Hey NFL -- That's not a real coin you're tossing

The National Football League begins every game with what they call "the coin toss."

If the NFL wants to have a coin toss, the least they can do is use a real coin.  What they are actually tossing is a medal.  A coin should be issued by a country and have a denomination.  This is not what they are tossing.  It has a helmet on one side and the Vince Lombardi Trophy on the other.  Sorry, but no country has ever issued such a coin.  I suggest that the NFL start calling this a medal toss.

Another point -- why start a football game with a random event?  Until recently the NFL team winning the toss would elect to receive the football.  Now the winners mostly "defer" the decision to the second half.

Instead of showcasing skills in running, passing, and kicking, we watch predictions of heads vs. tails. This is boring.  It would be easier to scrap the theatrics and have the home team kick off first.

But if they want to continue with this silly event, they should at least get a real coin.

Does the lack of a real coin bother you?  Please feel free to comment.

The 2015 high relief gold coin: a critique

 The US mint is about to release a new high relief $100 gold coin.

The obverse depicts a new-fangled liberty who looks like an amateur anorexic model struggling to hold a pose.  While I may worry that the B and E in liberty will catch fire from her torch, the bigger problem is Liberty’s left arm.  Why is it so big?  Based on Liberty’s angle, her left arm should be farther away than the right.  But it appears larger.  Why?  It also doesn’t appear that the upper arm would match up with the shoulder – instead it hangs too low.  The headpiece looks like it is made of artichoke.

Moving on to the coin itself.  We have another one ounce gold coin that is competing with two others – the Saint Gaudens American Eagle and the American Buffalo.  Do we need another?  The denomination of the new coin will be $100 – double that of the other one ounce gold coins?  Why?  Dr. Planchet cannot answer this.

What is the purpose of this coin?  It doesn’t really commemorate anything.  Will it be part of a series?  If so, the nature of the series is unclear.  Will this fit into any type of collection – or is it just an orphan oddity to be placed into a dresser drawer?

Production is limited to 50,000 coins.  Perhaps that is more than our society needs.

Student pays parking ticket with "pennies." Is this legal?

A University of North Carolina Student has paid a $110 parking fine with 11,000 Lincoln Cents (The media refers to these as "pennies -- but that's another issue).

While coinage was designed to be convenient, on occasion, one can deliberately pay using inconvenient denominations as a form of protest.

Frequently college campuses are built with an inadequate amount of parking.  My grandfather, John Houck Planchet served on the student government at University of Pennsylvania in the 1930's.  He told me the biggest campus problem was where to park the cars.  Rather than providing adequate parking for everyone (which, granted, could be an expensive proposition), campuses and local governments resort to giving fines.

Recipients of fines are not so fond of them.

A University of North Carolina administrator took over three hours to count the coins.

The next question:  Is this a legal form of payment?  The small cent (then an Indian head cent) was introduced in 1864.  According to the law of 1864, the cent (along with the two cent piece) was legal for use for transactions up to ten times their face value.  But his transaction is for 11,000 times the face value of the cent.  This is a clear violation of the Law of 1864.

Cents and nickels are minor coins which have limits to their use.  Dimes, quarters, half dollars, and dollars, traditionally struck in silver, are major coins, valid for any amount.

A legal way to protest parking tickets is to pay them in dimes.

In God We Trust -- The battle continues

I have written several times about the motto "In God We Trust" which, as used on coins, celebrated its 150th anniversary last year.

The motto offended Christians in the 20th century and atheists in the 21st.  The words "In God We Trust" are the most controversial words on a coin. No one is suing the government over the words "E Pluribus Unum" "liberty" or "five cents."

The latest salvo against the motto's numismatic appearance is about to be fired by attorney Michael Newdow, who is seeking plaintiffs for his case.  Former cases argued that the motto violated the establishment clause of the constitution.  But in the 1970 case, Aranow vs. United States, the Supreme Court upheld the motto because it had "lost through rote repetition any significant religious content."  The new case will argue that the law violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which states that religious activity may not be substantially burdened without a compelling governmental interest and laws narrowly tailored to serve that interest.  Newdow intends to argue that the government has no compelling interest in placing "In God We Trust" on every coin when most other nations function without it.

For background information about the origin of this motto and why Christians were offended, please go to my: two cent piece article.

More recently, I wrote an article about a debate on the motto between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.  With another presidential election coming up, it will be interesting to see whether "In God We Trust" makes it to the debate.

The word "Numismatist" in a Guido Bruetti Mystery

Are you looking for a detective story with the word "numismatist" in it?

I just finished reading Death in a Strange Country: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery  The action occurs on page 25:

 'The report isn't back yet, but he had American coins in his pocket, so he's got to be an American."

"Or a numismatist," Brunetti suggested amiably. 
 There followed a long pause which told Brunetti the Vice-Questore didn't know the meaning of the word." 
I always enjoy Italian detective stories that mention numismatists -- even if only in passing.

