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This Week's Letters (4/23/09)

This weeks letters from readers of Numismatic News to editor, Dave Harper.
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Lembke find wasn’tfrom dealer’s junk box


I was one of the people to respond to Mr. Lembke Viewpoint to disagree with his actions and a number of people have written since then to disagree with me for different reasons. This is all well and good, as being able to state your opinion freely and without fear makes this a great country.
However, in a number of responses there is reference to a junk box find. I just re-read Mr. Lembke’s Viewpoint on-line and I still cannot find any reference to a junk box. Did I get a different version from everyone else? My opinion as to what I felt Mr. Lembke should do was just that, my opinion, but at least it was based on what was in his article.
Junk box. Hmm. Read his letter again and still can’t find reference to a junk box in his article.

Bob Wagenhoffer

NN needs to change for betterment of hobby

I am a collector that started collecting in 1955. I saw the rise in collector numbers in the early 1960s. I also observed the detrimental effect that occurred when speculation in unc. rolls collapsed coin prices. Many changes are needed if we really want to attract and encourage new collectors.
First and foremost, you need to stop printing suggestions like “take 20 percent of your money out of the market and put it into gold,” as suggested by Mike Fuijenz in the front page article by Debbie Bradley in your Oct. 14 issue. There has been far too much pushing of gold by those that profit from gold in NN. Twenty percent of anything is not diversification but a recipe for disaster in any portfolio. Also the studies published that compare stock market indexes with selected coin prices are flawed. This is like comparing apples and oranges. Try comparing the total coin market with a few high flying stocks over any time period and the results will be entirely different. Please allow new collectors to collect without telling them what a wonderful investment they own and spare me from this garbage.
While we are on the subject of garbage, please spare us the travel articles by David Ganz and Cliff Mishler. I find these extremely boring articles that contribute nothing to our knowledge of coins. Who cares where they had breakfast or what time their luggage arrived? Also far too many articles with a political agenda or ANA politics are published.
Many people use your monthly price guide as a reference for coin purchases. I had the impression that these prices were determined by a group of individuals using the total market prices as a guide. Why was the following statement made in your March 2009 price guide by Harry Miller?
“Last month there were some sellers of 1877 Indian cents in VG and fine. I did not lower them in our database because I knew it was an isolated instance. I noticed this month there seems to be some sellers of 1921-P&D dimes in dimes in fine and VF. They will be up again.”
This makes me wonder if your prices are adjusted by market forces, or are they one man’s opinion? The coin market is just like any other market in that it is driven by discretionary income. Coin prices will go down in a recession if not held up artificially by opinion. Mr. Miller also made this statement in Coin Prices in your March 3 issue referring to pre-1934 Walking Liberty issues: “nice sliders (AU-58+) will often change hands in the MS-61 price range.” I know what is meant by sliders, but does the new collector? Far too many dealers follow this practice in sales of BU coins.
Could you possibly give us some articles that deal with ANA grading standards? This would be very beneficial for new collectors trying to protect themselves from bad dealer practices like over-grading. Tell us why some dealers suddenly forget how to grade with a single grade when there is a large change in price between grades. Example: Mercury dime 1927-D, VF price is $21, XF price is $88. Many dealers grade this as 1927-D VF-XF. When the coin is received it is almost always in lower grade.
Please give us more articles that give both sides of an issue like the forecasts by David Harper in Class of ’63 in the Jan. 27 issue. Mr. Harper actually states that gold prices and coin prices might go down. This is the first time I have ever seen this opinion expressed in NN. It was refreshing.
When I first subscribed to NN, you offered a free classified ad weekly as part of your subscription. This allowed many collectors to get together and actually buy and sell coins with honest grading at good prices. I made many friends this way. Could this practice have been stopped by complaints from dealers who never give the collector a break? It would be very beneficial for our hobby if you continued this free classified policy. I can now find nothing in your classifieds.
In closing, let me say that if some changes are not made by dealers and media alike we will be part of a dying hobby where we all will lose. I will not renew my subscription again if some positive change is not seen.

Julian Reitzel
Archdale, N.C.

Mint delays shipment of products in stock

What’s up with the U.S. Mint? On March 5 I ordered two proof sets; one of the territorial quarters, and one of the presidential dollars. As of April 1 my order has been in processing for nearly a month, even though the items show as in stock and reserved. According to the Mint’s own product schedule, the quarters have been available since Jan. 5, and the dollars since Feb. 10. These products are appearing on the secondary market in dealer advertisements, so why can’t I get mine?

Bob Klippstein
Greensboro, N.C.

