For much of the country, yesterday was “eclipse day.” But at Fort Knox, the big yellow wasn’t being covered up—it was being revealed: for the first time in 40 years, the U.S. Bullion Depository there was opened to civilians. The Washington ...

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Fort Knox opened to civilians for the first time in 40 years and more...

Fort Knox opened to civilians for the first time in 40 years

For much of the country, yesterday was “eclipse day.” But at Fort Knox, the big yellow wasn’t being covered up—it was being revealed: for the first time in 40 years, the U.S. Bullion Depository there was opened to civilians.

The Washington Examiner reported that yesterday (August 21), at the behest of the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, the depository was to be opened to a delegation of politicians. The Washington Post later reported that the party included Mnuchin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. Representative Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Kentucky’s governor, Matt Bevin, and several journalists.

McConnell said that the idea of visiting the $186 billion in gold assets “just kind of came up as a result of a casual conversation.” He declined to say much about the visit because of security concerns. Governor Bevin, in an interview on Louisville’s WHAS radio (840 AM), described the process of entering and leaving the vaults as being time-consuming, and said that officials had to break one of the famous vault seals to give them access. Stating that the gold was, indeed, safe, Bevin described it as being “freakishly well secured.”

United States Mint and National Park Service to launch America the Beautiful Quarters Program coin honoring Ellis Island on Aug. 30

The following press release is courtesy of the United States Mint.

The public and the media are invited to the ceremony to mark the release of the Ellis Island quarter, the 39th coin in the United States Mint’s America the Beautiful Quarters Program. The event, which will take place Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, at 11 a.m (Eastern), includes a coin exchange of $10 rolls of newly minted Ellis Island quarters after the ceremony. Barbara Fox, designer of the quarter’s reverse, will be available for interviews before the ceremony. The following will be present at the event:

  • Todd Baldau, senior advisor, United States Mint
  • John Hnedak, deputy superintendent, Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island
  • Zach McCue, projects director for U.S. Senator Cory Booker
  • Erica Daughtrey, communications director for U.S. Congressman Albio Sires
  • Dave Krolak, master of ceremonies
  • Janis Calella, president, Save Ellis Island

The ceremony will take place in the flagpole area of Ellis Island. Ferries leave from Liberty State Park, New Jersey, and Battery Park, New York City. (Riders must pay a ferry fee.)

After the ceremony, the Mint will host a coin forum at 12:30 p.m. at the same location. The coin forum is an opportunity for the public to learn about upcoming coin programs and initiatives, and to express their views about future coinage.

The United States Mint America the Beautiful Quarters Program is a 12-year initiative that honors 56 national parks and other national sites authorized by Public Law 110-456. Each year, the public will see five new national sites depicted on the reverses of the ATB quarters. The Mint is issuing these quarters in the order in which the national sites were officially established.

It’s 10 p.m.—do you know where your nickels are?

When I was a kid growing up in my grandmother’s house, silver quarters still turned up occasionally in circulation. Granny had for years been picking them out of her change from the Sunflower grocery store and putting them in brown plastic medicine bottles that were the perfect size for quarter dollars. (Homemade coin rolls, most assuredly not PVC-free.) Unfortunately for her, this was after the invention of Coca-Cola and before the widespread use of childproof caps. Also unfortunate was the fact that I could reach the topmost shelf of the medicine cabinet by climbing on the sink. I hate to imagine how many of those worn-but-lovely silver quarters ended up in the till of the convenience store down the road. (Even then I could appreciate the ringing sound of a silver quarter when it fell on the Formica counter, compared to the flat tap of the clad coins. Not that I knew the term “clad coins.” There were just “silver quarters” and “those other quarters.”) They’d hardly be worth more than melt today, but I still cringe when I think of them.

In later years, when I was working as a book editor at Whitman Publishing, the most gorgeous Jefferson nickel turned up in my change. My more experienced coworkers reckoned it had been in someone’s nickel album for years, perhaps getting into circulation through the same vector as Granny’s silver quarters—namely, some dumb kid.

