Thursday, August 28, 2008

$500 Million Spanish Shipwreck Treasure May Spark Mad Grab By Heirs

TAMPA - More people are sure to lay claim to what may be the largest treasure ever recovered from the sea, said Mark Gordon, president of Odyssey Marine Exploration, the company that found the loot more than a year ago.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Tribune about the treasure - 17 tons of colonial-era coins worth an estimated $500 million - Gordon said he thinks most of it belonged to private merchants. The company expects the descendants of those merchants to file legitimate claims at some point for the cargo in U.S. District Court in Tampa.

"There's lots of research available publicly that says more than two-thirds of the cargo was private merchant cargo," Gordon said. "We can tell you who put it on, and we can tell you who was expecting it."

Spain, however, is claiming ownership of the entire haul.

"We have always made the contention that there are multiple potential claimants in a case like this because it was transporting goods for a lot of different people," Gordon said. "Spain is saying it's solely theirs."

In court documents filed in federal court in Tampa, Spain claims the Spanish coins were on a 19th century Spanish warship known as the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, which was sunk by the British navy south of Portugal in 1804.

The Spanish government argues . . .

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U.S. Mint resumes gold coin orders on limited basis

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Mint said it must allocate the American Eagle bullion coins among dealers to cope with overwhelming demand as it resumed taking orders for the popular coins on Monday.

"The unprecedented demand for American Eagle gold one-ounce bullion coins necessitates our allocating these coins among the authorized purchasers on a weekly basis until we are able to meet demand," the U.S. Mint told its authorized American Eagle dealers in a memo dated August 22.

Last week, soaring demand forced the U.S. Mint to suspend temporarily sales of the American Eagles, creating a shortage in the one-ounce version of the coins, which are also available in other weights and denominations.

American Eagle gold coins have been popular novelties among collectors and investors since their introduction in 1986. The coins offer people an easy, tangible way to invest in the gold market, as opposed to buying an exchange-traded fund or other financial instrument.

Coin dealers from the United States and Canada reported a surge in buying of bullion coins and other gold products since prices plummeted from highs last month, contributing to supply fears.

The buying spree and the subsequent shortage of the Eagles have . . .

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NGC's New High-Tech Coin Holder (Slab)

One of the many interesting corporate announcements made by the big players in numismatics at the recent ANA World's Fair of Money in Baltimore seems to have been lost among the noise. NGC has developed a new high-tech coin holder, or "slab," which is expected to be available by the end of September. The new NGC slab, called the EdgeViewTM Holder, has five new features . . .

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Civil Rights Quarter Series Introduced

A new civil rights leaders quarter series that would run for eight years and honor five subjects a year also includes a provision authorizing pieces 5 ounces in weight, 3 inches in diameter and identical in design (and denomination) to the circulating quarter version.

Proposed July 31 just before the congressional recess, H.R. 6701 has powerful backers including the chair of the House Financial Services committee, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.

The idea for large silver pieces was utilized in H.R. 6184, "America's Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008," which passed the House July 10 and since has been referred to the Senate Banking Committee.

The fact that leadership is behind it suggests . . .

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Gold and Silver Prices Down, Demand Up

Gold has lost its glimmer and silver looks a bit tarnished as market prices have plummeted since the metals' heyday in March.

In late August gold dropped to below $800 an ounce, while silver plummeted to $13. Compare that to March highs of more than $1,000 for gold and almost $24 for silver.

Is it that nobody wants bullion coins any more?

Quite the opposite. In fact, the U.S. Mint can't keep up with consumer demand.

"I think what you're seeing is the demand for physical silver is much greater than the supply coming into the dealers," said Lee Crane, president of L&C Coins. "Therefore you create these shortages of physical silver that will eventually get evened out."

The Mint admitted it can't get enough silver blanks to produce the coins from its suppliers, so meanwhile, its reserves are getting depleted, said Scott Thomas, president of American Precious Metals Exchange.

"The demand is overwhelmingly huge for this product, whether it's the silver Maple Leaves, silver American Eagles or silver Philharmonics (a new coin from Austria)," Thomas said.

Sunshine Minting Inc. of Idaho is the Mint's supplier of blanks, but it also supplies blanks to the mints of Canada and Austria, and silver bars for APMEX, he said.

So with all this demand, why isn't the price of gold and silver higher? . . .

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Finder's keepers? Even if it's rare Swedish gold coins worth nearly $200,000, a kid's rhyme guides the law

A case of conflicting principles that's as good as gold

Judge decides how to split up the booty when the protection of property and protection of commercial transactions collide

Finder's keepers? Even if it's rare Swedish gold coins worth nearly $200,000, the kid's rhyme guides the law unless there's proof of ownership.

