Over 200 Years of Combined Numismatic Experience at Your Disposal.
|January 2016 Issue|
A Newsletter By:
My Coin Journey Part VII
By Warren Mills
A new company, Heritage Numismatics was formed when Steve Ivy and Jim Halperin became partners in 1983. Two great numismatists were building the foundation for the largest numismatic and auction company in the world. And there I was in on the ground floor of a numismatic juggernaut. A place I’m sure I could have stayed with for my whole career.
However, as much as I loved working for and with Steve, I had an uneasy feeling about working again with Jim. Jim owned New England Rare Coin Gallery when I worked there and I questioned his judgement about how he handled the whole rise and fall of New England. I attribute this to me being small minded and not realizing how many of the people that Jim entrusted to do the right thing were unethical and really contributed to bringing New England down. I had so much pride in my work ethic and trying to treat customers the right way that I passed unfair judgement on Jim. That was on me. So I went to Steve and told him that I did not feel the same amount of respect for Jim that I had for him and that maybe I should just hand over my resignation. Steve told me that I could act as if Jim wasn’t there if I wanted to and conduct all and any dealings with him personally. That was a nice gesture by Steve and since I respected him so much, I decided to stay and try to make the best of the situation with the new company.
The juggernaut was off and running. I put my best concerted effort into focusing on delivering the best coins and service to my customers but I had a nagging feeling that I was not being true to myself and handed in my resignation after 2 great years. I am fortunate now to consider both Jim and Steve as good friends in the industry. As a kid in my mid-20’s, I was too quick to pass judgement and did not look within enough to have the maturity to make a more reasonable decision. God has a plan for all of us, so I guess if I was meant to stay, I would have. Many of my friendships and colleagues I have in the industry were formed in Dallas.
From there I went into a partnership with Numismatic Professionals of Dallas. We were affiliated with Numismatic Professionals which was located in Framingham, MA. The company was very ethical and conformed to very high standards, but I was not pleased with my partners in Dallas. When a death in the family occurred, I decided to move back to my roots in Massachusetts. I was fortunate to remain in the coin business and was hired by a firm that did only dealer to dealer transactions. Working on a wholesale only basis exposed me to a side of the business I never knew. It was here that I learned what I needed to know to go out on my own for good. I will expound on my experiences here in our next issue of “The Rare Coin Enthusiast.”
1995W Silver Eagle Proof
By Warren Mills
I was asked about my thoughts regarding high grade modern issue coinage. Initially, I was going to use this question for a “Letters From Our Mail Bag.” I feel so strongly about this issue that I decided to devote an article to it.
I selected the 1995W Silver Eagle Proof because it has an allure that for a modern issue could attract even a classic collector interest. A couple of more factors made me look into this issue too! First, in November an auction house sent me an e-mail regarding a Proof 70 PCGS Deep Cameo example that they were offering in their next sale. And a customer called us recently to ask if we had a 1995W set in-house. This is not something we would typically retail, but we happened to have had one available. With a mintage of only 30,125 pieces, they would have to come out of a broken up set.
I remember looking at the information that the auction house sent me. A short list of “prices realized” was on the e-mail as a reference: 6/15- $23,500, 3/15-$30,027, 1/15-$30,550, & 12/14-$33,166. That was the end of the list so I went back using another reference on “prices realized” and found this: 4/14-$41,125, 9/13-$55,550, 8/13-$61,170, 3/13-$86,655. Do you notice the trend? From a high of $86,655 in March of 2013, the coin slid to $23,500 in June of 2015: a decline of around 70% in a little over 2 years! This coin was a set-only issue commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the Silver Eagle program and is the lowest mintage Proof Silver Eagle…and yet the price decline is staggering. The PCGS population has also jumped to 104 pieces in Proof-70 Deep Cameo. At the time I received the e-mail, the population in November was 99 pieces.
This is a dramatic example of why I am not a fan of high-grade modern coinage. These modern coins are not issued for circulation. Virtually, the whole mintage is Proof-69 or Proof-70. The difference may just be a tiny die chip or two between both grades. Many of the uncirculated modern issues are the same way. Most would grade MS-68 to MS-70. If you are ego-driven to have the best, wait until more are graded and you may acquire your proof or mint state 70 for a fraction of what earlier buyers may pay. Don’t dream of buying moderns with a return on investment in mind.
I recently had a customer come in with about a half a dozen modern issues all grading 68 to 70. I explained that it is not an area I deal in but I will call some of the modern market makers and get a price for him and let him know. I also looked up each issue in auction for him to show him the most recent prices realized. And guess what, not one of the 3 firms I called on the issues called me back! Now what does this say about the secondary market for moderns? For me it says that there isn’t one.
