Over 200 Years of Combined Numismatic Experience at Your Disposal.
|December 2015 Issue|
A Newsletter By:
MY COIN JOURNEY PART VI
By Warren Mills
In our November newsletter, I shared my professional background through the early 1980’s. In 1982, I resumed my numismatic career with Steve Ivy Rare Coins in Dallas, Texas. Steve’s mother was in the real estate field and she set me up with an apartment. I flew into Dallas and the next morning showed up at the office. There was a minor problem, I had only spoken to Steve off and on for almost two years and nary a soul knew who I was or that I was coming.
Finally, I was let in and was told that I could not work in the security area because there was no office for me. That’s where all the coins were. Steve is a cagey dude so I have no idea if this was a test, but I was a determined and unbowed individual. I asked if there were an unused phone and a jack into which I could plug and if I could have some space on the floor to work. I literally meant the floor with people walking by and around me.
I finally had a space, a phone and a working phone jack to call my “office”. I asked about some names of sales leads to call. Mike Sherman, who now works for Collectors Universe, was the Security Manager, and I was informed that the market was so soft in 1982 that leads were scarce and distributed to their existing sales staff. My response wasn’t to wallow in pity – I’m not a “woe is me” type of guy. I said, “give me all the dead leads and problem clients you have that will never do business with your firm again, and I’ll start selling coins.”
Mike brought me a box with hundreds of names and phone numbers. The notes on some of the folders and lead forms were priceless. Many who were previously contacted actually “threatened bodily harm or worse” if they were ever contacted by the company. Those were the first people I called! While I was speaking to one of these irate and unfriendly leads, one of the numismatists came in to introduce himself. Later on, he brought in another numismatist, and both listened to me as I called the ‘dead leads’; they both went back to Mike Sherman and said to find this new guy an office in the security area, even if it means throwing you (Mike) out! So Day One was full of fun and surprises, but I made the best of the situation.
Day two was so much different. I came in and people knew me. I had a security clearance and an office. I don’t know who was displaced, but I was in. What a difference a day makes! Now, I didn’t just like coins, I had a passion for them -- almost an obsession and love that I still have today! This love and passion was felt by the customers with whom I was fortunate to work, and I was rolling like a tidal wave. Steve had monthly bonuses that were awarded to salesmen that were pitted against other salesmen. Whoever sold the most won a $100.00, a big sum 33 years ago! I don’t think I ever lost.
After a while I was matched up against the manager of the Financial Planning Division because no numismatist or Financial Services salesperson could sell as much as I could. When I won month after month, Steve was kind enough to let me come to him and ask for a perk if I wanted something instead of depressing the staff by winning month after month.
I also shared my bonuses with the office staff to give them thanks for their assistance to make me a better numismatist and salesperson. Without great support, you have no foundation. I have always been aware of this fact and have always thanked those around me and my customers for their help. It was also a pleasure to be appreciated. I had my run-ins with Steve and Mike about being too aggressive and helping customers, but a customer is a business’s life blood. In my book, you can’t help too much.
The personnel at the company were also top notch and fostered comradery. We had a bowling team, which was named the “Lumpistic Factor”. Call me and I will explain that name to you. We also had basketball tournaments, football games, and other loyalty-building outings of all kinds. It truly was a wonderful company chemistry that made the Steve Ivy Company a wonderful place to work. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful numismatists there, too! Among them were Doug Winter, Mark Feld, Joe Presti (currently with RCNH), Jim DiGeorgia, Gary Carlson, Mark Van Winkel, Charles Clifford, along with others whose names escape me at the moment. Yet, once again, the winds of change were blowing. The Steve Ivy Company was going to take on new individuals and the birth of Heritage Numismatics began.
My next continuation of “My Coin Journey” will pick up at the birth of the largest numismatic firm in the world.
