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The Texas state capitol building, Austin. (Photo by Ed Uthman)
Lone Star Tangible Assets (LSTA), an Austin-based firm, has signed a five-year contract with the government of Texas to manage the state’s bullion depository, which will be under the authority of the state comptroller general (currently Glenn Hegar).
Prior to the law authorizing the Texas Bullion Depository, such facilities were privately owned, with the exception of the massive depositories of the federal government. They tend to be clustered near the New York financial hub, in part because of COMEX requirements that its member depositories be located within 150 miles of New York City. (COMEX is the precious-metals arm of the New York Mercantile Exchange; the merger of the two companies created the largest physical futures exchange in the world.)
One aim of the Texas Bullion Depository is to bring the fees that Texas investors are paying for bullion storage elsewhere back to their home state. Another of the earliest aims of the effort, at least as articulated by then-governor Rick Perry, was to “repatriate” the more than $660 million in bullion owned by Texas universities and secured in NYC vaults. Ironically, that headline-grabbing aspect of the project appears to be on ice, as UTIMCO (which manages the universities’ funds) says it won’t move the gold unless two conditions are met: first, that it’s cheaper to store the gold safely in Texas; and second, that the depository is a member of COMEX. The fact that Austin is located a bit more than 150 miles from New York presents a problem, unless some kind of exception can be worked out. For now, LSTA’s goal is “to create liquidity of COMEX levels in the state of Texas for those large institutions over time.”
Texas legislators spent several years pushing for the state to have its own bullion depository—the first such state-administered operation in the U.S. The necessary law was finally passed and then signed by Governor Greg Abbott two years ago. In July 2016, the Office of the Comptroller issued a request for proposals from companies interested in running the depository. The selected organization would be responsible for the following (paraphrased from the original):
- accepting, withdrawing, transferring, and transporting bullion deposits;
- acting as a depository agent;
- transacting business with depository agents;
- collecting reasonable fees;
- providing account transactions, including an online platform with software to provide one or more of these services;
- providing secure physical bullion vault storage in Texas; and
- other services with respect to handling, quality control, accounting, record-keeping and publication, etc.
Logo of the newly formed Texas Bullion Depository.
More than a dozen companies submitted proposals, with Lone Star Tangible Assets securing the final contract (five years, with the opportunity for up to two 1-year extensions). According to the depository’s website, TexasBullionDepository.gov, its development is taking place in three phases. In phase 1 (currently underway), LSTA is establishing the means for “Depository Account Holders and Depository Agents to open accounts with the depository.” This service should be in place by early 2018. Phases 2 and 3 will expand the depository’s offerings to large institutional and international agencies. It is hoped that one or more major national banks would become agents, allowing their customers to open accounts that would allow them to make debit-card transactions with their bullion investments.
In the meantime, LSTA—which already owns numerous secure vaults that are sufficient for start-up purposes—plans to construct a 60,000-square-foot facility on a 10-acre campus near Austin. According to the website, LSTA “has assembled a team of experts to advise on the design, construction and operations of the Texas Bullion Depository—including veterans of the precious metals industry, a former director of the United States Mint, veterans of the United States Air Force charged with operating our military’s nuclear weapons facilities, and a former SWAT team leader.”
Although Texas is the first state to open a state-run depository, other states are making similar moves. After Utah passed its Specie Legal Tender Act in 2011, for example, the non-profit United Precious Metals Association was established to allow members to “access their wealth by using a Visa debit card, ACH (electronic check), or by taking physical possession of their [gold and silver] holdings.” More recently, Tennessee passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Bud Hulsey (R) to permit the state to operate a bullion depository. ❑
For further reading:
Texas Tribune.com: “Texas taps private vendor to manage first state-run gold depository in U.S.”
DallasNews.com: “Texas just had to be the first state to start its own gold depository.”
CoinWeek.com has reported that the 2017-P American Liberty silver medal, which was released yesterday at noon, sold 26,833 units on its first day of availability. The website obtained the information from Todd Martin, deputy chief of the Mint’s Office of Communications. The figure exceeds the number of 2016 American Liberty silver medals purchased on their first and only day of sales—24,440. But how meaningful is that particular statistic?