With that kind of reasoning, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Butler has turned an October 2005 West Vancouver Police bust on its head and handed a valuable gold coin back to a woman whose mother bought a handful at a garage sale for $5.

"This case raises squarely the conflict between two principles, protection of property and protection of commercial transactions," Justice Butler said, splitting the antique booty between the daughter and a collector. . . .

Full story: Link

Campaign for Presidential Dollar Coin Use Begins in Four U.S. Cities

Pilot cities encouraged to adopt new currency

WASHINGTON - The United States Mint has chosen four pilot cities to test new efforts to encourage regular use of the $1 Coin. A series of events at popular attractions and retailers, as well as television, radio, newspaper and online communications, seeks to make residents of Austin, Texas; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Portland, Oregon; and Charlotte, North Carolina, aware of the benefits of regularly using the $1 Coin. The campaign begins this month.

"This is the first program of its kind to inspire shoppers, diners and commuters to use $1 Coins in their normal, everyday activities," said United States Mint Director Ed Moy. "When each of us spends the $1 Coin, we make a difference for our country, because the $1 Coin is durable and using it saves the Nation money. We hope our pilot cities lead the change!"

The $1 Coin lasts for decades and is 100 percent recyclable, so using it can save the country billions of dollars over the years.

The events this month will encourage these cities to . . .

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Monday, August 25, 2008

How a boy's rare penny found in pocket change turned to gold and sells for $72,500

From all accounts, Ken Wing was a typical kid. Born in 1930, his childhood invariably revolved around World War II.

Back then, young children lived for newsreels detailing accounts of the war. Many boys diligently studied aircraft silhouettes in the event of an attack. Wing was surely one of them considering he lived in Long Beach – one of the closest U.S. cities to Japan.

As a distraction from the war, and long before television and the Internet, young boys would also spend hours searching through pocket change and rolls of coins to add to their collection. Pennies were the primary focus. They were both cheap and valuable.

In the 1940s, you could still buy something with them.

Pennies also got increased attention because in 1943, the government stopped . . .

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Stamps of Wild Approval (WSJ Book Review): Blue Mauritius by Helen Morgan

How tough can it be to be king? If we take the example of Britain's George V, the answer may be: not very. During his reign (1910-36), George was known to spend about four hours a day with his stamp collection. On royal tours, his lackeys let receiving heads of state know that if they wanted to present the monarch with a gift, George would gladly forgo the usual engraved salver in favor of a rare philatelic specimen from Antigua or the Cape of Good Hope. In February 1908, when he was still the Duke of York, George wrote to a friend regarding the purchase of some stamps from Barbados: "Remember, I wish to have the best collection, and not one of the best collections in Britain."

By then he was already well on his way, having acquired in 1904 -- for the unheard-of sum of £1,450 -- an essential component of any great stamp collection: the two-pence "Post Office" Blue Mauritius. As Helen Morgan writes in her enticing history of the little square of paper and the people who have pursued it, the Blue Mauritius was issued in 1847 by the then British-ruled island nation in the southwest Indian Ocean. Ms. Morgan notes that the stamp, of which 13 are known to exist, is a thousand times rarer than the famed Penny Black, the world's first adhesive stamp, issued in Britain in 1840.

Stamp collecting began in earnest soon after the issuing of the Penny Black. By the end of the 19th century . . .

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Portland to get flood of Presidential dollar coins in U.S. Mint experiment

In the coming months, 1.4 million dollar coins will flow into Portland -- one of four pilot cities where the U.S. Mint is testing a campaign to get people interested in using the coin -- a notoriously hard sell in the past.

This time, the Mint is bringing retailers and banks into the mix.

The effort will include television, radio and magazine ads touting the coin as environmentally friendly and a good way for the government to save money by not having to print $1 bills so often, said Mint Deputy Director Andrew Brunhart. We talked with him today about the program.

Q: Why . . .

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Coin in Waterbury evokes memories of Scovill

WATERBURY -- Sometimes the smallest things can trigger the greatest memories.

For father and son Robert Zabit, senior and junior, it's a coin.

But not just any coin.

This particular one evokes Waterbury when it was a manufacturing powerhouse, the once vibrant Brass City where, as Bob Jr. put it, "people worked hard and played hard."

Minted by the Scovill Manufacturing Co. in 1952 to commemorate its 150th anniversary, the shiny brass coin honors an industry's history on one side and a hard-drinking culture on the other.

Zabit demonstrated.

He placed the coin, which is about the size of a 50-cent piece, face down on a counter, held it between thumb and forefinger and spun it like a top. When the spinning disk came to a stop, an arrow inscribed "YOU PAY" pointed in his direction.

"I guess I buy the round," he laughed.

