Future Articles

The Case for Fiat Currency – Nationalize the Federal Reserve

Swiss Shooting Talers

Unavoidable Catastrophe – Copy Paco’s article

Cause & Track of 1930’s Depression –  Ref Peter Schiff

Sources to Purchase Bullion

Ideal Format for Currency

Ultimate Economic Options

  • Police State with strict price controls
  • Government Default and refuses to pay debts
  • Federal Reserve creates more currency resulting in hyperinflation
  • Federal Reserve is nationalized; National budget is slashed by 80% to 90%; Government creates money to pay off debt and does so.

Means of Suppression of Precious Metal Prices

  • ETFs – Overselling of paper metal, presumed by buyers to be real metal
  • London Fixes
  • Dumping of large quantities of metal on the market to bring price down
Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Glossary for Investing in Precious Metals

Bullion – The word bullion technically refers to gold and silver formed into bars or coins to be specifically held for investment or as a store of value.  In the context of my discussion of precious metals, I have extended the definition to include any metal held as a store of value against inflation.  Thus platinum, palladium, rhodium, and even copper may be considered bullion in the context of this essay.

Bullion Coin – Bullion coins are coins made of precious metal that are not truly meant for circulation.  They are minted for investors as an investment or store of value.  Precious metal bars are often too large an investment at one time for many people.  Bullion coins on the other hand are typically minted in single troy ounces or fractions thereof.  Some are minted alloyed with other metal to make them more durable against wear.  This makes them much more affordable to the common individual than 10 ozt or 100 ozt bars.  If minted by a government, they also carry the recognized stamp of that government.  Private mints also issue bullion coins legally, though the US government has recently seized some of these claiming them to be illegal.  Prior to silver being withdrawn from circulation in 1965 and the debasement of the US dollar in 1971, there was no real need for bullion coins because precious metal was in circulation.  The first real bullion coins were the South African Krugerrands in 1967.  The USA started minting bullion coins in 1986.  Today many governments over the world issue bullion coins, often to commemorate certain events or people.  These bullion coins do have legal tender status.  However, it would be foolish to use them in that manner.  US silver eagles are stamped with a $1 value, gold eagles a value of $50 and platinum eagles a $100 value.  With today’s spot prices, it would be senseless to use these coins as currency for those denominations.

Coin – A coin is a usually a round piece of metal that is minted to represent some value in order to serve as a medium of exchange.  Today coins are minted by governments and private mints as bullion to serve as a store of recognized and trusted value.  Most metallic coins for circulation have been debased to the degree they no longer represent the original value intended.  Most circulated coins have become fiat currency.  An exception is the US nickel.  The nickel still (as of 2010) has the same composition (75 % copper & 25 % nickel) it did when it was first minted in 1866.  Since gold was taken out of circulation by the US government in 1933, silver was withdrawn by the public after 1964 and the US government stopped minting copper pennies mid 1982, coinage has been debased from its intended value.  Since then the penny has been debased to a copper plated zinc coin.  Copper is not considered a precious metal, but it is included here, as it increasingly looked upon as a store of value.

Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) – An ETF is similar to a mutual fund in that one is investing in a managed portfolio and it is traded on an exchange.  ETFs for precious metals have been popularized for many investors in the last five years and are frequently offered as a means of investing in precious metals.  They have latched onto the allure of investing in precious metals.  However investing in ETFs is not truly investing in precious metals, because you do not own any metal either physically or even in your name.  You simply own some paper saying you have invested in a portfolio someone else is managing that may or may not include actual metal.  The earliest precious metal ETFs actually held physical metal.  However, audits have exposed some ETFs to not actually have the metals on deposit they purport to have had, making them a very risky investment.

London Fixes – Twice daily (10:30 am & 3 pm GMT, Monday thru Friday) a very exclusive group of five bankers, representing five specific European banks, meet by telephone to buy & sell gold, silver, platinum and palladium.  Until 2004 these five bankers actually met in London for the fixing.  Since then it has been done by telephone.  These five bankers each consult their own network of bullion dealers during the phone conversation and together arrive at a “fixed” price in US dollars for that morning and again in the afternoon.  Further trading does take place (Monday thru Friday) in New York, Sydney and Hong Kong after London Fixes close.  This gives the London Fixes a price to start with the next day.  However, London trading is considered senior as all trading is based on metal deliverable in London and meeting London’s standards.

Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) – PGMs are a group of six metals grouped close to each other on the Periodic Chart.  They are iridium, platinum, palladium, osmium, rhodium and ruthenium.  They behave similarly chemically and their market prices are commonly quoted together.  Of the group, palladium,  platinum and rhodium are the only metals that are currently minted in bullion coins, making them the most likely of the group to serve as bullion.  Osmium is highly unlikely to ever serve as bullion as it easily oxidizes into toxic compounds.

Pool Account – Pool accounts are held in the name of the investor where the actual metal is held in storage in his name.  There are two types of pool accounts.  An “allocated account” is one by which specific numbered bars of metal are stored in the investor’s name.  The specific bar numbers, as stamped on the bars themselves, are given to the investor for his records.  Should he want to obtain physical possession, those specific bars will be sent to him.  An “unallocated account” is one in which the investor has simply bought into a large pool of precious metal with other investors.  In this type of account, one’s own metal is indistinguishable from that of other investors in the same institution.  The only distinguishable characteristic of one’s account is what metal one has invested in and how many ounces of that metal he has.

Precious Metals – The term “precious metals” refers to metals that are 1) rare and therefore valuable.  They are also 2) non-radioactive, so they can be handled.  They are 3) relatively inactive chemically such that they retain their value by not breaking down into other compounds.  There are eight metals that are commonly included together in this group, suggesting they hold these criteria: gold, silver, palladium, platinum, rhodium, iridium, ruthenium and osmium.  To be truthful, I don’t understand how osmium is on this list.  However, it is commonly quoted as a “precious metal”, probably because it is a PGM.

Spot Price – The spot price of a metal is a price that is fixed in London based on buying & selling offers in very large trades during the day, Monday through Friday.  During London’s off hours, prices are set in New York, Sydney and Hong Kong.  The common individual has no access to these prices.  Rather the typical dealer and individual buyer will buy & sell at some price relative to the spot price.  Typically, gold one ounce Eagles sell $20 to $100 dollars above the spot price.  Silver eagles typically sell for $2 to $3 above spot price.  Silver bars are also quoted at 60¢ below to 90¢ above spot price, depending on whether you are buying or selling.  Prices are often given in this manner relative to the spot price because prices change so frequently.  It’s simpler to quote an amount above or below the spot, rather than keep changing the quote every time the spot price changes.

Troy System of Weights and Measure – Precious metals are measured, market prices are quoted, and coins are minted based on troy ounces.  The troy system is named after Troyes, a trading center in northeastern France in the Middle Ages.  This is a different measuring system than what is commonly thought of as ounces when buying groceries or weighing other common household items.  The following table is meant to clarify any confusion between the Troy system and the more common American / English system.  The gram equivalents are approximate and are rounded to the nearest gram.

Troy System of Weight Avoirdupois (English / American) System of Weight

Troy Ounce  =  480 grains (Grains are of the English system.)            English Ounce  =  437.5 grains

Troy Ounce  =  31 grams, (abbreviation – “ozt” or “t oz”)            English Ounce  =  28 grams, (abbreviation – oz)

Troy Pound (obsolete)  =  12 Troy Ounces  =  373 grams            English Pound  =  16 English Ounces  =  454 grams

Tonne or Metric Ton  =  2679 Troy Pounds  =  1000 kg            Ton or Short Ton  =  2000 English Pounds  =  907 kg

Metric Ton  =  32,148 Troy Ounces                                     Ton or Short Ton  =  32,000 English Ounces

Troy Ounce  =  1.215 English Ounces                         English Ounce  =  0.823 Troy Ounce

The tonne is not truly part of the Troy System.  However, it is used to describe very large amounts of precious metals, especially gold.  Governments and central banks deal in such large quantities of gold that describing these quantities in ounces would be impractical.  Such quantities often exceed 100 tonnes.  Some countries possess thousands of tonnes of gold and describing such amounts in ounces would not be practical.

Nor is the grain part of the Troy System.  However, it is frequently used to measure very small amounts of metal.

Copper, not being a precious metal, is measured in English pounds.  Copper pennies (1864 to 1982) weigh 3.11 grams total, of which 95 % is copper.  In 1982 the metal composition was changed mid-year to 99.2 % zinc, weighing 2.5 grams.  Therefore one should not rely on 1982 pennies for copper content, unless you weigh them.  There is no other way to distinguish 95 % copper 1982 pennies from 99 % zinc 1982 pennies.  Therefore rely on pennies minted prior to 1982.

