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This week’s letters (12/20/11)

I collect coins as a hobby only. Frankly, I am actually surprised at the uproar over the 25th anniversary American Eagle sets. It seems to me that the opinion of most coin collectors is that the U.S. Mint is producing too many coins. They continuously have coins in inventory that will go “off” sale and no longer be available. I guess they will be melted down.
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Mint’s Eagle set sellout shows wisdom, not folly

I collect coins as a hobby only.
Frankly, I am actually surprised at the uproar over the 25th anniversary American Eagle sets. It seems to me that the opinion of most coin collectors is that the U.S. Mint is producing too many coins.
They continuously have coins in inventory that will go “off” sale and no longer be available. I guess they will be melted down.
Now that the U.S. Mint seems to be listening, and decided to produce 100,000 of the anniversary sets, everyone that did not get one is complaining.
With the mintage of 100,000 sets, I was on the fence as to if I should buy any. I decided I could barely afford three sets, so I struggled for 90 minutes online and was finally able to get my order placed. I have since received my coins and am happy, as the packaging is very nice.
If they would have produced even 200,000 sets, I for one would not have purchased any. Why does everyone feel they should produce more? The appeal for me would diminish as the number produced would increase.
I would bet that had the Mint produced 1 million sets, 800,000 of them would be sitting there, and then what expense do the Mint incur to rid itself of the excess inventory?
In summary, I myself wish to thank the U.S. Mint for another beautiful product. See, I collect for the beauty and what interests me, not to try to make a quick profit on something that I think is special.

Tom Grigsby

Fort Mohave, Ariz.

Consider key questions before condemning ANA

I have seen several recent letters to the editor in the numismatic press written by writers indignant with the American Numismatic Association for not disclosing every single detail of the recently concluded Larry Shepherd situation. I have just a few questions for those individuals:
Hasn’t the ANA finally concluded the very expensive series of lawsuits and counter-lawsuits generated by the ANA tenure of Chris Cipoletti? Wouldn’t revealing all the details of the Shepherd situation possibly generate a new round of lawsuits and counter-lawsuits? Do ANA members really want the ANA to go down that path again?
Wasn’t the vote of the ANA Board of Governors unanimous in deciding to end the employment of Shepherd with the ANA? Does any ANA member really believe that all members of the Board of Governors were not acting in what they perceived to be the best interests of the ANA when they came to the decision that they did?
Hasn’t the ANA expressed appropriate thanks to Shepherd for his commendable efforts in helping to restore the ANA to a sounder financial position, while providing stability to the ANA, during some difficult times?
Would revealing all details of this situation put any individuals in an unfavorable light, possibly impacting their futures adversely, when it is possible to do as the ANA has done, allowing all concerned to move on to the next stages of their lives?
Aren’t personnel matters the prerogative of the organization employing those personnel, and isn’t there a situation of mutual respect when changes in personnel that seem in the best interests of the organization, and perhaps of all concerned, are handled with professionalism?

Bob Bair

Denver, Colo.

Some small collectors show Mint in different light

I beg to differ with your “Viewpoint” opinion on the Mint’s offer of this coin set published in the Nov. 22 issue of Numismatic News. It took me less than 45 minutes and 49 calls to buy my set. A good friend of mine bought two sets but it took him two hours on the phone. So, the Mint did not just cater to the large coin dealers. We small guys got our coins too.

Paul Green

Warren, Mich.

BEP deserves criticism for attitude toward collectors

I realize many readers of Numismatic News are strictly coin collectors, but there are quite a few currency collectors as well. In fact, currency collecting is probably growing faster than coin collecting.
It seems rather amazing that the U.S. Mint has long since figured out how to market massive amounts of ‘collector’ coins and even nicely ‘packaged’ circulation coins to the public at massive markups, while the Bureau of Engraving and Printing offers very little to the collector community.
The BEP will not sell normally issued currency to collectors – limiting offerings to a few prepackaged items per year. While no one will officially admit it, such things as bricks or bundles of star notes that are supposedly distributed to banks and then randomly available to customers are in fact somehow diverted to a few currency brokers who immediately place a huge markup on these packs. Just try to order new packs with stars – or even large denomination packs from your bank: virtually impossible.
And when it comes to District Sets, very rarely do they offer such items, or very high or low serial numbers for that matter, and never in pack quantity. But somehow, a select group of dealers seem to have a continual supply of them. The BEP refuses to even consider commemorative type issues such as a remake of the $10 Bison note of 1901, which they could charge $100 for and sell millions of.
Why in the world is there no pressure on the BEP to produce and cater to the collector community?

Steve Gregory

Schaumburg, Ill.