The person that called me about the 1995W Set never got back with me. I explained on a message machine that I had one set I’d sell at 10% over bid and the Silver Eagle was the original set coin and never tried for grading. I never heard back, so I think I’ll hold my original set. Pretty soon it will be rarer than the PCGS Proof-70 Deep Cameo pop! I don’t see anything wrong with wanting a 95-W piece; I’d recommend a PR-69 Deep Cameo though… it’s a neat coin, and a fraction of the Proof-70 price.
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.
Where Have All Of The Proof-Like Peace Dollars Gone?
By Joseph Presti
Anyone who collects Morgan Dollars can appreciate the beauty of proof-like (PL) and deep PL coins. Once one becomes a little more advanced or decides to branch out with their collecting interests they may attempt a PL Peace Dollar set only to get aggravated. Without too much searching, it becomes very apparent that PL Peace Dollars do not exist. It’s not due to the great silver melt which actually occurred in 1918, before Peace Dollars were minted or a giant conspiracy. After some research the answer is very understandable.
The lack of PL Peace Dollars can be traced to a change in the way the Mint prepared the dies for gold coins after 1907 and for silver coins in 1916. These years coincided with the change from the Liberty coin design to the Indian coin design in 1908 and the introduction the Mercury dime, Standing Liberty Quarter and Walking Liberty Half all in 1916. According to a 1936 letter from Mint Director, Nellie Tayloe Ross, the Mint changed the way they made and prepared dies with the result being a coin that more closely represented what the artist had rendered in their original models. Before the change in die preparation, employees at the Mint would hand punch the inscriptions into the master dies which resulted in a much sharper impression. The dies were also “basined,” meaning they were polished, again resulting in a more crisp design and final product.
The basining of the die is really the key to making a coin proof-like and can also explain why more dollars are proof-like versus smaller denomination coins. Basining was done not only in the die preparation stage but also to correct imperfections while the die was being used. Typically if a die clashed which occurs when the dies attempt to strike a coin but no planchet was in place, the two dies would then strike each other sometimes imparting the design on the opposing die. A mint employee would then take the die off of the machine and basin it, putting the die on a wheel to smooth out the imperfection or clash mark and then reinstall it with a “new” mirror surface. This newly resurfaced die would initially strike deep mirror proof-like coins and as the die wore would then strike proof-like coins and then typical business strike coins with no reflective surfaces.
If you think about why it seems dollars are proof-like and rarely other denominations it is rather simple to understand. Dollars required much more striking pressure so that when dies eventually clashed the damage was more significant than when a dime die clashed so more basining occurred on the dollar die. The Mint did not eliminate die clashing once they stopped basining dies, they dealt with it in a different manner, the result being that proof-like coins did not occur.
The grading services also prove the rarity of PL Peace Dollars. PCGS has graded approximately 2.95 million Morgan Dollars and 125,000 have been PL or deep PL with no Peace Dollars graded PL. NGC on the other hand has graded about the same number of Morgan Dollars with 96,000 being PL or Deep PL. Out of the 687,000 graded Peace Dollars NGC has seen, only two coins have been assigned the PL designation and there is some evidence that those two coins are rather weak PL’s.
If you have ever been lucky enough to examine lots of coins, you will quickly notice that 1916 and 1917 dimes, quarters and halves all have a similar pebbly or matte look to them and this can be traced back to the Mint’s die preparation and lack of basining. In fact, even gold coins from 1908 have that same matte-like appearance. Next time you have the opportunity to compare coins, look at the crispness of the Morgan Dollar design and the flatness or broadness of the Peace Dollar design and you will better understand the result of what the Mint did during this time period.
- Who was the first non-US President to be featured on a regular issue (non-commemorative) coin?
- Name all 8 US mints, past and present.
- What was the first year Philadelphia used the “P” mintmark on a coin?
The Thrill Of The Hunt
By Dave Carleton
I was just reviewing some beautiful coins that are in Legend’s Auction Catalog for the Venetian Las Vegas sale being held in conjunction with the PCGS members’ only show on December 17th. I stopped short when I came upon the 1955/55 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Cent, graded MS-65 Red by PCGS. The coin looks beautiful and when I showed it to Warren and told him that the estimated hammer would be $35,000+, he said he thought that was cheap, if it were, in fact, a true Red Gem.
The description stated that there were approximately 20,000 minted and that between both PCGS and NGC, only 23 of those 1955/55 coins had been assigned that lofty grade. I suspect that number might include a few resubmissions. Needless to say, I believe the demand far outstrips the supply even at that price.
As a youngster back in the 1950’s, I was totally enamored with coins and coin collecting. For some reason, I thought that all the coins that interested me could ultimately be found if I looked very thoroughly at enough coins. My personal quest was to find an 1804 Dollar, a 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent, a 1943 Copper cent, and the 1955 Doubled Die cent. I was particularly hot for the 1943 Copper cent because I had heard that Henry Ford II was offering a brand new Edsel Ford to anyone who could bring one to him.
