The Folly of Legislating Art: Revisiting a 1998 Interview with John Veach Noble

augustus-saint-gaudens-1907-uhr-double-eagle-o-r-stacksbowers

The MCMVII (1907) Ultra High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagle is widely considered one of America’s most beautiful designs. This PF-69 rarity with Lettered Edge sold in a Stack’s Bowers auction for $2.76 million.

Collectors of modern coins from the United States Mint often complain about their lack of visual appeal. While it’s true that people have been complaining about U.S. coin designs as long as there has been a U.S. Mint, it’s also true that modern designs can seem lackluster.

The Mint is unusually constrained by Congress when compared with other world mints, which tend to have more creative leeway. The recent vote on the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act is an example. The law specifies that the convex side of the coin will show “a representation of a close-up of the famous ‘Buzz Aldrin on the Moon’ photograph taken July 20, 1969, that shows just the visor and part of the helmet of astronaut Buzz Aldrin, in which the visor has a mirrored finish and reflects the image of the United States flag and the lunar lander and the remainder of the helmet has a frosted finish.” Some collectors who balked at supporting the law didn’t object to an Apollo 11 commemorative—quite the opposite—but they wanted the design of the coin to be up to the designer, not the politicians.

In 1998, numismatic author Ed Reiter pursued the subject with Joseph Veach Noble (1920–2007), a widely respected antiquities collector, museum official, and executive director of the Society of Medalists. The article is, naturally, a bit dated, but Mr. Reiter’s and Mr. Noble’s observations are worth revisiting today. The interview was the basis for a COINage article, “Is There a Doctor at the Mint?” which is posted on the PCGS website. The article is being reproduced here with the permission of PCGS.


Is There a Doctor at the Mint?

by Ed Reiter, November 6, 1998

We’ve heard a lot of talk in recent years about “coin doctors.” Well, Congress and the U.S. Mint could use some first-rate coin doctors today—and I don’t mean the kind of “doctors” who specialize in artificial toning.

Our nation’s commemorative coins are suffering from a case of quality-design anemia—a serious, chronic deficiency of solid artistic excellence—and the program urgently needs corrective surgery. A face lift won’t do the job; it will take an art transplant to remedy this problem—abandonment of the system now being used to obtain coin designs and establishment in its place of a system that takes the high road, rather than the path of least resistance.

Just 16 years have elapsed since the “modern” series of U.S. commemoratives got under way with the issuance of the George Washington half dollar in 1982. Already, however, the U.S. Mint has issued more coins in this series than it did during the entire 62-year period of “traditional” commemoratives, from 1892 to 1954. And with relatively few exceptions, the artwork on these coins has been depressingly, relentlessly inferior.

Joseph Veach Noble is not a doctor; he’s a former museum official and longtime executive director of the prestigious (and now regrettably dormant) Society of Medalists—which for many years, starting in 1930, issued two medals a year by top-flight artists. But he has a strong sense of what ails our commemorative coinage, and a forthright prescription for treating and curing the problem.

“Collectively, these recent commemorative coins are atrocious, and a disgrace to the Treasury Department,” Noble declared disgustedly in a far-ranging interview I conducted with him for COINage magazine. “Everything has been crowded into their design except the kitchen sink. The major fault is that every coin is overburdened with too much text.

“All of the sculptors are talented, and if left to themselves they could produce beautiful coinage. But Michelangelo couldn’t do any better, given the overabundance of copy and design elements that our sculptors are forced to include in their designs.

“These new coins are politically correct, but artistically they are failures. I am ashamed of them as an American citizen.”

Noble brings a unique perspective to this issue, for he has been involved for many years in commissioning artists to prepare medallic works, not only for the Society of Medalists but also for an annual series issued by Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina.

In his opinion, the federal government is “hamstringing” artists by imposing so many requirements on coin designs today—including not only a plethora of mandatory inscriptions but also detailed guidelines on what must be portrayed.

“I see no saving grace,” he remarked. “The downside is complete. These designs may be politically correct and have every element you can think of—or a committee can think of. But it’s that old story about the horse designed by committee—which, of course, is the camel. And these coins, I’m afraid, are a bunch of camels.

“We need to go back to the way things were done years ago, when President Theodore Roosevelt asked Augustus Saint-Gaudens to redesign the gold double eagle and eagle. Roosevelt didn’t give him a laundry list of what to put on the coins; he left it to Saint-Gaudens’ artistic judgment. And we ended up with two magnificent coins.”

There may not be any medalists of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ stature on the scene or horizon today, but Noble says there’s a pool of many talented artists that the government could tap for coinage projects. And he says this with conviction, for he himself has tapped that pool repeatedly.

“The sculptors are just as good today as they ever were,” he said, “and the work that is being done in the art medal field in America is superb. In fact, there has been a renaissance in this field: If anything, the artists are even more imaginative and creative than in the past. You can’t be creative if you’re put in a straitjacket, though; the spirit of creativity can never take flight if you load the artist down with too much baggage.”

Half of the ideas for Society of Medalists issues came from the artists themselves, Noble reported. And even when he assigned a general theme, he gave the artists great leeway in working out the particulars.

“They love that kind of freedom,” he exclaimed. “Most sculptors have in the back of their heads some ideas which they never were able to develop, and this gives them a chance to bring them out. With the new U.S. coins, the artists don’t have any freedom—and predictably enough, the designs that they produce are all too often sterile and uninspired.”

Earlier U.S. commemoratives from the so-called traditional period reflected far greater artistic independence and diversity, Noble said.

