First Read, a CoinWeek continuing series of essays about classic and contemporary works of numismatic literature
Essay by Louis Golino for CoinWeek…
American Gold and Platinum Eagles: A Guide to the U.S. Bullion Coin Programs, by Edmund Moy
Edmund C. Moy, who served as Director of the U.S. Mint from 2006 to 2011, has probably had a greater impact on modern American coinage and numismatics than any other person who has run the Mint in the past several decades. His tenure there was especially consequential for coin collectors and bullion investors for two main reasons.
First, he served during an especially tumultuous period in the U.S. and world economies and in the precious metals markets, when silver and gold saw huge run-ups in their spot prices, demand for American bullion coins rose to new record levels as investors sought protection from the economic tumult of the day, and the Mint scrambled to produce enough coins and source the planchets to meet this feverish demand.
Second, Mr. Moy is a lifelong coin collector, and during his tenure at the Mint most of the key coin series that continue to this day got started such as the Presidential dollar, First Spouse gold coin, America the Beautiful quarter and five-ounce silver coin, and American Buffalo gold coin.
In addition, his period at the Mint is when the special finish versions of the American silver, gold, and platinum eagle coins and American silver and gold eagle anniversary coin sets began to be issued, and what is probably the single most popular collector coin issued in modern times was minted, namely, the 2009 Ultra High Relief gold double eagle.
Mr. Moy’s record as Mint director is also especially notable because of what was perhaps his main legacy on numismatics, and that was to encourage a new golden age in American collector coins, especially in the designs that grace those coins by reissuing some of the great American classics and encouraging the creation of new and inspiring coin designs. But equally importantly, he ran the Mint’s silver, gold, and platinum bullion programs during the single greatest period of change in those programs since they began respectively in 1986 and 1997.
Earlier this year Whitman Publishing published his book, American Gold and Platinum Eagles: A Guide to the U.S. Bullion Coin Programs, which includes a forward by Michael Castle (who co-authored the legislation that created the state quarter and American platinum eagle coin programs). The book is in many ways a companion to the 2012 book by John Mercanti and Michael Standish, American Silver Eagles.
Prior to the publication of Mr. Moy’s major reference work that takes readers behind the scenes while he was at the Mint and is aimed at a variety of audiences from coin collectors to bullion investors there was no book-length treatment of the subject. Coin guides such as Whitman’s famous “red book” have always had brief sections on the gold and platinum bullion programs, but they did not include detailed information or histories.
Moy’s book includes a detailed primer on investing in precious metals that discusses most of the key issues involved in buying and selling precious metals and also includes such issues as how the Mint tries to predict gold prices using historical research on gold prices. There are also detailed histories of the U.S. Mint’s gold and platinum bullion programs.
The heart of the book is the year-by-year study of gold and platinum eagles, which reviews keys developments in those years that impacted the bullion coin programs and also provides a “coin commentary” for these coins for each year they were produced. In addition, estimated values, certified coin data, rarity and variety information, surface and strike characteristics, market details, etc. are included. The book also includes several appendices on mintages, and galleries and a catalog of the various coin series produced during Moy’s tenure.
The book is notable not only for being the first reference work on the topic. It is also provides a revealing insider look at what was happening at the Mint during the important period when Mr. Moy ran it. The narrative chapters combine art, history, knowledge of coins and precious metals, and other areas in a way that will appeal to a wide audience.
However, some of the mintage information is listed incorrectly. For example, in the appendix on coin mintages for the American platinum eagle bullion and burnished coins the mintage data for the bullion coins issued in 2000 to 2008 is repeated in the table listing mintages for the burnished coins. But burnished platinum eagles were only issued in 2006-2008.
In addition, sometimes the most important points about certain year’s coins may get lost amid all the detailed information in the year-by-year study. Collectors and investors of the platinum collector coins consider the burnished and proof coins issued in 2008 to be major sleepers with good long-term value potential, as emphasized in Eric Jordan’s book, Modern Commemorative Coins, and in the book he co-authored with John Maben, Top 50 Most Popular Modern Coins. Moy does discuss the fact that the coins sold poorly that year, which led to the discontinuation of the fractional proofs and all burnished platinum coins, but the importance of the 2008 coins, as both the lowest mintage of the entire platinum series, and as among the lowest of all modern U.S. coins along with some of the gold spouse coins, could have been discussed.
I would also be interested to know how he feels in retrospect about the decision to stop issuing platinum fractional bullion and proof coins as well as all burnished platinum coins, which is something many collectors continue to be unhappy about since the one-ounce platinum proof and now bullion coins that are issued are beyond the reach of most buyers. There were reasons why those coins were not popular in 2008 such as because platinum prices crashed from over $2,000 to $800 an ounce. Such factors are no longer applicable, and collectors have been eager for fractional platinum coins for years.
Hopefully, there will be a second edition of this important book, as there was in 2013 of the Mercanti-Standish work on silver eagles, which could provide updated data on mintages and values and might include a brief summary at the beginning of each year in the year-by-year section that highlights the key points for collectors and investors before the detailed discussion.
American Gold and Platinum Eagles: A Guide to the U.S. Bullion Coin Programs
by Edmund C. Moy
224 Pages. Whitman Publishing, LLC. $29.95 MSRP.
Copyright © CoinWeek – July 2014
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. His article, “Proposed Design Change Takes Flight,” which deals with the CCAC’s recommendation for a new reverse for the American silver eagle, appears in the July issue of the Numismatist. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA,PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.