Partner and owner of Rare Coins of New Hampshire, Inc. since June, 1990 and a full time coin dealer since 1979. Warren is a full member of the Professional Numismatists Guild and a life member of the American Numismatic Association. He was selected by the Rosen Numismatic Advisory as one of the ten leading numismatists in the country for twelve consecutive years. He was selected by PCGS and written up in their newsletter as handling and submitting some of the nicest coins they have ever seen.
No "S" Mintmark Proof Coins
By Joseph Presti
The San Francisco Mint took on the duty of minting proof coins in 1968. Prior to that, proof coins were minted in Philadelphia since they were officially first produced back in 1858. Each United States Mint puts a letter on the coins they stamp to identify the coin as coming from that particular Mint. Denver puts a “D,” San Francisco puts an “S,” and Philadelphia puts a “P” on their respective coins. Prior to 1980, Philadelphia did not use a mintmark except for nickels minted during WWII.
In 1968, San Francisco took over the minting of proof coins. Proofs, for those who may not know, are coins minted on specially polished planchets and dies, and double struck to bring out the detail of the design. They are specially packaged and sold to collectors.
Prior to 1985, all Mints hand-punched the mintmark into each working die and this had been done in this fashion at the San Francisco Mint since it opened in 1854. When the mint was making coins for circulation and possibly omitted an “S” mintmark, it really didn’t matter because they looked like the Philadelphia Mint coins and no one took notice. However, this changed when San Francisco started minting proof coins in 1968.
This is only speculation, but the Mint employee responsible for punching the mintmark into a proof dime die missed one, and after the dies were prepared for striking, the die without the mintmark struck proof coins without the telltale “S” mintmark. This resulted in the first error of the modern proof coin era. The same thing occurred in 1970, 1971, 1975, and 1983. There are examples of a 1990 no “S” proof Lincoln cent, but this did not occur in the same way as in the previous years. Starting in 1985, mintmarks were put on a working hub first. The design on the hub is then transferred onto a working die. So, in 1990, a hub without the mintmark made at least one obverse die used to make proof coins before it was caught by a Mint employee and the hub was corrected. Mintages for these modern rarities are merely estimates ranging from unique to 3000 or so coins, with certified specimens from just a few to several hundred of each date.
Let’s try to understand how these coins could escape the Mint. Proof coins are struck one at a time and handled by a Mint employee wearing gloves so as to preserve the proof surface. Again, this is speculation, but the Mint employee minting no “S” proof coins must have been minting coins for days before the error was caught, since, in some cases, thousands of these coins are estimated to have been struck. You really can’t blame the Mint employee since sitting at a die press minting coins is much like piece work and can get very monotonous over time. These employees usually are not coin collectors and are not looking at minute details such as a mintmark; they are spot checking to ensure the overall quality of the product is acceptable.
By applying mintmarks to the hub vs. hand punching them into working dies, the frequency of no “S” proof coins has decreased dramatically. As can be seen in the above reference, prior to 1985, no “S” proof coins occurred five times since the San Francisco Mint took over production in 1968. Another example of a mintmark being omitted from a working die is the 1982 “P” dime. The Philadelphia Mint began using the “P” mintmark in 1980 for the first time since WWII. Similar to the above example of circulation strike coins from San Francisco, the only reason we know that there is a no mintmark Philadelphia issue is because there was supposed to be a mintmark on the coin. Once the mintmarks were punched into the hubs in 1985, the no mintmark error has occurred only one time.
So keep your eyes open if you come across proof sets from the years in which no “S” was minted. I’m sure there are still sets that have not been found and are just waiting for a keen-eyed collector to give it a new home.
Old Fatty or Rattler – Contrary to popular belief, an old fatty is not your uncle who comes over for the holidays, and a rattler is not a snake. These slang terms refer to NGC and PCGS graded coins that are in early generation holders. An old fatty is an NGC holder that is slightly thicker than the current holders, and a rattler is a PCGS graded coin that when you shake the holder, you can sometimes hear the coin rattle.