“By and large, the older commemorative coins were infinitely more successful artistically,” he said emphatically. “Infinitely more successful. The artists had more freedom—and while there were some inferior designs in those days, too, there were also some exceptional works of art.

“Today, the designs are so homogenized that if you told me they were all done by one person, I would believe you, even though I know they were not. They remind me of all the different postage stamps the Post Office has been pushing: One’s as uninteresting as the other. They’re strictly sales gimmicks, meant to make you buy; they have no merit at all as works of art.”

Will Congress and the Mint remove the artistic straitjacket that’s holding down the quality of new U.S. commemoratives? Will the program get the art transplant it needs?

Sadly, it appears that like other forms of health care, this one isn’t due for attention anytime soon in the nation’s capital.


Mint News Blog’s sister site, Coin Update, has assembled a Pinterest board on the artwork of August Saint-Gaudens that the reader might enjoy. A related board is dedicated to the work of Adolph A. Weinman, while a third board covers medallic art in general.   ❑

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Comments

  1. bobo says

    Note that the 1907 masterpiece pictured above does not have ‘In God We Trust’ on it, which is needless verbiage on a coin that takes up a lot of space and interferes with the art of it. When did the mint start putting those words on coins? Doesn’t this violate the constitutionally defined separation of religion and state? How could the mint be freed from having to put that phrase on all coins?

  2. HarryB says

    @bobo: removal of the term ” In God we Trust” will require legislation. Use has been litigated over the years since first appearing on US coins in 1866. Dropped in 1907 by TR, was added back in 1908 by popular outcry. As a coin collector I am sure you are aware of the historical background of use on US coinage.

  3. cagcrisp says

    @bobo and @HarryB, In God we Trust was first used on the US two cent piece in 1864. There are Various theories of “why”.

    Over the years I have bought numerous 1864 two cent pieces. They are actually relatively inexpensive.

    The reasons that I have bought:
    1. In God we Trust was not put on the coins for the reason most people think
    2. They are Civil War coins and I like to purchase Civil War coins
    3. Relatively inexpensive

  4. cagcrisp says

    @A&L Futures, Nope.

    All prices changes come on Wednesday afternoons. IF Gold is under $1,150.00 for the PM fix tomorrow, then yes we will get a Gold price reduction tomorrow afternoon…

  5. achmed says

    @ A & L futures:
    somewhere probably, but not on the usmint’s website. They do it (if necessary) on wednesdays.

  6. cagcrisp says

    The 1 oz. Gold uncirculated is listed as Currently Unavailable. Those may not be gone yet. At times yesterday you could not even find it on the website…

  7. Buzz Killington says

    I also appreciated this article, and found it timely despite its vintage.

    @cag —

    Why do you say that IGWT was first added to money? I thought it had something to do with showing that god was on the side of the Union in the Civil War. (A novel concept — god is on Our side, not on the side of the Other).

    I would love to see this off of our money, for both aesthetic and intellectual reasons.

    At least it isn’t on my credit cards.

  8. cagcrisp says

    @Buzz Killington, ” I thought it had something to do with showing that god was on the side of the Union in the Civil War”

    That is the Theory that I Believe. Some in the South want to disagree with that theory. The Civil War is still being fought in parts of the South. They love IGWT ; They hate the North. No way will they accept their beloved IGWT was put on there because God was on the side of the Union…

  9. KEITHSTER says

    That double countdown seems to have come out of that meeting the mint had with the big boys? Don’t remember what show it was at but read it on here. Works for them the first countdown is the warning to buy all you need and the last 100 for the ones that did not grade right ! Hope the Unc. is gone got one of those. Looks like my days of buy what you want from the mint are history but will leave this old miser some toys to play with in my old age God Willing Of Course!!! Went and jumped into a 2015 Colorado yesterday so now the bank will get most of my mint money. Well you know you can’t drive them coins they are driven by something else? Well Good Luck All”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>

  10. AZ Dan says

    Is there a way to get the Mint to let the Sculptors themselves come up with a design in advance of a coin’s approval by Congress that could also be shown to the public and the feedback provided to Congress about what US coin collectors would like to see on a coin? Seems that might help sway Congress.

  11. Sith says

    Nice article, it pretty much sums up the issue.

    FYI

    The Reverend M. R. Watkinson, in a letter dated November 13, 1861, petitioned the Treasury Department to add a statement recognizing “Almighty God in some form in our coins” in order to “relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism”. At least part of the motivation was to declare that God was on the Union side of the Civil War. Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase acted on this proposal and directed the then-Philadelphia Director of the Mint, James Pollock, to begin drawing up possible designs that would include the religious phrase. Chase chose his favorite designs and presented a proposal to Congress for the new designs in late 1863.

    During the Cold War era, the government of the United States sought to distinguish itself from the Soviet Union, which promoted state atheism and thus implemented antireligious legislation. The 84th Congress passed a joint resolution “declaring IN GOD WE TRUST the national motto of the United States”. The law was signed by President Eisenhower on July 30, 1956. The United States Code at 36 U.S.C. § 302, now states: “‘In God we trust’ is the national motto.” The same day, the President signed into law, a requirement that “In God We Trust” be printed on all U.S. currency and coins.

  12. earthling says

    In case anyone doesn’t understand , perhaps they need a line after IGWT, “Money is God”.

    Go to any Church for a while and keep your mind open. After a time this concept will become obvious… it’s all about the money.

    Sad but true. Capitalistic Christianity ………. God help us ( .. the Real God help us , NOT the Money God help us ).

