Do you know – 2011 American Eagle Bullion Coins?

Remember the Chrysler commercials from years ago with Ricardo Montalban saying, “Co-rin-thi-an leather?” Come to find out, Corinthian leather was nothing more than a marketing ploy that sounded rich when said with Mr. Montalban’s accent.

This story is reminiscent of Corinthian leather if you think about it.

So, you’re thinking, “What does leather have to do with coins?”

In a recent press release (May 26, 2011), the US Mint announced they would augment their production of the American Eagle Silver Bullion coins by utilizing the San Francisco mint facilities. With so much demand for the silver bullion eagles, the West Point mint needed help addressing the market’s requirement.

Historically, people desired coins with the San Francisco mint mark more, sometimes much more, than the same coin produced at the other mint locations.

But, in this case, the 2011 American Eagle Silver Bullion coins will not have a mint mark whether they are produced in San Francisco or in their normal mint facility, West Point.

“So, where does the Corinthian leather come into this story?”

Well, the leather doesn’t, but the possibility of a somewhat similar marketing ploy is being introduced.

One of the coin grading services offers to certify the San Francisco produced silver eagles and place them in special holders that signify the coins were minted in San Francisco. To do this, they require the silver bullion coins to be in their original sealed box from the San Francisco mint. Since silver bullion coins are sold to dealers in bulk quantities, the dealers can ship the San Francisco boxes directly to the coin grading service for this special certification.

The labels on the coin holders for these certified American Eagle silver bullion coins will state, “Struck at the San Francisco Mint” and will include an “S” in parentheses after the year [2011(S)]. But remember, no “S” mint mark exists on the coin.

Other than as a marketing gambit, is the San Francisco minted American Eagle silver bullion coin worth any more than the West Point minted coin?

To some, maybe…

But, here’s a problem. Each year, many American Eagle silver bullion coins are purchased as investment coins, for example, for IRAs. Certain investment vehicles require the coins to be in their original mint packaging including the capsule, the clam shell, the outer box and the certificate of authenticity. In fact, these programs will not accept the investment bullion coins in a “certified” form.

Now, of course, if a collector wants a certified American Eagle silver bullion coin with a particular grade and with the San Francisco mint designation on the label, that’s certainly their prerogative.

But, if a purchaser is looking at investment value and the sale of the bullion coins at some future date, purchasing the bullion coins in US Mint original packaging can save money – no need to pay extra for certification. When ready to sell, some people will pay more for certified eagles, but the broader market exists for uncertified American Eagle coins in their original mint packaging.

Americana Series Take#2

May 26, 2011 · Posted in Coin Values, Coins, History · 1 Comment 

A while back, we did a post on Silver Collections showing an Americana series in comparison to advertisements from the 1970s for year sets.

Take a look at this full page advertisement from the early 1990s for the Americana Silver Coin Collector’s Series:

Americana Series collector sets advertisement

The sets in the advertisement show different holders, but their contents compare to the ones in the red, white and blue holders:

Americana Series Three Different Sets

Their early 1990s ad offered the Yesteryear Collection, the Vanishing Classics Collection and the Presidents Collection which could have been purchased individually for $29.95 or all three could have been obtained for only $69.95. Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator that $29.95 equates to roughly $48 in 2011 dollars with the $69.95 being $112 in today’s marketplace.

Could these sets be worth today the amount charged in the advertisement?

Probably not. It depends on the ability to find someone willing to pay that much for them. They certainly would not bring the values with inflation over the years included.

Too, the savvy collector in the early 1990s could have built the same sets back then with better coins for less money than the company behind this advertisement charged.

In all likelihood, the condition of the coins in these red, white and blue sets would prevent them from bringing a premium price. In fact, the coins – at least the silver ones in the sets - are probably worth more for their metal content than as part of historical collectible sets.

The three silver coins in each set – the dime, the quarter and the half dollar – contain 0.61487 troy ounce of silver. Though silver prices have dropped from their recent high numbers, the metal’s price along with each coins’ condition make them worth more as silver.

