Wednesday, January 28, 2009

U.S. Mint unveils DC quarter showing Duke Ellington

WASHINGTON - The nation's capital now has its own quarter.

The U.S. Mint on Monday released the coin featuring Washington native and jazz great Duke Ellington at his piano. It also has an inscription of the city's motto, "Justice for All."

Collectors can go online or to . . .

Full story at: Link

Hoard Of Hundreds Of 1300 Year Old Antique Gold Coins Uncovered In Walls Around Jerusalem National Park

ScienceDaily (Jan. 27, 2009) — One thousand three hundred year old Chanukah money in Jerusalem: a hoard of more than 250 gold coins was exposed December 11 in the excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting in the Giv ‘ati car park in the City of David, in the Walls Around Jerusalem National Park. The excavations at the site are being carried out on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority and are underwritten by the ‘Ir David Foundation.

“This is one of the largest and most impressive coin hoards ever discovered in Jerusalem – certainly the largest and most important of its period,” archaeologists said.

Since the archaeological excavations began there about two years ago, they have not ceased in providing us with surprising discoveries that shed new light on different chapters of the city’s past. Currently a very large and impressive building is being uncovered that dates to about the seventh century CE (end of the Byzantine period-beginning of the Umayyad period). A large cache of 264 coins, all made of gold, was discovered among the ruins of the building.

According to . . .

Full story at: Link

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

PCGS Launches ''

Free Encyclopedia of Coins Encourages Editing Like Wikipedia

Professional Coin Grading Service introduces CoinFacts Wiki, a public encyclopedia of U.S. and World coins located at

The "wiki" concept allows users to create and edit virtually all pages on the website, subject to oversight by system administrators. This capability allows large volumes of up-to-date information and images to be added to the website in a short period of time, creating a massive database of information that is useful to buyers, sellers, researchers and anyone else interested in numismatics.

The CoinFacts Wiki uses the familiar look, feel and format of Wikipedia, the renowned free online encyclopedia used by millions. The rules for use are also similar. The site will be monitored, but coin enthusiasts are free to edit and add to articles at any time. The site also includes . . .

Full story at: Link

Ancient Celtic Coin Hoard Found in Netherlands

Coins are often used as "index fossils" by archaeologists. An index fossil is a fossil with which paleontologists are familiar that is also known to have lived during a specific time period and in a certain environment. For this reason an index fossil can help date an entire paleontological dig site. Coins found at archaeological dig sites can often help date the site, identify past trade routes, identify rulers, suggest political borders, and even suggest the level of technology available in the area. Due to inscriptions and iconography coins are often the only artifact found at an archaeological site that can "speak" to us.

On Nov. 13 an important find of 109 Celtic coins of the Eburones tribe found in the Netherlands was announced through the Associated Press. According to AP information, this is one of three important hoard finds of coins issued by this tribe. The other two finds, according to AP information, were discovered in Belgium and Germany in areas not too distant geographically from the Netherlands.

The most recent find was discovered by metal detector hobbyist Paul Curfs, who was sweeping a corn field in Maastricht, a city in the southern part of the Netherlands. Curfs is not a coin collector. He discovered the coins in the spring of 2008. The find is only now being announced publicly.

In the AP story Curfs described his find of the first coin, saying: "It was golden and had a little horse on it - I had no idea what I had found."

Curfs posted an image of the gold coin on the Internet on what is described as a web forum. Someone advised him the coin was rare. This prompted Curfs to return to the same field, where he next discovered a coin he described as, "It looked totally different - silver, and saucer-shaped."

By the time Curfs and several fellow hobbyists were done they had uncovered a total of . . .

Full story at: Link

1815 Half Eagle a Passed-Up Opportunity

It is interesting how our view of coins and their importance and rarity has evolved. The 1927-D Saint-Gaudens double eagle was not seen as one of the most important Saint-Gaudens double eagles for many years, and then one day someone discovered there were none to be had at any price.

In some respects the 1815 gold half eagle might be seen as the opposite. It is not a case where the 1815 has become more available than was once the case, but rather it has been passed by the 1822 in rarity and importance.