  13. So Krates says

    Someone in the last thread commented that the Liberty silver medals are now two for the price of one. The truth is they are now one for the price of two.

  14. gary says

    @AZ Dan… Your suggestion is of great value Dan. The horse should be put in front of the cart first! The way commemoratives are done in the U.S., the designs and design restrictions coming from the top, down. The statutory inscriptions, “In God We Trust”, “Liberty”, and “E Pluribus Unum” (if they MUST be on the coin) could all go round the edge circumference, “United States of America” or just U.S.A and the date should go on the two sides of the coin. Then, additional inscriptions could appear if necessary as it applies to the commemoration.
    As an artist-sculptor, I have done some previous design work for the U.S. Mint. The need to include all of the statutory inscriptions (besides creating visual clutter) really does take away a good deal of the artist’s sculptural treatment options (particularly fine details). As a coin’s actual diameter decreases, details need omission or simplification and the required inscriptions make for an increasingly crowded crush.
    The Apollo 11 commemorative program for 2019, but WHY not have each of various coin size canvases take advantage of the real estate on the coins to make a truly memorable and exciting celebration of this watershed moment in the history of mankind? Once again the collecting public must acquiesce to the dictates of the authorizing bill from members of Congress who surely demonstrate their lack of artistic and coin collecting knowledge.

  15. So Krates says

  16. earthling says

    Looking ahead to the Commemoratives of 2017 I can see a new low mintage issue coming. The Boys Town will surely be it. A new historic low point in modern Gold BU Coinage for sure. The only hope this one will have are the “low mintage ” chasers who follow every new issue.

  17. Brian says

    I haven’t visited this blog much over the last few months…great to be back and to see some high quality entries like this one. Keep them coming! The pinterest links are fantastic as well. Is someone new maintaining this blog?

    This is timely and relevant discussion for sure. I completely agree that many of our commemorative coin designs are incredibly sub par. The early 20th century designs by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Adolph A. Weinman are still often considered the high-water mark(s). New designs, even one-off commemoratives, will always be judged by those most elegant coins that came before.

    In my opinion, some of the most elegant modern commemorative designs are:

    1986 Statue of Liberty Half Dollar (obverse)
    1986 Statue of Liberty $5 Gold
    1987 Constitution Silver Dollar
    1987 Constitution $5 Gold
    1996 Community Service Silver Dollar (obverse; adopted a Saint-Gaudens design)
    1996 Smithsonian Silver Dollar
    2001 American Buffalo Silver Dollar (of course!)
    2004 Lewis and Clark Silver Dollar (reverse is stronger in my opinion)
    2006 Benjamin Franklin Silver Dollar (“scientist”)
    2009 Abraham Lincoln Silver Dollar
    2011 Medal of Honor $5 Gold Coin
    2012 Star Spangled Banner Silver Dollar
    2015 US Marshals Service Silver Dollar (not too bad)
    2015 US Marshals Service $5 Gold Coin
    2016 National Park Service $5 Gold Coin

    Many of the others were really poorly designed. So it has certainly been hit or miss. I completely agree that we need to allow the artists more freedom…when the legislation is most prescriptive, the designs are often the most pitiful.

  18. Tinto says

    I hope the Mint will not screw up the Moon Landing commemoratives….. having the same designs across all the denominations should hopefully give those folks some practice ……

    I had been hoping for a different design on at least one side of each coin but maybe it’s all for the better for me. I’ll just buy the 5 oz …. hopefully the Mint will issue it in proof finish and not a sand blasted dull looking one ….

  19. MARC says

    Here we go again with the atheist crap . We know who the players are sos. MERRY CHRISTMAS AND IN GOD WE TRUST!

  20. Brian says

    Hey Marc – those are fighting words. So let’s keep it civil here, got it!?

    It isn’t “atheist crap” by the way. Can you define “God”? Do you think your definition of “God” is the same as everyone else’s in America? “In God We Trust” really is a meaningless statement. When you dig deep enough, critical thinkers will realize it is a truly meaningless statement. “God” is a concept, it is a kind of opinion, plain and simple.

    IGWT is absolutely unconstitutional, but he Supreme Court has decided to call the phrase “ceremonial deism” rather than create a lot of controversy with folks like you. So the rest of us just grin and bear it. It isn’t “hear we go again”, it’s let’s fix this once and for all because it is a travesty in this country to have a direct violation of the very 1st amendment to the constitution on our money. Anyone’s opinion about whatever it is “God” means is personal, and any proclamation regarding “God” must be separate from our government’s activities, which is of, by, and for ALL of us. IGWT is very exclusive, whereas E Pluribus Unum, or original motto, is very inclusive (by its nature)!

    http://originalmotto.us/

    Please please please educate yourself as to how and why propaganda is created. Do some research regarding this phrase, and try to be more progressive and open minded.

  21. The Real "Cool" Brad says

    I am not an atheist but I have always found it odd that we have “In God We Trust” on our money, since it goes against the separation of Church and State, which is one of the main reasons people moved to the new world to begin with.

    It seems to me to be equally appropriate to write “Our Skin is White” on our money, because it might be true of the majority population, but it too doesn’t represent the variety of people that form our nation.

