Sunday, March 29, 2009

Colonial Williamsburg Acquires Extremely Rare Indian Peace Medal

WILLIAMSBURG, VA.- The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has purchased an extremely rare Virginia Indian peace medal produced by order of Gov. Thomas Jefferson in 1780. The medal will be exhibited in the introductory gallery of the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum beginning March 28. Matchless in the history of relations between the independent Commonwealth of Virginia and the region’s native tribes, the “Happy While United” peace medal was cast in bronze by Robert Scot — later chief engraver at the U.S. Mint — in Williamsburg or Richmond while Jefferson was governor.

Commemorating an unidentified Revolutionary-era alliance between native tribes and the Commonwealth, silver medals were presented to important tribal members, while bronze versions were cast for non-native recipients. None of the twelve silver medals originally produced survive as they were likely traded in for later Presidential Indian peace medals or buried with the native recipients upon their deaths.

“The Virginia Indian Peace Medal is a priceless addition to the Colonial Williamsburg collection,” said Erik Goldstein, curator of numismatics and mechanical arts. “It is an integral part of Virginia history that acknowledges and honors the Native American allies of Virginia’s infant revolutionary government.”

At nearly three inches in diameter and more than two-and-one-half ounces in weight, the medal is . . .

Full story at: Link

New Gold Rush: Party Like It's 1849

With gold prices topping $900 an ounce and jobs still disappearing, a new gold rush is on. It's taking place in California again, where unemployed people are heading for the hills to prospect for gold. It's also happening on TV and online, where sometimes dubious ads promise rich rewards if you'll just hock your jewelry. And it's even creeping into a new kind of cocktail party that could only start in the Golden State.

And just like last time, the new gold rush can come with a mix of disappointment and, well, rush. The adrenaline kind, as one miner says.

"Some days you sit here and make two cents. Some days you make a couple of hundred dollars," said John Gurney, who like his crusty predecessors came from the East to find gold by digging around in California river beds.

"I had one good day and made about $10,000," Gurney told the KNBC-TV in Los Angeles.

What they're after

The mineral gold is dense but highly flexible. It is virtually indestructible and extremely rare. All of the gold ever mined can fit into a cube with 72-foot sides, says Stuart Simmons, a researcher from University of Auckland, New Zealand who has studied how gold forms.

Today, Fort Knox holds 8-foot-tall stacks of gold bars worth some $130 billion, enough to . . .

Full story at: Link

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Oily loonies continue despite threat from Royal Canadian Mint

A Victoria-based environmental group is claiming victory over the Royal Canadian Mint in its campaign to decorate loonies with decals of oil-soaked loons.

A strange silence has followed the Mint's initial threats of fines and imprisonment, said Kelsey Singbeil, spokeswoman for the Dogwood Initiative, which has refused to stop decalling. The stickers are part of Dogwood's campaign for a legislated ban on tankers in northern B.C. waters. "We thanked [the Mint] for their concerns, but said we believe we are on the right side of the law and we haven't heard back from them," Singbeil said.

But the Mint says it has not backed down and is waiting for an application from Dogwood for use of the Mint's "intellectual property." "We really want to find an agreeable resolution," said Mint spokeswoman Christine Aquino.

About 50 groups a year apply for use of coin or currency images and it's expected . . .

Full story at: Link

England's Royal mint celebrates 50th Anniversary of the Mini car on coins

The Royal Mint has launched a series of coins to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Mini.

The Mini, which became a British design classic and an icon of the Swinging Sixties, is the first car to be represented across a complete set of Royal Mint coins.

The Mint has produced 2,000 sets consisting of four £5 coins in silver proof, with designs featuring the Mini's motorsport success, its 1960s influence and its design characteristics. The sets cost £175.

It has also produced a range of £1, £5 and £10 coins in silver and gold proof, with . . .

Full story at: Link

Friday, March 27, 2009

Quebec hockey fans clamouring for a chance to own a ‘puck buck’ coin celebrating Canadiens

OTTAWA—Quick, hockey fans: What’s hotter than Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and small enough to fit in your pocket?