Junk silver – Pre-1965 90% silver U.S. coins (10c, 25c, 50c) that are traded for their silver value.
Brown Ikes and Blue Ikes – Eisenhower dollars issued from 1971-1974 were minted in both cupro-nickel clad for circulation and 40% silver for collectors. The proof 40% silver issues were issued in brown boxes, and the uncirculated 40% silver issues were issued sealed in cellophane and put into blue envelopes. Since some people do not know the difference between proof and uncirculated, it is easier to ask if the coins are housed in blue or brown packaging.
I'm Not Going to Work Today
Metal Detecting Must be a Blast
By Dave Carleton
Last week a gentleman came in to our office to take advantage of our free evaluation services. He said that a farm owner he knew had given him permission to search the farm with his metal detector. The farmer thought that at the very least perhaps some random nails and sharp metal objects would be removed in the process thus preventing potential dangers to his cows.
While he was relating the details of his find, he handed the coin to Warren. We were surprised that the coin had been sent out to a grading service that we didn’t recognize and had been assigned the grade of AU-58. The coin was an 1836 Capped Bust Quarter Variety 2 (Reduced Diameter) and it was beautiful with strong AU details even though it had been found 10 inches below the surface of a barn yard.
The only problem was that the coin had been cleaned to perdition. Warren told him that it was an incredibly nice coin considering where it had come from, but because of the harsh cleaning we had no customer for the coin. Never the less, if he could get an offer of $500 or more from someone else, to take it .He told us that he had gotten a similar offer from a fellow detector friend and that he might sell it when it was time to upgrade his equipment . He was happy to get a professional evaluation and I complimented him for having the foresight to get several opinions.
We meet metal detector folk on a fairly regular basis and the majority of the coins we see have been harshly impacted by environmental damage, but these people never seem to care that much as it’s the thrill of the chase that’s the reward and if there’s some value then that’s just a bonus.
On a personal note: I love the outdoors and am actually surprised I’m not into metal detecting. The closest I’ve come however was several years ago in Vermont I climbed to the top of Sugarbush Ski Area after the mountain had closed for the Spring to do a couple of last runs of the season . When I got to the top I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. All around in the snow near the top of the chair lift were these perfectly round holes in the snow. I looked into the holes, and there was a coin sitting at the bottom of each. Apparently the sun had heated up the coins which were lost over the winter and they just melted their way down into the snow.
For me, it doesn’t get much better than that, a healthy hike, a black diamond run and about six bucks for the effort. If I had found anything other than a modern coin up there , I would have been quite surprised.
David Carleton, a New Hampshire native was introduced to coin collecting by his father and Grandfather in the 50’s. Gold bullion speculation dominated the 70’s culminating in 1980 when focus on Numismatics returned. He became a life member of the ANA , met Warren Mills (his coin Guru) and they cofounded RCNH in 1990.
In Search of the Galvano
By Lou Roten
Until 1836 master dies were hand engraved, creating a world of design variations and a wonderful lifetime pursuit for variety collectors. Decades later, routine use of AC current became commonplace. Thomas Edison’s battle with Nikola Tesla had raged earlier during the 1890’s. Tesla’s alternating current technology, AC, was cheaper and far more efficient in terms of transmission loss than Edison’s direct current, DC, and took over around the turn of the century. Nikola Tesla had been an employee of Edison, but their relationship soured and they became what you might call competitive enemies. Though Edison was a far better businessman than Tesla, the AC-DC victory went to Tesla.
The technique of electroplating using small DC currents was pretty well understood at the time and was used in the medal making industry. In 1836 the US Mint began using galvanos and pantographic reducing lathes to produce their master dies.
My first encounter with the word galvano created curiosity as to why a word whose root was in the measurement of small DC currents, galvanometry, would be used in connection with the making of master dies at the US Mint. Finding information on the nature of a galvano was not easy.