Posted in Precious Metal Investing | Leave a comment

The Case for Precious Metals as a Store of Value against Hyperinflation

Storage of Value, Not Necessarily an Investment

Facing hyperinflation, what would one do with one’s money to save it’s value?  Fifty years ago the cost of a gallon of gas was 25¢, yet today it’s $2.50 to $4.00.  Food has faced similar increases.  Gold was $40 per ounce and silver was about 75¢ an ounce.

First of all, be aware that one is not truly investing here.  One is storing value in something that will retain that value.  Of course it may also serve as an investment if one is willing to take some additional risk.  The viewpoint here is primarily to maintain value of one’s wealth, not to necessarily increase that value.

Nor should this article be taken as an advocacy of a gold or silver or bimetallic standard.  There are better solutions to establish currencies, but that is a subject for another article.

Consider the following data, taken from Casey Research article, Gold’s “Slingshot Effect”.

In 1935, when an ounce of gold was worth $35, you could buy:

  • a top-quality tailored suit for $19.75 – or 0.56 ounces of gold
  • a family car for $500 – or 14.3 ounces of gold
  • a house for $7,150 – or 204.2 ounces of gold

Today in 2010, with gold at $1,060 an ounce, you could buy:

  • that same top-quality, tailored suit for $600 – or 0.56 ounces of gold
  • the family car for $15,000 – or 14.2 ounces of gold
  • the house averages $218,100 – or 204.6 ounces of gold

As you can see, the value of gold does not change.  What changes is the value of the dollar, because it is a fiat currency.  Such currencies, as are all currencies today, have only the backing of the people’s confidence in their governments, which is declining.  The object here is to retain that value in one’s wealth as the value of the dollar declines.  The question rises – What does one put one’s dollars into in order to retain the value of those dollars?  As hyperinflation approaches, this question will increasingly be on one’s mind.

What to Look for in Value

The following are what I look for in any investment when I want to retain value:

  1. Retains value over time;
  2. Liquid enough to be readily exchanged for similar value;
  3. Recognizable to lay persons such as store clerks, mechanics and man on the street;
  4. Subdivisable;
  5. Durable to weather and mishandling;
  6. Transportability in case one needs to move;
  7. Small enough it can be concealed from would be thieves.

Options often thought of for investment or to store value are savings accounts, government bonds, stocks, real estate, diamonds and other precious stones, fuel commodities such as oil, food commodities, base metal commodities, collectibles, and precious metals.

Paper Options

If you would trust savings accounts or government bonds to store your value, you are probably not reading this.  First of all, these are all just paper with no assurance of value when hyperinflation hits.  Banks are going broke right and left.  Money in the bank will only deteriorate with inflation and therefore is no store of value under hyperinflation.  Governments on every level – federal, state, county and city – the world over are in danger of default on their debt already, so there is no reason to buy their bonds.

Stocks are still just paper and will have no value if the company goes broke.  Who knows what will happen to any company subject to hyperinflation.  Nor are stocks as liquid or divisible as other options.  Mining stocks, especially mining of precious metals might be a good investment, but again they are not as liquid or divisible as other options.  Putting money into any stock involves trust in the management of that company.  Gold mining stocks might be a rare exception.  There are very few silver mining stocks as most silver is produced as a byproduct from other mining ores.  Therefore putting money into stocks becomes more of an investment than a store of value.

Commodities

So much for the paper options.  The remainder are items of the physical universe, making them commodities.  Commodities, are by their nature part of the physical universe, and as such, hold value as long as there is a demand for that commodity.  The value of any particular commodity will go up and down with supply and technological advancements.  Of course there will always be some demand for real estate, else where would people live, work or recreate?  Precious metals have held value as currency for thousands of years, as opposed to paper currencies such as the German mark of the early 1920’s.

Commodities tend to hold their value through hyperinflation.  It is commodities that one wants to purchase with the money that is inflating.  Commodities remain relatively constant in value as they are in the physical universe as opposed to fiat currency.  Fiat currency only represents a concept of confidence in the government that issues it.  When that confidence deteriorates, so does the value of that fiat currency.

Real Estate

Real estate is a consideration for some, after all, you have to have a place to live.  One might reason why not store value in one’s domicile, but consider where will you live if you have to sell it.  Real estate is obviously not transportable, nor is it liquid or easily divisible.  Recent trends have shown that it is does not retain value well either.  There is one form of real estate that should do well as far as retaining value in the coming years and that is farmland.  Many economists and trend forecasters foresee food shortages making farmland prime real estate.  In this way it may also produce income.

Diamonds and Precious Stones

Diamonds and other precious stones are not recognizable to the lay person.  You have to take them to a jeweler to exchange them.  Nor are they subdivisible.  Precious stones are a luxury in good times.  In times of travail, their value will probably drop considerably.  Diamonds have never been thought of as currency as their value is not easily determined by the lay person.