It’s the puck buck, a new one-dollar coin commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the Montreal Canadiens.

Fans have been snatching up the collectible coins by the hundreds of thousands in Métro grocery stores across Quebec since last Wednesday, when they were released by the Royal Canadian Mint.

Today they’ll have a chance to do the same in Ottawa, when the mint offers the coins at a dollar-for-dollar exchange rate from its boutique on Sussex Drive.

“We ordered 4,000 on Wednesday. By Friday, we had none left,” said Louise Cousineau, manager of the Métro Plus Depatie grocery store in the Montreal suburb of Laval. “At the cash, people ask for five or

10 of them in their change, or sometimes they buy rolls.”

The mint has produced 10 million of the coins, which will go into circulation over a period of 10 weeks. About 7.5 million of them will find their way into the public’s pockets through Quebec’s Métro grocery chain, which has an exclusive deal to distribute the coins in that province.

Métro spokeswoman Marie-Claude Bacon said 3.25 million of the coins earmarked for the chain have been already been . . .

Full story at: Link

Don't Overlook 'P' Coronet Head Gold $20 Double Eagles

Every collector knows what a bullion coin is. It is one that contains a known quantity of precious metal and it is valued according to that metallic content. By those criteria, all precious metal coinage of the United States struck before 1934 was bullion, but it had the added benefit of having a face value stamped on it that matched the metallic value.

There is very little doubt that the Coronet Head double eagle was a creation of the gold discovery in California in 1848 and the subsequent need for the government to put bullion into convenient coin form for use in the economy.

Had it not been for all the gold discovered in California, there is little likelihood that there would have ever been a Coronet Head double eagle, or a Saint-Gaudens double eagle, either. The denominations established in 1792 would have been sufficient.

We can lose sight of the fact that the double eagle was a denomination that simply did not come naturally to the United States or to collectors. The evidence of that fact is everywhere as from the first Mint Act of April 2, 1792, there was no discussion of anything larger than a gold eagle, which had a face value of $10. Had a $20 been in the minds of the Founding Fathers, it probably would have had the honor of being called an eagle.

The trials and tribulations of the new gold eagle are more than ample evidence that anything larger was certainly not in the cards at first. The gold eagle lasted just under a decade before having its production suspended in 1804. There seemed to be no real problem for the economy when the largest gold coin in use became a half eagle.

When the gold eagle returned to production roughly 35 years later there was no real indication that it was seeing heavy use. In fact, there is a rather interesting indication beyond the mintage totals of precisely the opposite. There were . . .

Full story at: Link

How to Buy Gold and Other Metals With a Self-Directed IRA

Evidence of the modern day gold rush is all around - everything from Super Bowl commercials to famous financial advisors telling Americans to buy gold. But with the unemployment rate growing and many people tightening their budgets, how can the average American invest in anything? Bill Humphrey, co-owner of Entrust New Direction, a self-directed IRA custodian, has an answer. "Anyone can use their retirement funds to buy gold and other precious metals, if they have a self-directed retirement plan." Humphrey said the most common follow-up question is - what kind of gold and what other metals?

Boulder, CO (PRWEB) March 22, 2009 -- With so many coins and metal choices out there in the market, choosing a retirement investment can be confusing. Which metals and which types of metals are acceptable for an IRA investment? Does the IRA owner store the metal personally? How can a self-directed IRA owner tell if the gold in question is approved by the IRS? Bill Humphrey, a CPA who has worked with self-directed IRA owners for years, can help answer these questions.

First, the basics. Self-directed IRAs can only invest in Gold, Silver, Platinum and Palladium. Humphrey said, "The key word here is invest. IRAs cannot buy collectibles." In other words, the IRA is only investing in the metal itself, not rare or attractive coins. "As long as the metal is not collectible," Humphrey continued, "the main thing to worry about is the purity." The purity or fineness of the metal is how the quality of the metal will be measured for the IRA.

