Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Dirt Cheap Paper Clip Coin Stand

Illinois Sesquicentennial on a Paper ClipIntroducing the Dirt Cheap Paper Clip Coin Stand. There are certainly more attractive and stable coin stands on the market, but that wasn't my goal. I wanted to make my own cheap yet functional coin stand. The beauty of this stand is it requires one paper clip and no tools. It also seems to work well for a quick coin photography setup.

I don't know what a standard paper clip is made of so I can't say whether or not long-term contact between the coin and the clip will hurt the coin. Feel free to suggest improvements or show off your own dirt cheap coin holder solutions. Cheers, Mark

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Gold Bugs: How Bad Does it Have to Get?

People holding gold as a hedge against financial crises and the evils of fiat currency must be wondering: what does it take for the price of gold to rise? The full faith and credit of the US government standing behind every US dollar is in doubt. The price of gold seems to shrug it off. Yet, gold bugs remain ever optimistic that the next crisis will finally prove them right. The question is, how bad does it have to get? And, if it gets that bad who will buy the gold?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Speculations on the Coin Market

Just speculating here but what would it take to affect change in the price of a certain coin? There are a finite number of say, 1892 Columbian Exposition Commemorative Half Dollars. In theory then, it is possible to acquire them all. However, in reality, in the process of acquiring them the market would wise up and the price would too. This brings up a few questions.

Image courtesy
How responsive is the coin market? Certainly it would be more responsive to the demand of key dates than common dates. How many of a certain coin are on the market at any time? How high does the price have to be before people raid their collections? How many coins survive 120 years? Of course the commemorative half is probably a bad example. The mintage was relatively low but the number saved is probably quite high. After all, that half dollar cost one dollar if you bought it at the exposition.

Have there been instances of people trying to collect/hoard one coin? I imagine somebody with a large bankroll could start buying their target coin quite easily at first, then after a period of time would need help from dealers. At that point the price would begin to rise. Just speculating of course, but intriguing don't you think?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Make Your Own DIY Custom Coin Album

There are many coin albums on the market but they are usually specific to one coin series. Like most coin collectors, your collection probably consists of a wide variety of coins. What do you do with a collection of  dimes, quarters, large cents, coins from other countries, etc. without buying one album for every type? Coin dealers and collectors have made their own albums for years. With a binder, some vinyl pages, 2x2 coin holders, and a stapler you've got everything you need to create a custom do-it-yourself coin album.

Fold and staple 2x2 coin holder
We'll start with the coin holders. These are typically called fold-and-staple 2x2 coin holders because when folded over your coin, they measure two inches square. They are made of cardboard coated with mylar on one side and feature a clear opening in the center. These holders are inexpensive and come in window sizes from dimes to silver dollars. Place the unfolded holder on a flat surface, cardboard side down. Place your coin one of the clear windows and fold the the other half over your coin. Adjust the coin so it is in the center of the window.

Flat Clinch Stapler
Once the coin is positioned in the center of your folded 2x2 holder, you will need to staple the holder to secure the coin. I very much recommend a flat clinch stapler. Unlike the typical office stapler which leaves a rounded staple, a flat clinch leaves a flat staple which makes your coin holders much easier to store. Staple each side of your coin holder, about half way between the edge of the holder and the edge of the coin. Mind the coin of course.

20-pocket coin pages
Now your coin can be placed into its page. The 20-pocket vinyl coin pages are designed to hold fold-and-staple 2x2s like the one you just made. I like the top-loading pages. Each holder slides into the pocket from the top and the pocket features a thumb cut on the bottom to easily access the holder.

Finally, place the pages into a 3-ring binder and there your have it, your custom coin album.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

1913 Liberty Nickel Cast, Forged, Stamped, and Stricken, still Sells for $3.1 Million

One of the five 1913 Liberty Nickels sold for $3.1 million. That's the part everybody seems to understand. The confusion begins when writers unfamiliar with numismatics look for a verb to describe how this coin was made. The Associated Press gets it right and wrong in the same sentence in The Washington Post with the word "struck" followed by the misleading "cast":
"The coin was struck at the Philadelphia mint in late 1912, the final year of the Liberty nickel, but with the year 1913 cast on its face"
The BBC  likes "forged" and as well as "cast":
"The nickel was forged at the mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1912 - the final year the Liberty Head was cast - but with the year 1913 cast on its face."
 My favorite is here, "stricken."
"There were only five of these stricken, and as of the year 2003 all five have been found and accounted for"
 I'm sure I've seen "stamped" as well. No worries though, it's good to see the hobby stricken with such acute worldwide press attention.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Time Traveler's Guide to Coin Collecting, Part 2