Before you start assuming everyone can own an 1815, however, it's worth noting that one day the 1815 might produce a $1 million price. It remains a very significant coin and an extreme rarity.

The story of the 1815 is one that goes back to . . .

Full story at: Link

Memorabilia market is "as bad as a whole generation of people can remember"

"In a struggling economy, ... rare coin collection increases in value and demand because coins and precious metals are a better hedge against inflation than sports collectibles."

Professional athletes may seem exempt from the nation's economic woes, but the value of their signatures, helmets and jerseys are not.

As the economy continues to leave more people facing the tough decision of paying the mortgage or buying groceries, sports memorabilia dealers are feeling the hit.

With few exceptions, national and local dealers alike say sales slumped in 2008 - some by as much as 75 percent - and there's no immediate turnaround in sight.
In Roselle, Glen Soustek, owner of Westlake Cards, Comics and Coins, said the memorabilia market is "as bad as a whole generation of people can remember."

In the past year, Soustek said, many dealers shuttered their doors, leaving those still in business to liquidate their inventory for a percentage of its worth.

"Another 30 percent to 50 percent of us won't be here next year at this time either," he said. "But I will be because I planned for it."

In a struggling economy, Soustek said, his rare coin selection increases in value and demand because coins and precious metals are a better hedge against inflation than sports collectibles.

"I'm a coin dealer that got into (sports) cards when they were hot, but it's my coins that carry me through times like this," he said. "I've been telling guys for 30 years that cardboard is only good for wiping your (posterior) when you run out of the Charmin."

There are dealers that still sell individual packs of baseball cards to teens and younger children, but those sales are dwindling with some specialty packs going for about $20.

"I try to be . . .

Full story at: Link

Monday, January 26, 2009

Finding Treasure and Losing History: A new series on the Discovery Channel treats underwater heritage as a commodity to be mined from the seafloor

Archaeology Magazine

For more than a year, the marine salvage company Odyssey Marine Exploration has been embroiled in a legal battle with the government of Spain over the rights to a site they call "Black Swan," which might hold the most valuable sunken treasure ever recovered. At the same time, underwater archaeologists working with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization have succeeded in creating a treaty that bans treasure hunting in the territorial waters of signatory nations (see "A Victory in the War of Wrecks.") But you won't hear much about any of that in Treasure Quest a new series on Discovery Channel (Thursdays at 10pm) that takes a completely uncritical look at Odyssey's business of finding, removing, and selling archaeological artifacts from the ocean floor. As the UNESCO treaty takes effect and legal pressures mount against Odyssey, the Discovery Channel is cashing in on the business of systematically looting shipwrecks.

The first episode opens with . . .

Full story at: Link

‘Glorious full color’ Obama coins are nothing more than a trinket

Painted ‘Obama Coins’, currently being promoted as ‘genuine’ U.S. Inaugural Presidential Dollar showing a coloured picture of President-elect Barack Obama, are nothing more than mementos with little resale value to coin collectors, according to a coin-collecting expert.

The TV ads claim that the coins featuring Obama in “glorious full colour” can be grabbed for 9.95 dollars, plus shipping and handling.

But, a coin-collecting expert ha said the gold-dipped, painted coins are nothing more than a trinket, and the U.S. Mint, the only official purveyor of U.S. currency has cautioned buyers not to be tricked by such fake coins.

“They are worth the face value of the coin. If the coin says 25 cents, it’s worth a quarter,” the Chicago Sun-Times quoted Scott Travers, author of the Coin Collector’s Survival Manual and a New York City coin dealer, as saying.

Last month, the U.S. Mint issued a warning that the heavily advertised commemorative coins, which are produced by many private companies, are not official U.S. Treasury products.

Mint spokesman Michael White said that altering coins with stickers, plating or colours is not considered illegal as long as the company doesn’t intend to pass them off as currency or use them as advertising.

He said: “Our concern here is that it’s . . .

Full story at: Link

Collecting President Barack Obama the latest fad

Objects relating to President Barack Obama will be prevalent this year. Our 44th President of the United States will be featured on all types of collectibles objects from the political to the popular. And, of course, Obama memorabilia will come in many forms. Some items will be valuable and other items won't be valuable. For instance, the Barack Obama action figure is among the most ridiculous Obama collectible that I've seen thus far. Yes, these are even sillier than the collectible plates or coins, in my . . .