Eagle set not worth mark-up after missing Mint sale

I didn’t get online for the five-coin silver Eagle set until a day after the sale started. Of course, it was sold out but they said I could get on a waiting list. I could find no link to do so.
I got a call a couple of days ago from a dealer who offered a set, certified by I’m not sure who, at Mint State, Proof-69 for $1,495.00. I turned her down. Oh well. I don’t have the 1995-W anniversary proof either.

Robert J. Morris

Roswell, N.M.

Cancellation mars years of Mint customer satisfaction

I am retired and wanted to get at least one of the Eagle anniversary sets. I thought the $299.95 price was fair. I sat at my phone for four hours hitting redial. I estimate I called more than 200 times. I never got through.
Every 15 minutes, I would take a break and try to put in the order via the internet at Finally, I got a response back saying that because my account had been accessed so many times that day, my account was now frozen for eight hours.
At 2 p.m., I tried the internet as the eight-hour freeze was up, wonders behold my order went right through and I thought I had a firm order number. It showed it was back-ordered and would ship Nov. 22. I was a happy camper for a few days until I checked on the order status and it simply showed, “Canceled.”
The U.S. Mint has sold me coins every month for years. A special coin set comes along, and the order system does not even let me get one set. Needless to say, I am not happy.

Bill Sarow

Indian River, Mich.

A job well done by U.S. Mint with Eagle set order

I thought this was interesting. I received the Eagle anniversary set today in great shape. The Mint did a great job and I, personally feel the set is well worth the cost.
I, like 100,000 others, would certainly like there to be no further 2011 issues of the “S” mintmark, but who knows what will happen. I stopped at a local coin shop and was immediately offered more for my set.
However, they wanted my set as it came from the Mint, the outer box unopened. I suppose this has to do with the certification of the contents of the shipping box.
In any event, I am well pleased with the service the Mint provided in this case, upgrading my shipping method. My order was shipped overnight air on Nov. 14 and delivered to my house prior to 10:30 a.m. on Nov 15.

Morgan Spilsbury

Bolton, Mass.

Eagle set’s rarest coin revealed in future, not now

The 25th anniversary silver American Eagle set contains the most sought-after coins for 2011. One of them will become the rarest, novice collectors may affect the outcome.
We know that two of the coins are very rare and special in the 25th anniversary silver American Eagle set. The Reverse Proof and the Mint State with the “S” mintmark. The other three coins in this set have already been released earlier in 2011. Specifically they are as follows:
1. 2011 silver Eagle Proof “W,” the 2011 silver Eagle Mint State “W” and the 2011 silver Eagle Bullion version, with no mintmark.
The silver American Eagle with the “S” mintmark will have a total mintage of roughly 100,000 coins, but we should consider that one of the coins in the set has a population of approximately 8 percent year after year with a grade of 70. Hint: It’s not the silver American Eagle with the “W” mintmark.
It’s the coin the U.S. Mint made millions of this year, the regular silver Eagle (bullion version) has a population of only 7 percent to 9 percent in MS-70. You also have to consider the fact that the total population on the three coins mentioned is reduced with every opened set we see on the secondary market. The grading companies will not grade any of the three coins with the special 25th anniversary label if they have been opened.
No one will be able to prove that the coins originally came out of the five-piece 25th anniversary silver American Eagle set, if the box containing the sets was opened. This fact combined with the total average of perfect coins will reduce the total amount of probable MS-70s, and may surprise some coin collectors. Don’t forget that the secondary market price is based on rarity.
If the bullion version has only 65,000 available for grading because the original Mint cardboard box was opened, then it’s possible that only 500 to 550 coins will graded as perfect MS-70 with the special 25th anniversary label.
What I’m trying to convey to everyone is that we don’t know which coin will be the most valuable until all the details are realized. The rarest coin of the set may be a surprise. But the chase will begin for the rarest one. How many people will be sorry if they realize that they gave a rare coin away for almost nothing?
Some coins will always be worth a good price in this set. You should collect the set for its beauty, but don’t be surprised if the bullion coin in this set with a grading company’s special 25th anniversary label will be worth the most.
I will not let any of my coins leave my hands until all the details are revealed.