1940's Clip Art?
In March I wrote about finding a fixed price coin catalog published in the early 1940's titled the "Illustrated Catalog and Price List No. 17 of Coins, Paper Money and Medals of The United States and Foreign Countries." It was presumably self-published by "Norman Shultz Numismatist" from Salt Lake City, Utah.

It is fascinating to read this catalog and see the state of our hobby through the eyes of a dealer 70 years ago. Being located in Salt Lake City, away from the coasts, he obviously relied on mail order. He advertised nationally in Popular Mechanics and most likely in other magazines, the search engines of the 20th century. In fact, this quote from Ed Reiter's interview with Norman Shultz for the New York Times in 1981, published in 1999 by PCGS, Norman Shultz sounds like a coin dealer on the internet:
"I've always been strictly a mail-order dealer," he related, "and in this type of business it really doesn't matter where you live. So I figured I'd move until I found a place I really liked."
Last time I related some of the amazing prices, like an uncirculated 1909-S VDB for $3.50. Equally interesting are some of Mr. Shultz's words from the catalog. Under the heading "Condition of Coins" he describes what to expect for Proof , Uncirculated, Extremely Fine, Very Fine, Fine, Very Good, Good, Very Fair, Fair, and Poor. He goes on to state what we still struggle with
"It seems that every one has his own idea as to classification of coins...A Proof coin is a brilliant proof coin. If dark purple or another colorI believe it should be mentioned. Any time my listing differs from what you think it should be and you do not care for the coin just return it."
As you see the catalog features illustrations of each type of coin for sale. There is no credit given to an illustrator so it may literally be clip art.

Whoever ordered the book that I have was collecting Lincoln Cents. There are pencil checks beside 1909 S, no VDB, 1910, 1914 (hope he or she got the D), 1915, 1923 and 1924.

Another paragraph of note is titled U. S. Pattern Coins.
"I make no attempt to list the varieties, but can generally supply the following"

Pattern cent, $10.00
Pattern two cent pieces, $7.50
Pattern three cent silver, $10.00
Pattern three cent nickel, $7.50
Pattern dimes, $5.00
Pattern twenty cent pieces, $15.00
Pattern quarters, $7.50
Pattern half dollars, $8.00
Pattern dollars, $15.00
Pattern $5.00 pieces, $6.50
Pattern $10.00 pieces, $12.50
Pattern $20.00 pieces, $22.50
"These are the less expensive pieces, I have some of the rarer ones in stock at higher prices. Unhesitantly, these are our most beautiful coins, and I find, one of the most interesting to collect"
Wow. Just for fun, take a look at some of the prices realized for U.S. Pattern coins at the Heritage 2013 FUN Show published by The Society of US Pattern Collectors.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Coin Roll Links

Two of the 250 "We Are Lucky To Be Loved World Tour" medals struck in Nebraska found by one Russian. A beautiful memorial

.Michigan man finds Mexican 1754 King Ferdinand VI his driveway.

Check your change, especially in Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz Coin Club will be putting Buffalo Nickels, Silver Dimes, Steel Cents and more into circulation.

One of only three known 1936 Canadian dot cents sells in the US for $250,000. Sounds like a bargain compared to one of the five 1913 Liberty nickels.

An analysis of certified coin population reports and modern coin values

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Time Traveler's Guide to Coin Collecting in the early 1940's

Illustrated Catalog and Price List No. 17 of Coins, Paper Money and Medals of The United States and Foreign Countries.While browsing the collectibles section of our local Half Price Books I came across a small 84 page pamphlet titled the "Illustrated Catalog and Price List No. 17 of Coins, Paper Money and Medals of The United States and Foreign Countries." It is undated but the cover states "Price 25c - For Sale by Norman Shultz Numismatist P. O. Box 746, Salt Lake City, Utah." with the disclaimer: "This Cancels All Previous Lists."