"Also, the metal must be in a certain form - usually coins or bars," Humphrey said. When most people hear about gold investment, they picture the 400 ounce gold bars commonly seen in movies. Extraordinarily heavy (about 25 pounds), those bars are also quite the expensive items, particularly with the recent price increases in gold. IRAs are often priced out of the gold bar market, but, fortunately, other options exist. One other option is smaller units of bullion, provided they meet the fineness, or purity level requirement. Another option is coins.

Humphrey said that initially, the IRS deemed all coins to be collectible and disallowed IRA investments in coins. In the mid 1990's, after realizing that a 400 ounce gold bullion bar would be prohibitively expensive for most IRAs, Congress revised the rules for IRAs and allowed certain coins in addition to bullion.

Humphrey laid out a list coin categories that the IRS generally allows . . .

Full story at: Link

$500 million sunken treasure stirs international booty battle

Courts will decide who owns $500 million haul found off coast of Portugal

If he’s a pirate who’s made off with a half-billion-dollar booty haul, as Spain says he is, Greg Stemm didn’t look the part. Sporting a closely trimmed gray beard and wearing a sport coat with a black shirt and matching slacks, he never once said “Arrrr” or “matey.” He didn’t even have an eye patch or a parrot perched on his tweed-upholstered shoulder.

But what Stemm, the CEO of Odyssey Marine Exploration, does have in a warehouse somewhere in Florida is a haul of hundreds of thousands of coins — gold pieces of eight and silver coins — that the Spanish government says belongs to the people of Spain. A U.S. District Court judge who has been hearing arguments in the case since last year is expected to rule soon on who is the rightful owner of what is reported to be the largest treasure ever recovered from the deep.

In an appearance Tuesday on TODAY, Stemm told Ann Curry that his company has already suggested to the court and Spain what it feels is a reasonable solution: “We suggested, ‘You know what? Let’s do a . . .

Full story at: Link

Braille silver dollar goes on sale

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Mint will begin accepting orders Thursday for the first coin to feature readable Braille.

The coin's "heads" side features a portrait of Louis Braille; the "tails" side features a boy reading a book in Braille.

The 2009 Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar commemorates the 200th birthday of Louis Braille, inventor of the Braille system of reading and writing used by the blind.

The National Federation of the Blind can receive surcharges from sales of the coins to further its programs to promote Braille literacy, the U.S. Mint said in a news release.

Mintage of the coin, which is 90 percent silver, will be limited to 400,000, the Mint said. The coin will be available in . . .

Full story at: Link

Bank needs help finding owner of rare gold double eagle coins

SALT LAKE CITY -- Bank officials and police would like to know who the mysterious woman is who walked into a bank with a fistful of gold coins and exchanged them for only a couple hundred dollars. The coins, some more than a century old, are worth at least 50 times that much.

It happened last week at a St. George-area branch of Zions Bank. "A woman came into the branch and approached a teller saying that she had these coins," explained Rob Brough, executive vice president of Zions Bank.

She told the teller she had groceries waiting but the nearby Wal-Mart wouldn't accept her coins. The teller gave her face value, 20 bucks a piece, for 14 coins.

"At the bank, we don't deal with anything other than face value, and so she was just asking us to exchange the coins for dollars," Brough said.

But the coins are worth thousands, at least. Zions Bank showed us to see three of the 14, which date from 1875 to 1927.

All 14 are Double Eagles, $20 gold pieces. "There's some weight to it. There's about an ounce of gold here, so you get a little bit of sense that there's some value to these," Brough said.

Melted down at today's gold prices, each coin is worth, minimum, $900. Some very rare Double Eagles are worth tens of thousands, even millions. The 14 coins have . . .

Full story at: Link

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Output at the Denver Mint fell 26 percent in 2008

Fewer purchases, fewer coins

As falls the economy, so falls the jingle of coinmaking at the U.S. Mint.

Production at the federal government's coin factory in Denver fell a sharp 26 percent in 2008 from the previous year, contributing to a national output decline of 30 percent.