Laurence J. Ramos

Medina, Ohio

Suggestion misses key factors of worth, collecting

My response is in regards to a comment a Nathan Edington made in the Nov. 29 Numismatic News “Viewpoint” titled “Rapid Sellout Shows Need for Fixes.” In it, he stated that “a fair compromise would be for the Mint to strike 50,000 or 100,000 more of these unique coins, and then give collectors the chance to purchase them, one each per customer, one each per household per day, up to a limit of three of each per household.”
With all respect to his opinion, from a collector’s standpoint, to encourage the Mint to take such actions in order to fix the problem would be in my opinion, the equivalent of telling the doctor to cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face. Think about the disastrous effects such actions would have on all of us who have spent a large part of our lives collecting coins.
Yes, it would be nice if everyone who wanted the 25th anniversary silver American Eagle set or the unique coins from that set could obtain one. But there is another side of coin that the writer failed to take into consideration, and that is, that while some may collect coins for simply the sake of collecting, others do so for investment purposes as well.
That being said, looking at it from the viewpoint of one who collects coins as an investment, what would happen to the investment value of these coins if the U.S. Mints were to take it upon themselves to simply produce more coins of the 25th anniversary silver American Eagle set so that everyone and their neighbor who wanted a set could purchase one? We already see as an example the effects mass production has had on the dollar bill. So why would we want to wish such an outcome on our own hobby as well.
For most of us who collect coins, we have put in a considerable amount of time an effort into accomplishing this feat. Through it all we have had to deal with circumstances that were no fault of our own, when we were unable to acquire a certain coin that would complete a set; and to that end we simply dealt with the obvious and moved on. And the reason why is that we take what we have achieved very seriously, and as collectors we appreciate that there will be times when the needs of the many will have to submit to the will of the few.
That’s why when I hear comments like those made above, it makes me wonder what are the possible motives behind their analogy. Are the ones who are suggesting such a solution really looking out for the good of the hobby or, are they motivated by the loss of their potential profits to resell the coins?
Sure, I know that there are those who legitimately have holes to fill in their collection and really desire the coins from this set. But then isn’t that what fueled their interest in collecting coins in the first place?
As ugly as it may seem, it is the desire that a person has to own the coin that makes the coins we own worth anything other than face value. Now if the Mint were to dilute that principle, by increasing the set limit to reproduce more coins in order to satisfy the masses, their actions will not only have a negative effect on the coins potential investment value, but eventually on the hobby of coin collecting as a whole.
It’s times like this that really test the mettle of coin collecting and gives it its worth. I’m sure that our generation of coin collectors are not the first to experience the rush that the 25th anniversary silver American Eagle set product nor will we be the last; that is, provided that measure are maintained that ensures that set coin productions figures cannot be manipulated at will from within the branches of the U.S. Mint.

Mercury R. Williams

Seattle, Wash.

After order cancellation, no more chances for U.S. Mint

I wrote a letter recently stating I was successful at placing my order for one 25th anniversary Eagle set. On Nov. 9, I received an email notifying me that my order was canceled.
I called the Mint’s (800) number and was told it was because of my credit card. I called my card issuer and was told the transaction was approved on their end. I called the Mint back and was told once the order had been canceled, and because the product was sold out, there was nothing that could be done.
U.S. Mint, shame. I wash my hands of the U.S. Mint. I will never buy a Mint product again. Orders will be filled for the profiteers and I will not buy this set at the current mark-up. I’m through.

SSG Jarrett Briscoe

Camp Arifjan, Kuwait

Reader’s suggestion offers the Mint a sound solution

I just read Nov. 29 “Viewpoint” from Nathan Edington about how the Mint should handle their latest blunder. I feel it’s a good way to handle it, or the Mint can take pre-paid orders from anyone that didn’t get the chance to buy them.

Bill Clark

Willmar, Minn.

Reader finds unexpected nickel during weekly ritual

My wife and I always shop yard sales on Fridays and Saturdays. We usually go to about 15 or 20. This past weekend was no exception. On Friday, we stopped at one and on the way back to the car, I looked down and in front of the car were a nickel and a penny. We are always picking up any kind of change. My wife calls it road kill.
Well, the nickel I picked up was a 1943-P. Who would have ever thought there would be one laying on the asphalt? Keep looking. They are out there when you least expect it.

Carl Coleman

Warner Robins, Ga.

Doctoring’s definition, consequences are complex

What does a medical doctor do? He alters or improves the condition of his patient via various surgical procedures, use of drugs, ointments and salves. Therefore, a parallel definition of coin doctoring should be thus:
“Coin doctoring: the alteration of any coin for the purpose of improving a coin’s appearance or increasing a coin’s value.”
This definition simply and completely includes all categories of work done on a coin. If a coin has been cleaned or dipped, it has been doctored. If a coin has been plugged, tooled or restored, it has been doctored.
This definition treats all persons who work on coins equally, including the self-appointed experts. If a grading service approves any work on a coin for a customer, the grading service is engaged in doctoring. If someone uses a chemical on a coin to improve its appearance, it is doctoring.
Historically, collectors in the 1960s considered any coin that was cleaned unoriginal and, therefore, worth less in value. This conservative definition should be true today. I am keenly aware of the multitude of coin doctors who think that anything you can get away with is okay.
Should doctoring be illegal, considered fraud, or otherwise be discouraged or frowned upon? Alteration of a date or mintmark or counterfeiting should be illegal. But should other forms of coin doctoring be legal? I will leave these questions to other letter writers to answer.

Bruce R Frohman

Modesto, Calif.