After some digging, I found that in the medal making industry, a plaster cast was made of a clay model of a proposed medal. The plaster cast was coated with a material receptive to an electroplating process, usually carbon, which served as the cathode in an electrolytic bath solution. The anode was the metal to be electroplated on the carbon substrate, often copper. The household and industrial electrical supply was (and is) AC and delivered at a much higher voltage than could be used in electroplating. In addition an alternating current could not be used to electroplate. The available AC current had to be rectified to direct current, DC, and the voltage reduced considerably for the electroplating process, the small DC current freeing copper ions from the anode and driving them to the carbon substrate cathode. It could take 2-3 days for sufficient plating to be deposited to create a strong surface.
The plaster was broken away leaving a metal die shell with a very accurate copy of the design because the metal was deposited (plated) molecule by molecule. In contrast, a metal casting could not come close to the detail of the galvano so produced.
The galvanos produced were large, maybe 12 to 15 inches in diameter. To make the master die a pantographic reducing lathe was used. Moving to coins, the mint used many designs of reducing lathes through the years, incrementally improving accuracy and speed. The reducing lathe traced the large galvano many times while the tooling part of the lathe carved out the actual design of the coin in its actual size on the steel master die blank, hopefully making a very accurate copy of the design. I say hopefully because during the numerous tracings taking as much as 2 days, the tracing device or the engraving tool might slip a bit, causing multiple tracings slightly different from the original design, creating a doubling in the master die.
The last of the reducing lathes to be put in use was the Janvier reducing lathe, used for 100 years from 1907 until 2007 when digital design replaced the electroplated galvano/mechanical tracing method.
The above is the beginning of my search for the galvano. The process of making a galvano described above is from the medal making industry. I need to research the actual methods used by the mint. Maybe – certainly - there is more to learn. In the photos I have seen of galvanos in use by the mint, it did not appear that they were of copper. They look white as plaster would appear. The plaster cast would have had to be fortified somehow to survive the many hours of tracing. The so-called galvanos of the mint also do not appear to be the die shells of the medal makers.
Onward – more digging for me, or as in the current vernacular, more drilling down to come.
NOTE: The information about the medal making process was found in Medal Making History by D. Wayne Johnson from https://medalblog.wordpress.com/tag/galvano/, and photos of the Janvier reducing lathe from John Wexler’s double die website at http://www.doubleddie.com were used in the reference to the appearance of the mint’s white galvanos.
Lou Roten - current adjunct instructor - mathematics / physics, Franklin Pierce University; environmental scientist; fiddler; life-long interest in collecting coins and stamps with some interruptions; very interested in the evolution of the coin making process.
“Christmas in July, 1969”
By Paul Battaglia
December holidays are a time of reflection, great eating and, oftentimes, the giving of gifts. As a child, I was no different than millions of other children who focused solely on December in anticipation of Santa Claus and the family getting together. What happened to me on Saturday, July 18th, of that year changed my perspective and narrow thinking.
My family took regular summer vacations for two to three weeks every July in Yarmouth, MA. We stayed in a nice cottage owned by one of my dad’s business colleagues. I clearly recall sand, surf, lobsters, fried clams and all-nighters on Seagull Beach when you could still get a permit to build a fire.
Our first weekend proved to be a rainy one that encouraged indoor activities, so dad and mom drove us all onto Main Street, Hyannis. My mom and sister, Chrissy, went shopping while dad and I visited an indoor flea market that advertised itself as featuring several coin dealers… exactly our style. There was the usual mix of book, glass and household item people in addition to several vest-pocket coin dealers. My dad loved older books and maps; he got wrapped up with a cartographer for a few hours, and made some trades and outright purchases. I went my way and hoped to find a coin or two for my circulated type sets of both the 19th and 20th centuries. What I instead found blew me away and, ultimately, took all my hard saved cash.