Oil and Fuel

Fuel will certainly be at a premium in times of travail.  However, large quantities such as that required to store substantial value will not be easily transportable.  While it certainly would be worthwhile to store a substantial amount of fuel for bad times ahead, it is not as transportable as other means of exchange.  Some have suggested oil as a store of value.  Oil by itself has no value without the prospect of getting it refined.  If you have that means, then fine.  However, transporting fuel or oil to pay for groceries would be a difficult exchange.  Fuel is just not as liquid in that manner as one might like.

Food

Food commodities such as grain, rice and canned goods would make be a good store of value for relatively small amounts of value, considering the value before hard times hit.  One advantage is that you can always eat the food, unlike any other store of value.  But space may well limit the quantity of food.  When available space is filled, look for another store of value.  Another consideration is durability.  Certainly some foods are more durable than others.  One should keep in mind the purpose here is to see one through a time of travail and store enough food and means of exchange to see one through those times.

Base Metals

In good times base metal commodities would be a good store of value, but in time of hyperinflation, such things would offer little exchange value.  What would one do with a ton of zinc or aluminum if manufacturing is at a standstill?  A single exception would be copper pennies, minted before 1982. Copper pennies will certainly have value, and will be easily exchangeable. The only consideration is that you would have to have a lot of them to carry out large transactions.   But having some on hand for small transactions would be prudent.

Collectibles

Many people suggest that collectibles would be a valid store of value. Works of art are not durable, liquid, subdivisible or small.  Nor will they retain value in times of travail.  No one will be looking for art work in time of hyperinflation.

The only collectible worthy of consideration for storage of value would be rare coins that have been certified by either PCGS or NGC.  Being certified, they become recognizable and durable in their plastic casing.  The coins should be US coins because only US coins are easily valued.  There is much less documentation on foreign coins, making it much more difficult to determine their value.  However, just like any other collectible, one must pay a significant premium when buying rare coins.  That premium will likely eat up part of the stored value.   They are somewhat recognizable in that the value of US coins that have been certified are generally worth prices given in standard catalogs.  However, they are not divisible or as liquid as precious metals.

Some coin dealers are pushing certified US $20 double eagle gold coins, minted before 1933, as a store of value against inflation.  However, the coins are being offered at collector prices.  They only serve as a store of value if your are paying actual bullion prices.  Beware that these double eagle coins only approximate the size and bullion content of modern eagles.  They do not contain a full troy ounce of gold.  It’s far better to just buy bullion coins such as modern US gold eagles, Canadian Maple Leafs or South African Krugerrands.

Disclosure

In the interest of full disclosure, I will let you know that I do buy rare coins.  However, I buy them as a collector.  I do not buy rare coins as an investment, nor as a store of value, though of course, value is certainly a consideration when I buy them.  I buy rare coins for their artistic appeal to me as an individual.

Case for Precious Metals

Precious metals meet all seven of the above characteristics I would be looking for as a store of value.  The value of precious metals has never gone to zero.  On the contrary, gold and silver have been used as coinage for four thousand years.  They serve as a recognizable currency and as such are liquid, subdivisible and transportable.  Certainly precious metal must be stored safely to secure it from theft.

Past Confiscation

One point of hesitation is that in 1933 Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6102, allowing him to confiscate gold coins, gold certificates (paper money circulating at the time) and all gold bullion. Congress had given authority to him by Congressional action in 1917 with the Trading with the Enemy Act and in 1933 with the Emergency Banking Act.  Roosevelt’s executive order in 1933 only applied to gold.  However, the congressional actions still stand, allowing the president to seize all bullion by further executive orders.

Roosevelt’s executive order was revoked in 1974 by President Ford with his Executive Order 11825.  However, be aware the congressional actions of 1917 and 1933, which allowed Roosevelt’s executive order in the first place, are still in effect.  Therefore any President could rewrite and re-implement Roosevelt’s order.

Conclusion

For me the conclusion is that precious metals by far offer the best means of storage of value, whether in good times or bad.  In good times, one can splurge on the luxuries of life.  In times of hyperinflation one must retain value of one’s wealth to get through to the other end to enjoy the coming good times of the future.  Then one can buy all that fancy real estate, glorious jewelry and great works of art.