It was in the fall of 1959 on a cold rainy Sunday afternoon when my Dad and I opened up the card table and dumped about two months’ worth of change that we (he) had collected. My Dad traveled quite a bit at the time and he would save any change he received so we could eventually go through it on a day like this.
We were busy filling holes in the Whitman Blue Books when I looked over and saw my Dad rubbing his eyes and holding a wheat cent up to the reading lamp we used for lighting. A broad smile crossed his face as he handed the coin to me and asked,” What do you think about this?”
So, one morning I ‘borrowed’ the coin from my dad’s Blue Book and brought it to school. Later in the day after school, we were outside in the playground and I broke out the coin and started showing it around. This caused a small gathering of kids to surround me, and it also attracted one of the older kids who was a big bully. He came over to see what the attraction was and I handed him the coin. He grabbed it and took a close look at it, and I thought for a moment that we might have a common interest and maybe he wouldn’t be a jerk.
I was wrong.
He looked at the coin for a minute and then he tossed it over his shoulder and it landed somewhere on the dirt playground about 20 or 30 feet behind him. I immediately went into panic mode. I had to find the coin; my dad is going to kill me, I was thinking. I went over in the general vicinity of where I thought the coin had landed and drew a line in the sand and dirt to keep people away from me while I searched for the coin. In the meantime, my school bus came and went without me, but I didn’t care. I had to find that coin and I couldn’t.
I lost track of time as I scoured the area for the coin and then I saw it coming, our brand new ’59 Buick. I knew it was my mother and thought for sure I was going to get it. She parked, got out, and came over very concerned that I had missed the bus. I explained what had happened and she cast a glance in the area in which I had been looking. She then walked over, bent down and picked up a penny and asked, “Is this it?” Yes! She found it. I couldn’t believe it; she just walked over and picked it up.
On the way home, she lowered the boom. I deserved it. She also left it up to me to either tell my father or not. I chose to tell him – he was quite upset because I didn’t ask permission to take the coin to school, but the scolding was tempered because I owned up to it.
Coins have always been intertwined in my life and are usually not too far away from certain milestones or learning events like I just shared. If you took the time to read this, I bet you have similar stories too.
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.
By Paul Battaglia
Well, another year rolls around and I continue to advance my culinary skills. One of my life’s passions has been preparing varied cuisines for my wife, our families, friends and guests. I have the ability to review a recipe, internalize it, and then carry it off on the first or second attempt.
However, I am not here to have our readers subjected to a class in what I prepared over the holidays. Okay, so what gives here, Paul?
A local customer of mine with whom I have also developed a fine, personal relationship recently engaged me in conversation about his microwave’s abilities. He asked me to close my eyes and then try to figure out the item he had brought for me. Ahhhhhh - a generous soul is he. I obliged him and geared myself for this possibly daunting task upon my olfactory senses. My first guess and sheer gut told me it was a fair attempt to prepare caramels and/or toffee, a favorite treat in my choice of confections. He was flattered, but being the straight shooter he is from his graceful Dixie birthright, the man could no longer continue to dupe me.
By now, readers, all or most of you have SEEN the results of the price he exacted when one forgets to set the microwave’s timer… and does not first clear out the microwave …plus leaves the microwave on for an indefinite period of time …until it causes a transformation of the item to stink out the domicile.
Yup, you are looking at the final product from what is termed an unfortunate slip of the memory bank.
In this case, a plastic plug would be in order with the upshot of having instantly created an R8. O joy.
RIP (and in pieces).
I have removed my chef’s toque, rest my case and shall say no more. Happy New Year 2016 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.
Full Calendar Year With RCNH
By Lou Roten
As I mentioned in my first entry in our fledgling newsletter, I became interested in coins before I was 10 because of my grandfather. He had an interest in English history – he knew the kings of England, France and Spain, when they ruled and whom they married; he loved opera and listened to the Saturday Texaco broadcasts; he had a radio to monitor every fire in the city of Boston, taking the MTA to witness those with multiple alarms; he had navigation maps of every section of Boston harbor and loved New England light houses; I learned about New England ghost stories from reading Edgar Rowe Snow who also was Santa to lighthouse residents. To the point, grandpa had some old European (from WWI and II) and Brazilian coins (from cacao bean bags). How I came to love physics and math more than history is still a mystery to me.
My collection was stolen when I was in my early teens. I stopped collecting then but have always had an interest which was renewed in 1999 when the first state quarters came out and I started buying silver proof sets and some bullion gold. A few years later I discovered Morgan dollars and began buying them on eBay; my first lesson in what not to buy - sight unseen raw coins. For many of you, this path has already been traveled.
