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Changing Good Luck

horseshoerabbitwishboneclover

There are many types of superstitions that people follow. Sports fans will wear the same clothes on game day. There are old wives tales about stepping on cracks. Thespians say ”Break a leg” on stage. Over the years many superstitions have evolved and revolved around specific objects, such as a rabbit’s foot,  horseshoes, 4 leaf clovers etc. I’m sure there is a story behind every one of those items…which brings me to a good luck token we recently came upon.reversetoken

It is about the size of a half dollar and appears to be made of bronze. On the center of the reverse it has an all seeing eye that radiates and has good luck symbols in between the radiant lines. They have a heart and key, a four leaf clover, an elephant charm, a horseshoe, a rabbits foot and a wishbone. It reads “THE ALL SEEING EYE GUARDS YOU FROM EVIL”.

eyeThe other side has a well defined genie looking in a crystal ball and at the bottom reads, “GOOD LUCK WILL ACCOMPANY THE BEARER”.  What the modern observer would find shocking is the symbol chosen to be inside the crystal ball to represent good luck; the swastika.goodluck

The swastika is a symbol that is many millennia old. It is still used  in the far east, as a religious and good luck symbol.  It was 1920 when Hitler first adopted it as a part of the nazi parties emblem. Today most of the western world despises the symbol. Based on western history we would guess this token is from the 1920’s or earlier. It is unlikely that by the time you got into the 1930’s they would have used the swastika as the main symbol for good luck in the crystal ball.

Good luck tokens come in all sizes and designs. They are often mystic in nature with images of genies or sorcery. The message is often one of good luck or good fortune. This piece is a reminder that through all numismatic studies you can learn, or take the time to learn, about history and culture. The details can be a mystery at first but can lead to a well rounded education. GOOD LUCK!

goodlucktoken  hearttokenephelumpswastika

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Herbert Hoover Dollar

Herbert Hoover was the 31st president and served the country from March 4th, 1929 to March 4th, 1933.  He was born in West Branch, Iowa. His dad died when he was 6 and his mom when he was 9. He was raised by his Uncle John Minthorn and attended the inaugural year at Stanford in 1891.

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He came to the presidency from his position of Secretary of Commerce under presidents Harding and Coolidge. This no doubt shaped his  views on having business and government “work together”. He was preceded by Calvin Coolidge and was succeeded by Franklin Roosevelt.

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Arches ATB Quarter

The newest ATB (America the Beautiful) park quarter  has officially been released. The Arches, UT park quarter has one of the more recognizable designs. It is a place that most hikers want to visit and even casual nature fans have an affinity for.arches The park was established in 1929.  It has over 2000 natural stone arches.

Many of the ATB quarters have not been up to the standard you would want for a circulating coin. They are often too busy, or the topic is not recognizable. This coin has a great look to it (especially the special Proof version) and it is easy to recognize as Arches National Park.

You can visit the Park website here.

We expect to have them in inventory in the coming weeks.

 

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Should I buy A Slabbed Coin or Raw?

Decisions, Decisions, Decision.owl

A common question that we get is whether or not it makes sense to buy a coin certified or raw.  The answer is going to vary based on what your collecting goals are. It is also a matter of individual taste, knowledge and experience. I know collectors of ancient coins who refuse to buy any coin that has been certified.

Parameters

I believe that having a game plan always makes for a more pleasant collecting experience. Setting up the parameters for when you will only buy a coin slabbed or when you will only buy a coin raw will help you know what to do. There can be some grey area, but let’s try to make the best black and white line that we can.