Mint officials said the drop is a direct reflection of the plunging economy and the resulting fall in cash-register transactions that require merchants to provide change.

"Coin demand is definitely affected by economic activity," said Greg Hernandez, acting director of public affairs in Washington for the U.S. Mint.

"Banks are not ordering as many coins as they were," he said. "If local banks are not getting orders from local merchants, it's going to affect Mint production."

The U.S. Mint in 2008 produced 10.1 billion general-circulation coins, the fewest in at least 10 years.

Denver accounted for slightly more than half of the U.S. production, with the remainder from the Mint in Philadelphia.

Employment at the Denver Mint is about 350, a level that hasn't changed with the production dip, a spokesman said.

Part of the coin-production decline stems from diminishing consumer interest in collecting quarters issued for each of the 50 states — a phenomenon that had . . .

Full story at: Link

Monday, March 16, 2009

Jan Mickelson Interviews Susan Headley of on WHO Radio

(Great job Susan! I once was a guest on an hour-long radio talk show about investing and I went through the exact same feelings as you. Luckily, I didn't have to respond to any caller questions. Phew! You did a great job. - A.C. Dwyer)

(Susan Headley, One of the coolest things about having a high-profile Web site about coin collecting is that I get a fair number of media inquiries every month which result in being published in print, radio, and TV. Some of them are brief quotes, such as where I expressed my opinion about the U.S. Mint's Presidential Signature Set to the Wall Street Journal, and some of them are drawn from content I have published on my site, such as the piece by the LaRue County Herald talking about the availability of the new Log Cabin pennies. (The Signature Sets were a short-lived offering that combined a Proof Presidential Dollar with a presidential autograph reproduction.)

One type of media I hadn't done, until recently, was a live on-the-air interview about coins. Jan Mickelson hosts a radio show called Mickelson in the Morning for WHO Newsradio 1040 Radio in Des Moines, Iowa. He's on the air every weekday talking about current events and politics.

When Jan heard about my Chinese coin counterfeiting coverage, he invited me to appear on his broadcast. Of course, I accepted immediately, not really realizing what I was getting myself into...

Listen to the radio show and read Susan's full story at: Link

Chump change? Not rare coins

As the stock market stutters, some investors are turning their eye to an old-fashioned investment - coins, bills and metals.

Interest is growing - and so are payouts - as people shy away from a stock market still trying to recover, said the organizer of a coin and bill show yesterday.

"We've had a lot of inquiries from people in paper investments," said Jamie Horkulak, president of Edmonton Numismatic Society, a club for money hobbyists and investors.

They claim their Money Show is the largest in Canada, and still strong through a recession.

He said many of the 50 dealers didn't see any drop in sales this year, selling and buying more items than ever.

Stocks have dropped severely in value over the past three years, while gold has risen to $900 per ounce from $500, said Horkulak.

"Bills, coins and gold, you can hold them in your hand," he said.

Rare currencies will always be rare, and their condition can be protected.

"A share can split. They can issue more shares," he said. "It's almost a fantasy, almost a contrived value."

Some coins and bills lose value - 10% at most, Horkulak said. But most are worth . . .

Full story at: Link

Local coin dealers report rise in demand for gold

Days after famed Lehman Bros. bank announced its bankruptcy in September, Blanchard and Co. Inc., the largest precious metals retailer in the country, was breaking company sales records. Blanchard sold more gold in 60 days after the Lehman collapse than it had in the preceding three years combined, an executive for the firm said.

"I think what was happening was that people were motivated by fear at that point," said David Beahm, vice president of economic research for the New Orleans company. "They wanted to have an asset they could hold in their hand and that wouldn't go to zero overnight."

Blanchard customers, it seems, were not alone. Demand for gold and silver have been increasing nationwide. The U.S. Mint sold four times as many American Gold Eagle coins in January 2009 as it did in the same month a year ago.

Worldwide economic woes are driving that demand, said Barry Stuppler, president of the American Numismatic Association. Gold, among the most liquid of assets, is seen by some investors as a hedge against inflation and a safe bet in perilous economic times, Stuppler said.