The cover is grey card stock with purple text and features what appear to be watermark illustrations of the obverse and reverse of a 1794 US Dollar, an 1851 Humbert Fifty Dollar Gold Octagonal, and a 1776 Continental Dollar. The back cover reads:

"Wanted U.S. and FOREIGN Gold Coins. I will pay 30 percent over face for any of these in nice condition, $20.00 Gold Pieces, $26.00 each, and others accordingly. I also want other U.S. Coins in nice condition. Pioneer Gold Coins, Colonial Coins, Unc. Lincoln and Indian Head Cents, etc."
Wanted U.S. and FOREIGN Gold CoinsThere is nothing to indicate who printed the pamphlet so it may have been self-published. There is no date on the pamphlet which makes for a nice, if not too difficult challenge. Norman Shultz offered "Liberty Standing Type Half Dollars" dated 1940 to 1943 for 85 cents each. Under the heading "Washington Centennial Quarters" he offered "1936 P, D or S mint, to 1943, Unc. 60c each." 1943 is also the latest year listed for uncirculated Mercury Dimes which he sold for 25 cents each.

Interestingly, the "Jefferson head" is listed under "Indian Head and Buffalo Type" nickels. The 1939-D cost 35 cents while the "1943, S or P, Part Silver. Unc." were 15 cents each.

The Lincoln Cents section includes a "1909, S mint, with  V. D. B., Unc., $3.50; Fine, $2.50; V.G., $2.25. Rare." Again, 1943 is the latest date listed but unlike the part silver Jefferson nickel, no mention is made of the change to steel for the 1943 cents. For that reason, I'll guess that Mr. Shultz published this price list in 1942. It's possibly the catalog a collector would receive by answering this ad in the February, 1942 issue of Popular Mechanics.

The last page in the pamphlet is a full page ad: "Kodachrome Transparencies 35mm - Scenic Views of the West in Full Natural Color - Scenes taken with 35mm Contax Camera....each 50c or 6 for $2.50." Was Norman Shultz a photographer and numismatist or were these sold on consignment for somebody else?

After some quick research on the internet, I found Norman Shultz was not only a well known numismatist but was inducted into the ANA's Numismatic Hall of Fame in 1984. Ed Reiter interviewed Norman Shultz for the New York Times in 1981. He includes portions of that interview in his PCGS article from 1999: "Norman Shultz Longtime Dean of Numismatics". Part 2 of that article is here.

In future Coin Roll blog entries I will examine and describe this fascinating pamphlet. It includes Norman Schwartz's comments on U.S Pattern Coins, Commemorative Coins, California and other "Pioneer Gold Coins." This catalog provides a unique perspective on coin collecting and coin dealing in the western US in the early 1940's.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Does Copper Bullion Make Cents?

I attended a coin show sponsored by the Cedar Rapids Coin Club last weekend. It appeared to be well attended by both dealers and visitors. Judging by the contents of the dealer's display cases I'd estimate that 95% of coin collectors are interested in Morgan Dollars. To be fair though, that's like saying most gamblers play slot machines because that is what you see most often in casinos. Visitors could find most coin types displayed somewhere or in notebooks. Currency and civil war tokens were well represented and there were more gold, world, and ancient coins than I remember in previous shows.

New to me however, was copper bullion. I've seen the videos of people hoarding pre-1982 US copper cents and I know the melt value of one 50-cent roll is currently $1.15. But, according to the US Mint:
"...the newly enacted final regulation prohibits, with certain exceptions, the exportation, melting or treatment of one-cent and five-cent coins...a fine of not more than $10,000, or imprisonment of not more than five years, or both, against a person who knowingly violates the regulation."
The fine and the threat of prison, or both, takes the fun right out of melting pennies, doesn't it? However, you might point out, there is speculation to be had in hoarding and selling rolls of pennies. Nothing illegal about that, is there? But there is the problem of finding pre-1982 copper pennies in quantity.

Smelters, sensing a new market, have filled the demand with copper bullion. The bullion market makes the metal easy to obtain in quantity, but with a value quoted in dollars per pound, you will need a lot of load-bearing storage space.