  22. says

    I wonder why Joseph Veach Noble, coin design expert, didn’t mention the design competition for the Sacagawea dollar, which was in progress during the time that interview was conducted. According to https://www.usmint.gov/downloads/pressroom/gdrtc-final.pdf

    The Dollar Coin Act mandated the coin’s size and color, but the Secretary of the Treasury
    would determine who or what appeared on the coin’s obverse. In a unique public dialogue,
    Sacagawea, the young Shoshone woman who assisted Lewis and Clark on their expedition to the
    West Coast, was chosen to grace the coin’s obverse — replacing Susan B. Anthony who had
    appeared on the dollar coin since 1979. Hers is a fitting image that honors the nation’s heritage
    and history.
    The coin’s design selection was special because, at the Mint’s recommendation, the
    Treasury Secretary created a citizen panel to help select it. The Dollar Coin Design Advisory
    Committee met June 8 and 9, 1998, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at a public forum to nominate
    a concept for the coin’s obverse. When public consensus supported a design honoring
    Sacagawea, the Mint conducted a nationwide competition and more than 120 design concepts
    were submitted. The Mint sponsored exhibitions of the designs and asked the public, historians,
    Members of Congress, collectors, and artists to comment on their favorite obverse and reverse
    designs. Based on this input, the field was winnowed down to 13 semi-finalists. The Mint held
    focus groups and consulted Native American organizations to assure authenticity and acceptance
    of potential designs. Then the Mint posted the semi-finalist designs on its web site in December
    1998: the site received 11 million hits the first day the designs were posted. Within a few days,
    130,000 citizens phoned, faxed, or e-mailed the Mint with comments about the designs, an
    unprecedented collaboration between the U.S. Mint and the public. The final designs — obverse
    and reverse — were unveiled at a White House ceremony on May 4, 1999.

    What else should the MInt have done?

  23. Sturgeon says

    Brian—–Don’t get your boxers in a wad—–This is the Christmas season—-Merry Christmas

  24. Brian says

    @Sturgeon
    Yep – the trappings of Christmas are pagan in origin anyway, and I think that is great. I’m happy to live and let live, but when someone says, “atheist crap” it is no different to me than saying “christian crap”….and clearly people like MARC would take issue with that. Merry Christmas.

    “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness”
    -Dalai Lama

  25. cagcrisp says

    16XA 2016 WALKING LIBERTY 24K GOLD .5OZ 59,048 +366
    16XB 2016 MERCURY DIME 24K GOLD .1OZ 124,950 +8,854
    16XC 2016 STANDING LIBERTY 24K GOLD .25OZ 85,325 +700

  26. cagcrisp says

    16CA 2016 NATIONAL PARK SERVICE GOLD PROOF 4,743 +60
    16CB 2016 NATIONAL PARK SERVICE GOLD UNC 4,113 +129
    16CC 2016 NATIONAL PARK SERVICE SILVER PROOF 61,447 +855
    16CD 2016 NATIONAL PARK SERVICE SILVER UNC 20,387 +174
    16CE 2016 NATIONAL PARK SERVICE CLAD PROOF 39,013 +510
    16CF 2016 NATIONAL PARK SERVICE CLAD UNC 18,767 +242
    16CG 2016 NATIONAL PARK SERVICE 3-COIN SET 14,283 + 150

    16CH 2016 MARK TWAIN GOLD PROOF 12,972 +98
    16CJ 2016 MARK TWAIN GOLD UNC 5,531 +27
    16CK 2016 MARK TWAIN SILVER PROOF 77,365 +656
    16CL 2016 MARK TWAIN SILVER UNC 25,981 +135

  27. cagcrisp says

    16EB 2016 AM EAGLE GOLD PROOF 1 OZ 20,955 +177
    16EC 2016 AM EAGLE GOLD PROOF 1/2 OZ 5,186 + 62
    16ED 2016 AM EAGLE GOLD PROOF 1/4 OZ 7,135 (1)
    16EE 2016 AM EAGLE GOLD PROOF 1/10 OZ 21,405 + 570
    16EF 2016 AM EAGLE GOLD PROOF 4-COIN SET 15,279 +111

    16EG 2016 AM EAGLE SILVER UNC 1 OZ 167,550 + 9,430

    16EH 2016 AM EAGLE GOLD UNC 1 OZ 6,573 +93
    16EJ 2016 AM EAGLE PLATINUM PROOF 1 OZ 9,151 –
    16EL 2016 AM BUFFALO GOLD PROOF 1 OZ 21,884 +151

  28. cagcrisp says

    16AK 2016 ATB SILVER UNC 5 OZ – CMBRLND 18,716 (4)
    16AL 2016 ATB SILVER UNC 5 OZ – HARP FRY 18,536 +147
    16AN 2016 ATB SILVER UNC 5 OZ – FT MOULTRIE 15,326 +744

  29. cagcrisp says

    16RA 2016 AMERICAN $1 COIN & CURRENCY SET 45,660 + 454
    16RA 2016 ANNUAL UNCIRCULATED DOLLAR COIN SET 12,745 +12,745
    16RC 2016 LIMITED EDITION SILVER PROOF SET 31,920 + 1,605

  30. cagcrisp says

    16SA 2016 FS GOLD PROOF 1/2 OZ – NIXON 2,419 +23
    16SB 2016 FS GOLD UNC 1/2 OZ – NIXON 1,459 + 18
    16SC 2016 FS GOLD PROOF 1/2 OZ – FORD 2,163 + 26
    16SD 2016 FS GOLD UNC 1/2 OZ – FORD 1,410 +26
    16SE 2016 FS GOLD PROOF 1/2 OZ – REAGAN 3,204 + 35
    16SF 2016 FS GOLD UNC 1/2 OZ – REAGAN 1,710 + 17

    JQ1 2015 FS GOLD PROOF 1/2 OZ – TRUMAN 2,575 + 4
    JQ2 2015 FS GOLD UNC 1/2 OZ – TRUMAN 1,801 +5
    JQ4 2015 FS GOLD UNC 1/2 OZ – EISENHWR 1,897 + 5
    JQ6 2015 FS GOLD UNC 1/2 OZ – KENNEDY 6,399 + 17
    JQ7 2015 FS GOLD PROOF 1/2 OZ – JOHNSON 2,596 +3
    JQ8 2015 FS GOLD UNC 1/2 OZ – JOHNSON 1,703 + 3

  31. cagcrisp says

    The Folly of chasing the history of the Gold uncirculated Jackie Robinson.
    In the past 3 weeks sales of the Gold NPS uncirculated have increased 19.0%. Raw number 657 off a base of 3,456.