The price of gold ended last year up 5 percent compared with its close in 2007. It was one of the few investments to end the year in positive territory. After rising sharply last year and surpassing $1,000 an ounce to hit an all-time record price, it recently has . . .

Full story at: Link

Friday, March 13, 2009

What's green, gold and silver? The National Money Show in Portland, Oregon

There aren't many places you'll find more than $1 billion in a single room, especially not during the recession.

One safe bet: this weekend's National Money Show at the Oregon Convention Center.

You can see very old, very famous coins -- including the penny flipped in 1845 to determine Portland's name. Meet hundreds of collectors, who give informal appraisals. And learn about the hosts -- the American Numismatic Association, a group devoted, naturally, to the study of money.

The rock stars of the show might be the U.S. Department of Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Christopher Madden, lead engraver, is taking a break from President Barack Obama's official engraved portrait to show off the . . .

Full story at: Link

Railroad gets most votes in new U.S. state quarter contest

The Wilmington and Western Historic Railroad received the mostvotes in the contest to help select which site will represent Delaware in the next state quarter series, Gov. Jack Markell and U.S. Rep Michael Castle announced Monday. . . .

. . . "These four selections span several important eras in Delaware’s history and illustrate what a critical role Delaware has played in key moments of America’s past," Markell said. "We have a long and proud history here in Delaware, and we look forward to sharing that storied history with the nation."

More than 25,000 votes were cast in the contest, which is part of the United States Mint’s latest series of state quarters. Following up on the 1999 50-state quarter release, this initiative calls on states and territories to design one landmark to appear on the new set of quarters, which will bereleased beginning in 2010. Five quarters will be released each year.

"The sites selected to choose from are . . .

Full story at: Link

Teacher's State Quarters Coin Challenge

(Very cool! - A.C. Dwyer)

Nine years ago, Elizabeth Speicher gave a challenge to her second grade class at the Benjamin Cucinella School in Washington Township. Speicher asked the kids to begin collecting quarters with each state’s seal and to return in 2009 when they were done.

Find out if anyone did: Link

Odyssey Marine Exploration Announces 2008 Financial Results

(Normally I wouldn't include financial posts, but this one makes an interesting read for us shipwreck enthusiasts. - A.C. Dwyer)

. . . Odyssey has numerous shipwreck projects in various stages of development around the world. In order to protect the identities of the targets of our planned search or recovery operations, in some cases, we defer disclosing specific information relating to our projects until we have located a shipwreck or shipwrecks of interest and determined a course of action to protect our property rights.

In some cases, we do not target specific shipwrecks, but instead focus on a search area that historical records suggest may contain unrecorded and recorded high value targets because of the proximity of shipping routes frequented by ships carrying intrinsically high value cargoes. . . .

Full story at: Link

Gold $2.50 Quarter Eagle had a Varied Past

The gold $2.50, also called a quarter eagle, has meant many different things to many different people. Government officials intended it to be a coin of convenience. Merchants saw it as a nuisance because gold $2.50s were often mistaken for new cents, which were similar in size and color if not design. A mistake could amount to a day's pay.

Counterfeiters saw the gold $2.50 as an opportunity to make a quick profit. They used molds, casts and dies to make gold $2.50 copies that ranged from crude to almost perfect. Sometimes they removed gold through the edge of genuine gold $2.50s, leaving only the shell, which they filled with some other, less valuable metal.

Those who could afford it saw the gold $2.50 as the ideal gift at holiday time. In the late 1800s, the practice was so common that one newspaper referred to gold $2.50s as "ballast" for Christmas stockings. Somehow, though, the description didn't do the coins justice.

To coin collectors . . .

Full story at: Link

76th Anniversary: The Gold Confiscation Of April 5, 1933 by Executive Order 6102

This Act follows FDR's March 5, 1933 chat on the "Banking Crisis", and effectively proves our president to be a liar and a thief. Interesting, too, that the gold is to be turned in to the privately-owned Federal Reserve Banks. James Turk furnishes an excellent analysis including the amount of gold actually surrendered by Americans. . . .

