By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek....
O summer, you warmest of seasons!
Now that the Fourth of July is just around the corner, it’s time for another round of Numismatic Housekeeping. In this edition, Hubert and I weigh in on the recent high profile sale of the 1971-S Reverse Nixon Proof, wrap up our coverage of the ANA elections and give our endorsements, catch up on the latest commemorative news, and finally put our two cents into what’s going on with the Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Design Contest.
Heritage Auctions Rare 1971-S Type 1 Reverse Nixon Proof for $9,400.
On March 7, we wrote about the discovery of a proof 1971-S Eisenhower dollar that we called “the only die-marriage mule yet known of an Eisenhower dollar proof”. At least one collector took us to task for this assertion, citing two 1971-S Eisenhower dollar coins with the low relief (or “Type 1” reverse) that had been publicized in Coin World after the owner submitted them to ICG for authentication.
What wasn't revealed about these coins in the Coin World piece or any subsequent reporting by CONECA was their origin. Did they come from the Nixon Presentation box, or were they found in the wild? While the Oskam piece quite possibly isn't the first known example of this coin, it is the first instance where it’s public knowledge that the coin has a connection to the special packaging.
Heritage Auctionspointed to our CoinWeek article in their listing and correctly mentions the uncertainty that surrounds the release, as we still to this day do not know exactly how this coin came to be. The Heritage Specimen was submitted to NGC for authentication by the same consigner as the Oskam piece. NGC announced their attribution of the piece in this press release dated April 16. We see no effort on their part to determine the origin of the Nixon Presentation box.
PCGS has encapsulated the Oskam piece and attributed it as Type 1 Reverse: Nixon Presentation. It is graded PR67CAM.
The questions remain: how many Nixon Presentation boxes does the seller own, and how many Type 1 Reverses reside in these boxes? Early in our investigation, we were led to believe that the owner had as many as nine boxes, and since they offered the coin on eBay with no mention of the rare variety, we assumed that the seller didn't know what they had. The Ike Group reached out to numismatist Tom Delorey for help on the issue. Delorey made contact with the seller - and we have to assume the Heritage Auction listing came about due to his influence - but so far Delorey has remained tight-lipped about it.
In Numismatics, information is money, and while we’d love to learn what else the seller knows or has, it’s only fair that the owner of the coins benefits the most.
ANA Board of Governors: Wrap Up
Hubert and I spent more than two months working on candidate profiles for the upcoming ANA Board of Governors election. We spoke with as many candidates as we could in the time our schedules allowed, and you can read our profiles here: Mike Ellis, William Hyder, Steve D’Ippolito, Richard Jozefiak, Oded Paz, Dr. Scott Rottinghaus, and Laura Sperber.
The ANA is in dire need of a shake-up. It needs to renew its commitment to being a leader in the hobby. The hobby is stronger when we have an organization that can leverage the combined strength of hundreds of thousands of collectors. Right now, the ANA is the “Sick Man of the Industry”. Membership has fallen to the point where it no longer has the regulatory teeth it once had.
One thing the ANA can do is focus on its members where they live - and most of its members live east of the Mississippi. The organization used to have deep roots east of the Mississippi. Today? Not so much.
The ANA also needs to find a way to deliver an online experience that rivals a visit to ANA headquarters in Colorado Springs. It’s fallen way behind the times when it comes to providing content to its members. Its lending library still relies on snail mail. Its coin collection isn't available to view online. Its archives aren't Internet searchable. This means more than a slick new website – the ANA needs a vision and a strategy to deliver world-class benefits to its membership.
And lastly, there is something the ANA needs to fix, and fix now.
The recurrent hiring and firing of executive directors is embarrassing. The termination of Jeff Shevlin was carried out in secret just months before his contract expired. The ANA could have remedied the situation quietly and allowed Mr. Shevlin to save face and leave at the end of his term. Restoring credibility to the position of Executive Director is far more important than whatever benefit the governors think they’ll derive from botching yet another hire. Mr. Hyder’s comments at the ANA Governor Candidates roundtable echo our thoughts exactly.
And since we can’t know which members currently sitting on the board voted to oust Shevlin, we don’t feel confident in publicly endorsing any sitting governor.
So, without further ado, we endorse the following new candidates in this election:
Laura Sperber and William Hyder.