    For those chasing the Low Mintage Wonder Gold uncirculated NPS, do you Really think the market can absorb 657 newly bought coins when there has been 1,225 sold in the previous 35 weeks?

    Keep in mind the Gold uncirculated Jackie Robinson was 19 years ago. They’re in strong hands now and these flippers chasing the NPS are weak hands trying to turn a flip…

  32. one fine dime says

    @cagcrisp
    Please explain this terminology “strong hands” / “weak hands”. Does “strong hands” mean people that purchased these coins intending to keep in their collection for the long-term, whereas “weak hands” are those who buy with the intention of flipping in the short term?

  33. cagcrisp says

    16XB 2016 MERCURY DIME 24K GOLD .1OZ 124,950 + 8,854

    I am really Surprised that the Mint got that close to the 125,000 number. EITHER the Mint doesn’t think they have a QC problem OR they just sent them out and what comes back comes back.

    That’s still a Strong sales number…

  34. Buzz Killington says

    @cag —

    I’m not sure that all of those Jackie Robinson UNC golds are in strong hands. However this turns out, I think the NPS gold will hurt the values of the whole $5 commem gold series. The point is, 5K no longer an untouchably low number. And that Jackie Robinson gold is an ugly coin.

  35. cagcrisp says

    @Buzz Killington, I Think Lower and Lower Lows, hurts All numismatics.
    IF you only hope is having a Lower Low you better be looking over your shoulder for the Next Lower Low…

  36. Buzz Killington says

    That is why I think the design will start to matter, and the fact that something was issued by the US Mint, as opposed to a private mint, will matter less and less. At least, that is my current thinking. I never thought I would be paying a premium for silver rounds, but I do really like those 2 ounce Egyptian ones.

  37. one fine dime says

    I seem to recall a MNB or Coin Update article about this around the time of the 2011 offerings (Army & MOH). New low mintage $5 unc’s were considered possible then, as the last time two $5 issues had been offered in the same year was 1997, the year of the Jackie Robinson key. Neither of the 2011 offerings supplanted the Robinson coin with a new lowest low, but it looks like certain factors may contribute to it happening now with the NPS $5. And thank goodness, because this is a FAR more attractive coin than the 1997 Robinson (nothing against Robinson, just the design is atrocious compared to the current NPS offering).

    I predict the following:
    >> a new $5 unc key will not hurt the hobby or the series
    >> it will take a few years to see the 2016 issue gain in price (and the Jackie Robinson to cool off some)
    >> we will not necessarily have additional low mintage keys in the near term replacing this new 2016 low mintage key, because it is not known when two more $5 issues will be released in the same year and how many other confounding parameters will effect sales, such as price of Au, other desirable offerings in a given year, etc.
    >> the current low mintage key stood for 20 years! so the next one could as well.

  38. Buzz Killington says

    @SK —

    I would only get that credit card is they added 10% interest, over and above the normal interest, to every purchase — “The only credit card with an auto-tithing feature!”

  39. Ernesto says

    I have felt this way for many years. Congress has no business in dictating the designs of coins. They’re clueless. Just approve a general concept. Have a few different artists submit designs and choose the “best” one. How difficult is that?

  40. Buzz Killington says

    The Jackie Robinson gold UNC has already cooled off quite a bit from a few years ago, and from the sell-off, I conclude that there are still many of these in the hands of flippers who see the writing on the wall. Forget about the Capitol Visitor’s Center UNC gold — you can practically fish them out of your change.

  41. bobo says

    First amendement: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

    It us obvious that putting IGWT on our currency is unconstitutional because it amounts to establishing theism as the stance of the state.

  42. bobo says

    I got an NPS gold because I like it, not because it will be the series low. I would bet anything that next year’s boy’s club commem will have much lower mintage, which will burn all the flippers buying it now in the hope of selling at a big profit.

  43. Numismatrix says

    A Merry Christmas and A Happy Hanukkah to all !
    (our thoughts go out to the many who are oppressed for their faith and their culture)

    Here are several issues that I do like and own:

    Statue of Liberty
    Bill of Rights (especially that unique silver Half)
    Kennedy Special Set
    George Washington
    All Sacagawea (NA) Dollars
    First Flight
    ALL of the Platinum Issues (the 1998 is a favorite and esp all the J. Iskowitz designs)
    Bald Eagle
    BBHOF
    Civil Rights

  44. Artie43 says

    I wonder how not having any spouse coins next year may actually help sales of future commemoratives.