The coins in the three sets do not tell all of the history of the nation’s coins, but they certainly provide examples of some of the most iconic coinage.

It’s disappointing that their historical significance does not make the sets much more valuable.

Maybe someday in the near future, these sets, or ones similar, will be more valuable as more and more of the older coinage is melted for its silver content.

Remembrance Medallions

May 25, 2011 · Posted in Coin Collecting Tips, Coin Values, Medals · Comment 

This year, 2011, marks the ten year anniversary of the tragedies caused by terrorism on September 11, 2001. Anniversaries provide opportunities to remember, and many different symbols can be purchased to help our efforts to not forget.

In looking around the US Mint web site, they recently published a caution about 10-year anniversary coins. For the ten year anniversary, a private mint offers a “commemorative anniversary dollar” that is a “Liberian government authorized legal tender coin.”

The cautionary article provides a reminder history lesson that Congress has the exclusive power to mint US coinage, and they delegate that power to the US Mint. In other words, the US Mint is the only authorized mint for US coinage.

The private mint is not illegally claiming their commemorative coin is a US coin, but the US Mint is concerned that people eager to take part in the tenth anniversary may mistakenly believe the coin is an official US Mint product.

Basically, it’s a legal marketing ploy by the private mint that skips along the boundary of ethics with their semantics.

On the other hand, the design of the private mint’s commemorative “dollar” is interesting.  If you like and can afford the “coin,” then buy it and enjoy it. But, don’t buy it for an expected increase in numismatic value.

Most collectors of American coinage are purists and want only US Mint coins and collectibles.

This private mint collectible might, a long shot, increase in value, but another difficulty would be finding a like-minded collector who would pay a premium.

Here’s an example of a remembrance medallion made just after the 9-11 attacks.

A small red box with a sticker on the front showing the flag and “Made in USA” holds the medallion.

9-11-2001 Official Freedom Medallion outer box with flag on cover
Opened, a piece of blue velvet flocked cardboard holds the medallion in its protective plastic over a square of foam padding.

9-11-2001 Official Freedom Medallion box opened showing contents

The obverse of the medallion shows the twin towers still standing with a flag proudly waving behind them. Below the towers on the blue water, the date “09-11-01″ shows in red. Around the outer edge, the inscription states, “We salute our brave Americans” and “A date we dare not forget.”

9-11-2001 Official Freedom Medallion obverse image

On the opposite side of the remembrance medallion, the inscription shows a large “911″ and along the outer ring, “Official Freedom Medallion” is across the top and “United States of America” is around the bottom.

9-11-2001 Official Freedom Medallion reverse image

Under the large “911,” a quote pulled from President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address is noted. After being sworn into office, he stated in this portion of his inaugural address,

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

“This much we pledge–and more.”

The small medallion could not quite contain all of this particular point of his address, but his main message about the defense of liberty clearly shows on the reverse inscription.

This remembrance token is a beautiful and colorful symbol to help us remember 9-11-2001.

But, purchased as part of a coin collection, the medallion shown above added very little, if any, value to the price of all of the coins. Since it is not a coin and since it is not silver, its numismatic value was negligible.

Collect remembrance medallions for their beauty and their purpose, not for any numismatic value. Though doubtful, it may increase in value over time as a medal, but it won’t have value in the numismatic market.

Status: Georgia Sales Tax on Coins and Bullion Metals

May 18, 2011 · Posted in Coin Values, Coins, Metals · Comment 

This is a quick update to an issue we highlighted early in the year. There was valid concern that the Georgia legislators would be looking at the tax exempt programs in the state for potential revenue into the state’s coffers.

See our earlier posts from January:  Sales Tax and Sales Tax #2 for more background on the Georgia sales tax concerns. 

As you may know, the Georgia General Assembly ended its sessions in mid April.

Though legislators frequently discussed tax issues, they did not pursue any tax changes at this time. Furthermore, the coin sales tax exemption was not high on the list to be considered for potential revenue.