Mr. Hyder is a collector, first and foremost. His intelligence and first-hand knowledge of the inner workings of the organization will also serve him well on the frontline of the ANA’s efforts to update its technology. We think he will stand with us.
Ms. Sperber comes closest to our vision of the kind of organizational activism necessary at this juncture. She’s been a vocal opponent of coin doctors for a long time, but tackling coin doctors alone won’t turn around the organization’s fortunes. One might even argue that getting entangled in controversial topics only invites further litigation. Still, we’d rather see an alleged coin doctor sue the ANA for defamation than have the ANA pay another team of lawyers to settle its intra-organizational squabbling.
It’s our sincerest hope that Ms. Sperber rises to the occasion and sees fit to run for President of the ANA. The organization needs her tenacity at the top.
National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Competition
With the U.S. Mint scheduled to issue its first scyphate coin next year in honor of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, we visited http://batterup.challenge.gov/ to see how the design contest is going.
The cut-off date for submissions was May 11. Judging began May 13 and wraps up August 30. The Hall of Fame panel of judges consists of Joe Morgan, Brooks Robinson, Ozzie Smith, Don Sutton, and Dave Winfield - all known for their skill on the field. But even though Bill James once called Joe Morgan the smartest baseball player he’s ever seen, what is in their resumes that makes these gentlemen especially qualified to judge coin art? It’s a nice democratic touch, we guess.
At any rate, if the current roster of semi-finalists are all they have to choose from, somebody at the Mint is lobbing softballs.
We’re not kidding. Here are a couple of the more egregious examples:
“Uncle Sam G.W.R.B.I”, by Bill Purdom
This Bill Veeckian travesty might be the silliest candidate for a commemorative coin design in the history of any great nation. The design features a juiced-up Uncle Sam wearing a clownish vest of stars and pinstripe pants. A catcher watches helplessly as Sam has just gone yard.
Is Bill Purdom part of the graphic design team on the Colbert Report?
“Batter Up”, by YM Cho
This “semi-finalist” selection defies all reason and good sense. It’s as if the Mint took a look at everything that was bad about early ‘90s commemorative design and mastered it. If we’re commemorating a date in giant typography, we have a winner! This approach totally misses the point and would probably spell doom for the Hall of Fame, which is counting on a big payoff from coin sales.
There are also a handful of glove designs. It’s a far more form-utilizing idea than any of the rest, but how boring!
Still, even though the concave surface will probably distort any representation of a ballplayer, there’s something about Cara Bowling’s placid outfielder that appeals to us. The design allows the viewer to impart their own historical reference and perspective. Unlike the 1992 Olympic dollar - essentially a metallic-art version of a trace job of Nolan Ryan’s baseball card - this illustration has no obvious real-life connotation.
“Anticipation of a Season”, by Cara Bowling
Which leaves us with only one other viable option.
“Liberty Is a Grand Slam”, by Garrett Burke
We admit, it’s a generic and underwhelming coin, but there are some details we can appreciate as collectors and fans of the game. LIBERTY is in a font reminiscent of the one used by the Dodgers, but it isn't that font. The silhouette of the grandstands reminds us of a ‘70s-era baseball stadium - but it isn't one you’d recognize. The contest rules strictly forbade the coin to depict anything historic. Strange, considering this is a commemorative commemorating something historic in nature. Nevertheless, Burke’s design is a better fit for the lenticular shape of the coin than most.
In all seriousness, a scyphate coin has never been attempted by the U.S. Mint. We’re sure the Mint is well aware of the aesthetic challenges presented by such a task. But Congress, in assigning the job to the general public, not only shows an ignorance and disdain for art, but also a dismissive attitude toward the Mint. Like with the Susan B. Anthony dollar, what happens when real innovation is paired with weak design?
Why, we almost wonder if it’s intentional. Will the hobby and fiscal puritans ever tell each other “good game, good game, good game, good game…”?
Commemoratives of the 113th Congress (So Far)
Speaking of Congress, last year we covered the commemorative coin bills of the 112th Congress, a lengthy piece that tracked the horse race of proposals as they were introduced. It’s interesting to see what parochial interests our senators and representatives push through - and what topics reach critical mass and become law. Going by the pace of coin legislation these days, it’s 1936 all over again. If we’re “lucky”, we’ll see two programs a year, maybe three.