  45. fmtransmitter says

    Merry CHRISTmas to all and to all GOoD night…I don’t forget the REASON for the season…And I belive it is priceless to see a childs face in the morning when they went to bed with an empty tree underneath or gifts awaiting others, and wake up to a mound of wrapped gifts just for them…I think it brings back the best memories in a child’s childhood…IMHO

    With that said, I ordered, and paid up, for the Wizard of OZ 1 oz for Mom. Her and I have a special connection to the Wizard of OZ and lately it has been the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory..I think as our Parents age, they revert back to being like children, it is so cute IMHO…

  46. Just Another Dave In Pa says

    Anyone looking for low mintage coins would do well to look at the aforementioned King Arthur . 1rst in a series of six coins with a mintage of 999.

    The premium seems a bit high but it could have potential. I’m not a big fan of the Cook Islands coins but they are available if anyone is interested. Exclusive US dealer below. I’m surprised they’re still available.

    http://www.bullionstop.com/

    The second coin in the series is Lady Guinevere which might be real nice.

    http://agaunews.com/world-exclusive-choice-mint-pushes-new-heights-king-arthur-first-camelot-series/

  47. fmtransmitter says

    bobo says
    DECEMBER 20, 2016 AT 5:13 PM

    First amendement: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

    It us obvious that putting IGWT on our currency is unconstitutional because it amounts to establishing theism as the stance of the state.

    That is because the Free Masons got fooled into joining the Illuminati way back without knowing their tru agenda. They just wanted to be a good ol boys club, while the other group had much more sinister plans and they had to be in a place of power, prestige, and money to accomplish their mission. Doc Marquis explains it well dating back 1000’s of years. He speaks rather funny but after awhile, you get used to that and it is WHAT he is saying that makes so much sense. The design of Washington DC, the dollar, the LEFT eye at the top of the pyramid..All of it…

  48. Artie43 says

    “Low Mintage Wonder Gold uncirculated NPS” Trying to figure out why this coin is even being mentioned as a low mintage “Wonder” coin. At quick glance I see there are roughly 65 Proof and Uncirculated US coins that have a lower mintage that the mint has sold since 2006.

  49. cagcrisp says

    @Artie43, Currently it’s the Lowest Mintage Gold uncirculated commemorate. Just like Robinson is the clubhouse leader…

  50. cagcrisp says

    Let’s try this Again…

    American Eagle Gold 1/10 oz. Proof

    82in stock

    Not a buyer. Just passing on information…

  51. Jerry Diekmann says

    Why not use the abbreviations “IGWT” and “EPU” on our coins? Other countries have used abbreviations like “DG” for” Deo Gratia” for “Thanks be to God” on various coins. Seems that it would preserve the intention of the law and allow artists more freedom for designing coins. Just a suggestion – I think it would work. But whatever happens, keep the date on the obverse (or reverse) of the coin.

  52. Artie43 says

    When Jackie became the low it was the modern low in all category’s by a pretty good margin. There probably were some people that bought it for that reason only. This probably helped drive the price up. Cagcrisp you have said it a few times in the last few weeks”That it really doesn’t matter” so I am with you. This NP coin may become the new low for the commemoratives but it probably will not go up much in price because there are so many other coins with lower mintages. I would like to have the lowest minted coin in the last 100 years in my collection. I think dynamics are changing. Unless the mint comes out with another 10 year gold program one of the 2013-2016 spouse coins will be the lowest minted gold coins in the last 100 Years. I believe once the spouse coins are off the table the gold commemoratives may do better year to year than they have the last 10 years. Especially if gold keeps going down. Thus protecting one of those spouse coins that everyone hates to remain on top the low mintage podium for awhile.

  53. karl meyer says

    why do commemorative coins have to have all the gobble de goop that a circulating coin, has, country and value, makes it a coin. Great article and i am one who is not happy with the single design mandated by a politician to commemorate the Apollo 11 landing hopefully other mints will make some nice designs that i will want to enjoy. the 5 0z design could be a handy candy dish or ash tray.

  54. Louis Golino, Author says

    @Just Another Dave- I mentioned it yesterday and no one said a word. I received an Arthur in hand yesterday, and it is superb, and to be clear, nicer than any modern U.S. silver coin ever made (that I have seen anyway. and I have pretty much seen all of them).

    http://www.coinworld.com/voices/louis-golino/2016/12/choice_mint_launches.html

    I am not suggesting it is a money maker, but it is a coin you will enjoy owning. That is the point, isn’t?

  55. says

    Read this fascinating history of the $1 bill – all the way to the bottom to know about Haym Solomon.

    Note: while we are looking at history, this is from a email I received back in 2008. Unfortunately, the pictures that came with it did not show up when I copied and pasted it.
    I am not trying to make a statement of any kind. Just thought that some of this is interesting…so you may need to pull out a dollar bill and use a 5x loupe to see all the detail described. And of course the part about the Eagle always wanting to face to the left in times of peace, and towards the right(arrows) of course is not true.

    On the rear of the One Dollar bill, you will see two circles. Together, they comprise the Great Seal of the United States . The First Continental Congress requested that Benjamin Franklin and a group of men come up with a Seal. It took them four years to accomplish this task and another two years to get it approved.
    If you look at the left-hand circle, you will see a Pyramid.

    Notice the face is lighted, and the western side is dark. This country was just beginning. We had not begun to explore the west or decided what we could do for Western Civilization. The Pyramid is uncapped, again signifying that we were not even close to being finished. Inside the Capstone you have the all-seeing eye, an ancient symbol for divinity. It was Franklin ‘s belief that one man couldn’t do it alone, but a group of men, with the help of God, could do anything.

    ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ is on this currency.

    The Latin above the pyramid, ANNUIT COEPTIS, means, ‘God has favored our undertaking.’