A middle-aged couple was showcasing many unusual and personal items of both a straight numismatic as well as exonumia (numismatic items such as tokens, medals, or scrip, or other than coins and paper money) nature. They had one piece that I, and many who are reading this now, had/have on an eternal want list: the 1856 Flying Eagle Cent. The firm price was $1000, verbally given and not on the flip, which was a whopping sum back then!
Given the fact the coin was an XF, this guy’s price was mind-boggling. I read his description on the 2 x 2 flip further and saw his reason. The reverse of the coin was a love token. Well, I’ll be dipped. I asked to view the piece and was given a rather colorful history as to how he came across the piece, what it cost him, and how he really did not want to sell it. Therein were the reasons for the high ticket, more or less, kinda-sorta. He then took the piece from me and put it back in his case. I walked away and gave it a moment’s thought. I decided to pay his price, given the historical price data and hullabaloo on the date over the decades. Besides that, there were other collectors in the hall, and we all know that hesitation has cost us more than money when it comes to a coin we are strongly considering.
Back then there were no food concessions in these small coin shows. One had to leave the premises. I noted that the dealer went to lunch and left his wife to tend their table. I walked right up, asked to see the piece as well as to look at some other miscellaneous stuff, and reaffirmed the price on the love token. The lady agreed to the price as she had been by his side when he verbally quoted me. I already had my money counted out and put the cash in her hand. She was a little surprised, but recovered and wrote out my p.i.f. bill of sale. Bingo, sale done. Did I just lay out a grand for that piece? Ouch.
When that dealer returned from lunch, his wife told him of the sale. I was back in the hall as I was checking out another dealer’s inventory. The man walked over and thanked me for meeting his price without quibbling. He had never seen another nor could he imagine another 1856 cent being transformed into a love token. I tended to agree, which was why I went with my horse sense instead of focusing solely on my hard-earned coin money. I recall my dad was stunned at the amount I paid, but he also trusted my judgement in coins. Besides, I had saved all the money through coin deals and various jobs over time.
I have kept the token in its glorious raw state since that Saturday. Yes, the coin is genuine, but I do not care to have it sent in for slabbing… just my preference.
I agree that “there is no Santa Claus in numismatics,” but there was a Santa Claus in exonumia for me that day on olde Cape Cod in the form of opportunity.
Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Happy Holidays to All!
Paul Battaglia is the Senior Numismatist and a Life Member of the ANA. He travels with owner, Warren Mills, to the major coin shows across the country. Paul has 50+ years numismatic experience and has been with RCNH since 1990. He also cherishes reading, cooking, language, music, classic cars, lily/orchid culture, chess, economic statistics, differing viewpoints and FISHING.
Letters from our Mailbag
Questions and Answers:
I like to look at and often request scans of the coins I have an interest in. My question is, “Why are the scans in many instances so much different from the coins themselves?” D.A.
My thanks to D.A. for asking this good question. It is one that I’d never have dreamed of having to answer that long ago.
It’s impossible for me to determine if I will like a coin from a scan. I must examine it in person. Coins should never be graded lying flat. A good grader knows that rotating a coin is the only way to properly examine a coin’s surface. The reason why rotating a coin is so important is that to properly catch the luster from a coin’s surface, light must reflect off of it. This is a three dimensional effect. Additionally, factor in that scans can be “tweaked”. This tweaking can hide abrasions or make toning more enhanced by brightening up the color.
Proofs are a whole different story. Light reflection, in some instances, can totally distort color and mirrors on the coin. As time goes on and technology innovation progresses, quality will get better and better. Yet, there is no substitute for having a coin in hand. Sure, the dip white crowd that wants every coin bright white even if it’s a 200 year old circulated example can look at a scan and see the coin is white. Great, now try to sell it to a knowledgeable collector! Yet, a scan can help someone determine if they even want to see a coin in person.
I do find scans helpful when I am looking at high grade gold to see if annealing spots are unattractive. I think coin scans are great. However, if your background is not solid in grading, have a professional assess the scan for you and then look at the coin with him or her. Do this and your future interpretation of scanned coins will be bright.