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This Week's Letters (1/27/09)

This week's letters to editor Dave Harper from readers of Numismatic News.
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Coinage should reflect country’s significance


I have been reading with interest the letters addressing the concept of religion and the United States coinage. As a person of faith I can make an argument for maintaining the phrase “In God We Trust” on the coinage of the United States. However, as a numismatist I can make an argument for removing the phrase. So let me pontificate on both positions briefly.
The argument to maintain the phrase is simple. I do not believe that the founders of this Nation were atheists. They may have been agnostic, but not atheist. Clearly historical documents recognize that the founders acknowledged the existence of a Divine Creator. Historical documents also recognize that the foundations of this country were based on religious freedoms. Since every religion acknowledges their particular idea or concept of “God” then no “religious” person should have a problem with this acknowledgement on our coinage. Atheists, being “non-religious”, assume that there is no God and therefore CHOOSE (emphasis added by writer) to take offense at the phrase. If there is no God then the words are empty and have no significance!
Now, as a numismatist I would not have a problem with the removal of the phrase, and this is why. Over the last 100 years or so our coinage has lacked inspiration. Dead Presidents just do not do it for me. I would love to see our coinage reflect the significance of our country. Removing the phrase would allow an artist more room for the designs. I believe that we should only have three “expressions” on our coinage. “Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness”, “United States of America”, & the date. Maybe we could shorten it to “LIFE, LIBERTY, HAPPINESS.” I would scrap the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” because I do not believe that we are one nation from many anymore. I believe we have become many little nations from many bigger nations.
I am not offended by removing the phrase “In God We Trust” because I am secure in my relationship with the God of the Bible. I am more offended by the ugly representations we currently use as currency. Maybe we should just show Lady Liberty on bent knee wiping her brow because she has traveled many of tough roads over the past 200 plus years. We could call it the “Exhausted Liberty Series.”

Ken Rupert
Hampstead, Md.

NYNC continues strong membership

I read with great interest Jim Majoros’ “Viewpoint” statement in the Jan. 6 Numismatic News. He raises many challenging points that need careful study by all concerned collectors. I have experienced the attrition among coin clubs at first-hand for a rather long time.
My boyhood membership was in Florida at the old Miami Coin Club, organized 1948 that included men and women or real distinction including founder Otto T. Sghia, a past president New York Numismatic Club (NYNC), who gave the Miami group a modified version of the NYNC constitution. Taler and Crown cataloguer Dr. John S. Davenport, William Fox Steinberg, Russian Ruble cataloger Andrew Keplsh, Herb Brand were other founders. After a wonderful start, the Miami Club rotted away from over-commercialization of the meetings, deliberate discouragement of speakers and exhibitors and general and steady decay of leadership. No one seems to know exactly when the club died, it just sank out of sight.
When I was a grad student at UCLA in 1962-63, I joined the Society for International Numismatics (SIN), one of the most dynamic organizations in what was then a regional hotbed of numismatic organizations, so numerous that a determined collector could do a meeting every night and several major coin shows every year. SIN tried at the start to limit its membership to persons willing to work for the group, though a more general type of member soon became the rule. I was member No. 20 in September 1962 and life member No. 20 a few years later when SIN had grown to more than 700 members. About two years ago, SIN legally dissolved itself, my life membership having outlived the society itself!
In startling contrast, the New York Numismatic Club, to which I was elected in 1990, celebrated its centennial on Dec. 12, 2008, with a gala banquet at Keen’s Chop House in Manhattan, the same restaurant and the same room in which it held its organizing meeting on Dec. 11, 1908! Attending were 68 members and guests. Three 50-year members were elevated to life membership: Catherine Bullowa-Moore, Richard Margolis and Julius Turoff.
Robert Knapp, 44th club President, was succeeded by the new 45th President Jerome C. Haggerty with Robert W. Hoge becoming Vice President and Constantin Marinescu becoming Secretary-Treasurer.
NYNC stayed healthy for 100 years thanks to careful selection of members, well-organized exhibits, invitations to qualified speakers and by law the total exclusion of any and all forms of commercialization from the meetings. There have been 1,200 consecutive dinner meetings to date, no meeting missed for blizzards, war, Depression, 9/11, or any other cause. The meetings themselves always provide a civilized oasis free of controversy, the exchange of money, or penny-ante auctions. Each features a quality speaker, who will receive the undivided attention of members in attendance.
Another achievement of NYNC is its Presidential Medal Series, oldest continuous series in the U.S. This high-quality series, designed by leading sculptors, begun with Victor David Brenner’s portrait medal of founding President Frank C. Higgins in 1910. Succeeding sculptors were Jonathan M. Swanson, Karl Gruppe, Joseph Di Lorenzo and Eugene Daub. My own medal was the 43rd and Robert Knapp’s will be the 44th.
NYNC has always maintained a smooth succession of officers without the paralyzing “old guard versus young upstarts” that has destroyed so many other groups. The club has always emphasized the social value of a well-served dinner meeting with no discussions other than numismatic. While the attractions or seductions of the Internet are many, NYNC firmly believes that collecting is a “people thing,” a pursuit with great social value that brings together diverse interests in a common cause. This spirit can be recommended to all other organizations in the field!