Full story at: Link

US Mint Begins Selling 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin for More Than $1000

In a Re-production of a 1907 Double Eagle Gold Piece, the US Mint Begins Selling Expensive New Coin to Buyers

The US Mint just began selling a 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin. The US Mint is currently selling this gold coin for a price of $1,189.00 to collectors, probably hoping that it will bring in quite a few sales. The coin is meant to be a collectible that is constructed with 24-karat gold, and comes in with a weight of one-ounce. Quite a heavy coin, the US Mint pulled this one out of moth-balls to re-create a coin that was intended for release in 1907, but never actually made it into circulation.

The 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin (UH1) is already being sold on the United States Mint Online Catalog, and accepting orders for the coin at a starting price of $1,189.00. They advertise that the coin will be ready for shipping on February 6th, 2009, but are already accepting payments from coin collectors who want to be first in line to own a piece of US Mint history. The coin is obviously a little out of the price range of most people out there, but for the devoted coin collectors in the population, this is certainly going to become one of those must-have coins in the world of collecting.

As can be seen in the . . .

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The nebulous nature of numismatics

After a horrible year in the stock market, I decided to diversify what was left of my investments by selling some of my stocks and exchange-traded funds and putting the proceeds into cold, hard cash -- coins, specifically.

Coins are among the most liquid of collectibles traded on online auctioneer site eBay, with many items attracting 20, 30 or more bids -- far more interest than stamps, watches, dolls, china, silverware, toy soldiers and the like, which means selling them is not a problem. And unlike, say, refrigerators, coins are relatively easy to wrap and ship.

Do coins outperform stocks? Dealers can trot out statistics showing how an investment in coins has consistently outperformed stock markets, but stamp shop owners can tweak the numbers to show the same thing, as can those who sell art. The fact is, an investment in pocket lint would have outperformed stocks over the past year, so determining the relative advantage of anything over equities is tricky.

But those contemplating a shift from stocks to collectibles of any sort should be aware that each market carries its own perils. If you don't know what you're doing, coins you've paid a fortune for can easily turn out to be counterfeit.

For coins, value is linked to . . .

Full story at: Link

Gold rush: The battle over sunken treasure

Shipwrecks! Treasure! Gold, gold, gold! The hallmarks of treasure-hunting are the stuff of adventure stories, more than fun enough to make archaeologists, who are mounting increasing complaints against the pillaging of sunken ships, seem like wet blankets.

But more is at stake than just a few loose doubloons, they say. "The big picture is that a fair amount of humanity's past we don't know, and it's important we don't let it become lost forever," says maritime archaeologist James Delgado, head of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology.

The latest flashpoint comes with the recent premiere of the show Treasure Quest on cable's Discovery Channel (Thurs. 10 pm ET/PT), which follows deepwater exploration company Odyssey Marine Exploration as its teams explore two historic shipwrecks. Odyssey is in hot water with Spain over one of them, fighting it out in . . .

Full story at: Link

Salvagers claim to have found the world's richest wreck – a British ship sunk by Nazi submarine £2.6 billion cargo of gold and diamonds

British shipwreck holds £2.6 billion treasure, explorers claim

Salvagers claim to have found the world's richest wreck – a British ship sunk by a Nazi submarine while laden with a £2.6 billion cargo that included gold, platinum and diamonds.

In a project shrouded in secrecy, work is due to start on recovering the cargo, which was being transported to the United States to help pay for the Allied effort in the Second World War.

The scale of the treasure trove is likely to unleash a series of competing claims from interested parties. Salvage laws are notoriously complex and experts say there could be many years of legal wrangling ahead.

In order to protect its find until the cargo is brought to the surface, the company that located the wreck has not released the name of the vessel or its exact location, but has given the ship the code name "Blue Baron".

It says the merchant ship, which had a predominantly British crew, had left a European port, laden with goods for the US Treasury under the Lend-Lease scheme, whereby the American government gave material support to the Allied war effort in exchange for payments.

