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- Circulating coinage from certain periods of American history is today scarce and difficult to obtain with the most well-known example being the Civil War (1861-1865), when there was a scarcity of copper, silver and gold. That led to widespread hoarding, reduced minting and even the issuance of alternatives to one-cent coins such as tokens and encased postage stamps. A second era, when similar forces were at play for different reasons, was the early years of the Great Depression – the worst and most severe economic downturn in U.S. history that lasted from the stock market crash of October 29, 1929 (known as “Black Tuesday”) until the end of the decade in 1939. During this period, a quarter of the population was unemployed, millions beca ...Read more »
- While watching From Russia With Love (1963) recently, I was amazed to see something in the movie I had long forgotten—the James Bond Gold Piece! Near the beginning of the movie, Q delivers a special black brief case to Bond. The case was filled with the usual rounds of ammunition & many high-tech weapons – but also featured two straps hidden inside the lining of the case, which secretly held 50 Gold Sovereign coins! Towards the end of the film, when a SPECTRE hit man has Bond on his knees, he tells the henchman about the fifty gold sovereigns hidden in his briefcase. When the greedy assassin proceeded to investigate Bond’s claim and open the briefcase, it explodes in his face! Needless to say, James Bond escapes to spy another day… While this may just seem like another exciting moment in a classic action film, I can tell you that Gold Sovereigns haven’t just saved the life of ...Read more »
- Coins of the Civil War Most people are aware of Civil War paper money, and federal issue coinage, minted between 1861 through 1865. However, it’s a little known fact that the Confederacy minted coins at the three Southern Branch Mints located at Charlotte North Carolina, Dahlonega, Georgia, and New Orleans, Louisiana. After secession in 1861, this valuable Federal property was now located in the new Confederate States of America. The Branch Mints were seized, at first by their State Governments, and then turned over to the Confederacy. At first, small numbers of gold coins were produced from U.S. dies at all three branches, and a larger quantity of half dollars were also coined at the New Orleans Mint. When existing supplies of bullion ran dry, the three branch mints stopped producing U.S. coinage and close ...Read more »
- Buried Coins May Reveal a Hidden History As the old saying goes, dead men tell no tales. The same cannot be said of coins, especially those discovered from places and times, about which, relatively little is known. In fact, a pot of coins found recently during excavations near Vianen, Netherlands may tell researchers more about the area during the time period from which they date than is otherwise known. The Dutch city of Hagestein suffered a siege and ultimately fell in 1405. As is often the case with such circumstances, historians know relatively little about the city during the century that followed. Recently, however, waterworks employees came across a red-baked earthenware pot that was full of textiles and a hoard of approximately 500 coins, twelve of which were gold and the rest were silver. Now, researchers are pouring over the pieces in hopes of lear ...Read more »
- The Walking Liberty design of Augustus Saint-Gaudens was the first design created in response to a commission by President Theodore Roosevelt for new, more artistic U.S. coins. Today, millions will instantly recognize this classic design. Relatively few, however, are aware of the “lost” Winged Liberty design which Saint-Gaudens originally envisioned. The two men met in 1905, when Teddy Roosevelt chose Saint-Gaudens to design an inaugural medal for his second term as president. The Irish-born Saint-Gaudens was America’s foremost sculptor at the time – although his best-known works were massive bronze sculptures such as the statue of Admiral David Farragut, a Civil War naval hero which still stands in New York City’s Madison Square. Roosevelt was delighted with the medal design Saint-Gaudens created for him and the men began to share how much they both admired the high-relief coins of ancient Greece. Both men felt that the current U ...Read more »
- In July of 2011 Congressman Ron Paul asked Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke a simple question: "Do you think gold is money?" His answer: "No." For a person like me, who has spent their career studying the history of money since the beginning of civilization, his answer struck me like a brick to the head. Yet part of me was unsurprised. His answer is part and parcel of the mythology, carefully crafted, to turn bits of official-looking paper into "money" in the minds of the public. To admit to the obvious fact that gold is money would be to admit that the emperor has no clothes. The Gold Standard for the dollar The founders of our nation would be astounded and appalled by Mr. Bernanke's declaration. When they created the dollar, they went to great lengths to define its value in silve ...Read more »
- The $4 gold "Stella" is one of the most famous and coveted U.S. pattern coins. The Stella pattern was minted in 1879 and 1880 in two types: Charles E. Barber's Flowing Hair type and George T. Morgan's Coiled Hair type. The coin was christened "Stella" because of the five-point star adorning the reverse (Stella is Latin for 'Star.') Today, these coins are extremely rare and very much in demand as one of America's premier numismatic works of art. In their day, Stellas provided a very juicy scandal and many laughs at the expense of Congressmen who had ordered a special striking of these coins. The story broke that while no coin collector could obtain a Stella from the Mint at any price, these coins in special holders adorned the bosoms of Washington's most famous madams, whose brothels were favored by those same congressmen. Even today, several dozen actual Stellas exist which still exhibit traces of these infamous necklace loops. Can you imag ...Read more »
- The Brasher Gold Half Doubloon was America’s first gold coin and a true national treasure. The tale of how this amazing gold coin came to be is filled with history, mystery, and the “can-do” attitude and ingenuity of our Forefathers. Origins of the Brasher Half Doubloon Gold Piece Two men were neighbors in New York City in 1787. One lived at Number 5 Cherry Street, the other man lived right next door. One of them was a famous gold and silversmith, Ephraim Brasher. The other was George Washington, hero of the Revolutionary War and soon to be the first President of the United States. In fact, Washington and Brasher were more than neighbors. They knew each other well, and were, perhaps, friends. Washington admired his neighbor’s skills so much he purchased silver items made by the smith to adorn his home and used them later as President in Philadelphia, then at Mount Vernon. Brasher was so well-known and respected that when folks ...Read more »
- Render unto Caesar In a very short answer, yes, the government still has the right to confiscate gold. In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6102 into law. It was under the terms of this Executive Order that the U.S. government confiscated many gold coins and gold bullion that were held by the public. Common Coins Become Scarce This is a major reason why so many of the early 20th century gold coins, such as Saint-Gaudens $20 gold piece, can be hard to find. Unlike today, when they are treasured as collector’s items, in 1933 they were circulating coins and acted essentially as bullion. Each $20 gold coin contained its face value of $20 in gold bullion. The Economics of Numismatics The confis ...Read more »
- Building A Southern Gold Collection I have been buying and selling coins for over 35 years. One of my early mentors was the late, great coin dealer, Jack Hancock. I first met Jack in the early 1970's on the southern coin show circuit. Jack was a wonderful character and one of the biggest advocates ever for collecting Southern gold coins. He specialized in Dahlonega gold coins, and had a lake house in Gainesville, Georgia, not too far from where these fascinating coins were minted. Over the years Jack and his partner, Bob Harwell helped collectors put together many superb sets of Dahlonega gold coins. One customer decided to assemble the finest set ever and tasked Jack and Bob to hunt down and purchase the coins. The result of that effort was the Duke's Creek collection of Dahlonega, Bechtler, and Templeton Reid gold coins. A complete set of the gold coins minted from gold of the Georgia Gold Rush of 1830. Sadly, Jack died of a heart attack around 15 years ago, well before ...Read more »