Grading services, not just Mint, deserve collectors’ ire

I want to apologize from the outset, but I will be going into a tirade. Not against the editors or the publication of course, but at the hobby in general. If you can even call it a hobby anymore.
This has to do with the 25th anniversary Eagle sets (so what else is new?). Lately, I have been reading with interest about all the anger leveled at the Mint for their handling of the Eagle set issue. Frankly, I see much of it as whining and complaining. And why not? The Mint is an arm of the government, and what has it done right lately? Truthfully, however, the Mint is a business like any other business, and its objective is to make money (no pun intended). And like any other business, it will produce what they believe will sell to the masses, rather than cater to a relatively few “real” collectors.
The best example of this, of course, was the 2009 silver Eagle Proof issue, or non-issue as it were. This shows without a doubt that the Mint does not care for us little guys, but rather where the most money can be made. If I were to agree with any of the complaints against the Mint for the current 25th anniversary set situation, it would simply be that the ordering limit should have been one and not five.
My point in all of the above, is that while I have heard many a complaint about the Mint and its practices, I have not seen or heard one word about the grading companies, and how they are taking us all for a ride. Well, maybe not all of us, just us little guys again. The dealers and the bulk submitters are always taken care of. But I am ahead of myself.
Let’s start with the special labels for the sets. I will not be addressing First Strikes or Early Releases here because I would not make it home for Thanksgiving if I got into that fiasco. Okay, back to the special labels. The single word that gives the special label its uniqueness is the word “set.” As you know, in 2011 there have already been three silver eagle coins issued, and all grading companies have graded them with the 25th anniversary pedigree. And why not? It’s 2011, it’s been 25 years, let’s celebrate with a 25th anniversary label. These coins do not have the word “set” on the label, because they did not come in a set.
Fast forward to the 25th anniversary set. There are five coins, three of which have already been issued throughout the year as noted above, and two that are unique to the set. Along come the grading companies, and say that if you submit these sets in open boxes, the best they can do is give the three non-unique coins the same 25th anniversary labels they have been using throughout the year, and give the two unique coins the very special label that has the word “set.”
So everyone now must jump through the grading companies’ hoops, and make sure that they submit Mint-sealed boxes. As the grading companies will tell you, this is the only way to prevent tampering with sets in open boxes. The million dollar question is, of course, tampering to what end?
Well, imagine the following scenario. Use as an example one of the three non-unique coins in the set, say the 2011 Mint State. Are they saying that the Mint struck an additional 100,000 of these and the other two non-uniques to specifically insert into the sets? Probably not. More than likely, they took 100,000 out of their regular stock to insert into the sets. Either way, the coins are identical in every way.
If Mr. Collector receives a 25th anniversary set, opens it up, and much to his dismay, finds that the 2011 Mint State coin has a large scratch on the obverse in the empty field to the right of Miss Liberty.
He then goes to his cabinet, and pulls out a 2011 Mint State without a scratch, or worse yet, a previously graded MS-70, which he either purchased already graded, or had the coin graded himself, and breaks it out of the holder, exchanges it for the one with the scratch from the set and sends the set off to be graded. Lo, and behold, the entire set comes back graded MS-70. This collector then either keeps the set for himself as a showpiece, or sells it on the open market.
The bottom line question to the grading companies is who has he cheated, who has he wronged and who has he defrauded? I personally cannot think of any situation where any illegality or misrepresentation would enter into the tampering scenario. Can you?
I will be honest with you. As a collector, I would like to have a complete set of 25th anniversary Eagle coins issued throughout the year to commemorate this occasion. Do I care whether or not the label has the word “set” on it? Should I care? The grading companies say I should.
Think that’s it, do you? Well, think again. The grading company follies are just getting started. It has been reported that the grading companies did not receive any sets for grading before Nov. 9. If you surf eBay today, Nov. 17, you will find scores of auctions many of which began yesterday, Nov. 16th, for graded sets by the major grading companies. Many of the auctions are by totally recognizable dealers.
You do not even need to go to eBay. Modern Coin Mart had Numismatic Guaranty Corporation sets for sale at least two, maybe three days ago. Taking into consideration transit time to the graders, grading time itself, and transit time from the graders, you will soon realize, as I did, that this is a mathematical impossibility. This brings back very bad memories of the 2010 5-ounce America The Beautiful coin sets, where dealers had hundreds of coins graded before collectors received coin number one.
Do the grading companies favor the dealers and the bulk submitters? Well, you decide. But I will tell you that my five sets (okay, yes, in sealed Mint packaging) were received by a major grading company on Nov. 10, and, to its credit, the coins were scheduled for grading almost immediately. And? There they sit while a brisk business in graded sets is being done by dealers all over the internet, and passing me by.

Joe Rosenberg

Bloomfield, N.J.