Gold standard ticket to reviving economy

I’m a rookie as far as collecting coins. I have a nice start in the silver dollars. I have acquired a few nice “CC” Morgans in the past couple of years.
In the February issue I read a letter from Mr. Weimar White regarding gold prices estimated to climb to $2,000 an ounce. Gold has stood up to the tests of time. History shows us that the gold standard and free markets keep the economy going. When governments fail to plan and socialism creeps into the economy, it’s proven that society is heading down the wrong path.
A good friend of mine gave me a book, Gold and Liberty buy Richard Solsman. The fundamentals of a solid economy based on gold. Mr. White compared gold to oil, showing correlation over the years. He’s right predicting a rise. Look where oil was last year. You can bet it will be there again.
As for paper currency, look what happened during the Revolutionary War: the collapse of Continental currency. Again after the greenbacks of the Civil War and again in WWII. Gold standard was established to bring successful resumptions of sound money.
The buzz now is print more paper. Stimulus this, stimulus that. When governments spend and produce paper currency like there’s no tomorrow, well there could be no tomorrow. Look at the Berlin Wall in 1989 or Soviet Union in 1991. Gold will stand up to tests in today’s world. It will again be a standard to grow a collapsed economy. Paper will be worth less. Gold will definitely be worth more.

Jeff Anspoch
Address withheld

Mint needs to do better job of customer service

It seems as if this Letters section is becoming a complaint forum for people who order from the U.S. Mint. I read about $1,200 packages being left with no signature required and so on.
Mr. Moy, I know you are reading this, but you need to do something about your Mint store. The poor customer service, delays and problems are a big issue and need to be addressed. Were you not a monopoly, but any other retailer, you’d be run out of business by better performing competitors.
My gripe is an order I placed November 18 for a 2008 $100 bag of Kennedy halves. The coins were “in stock” when I ordered them 5 1/2 months ago. I’ve called customer service several times. Do I have my halves yet? No. I’m also waiting for two Sacagawea rolls I ordered 22 days ago. C’mon already!
Surely if waited this long to send a book out they’d be out of business (especially when this item is to be “in stock”).
Mr. Moy, please get your act together, or Mr. Obama, please come back from Europe soon to find his replacement.

Carl Cerletty
Milwaukee, Wis.

Numismatics blends collecting with investing

I rarely send letters but I wanted to weigh in on the debate regarding Mr. Harper’s comments on the direction of gold in the future, although I am not writing to tell readers whether to buy or to sell precious metals.
I have been collecting since 1985 and I enjoy it. I don’t invest in gold with the expectation that it will save me from the next depression or next period of hyperinflation. I think we all are far more skeptical about all the experts (aka economists) who claim they know the future of the economy after they almost universally failed in forecasting this deep recession. However, I believe coin collecting can be an excellent addition to a well diversified portfolio of investments. It is far more enjoyable than investing in bonds, although I do this as well. I enjoy numismatics because I can pursue the two things I enjoy most in my spare time: coin collecting and investing.
Another issue I would like to comment on is the lack of civility that shows up in Letters. Specifically, I am referring to Stephen Conner’s accusations and insults that were directed to Mr. Harper. I, for one, would encourage Numismatic News to use their editorial prerogatives and print letters that are age appropriate.

T. Dell
Address Withheld

Hard to find new issues if banks don’t order them

I live in a small town in North Carolina, between the towns of Salisbury and Concord. Finding new-issue coins in this area has become a problem. Several of the local banks would get the new statehood quarters, but unless you are their customer, you could not get a roll from them. They saved them for their regular customers. Problem was, my bank did not get the new quarters.
As for the new-issues, not one of the local banks is getting the territories or the new pennies, and each bank I called does not get the Kennedy halves or the Sacagawea dollars. They say there is no call for them.
A couple of the banks do get the new Presidential dollars and you can get a roll if you are their customer. Otherwise you are out of luck. So the option is to hope to find new coins in change.

D.D. Vance
Salisbury, N.C.

Mint gets signature for book, but not for coin

The way the United States Mint is being run is an absolute disgrace. I, for one, will stop all of my ordering from them until Ed Moy and his department start running it as it should be rather than the sloppy operation it has turned into!
I ordered my UHR in the first hour of the first day with a promise ship date of Jan. 28 to Feb. 6, Feb. 17, Feb. 18, and finally shipped March 2. I could live with the delay in shipping. That is not a problem. What is a problem is the Mint’s decision on how to get coins into the hands of their customers.
As some of your other readers have written here I come home from work to find a box with my $1,200 coin sitting in plain view for anyone walking past my house dropped off by UPS without a signature being required for delivery. How stupid!
Now here is where the mind set of those running the Mint gets even crazier! I came home March 27 to find a UPS notice on my door. Not just a “signature is required on delivery,” which would have allowed me to sign the notice and allow the driver to leave the package on his next delivery attempt, but a “Sender requested a signature to confirm delivery,” which means the driver must receive a signature and hand the package to a person. On top of that, the package was sent UPS air!
Well, fellow readers, guess what? The package contained the UHR book! The Mint can send the $1,200 coin UPS without a signature, but requires a signature and hand delivery for the package for the lousy book. Come on United States Mint. Get your act together!

Mark May
Grafton, Wis.