*   *   *

If there were an academic discipline called “U.S. Mint Studies,” dissertations could be written about the Mint’s 225th anniversary offerings, including the 225th Anniversary Enhanced Uncirculated Set (17XC). The sets famously (or infamously) sold out seven minutes after their noon release on August 1, the first day of the World’s Fair of Money in Denver, Colorado. On the morning of August 3, they were available again on the Mint’s website. Counting the opening-day sales, the large dealer returns, and the resumed sales as of August 3, the net sales figure on the Mint’s August 6 report was 217,514 units.

If we take that figure as gospel and ignore any unprocessed returns on the Mint’s shelves as of report time on August 6, that means almost 7,500 sets were available last Monday, August 7. During the course of the week, sales and returns accounted for a net 5,796 in sales, for a final figure on August 13 of 223,310. Around the time people on the East Coast woke up on August 14, the sets were briefly labeled unavailable again, but they were back on the website today. If sales averaged a little over 800 per day last week, and the rate this week slows by (say) half, the final inventory of 1,690 should be gone by the end of the day Friday, August 18. All of which is useful if you’re writing a dissertation on the sets; otherwise, not so much.

Now to consider some older numbers, and to hazard a guess at future value. There’s not much precedent when it comes to special-finish, base-metal coins—just these two examples:

  1. In 1994, the Mint released a Coinage and Currency set containing an Uncirculated, 1993-dated Thomas Jefferson silver dollar, an Uncirculated 1994-P Jefferson nickel with a special matte finish, and a 1976 $2 Federal Reserve Note. Originally sold for $34, the sets now run about $110, according to the 2018 Red Book. The official sales figure for the sets (and thus for the nickels) is 167,703. They’re valued separately in the Red Book at $50 for an MS-63 and $100 for an MS-65.
  2. In 1997, the Botanic Garden Coinage and Currency Set contained an Uncirculated 1997 Botanic Garden commemorative silver dollar, an Uncirculated 1997 Jefferson nickel with a special matte finish, and a 1995 $1 Federal Reserve Note. Priced at $36, the extremely limited production of 25,000 sold out completely. The sets are valued around $250 today, based largely on the special nickels, which are valued separately at about $200 for MS-63 and $225 for MS-65.

Our dissertation writer might look at these current values, 23 and 20 years after the initial issues, and guess that in another 20 years, the 2017 Enhanced Uncirculated nickels might be valued at, say, $25 in MS-63 and $50 in MS-65. That’s if our degree in U.S. Mint Studies is part of a humanities program. Move it over to an economics or statistics department, and our hypothetical student will be factoring in all manner of variables: the relative mintages of regular circulating nickels in 1994 and 1997; the ambient economic and numismatic climates over the years; the fact that the 2017 special nickels may seem less special given that there are nine other Enhanced Uncirculated coins to choose from; the possibility that the Mint could start issuing EU sets regularly in subsequent years; and so on. (I also used to edit conference papers for the National Bureau of Economic Research. There’s nothing those people won’t count.)

This humanities student is making no predictions. I’m just going to enjoy looking at my EU coins, maybe put together a selection of the best ones from the handful of sets I ordered, and be grateful my cats have no interest in vending machines.

Final design choices for the 2018 America the Beautiful quarters

(Coin-design images courtesy of the U.S. Mint)

The following is a re-post from Mint News Blog’s sister site, Coin Update.

The U.S. Mint unveiled the reverse designs for the 2018 America the Beautiful quarters on August 1 at the American Numismatics Association’s World’s Fair of Money in Denver.

The national sites to be recognized in 2018 are Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin, Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota, Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia, and Block Island National Wildlife Refuge in Rhode Island. Each quarter reverse in the series depicts a scenic representation of the park or historic site at the center, framed by a plain, raised, circular border on which the park name (or an abbreviated version of it) appears at the top, the state name and E PLURIBUS UNUM at lower left and lower right, respectively, and the date of issue below.