The lobbyist for numismatic and investment interests in Georgia feels that the coin and investment bullion tax will not be an issue in the near future. That’s not to say that it won’t be an issue – just that it is currently well down the list of adding any potential revenue.

Of course, things change and this could readily become a topic for discussion especially if the governor chooses to make tax exemptions a focal point.

But, for now, numismatic collectibles and coin and bullion investments remain tax exempt in Georgia.

Silver and Silver Coins

April 26, 2011 · Posted in Coin Values, Metals, US Mint Collectible Sets · Comment 

Over the holiday weekend, people talked of the possibility of silver reaching $50 per ounce on Monday. They were almost right. In the wee morning hours, Eastern Time, the Asian market peaked close to $50 per ounce. But, it was only momentary.

Today, Tuesday, the silver market has fallen to below $45 per ounce, but it stayed near the $45 mark for the afternoon and closed at $45.60. Some claim this drop in price is due to the silver contracts. As soon as they are finalized, today, they expect the price to go back up.

Stating the obvious, markets are volatile – they go up and they go down, but they don’t continue in one direction or the other indefinitely. Several market pressures including supply and demand along with economics and politics play a role in the price points.

Recently, as silver prices climbed, more and more 90% silver and 40% silver coins became more valuable as silver rather than as a collectible coin.

As a refresher, let’s look at the amount of silver in US minted coins that contained silver. These values reflect the amount of silver in the coins in troy ounces. (Note: Because the US Mint kept the silver content consistent among the coins, coin dealers provide the rate they will pay for silver in coinage based on face value for either 90% or 40%, but not mixed.)

  90% silver 40% silver
dime 0.07234 n/a
quarter 0.18084 0.07390
half dollar 0.36169 0.14792
dollar 0.77344 0.31610


Looking at those denominations, quarters and dimes produced by the US Mint through 1964 contained 90% silver.

For half dollars, the first year of the Kennedy half dollar, all of the Franklin half dollars and all of the other half dollars minted earlier than 1964 contained 90% silver. Plus, in 1982, the US Mint produced a 90% silver commemorative half dollar recognizing the 250th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. Generally, the commemorative half dollars are cupro-nickel, but a limited few have been silver, for example, the 1993 Bill of Rights 90% silver commemorative half dollar.

For 1965 through 1970, the Kennedy half dollar coins contained 40% silver. Though, in 1970, the Kennedy half dollars were only minted for collectible sets, either uncirculated mint sets or proof sets.

The 90% silver dollar coins are those minted in 1935 and earlier plus any of the commemorative silver dollars from 1983 and up. Examples include the Olympic, the Statue of Liberty, the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution commemorative dollars, to name just a few.

In 1971, the Eisenhower dollar was introduced. For 1971 through 1974, 40% silver coins were minted for collectible one-coin sets, either uncirculated mint sets (“blue” Ikes for their blue envelope) or proof sets (“brown” Ikes for their outer brown, wood grain designed sleeve). Circulating Eisenhower dollars, however, were cupro-nickel for those years.

To celebrate the nation’s 200th anniversary in 1976, the Mint produced 40% silver, three-coin sets with the bicentennial versions of the quarter, half dollar and dollar coins. The proof version came in a blue, folding wallet-style holder, and the uncirculated version came in a red envelope.

In 1992, the US Mint re-introduced 90% silver coins in their silver proof sets which have continued each year since. Those coins should not be in circulation, but some of the sets now break for more value as silver rather than their market value as a collectible set.

Once silver stabilizes, the numismatic market values will readjust. Until then, several of the 90% and 40% silver coins retain more value as silver rather than their numismatic market value.

Silver’s Upward Climb

April 20, 2011 · Posted in Coin Values, Economic Times, Metals, US Mint Collectible Sets · Comment 

Today, in recognition of silver’s climb over $45 per ounce, let’s use the Way Back machine again – this time to 1967.

In an article in November 1967, the US Mint finally confirmed that they planned to melt silver coins, minted prior to 1965, beginning at the end of the year.  