The Blue Baron first sailed to a port in South America, where it unloaded some general cargo, before continuing north in a convoy, heading for New York.

However, the company claim it was intercepted by German U-boat U87 and sent to the bottom by two torpedoes in June 1942, with the loss of three crew members. Their nationalities are not known.

Sub Sea Research, a US-based marine research and recovery firm, claims it has now located the wreck under 800ft of water about 40 miles off Guyana.

Greg Brooks, the company's founder and co-manager, said: "This British freighter had an extremely valuable cargo and we decided there wasn't a lot of point in leaving it at the bottom of the sea. This will definitely be the richest wreck ever."

Until now . . .

Full story at: Link

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Review of Treasure Quest: Discovery Channel's new series showcasing shipwreck hunter Odyssey Marine Technology's deepsea exploits

(After watching the first episode of "Treasure Quest" - Thursdays at 10pm Eastern on the Discovery Channel - my sentiments pretty much echoed those of the reviewer below, "I'm more than willing to give it a couple of more weeks before I decide if I'll keep watching." Now that I have seen the second episode, I have to say I actually found myself looking forward to the next episode. - A.C. Dwyer)

Shows like "Deadliest Catch" don't come along very often. There have been a lot of TV series that revolve around the real-life workplace of some exotic profession, and most of the time the idea is more compelling than it turns out to be onscreen. Plus, it sometimes takes a new show a few episodes to find the right rhythm for the story.

The Discovery Network has a new series premiering this week, and "Treasure Quest" is promising. I'm just not sure if it's compelling enough for an eleven-episode run.

The series follows the exploits Odyssey Marine Exploration, a company that searches for underwater treasure. They have uncovered wrecks buried for hundreds of years and some of them have contained coins, metals and other valuables worth tens and sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars . . . . But after watching the first episode, I'm not quite convinced. There are certainly a lot of interesting tidbits about how Odyssey does it job. And it's fascinating to see the search for hidden treasure play out in front of you. But the tone of the series was dry in some way that I can't quite define.

Part of the problem might be that the first episode of any series such as "Treasure Quest" has to be a . . .

Full story at: Link

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Commemorative Barack Obama coins not issued by U.S. Mint

It wouldn't be an inauguration without souvenirs. With history being made by the Obama presidency, there are souvenirs galore, from T-shirts to cuff links.

You've probably seen those TV ads for the commemorative coins with the picture of the 44th president on them.

The Franklin Mint and New England Mint are just two of the companies offering the colorful coins for an amazingly low price -- just $9.95 plus shipping and handling.

In the case of the Franklin Mint, the coin is an uncirculated Kennedy half dollar plated with a thin layer of 24-carat gold. It is also color-enhanced on one side.

The Department of Treasury has issued a consumer alert to make sure what people know what they're buying.

I spoke to Greg Hernandez at the U.S. Mint.

"We want people to know that these items are not official United States Mint, and these products, businesses and departments are not approved, endorsed, sponsored or authorized by the U.S. Mint, the Department of Treasury or the United States Government," he said.

Keep in mind, these may be limited-edition medallions, but they're not investment . . .

Full story at: Link

2000-year-old Iron Age gold coins found

London, Jan 19 : Archaeologists have unearthed a haul of 2000-year-old Iron Age gold coins.

The 824 so-called staters were discovered through a metal detector in a broken pottery jar buried in a field near Wickham Market, Suffolk.

According to Jude Plouviez, of the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service the coins dated from 40BC to AD15.

They are thought to be belonging to the predecessors of the Iceni Queen Boudicca.

Their value when in circulation had been estimated at a modern equivalent of between 500,000 pounds and 1m pounds, but they were likely to be worth less now.

"It's a good, exciting find. It gives us a lot of new information about the late Iron Age, and particularly East Anglia in the late Iron Age," the BBC quoted Plouviez as saying.

"The discovery is important because . . .

Full story at: Link

Friday, January 02, 2009

Flight of Gold $5 Half Eagle Turbulent

The flight of the half eagle or gold $5 lasted more than a century, but it ran into plenty of turbulence along the way. Speculators melted or exported most of the pre-1834 gold $5s. A new gold coinage standard increased the number of gold coins in circulation. So did the great California Gold Rush that began in 1848-1849.