Special proof dimes for March of Dimes look like a bargain

On May 4 at noon, the US mint will release two dimes as part of a March of Dimes Set.  One dime will be a reverse proof from Philadelphia, while the other is a proof from West Point.  They will accompany the March of dimes commemorative dollar in a set selling for $61.95.  The commemorative dollar alone costs $51.95, so the two special dimes are a mere ten bucks.  “How much will these coins be worth?” I hear you ask. 

The mintage for the two dimes will be a paltry 75,000.  To look for comparable proof dimes, we have to go back to 1951, with a mintage of 57,500 or 1952 with a mintage of 81,980.  These are worth $47 and $33.  The modern dimes should be worth more than this.  Most collectors of the 1950’s dimes stick to the business strikes while collectors of more modern sets include the proofs.  In particular, the reverse proof will have a unique appearance and should demand a substantial premium.

To compare to modern coins with low mintage, we need to look at nickels.  The special matte uncirculated nickels of 1994 and 1997 had mintages of 167,703 and 25,000.  These are valued at $71 and $244 respectively.

I note that for comparable mintages, proof nickels are worth more than proof dimes, most likely due to their larger size.

Based on my analysis, the two proof dimes could reasonably be valued at $65 to $75 each.  I expect sets to start selling for over $150.  The $61.95 price for the three coin set should be a tremendous bargain.

The Saints are Marching In! 1933 Double Eagles to return to Pennsylvania

The Saints are marching in!

Congratulations to Joan Langbord.  The 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a previous ruling and stated that Joan Langbord is the owner of the ten 1933 Saint Gaudens double eagles.

I am sure the back story is old hat to most of you, but the double eagles were somehow taken from the mint in 1933, shortly before gold coins were removed from circulation by Franklin Roosevelt. The government had made circumstantial arguments that the coins were probably stolen by Israel Switt, Joan Langbord's father.  Langbord "found" the coins and (foolhardily) sent them to the Secret Service to be authenticated.  The secret service authenticated and confiscated them.  In 2011 a federal jury ruled that the government had the right to keep the coins.

Read about the backstory on my website here. Or on my blog here. Or some other schmo's website here: http://saintgaudens.us/confiscated%20double%20eagles.html.

But the result of today's 2-1 vote was that it was the government that had broken the law.  The government was required to either return the coins or commence a civil forfeiture proceeding within 90 days.  The government did neither of these things.  Todays ruling shows that even the Department of Justice is not above the law.

The government has been fixated on these coins for over 80 years (while oddly ignoring other similar cases such as the 1913 liberty head nickel).  It is probably time for them to go on to something else.

Meanwhile, I admit it.  I am giddy about today's decision.  At some time in the future we will see some 1933 double eagles in the marketplace.

To the 1933 double eagles -- we look forward to seeing you back home in Philadelphia.

US Marshals 226th anniversary coins -- a critique

The US mint is producing a commemorative coin series to depict the 225th anniversary of the United States Marshals Service.  This is my critique.  Spoiler alert – it’s not pretty (but neither are the coins).

Who celebrates a 225th anniversary?  I recall the American bicentennial celebration of 1976.  Twenty five years later, the 225th anniversary of the US went unnoticed.  Even worse is the fact that the 225th anniversary of the US marshall service was in 2014, but the coins are produced in 2015.  So we are really celebrating the 226th anniversary.  The coins have both the dates “1789 – 2014” and the date 2015.  Ridiculous.

The five dollar gold coin has two sides that look like reverses.  The theme of the coin (according to the advertising brochure) is “225 years of sacrifice.”  In order to show the theme, the designer merely wrote the words “225 years of sacrifice.”  Boring.

The silver dollar represents the best effort in the set.  The obverse (which the mint calls the reverse) features a wild west era US Marshall with a wanted poster in hand.  The reverse (which the mint calls the obverse) shows the US Marshall star and some cowboys that have been run over by steam rollers (the mint refers to these as silhouettes).

The clad half dollar is a hodge podge of miscellany. The obverse is shared by an old west marshal and a modern marshal whose hair is pulled by an unseen gravitational field.  The reverse has a plethora of symbols such as a spaghetti-haired blind justice, scales, the marshal’s star, railroad tracks, schoolbooks, handcuffs, the constitution, and a whiskey jug.  Do you know what everything represents?  Yes, all this on a single side of a coin.

The mint’s brochure states that surcharges of $35 per gold coin, $10 per silver coin, and $3 per clad coin are authorized “to be paid to several organizations.”  Sounds vague to me.  Something tells me that these coins will not make the organizations rich.

The mint is producing both uncirculated and proof varieties of each of the three denominations.  Do we really need all these commemorative coins?  

For information and my opinion about other American commemorative coins, please go here.

2016 will be the 121st anniversary of the first corrugated cardboard box.   Perhaps a commemorative coin set will result.