A couple of years earlier in 1965, the Mint had begun making clad coins. Both the dime and quarter dated 1965 and later no longer contained any silver, and the half dollar’s silver content was reduced to 40% rather than 90%.

Primarily, a scarcity in silver drove the change in the coins’ metal content in 1965. That scarcity plus the need for more coins for circulation had the Mint working 24/7.

In 1967, the Treasury Department decided to melt the ‘common’ pre-1965 coins that contained 90% silver to improve the governmental silver stockpile.

Through October 1967, the Treasury accumulated over 150 million ounces by collecting the coins returned to the Federal Reserve Banks.

With the removal of the ceiling price of $1.29 per ounce, silver’s rate increased to $1.89. Worried by the increase, the Treasury wanted to increase the government’s amount of silver such that they could more easily control the price points.

The Mint did not have a process, nor did they choose to develop one, that could count the number of coins being melted by year and mint mark in order to have an accurate population number.

As the article pointed out, without accurate population numbers, the numismatic value of the remaining, un-melted coins was difficult to determine.

Back in the mid-1960s, people hoarded silver coins expecting silver values to rise. But, in the early 1980s, when silver prices rose to almost $50 per ounce, much of the hoarded silver came onto the market to be melted. Some people even turned their silver tableware and silver service sets (tea, coffee, serving dishes, etc.) into cash.

Now, here we are again with silver rates climbing. Looking back at 1967, the silver rate of $1.29 per ounce would be $8.63 today (using the Bureau of Labor Statistics Inflation Calculator). The Treasury Department became worried when the rate per ounce grew to $1.89 ($12.65 in 2011 dollars) and began turning silver coins back into silver for storage. That sixty cent increase in 1967 equates to an increase of just $4.00, roughly, in today’s dollars.

On the first business day of 2011, silver prices per ounce ranged between $30.50 and $31.30. Now, less than four months later, the prices range between $44.20 and $45.50 increasing roughly $15 per ounce. (Today, the New York silver market closed at $45.23 per ounce.)

Not all, but in several cases, this fast upward climb in the silver rate makes silver coins, both 90% and 40%, more valuable as silver rather than as numismatic collectibles.

Though the Mint recently made it illegal to melt the penny and the nickel coins for their copper and nickel content, it is still legal to melt silver coins. Some early mint and proof sets (and later silver proof sets) are being cut open and the silver coins sold to be melted. Older silver coins in the lower grades are also becoming silver bullion.

Of course, like the Mint of 1967, no one is keeping track of how many and what years are being melted.

With today’s faster communication networks, the market’s supply and demand will correct the numismatic price points for the coins and sets that do not get melted. These prices will adjust more quickly than when silver was melted in the 1960s and in the early 1980s.

As a reminder, the dime, quarter, and half dollar coins prior to 1965 contained 90% silver along with the dollars of 1935 and older. The Kennedy half dollars, circulated, uncirculated and proof, for 1965 through 1970 contained 40% silver. In 1976, there were special bicentennial sets with a quarter, half dollar and dollar coin, each with 40% silver.  In addition, the Mint produced commemorative coins and collectible sets containing silver coins since the 1965 introduction of the cupro-nickel clad metal content.

The next few years will certainly be interesting watching the values of silver, silver coinage and silver collectible sets. With coins being melted, a smaller supply will make the prices increase over time provided the demand is there.

Nickels, A Rarity?

March 31, 2011 · Posted in Coin Values, Economic Times, Metals, Mint · Comment 

Yesterday, we talked about the production cost of the penny being greater than one cent, and how people are beginning to collect pennies for their metal content (even though it’s illegal to melt pennies - see 31 CFR Part 82).

Similarly, the production cost of the nickel exceeds five cents and has since 2006.

Take a look at this chart showing the per unit cost for the Mint’s fiscal years of 2000 through 2010. The red line shows the five cent mark on the chart, and though 2005 looks to be at the mark, it’s just under at 4.8 cents.

Unit Cost of the Jefferson Nickel 2000-2010

The next chart shows the unit cost by fiscal year along with the requests from the Federal Reserve Banks for the nickels (in millions).