Full story at: Link

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Lincoln Pennies Photo Gallery

Haven't seen the new 2009 Lincoln penny designs yet? With bank demand for pennies at a historic low, it may be awhile before any of the new designs get out into circulation. But you can see the four new designs via this photo gallery.

See new Lincoln pennies at: Link

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Counterfeit coins slip through eBay's electronic web

(Richard Morrison, Financial Post) A few weeks ago I wrote that the dismal year in stock markets had prompted me to seriously consider alternative investments. I had settled on rare coins, since they are the most liquid collectible, and outlined what I had discovered about investing in them --including a brief mention of the crooks who fraudulently pass off counterfeit reproductions as the real thing.

I was inundated with e-mails from readers, many of whom said I should have allocated more space to warning against coin fraud on eBay.

"Time after time, counterfeit scammers have set up shop on eBay, cheating thousands of people over a period of years," Reid Goldsborough, a Philadelphia, Pa.-based syndicated newspaper columnist and coin expert says on his Web site, rg. "EBay is very much skewed toward promoting the interests of sellers -- they're the ones who pay fees and earn eBay its profits," writes Mr. Goldsborough . . . A search under the word "replica" in the coins and paper money category on eBay turned up 7,065 items for sale -- 6,753 of which were located in China. Most were copies of U. S. coins, but 268 were replicas of Canadian coins.

Mike Marshall, a coin collector from Trenton, Ont., says he knows of two manufacturers and four sellers in China that can supply buyers with copies of 117 different types of rare Canadian coins; the real versions sometimes sell for thousands of dollars.

On the eBay site, the Chinese-made copies properly have the word "copy" or "replica" carved on them in a countermark. The fact that no attempt is made to pass them off as real satisfies Chinese authorities and eBay. But the manufacturers also supply unmarked coins on request, so when they arrive at the buyer's mailing address in North America there might not be "copy" carved in to the coin and it simply looks real -- a counterfeit that can be resold as the real thing for a huge profit.

"Yes, some people buy them honestly, just to . . .

Full story at: Link

The Glittering Gold Dollar

(R.W. Julian, Coins Magazine) Collectors tend to think that the first coinage of a new denomination came soon after someone thought of the idea and persuaded Congress to create the necessary legislation. Sometimes this is true but the gold dollar is the exception. The first suggestion of a gold dollar seems to have been made by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in his report on a mint and coinage, presented to Congress in early 1791.

When Congress finally got around to preparing draft legislation for a coinage bill in late 1791, the gold dollar was quietly dropped from the list of suggested coins, probably on the grounds that two different dollar coins, one of silver and one of gold, were one too many. The silver dollar was thus chosen as our standard coin.

For several decades little was heard of a dollar gold coin but about 1832 North Carolina private coiner Christopher Bechtler began striking such coins for miners who brought gold to his mint. Coins of any kind were in short supply in the Old South and Bechtler was clearly filling a need.

The Bechtler coinage actually began in June 1831, during the . . .

Full story at: Link

Sunday, March 01, 2009

From slave ship to pirate ship, Whyduh shipwreck treasure comes to Chicago

Ship full of booty broke apart in storm off Cape Cod in 1717

(William Mullen, Chicago Tribune) When the pirate ship Whydah broke up in a fierce storm off Cape Cod in 1717, it sank carrying the plunder from 54 ships it had seized over the last year. Of the 146 men aboard, 144 died.

For years the story of those pirates lay buried with the wreck and its treasure under 30 feet of sand—a tale of violent men who nonetheless built for themselves a mini-society that shed racial prejudice and operated on democratic principles.

A traveling exhibit opening Friday at the Field Museum uses artifacts salvaged from the Whydah—the first and only verified pirate shipwreck ever located and recovered—to shed light on the lives of these men. Objects on display include weapons, jewelry, gold and silver coins and ingots as well as . . .

Full story at: Link