    The Latin below the pyramid, NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM, means, ‘a new order has begun.’

    At the base of the pyramid is the Roman numeral for 1776. (MDCCLXXVI)

    If you look at the right-hand circle, and check it carefully, you will learn that it is on every National Cemetery in the United States .

    It is also on the Parade of Flags Walkway at the Bushnell, Florida National Cemetery , and is the centerpiece of most heroes’ monuments.

    Slightly modified, it is the seal of the President of the United States , and it is always visible whenever he speaks, yet very few people know what the symbols mean.

    The Bald Eagle was selected as a symbol for victory for two reasons:

    First, he is not afraid of a storm; he is strong, and he is smart enough to soar above it.

    Secondly, he wears no material crown. We had just broken from the King of England .

    Also, notice the shield is unsupported. This country can now stand on its own.

    At the top of that shield there is a white bar signifying congress, a unifying factor. We were coming together as one nation.

    In the Eagle’s beak you will read, ‘ E PLURIBUS UNUM’ meaning, ‘from many – one.’

    Above the Eagle, we have the thirteen stars, representing the thirteen original colonies, and any clouds of misunderstanding rolling away. Again, we were coming together as one.

    Notice what the Eagle holds in his talons. He holds an olive branch and arrows. This country wants peace, but we will never be afraid to fight to preserve peace. The Eagle always wants to face the olive branch, but in time of war, his gaze turns toward the arrows.

    An (untrue) old-fashioned belief says that the number 13 is an unlucky number. This is almost a worldwide belief. You will almost never see a room numbered 13, or any hotels or motels with a 13th floor. But think about this:
    13 original colonies,
    13 signers of the Declaration of Independence ,
    13 stripes on our flag,
    13 steps on the pyramid,
    13 letters in ‘Annuit Coeptis’,
    13 letters in ‘ E Pluribus Unum,’
    13 stars above the eagle,
    13 bars on that shield,
    13 leaves on the olive branch,
    13 fruits, and if you look closely,
    13 arrows.

    And finally, notice the arrangement of the 13 stars in the right-hand circle.

    You will see that they are arranged as a
    Star of David.

    This was ordered by George Washington who, when he asked Haym Solomon, a wealthy Philadelphia Jew, what he would like as a personal reward for his services to the Continental Army. Solomon said he wanted nothing for himself, but he would like something for his people. The Star of David was the result. Few people know it was Solomon who saved the Army through his financial contributions…then died a pauper. Haym Solomon gave $25 million to save the Continental Army, money that was sorely needed to help realize America’s-our- freedom and independence from England .

    Therein lies America ’s Judeo-Christian beginning.

    Most American children do NOT know any of this.

    They are not taught because their history teachers do NOT know this.

    [They were not taught!]

    On America ’s Freedom:

    Too many veterans gave up too much to let the meaning fade.

    Many veterans came home to an America that did not care.

    Too many veterans never came home at all.

    They served, they died for you … for me. …end of email

    Again, just some stuff to pass along. Take it in anyway you see fit.

  56. Barry says

    Acknowledging God is not establishment of religion. If so where are the govt. mandated ceremonies that occur with many religions ? Many belief systems including atheism can be regarded as religion as God is not required to have a religion. There is nothing wrong with putting IGWT on coins.

  57. Just Another Dave In Pa says

    @Louis Golino, Author
    The Camelot series looks to be excellent. Thanks for your impressions. I’m so on the fence with this one but I think I’m going to pass. A lot of gimmicky coins from Perth, RCM, Cook Islands, Niue, Palau, etc.. Some of these are beautiful designs but there are too many. They saturate the market with them. I guess it’s nice to have so many choices but the budget just doesn’t allow for most of them. I’m sticking with mostly bullion with an eye toward the silver Krugerrands in 2017.

    If anyone likes the In God We Trust motto, here are some medals from PAN to commemorate 150 years from 2014. Sadly, the motto originated with a reverend Watkinson from Pa…. ironically a state founded on religious tolerance.

    http://pancoins.org/pan-store/

    Sometimes I get a bit cynical around the holidays and subscribe to view put forth in the book Everything is BullSh*t https://www.amazon.com/Everything-Bullshit-greatest-scams-revealed/dp/0692224963

    but I try not to linger on those thoughts too long.

    Giving is a great way to get in touch with others and to be less self-centered. I woke up last night and weathered the 12 degree temps from 4 am to 8 am at the Best Buy parking lot with a line of others to score an NES Classic for a gift. Mission accomplished. The perils of consumerism are offset by a vague satisfaction that comes from giving and a touch of frostbite.

  58. Jerry Diekmann says

    Steve – great information! The only exception I would have to your post is that there were 56 original signers of the Declaration of Independence.

  59. Jerry Diekmann says

    Barry – I agree with your position. I think “God” as in “IGWT” is a recognition of something greater than what we are that we can seek to help us during our lives. Some religions identify God as a particular being, but He or She or It could be the representation of some almighty Force, Uncaused Cause, Supreme Being, Deity, or representation of good that human beings can honor and try to emulate in their lives if they are so inclined. Science, and no one else, can prove the existence or non-existence of God.

    Do you remember what it was like before you were born? No, because before you were born you did not exist. Therefore you had no brain to know anything at all. The world and its affairs got along without you.

