This and That

Welcome to my latest weekly e-column, a collection of clippings, comments, things that amuse me, numismatic comments, and more. You can contact me at [email protected].


Enjoy your week!


The lower price of gold, good news! As to the price of gold, what happens next month or next year is anybody’s guess. Recent news has it that Russia, a key buyer in the bullion market, has started selling in quantity. Other accounts have it that as the economy appears to be getting better, holding gold as a precaution against financial woes is not as important as it was a year ago. On the other hand, I can’t blame citizens of Greece, Spain, Italy, and other countries with unstable currencies desiring to have a hoard of bullion coins.


The good news for numismatists is that common-date gold coins that are priced in step with bullion—such as Liberty Head and Saint-Gaudens double eagles—are much more affordable to collect now. If you enjoy collecting and also like gold, why not consider collecting as many different $20 coins as you can that are priced in MS-63 grade for only a small advance over the bullion price? This involves dozens of dates and mintmarks. What a nice display this will make!


Round and around we go. A study by the Department of Transportation, recently reported in The Economist, stated that replacing crossroads with roundabouts (rotaries or traffic circles) leads to a 35% fall in crashes, a 76% fall in injuries, and a 90% fall in deaths.


Chuck of The Little Mint, a coin dealership in Reedsport, Oregon, sent me the other day notice BM-28 dated April 1963, titled “Cleaning Coins.” It said the following:


“There are many questions regarding the cleaning of coins. There is no way by which the newly-minted luster can be completely restored, once tarnishing has become severe. If the coins are in reasonably good condition, they may be cleaned by rubbing them with cheesecloth or cotton, which has been moistened with a paste consisting of baking soda and a few drops of water.


“Silver coins may also be cleaned with any good commercial silver polish. One-cent and five-cent pieces can be cleaned nicely with any good commercial metal polish. Usually the soda paste cleans the coins well. The use of acids, caustics and harsh abrasives, is not recommended.”


Civil War tokens are front row center in activity these days, and I like to think that my new Whitman Guide Book of Civil War Tokens is partly responsible. The latest word from the publishers is that it is selling very well. If you’d like a copy check your favorite bookseller or the Whitman website. It has over a thousand color pictures, is several hundred pages in length, is on fine paper, but lists for only $24.95—a low price made possible by a large press run. Otherwise you might expect to pay $50 or more.


The Whitman Coins & Collectibles Expo is where I will be on November 7 and 8. If you plan to attend, be sure to track me down and say hi. This is always one of the top shows of the year. Our auction is front row center there, what with rarities galore plus many very affordable “collector coins” as some call them.


The Colonial Coin Collectors Club (C4) has its yearly meeting / conference on Friday at the show. That evening our auction will feature many important colonial coins starting off with David M. Sundman’s spectacular collection of New England silver coinage. Some of the coins have pedigrees dating back to the 19th century, and all are among the finest of their kind.


The new $100 bill, officially released on October 8, attracted a great amount of attention in the media. I was interviewed by several writers who were interested in my reaction, particularly from the aspect of collecting. A common question was and is this:


“With other countries putting out colorful designs, different people, and constantly changing currency, why does the $100 bill stay more or less the same?”


The answer is that ever since they were first issued in 1929, the small-size $100 notes have featured Ben Franklin and have had common characteristics. There have not been many changes except for signatures. Over a long period of time, up to recently, these have been the world standard for easily convertible money. A $100 bill can be spent in Hong Kong, Singapore, Zurich, Buenos Aires or, probably, on Pitcairn Island. Bankers and merchants all over the world have learned to recognize them and, in many instances, to detect counterfeits. If new motifs were regularly issued — a butterfly, Elvis Presley, John Kennedy, Yellowstone Park, or whatever — this would be very confusing to users all over the globe who would have no idea whether an unusual appearing bill was the latest issue or whether it was genuine.


That said, the October 8 changes will probably remain in effect for many years. They are strictly based on security, to prevent counterfeiting by use of photographic and computer copies. These will become well known worldwide and will also be a recognizable standard.


See you next week!

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