Friday, February 27, 2009

Stanford Financial ponzi scheme ensnares $3 million in gold bars meant for exhibit

Gagosian Gallery seeks gold frozen in Stanford case

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A purchase by Gagosian Gallery of $3 million in gold blocks for an upcoming exhibit has been frozen because they were bought from a company owned by accused swindler Allen Stanford, court papers filed Friday showed.

Last week, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged Texas billionaire Allen Stanford, two associates and three of his companies with "massive, ongoing fraud." The commission got a temporary order to freeze Stanford's assets.

The Gagosian Gallery, which has galleries in New York, Beverly Hills, London and Rome, said it had been unfairly ensnared in the litigation.

In January, Gagosian bought 100 1-kg (2.2-lb) gold bars, from Stanford Coins & Bullion, a subsidiary of another Stanford company.

The parties agreed the money would be wired to Stanford Coins and then transferred to the Dillon Gage Group, an unrelated dealer of rare coins and metals, according to . . .

Full story at: Link

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Beware of 2009 Lincoln Penny Scams! (

(In addition to the scams in the article below, check out the offer from Bradford Authenticated [link]. They are selling each design for $12.95 + $1.95 s&h. And not just 2009 cents, but cents for each year back to 1909. Ouch! - A.C. Dwyer)

It never ceases the amaze me, the myriad ways that people find to rip each other off. Most of these recent eBay scams involve misleading photos in the auctions. Are people really paying $20 per coin for the new pennies (without even realizing it?!) . . .

Full story at: Link

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Collectible Investments: U.S. postal/fractional currency

Can investing and collecting go hand-in-hand? Yes -- especially if you are collecting coins, stock certificates, bank notes, or other rare items of value. Larry Schutts, an expert in investment-related collectibles, will review items of interest from his collection and answer your questions here each week.

By 1862, the U.S. government was issuing a lot of paper to finance the Civil War. It was also refusing to redeem the currency in coin. That forced banks to follow suit and citizens soon began hoarding their small change. Day-to-day commerce suffered, until Congress authorized the printing of currency notes with denominations of less than one dollar. People had begun using postage stamps in lieu of coins and that prompted the issuance of notes that carried the images of contemporary stamps of equivalent value. Counterfeiting problems led to more elaborate designs, but the initial issue of "Postage Currency" and four subsequent issues of "Fractional Currency" served Americans well for . . .

Full story at: Link

How To Put Gold Into Your IRA

Editors Note: Gold recently traded above $1,000 for the first time in over a year.
To help you take advantage of the rising price, we asked Casey Research for insight on how individual investors could invest in the precious metal. They responded with this great article that explains how can put gold into your IRA.

Casey Research has expertise in precious metals and publishes the popular Big Gold newsletter.

--Charles Rotblut, CFA, Senior Market Analyst,

As you undoubtedly know, last year’s market meltdown meant that 401(k)s and IRAs ceased to be a safe haven for Americans’ nest eggs. In 2008, employees lost on average 14% of their retirement money. Those who had $200,000 or more fared even worse - they lost more than a quarter of their savings. No wonder more and more people are asking whether they can, or should, use an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) to hold physical gold. Our answer to the first part of the question is yes, indeed you can. The tax rules governing IRAs leave room for gold. But our answer to the second part is equivocal. . . .

Full story at: Link

Gold Bullion Buyer Beware? How About Buyer Aware?

. . . We've said it before: caveat emptor . No, wait, someone else said that. We said, be a good consumer, realize that these coins come out of the mints at between 3 and 4 percent above spot gold prices, and that there are coins available out there for between 6 and 8 percent above content. Pay 10% or more, and you could face a situation familiar to all too many in the rare coin niche (those are being flogged with the 'confiscation' bull as the excuse): that is, that gold prices may head north, while your coins head the other way in value (as supplies improve and premia decline). As for buying the metal at current levels, if you have not done so at all previously, well...go ahead and buy - but do so with the idea of not needing to cash in.

Timely caveats are offered by Max Chen, courtesy of ETF trends:

"As everyone is proclaiming the wisdom in buying gold and buying more gold, is it blasphemous to be uttering the idea of shorting gold and related exchange traded funds (ETFs)?" . . .

Full story at: Link

Jazz Great is First Black on U.S. Coin

(February 24, 2009) - Jazz legend and Washingtonian Duke Ellington is the first African American to appear on an American coin.

The U.S. Mint introduced the coin, the latest in its line of state-themed quarters, today at the Smithsonian Institution.

The commemorative quarter, which shows Ellington playing the piano, was approved last year by a vote of District residents.