Unit Cost and Distribution of Jefferson Nickel 2000-2010

It’s interesting to look through the annual reports through the years for the Mint’s commentary about the costs of the metals – in particular, nickel for this discussion.

From the 2006 Annual Report:

“During the fourth quarter of FY 2006, increases in the prices of zinc and nickel raised the costs of production for the one-cent and 5-cent coins above their face values.”

“Perhaps the greatest challenge facing the United States Mint is the increased cost of producing circulating coinage resulting from the dramatic increases in the prices of zinc, copper, and nickel. In fact, as of the end of FY 2006, the costs of producing one-cent and 5-cent coins were exceeding the face value of these coins.”

From the 2007 Annual Report

“High metal prices continued to have a significant effect on production costs, causing the one-cent and 5-cent denominations to cost more than their face values for the second fiscal year in a row.”

“Steady and dramatic increases in the prices of zinc, copper, and nickel have raised the cost of producing circulating coinage. This continues to cause the one-cent and 5-cent coins to cost more than their face values on a per-unit basis.”

From the 2008 Annual Report

“Steady increases in the prices of copper, nickel and zinc have driven up the cost of producing circulating coinage over the last few years. The average daily spot price for the month of September increased 122.5 percent for nickel between 2004 and 2007. In FY 2008, however, the market price of nickel and zinc fell from FY 2007 peaks. The average daily spot price for the month of September decreased 39.8 percent for nickel between 2007 and 2008.”

“Despite the recent decline in base metal prices, gross cost actually increased relative to the overall face value of coins shipped. When production volumes decline because of lower demand, fixed production costs are spread over fewer units. This offsets any per-unit gains from lower base metal costs. For example, the per-unit metal cost of a nickel fell about $0.0154 from $0.0815 in FY 2007 to $0.0661 in FY 2008. However, the per-unit fixed production costs increased $0.0082, resulting in only a small decline in the nickel overall unit cost.”

“While declining from last year, the unit cost for penny and nickel denominations remained above face value for the third consecutive fiscal year. Lower demand did reduce the overall loss the United States Mint incurred from producing these denominations. Penny and nickel coins were produced at a loss of $47.0 million, down from the FY 2007 loss of about $98.6 million.”

From the 2009 Annual Report

While metal prices fell during the global recession, thus reducing our losses on pennies and nickels, base metal prices have begun to rise as the world economy begins to recover. “

“Weakened demand reduced both the gross cost and seigniorage from circulating operations. Circulating gross costs fell to $349.8 million in FY 2009 from $588.3 million in FY 2008. Market prices of copper, nickel and zinc fell to five-year lows in the beginning of FY 2009. The average daily spot price for nickel declined 49.3 percent from FY 2008 to FY 2009.”

“Slight increases in per-unit production and SG&A costs did not offset the 3.1 cent decline in the five-cent coin’s per-unit metal cost. Accordingly, the five-cent coin’s total unit cost declined 2.8 cents from FY 2008. Despite this, the unit cost for both one-cent and five-cent denominations remained above face value for the fourth consecutive fiscal year. Low demand for the five-cent coin largely reduced the overall loss the United States Mint incurred from producing these denominations in FY 2009. One-cent and five-cent coins were produced at a loss of $22.0 million, down 53.2 percent from the FY 2008 loss of about $47.0 million.”

“While metal prices fell from prior peaks in FY 2009, base metal expenses continue to make up the largest portion of circulating production cost. Toward the end of FY 2009, market prices for copper, nickel and zinc all started to increase to FY 2007 levels. “

From the 2010 Annual Report

 ”Circulating coin shipments increased 3.7 percent to 5,399 million coins in FY 2010. While the total volume grew, the composition of shipments shifted toward lower denomination coins, reducing their total value. The penny, nickel and dime made up 87.7 percent of total shipments, compared to 72.7 percent in FY 2009.”