But the Civil War erased any progress as all gold coins disappeared from circulation. By the late 1800s, gold $5s turned up mainly in bank reserves and in Christmas stockings. Even so, the denomination lasted until the 1930s, when the Great Depression and a series of executive orders brought the historic series to an end.

Early Birds

An Act of April 1792 authorized a gold $5 coin known as the half eagle. Production of the denomination didn't begin until mid-1795. A shortage of gold and the priority given to other denominations caused the delay.

Moses Brown deposited the first gold at the Philadelphia Mint on Feb. 12, 1795, according to an item in the September 1959 issue of Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine. Joseph Wright made the second deposit, on March 31, 1795. It consisted of 21 ounces in ingot form. In May, the Mint received two additional deposits totaling 59 ounces. In June, Joseph Anthony made three gold deposits amounting to 1,344 ounces.

Engraver Robert Scot designed the first gold $5. The obverse depicts Liberty wearing a Liberty cap. The reverse pictures a young eagle perched on a palm branch, holding a small laurel wreath in its beak. Scot reportedly copied the design from a Roman first-century B.C. onyx cameo.

It may not have been perfect, but it was a start. The Oct. 21, 1795, issue of the Columbian Sentinel, published in Boston, went slightly overboard in its description of the coin . . .

Full story at: Link

United States Mint Announces New D.C. and Territories Quarter Designs for 2009

WASHINGTON - The United States Mint today announced six new designs that will grace the quarters issued next year to honor the District of Columbia and the five United States territories: the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, United States Virgin Islands and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The coins will be put into circulation in approximately two-month intervals throughout the year.

"Like the 50 State Quarters® Program before it, these new quarters will encourage Americans to appreciate the unique history of the District of Columbia and the territories of the United States," said United States Mint Director Ed Moy. "While we focus on each one's individuality, we also recognize the common thread that unites us all."

The designs on the reverse (tails side) of the 2009 quarters feature unique, rotating images emblematic of the District of Columbia and each of the territories. The coins will continue to bear the standard inscription E PLURIBUS UNUM and the year, 2009.

The quarter honoring the District of Columbia debuts in late January 2009. The coin's reverse design features an image . . .

Full story: Link

2009 Sacagawea dollars on sale with new reverse design

WASHINGTON - Consumers, financial institutions and businesses can order new 2009 Native American $1 Coins directly from the United States Mint through its Direct Ship Program beginning at noon Eastern Time, on January 2, 2009. The new circulating $1 coins will be available at face value on the United States Mint secure Web site, Telephone orders also will be accepted at the toll-free number, 1-800-USA-MINT (872-6468).

"By ordering through our Direct Ship Program, businesses and consumers have the convenience and flexibility of purchasing manageable quantities of circulating $1 coins at face value," said United States Mint Director Ed Moy.

Like circulating Presidential $1 Coins, the United States Mint will offer the new circulating Native American $1 Coins in 25-coin rolls packaged in quantities of 10 rolls per box with a face value of $250. The coins will not be separated by mint mark. Customers may order a maximum of . . .

Full story at: Link

Where Have All the Coin Clubs Gone?

Coin Clubs have vanished just the way movie theaters, phone booths and some local newspapers have, but not for the same reasons. The Internet, cell phones and advanced technology of television are the primary reasons, but coin clubs had a few other reasons. True, the internet and e-bay may be primary reasons some individuals have decided not to join a club, but club losses began before the internet became a routine household item.

An April 1975 Numismatic News publication that lists all coin clubs by state as well as foreign countries has been part of my library for a long time as occasionally I've used it to search out a coin club's history. In 1975, 67 clubs were listed in my state of New Jersey. Today, 33 years later, there are 18.

Nationally, in 1975, there were 1,986 active coin clubs. Unfortunately, the only document I have to compare that figure is the ANA club membership total of 499 clubs listed as active ANA member clubs. One could estimate another 200 clubs are not ANA members, but I would hope not that many. This is over a 60 percent loss in just over 30 years.