Abolitionist Frederick Douglass and astronomer Benjamin Banneker were also considered for the District’s honorary coin.

Also considered for the quarter was . . .

Full story at: Link

Gold Reaches $1,000 Again: This Time It's Different

(Normally, when I see headlines like this, the related article usually starts off complaining about market manipulation being the reason gold has been held down. I usually print those conspiracy articles on nice, soft white paper that I use to clean my *#@ and then file away in my circulating file cabinet. But, this time I generally agree with the reasoning. I believe the recent de-leveraging and the government's recent spending spree . . . er . . . bailouts and stimulus will, among other reasons, be bullish for gold. - A.C. Dwyer)

Last Friday afternoon the spot price of gold in the U.S. reached $1,000. This is only the second time that the gold spot price breached this significant threshold. Although gold may see temporary modest sell-offs before it permanently stays over $1,000, I don't think there will be any more buying opportunities at a significant discount to $1,000.

Here are some of the reasons why.

Last March, when the price of gold topped $1,000 for a few days, the global financial markets in general and those particularly related to gold were much different.

The open interest in the COMEX gold market is now about 40 percent lower than it was last March. That means there are fewer speculative long positions that could be liquidated in short order.

Many hedge funds and other leveraged gold investors have long since liquidated their margin positions. They can no longer sell anywhere near the quantities of gold as they did in 2008.

The number of outstanding shares of GLD, the major gold exchange traded fund, have jumped over 55 percent since last March. This exchange traded fund is selling so many shares that it does not seem possible that it is able to acquire an offsetting amount of physical gold, so much of its new outstanding shares may be covered with gold derivatives.

There are rumors . . .

Full story at: Link

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Virginians Are First to Get William Henry Harrison Presidential $1 Coins

CHARLES CITY, Va. - As the Nation paused to observe Presidents Day, the United States Mint launched the William Henry Harrison Presidential $1 Coin in a ceremony today at the Berkeley Plantation, the former President's home. Participants at the event were the first in the Nation to get the new $1 coin, which goes into circulation on February 19.

"We honor William Henry Harrison today - our Nation's ninth President," United States Mint Deputy Director Andy Brunhart told the crowd.

The crowd watched as thousands of shiny, new William Henry Harrison Presidential $1 Coins spilled onto a velvet cloth, officially launching the latest coin in the United States Mint's Presidential $1 Coin Program. Following the ceremony, each child 18 years old or younger received a newly minted $1 coin, and adults exchanged their currency for rolls of the coin.

The obverse (heads side) of the William Henry Harrison Presidential $1 Coin features a dramatic portrait of the former President by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Joe Menna. The inscription IN GOD WE TRUST-formerly featured on the edge of Presidential $1 Coins-is now featured on the obverse. It is the first Presidential $1 Coin to feature the inscription on the obverse.

The coin's reverse (tails side), by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart, features a striking image of the Statue of Liberty. Incused on the coin's edge are the inscriptions 2009, E PLURIBUS UNUM" and the mintmark of origin (P or D for Philadelphia or Denver).

William Henry Harrison was . . .

Full story at: Link

Berlin Munzkabinett's collection of over 500,000 rare coins, medals, bank notes and documents

Before we left for Berlin and the 2009 World Money Fair, I was exchanging e-mails with my good friend Doug Nicol, author of our Standard Catalog of German States Coinage, and he suggested we take an afternoon to visit the Berlin Munzkabinett. . . .

Built up over a vast span of time, the Munzkabinett is home to coin collections from many of the titled family lines. As lines died out, collections were purchased or donated to the Prussian monarchs and folded into the Munzkabinett. At present the Munzkabinett houses more than 500,000 pieces, including coins, medals, bank notes and documents.

To aid in the maintenance of this substantial collection the Munzkabinett also is home to a grand library, in which, among all the classic works, we discovered a few shelves of . . .

Full story at: Link

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

U.S. Mint Web Site Security Breach

Most coin collectors are aware by now that it is not "business as usual" on the U.S. Mint Web site these days. Problems began in early January when the Mint changed eCommerce fulfillment contractors (again. You might remember the last time the Mint changed contractors in Jan. 2008; the Mint Web site suffered an 8-day outage!)

One of the biggest problems the Mint is dealing with right now has actually been around for at least two years. I first reported it to them in late 2006, and reports from readers confirm that the recent events are far from the first of this type that the Mint Web site has seen. Here's what happened . . .