  • PRICE- Setting up a price basis is probably the easiest way to decide whether you want a raw or slabbed coin. This works for any collector level. You can be experienced or inexperienced and you can have a big bank roll or a small bank roll and it makes sense. The only thing that will change is the number. For example you may decide that you will not spend $500 on a raw coin. In that scenario you would only buy slabbed coins if the price exceeds $500. Perhaps your price point is $100 or $1000. It is up to you, but going into it knowing where you are want to be price wise will help you make a good decision.
  • CONDITION – The next place to look is grade. This will most likely only apply to higher grade coins. 81sslabThere is no reason to buy a raw Morgan as an “MS67”. You do not want to get into the habit of using the grading companies as crutches. You want to be able to confidently grade coins yourself. However, when it comes to high grade uncirculated coins the reality is that the grading companies control the market. They determine what is a 66 and what is a 67.
  • PRICE JUMP  – This one may be the most flexible way of looking at the issue. If a coin has no or little price variation from one grade to the next then you most likely don’t need to buy it certified. But let’s say we are looking at a coin that in XF is $120 and in AU is $450. If the dealer has the coin priced as an AU and you are not convinced it is, then perhaps you should lay off the coin or try to work out a deal where the dealer will get it certified and you will pay the fee and pay his price if the coin comes back an AU.
  • AUTHENTICITY- There are certain coins that have a higher propensity of counterfeits. This mostly encompasses rare dates and more expensive coins. So this ties into our first point about price. Not many common coins get counterfeited. At the same time you may be perfectly comfortable spending $1000 on a raw coin, but say you are looking at a Hawaii or Spanish Trail commemorative half. These are two coins that have many known counterfeit types. You may buy all the coins raw, except those two.
  • GOALS- If your goal is more of an investment than a hobby then you may just want to look for certified coins. If you really prefer filling holes in a coin album, you may choose to buy only raw coins.

All these things are factors when you collect coins. They all work together. Your level of knowledge, experience, and price sensitivity will determine what you decide to do. One thing I’d like to point out again, take time to learn how to grade. Don’t let the modern coin market dictate or diminish your level of knowledge.

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Why the Baseball Hall of Fame Coins were a good buy

Most mint products go down in value. It is a fact of life. If you look over the greysheet you’ll see a couple decades of coins that the Mint sold for $35-$45 and now list for $25-$30.

But if you were one of the lucky ones to get in on the Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins you got some handsome coins and a good value. The Baseball hall of Fame coins already have appreciated in value. This doesn’t mean they will stay there. Many mint products go up in value right after they

baseballare issued. During that time there is some scarcity as those who couldn’t get through the mints poor website try to get the coins on the secondary market.

The reason the HOF coins will do well is because they are a popular topic, good design, and a first of a kind (possibly one of a kind) shape. Who knows if the mint will every make ”bent” coins again. The mint has the ability to take a topic or design and really botch it. This time the hit it out of the park. Having a concave glove design on one side and a convex ball design on the other side was brilliant.

Currently you can find the dollar coin for $100 or so online. This may still be a buying opportunity, as I think these coins are likely to trend like the 2001 Buffalo $1 did. The Buffalos currently trade at $150.  It is rare to find a modern mint coin that I’d say is a good buy at $100. Only time will tell if I’m right, but every once and a while you need to swing for the fences.

And if you are not a big hitter, the mint still has the half dollar available for $22.95 and $23.95 depending on if you get the proof or unc.

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When spending is saving and saving is spending

Americans love to spend money. We also love to save money. But these two things, saving and spending, cross paths in a very special way when it comes to coin collecting and tangible assets.

Have you ever had your spouse say to you ”I saved money” as they spent $150 at the department store? This type of saving is really spending. They saved money based on the mystical and mythical “MSRP”.  They spent less money then the original sale price. But they spent money on items that will likely be useless or at best donated to Good Will (which is recommended for old clothes).

Compare that to buying coins, or silver or gold or other commodities. When you do this you spend money, but you are really saving money. In other words you have a store of value for the future. This bit of wisdom came from a customer who was selling coins for a sick friend. The friend had a group of proof sets and mint sets with Silver Eagles…a typical mix of coins we see daily. Ten years ago she was thinking about selling them but she told her friend to save them. Why? Because she was a collector? No, because she knew her friend would simply spend the money and she would not have that money saved up for the future. If she keeps her coins together, then she will have that store of value.

The main point here, really is to save money for a rainy day. The specifics are that if you can put it into a physical asset, it will help you stop yourself from spending the money on other things, which is a huge temptation if you simply have it in a savings account or bank account somewhere.

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Bad Taste in Coins

One of my favorite things about coins is that there is not one ”right way” to collect coins. You can collect based on country, time period, topic, size, metal type or any other way you can think of. So it may sound critical to say that someone has bad taste in coins. But I’m sure most of you will agree with me. Most coin collectors have people in their lives who love them and know they love coins and want to buy them a gift. Around the holidays you may have received little bags or ”treasure boxes” full of gold or silver coins, just don’t leave them on your dashboard. If you have not figured it out yet, we are talking about chocolate coins.