Some people still want copper cents because they expect an economic apocalypse of some kind. Personally, I'm not so pessimistic on the US economy to be hoarding copper, silver, or gold in any form. In fact, in an economic apocalypse, I'd expect copper in the form of insulated wire to be more useful than bullion. I'll be limiting my coin show speculations to Morgan Dollars.

Monday, March 4, 2013

When Q. David Bowers is Interested, Coin Collectors Listen

As described in Wikipedia: Q. David Bowers’
"…dedication to the hobby and his lifelong interest in rare coins, along with his pursuit of scholarly knowledge, have made him one of the most honored and revered numismatists of all time"
In his recent column in Coin World Magazine, Mr. Bowers is intrigued by the great differences in mint mark positions on 1973 and 1975 Jefferson Nickels as described by Mike Diamond in another Coin World column from the Dec. 24, 2012 issue. In that column, Mike Diamond notes:
“Mint marks were punched into working dies by hand up until 1990. For any given series and date, a collector could track down any number of minutely different Mint mark locations.”
Mr. Diamond continues:
“Remember, however, that tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousand of coins can be struck from a single die pair, so such varieties are not considered rare.”
Rare or not, Mr. Bowers was intrigued enough to buy an “errant Mint mark 1975-D” as he calls it for $25.00.

Harris 16x loupeRepunched mintmarks and misplaced mintmarks have enjoyed an active niche in numismatics for years. These mintmark varieties add interest and a premium to otherwise common coins. 1970’s Jefferson Nickels struck for circulation certainly qualify as common. Mr. Bowers acknowledges the huge mintage numbers, but also the possibility that they are indeed rare. Mr. Bowers has had considerable success in numismatics as well as a large audience. Perhaps his interest will translate into wider collector interest. Thanks for the tip Mr. Bowers; I’ll be checking my change, with a magnifier of course.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Donated Coin Collections Auctioned at Goodwill

One of the lesser known features of the familiar non-profit Goodwill organization is its internet auction site
Participating Goodwills from across the country offer for auction on the site a wide array of art, antiques and collectibles as well as new and nearly new items pulled from their vast inventories of donated goods. From unique one-of-a-kind items to estate pieces, the depth of resources is enormous. Revenues from these auction sales fund Goodwill's education, training and job placement programs for people with disabilities and other barriers.
Among the art, antiques and collectibles are coins. From the home page click Listings then Collectibles then Coins. The day I visited the site there were 165 lots including US Morgan and Peace Dollars, mint sets, and varied lots with descriptions such as "Junk Silver Barber Half Seated Liberty Mercury”, yes that’s right, Seated Liberty.

Consider when you are looking for coin auctions off the beaten path. In addition to coins there are stamps, comic books, historical documents and more in the collectibles category. Check out their Hot 50 items, this day featuring Gibson and Fender guitars, oil paintings and a Louis Marx “O” Steam Engine Electric Train set. Goodwill offers great items on auction for a great cause. From About
Through its services, Goodwill's network helps people overcome barriers to employment and become independent, tax-paying members of their communities. In 2009, Goodwill helped 1.9 million people train for careers in industries such as banking, IT and health care, to name a few — and get the supporting services they needed to be successful, such as English language training, additional education, or access to transportation and child care

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Logout, Visit, and Support your Local Coin Shops

Harlan White's Old Con Shop

Does anybody remember gumball machines stocked with collectible coins? I remember “winning” a Liberty Nickel at Harlan White’s Old Coin Shop. I spent a good amount of time in that shop as a kid in the 1970’s. I recall lines out the door in 1979 when silver was approaching $50 an ounce. I bought a 1973-S Brown Box Eisenhower Proof Dollar there and more than a couple proof sets. Unfortunately none of them are the no-s variety.

In those days the May Company department store in San Diego’s Mission Valley had a coin department, really just a couple of jewelry glass counters. I know I considered a 1955 doubled die that I probably should have bought but silver was hot and I ended up with a set of circulated 1946-1964 Roosevelt Dimes which has long since been sold.

A city the size of San Diego in the 1970’s could support several coin shops. I was limited only by how far I could ride my bike. I don’t remember the name, maybe the La Mesa Coin Shop, but I bought what turned out to be an NGC MS65 1982cc Morgan Dollar there. That helps make up for the silver bullion I bought high and sold low. Part of an education I suppose as I’m still leery of bullion.

