March 27th, 2012

My Two Cents’ Worth: A Perfect Spring Day

A PERFECT SPRING DAY
by Ed Reiter

Big things are afoot in the world of coins.

In response to complaints from disgruntled consumers, the United States Mint has announced that it is slashing issue prices for proof sets and other collector products as a token of appreciation for its loyal customers.

Under the new price schedule, annual proof sets and “mint sets” can be purchased for face value plus a shipping and handling charge of just $2 per set. The price of silver proof sets includes an additional charge reflecting the Mint’s exact cost for the silver in the half dollars, quarters and dimes—and not a nickel more.

In a further expression of gratitude to collectors, the Mint is dispensing with fancy but costly packaging and housing the sets in simple pliofilm sleeves similar to those it used prior to 1965. This admittedly results in a loss of flashiness—in the packaging, that is. But those who buy the sets primarily for the coins will find those as collectible as ever.

The Mint has also announced a new initiative aimed at obtaining superior designs for futureU.S.coins. Encouraged by the success of its Artistic Infusion Program in attracting artists a cut below the best, the Mint has joined forces with the National Sculpture Society to establish an Artistic Exclusion Program intended to weed out less talented applicants and offer top commissions to the nation’s finest medalists whenever new coins are planned.

In a departure from the policy it followed in the 50 State Quarters program, the Mint plans to give full credit to these master medalists, rather than citing staff artists as “designers” of the coins even when they serve as only executioners—that is to say, merely execute designs by other people.

* * *

Big things are also afoot in the marketplace.

For starters, eBay has undertaken an aggressive campaign to identify and prosecute companies and individuals that use its website to peddle Chinese counterfeits and other deceptive coins. It also has banned users found to be selling coins that are misrepresented or grossly overpriced.

Home shopping TV networks have pledged to prohibit overblown pitches for overpriced modern coins. In fact, they have barred the sale of any such coins—especially those graded by substandard certification “services” whose misleading names are intended to sound like those of responsible, reputable companies and thereby confuse prospective purchasers.

TV stations across the country have served notice that they will no longer accept commercials from mail-order gold buyers claiming to pay “top dollar” when they’re really paying prices at the bottom of the barrel—prices that amount to very small fractions of true value. In a similar move, newspapers have begun rejecting full-page ads from itinerant coin buyers who go from town to town converting local hotel rooms into dens of inequity for hapless, unwary members of the public.

* * *

Back at the U.S. Mint, officials have revealed plans to discontinue the “America the Beautiful” program after a survey showed that none of the Washington quarters issued to date in the series was considered by respondents to be beautiful.

Thought was given to changing the program’s name to “Americathe Pitiful,” or perhaps “Artistic Confusion,” thus lowering expectations by people who had looked for the coins’ designs to be special, not outer-spacial. But in the end, it was decided that the most appropriate course would be to stop making new coins and consign the old ones to something that truly reflects the beauty of America—a melting pot.

In another illustration of the Mint’s newfound sanity, it imposed a moratorium on any further programs involving multiple issues over periods spanning 10 years or more.

Among the coming attractions left on the cutting-room floor were marathon series spotlighting gypsy moths, B-movie actors and dyslexic vice presidents. Dan Quayle was said to be particularly distressed by the last of these cutbacks.

* * *

Yes, big things are afoot. But, like Bigfoot, they’re only the concoction of an overactive imagination—specifically, mine. All these big events “took place,” you see, on the very same spring day—April 1st.

April fool!

2012 . April . Articles . Issues . My Two Cents