    But some people freely choose to believe in a supreme being while others choose to believe there is no such thing. If there is no God, then when we die, that’s it – we are now the same as we were before we were born, in a state of non-existence. But some people have the faith and the hope that there may actually be a future after our death, based on the teachings of various prophets. So, when you die, it will not necessarily mean complete nothingness forever for you. There is hope now for a resurrection after death. Some people believe those beliefs make no sense and are used by organized religions for their own aggrandizement. The answer is – no one really knows what happens after our death. It really comes down to faith or disbelief.

    I realize that this is not exactly the forum to be discussing the existence or non-existence of God, but since the word appears on our coins and our paper money, maybe an allowance can be made for bringing up the subject here. I make no claim for or against anyone else in his or her belief or disbelief in any religion or “god”. It’s all up to the individual to decide for himself or herself.

  60. So Krates says

    Barry says
    DECEMBER 20, 2016 AT 9:52 PM

    “Acknowledging God is not establishment of religion. If so where are the govt. mandated ceremonies that occur with many religions ?”

    I’m sure there are many but just off the top of my head, doesn’t the Congress have an official Chaplain who performs official prayers at the commencement of the sessions?

    “Many belief systems including atheism can be regarded as religion …”

    NOT believing in the Greek gods doesn’t require a special name and it is also not a religion to not believe in Greek gods. It’s just common sense.

    Someone who does not believe in Voodoo does not need a special anti-voodoo believing label. There is no term “Avoodooist” because it is simply not necessary. NOT believing in Voodoo is not a religion, it is just the default position until someone can prove Voodoo to be true. The burden to prove the truth of Voodoo falls on the believer (not on me to prove it isn’t true).

    Atheism is not a religion! It is merely a label given to someone who doesn’t believe in the current, flavor of the month god.

  61. So Krates says

    Steve says,

    “An (untrue) old-fashioned belief says that the number 13 is an unlucky number….”

    Please let us know the means you use to determine which numbers are “lucky” and “unlucky”. Also if it’s not too much trouble, please give us a list of lucky numbers to use and unlucky ones to avoid as this crucial knowledge has been missing from my life and I fear it may be the cause of my current condition.

  62. So Krates says

    Barry says, “There is nothing wrong with putting IGWT on coins.”

    Did you even read the article? Without even considering the constitutionality, or the defilement of the holy, artistically speaking, the motto usually CLUTTERS UP THE COIN.

    Check out the St.G at the top of the page. Take a close look at a Barber dime or the Buffalo nickel. Do they really need 12 (lucky?) more letters? The smaller coins and commems with mandated text get muddied up too easily. The suggestions of using an acronym or relocating it to the edge are steps in the right direction.

  63. So Krates says

    Jerry Diekmann says, – “Science, and no one else, can prove the existence or non-existence of God.”

    While I appreciate your balanced approach, I’d like to remind you that the burden of proof lies with the theist. It is impossible to disprove many things. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This is a well known scientific principle and has been entertainingly illustrated by Bertrand Russel with his Celestial Tea Pot proposition

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Russell%27s_Teapot

    A most simple example from The Wiki

    Alice and Bob are two friends talking after school. Alice tells Bob that she watched a movie the previous evening. Bob believes her easily, because he knows that movies exist, that Alice exists, and that Alice is capable and fond of watching movies. If he doubts her, he might ask for a ticket stub or a confirmation from one of her friends. If, however, Alice tells Bob that she flew on a unicorn to a fairy kingdom where she participated in an ambrosia-eating contest, and she produces a professionally-printed contest certificate and a friend who would testify to the events described, Bob would still not be inclined to believe her without strong evidence for the existence of flying unicorns, fairies and ambrosia-eating contests.

    The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness.

  64. data dave says

    @cagcrisp – I find it so difficult to believe that the mint was able to sell 124,950 dimes out of a run of 125,000. I think they either made a few extra originally or went back and made a few more after the initial sales. If you look at the percentages of all other sold out products with limits, they are always around 98-99%. I don’t buy 99.96% for the dime.

    Thanks for the numbers as usual!!

  65. cagcrisp says

    @data dave, re-striking coins is a possibility. The Mint sure had the time to do it. Will be interesting to see if any of Sale #2 have the same finning problems as Sale #1…

  66. HarryB says

    @data dave & @cag: I too believe the Mint struck additional coins so they could sell the 125k limit. Too many reports of badly finned coins sent back early in the release, so additional production necessary.

  67. HarryB says

    @cag: thanks so much for your sales stats and secondary market reports, along with gold spot reports that I rely on in timing my US Mint purchases of gold coins through the year.

  68. cagcrisp says

    Here is a Demographic Problem for numismatics. This is quote from Today’s Wall Street Journal…

    “Almost 40% of young Americans were living with their parents, siblings or other relatives in 2015, the largest percentage since 1940, according to an analysis of census data by real estate tracker Trulia.

    Despite a rebounding economy and recent job growth, the share of those between the ages of 18 and 34 doubling up with parents or other family members has been rising since 2005. Back then, before the start of the last recession, roughly one out of three were living with family.

    The trend runs counter to that of previous economic cycles, when after a recession-related spike, the number of younger Americans living with relatives declined as the economy improved.”

  69. data dave says

    So we need to teach our 20 year olds about coins when they are living with us? Personally I think some of it is related to the economy but some of it is that the children don’t mind saving the money by sharing a home (with either their parents or each other).

  70. Buzz Killington says

    I think this might be the best article & comments section combination of the whole year.

    Happy Winter Solstice!

  71. earthling says

    Wouldn’t it be cool if the Mint did go back and strike more Merc’s. Of course if they added Full Bands or a Star , it would cause a War to break out. But it would be a great event for the Coin Universe.

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