This is a bar coin, an emblem of a bygone era when . . .

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Friday, August 22, 2008

PCGS To Display Chinese Counterfeit Coins and Dies

Professional Coin Grading Service has purchased a half dozen coinage dies used to produce counterfeit Chinese coins.

PCGS will display the dies and numerous counterfeit Chinese coins at the Long Beach, Calif., Coin, Stamp and Collectibles Expo Sept. 18-20, as part of its consumer protection measures.

The dies and coins were purchased through an online auction from a seller based in China.

"The dies are reasonably well-made but the counterfeit coins would . . .

Full story at: Link

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Stamps and coins shine amid investment gloom

Noble Investments, the only listed UK coin dealer and auctioneer, is enjoying a renaissance in collecting as investors who have had their fingers burned in traditional markets seek out a cycle-resistant alternative.

"We've never seen business as strong as it has been this year," said Ian Goldbart, managing director of Noble Investments today, after announcing the £1.25 million acquisition of Surrey stamp trader Apex Philatelics.

Mr Goldbart's bullish assessment of the sedate world of collecting fits with statements last week from Britain's biggest stamps and memorabilia trader Stanley Gibbons, which said the "all-consuming passion" of collectors would insulate the sector from the wider economic slump.

Stanley Gibbons said the price of rare stamps showed no correlation with other assets and increased during downturns.

Mr Goldbart added that high-value stamps are increasingly considered a worthy investment opportunity.

"If it's an investment, then customers want something rare, not something that they could find again next week or next month," he said. . . .

Full story at: Link

Best Internet Article on Coin Collecting for 2008

The prestigious Numismatic Literary Guild bestowed its coveted Best Web Site Article of the Year (2008) award on Reno coin dealer Rusty Goe for his article, "Is It Worthy? Who Really Knows the Value of a Rare Coin?" The article, which traces the evolving price increases over the past hundred years of numismatic rarities like the far-famed 1913 Liberty nickel, is at Is it Worthy Article.

In reference to the 1913 Liberty nickel, Goe recounts in his article that “Along the way, two 1913 V nickels were forever removed from the market; when the Norweb family donated their prized specimen to the Smithsonian Institution in 1978, and Aubrey and Adeline Bebee presented their piece, purchased for $46,000 in 1967, to the American Numismatic Association in 1989. The whereabouts of a third example, known as the Walton specimen, remained unknown for decades. Then, in 2003 . . .

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US Mint suspends red-hot American Eagle gold coins -dealers

NEW YORK, Aug 21 (Reuters) - A shortage of American Eagle bullion coins following a recent sharp retreat in gold prices has forced the U.S. Mint to suspend sales of the popular coins temporarily, dealers said on Thursday.

Rand LeShay, senior vice president of A-Mark Precious Metals, an authorized purchaser for the U.S. Mint, confirmed that the Mint told dealers in a memorandum it was halting all sales of American Eagles, a novel item among collectors and investors.

"It is temporarily suspending," said LeShay. He said he saw no communication about a permanent suspension from the U.S. Mint. "Until the U.S. Mint can supply us with more (American Eagle) coins, we won't be able to supply any to our customers," LeShay said.

Michael White, a spokesman of the U.S. Mint, did not return calls seeking comment.
LeShay said that there was a big spike in demand for gold and silver coins and ingots following a recent tumble of precious metals prices. . . .

Full story at: Link

Canadian Gold Coins Once Illegal to Own in U.S.

Wasn't there a ban on owning the Canadian 1967 $20 gold coins, and when was it lifted?

The Canadian gold coin was one of those listed as a modern coin and thus not eligible for importation into the U.S. The ban was lifted at midnight on Dec. 30, 1974. Previous to that, there were severe restrictions on ownership of most modern gold, but many were smuggled in anyway.

In 1857 when the government ended the circulation of foreign coins in the U.S., the Spanish dollars were redeemed, but did they pay full value for them?

Coins from a variety of countries, but mostly Spanish reales including the 8 reales or Spanish dollars, were redeemed at post offices, land offices and at the U.S. Treasury, but only for about 80 cents to the dollar. This was due . . .

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Michael Phelps could have won 31,000 gold coins

Phelps could have won 31,000 gold coins if he had swum for Turkey

US swimmer Michael Phelps, who won eight gold medals in the Beijing Olympics -- a historic achievement, could have earned himself, his club and his coach 31,000 "republic" gold coins ($5.7 million) because Turkish regulations call for rewarding sportsmen representing Turkey who earn awards in international competitions, all this if he had swum representing Turkey. . . .