Ohio Representative James Renacci (R-OH16) introducedH.R. 1653, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act, on April 18, 2013. Renacci represents Canton, OH, the home of said Hall of Fame. Unlike the Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative, we won’t be getting anything fancy. Which is a shame, really –we were looking forward to writing about the first “prolate spheroid-shaped” coin in American History.
Minnesota Representative Erik Paulsen (R-MN3) introduced H.R. 627, the National Park Service 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act. This program was also brought back from the dead and asks for a three coin set. You can get National Park quarters for face value... where do we even begin to argue against this idea?
On June 13, Colorado Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO5) introduced H.R. 2366, an act to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the centennial of World War I. In the 112th Congress, a version of this bill had only 11 cosponsors. The text of the 113th version isn't up yet, but we expect it to ask for the production of 350,000 $1 coins. Doughboys deserve a coin, and if the reverse features an eagle with a broken sword, then we’re all for it.
West Virginia Representative David McKinley (R-WV1) is again pushing for the Mother’s Day Centennial Commemorative (H.R. 1905). Did you know that the founder of Mother’s Day was a woman from West Virginia named Anna Jarvis? Interestingly, Mother’s Day was originally a church holiday, proclaimed as such in 1908 by the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Proceeds from the coin would go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
There’s also a new kid on the block.
The newest program is the Boys Town Centennial Commemorative Act (S. 1011), introduced and referred to Committee on May 22 by Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE). It’s a banner year for religiously-linked commemoratives - Edward J. Flanagan, a Roman Catholic priest, founded the organization. For most of its history, the Archbishop of Omaha has been the ex-officio board chairman of Boys Town. As a measure of how far we’ve come over the last century, in 2011 the board named Rajive Johri, a Hindu, to the position.
We mentioned “fiscal puritans” earlier. In the context of coin collecting, all we mean by that is someone who seems determined to spoil all the fun by daring to insist on “fiscal responsibility”, or that the government has better things to do than make novelty coins. Well, there’s one puritanical bill we can get behind because it could actually make commemoratives better, and that is H.R. 1218, proposed by Representative Justin Amash (R-MI3). Another reintroduction from the 112th, the Commemorative Coins Reform Act of 2013 seeks to eliminate the funding of private organizations with surcharges from commemorative coin programs. It would instead put the money into the general fund. Makes enough sense to us.
Charles has contacted his representative, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA7), and urged his support for the bill.
We’re excited to say that our piece (“The End of the Modern Era of United States Coinage”) is the cover story of the June 2013 issue of The Numismatist. In our minds, The Numismatist is still the “gold standard” of numismatic periodicals, and it’s not every day that you get such a high profile platform to express your ideas.
In case you missed it, you can read an earlier version of the article here.
And finally, Charles gave two public presentations last month. He spoke to the Central Virginia Coin Club about our article in the Numismatist, and he also talked to the historic Richmond Coin Club about coin price guides. Charles was a Red Book Pricing Contributor for the 2014 edition, and is committed to making that volume the standard bearer for annual coin price guides by focusing on those areas of the market most affected by collector activity.
Charles: I’d like to thank the Central Virginia Coin Club and the Richmond Coin Club for giving me the opportunity to get away from the computer and meet other collectors for a change. Thank you!
Thanks also to govtrack.us for being one of the best sources of information on pending legislation on the Internet.
FLIP OF A COIN:
What is she wearing? The dress, or tunic, worn by Liberty on the obverse of the Saint-Gaudens double eagle is called a chiton. Well, technically it’s a Doric chiton, which is a more archaic version of the garment than the later Ionic style.
The Greenback Party’s moment was short lived, but when you look at the arc of American monetary policy, you can’t help but wonder if they got the last laugh. They did, however, go into the record books for nominating the oldest presidential candidate to run on a party ticket in U.S. History when they nominated Peter Cooper in 1876. Cooper was 85 years old at the time. He died of natural causes in 1883, at the age of 92. Had he been elected, he would have died during his second term.
DMPL, PL, Rainbow Toned, and Superb Gem are modern day concepts that were all but unknown when Morgan dollars were available at face value in the ‘60s. Untold hundreds of thousands of common date coins were indiscriminately discarded and many were melted in the early ‘80s for the silver. So… what features are we ignoring now that will factor into the way coins are collected in the future?
© 2013 Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker
NOTE: All articles presented in the Commentary and Opinion Category on CoinWeek are just that, Opinions of the writers who submitted the article, and do not represent the opinions of the of the staff, owners, or advertisers on CoinWeek.