Chocolate coins don’t taste good. I don’t know why. Maybe they spent all their money on packaging. Maybe it is last years stock. Maybe it was the drop in the value of the currency relative to the cocoa market, but for whatever reason chocolate coins usually taste bad. I’ve tried fantasy pieces (Harry Potter), Euros, US coins of all denominations, Australian, British…you name it, I’ve tried it…and I’m always disappointed.

choccoins

To add insult to injury (if you only collect coins and not currency), this Christmas I found some chocolate bars shaped like currency that actually were really good. So currency collectors can rejoice…but coin collectors, you’ll have to let me know if you ever find a good tasting chocolate coin…but for now I’ll stand by this post that chocolate coins leave a bad taste in your mouth.

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Of Pennyweights and Grams

If Math makes you queasy, you may want to skip this post and move on to your favorite sports site. There are weights and measures involved in gold and silver that confuse consumers. You can’t blame consumers, this stuff is confusing. And occasionally there is intent by shop owners to deceive. Here is what you need to know. Gold and silver are measured in a unit called a ”Troy Ounce”.  This is different from the ounce you may weigh at home on a postal scale or to measure food. That ounce is called the Avoirdupois and is 28.35 grams. The troy ounce is 31.103 grams. This is the magic number that we use to determine how much silver or gold is in an item. Jewelers have a tendency to use pennyweights. It takes 20 pennyweights (dwt) to make a troy ounce.

In other words a pennyweight is 5% of a troy ounce and a gram is 3.2% of an ounce. Why is this important to you? Because someone using pennyweights can offer a higher price for an item, and yet pay less. Did I lose you? If I offer you $20 per gram for 14k gold, and they offer $25 per pennyweight for 14k gold, then here is what you just got offered per ounce: The $20 per gram equals is $1,063 per ounce. The $25 per pennyweight is only $854 per ounce.  The $20 per gram is almost 25% more than the $25 per dwt.

This becomes very important when people call around to get pricing on silver or gold. I always recommend people go in person to get prices on items. One reason is because of the confusion between pennyweights and grams. A second reason is that someone can tell you one thing over the phone and actual pay a different amount after they weigh your jewelry.

Okay, so we didn’t really do that much math….maybe next time!

 

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The Furies

The Furies

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On a stormy July night in Tucson, Arizona, a crowd of locals cram into the Paramount Theatre and sweat through the world premiere of the movie “The Furies”. It is 1950 and the Paramount Theatre does not have air conditioning. It had rained on the parade before the premiere and the 2,500 people that crowded into the theater got to see Barbara Stanwyck, Wendell Corey and Ms. America 1949, Jacque Mercer, a native of Arizona. Not present was actor Walter Huston, who died in April of an aneurysm. The Furies was his last film.furiescover

It was only a month before in June that Tucson Mayor Joseph Niemann had declared July 1st to July 22nd as the “Furies Festival of Tucson”. This launched a grand attempt between Paramount studios, the city of Tucson, and local businesses to bolster the local economy, and promote the film. The movie was shot in and around the Old Pueblo, Tucson’s nickname.

It was late 2009 when in a normal transaction at Old Pueblo Coin yielded an unusual find. There was a group of green notes with cancel punches through them. They were in $5 and $50 denominations. The backs say “Furies Money” and read, “GOOD ONLY AT FURIES AUCTION, JULY, 1950. World Premier ‘The Furies,’ Tucson, Arizona”. A giant “TC” is in the center. In the film, TC Jeffords creates his own currency (TC notes) and starts paying people with them! With 2 native Tucsonans and a third person on staff with 40 years here in Tucson, we were all surprised at these notes and unaware of the movie and its local consequences, until this point in time.

tc5revAt first glance they look like movie prop currency and in fact they were used in the movie and were an integral part of the story. The face of the note depicts a bare breasted woman riding a bull and the denomination in each corner as well as the words “IOU FIFTY DOLLARS” across the top. It is “signed” by TC Jeffords, the main character of the movie. The center of the note reads, “AMICUS HUMANI GENERIS”. This translates to “A friend of the human race”. All the notes are punch cancelled “PAID +7.22.50 91.11”.

The notes are both referenced and used in the movie, as “TC’s” and are used to pay people that TC and his family deal with. They play a major role in the overall theme of the movie. In the end … well, I won’t ruin the movie for you, but as you can guess, “TC’s” don’t hold their value.