. . . A gold medal winner gets 2,000 gold coins while a record-breaking sportsman gets 1,000 coins. Thus, if he were a Turkish swimmer, Phelps, who broke seven world records and one Olympic record, would have won 22,750 "republic" gold coins -- roughly $4.2 million. Additionally, his club and coach would have been paid 8,250 gold coins (about $1.5 million). . . .

Full story at: Link

Odyssey Marine Exploration Welcomes Peru's Filing In "Black Swan" Case

TAMPA, Fla., Aug 20, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc., the world leader in the field of deep-ocean shipwreck exploration, announced today that the Republic of Peru filed a motion in federal court in one of the company's pending admiralty cases. As anticipated after numerous statements in the media, Peru formally filed a Verified Conditional Claim in the "Black Swan" admiralty case, which was originally filed by Odyssey Marine Exploration. The case is currently pending before the U.S. District Court in Tampa, Florida.

"Odyssey's position is to encourage every appropriate claimant to present its potential claims in a case like this, so we welcome Peru's filing, even as the Company reserves its legal position. If the court does not find that the property was abandoned, we believe that the property in the "Black Swan" case would be handled under the traditional law of salvage," said Greg Stemm, Odyssey Chief Executive Officer.

The nature of a salvage award is . . .

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Peru wants to know origin of $500 million Black Swan shipwreck treasure

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Peru's government wants to know if 17 tons of silver coins recovered from a shipwreck in the Atlantic Ocean last year were made there, complicating the legal quest to determine who rightfully owns the multimillion-dollar treasure.

Peru filed a claim Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tampa to determine where the coins originated, entering the fray over the $500 million loot found on a sunken ship by Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Exploration. Odyssey has been fighting the Spanish government for ownership of the ship and its contents.

Peruvian consumer rights advocates contend the coins were made with Peruvian metals and minted in Lima. When Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes y las Animas sank west of Portugal with more than 200 people on board in 1804, Peru was still a Spanish colony.

"Probably every colonial Spanish shipwreck that has ever been discovered has had coins that originated in Peru," Greg Stemm, Odyssey Marine Exploration's chief executive officer, wrote in an e-mail. . .

Full story at: Link

Sunday, August 17, 2008

After 160 years, SS New York shipwreck gold coins come home to Dahlonega

Al Adams has finally recovered his sunken treasure.

It may have taken a violent shipwreck, a century on the ocean floor and a heated auction in Baltimore, but two gold coins recently returned to Dahlonega in the hands of the local Gold Rush Gallery coin dealer.

“It was a great story,” said Adams “ ... The coins had been submerged in the Gulf of Mexico for 160 years.”

The coins in question are $5 pieces that originated at the Dahlonega mint in the 1840s.

Since then they've been on a wild ride.

In 1846, a steamship hauling a trove of coins from various United States mints was lost in a storm off the coast of Louisiana.

There it sat for decade upon decade beneath 60 feet of water.

Then in . . .

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Whydah Pirate Ship Holds 'Tons' of Treasure

300-Year-Old Booty From More Than 50 Plundered Ships

More than 300 years ago, the pirate ship known as Whydah was the stuff of adventure stories -- a plundering terror on the high seas.

Take an underwater voyage to find the world's only authentic pirate ship.The pirates of this mighty ship were thought to have robbed at least 50 other ships during their ship's reign over the Atlantic, and the Whydah finally took its rest when it sank in a storm off Cape Cod in 1717, dragging its hefty treasure trove to the depths to be hidden from humanity for centuries.

There it rested undisturbed near Wreck Hill, a watery graveyard for thousands of ships, until . . .

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Andrew Jackson First Spouse gold coins go spouseless

When the Andrew Jackson First Spouse gold coins go on sale at noon Eastern Time Aug. 28, collectors will have an opportunity to purchase a Capped Bust Liberty design used during the Jackson Administration because the seventh President of the United States was a widower during his two terms of office.

This is the second coin in the series that features a historical numismatic design. The first was for Thomas Jefferson. The next one will be in three month’s time for Martin Van Buren. . . .

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United States Mint and The Hermitage Introduce New Andrew Jackson Presidential $1 Coin to the Nation at Home of Old Hickory

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Hundreds of people gathered today at The Hermitage, the historic home of President Andrew Jackson, outside Nashville, Tenn., to see the new Andrew Jackson Presidential $1 Coin ceremonially released into circulation. Jackson was the seventh President of the United States, and the Nation is honoring this former commander-in-chief with the seventh Presidential $1 Coin. The audience witnessed a ceremonial "pour" of thousands of shiny, new Andrew Jackson Presidential $1 Coins onto a table on the front lawn of the mansion, which sits on more than 1,000 acres.

Afterwards, the crowd lined up to be among the first to exchange their dollar bills for Andrew Jackson Presidential $1 Coins.

"The Andrew Jackson Presidential $1 Coin is . . .

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