Comparing the two sales figures is something of an apples-to-oranges effort. The 2016 edition was subject to a mintage limit of 25,000, so it’s impossible to know how much the demand for the medal exceeded its availability—would it have sold 35,000, had they been available? 50,000? How much did the mintage limit stimulate 2016’s sales? Conversely, how much did the lack of any limit dampen 2017’s? The difference in price points is another confounding factor, as the 2017 medal is $59.95 (with silver hovering around $17 per ounce), while the 2016 version was $34.95 (with silver averaging about $18 in August, the month it was released).
The release date for the next offering in the 2017 American Liberty program, the four-coin silver medal set, has yet to be established. In the meantime, the CCAC will be meeting next week to discuss multiple coin and medal topics, including the design for a possible fractional 2018 American Liberty gold coin. ❑
American Liberty coins and medals are available both raw and graded from Mint News Blog sponsor APMEX.
Mint Ekes Out Two More Dates on the Calendar
Through the first half of 2017, the Mint has laid out its calendar one month at a time, as opposed to committing to a full year’s schedule as it has done in the past. Last week the Mint added items to the July calendar—but only through July 11.
The first of two July items now listed is the 2017-W American Eagle platinum Proof coin (17EJ), which is scheduled to go on sale at noon on Thursday, July 6. In recent years, APE Proofs have been issued in multi-year series: Vistas of Liberty (1998–2002), Foundations of Democracy (2006–2008), Preamble to the Constitution (2009–2014), and Torches of Liberty (2015–2016). (A new, three-year series, Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, will commence in 2018.) During non-series years—namely 1997 and 2003–2005—each APE issue has had a unique reverse design.
This year’s issue will not be part of a series, but for the first time, it will repeat a design. In honor of the coin’s 20th anniversary, the 2017 American Eagle platinum Proof will use the 1997 “soaring eagle” design created by Thomas D. Rogers Sr. The coin will be priced shortly before its release date, based on current bullion values and the Mint’s pricing grid.
The second July catalog item will be the Ozark National Scenic Riverways 5-ounce Uncirculated silver coin (17AL). The coin will be the 38th America the Beautiful Uncirculated “puck,” and is priced at $149.95.
Annual Silver Proof Sets Now Available
On June 7, the Mint opened sales for the 2017 Silver Proof Set (17RH). Priced at $47.95, the sets contain the following Proof coins:
- Five silver quarters from the America the Beautiful Quarters Program honoring Effigy Mounds National Monument (IA); Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (DC); Ozark National Scenic Riverways (MO); Ellis Island (New Jersey); and George Rogers Clark National Historical Park (IN).
- One Native American $1 coin with a reverse design featuring a profiled likeness of Sequoyah writing “Sequoyah from Cherokee Nation” in Cherokee syllabary along the border of the design. Inscriptions are UNITED STATES of AMERICA, $1, and Sequoyahwritten in English in the field of the design.
- One Kennedy silver half dollar
- One Roosevelt silver dime
- One Jefferson nickel
- One Lincoln cent
The quarters, half dollar, and dime are struck in 90 percent silver. All coins bear the S mintmark of the United States Mint at San Francisco. Each set includes a certificate of authenticity.
Meanwhile, on June 5, the traditional launch festivities for the latest ATB quarter—Ozark National Scenic Riverways—benefited from beautiful weather and successful promotions: more than 1,800 people, including 700 children, were in attendance.
Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee to Meet June 21
The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) will hold a public meeting at 9:30 a.m. (ET) on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, at Mint headquarters in Washington, D.C. The CCAC will review and discuss the following design candidates (agenda subject to change as needed):
- 2019 Native American $1 coin
- 2020 Native American $1 coin
- Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program
- Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal
- Office of Strategic Services Congressional Gold Medal
The election of jurors for the Apollo 11 design competition is on the agenda as well. In addition—and perhaps of particular interest to Mint News Blog readers—the CCAC plans to review and discuss a potential 2018 American Liberty 24-karat gold fractional coin.
The meeting is open to interested members of the public and news media. Interested members of the public may dial in to listen to the meeting at (866) 564-9287, access code 62956028. Note: Dial-in access is listen only and phones must be kept on mute to not disturb discussion. ❑
Alley Spring Mill. (Photo by Jimmy Emerson, DVM)
Today marked the Mint’s official launch of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways quarter dollars. The event kicked off with the 11 a.m. launch ceremony at Alley Spring and Mill in the park followed by the noon release of the bags and rolls of Uncirculated coins on the Mint’s website.