Full story at: Link

Recall Vote: Presidential Coin Set

Presidents Day has a bitter side for coin collectors this year, thanks to a decision by the U.S. Mint late last year to discontinue presidential $1 coin Historical Signature Sets amid low sales.

Although the Mint will continue to produce the proof coins for the $1 presidential-coin series and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing will continue to sell all the president's portraits, collectors won't get it all in the fancy blue folder that includes the presidents' signatures.

According to the Mint, the George Washington set was the bestseller, with 16,443 sets sold. Then sales started to decline. Sets for Presidents Adams, Jefferson and Madison sold 9,284, 8,803 and 7,701 respectively. By the time the Mint got to James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, sales were in the mid-3,000 range.

That is when the item was voted out of office, leaving the ninth and shortest-serving president, William Henry Harrison, with no set.

"The decision to pare back the number of products was based on customer feedback and the sales figures for the various products," says , acting public-affairs director for the Mint.

The Mint decided to take an "up and down" inventory of all its products and determined it was best to trim 121 coin products at the end of 2008. Those 200-something products that remain account for more than 95% of the Mint's products sold during October 2007 and September 2008, said the U.S. Mint.

Collectors and Mint customers alike will debate whether the low sales for the latter sets in the series was a fair representation of interest -- given the turmoil in the credit markets and the peak holiday-related shopping period of the year.

Each set in the series -- for as long as it lasted -- featured a . . .

Full story at: Link

Coin dealer giving away 1 million pennies

MANDEVILLE, La., Feb. 13 (UPI) -- A Louisiana coin dealer wants to give away 1 million pennies during the 12 days between Lincoln's Birthday and the beginning of Mardi Gras.

Paul Hollis of Mandeville said just getting all the pennies has been hard work. He arranged for a shipment of 500,000 pennies from the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia by armored car.

Hollis hoped to get the new Lincoln pennies that went into circulation for the first time Thursday. He had to settle for the last of the old coins with the Lincoln Memorial on the reverse side.

"Local bankers and the Federal Reserve Bank told me they don't expect delivery of the new pennies for weeks or even months later . . .

Full story at: Link

Clifford unveils new treasure including rare silver pieces of eight, tales from Whydah shipwreck

There are 102 pirates buried somewhere in Eastham. The audience at the Salt Pond Visitor Center on Wednesday had that astonishing fact and more to ponder when underwater explorer Barry Clifford gave a talk about the history and discovery of the pirate ship Whydah.

Clifford regaled the crowd of tour guides with stories of how he first heard of the pirate Black Sam Bellamy, how he came to unearth Bellamy’s lost vessel from the sandy sea bottom off Marconi Beach in 1984 and the many revelations that have accompanied his crew’s retrieval of the rare artifacts buried with the wreck. The tour guides had come to learn more about the Whydah Museum on MacMillan Pier.

Along with his store of tales, Clifford brought a case full of rare coins salvaged from the Whydah. Never seen in public before, the silver pieces of eight had been . . .

Full story at: Link

Treasure raiders scooping up UK heritage

Not all treasure thieves tiptoe through the shells of Iraqi museums or churn up the deserts of Peru in their hunt for valuable antiquities. Nearer to home "nighthawkers" are using metal detectors and online auctions to strip rural Britain of its archaeological riches, and their illegal activities are proving every bit as destructive.

English Heritage has been so concerned about the extent of the depredation that it commissioned a study, which revealed that what was once an illicit hobby has mushroomed into a semi-professional criminal industry.

According to police, thieves have formed loosely connected networks to trade information, often in online forums, about new and vulnerable sites.

Some farmers have been threatened after confronting groups trespassing on their land at night.

The survey, published today, found that while bronze axes, Roman coins, Saxon jewels and other precious scraps of British history are being looted from officially protected sites and open farmland, few nighthawkers are being prosecuted. Many landowners do not . . .

Full story at: Link

Help decide what’s on the new state quarter

You may have seen the Wyoming bronco buster, or the Wright Brothers biplane lifting off a North Carolina beach, or Gen. George Washington crossing New Jersey’s Delaware River.

For nearly a decade, you’ve caught glimpses of them in your hand, bright, beautiful American quarters depicting sites and symbols for each one of the United States. Sometimes, they offer images so striking — like the Massachusetts coin with its heroic Minuteman standing over the outline of the state — that it seems a shame to waste on a parking meter.

If you slipped yours into a display of some kind, you weren’t the only one. Thanks to excited coin collectors, the 50 State Quarters Program has been an enormous success for the U.S. Mint. What’s more, it’s probably helped educate many Americans about the wonders of our country.

