed buying guide to eBay newbies.
Checking the seller’s four dimensions of background, location, content and feedback are all extremely important.
Background: How many years has the seller been on eBay? This statistic ensures avoiding fly-by-night operations? I like sellers more who have been online for at least two years.
Location: Is the seller in the U.S? In general, I only buy coins from sellers located within the U.S. It gives me piece of mind because the U.S. has many tools to address customer grievances.
Is the seller located in China? I avoid sellers in China at all costs. Sure, there may be some honest dealers, but considering the massive amount of fraud and rampant counterfeiting in China, avoiding this location seems like a great idea. Remember that it is not illegal in China to counterfeit foreign coins.
Content: Does the seller specialize in the numismatic class in which you are interested? Specialists often can offer more competitive Buy It Now prices. Does the seller also sell many Chinese coins? Maybe I’m abundantly cautious, but I will generally avoid buying from dealers with a lot of Chinese inventory. Even if the dealer is honest, I don’t want to risk of being inadvertently being passed a fake slab.
Feedback: Check quantity and quality of feedback. First, ensure the dealer has at least 10-12 sold items to his name. This helps avoid fly-by-night operations. Second, ensure the feedback quantity is for items sold and not items bought.
Christopher Kiefer
San Francisco, Calif.