One of the area’s most popular photo sites—and the subject of the 38th design in the America the Beautiful quarter series—Alley Mill sits on the Jacks Fork River near Eminence, Missouri. The building, which contains a steel roller mill for grinding wheat into flour, was erected in 1894. According to Aaron J. McKeon (America’s Beautiful National Parks),
Ozark National Scenic Riverways, formed by the Current and Jack Fork Rivers, was the first national park founded to protect a wild river system. The rivers are fed by more than 300 springs, including the largest concentration of first-magnitude springs in the world. A first-magnitude spring has a flow of at least 65 million gallons of water per day. The aptly named Big Spring has a daily water flow of 286 million gallons! The springs, especially Blue Spring, are a particularly beautiful shade of blue.
Blue Spring. (National Park Service photo)
Each reverse depicts a view of Alley Mill in the middle distance, situated on the Jacks Fork River, which flows from the mill toward the viewer. Trees frame the scene at left and right, with a suggestion of forest in the deep background behind the mill. A wide, plain rim holds the incused legends OZARK RIVERWAYS (at top), MISSOURI (at lower left), and E PLURIBUS UNUM (at lower right). The date is placed on the rim at the bottom of the design.
Clad quarters are composed of outer layers of copper-nickel (.750 copper, .250 nickel) bonded to an inner core of pure copper, for a total composition of 8.33% nickel, 91.67% copper. Each weighs 5.670 grams and measures 24.26 mm in diameter. The edges are reeded. The products available from noon today are as follows:
|100-coin bag (P)||$34.95||17ABG|
|100-coin bag (D)||$34.95||17ABH|
|100-coin bag (S)||$34.95||17ABJ|
|2-roll set (P,D)||$32.95||17ARG|
|40-coin roll (S)||$18.95||17ARH|
|3-roll set (P,D,S)||$46.95||17ARJ|
The three-coin set (17AF), which contains Uncirculated quarters from the Philadelphia and Denver mints and a Proof quarter from the San Francisco Mint, will be available at noon on June 26. The 5-ounce silver Uncirculated version of the coin should follow shortly thereafter.
Click here for more images of Alley Spring and Mill. ❑
(Photo courtesy of APMEX)
Updated June 22, 2017, to correct the engraver’s name and the fineness. Thank you to the readers who caught the errors!
Updated May 31, 2017, to correct the date in the headline.
Tomorrow (June 1) is the release date for the Mint’s annual American Eagle 1-ounce gold Uncirculated coin (17EH), which will be available from noon Eastern time. The Uncirculated and Proof AGEs are collector versions of the official U.S. Mint American Eagle gold bullion coins, differing with respect to finish and mintmark (which the bullion strike lacks). Each 22-karat (0.9167 fine) gold Uncirculated coin, denominated $50, is enclosed in a clear capsule housed in a blue, Mint-branded box, and comes with a certificate of authenticity.
(Individual, high-res photos courtesy of the U.S. Mint)
Each coin measures 1.287 inches in diameter (32.7 mm) and has a reeded edge. The obverse design features Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s full-length figure of Liberty with flowing hair, striding toward the viewer against a background of 26 sun rays. Her left foot steps up onto a rocky outcrop, as if she is climbing a mountain; at the base of the outcrop is a cluster of oak leaves, symbolizing strength. She carries a torch of freedom, held in her right hand, and an olive branch, symbolizing an offer of peace, out to the side in her left. In the distance, at the lower left of her skirt, is the U.S. Capitol. The word LIBERTY arches above her head, the I and B spaced slightly wide to accommodate the top of the torch. To the lower right of the effigy, superimposed over the sun’s rays, is the date, 2017, with the mintmark W and the monogram of Augustus Saint-Gaudens below. The design is almost fully encircled by a border of 50 six-pointed stars.
The reverse was designed by Miley J. Busiek and engraved by Sherl J. Winter. The upper half features a male eagle carrying a branch (presumably of olive), its wings scooping forward as it brakes for landing. The lower half depicts a nest of sticks set on a leafy branch and holding a female eagle, whose wings are cupped protectively around two chicks. Arching above the main motif are the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, with 1 OZ. FINE GOLD ~ 50 DOLLARS below the motif. In smaller letters in the field to the left, in two lines, is the national motto, E PLURIBUS / UNUM, and in the field to the right, IN GOD / WE TRUST. The initials of the designer and engraver, MB and JW, respectively, are below the eagles’ nest. ❑