All of which explains why they’ve decided to do it again. And this time, the new state images will be selected, in part, by a vote of the public.

Gov. Deval Patrick is inviting residents to cast their ballots at
“It will be fun,” he predicted in a statement. The candidates are all either National Historic Sites or parks.

Dozens of possibilities are . . .

Full story at: Link

Mexico says Odyssey Marine Exploration can't explore shipwreck for treasure

MEXICO CITY – Mexico has denied a U.S. sea salvage company's request to explore and recover artifacts from a sunken 17th-century Spanish galleon in the Gulf, the government said Monday.

The ship in question, the galleon Our Lady of Juncal, was part of a fleet hit by a powerful storm in 1631 in "one of the greatest tragedies that has ever occurred in Mexican waters," according to Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History.

The proposal by Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. of Tampa, Florida, "is not intended to conduct research and does not have the approval of archaeologists or an academic institution of recognized prestige," the Institute said. It added that "treasure hunters have always had their eyes on" the wreck site.

Odyssey Marine chairman Greg Stemm said in a statement that "the proposal presented to Mexico for . . .

Full story at: Link

Are coin shows the new investment clubs?

Coins have always been popular among collectors but as purse strings are tightening and people worry about their financial future, investing in the right kind of coin could make all the difference.

In a bustling exhibition hall on a cold February morning Andrea and Mark Leigh, from Reading, are hoping to find something that will improve their financial standing.

Poring over the thousands of coins on display, ranging from hundreds of years BC to to the most recent Royal Mint editions, Andrea explains what she is looking for.

"We are collecting gold and silver coins at the moment, for investment purposes because of the current economic problems," she says.

It may not be a foolish search. One collector at the fair describes how an investment he made has paid off.

"Just over four years ago I put £30,000 into gold sovereigns, it is now worth £250,000." . . .

Full story at: Link

Monday, February 16, 2009

The New 2009 Lincoln Penny & The ANA's Money Museum

Children's author Donna Guthrie has started a video podcasting website featuring videos submitted by children, for children. The site is billed as a "Virtual Field Trips by Kids."

Check out young Amanda's recent submission and visit the ANA Money Museum in Colorado Springs to learn about coin collecting and the new 2009 Lincoln cents.

Watch Amanda's video at: The New Lincoln Penny & The Money Museum

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

2009 Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Silver Dollar Available February 12

WASHINGTON - This year the Nation will celebrate the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth. To commemorate the occasion, the United States Mint is releasing the 2009 Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Silver Dollar on February 12, Lincoln's 200th birthday, at 12:00 noon Eastern Time (ET). Public Law 109-285, the "Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Coin Act," authorizes the United States Mint to pay qualifying surcharges collected from the sale of these commemorative coins to the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission to further its work.

Mintage for the 2009 Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Silver Dollar is set at 500,000 coins across all product options. Available options include proof and uncirculated versions of the coin, struck in 90 percent silver. A special set containing a proof silver dollar and proof versions of four 2009 Lincoln one-cent coins-each bearing a design representative of a different aspect of Lincoln's life-is expected to be available in the spring. The special set will be limited to 50,000 units.

Pricing for the 2009 Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Silver Dollar is as follows . . .

Full story at: Link

The Case for Gold Confiscation

Very few people alive can remember the great “gold grab” of 1933.

That’s when President Franklin Roosevelt declared gold ownership to be illegal. Once he forced enough Americans to turn over their gold - in exchange for paper money - he revalued the price of the yellow metal from US$20.67 to US$35 an ounce.

What a rip-off!

That meant everyone was left - in the heart of the Depression, mind you - holding dollars that were worth a fraction of their former value.

Now, back then, most people didn’t hold gold coins. They held dollars that were “gold certificates.” They looked a lot like today’s greenbacks - except they were redeemable in gold - on demand.

Why would Roosevelt want to put a stop to this? . . .

Full story at: Link

Mint's pushing hard to persuade consumers to welcome $1 Presidential coins despite previous flops

WASHINGTON–Lovers of the almighty dollar can be forgiven for dismissing the U.S. government's latest effort to replace the paper buck with a coin version as just another freshly minted failure.

That, after all, is how badly the last two efforts flopped, most memorably in 1979, when the widely loathed dollar coin bearing the likeness of feminist Susan B. Anthony burned holes in American pockets.

Referred to contemptuously as the "Carter quarter" (for the inflation-ravaged Jimmy Carter administration) and the "J.C. Penny," the go-nowhere coin was later mocked in an episode of The Simpsons as "the highly unpopular 75-cent piece."