I learned a lot from just looking and listening. Looking back I find that I associate specific coins with specific shops. I'm sure it took time and help and I appreciate the patience the staff must have had for us kids. Share your own memories, then log out, visit, and support your local coin shops. Get to know the dealers and customers. Stay and chat, you already have something in common. If you don’t find what you are looking for, ask the dealer, chances are he or she can find it at a good price. One more thing, when you buy something, use cash. You might be surprised at the coins you get back in change at a coin shop.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

PCGS Offers $10,000 to See an Authentic 1964-D Peace Dollar

Image provided by PCGS
"PCGS Offers $10,000 to See an Authentic 1964-D Peace Dollar!" I just got this headline via email. It's a great idea but I'm not sure that if I owned a (the) legendary 1964-D Peace Dollar - assuming of course there is one, that I would risk confiscation by the US Treasury for $10,000.

Remember the sad story of the ten 1933 Double Eagles? Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia:
'On July 20, 2011, after a 10-day trial—a jury decided unanimously in favor of the United States government concerning ownership of the ten additional double eagles. The court concluded the circumstantial evidence proved that Israel Switt illegally obtained the coins from the United States government and they are still government property.'
Some background on the 1964-D Peace Dollar also from Wiki:
'Both the public and many congressmen saw the issue as a poor use of Mint resources at a time of severe coin shortages, which would only benefit coin dealers. On May 24, one day before a hastily called congressional hearing, [US Mint Director] Adams announced that the pieces were deemed trial strikes, never intended for circulation. The Mint later stated that 316,076 pieces had been struck; all were reported melted amid heavy security.'
I'm assuming heavy security in 1965 was heavier than when the five 1913 Liberty Nickels were illegally struck - those are worth millions now and change hands freely. So, no telling what the Treasury might do.

So yes, PCGS, if I had one, I'd let you see it and authenticate it, but I'd want more than the price of a used car to go public with it.

Monday, January 14, 2013

NCS Coin Conservation vs. PVC Green Slime

The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) has created several videos on their 
NGCCoinVideos YouTube channel. One that I find especially interesting is the NCS Conservation Video. Numismatic Conservation Services (NCS) is a sister company of NGC. As stated on their video:

 “NCS provides expert professional conservation services for public and private collections of coins, tokens and medals. Coin conservation can help remove harmful residues and stabilize the surface of your coin”

This video features amazing before and after pictures of coins that have been conserved by NCS. Not all coins benefit from conservation, including those with active Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) residue. PVC in some coin holders can react with the surface of a coin and leave a “green slime” or haze. As stated in the video, some Chinese modern coins acquired a haze from their shipping holders.  If the conservator determines that the PVC is inactive, the coin’s original surface may be restored. Blemishes like copper spots can also be removed.

Conservation may be an opportunity to restore eye appeal and add value to previously undesirable coins.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with NGC or NCS although I have had a few coins certified by NGC.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Collector finds $15,000 Copper 1983-D Lincoln Cent

The switch to copper-coated zinc Lincoln Cents was supposed to be complete in 1982. The 1983 cents were to weigh 2.5 grams instead of 3.1 grams. However, Numismatic News reports:

Jeff Young of Ohio appears to be the latest collector to find a heretofore unknown Transitional Error on a Lincoln cent worth $15,000. After years of searching, he is the first to report to Numismatic News an example of a 1983-D cent struck on a pre-1982 (or early 1982) homogeneous 95-percent copper alloy planchet, or what most folks just call a “copper planchet.”

The key here might be “after years of searching.” Ironically there are tons of pre-1982 copper cents being hoarded while 1983 cents are being tossed aside. Nobody knows how many are out there so if you’ve got the time, 1983 cents, and a coin scale accurate to 0.1 grams, start searching.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Lucky Money and Uncut Sheets of US Currency

Imagine the surprised and likely suspicious looks you’ll get when you clip a $20 bill from an uncut sheet of currency and hand it to a cashier. Actually this stunt will probably get you some unwanted attention from security.  The US Bureau of Engraving andPrinting at the aptly named URL, sells uncut sheets of US currency.  These sheets come at a premium and are suitable for framing, clipping, even gift wrap.