Posted in Precious Metal Investing | Leave a comment

British Catching Up on Commemoratives

I thought my first article pretty much covered my views on this subject, but it’s getting pretty comical. I have come to realize it is more serious than simply the significance of events and anniversaries being lost in the morass of commemorative issues. Our hobby of numismatics is being debased.

I don’t know what it is about the British. They issued very few commemorative coins until Elizabeth II’s reign. She issued three commemorative crowns in pre-decimal coinage: 1953 Coronation, 1960 British Festival in New York and the 1965 Churchill commemorative. Prior to Elizabeth II, commemoratives were issued for silver jubilees, etc. By that nature, they could only be issued infrequently. Now I guess the British figure they have some catching up to do.

Today I was browsing thru a dealer’s catalog online and found to my amazement that concurrent with Gibraltar’s issuance of DOG commemoratives, the Isle of Man has issued 21 CAT commemoratives AND RUNNING. I really burst out laughing. These commemoratives are issued in at least five different denominations, including gold, silver and copper-nickel. Some people actually buy this stuff. That’s 105 commemoratives, AND RUNNING – I don’t have the 2001 catalog. Do you know that you can actually purchase this entire 21 coin cat commemorative set in silver for a mere $1250.00? That’s an average of $60 per coin. Not a bad profit for the dealer. People must be buying this stuff, or dealers wouldn’t take the time to create the ads

Now if you know a serious cat lover, this is just the Christmas present for them. But wait, there’s MORE!!! The Isle of Man has been issuing Christmas commemoratives every year since 1980 in four metals (copper-nickel, silver, gold & platinum) and each metal is denominated as “50 Pence”! Not even the USA does that. American Eagles are minted in platinum, gold and silver and are denominated as $100, $50 and $10. But this issuance of 50 pence coins in 4 different metals are all the same size coins.

This is getting serious. The morass of commemorative coins is no longer comical, especially when various metals are all used for the same denomination. This is becoming a debasement of numismatics. It is beyond the idea of merely a loss of significance of an anniversary or an event. This is further debasement of our coinage.

Governments are selling massive numbers of commemoratives and unknowledgeable people are buying them. They end up spending money on coins that have little to no value beyond the bullion they contain. Many of these coins don’t even have bullion value (copper-nickel), yet people buy them. When they get the coins, they store them away, expecting they will go up in value significantly. When they don’t, the idea of coin collecting bears the blame.

Just last week I was shown a box of 100 Canadian 1986 silver commemorative coins that someone had purchased, apparently thinking it was a good investment. After 23 years the individual gave up on any possibility of the coins having any significant value and he donated them to charity. I tried to find an outlet to sell them, but couldn’t even sell them for their bullion content as there wasn’t enough silver in the coins to make it worthwhile. It is causing numismatics to be poorly thought of.

Why should we care what others think of our hobby? In this day and age, governments are just looking for something else to regulate. Legislatures are working overtime looking for things to concern themselves with in our lives. At the moment I can’t imagine what they would do, especially since government is the source of the problem. When isn’t it the problem?

What can be done? Writing letters and emails to Congressmen or the US Mint is a lot of work for relatively little benefit. That would only deal with one country, the United States. The USA is not so much a problem in this regard as are many other coin issuing countries. Countries like China don’t care about or listen to other’s opinions. We need to strike this problem closer to its core.

Why are commemoratives issued so prolifically? There is a little bit of money made by the mints, but it’s pretty insignificant relative to their national budgets. I believe it must have to do with promotion, especially in the case of China. I don’t know what Gibraltar or the Isle of Man are promoting, except perhaps tourism. You can go to the Isle of Man and see their Manx cats! Wow, where’s my ticket?

The avenue I see to handle this is by appealing to our own numismatic organizations which have been promoting these coins all along. There are five in particular in the United States: Krause Publications, NGC, PCGS, ANACS and the ANA. Now these organizations are not to be faulted. They have simply been doing what they advertise and were created to do. It has long been Krause’s job to catalog coins, and so they have been doing just that. NGC, PCGS and ANACS certify coins and they have been doing exactly that. I include all three grading services that show population reports because that is where the promotion occurs. Then there is the ANA. Surely the ANA should be concerned about the future of numismatics.

In the United Kingdom, there is Spinks, CGS-UK and various numismatic associations such as the British Numismatic Society (BNS) and the British Numismatic Trade Association (BNTA). Spinks has been around for a long time. Coin collecting has much more history in England than it does in the United States, so there should be some concern there. CGS-UK is a very new certification and slabbing service in England, the first I know of in Europe.