David Thomason Alexander
New York, N.Y.

Corroded coin shouldn’t be graded MS-68

I saw the multicolored toned 1881-S Morgan dollar in Numismatic News that has been graded MS-68. The key question is how can a corroded coin such as this coin with a silver sulfide coating caused by silver oxidation and its reaction with sulfide be Mint State? The Mint did not make this coin with so called attractive surface corrosion on it often referred to as toning. This coin may be uncirculated but certainly not mint state.
If one reviews the criteria for grading coins, in the Official Numismatic Grading Standards, 6th edition, on page 24, it clearly states that a coin in MS-68 has an attractive sharp strike, full original mint luster for the date and mint, with no more than four light scattered contact marks or flaws and none in the prime focal areas.
Dave, silver oxidation, in the form of silver sulfide on the surface of the 1881-S Morgan dollar is not mint luster but rather chemical wear. When iron metal oxidizes it forms rust, i.e., iron oxide which is also chemical wear. Those of us who like sports cars do not want our cars to rust and we take steps to help prevent this from occurring.
Why some grading services have not yet caught on to the scientific fact that metal oxidation on the surface of coins is chemical wear is very strange indeed. The coin collectors who I know do all they can to keep their uncirculated coins pristine and in mint state with lots of original luster or mint bloom or frost evidenced. By placing their coins in air tight holders or in Intercept Shield cases, uncirculated silver dollars will keep their original mint luster for years.

Weimar White
Address withheld

Money Show site has much to offer visitors

Portland calling!
Here is a short message to coin dealers and numismatists coming to the March 13-15 Portland, Ore., ANA National Money Show in the modern, centrally located Portland Convention Center.
Portland rises on both banks of the Willamette River. The city’s fresh water harbor is of commercial importance. Our city is well-known for its yearly June Rose Festival, downtown Pioneer Square, five giant shopping centers, well-organized bus and streetcar networks, distinguished shops and fine eateries with many seafood restaurants.
Also famed is our Chinatown, OMSI-Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, art museum, forestry center, zoo and rose test garden. The snow-covered, 11,240-feet-high peak of Mount Hood, 45 miles east, is in clear sight.
Our city was first settled in 1844. Pioneers named it “Stump Town.” This city was incorporated in 1851. Later, an 1831 one-cent coin toss determined the name Portland. The oldest standing building is the 1876 sandstone courthouse.
As to coin shops, the city’s telephone directory lists 20. Another 11 are eBay, private, part time, unlisted, mail order only, vest pocket and seasonal coin dealerships.
First time and repeat visitors are cordially welcome!

Zdenek Vesely
Portland, Ore.

Partial design change not good enough

Reference is made to an article on page 6 of the Nov. 18 issue of Numismatic News, where Harvey Stack “pats himself on the back” for his role in bringing forth the state quarters program.
At that time other numismatic fraternity members including me had been urging the government to use the Fraser portrait of Washington for the obverse of the state quarters coin.
This would have provided humanity with the fulfillment of a complete change in the design of the coin! Instead, the government inflicted the same old Flanagan portrait, which remains the “fly on the wall” on the state quarter program.
In other words, in the state quarter series, the government almost changed the design of the coin – whoop-de-do!

Edmund DeLaurentis
Havertown, Pa.

Manhattan, Kan., hosts successful coin club

I enjoyed the Coin Club article by Jim Majoros in the Jan. 6 issue. He has some good pointers for a successful club. The purpose of this letter is to outline what takes place in our successful club in a city of 50,000. We have an average of over 25 members attending each monthly meeting. We have a paid membership of almost 50.
Please let me highlight the aspects of our club that I believe keep members attending. Each meeting we have a spirited silent auction of mainly inexpensive coins. Seldom is there an item of twenty or more dollars. The items are placed on display before the meeting is called to order and the silent auction concludes after final bids are made at the end of the regular meeting.
Our club members have two social type events each year. In June we have a potluck picnic at a local park with the club providing the fried chicken. In December we have a holiday party where members bring what we describe as rich, sweet, gooey foods. Believe me these events are popular with much visiting taking place. Spouses attend each of these social events with children attending the picnic. Our club has a one-day show on a Sunday in March. It would be considered a small show but it is self-supporting and dealers and collectors are eager to participate.
We have speaker led sessions at monthly meetings on the usual numismatic topics. The topics are mainly of interest to beginning and intermediate collectors. I can assure readers that the club members enjoy each other when they are talking about the hobby that brings them pleasure. It surprises me that a club which provides similar activities to those described above are having problems attracting members to come and enjoy these activities and the camaraderie which accompanies the interaction.