In addition, the BEP sells “Lucky Money,” bills with serial numbers beginning with “8888” or “168” complete with special packaging. From the description if the Prosperity Forever Note:

Achieve a lifetime of good fortune and success with the Prosperity Forever Note.  This uncirculated $1 note is beautifully packaged with decorative Chinese symbolism capturing the significance of the number "168."

Friday, January 4, 2013

Coin Photography - Part 2, Digital Camera

As I wrote in Part One, I’ve been experimenting with coin photography with a USB microscope. I was able to get a sharp image but was having trouble getting the color right. I know people have been successful with these scopes, see for some great advice.  

I’m now working with the Olympus FE 3000 point and shoot digital camera that I received for Christmas. One thing leads to another and I needed a tripod or copy stand to keep the camera steady. I found one like this at our local Porters Camera store.

Using the camera’s self-timer and no flash, I’m pretty happy with the sharpness and color of this 1957 D Lincoln Cent reverse. However, that is supposed to be a white piece of paper in the background. The people at advise using a 5000k compact fluorescent bulb. One of my goals is to avoid post-processing or photo-shopping the image so I will work on lighting next. Any tips to share?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Coin Photography - Part One, USB Microscope

USB Microscope
I've been experimenting with coin photography for the last few months. I bought the book, Numismatic Photography by Mark Goodman, which is very useful and highly recommended.  However, a book about photography without a camera tends to sit on the shelf.  Not wanting to invest too much money, I came across this USB microscope with LED lights. This scope lets me see the image on my PC, make adjustments to get the image right and save it to disk. It's even powered by the PC via the USB cable.

Copy Stand
While the scope does work well as advertised, I found it difficult to position the scope vertically over the coin. This was especially true for larger coins when I needed to put some distance between the coin and the scope. After setting the scope on a stack of books I knew there had to be a better way, and there was. A copy stand with adjustable height that will accommodate my scope! Now I was taking pictures of coins.

As you can see the next challenge was to get the color right. It turns out those eight LEDs on the scope that I bought were too bright and too white for my needs. On this scope they are all on or all off. While the details of the red Lincoln cent I was photographing were great, the color wasn't right.  There is an excellent discussion about USB microscopes for coin photography at and they have several suggestions for alternate lighting to correct the color.

I will definitely be using this scope for photographing details like repunched mintmarks. This setup also works great as a magnifier. It's much easier to view a coin on a full screen than to squint into a handheld loupe.

In Part Two of this series, Christmas brings an Olympus FE 3000 point and shoot digital camera - still on budget.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What is the Ideal Coin Collecting Storage System?

Intercept Shield
Intercept Shield?
Coin collections are stored in everything from cardboard boxes to elaborate, well-lit museum quality cabinets and everything in between. With few exceptions, albums and folders for US coins are designed to hold one denomination with one opening for each date and mint-mark. That works for most collectors but leaves out the myriad other way coins are collected. Where is the affordable, flexible, expandable, and attractive coin collection system?

Coin albums work great for date and mint-mark collections but make sure they are made of materials that won't damage your coins. Most albums are now acid-free. Some, like Intercept Shield and Dansco Supreme albums feature inserts or slipcovers to defend against the elements. Albums store well on bookshelves, display both sides of each coin, and feature attractive pages with pre-printed dates. Those dates and pre-cut openings however, are also inflexible constraints.

Coin trays for slabs and 2x2 mylar-lined cardboard fold-and-staple holders are often used at coin shops and coin shows. The trays are great for display but don't store well. The 2x2s and slabs go back into their boxes when the show is over.

My ideal would be a set of trays with openings flexible enough to hold raw coins, capsules, certified slabs and 2x2s. I'd give up the ability to see both sides of the coins if I could easily turn them over. While I'm asking I'd like to print my own labels for each opening and for each tray. Anybody know of such a coin collection storage and display system?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Gold Standard of Tungsten?