I appeal to anyone concerned about this subject to contact these organizations and see how they feel on this matter. Appeal to krause and Spinks to stop putting the morass of commemoratives in their catalogs. Appeal to the grading services not to grade them. Appeal to numismatic associations to influence governments to stop issuing them. Organizations such as the ANA, BNS and BNTA can bring infinitely greater influence over government entities than individuals.

Certainly various subjects will come up: Which coins are legitimate? Which ones should be cataloged? Which ones should be certified? Where do we draw the line? I’m not sure, but it must be drawn somewhere, else our hobby will be lost in the morass with all the morass of coins and catalogs. The subject will be spurned by people and kids will be deterred from it. What coin collector 50 or 100 years from now will know what to purchase?

If you have an opinion on this, please let me know. Am I out to lunch? Am I worried about something totally insignificant? Perhaps you can see something I am missing, such as why this is occurring. Maybe there is another factor besides promoting tourism or making a country well thought of.

If you feel like contacting any of these institutions, or others that may influence the subject, feel free to copy and paste my articles to them, edited if you prefer. I would appreciate a note you have done so.

Note – I previously wrote and posted this article at the NGC Registry, 29 Sept 2009.

Posted in World Commemoratives | Leave a comment

Commercialization of Commemorative Coins

Commemorative coins have a particular attraction in that they are generally more aesthetic and unique than coins for circulation.  Commemoratives are minted to celebrate an event or an anniversary, while general coinage continues with the same images before, during and after any event. This offers a great opportunity for amplifying the significance of events that should be recognized, enhanced and promoted. When a commemorative coin gets into circulation, it can make the event known that it is commemorating. Thus the event is promoted and can be made well known and thought of.

In the 19th century commemorative coins were issued sparingly, maintaining their value as promotional pieces advocating significant events. Examples were the Swiss Shooting Talers issued every two or three years. Russian Imperial commemoratives on the average were issued about every seven years. Other countries also issued commemoratives very sparingly. Austria issued only two in the 19th century to celebrate specific events.

Perhaps the commercialization of commemorative coinage started in the United States. The United States started its commemorative program in the 19th century and issued a pair of commemoratives to commemorate the Columbian Exposition, ie the Chicago World’s Fair. Over the next twenty-seven years US commemoratives were issued sparingly, though with increasing frequency. However, serious proliferation of US commemoratives started in the 1920s and continued until the classic commemorative series stopped in 1954. Anniversaries of such local, innocuous places as Elgin, IL; Lynchburg, VA; New Rochelle, NY; and York County, ME were celebrated with national commemorative coins. From 1920 to 1954 forty-six different anniversaries and events were celebrated with US commemoratives, some funded by such groups as the Ku Klux Klan. Congress recognized the exploitation of commemorative coins and terminated the commemorative program after the 1954 issue.

Similar exploitation took place in the German Wiemar Republic and the Third Reich. In a ten year period, from 1925 to 1934, Germany issued commemoratives for 24 different anniversaries and events. The program ceased after the election of Hitler. It is surprising he did not continue the exploitation of the commemorative program to promote his own purposes. It would have been consistent with his ambitions.

Exploitation of commemoratives started up with a real vengeance world wide in the 1960s and has continued and expanded since. Germany issued three different commemoratives in 1968 and has issued at least two different commemoratives every year since. From 1968 to its dissolution in 1990, East Germany issued 118 different commemorative coins.

Perhaps the most prolific has been Gibraltar. One would wonder just how much has Gibraltar to celebrate? Starting in 1991 Gibraltar started issuing commemoratives pretty indiscriminately. I stopped counting after 831 and had 15 pages left to count in the Krause 1901-2000 catalog. I realized, not having the 2001 catalog, I wouldn’t be able to give an accurate count. Would it make any difference? Krause doesn’t even give pictures for over 90% of the Gibraltar commemoratives. Gibraltar commemorated every event of the Olympics held in Atlanta and Barcelona. They commemorated such locally famous celebrities as the Marx Brothers and Alfred Hitchcock. Now we get to the really ridiculous part – Gibraltar issued an entire commemorative series celebrating DOGS, depicting various breeds on the coins: Yorkshire terrier, collie, bulldog, cocker spaniel, dachshund, etc.

China is certainly not to be out done. I stopped counting Chinese commemoratives at 408 with 34 pages left to count in Krause 1900-2000, still not having the 2001 catalog. Chinese commemoratives celebrate such traditional Chinese celebrities as Rembrandt and Verdi. Not to be out done by the Gibraltar dog series, China created a commemorative series on dinosaurs! Of course they celebrate the Olympics, along with every other country issuing commemoratives, by issuing Olympic coins in several denominations for each event.