Ray Kurtz
Manhattan, Kan.

Get full story from dealers before buying

I recently re-entered the world of numismatics from my youthful days and decided to become an accumulator of old slab or certified coins in Mint State rather than a collector of a series. I’m careful to select the more desirable, and expensive, keys of any series. Buying certified coins appraised by PCGS or NGC helps me to better be assured of what I am buying.
I often look over the ads in your paper, as well as other coin magazines, and buy from them. Occasionally, I will find an ad offering a scarce coin in excellent condition, but it’s not certified.
On one occasion, I called a displayer regarding an “Almost Uncirculated” 20-cent piece. In conversation, I offered to pay for it to be certified in order to verify its condition. He said that he didn’t think it would certify as it had been cleaned and had a few scratches (not mentioned in the ad). Besides, having it certified is just getting another man’s opinion and he had been in business many years. We parted company at that point.
I’m writing this to encourage fellow collectors to ask questions when contacting dealers other than in person.

Richard Wright
Diamond Bar, Calif.

Numismatic resolutions set for new year

My New Year’s resolutions are as follows:
1 – Complete my 19th century type set. I completed my 20th century type set last year (after 40 years of collecting).
2 – Attend a large coin show and get Q. David Bowers to autograph my copy of Automatic Musical Instruments catalog by Hathaway and Bowers (circa 1968).
3 – Join the ANA
4 – Renew my subscription to NN

Dick Weber
Columbiana, Ohio

Coin quality reason for use not catching on

I am really tired of people trying to push people to use dollar coins.
Fifty years ago, people used to carry coin purses – both men and women. They did it because they did not want to wear holes in their pants from coins. But then they had silver dollars and gold dollars back then to carry.
If you have ever seen any of these new quarters and dollars, how worn they get and dirty looking they are. Can you see a woman carrying a dirty gold dollar in her purse? I do not think so.
Besides, it would cost companies billions to get their coin machines – coffee, soda, laundry and so far and so on – just to accept these dollar coins, not counting new paper vending machines. So I would say the cost is not worth the saving that the politicians would use to give themselves a raise with.
I think they should just drop the whole idea of using coins that have much more wear than silver coins do. Have you seen some of those new quarters that have been used and almost all of the face has been worn off the coin, including the date?
These coins today are not the same quality of the silver coins and do not have the same wear that silver coins do. None of these new quarters will ever be around as long as the silver quarters will be.
But I am probably the worst coin collector in the world. I have collected coins ever since I was a kid and have no idea what my collection is worth. I have thousands of coins that I have received in change and continue to buy rolls of coins from the bank. When I buy coins I just put them up and forget about them. Some day when I am gone my relatives will have a great time looking to see how I spent all of my time and effort. I guess that they will marvel at the small fortune I have left. My one son and my wife died a few years ago and I do not plan to get married at the age of 67. I plan to continue to collect coins by rolls until my death, which will be many years from now.
But the art of coin collecting is a lot of fun. I love antiques, so I collect old coins. I am just sorry we do not have any big coin shows here in southeast Missouri around our area.
I usually do not write to newspapers as I really think the news media is a bunch of idiots who to go bed with government employees and politicians. I enjoy your newspaper.

Larry Stanfield
Bernie, Mo.

Coin honoring Martin Luther King overdue

I, Erminio Rivera, have been a regular Numismatic News subscriber for over 30 years and have been in the coin business for four decades since August 1968.
The coincidence is that in 1968 two very popular leaders were killed: Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King.
Since then 30 years later, 1998, a commemorative silver dollar was made to commemorate RFK’s assassination. In January 2001 there was an article of a proposal to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, which has never been done. I wonder why.
The Kennedy half dollars have been around since January 1964, less than two months after President Kennedy’s killing. When I read about the Dr. Martin Luther King proposal, I got excited and planed on buying 12 silver dollars and three gold coins.
For now I don’t expect the Martin L. King coins until the year 2018, because 2018 would be the 50th anniversary of his assassination.
Why come with this proposal if Congress is not going to approve it? No wonder Conway Twitty made the song, “It’s Only Make Believe.”

Erminio Rivera
Bronx, N.Y.