So what to make of the latest series of coin dollars bearing the likeness of American presidents? Three strikes and they're out?

Cautiously, the U.S. Mint believes change is coming to America after all – pocket change, with new data suggesting the presidential dollar coin is finally starting to find its place in trousers, purses and vending machines.

Mint officials are basing their excitement on the results of a . . .

Full story at: Link

$1 Billion of Gold Coins in HMS Victory Shipwreck

Odyssey Marine, the southern Florida concern that has found more coin treasurers than any other salver, has a new discovery as of Feb. 2: the wreck of HMS Victory, which sank in the English Channel on Oct. 4, 1744 taking 1,150 sailors and four tons of Portuguese gold to the bottom of Davy Jones's locker.

About 200,000 gold coins are believed to be part of the treasure, whose sinking caused a major embarrassment to King George II in 1744, and whose recovery in 2009 could well become a cause celebre in international legal circles.

The wreckage of the HMS Victory, found below about 330 feet of water, may carry an even bigger jackpot than the $500 million in sunken treasure discovered two years ago off the coast of Spain.

Research indicates the HMS Victory was carrying 4 tons of gold coins when it sank in storm, said Greg Stemm, co-founder of Odyssey Marine Exploration, ahead of a Monday news conference in London.

So far . . .

Full story at: Link

Delay for new 2009 Lincoln Penny

The U.S. Mint is gearing up for the most exciting cent release in 50 years, the Lincoln Log Cabin penny, which is the first of the four new penny designs for 2009. However, don't expect to be seeing this coin in circulation anytime soon. Because of the economy, distribution to the banks has been delayed.

The way the system works, the Federal Reserve Bank places orders with the U.S. Mint for the coins it needs. The Fed then distributes these coins to the banks, which in turn place them into circulation. In our bad economy, more coins are coming in to the Fed than going out, (what they call a currency backwash,) so the Fed is ordering very few coins from the U.S. Mint right now, including the new pennies we're all looking forward to seeing. The net result is that . . .

Full story at: Link

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Collectors Rush to Buy Proof 2009 Ultra High Relief Saint-Gaudens $20 Gold Coin

Eager collectors trying to buy the proof 2009 Ultra High Relief Saint-Gaudens $20 gold piece slowed the U.S. Mint's Web site and backed up its 800 number for a time Jan. 22 when the new coin went on sale at noon Eastern Time.

By the end of the day, collectors were e-mailing Numismatic News with reports that they had successfully purchased the coin at the issue price of $1,189 each, with confirmed delivery by Feb. 6.

During the first four days of sales, the Mint said it sold 40,727 of the coins, generating $48.4 million in revenue by noon Jan. 26.

The Mint is limiting orders to . . .

Full story at: Link

Sunday, February 01, 2009

U.S. Mint Actions Discourage Gold Ownership

Over the past several months, the United States Mint has announced a series of actions and policy changes that make it more difficult for the average individual to buy gold. There have always been plausible or semi-plausible explanations, but the consequence of each action has been to limit or discourage gold ownership.

The recent actions of the United States Mint in relation to gold are presented below. I have also included the US Mint’s explanation for each situation, taken from . . .

Full story at: Link

Wreck of renowned British warship HMS Victory carrying 4 tons of gold coins found in Channel

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Deep-sea explorers who found $500 million in sunken treasure two years ago say they have discovered another prized shipwreck: A legendary British man-of-war that sank in the English Channel 264 years ago.

The wreckage of the HMS Victory, found below about 330 feet of water, may carry an even bigger jackpot. Research indicates the ship was carrying 4 tons of gold coins when it sank in storm, said Greg Stemm, co-founder of Odyssey Marine Exploration, ahead of a Monday news conference in London.

So far, two brass cannons have been recovered from the wreck, Stemm said. The Florida-based company said it is negotiating with the British government over collaborating on the project.

"This is a big one, just because of the history," Stemm said. "Very rarely do you solve an age-old mystery like this."

Thirty-one brass cannons and other evidence on the wreck allowed definitive identification of the HMS Victory, 175-foot sailing ship that was separated from its fleet and sank in the English Channel on Oct. 4, 1744, with at least 900 men aboard, the company said. The ship was the largest and, with 110 brass cannons, the most heavily armed vessel of its day. It was the inspiration for the HMS Victory famously commanded by Adm. Horatio Nelson decades later.

Odyssey was searching for other valuable shipwrecks in the English Channel when it came across the Victory. Stemm wouldn't say exactly where the ship was found for fear of attracting plunderers, though he said it wasn't close to where it was expected.

"We found this . . .

Full story at: Link