Certainly with all this promotion going on, the United States can’t be left too far behind. The US reinstituted its commemorative program in 1982 with the issuance of a coin commemorating the 250th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. While that was a significant event to celebrate, the US issued 65 more commemoratives through the year 2000, plus the 50 state quarter program. Again, I don’t have access to figures after 2000, but I don’t believe the trend would be different.

So what is the effect of this massive proliferation of commemorative coins? Does it do any harm? Well it certainly gives Krause Publications plenty of work to do. The 2001 catalog after nine years is in its 4th edition and is one third as thick as the 1901-2000 catalog. The latter catalog was so thick, that Krause had to publish a supplement (Unusual World Coins), because all the data would not fit into one catalog for 1900-2000. All this may well seem rather petty, as Krause probably doesn’t mind having more and bigger catalogs to sell ($$$). For the collector it simply means buying more catalogs ($$$) and finding more shelf space to put them. Perhaps a little more time will be spent thumbing through such catalogs to find the one coin you are looking for. So what’s the big deal?

Recall the purpose of commemorative coins in the first place – They are issued to celebrate, enhance, promote and advocate anniversaries, events and significances. How would you feel comparing George Washington’s birthday to the significance of the cocker spaniel or the stegosaurus? Is it really important that every country commemorate every event at the Olympics? When so many commemorative coins are issued, the important ones get lost in the great mass of coins. Gibraltar had little to do with the Marx Brothers. Who in Gibraltar ever heard of the Marx Brothers? Gibraltar would have been better off issuing a commemorative to the monkeys in the rocky cliffs. (They probably did right after the dogs and I missed it.) What did Rembrandt contribute to Chinese culture? Don’t the Chinese have a culture of their own to promote and celebrate? Mixing it in with Rembrandt and Verdi will only lose any significance in the coins. How many Chinese ever heard of Rembrandt or Verdi? The Chinese commemoratives should deal with Confucius and Lao Tse, real icons of Chinese culture.

A similar effect has been created with the resurgence of commemoratives in the United States. The significance of events gets lost when so many are celebrated at once. In 1992 US commemoratives celebrated the Olympics, Bicentennial of the White House and James Madison signing the Bill of Rights. Each individual celebration gets lost amongst all the others.

And then there is the poor collector. Who collects these things anyway? Does anyone know anyone who collects Gibraltar or Chinese commemoratives? The only way to effectively do it would be to get on the mailing list of the mints issuing the coins. I gave up 40 years ago and have no desire, inclination, premonition, intention, ambition or purpose in doing so.

Good luck to Krause. I am not even going to bother purchasing the 2001 catalog.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do very avidly collect commemoratives. The latest is the 1965 Churchill commemorative. Great Britain did not start issuing commemoratives prolifically until after the implementation of decimal coinage in 1971.

Note – I previously wrote and posted this article at the NGC Registry, 27 Sept 2009.

Posted in World Commemoratives | Leave a comment

Icelandic Mythology on 1930 Commemorative Series

The Icelandic “Althing” (parliament) was established in 930AD, making it one of the oldest parliamentary institutions in the world. The Althing parliament has been in continuous operation since, except for a 45 year period (1800 to 1845).

In 1930 a parliamentary committee of the Althing commissioned the Saxony State Mint at Muldenhutten in Germany to mint coins of three denominations. These coins were minted to commemorate the 1000th Anniversary of the Althing. The three coins minted were a brass 2 Kronur, a silver 5 Kronur and a silver 10 Kronur. The 10 Kronur coin is 45 millimeters in diameter, larger than most crown-sized coins. Mintages were 20,000 of the 2 Kronur, 10,000 each of the 5 and 10 Kronur coins.

The coins were originally presented in velvet lined boxes with an emblem of Iceland on the underside of the boxcover. Some came in a single box with three coins and others came with separate boxes for each coin. The three coins are cataloged as KM-M1, KM-M2 and KM-M3 in Krause’s “Unusual World Coins”, 2007 edition. The three coins depict the mythology and history of Iceland and the Althing.

The obverse of the 10 Kronur coin shows the King of Thule, a mythological / legendary figure of Iceland, seated and blessing two children.