What have I learned: silver coins should have “life” in the surface, a luster that hits you immediately, whether toned or not. The Morgan dollars I bought on eBay labeled BU or even GEM BU (but not certified) turned out to be almost always cleaned, something I did not recognize then; I did not know of the grading services until later. I look at them now and the surfaces are next to lifeless. Annoyed by my ignorance, I began to study silver coins.
Seeing so many actual uncirculated silver coins here at RCNH, it is almost always obvious to me now when a silver coin does not look natural to my eye. I do not usually know why right away yet, but a small magnifier will reveal hairlines from contact with packaging or whizzing, minor scarring caused by attempts to remove spots, traces of discolor from improper rinsing of dip solution – usually yellowish or brownish yellow spots, as well as small bag marks and scrapes which may not be easily visible with the naked eye, evidence of rub, all of which will affect the grade. The location of bag marks is important as well.
I learned that the contrast areas of flat grey on the high spots of a coin caused by rub compared to the natural surface luster of a coin will be less noticeable and even removed by cleaning; whizzing will leave many hairlines that could be evident in straight lines across the surface of a coin or in random directions and can, although I have not been able to easily see this yet, cause an unnatural ridge next to letters and devices on the coin’s surface.
Like whizzing, dipping destroys the cartwheel effect on large silver coins by removing a microscopic layer of silver from the flow lines (tiny ridges from the spreading of the metal under the pressure of the dies) of the coin, and can leave residue after incomplete rinsing of a coin while destroying the natural skin of the coin. These methods are designed to make an AU, or even XF, coin appear uncirculated to inexperienced buyers.
I learned that attempts to improve the appearance of a coin, if not done correctly, can become evident years after the coin has been encapsulated - the surface reaction continues with time.
I learned something of eye appeal – a very subjective observation for all of us. However there can be consensus. I am learning what I like to see on a coin; I like to see detail and honest wear on circulated coins, a nice even grey on silver coins with darker contrast around the lettering and devices. Toning at first did not interest me especially because toning can be artificially produced on a coin. The effect of PVC on a coin surface is still difficult for me to see. Toning on a resurfaced coin that has been cleaned is still difficult for me to see compared to toning on an original surface. The toning on the Seated series can be spectacular, the copper reacting to create beautiful blues.
Recently I began looking at selected counterfeits, starting with the 1909 S VDB Lincoln Cent. I learned that there are four positions of the S, and that the S must have a particular shape: one position is vertical, the other three are tilted slightly to the right and in slightly different locations with respect to the 9 0 spacing. The position of the V.D.B must be aligned in a specific way with the ONE CENT lettering; the shape of the 9’s must be right. I believe I have a good chance of recognizing a counterfeit 1909 S VDB.
Image 1: The S is slightly to the left of the zero and tilted slightly to the right. Notice the fullness of the S with strong serifs. Notice also the open loops and curves of the 9’s and a non-serif 1.
Image 2: The S is vertical and slightly left of the zero; the S is full with strong serifs. Notice also the open loops and curves of the 9’s and non-serif 1.
Image 4: notice the position of the tilted S is just left of the 0 but lower than in image 1 above.
It is always best to have a rare expensive coin verified as genuine by a dealer with whom you have developed a relationship of trust.
I have begun to look at old coppers. The study continues, all enmeshed in thinking of the history of the coin, its travels, the many pockets or purses it must have occupied, how long it may have been underground, either dropped to be lost for decades, the copper camouflaged by the brown earth, or buried intentionally. It seems to me now that determining the surface condition of copper coins will be much more difficult than for silver.
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.
Questions and Answers:
Question: “I read your description on coins and notice that the word original is often included. Aren’t all certified coins original?” J.Y.
Answer: Thanks for the question, and here is my answer. Most certified coins that are earlier classic issues are not original. The grading services long ago made a decision to grade according to commercial acceptability. Commercially acceptable to me means that the coin would appeal to a novice buyer and a knowledgeable buyer can look at the coin and understand why it is graded. I prefer an original coin because it has character. It may exhibit a unique combination of attributes ranging from the toning, strike, luster and planchet quality. I prefer that coins are not dipped or have anything added or removed from the surface. My focus for our inventory or my own collection is the same…to buy coins that are attractive overall and untampered with.
I recently examined an expensive Three Cent Silver in MS-66 condition. It recently sold in auction and was attractively toned on both sides. The next time I saw the coin, the obverse was swabbed and the toning was removed. My guess is that the coin was tampered with in the hopes that it may upgrade. It still graded MS-66 and was given up on and reoffered in its original grade but now with a totally different look. My feeling is that we are stewards for future generations of collectors, the least we can do is offer them originally preserved pieces of history.
- Benjamin Franklin
- Charlotte, N.C., Carson City, NV., Dahlonega, GA., Denver, CO., New Orleans, LA., Philadelphia, PA., San Francisco, CA., West Point, NY.
- 1942, on the nickel.