Do you think of gold as a safe investment? The newly found tungsten-filled gold bars should keep you up at night. As New York merchant Ibrahim Fadl notes in
"It's a shame. This business is built on trust."
That's just gold bars, right? Think gold coins are immune? According to China Tungsten Online, as pointed out by Tyler Durden in Zero Hedge
"Tungsten is the only lower value metal that has a specific density close enough to gold to fabricate passable counterfeit pieces of the same size and weight as genuine"

"We are a professional tungsten fake gold coin manufacturer.Our tungsten gold fake coin is only for souvenir and decoration purpose. Here we declare: Please do not use our tungsten fake gold coin and other fake gold coin products for any illegal purpose."
Gold Bugs beware.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mars Needs 1909 VDB Lincoln Cents!

As reported in, a 1909 VDB Lincoln Cent is currently on Mars with Curiosity.
The copper coin is attached to a smartphone-size plaque at the end of the robotic arm on Curiosity, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory car-size rover. The plaque, which was added to the vehicle as a calibration target, looks like an eye chart supplemented with color chips and the attached penny.
 The calibration plaque will be used to test the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI). The coin was selected and purchased by principal investigator Ken Edgett with Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, CA.
"The penny is on the MAHLI calibration target as a tip of the hat to geologists' informal practice of placing a coin or other object of known scale in their photographs. A more formal practice is to use an object with [its] scale marked in millimeters, centimeters or meters," Edgett said. "Of course, this penny can't be moved around and placed in MAHLI images; it stays affixed to the rover."
Apparently coins in space is not a new idea: See Gus Grissom's lost mercury dimes.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Throw them back!

In the spirit of Catch and Release Coin Collecting there is now a worn Indian Head Cent and a Buffalo Nickel back in general circulation. I dropped the cent into a cup near a cash register and spent the nickel in a vending machine. Throw them back, live free!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Everybody Needs a Hobby

With counterfeit coins in the news lately, I came across a nice piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer highlighting Henning nickels and the people who still search for them. Apparently, in 1954, Francis Henning, a mechanical engineer in Cleveland:
made hundreds of thousands of fake nickels in a machine shop in rural Erial, Camden County, all by himself, using a 250,000-pound press and sheets of cupronickel that cost him thousands of dollars. Then he'd launder the money for real bills at local banks, posing as a vending-machine operator
Why counterfeit nickels, especially when he already had a good-paying day job? The Inquirer continues:
Henning, according to one old newspaper account, needed to make his nickels to pay off the debts he incurred building the industrial machine that fabricated them."You wasted tremendous talent," a judge told him after he was sentenced to three years in prison.
According to which also has an image of a Henning Nickel with the markers for identifying the 1944 counterfeit:
It is estimated that more than 100,000 of Henning's nickels reached circulation. Henning dumped another 200,000 nickels in Copper Creek, New Jersey, of which only 14,000 were recovered. Another 200,000 are thought to have been dumped in the Schuylkill River.
The legacy of Mr. Henning and his illegal hobby continues: as noted in the Philadelphia Inquirer piece, people still search the rivers for examples and the nickels still trade on eBay.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

New Dansco Coin Albums Coming Soon

I have it on reliable authority that Dansco will be shipping new coin albums for The Lincoln Shield Cent and Jefferson Nickels. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Remembering Liberty

1820 Large Cent Matron Head (Large Date)
Image courtesy
If you remember 1947, you remember the last time Lady Liberty was featured on the obverse of a new circulating US coin. The coins of our country's first 150 years featured several artist's representations of Liberty. There was Seated Liberty, Standing Liberty, Walking Liberty, even Winged Liberty. However, not all of the depictions were
especially attractive.

As the nation's mint technology improved, Americans enjoyed increasingly beautiful representations of Liberty. The last, and in my opinion most striking, was the portrait of Teresa de Francisci, designed by her husband, Anthony de Francisci for the Peace Dollars of 1921 to 1934*.

1934 Peace Dollar portrait of Teresa De Francisci
Image courtesy Wikipedia
Today, as President Lincoln begins his second century on the cent, we have fully embraced the cult of the presidency with only presidents and an occasional nod to historic figures on our circulating coins. I look forward to the day when Liberty returns to our coins. Not simply the restrikes of previous designs but new designs by new artists that reflect our country's continued passion for liberty.

*Yes, 1947 saw the last Walking Liberty but that design was created in 1916.