The reverse of the 10 Kronur coin depicts the Coat of Arms of Iceland (Skjaldarmerki Íslands). The arms show a cross of silver on a sky-blue shield, with a fire-red cross inside the silver cross (similar to the Icelandic flag). The shield bearers are the four mythical protectors (landvættir – “land wights”) of Iceland standing on a lava block. The bull (Griðungur) is the protector of southwestern Iceland (Breiðafjörður). The eagle or griffin (Gammur) protects northwestern Iceland (Eyjafjörður). The dragon (Dreki) protects the northeast (Vopnafjörður). The Rock-Giant (Bergrisi) is the protector of the southeast (Vikarskeiði). The four protectors are depicted around the shield clockwise in the same relationship they have geographically, ie bull to lower left, eagle to upper left, dragon to upper right and giant to lower right.

The Landnámabók (meaning “The Book of Settlement”, often shortened to Landnáma) is a medieval Icelandic manuscript describing in considerable detail the mythological settlement (“landnám”) of Iceland. The book tells of a time when King Haraldr Gormsson, King of the Danes, intended to invade Iceland. He orders a wizard to travel to Iceland and tell him of what he sees there. The wizard goes in the form of a whale and attempts to go on land in each of the four corners of Iceland.

When he comes to the northeast at Vopnafjörður he tries to walk on land. However, he is thwarted by a great dragon, who is followed by many worms, bugs and lizards, who breathe poison on the wizard. Then the wizard tries to go to the northwest, to Eyjafjörður. There he is met by a bird with wings so long that they touch the mountains to either side of the fjord, along with many other birds. The Wizard continues to the southwest to Breiðafjörður and heads to land. There he meets a giant Bull who wades into the sea and bellows at him mightily, followed by many landvættir. The wizard goes to the southeast around Reykjanes and tries to swim ashore on Vikarskeiði. There he met with a stone giant armed with a staff of iron, taller than the mountains and with many jötnar (giants) following him. Next the wizard tries to go to the east. There he sees nothing but sands and wasteland with tall waves crashing on its shores, where longships cannot land.

Great respect was given to these mythological protectors of Iceland, so much so that there was a law during the time of the Vikings that no ship should bear grimacing symbols (such as dragonheads on the bow of the ship) when approaching Iceland. This was so the protector landvættir would not be provoked unnecessarily. (Ref – Wikipedia)

The obverse of the 5 Kronur depicts Ulfliot, the “Lawgiver”. Iceland had been settled in the late 800’s by malcontents, fleeing the suppressive taxation of King Harald I of Norway. Ulfliot, at the age of 60, undertook a journey back to Norway to study jurisprudence. He returned to Iceland in 927 and spread what he had learned. Ulfliot proposed a set of laws and they were adopted unanimously by a general assembly of Iceland. Thus was the founding of the Althing. . (Ref – Iceland: or The Journal of a Residence in That Island…, by Ebenezer Henderson, 1818; Member of the Scandinavian Literary Society of Copenhagen).

The reverse of the 5 Kronur shows Dreki, the dragon, entangled with Gammur, the eagle or griffin.

The reverse of the brass 2 Kronur coin shows all four protector landvættir in their respective geographical quadrants, bounded by a cross.

The coins are commonly considered medals instead of coins, as they were minted privately by the Saxon Mint. In the USA many coins were minted privately in the 19th century and were never categorized as medals. They were commonly accepted as coins at the time and still are among collectors, including the Red Book and other numismatic publications. These coins of Iceland do show denominations stated on the edges. (Note to NGC – Don’t take this as a credit for the ugly prongs on NGC holders that cover part of the coin.) To me, if there is a denomination indicated, it must be a coin.

The coin depicted here is the 10 Kronur. Note the lack of distracting text on the coin. This is one factor that makes the coin so attractive. I wish the coin shown here was mine, but it is not. It was not for sale.

Note – I previously wrote and posted this article at the NGC Registry, 13 Sept 2009.

Posted in World Commemoratives | Leave a comment

Source of the Current Economic Scene

The best explanation I have heard for the recent economic crash has come from Peter Schiff, investment adviser and Senate candidate in Connecticut.  I will have to look back at his videos on YouTube to find it and to be certain I duplicate it.

In Mr. Schiff’s explanation it started in the late 1990’s with the Internet crash, then the housing boom and then the crash started in late 2007.  That’s regarding the immediate economic crash.  However, the real problem starts much earlier.  Ron Paul puts it on the Federal Reserve, which was created in 1913.  Certainly the Federal Reserve has a lot to do with the situation we are in today.  But the real cause lies even earlier.

I put it back in the early Renaissance with the creation of the banking system.  Before the Renaissance the last viable economic system the Western world saw was in the Roman Empire under Caesar.  More later.

Posted in Economy | Leave a comment