“Even with these measures, the costs of coin production continued to increase because of escalating metal mar­ket prices. In FY 2010, market prices for copper, nickel and zinc climbed from five-year lows of FY 2009 to levels almost as high as those experienced in FY 2007. This increased expenses for fabricated blanks and strip for circulating coin production and raised unit costs for all denominations.”

“Market prices of copper, nickel and zinc recovered from FY 2009 lows and climbed back to prior fiscal year levels.  The average daily spot price for nickel rose 55.8 percent from FY 2009 to FY 2010.”

“Per-unit metal costs increased in FY 2010, driving up the total unit cost of all denominations from last year. The nickel per-unit metal and fabrication cost rose 2.3 cents from FY 2009, increasing the nickel total unit cost 52.9 percent to 9.2 cents in FY 2010.”

“The unit cost for both penny and nickel denominations remained above face value for the fifth consecutive fiscal year. Higher unit cost and demand for the five-cent coin increased the overall loss the United States Mint incurred from producing these denominations in FY 2010. Penny and nickel coins were produced at a loss of $42.6 million, nearly double the FY 2009 loss of $22.0 million.”

Did you catch the “low demand” comment about the 2009 nickels?

Now the chart above shows a drop in FY2009′s distribution to the Federal Reserve Banks to a level of 207 million five-cent coins. But, remember, that chart shows the quantities for the fiscal year.

Looking at the US Mint’s production numbers for calendar year 2009, the nickel quantities are even more interesting. For January through December 2009, the Denver Mint produced 46.8 million and Philadelphia produced 39.84 million for a total of 86.64 million nickels for circulation.

Could the nickel coin become valuable not only for its metal content but also for its low mintages – especially the 2009?

Pennies & Copper

March 30, 2011 · Posted in Coins, Metals, Mint · Comment 

At recent coin shows, we’ve had people searching for pennies – not so much for their numismatic value, but more for their copper content. But why? Well, the cost of the metal has increased significantly.

No, you cannot melt pennies. The following summary rule made by the Treasury Department in 2007 states the prohibition. The details can be found at the Government Printing Office.

31 CFR Part 82

Prohibition on the Exportation, Melting, or Treatment of 5-Cent and One-Cent Coins

AGENCY: United States Mint, Treasury
ACTION: Final Rule

To protect the coinage of the United States, the United States Mint is adopting a final rule that prohibits the exportation, melting, and treatment of 5-cent and one-cent coins. This rule is issued pursuant to 31 U.S.C. 5111(d), which authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to prohibit or limit the
exportation, melting, or treatment of United States coins when the Secretary decides the prohibition or limitation is necessary to protect the coinage of the United States. This rule’s purpose is to ensure that sufficient quantities of 5-cent and one-cent coins remain in circulation to meet the needs of the United States.

DATES: Effective Date: This final rule is effective April 16, 2007.

But, why was this rule even necessary? It’s simple, really. Our one-cent coins, even though their copper content is much less than their zinc content, cost more than a penny to produce.

Take a look at the costs for fiscal years 2000 through 2010.

Cost of making a penny

The bars represent the costs incurred by the US Mint for the circulating penny. (This does not include proof, uncirculated and numismatic versions of the cent.) The red line shows where the costs go over one cent. But, since they do not include marketing expenses in their cost basis, it could be the cost bars do not fully reflect the true cost of the production of the penny.

When you look at the US Mint’s distribution of the penny, as the costs went up their production and distribution went down. Makes sense - the penny is a losing enterprise.

Cost of the penny with distribution in millions

The numbers on the right represent millions of pennies. In 2000, they distributed roughly 13.7 billion cents. But in 2009, they did 3.2 billion and 3.5 billion in 2010 (fiscal years).

In the US Mint’s 2010 annual report, they explained:

“In FY 2010, market prices for copper, nickel and zinc climbed from five-year lows of FY 2009 to levels almost as high as those experienced in FY 2007.”

“The average daily spot price for copper and zinc increased 56.9 percent and 52.4 percent, respectively, from FY 2009 to FY 2010.”