IMG_5316The Furies Festival here in the Old Pueblo was a big deal. Tucson businesses were taking out full-page ads in the Tucson Daily Citizen, the local newspaper, advertising that they would give their customers Furies money with every purchase. They promoted “Furies Value Days”, “Furies Money-Saving Festival”, and don’t forget about the “Fabulous Furies Festival of July Values”! The Furies Money was being given out at a dollar-to-dollar ratio. If you bought a sofa for $59 from Rueben’s on Congress Street you got $59 in Furies Money. Although we only have seen the $5 and $50 notes, it is assumed that $1’s, $10’s and $20’s were made, possibly even $100.’s. In fact, the Furies Festival Committee pleaded in the paper “HELP! HELP! We cannot keep up with the demand for $1.00 Furies Bills . . all who have been able to collect a number of these can help us greatly, if you will take them to any store and exchange them for bills of larger denomination”.The Furies money and the Furies Festival were to culminate in the Furies Festival Auction, to be held July 22nd at Randolph Park. The happy consumers could bring their Furies Money to the auction and bid on items. The auction featured over 200 items; from household goods, clothing and watches, to the climax of the auction, with the main prize being a brand new Convertible Hillman Minx automobile sold by World Wide Motors.MinxMkIVcoupeAfter a wet and sweaty premiere, the people were looking forward to finally getting to spend their Furies Money in the auction, which started promptly at 7 p.m. Here are some excerpts from the Tucson Daily Citizen:“Furies Auction under heavy criticism. Boy’s Bicycle $4,000, portable radio, $4.000: man’s hat, $3,500… Those prices do not reflect the inflationary picture of some foreign country where it takes a suitcase full of money to buy a loaf of bread, but they do indicate the terrible amount of inflation that was rampant at the “Fabulous Furies Auction”.

Thousands showed up, many leaving right away and ‘’throwing their Furies money to the ground in disgust’’. The Minx car sold for $46,000. as well as “Every other price realized, equally out of reason for the average bidder…” . It was unlikely that average income locals spent many, many thousands of dollars during this 3 week period just to accumulate Furies Money. Although the bleachers were packed, they were empty by 10:30, even though the auction went well past midnight.

What caused all this inflationary bidding? It sounds as if there were some security issues with the notes. “Any number of employees of local business houses could be seen in the crowd flashing huge rolls of bills which could not have been collected during the three-week promotion with purchases. Sales girls with $19,000 in Furies Money, teen-age boys with $8,000 to $15,000– individuals with various amounts ranging upward from $10,000. Obviously – the average person does not purchase merchandise totaling such amounts in a year – much less in three weeks.”

To this day it is still unkown who paid for the Furies and how much they paid. Since they are cancelled as ‘’paid’’ the same day as the auction, some one was turning them in for Federal Reserve Notes. Our belief is that Paramount paid for the notes. They then gave a percentage of value for them when they were turned in at the auction. The only problem for the payer of these notes (presumably Paramount) is that the businesses had no incentive to keep them under wraps, as all notes that are brought back in during the auction, go to bolster the auction items price. In other words, the seller of the car possibly worked out a deal to have the other businesses bid up the items without any risk of them losing money on their item.

This neat piece of Old Pueblo history which ties together local business, politics, movies, actors, an actress, new cars, Mrs. America and scriptography ends with disdain and anger from a small community that felt like it was duped into taking TC dollars….just like in the movie!

Additional Notes

Victor Milner was nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White.

Theme Song- TC Roundup by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. Listen Here.

You can see a Hillman Registry list here.

You can order the Furies movie here.

 

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Bit Coin….

A lot has been made of Bitcoin over the last year. First, the overly verbose definition:

“An electronically derived unit of value exchanged anonymously between two parties to a transaction. An electronic version of paper currency but digitally signed/encrypted instead of being physical.”

What?!? Imagine trading a bond or a stock but without it being backed by a company or an entity. It is traded between companies or individuals and is like using your debit card, and having an amount subtracted from your account. The only difference between bitcoin and federal reserve notes is that bitcoin is completely fabricated, unlike US currency which is….hmmm….perhaps they have more in common than I  first thought.

You can find a buy and sell price for Bitcoin on mainstream websites. You can find the history of bitcoin here.

The amazing part of the history is that bitcoin has been deemed currency and has been seized in some cases, and yet more and more entities are looking at taking bitcoin in exchange for services. This is particularly interesting when you look at how volatile the ”currency” has been.

We will see where it all ends up. It has given us a lot to talk about and some companies have made copper versions of ”bitcoin”. I’m waiting for the second rendition to come out , so we can see what a 2 bitcoin looks like.

 bitcoin

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