What matters most is that you like the coin

A recent NN article included the story of a collector who was building a “finest known” collection, but was dissuaded from buying a finest certified (Pop. 1) coin by the dealership with which he was working. The dealership felt that the coin in question was ugly and that it was “technically graded.” He eventually acquired a coin a grade down that the dealership felt was superior to the Pop. 1 coin in every way except, I surmise, technical grade. The lesson is that one should buy the coin, not the plastic.
I agree. But here’s the problem. What good are all the price guides and the grading services if, for example, a slabbed MS-64 coin can have more value than the same one slabbed by the same company as an MS-65? Why spend the money to have anything slabbed at all if it fails to establish the relative value of the coin?
After over 50 years in the hobby, I’m not ashamed to admit that I can’t tell an MS-61 from an MS-62, much less an MS-65 from an MS-66, and I know that I have plenty of company. I’d guess that those non-professionals who buy slabs, especially those coins touted as “investor grade,” are buying the plastic rather than the coin nearly 100 percent of the time. Could it be that some are paying premium money for hyped-up junk?
The solution? Well, I don’t know if anyone’s in favor of injecting a subjective “ugliness factor” into the certified grading systems. Perhaps we should resist buying anything slabbed at all, freeing ourselves from a system that has trained us to spend double the money and up for a coin one numerical grade better than another, with any difference in the quality of the pieces being visible only to a self-proclaimed expert with a microscope. After all, why spend extra money to get someone else’s opinion when the only one that really counts is your own?

Tom Felhofer
Luxemburg, Wis.

Will purchase other coins before an UHR

I am glad my fellow collectors are happy with their UHR gold piece. And I wouldn’t mind having the UHR to go with my original Double Eagle, but...
First of all, I have never been lucky buying from the U.S. Mint. In fact, receiving bad coins, waiting through the long delays in shipping time, and charging my credit card before the material gets shipped has soured me to the point of refusing to order from our Mint.
Second, for the $1,300 purchase price (priced at $1,795 in one NN’s vendor’s ad), I would choose to spend the money on any mid-grade $3 Princess Head gold piece (28 years have a mintage of 7,036 pieces or less). Or perhaps a low grade $2 1/2 Quarter Eagle minted at Charlotte or Dahlonega. Or one of 800 minted 1885 Quarter Eagles in low grade fits the price range, too.
The money would also buy a nice uncirculated 1900 Lafayette dollar that would fit nicely in my commemorative collection. And there will always be room for another eye catching, high grade 1900 O/CC Morgan dollar. Choices, choices.
Would I like to own a UHR Double Eagle? Sure. Will I buy one? Not when other, more interesting rarities are missing from my collection. Regardless of your yeah or nay UHR purchase decision, be sure to enjoy the coins in your collection.

Jay A Stevenson
New Franklin, Mo.

New Lincoln cent found on the ground in Texas

Just a quick note. On April 3 I was outside a Blockbuster video store and I looked down on the ground and found a 2009 Lincoln penny. The coin was a MS-60 or 63.
I live in Round Rock, Texas, so I believe the pennies are beginning to circulate in this area. Round Rock is Northeast of Austin, Texas.

Richard Ream
Round Rock, Texas

Makes no sense to sign for book but not for coin

On the evening of April 6, the UPS delivered the booklet for the UHR gold coin – a beautiful little book, but with nowhere the value of the coin. But guess what? We had to sign for it! Talk about going overboard. Put a $1,200 coin on the porch where anyone could steal it, but make your customers sign for a $5 booklet. I’ve worked for government for 37 years and the folks I work with take pride in customer service, but this takes the cake.

Dan Sowards
Austin, Texas

I just finished reading the interesting letter from Mr. White in the April 14 issue of Numismatic News, and I would like to expand on it if I may.
I would like to discuss something that has always confused me regarding coin toning, the concept of shipwreck effect coins and coin grading.
Forgive me if I am wrong here, but when a coin becomes toned from exposure to the air, isn’t the surface of it damaged due to oxidation or other chemical effect as Mr. White explained? Yet, these coins are considered to be gradable (and even desirable) as long as they haven’t been cleaned, whizzed or damaged in any other way.
On the other hand, you have silver coins from past centuries that went down with the ships they were on. When the coins went down with the ship, they were exposed to salt water, which again damages their surfaces. As I understand it, this is also damage due to chemical reaction or wear. When they are recovered here in the present age, they are considered ungradable due to the chemical damage from the reaction with salt water (known as shipwreck effect).
So here is the quandary. On one hand, you have a toned coin with damage to its surface from exposure to and reaction with chemicals in the air. On the other, you have a shipwreck coin that is surface damaged from exposure to and chemical reaction with saltwater. Yet, the former coin is considered gradable and the latter one isn’t. Why? Isn’t all surface damage to coins the same irregardless of what caused it?
If I am missing something here, I would appreciate it is my fellow numismatists would write and set me straight. I have always wanted to talk to one of the coin graders at PCGS or NGC and find out exactly what (if anything) is wrong with the way I am looking at this. Perhaps not all damage or alteration to coin surfaces is the same. At any rate, I am still searching for the answer.

Carl Dybus
Waldo, Wis.

Finally..... Today, April 7th, a 2009
log cabin penny turned up at a MacDonald's in Ashland , Ohio
About time.......

Richard Fox
Address Withheld