Their 2010 fiscal year ended on September 30. The following commentary in the annual report sets the stage for the legislation enacted in December:

“Base metal expenses continue to make up the largest portion of circulating production cost, eroding seigniorage derived from circulating operations. Toward the end of FY 2009, market prices for copper, nickel and zinc all started to increase to FY 2007 levels. Changing the composition of coins to less expensive alternative materials could generate significant cost savings and mitigate further reductions in seigniorage should metal market prices escalate. The Secretary of the Treasury currently has authority to select the composition of the $1 coin, as well as alter the percentage of copper and zinc in the one-cent coin. The compositions of five-cent, dime, quarter-dollar and half-dollar coins are codified by statute. Any authority to change the composition of these denominations requires a statutory amendment.”

The legislation, PUBLIC LAW 111–302 approved on December 14, provides the research and development authority for alternative coinage materials to the Secretary of the Treasury, increase congressional oversight over coin production, and ensure the continuity of certain numismatic items.

As we noted in an earlier post, the Mint solicited input from the public, but the responses are due by April 4 (that’s next Monday).

It’s just not good business to make products at a loss. On the other hand, it does make you wonder about the value of copper in relation to the other metals. Today, for the most part, it’s not considered a “precious metal” like gold, silver and platinum. But, with the Mint having to review their metals due to losses and with nefarious characters stealing copper wherever they can to sell, it makes one take a second look at copper’s value.

Palladium Bullion Coins

March 16, 2011 · Posted in Coins, Metals · Comment 

Sadly, a favorite metal has lost significant value over the last couple of weeks. Palladium achieved a high point of $859 within the last 30 days but has fallen below $700 with the economic uncertainty generated by the recent man-made and natural disasters.

Though it has many uses, palladium plays a role in today’s vehicle manufacturing. With the turmoil in the automotive industry’s ability to sell new vehicles and with plants shutting down in Japan, even temporarily, palladium’s value fell dramatically.

But, did you know that the 111th Congress formed a bill to make a new American Eagle Palladium Bullion Coin? It passed in the House on September 29, in the Senate on November 30, and was approved on December 14 to become Public Law 111-303. It states, “An Act to authorize the production of palladium bullion coins to provide affordable opportunities for investments in precious metals, and for other purposes.”

Further, the law describes the design of the coin as:

‘‘(6) DESIGN.—Coins minted and issued under this subsection shall bear designs on the obverse and reverse that are close likenesses of the work of famed American coin designer and medallic artist Adolph Alexander Weinman—

‘‘(A) the obverse shall bear a high-relief likeness of the ‘Winged Liberty’ design used on the obverse of the so-called ‘Mercury dime’;

‘‘(B) the reverse shall bear a high-relief version of the reverse design of the 1907 American Institute of Architects medal; and

‘‘(C) the coin shall bear such other inscriptions, including ‘Liberty’, ‘In God We Trust’, ‘United States of America’, the denomination and weight of the coin and the fineness of the metal, as the Secretary determines to be appropriate and in keeping with the original design.

Most of us are familiar with the “Winged Liberty” dime otherwise known as a “Mercury” dime. In his correspondence to the Mint in 1916, Mr. Weinman described his obverse design, “The design of the dime, owing to the smallness of the coin, has been held quite simple. The obverse shows a head of liberty with winged cap. The head is firm and simple in form, the profile forceful.”

See frame #484:  Adolph A. Weinman papers, 1890-1959. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

This lustrous MS-65 1939D shows the strength and artistry of the Winged Liberty profile among the shine on the surface:

1939D MS-65 Mercury Dime obverse

As a side note, it’s interesting to look at comments from when the Winged Liberty dime was released. In the news reports and commentary, several claimed that the left facing portrait is the “correct” one. They commented that a right facing portrait shows weakness.  

As for the reverse of the palladium coin, since millions of the architect medals were not made for circulation, information is more difficult to find. When he completed the American Institute of Architect’s medal in 1907, Mr. Weinman did not keep as many of his papers, but two letters can be found.

