Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Time to Change the Way We Make Change

Numismatic expert Dick Johnson presented the following article in the lastest issue of Esylum newsletter, offering a plan to revamp U.S. coinage.
by D. Wayne Johnson

South Africa announced this week that it is abolishing its 5-cent coin. It is also changing the composition of its 10-cent coins (slightly).
Here's the government news release/

This is a very smart move by South Africa. It is the latest progressive country among about a dozen others that have recognized that world economics has advanced so far to make the cent and nickel obsolete coins of commerce because of their low value. The 10-cent coin will be the lowest coin in circulation in this country as in the others. Prices will still be quoted in cents, it is only the final transaction amount to be rounded off to the nearest 10-cent increment.

How long will the United States drag its feet to recognize this fact? It should revamp its entire coinage system at one time instead of attacking separate problems, say, for each denomination.

The U.S. Treasury lost $42 million last year making cents and nickels of metal alloys that cost more than the face value of the coins produced. We are on track to spend $5 million more for a study to find a metal to replace these compositions. Numismatist David L. Ganz suggested an aluminum alloy in such a study in a New York Times article (reported here in E-Sylum vol 14, no 36, art 13, August 28, 2011).

To find compositions in which to strike cents and nickels -- which no longer have an economic justification to exist -- is dumb, dumber and dumbest. Both the cent and the nickel as a circulating denomination should be abolished. (Prices can still be quoted in cents, or any decimal fraction thereof, it is only the "transaction price" -- what the Canadians call the "tally price" -- that is rounded off. This balances out overall. To criticize for the reason everyone will raise to the higher increment is insignificant. Such criticism is also dumb.

The nickel should be rebased (revalued) to 10 cents and continue to circulate. The cents need to be melted and recoined into a higher denomination. These are just two suggestions in my 42-page plan "Future Coins."

I outline not only what coins should be abolished, what denominations should be retained, what new denominations should be added -- instead of 1c, 5c, 10c, 25c, 50c -- we should have 10c, 50c, $1. $5, $10. There are six compartments in current cash registers. They would easily accommodate these new denominations once the lower denominations are eliminated.

The vending machine industry, largest user of coins, would surely endorse this plan because 90% of the industry's problems are the use of paper dollars in their machines. Higher denomination coins would eliminate that.

My plan spells out the size of all future coins -- diameter and thickness -- plus what composition each should be struck in (eliminating problems from inevitable rise of metal costs).

It calls for what mints should do what, plus a new mint to be established just for the striking of one denomination -- guess which! -- and where it should be located (and why).

It calls for design suggestions for each new future coin.

It also suggests embedding a microchip in high value coins for a number of reasons. Hey, we have serial numbers on currency, why shouldn't we have serial numbers for each coin?

I have sent the manuscript on "Future Coins" to numerous publishers. Each has rejected it. It appears the plan is too practical -- it is not political -- and it is politicians who will make the final decisions to implement such actions.

In spite of this, I am willing to send a copy of this plan to any U.S. Treasury official, Congressman, or Congressional aide who requests it. (At:

Dick suggested the following list of tags to help anyone searching the Internet for information on the topic: "cent alloy", "cent composition", "cent metal", "new alloy for cents", "replacement cent alloy"; "penny alloy", "new penny composition", "new penny metal", "new alloy for pennies", "replacement penny alloy"; "nickel coin alloy", "nickel coin composition", "nickel coin metal", "new alloy for nickels", "replacement nickel alloy".

Johnson's blog.
He is associated with Signature Art Medals.

Monday, November 28, 2011

18 Tons of Coins Found in Indian Temple

I don't know that they were ever really lost as they seem to include modern coins. The hoard is now being sorted for future dispersal. I suppose churches, temples, synagogues and various other religious shrines and sites could do rather well in the coin business, an interesting area for study. Here is the temple hoard story

Monday, November 21, 2011

New Chapter in Tragic Tale of Buried Gold: Auction Time

There is no remedy for the horrors wrought by war but a family will experience a bit of silver lining -- make that gold -- when a recovered buried treasure of old gold coins is auctioned. You'll find a story about it here.
(Thanks to Esylum newsletter for the tip)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New Issue Honors the Mystery Crown of Bohemia

Somehow it calls for Sherlock Holmes, here is an excerpt from the the story:
"The Czech crown of Bohemia, the Wenceslas crown is not just any crown. Mystery surrounds it. The ominous legend that mysteriously envelops the crown states that of anyone, who wears it without the right to do so, will die within a year. Sadly, this myth seems to have proven to be true, even within the last 100 years. Therefore, the crown is securely locked behind not just one lock, but seven locks, deep within the cathedral. There are seven keys held by seven high-ranking officials of the church as well as the state. All seven must come together in order to gain access to the crown. It is very rare indeed; only happening 9 times during the 20th century."
The announcement of the new coin may be found here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

'Doomsday Coin' Marks End of the World, Not

Rev. Harold Camping missed the mark a couple of times in 2011, predicting an end to the world that somehow failed to occur. Anyway, a few of the survivors might want a souvenir and if so, a marketer is ready with "The Doomsday Coin."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tracking the So-Called "Tribute Medal" Copies of Great Art Medals

A new type of copy or replica has appeared recently on eBay termed a "tribute medal," these are inexpensive pewter versions of (mainly) art medals by the great medallists. I bought two and asked the seller for more info which he declined to provide. Unlike coins, there is no prohibition that I know of against copying art medals, still, my concern is that the next seller may not be so forthright in describing the item, perhaps at the expense of unwary newcomers to the field. I queried various experts and received various opinions on the matter, and I will mention the results in an article soon. Meanwhile, I notice in the E-Sylum newsletter of numismatic bibliophiles that I am not alone in my interest. A note from their latest newsletter follows:


L. Michael Lawrence submitted this question for our readers. Can anyone help? -Editor

As a collector of French Art Nouveau medals, I have noted the recent appearance of "Pewter Tribute Medals" offered in the last few months by a single U.S. eBay seller. These pieces are inexpensive and appear to be modern reproductions of a variety of French medals, most notably of the Orpheus by Coudray.

Having purchased two of them, I observe that they are nicely done and quite accurate (Orpheus images attached). I have attempted to discover more about the origin and manufacture of these pieces by searching the internet and inquiring of the seller, but all websites lead right back to the eBay seller who is very polite but does not offer any details.

I'm curious to learn where and how these pieces are being made and seek input or information fromE-Sylum readers.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

One Ton Gold Coin Minted in Australia

A one ton gold coin valued at one million Australian dollars has been produced to promote sales of the Australian gold kangaroo coin. Story and photo here.