The design representing Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore depicts a natural structure known as Chapel Rock and the white pine tree that grows atop it. This reverse was designed by Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) designer Paul C. Balan and sculpted by Mint sculptor-engraver Michael Gaudioso. (Scenic photo by Zoe Rudisill)

The design representing Apostle Islands National Lakeshore depicts the sea caves at Devils Island with the lighthouse in the background and a kayaker paddling in the foreground. The reverse is the work of AIP designer Richard Masters and Mint sculptor-engraver Renata Gordon. (Scenic photo by Tim Wilson)

The design representing Voyageurs National Park depicts a common loon swimming to the left with a rock cliff in the background. This reverse was created by AIP designer Patricia Lucas-Morris and Mint sculptor-engraver Joseph Menna. (Scenic photo by jck_photos; inset by Aaron Warren)

Cumberland Island National Seashore’s design depicts a snowy egret perched on a branch on the edge of a salt marsh, its wings raised in preparation for flight. The reverse was designed by AIP designer Donna Weaver and sculpted by Mint sculptor-engraver Don Everhart (who recently retired from the Mint). (Scenic photo by Trish Hartman; inset photo courtesy of Pixabay)

And finally, the design selected for the quarter honoring Block Island National Wildlife Refuge depicts a black-crowned night-heron flying to the left over a view from the beach at Cow Cove looking toward Sandy Point. The North Lighthouse is seen in the background. This reverse is the work of AIP designer Chris Costello and Mint sculptor-engraver Phebe Hemphill.(Scenic photo by David Wilson)

The obverse of the 2018 quarters will continue to feature the 1932 portrait of George Washington by sculptor John Flanagan. Required obverse inscriptions are UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, LIBERTY, IN GOD WE TRUST, and QUARTER DOLLAR.

2018 marks the ninth year of the America the Beautiful Quarters Program, which was authorized by Public Law 110-456, the America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008. The act directs the Mint to design, mint, and issue quarter-dollar coins emblematic of a national park or other national sites in each state, the District of Columbia, and the five U.S. territories. In accordance with the act, the Mint issues the new quarters at the rate of five per year through 2020 in the order in which each honored site was first established. The final coin will be released in 2021.

This post incorporates content from a press release courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

Author Louis Golino wins a Numismatic Literary Guild award

The following is a re-post from our sister site, Coin Update.

During the 2017 Numismatic Literary Guild ( awards ceremony, held during the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money in Denver, Colorado, on August 3, Coin Update contributor Louis Golino won his second NLG award to date.

The award for the best article in a non-numismatic publication was given for his story “Liberty Centennial Designs,” published in the magazine Elemetal Direct, about the 2016 trio of gold Liberty coins.

Louis has been writing about coins since 2010 for a wide range of publications and websites. He began by writing for Coin Update on modern U.S. coins. He then wrote a weekly column for CoinWeek on classic and modern coins and precious metals for five years, and wrote regularly for American Hard Assets / Elemetal Direct. In 2015 he started a monthly column on world coins in The Numismatist; he also writes periodic feature stories there, including several cover stories. In 2016 he resumed writing for Coin Update and started a feature on world coins.

Elemetal Direct, which ceased publication earlier this year, was a publication of the company Elemetal, a major precious-metals conglomerate. The magazine was previously called American Hard Assets.

The Numismatic Literary Guild, founded in 1968, is an organization made up of several hundred writers, authors, editors, publishers, photographers, catalogers, curators, and other individuals from around the world who are engaged in publicizing and promoting numismatics through writing and related skills.

Each year, the NLG holds a symposium on timely issues affecting its members and stages an annual bash—which, besides the awards presentation, features a lavish buffet and hobby-related skits and song parodies. The NLG also publishes a newsletter.

Membership information can be found at the NLG website.

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