The first, dated January 25, 1907, came from the American Institute of Architects and included the following:

“It gives me pleasure to send you the following resolution, which was adopted by the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Architects, January 5th, 1907.

“WHEREAS, Mr. Adolph A. Weinman, has greatly contributed to the success of the 50th anniversary of the American Institute of Architects, by designing and executing for the permanent use of the Institute, a medal of great beauty and high interest, and to do this put aside many pressing engagements, now therefor be it,

“RESOLVED, that the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Architects tenders to Mr. Weinman, its most hearty thanks for the service thus performed.”

See frame #597: Adolph A. Weinman papers, 1890-1959. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

 Similarly, on page 35 of the American Architect and Architecture, Volumes 91 and 92, from 1907, the American Institute of Architects commented about the new medal:


“The Board reports that, acting in accordance with the wishes of the Institute, it has taken the important step of establishing in the name of the Institute a Gold Medal for distinguished achievement in architecture, and has made the award of the medal to Sir Aston Webb, R.A. It is a fortunate circumstance that the medal may first be conferred upon the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the Institute. The medal has been executed, under the advice of Mr. C. F. McKim and Mr. Geo. B. Post, with admirable skill and with the highest beauty by Mr. Adolph A. Weinman. It is worth of the best traditions of the art.”

The second letter in Mr. Weinman’s papers came from Mr. McKim and included his appreciation,

“I have just received the facsimile of the beautiful medal which you designed for the Institute, and which more and more fills me with pleasure. I feel nearly as proud of it as Sir Aston Webb does of the original.

It is a pure work of art, worthy of the aim of the Institute, and reflects the greatest credit upon you skill as an artist. I am proud of it, and particularly proud that we have a man in our country capable of producing so serious a work. You have my heartiest congratulations and best wishes.

I expect to go to Washington tomorrow, and will carry it with me, for the purpose of showing it to the President, as well as to the Secretaries of State and War.

See frame #598:  Adolph A. Weinman papers, 1890-1959. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

From 1919, in the Magazine of Art Volume 10, a picture of the American Institute of Architects medal can be found on page 273:Adolph A. Weinman Medal for American Institute of Architects

The eagle on the medal’s reverse will make a beautiful reverse for the palladium coin.

Now then, when will the Mint offer these coins? Even though they placed the Coin Modernization Act (Public Law 111-302), approved on the same day as the American Eagle Palladium Bullion Coin Act of 2010, on their web site’s legislation page, they have not added Public Law 111-303 as of today, March 16, 2011 . Plus, if you select the Mint’s “Shop Online” and search for “palladium,” their search engine apologizes when it cannot find any resulting coin products.

Are they watching the metal prices? Are they working on the dies for the coin? The new coins should be interesting.

Jefferson on Money

January 11, 2011 · Posted in Coin Values, Coins, Currency, History, Metals, Mint · Comment 

When you look at the writings of the founding fathers, it’s amazing how wise and insightful they were.

Thomas Jefferson, a prolific writer, shared his views and knowledge on many topics.

In The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, his views on the establishment of the US Mint illustrate his wisdom on sovereignty as it relates to coinage. Plus, his other comments on establishing the units of money show his foresight in making our monetary system easy to use.

But, Jefferson also commented at great length about banks, and a few examples of his comments are:

Similar to our concerns of today, he also commented on the lack of value tied to paper money:

“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their  currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks…will deprive the people of  all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered…. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.” – Thomas Jefferson in the debate over the Re-charter of the Bank Bill (1809)

These Jeffersonian comments demonstrate interesting insights and fit our time just as appropriately as they fit his.

An interesting and wise man…

Thomas Jefferson Nickel obverse

The search for Jefferson’s comments on money and banking was instigated after seeing an interesting quote attributed to Norm Franz as written in his book, Money and Wealth in the New Millennium: “Gold is the money of kings; silver is the money of gentlemen; barter is the money of peasants; but debt is the money of slaves.”

With today’s economic turmoil, we could learn much from both Thomas Jefferson and Norm Franz.

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