A review of a few other heavily populated states reveals that California went from 173 to 59 clubs, Pennsylvania from 139 to 30, Ohio from 124 to 22, New York from 115 to 21 and Illinois from 109 to 21. Current club totals are . . .

Full story at: Link

New Coins Commemorate Year of the Ox

On Jan. 26 of solar year 2009 the new Lunar Year of 4707 will dawn. It is designated a Year of the Ox. It is the second year in the new 12-year lunar cycle inaugurated last February. For the Vietnamese it is the Year of the Water Buffalo.

Once again mints around the world are marking the occasion with an abundance of new coins. Most issues are parts of ongoing 12-year series. Although lunar zodiacal issues now provide a major collecting field in their own right, the main significance of the coins, particularly for the Chinese, remains in giving (and in receiving) them as gifts.

Lai shi money is one of the more important traditions of the first day of the New Lunar Year. The cash commonly arrives in red envelopes, gifted by adults to children or other junior relatives. The red symbolizes good fortune, and the amount of money is vital in letting the recipient know the depth of their tie with the donor. Traditionally, a suitable sum involves numerous auspicious eights in its total. And today smart mints package their lunar coins in red or attempt to involve "8" in one way or another, often in the mintage.

Over-eager, cheeky youngsters in Chinese households will greet their elders at New Year with, "Gongxi facai, hongbao nalai." This freely translates as "Live long and prosper. Now give me the red envelope."

For those who need to know, 4707 is the 27th year of the 79th 60-year zodiacal lunar cycle. It is an Earth Ox or Ji Chou year.

In general, the Ox people of this world are stable and persevering. They are typically . . .

Full story at: Link

As a tourist site, Federal Reserve is worth its weight in gold

Amid these troubled economic times, a trip to the central bank is an eye-opening glimpse into the world of currency. Plus, don't you want to see the big vault?

The stock market was in the middle of another spectacular gyration -- up more than 500 points one day after dropping more than 400 -- and President Bush had come to try to calm Wall Street, urging world leaders not to over-regulate free markets. The economic crisis was palpable throughout Manhattan's downtown financial district, yet the atmosphere inside the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was eerily serene, almost like a church.

It was fitting, for money is worshiped at the Fed, as the central bank is known, and an outing to the nation's central bank feels like a trip to capitalism's cathedral. Where the bodies of saints would otherwise lie, the bank's catacombs are stuffed with about $180 billion in gold bars -- more yellow metal than is stowed in Ft. Knox, and almost a quarter of the world's supply.

As New York tourist destinations go, the Liberty Street historic landmark attracts a fraction of the visitors to the city's more famous spots. But the bank plays a much more vital part in our daily lives: The Fed implements monetary policy and, in the New York building's open market trading floor, handles billions of U.S. government debt. It's all a part of how the government is trying to rescue the economy, primarily by dropping interest rates.

The bank's free . . .

Full story at: Link

Treasured coin finds

You'd be amazed what you can find on a walk - a boy and his dad prove it

Every day, Keith Severin and his 8-year-old son, Adrien, go on a treasure hunt.

They take a walk somewhere in their Antelope neighborhood, or wherever they happen to be that day, and keep their eyes open for treasures.

As a kid, almost everything is a treasure to Adrien. He never met a stick he didn't like.

"When we first started, he would pick up everything," Severin said.

They set out Jan. 1 with a plan to go out every day of 2008 for at least 15 minutes.

They stuck with it and over the course of the year have stumbled upon quite a bit of treasure.

On the refrigerator at home is a juice jug full of thousands of pennies they've found. There's also a big Bubba Gump beer glass full of other change, nickels to a Sacagawea dollar.

There's a small collection of older coins – including a penny from 1928 and some silver dimes – and a handful of foreign coins and Scandia tokens.

In a can, Keith Severin keeps a small collection of Ben Franklins – $100 bills that represent the proceeds from things found and sold.

That includes cans, bottles, a golf bag pull cart, a silver necklace and lots and lots of golf balls, collected at nearby Cherry Island Golf Course.

They passed the $1,000 mark early in December – all from walks as short as 15 minutes.

It hasn't always been fun. They head out in whatever weather presents itself. Good thing it's California.

They went out one recent December day when . . .

Full story at: Link