Change U.S. Coin Designs

An ally in push to change U.S. coin designs: From the Memory Bank

Diane Wolf joins cause through Commission of Fine Arts
This article From the Memory Bank series was first published in the March 28, 2016 issue of Coin World available here.
Change U.S. Coin Designs
Diane Wolf, ally to change U.S. Coin Designs

Diane Wolf used her position on the federal Commission of Fine Arts as an advocate to change U.S. coin designs on circulating coins.
Coin World file photo.

As the numismatic community began to explore ways to attract more collectors and participants to the rare coin marketplace in the mid-1980s, a surprising ally and advocate emerged.

Diane Wolf was unknown to the numismatic community before President Reagan appointed her to the federal Commission of Fine Arts in 1985. The appointment was a reward for her work on Reagan’s re-election campaign staff and for her consulting role in a number of successful Republican congressional elections.

Established in 1912, the CFA’s role was to advise various government agencies on proposed buildings, landscaping, statues, fountains and monuments within the District of Columbia, as well as designs for coins, medals and insignias. At the time, the CFA was the only entity that reviewed and recommended coin and medal designs.

Given her lifelong interest in art, Wolf’s presidential appointment to the uncompensated federal panel seemed to be a good fit.

Almost immediately after joining the CFA she realized that most members were architects and had little interest in coins and medals. A quick study, she sought to learn everything she could about coins and medals and reached out to the numismatic community for help.

She called me and introduced herself. She had begun reading Coin World and commented on several editorials I had written, especially one I had written calling for new designs on the nation’s circulating coins… change U.S. coin designs.

During our conversation, she asked for my suggestions for reading and research. Topping my recommendations was Cornelius Vermeule’s Numismatic Art in America. I also sent her a copy of our newly published fourth edition of Coin World Almanac, which contained a chapter titled “First the Book,” that listed and gave brief descriptions of books pertaining to U.S. coins as well as those about ancient and foreign coins.

About six weeks after her first phone call, Wolf called with another question. I was amazed because it was obvious that since our first conversation she had read — indeed studied — not only Vermeule’s book, but many of the standard references cited in the almanac.

Armed with knowledge, she began challenging the status quo.

At the time, Mint officials were opposed to changing U.S. coin designs for circulating coins. And some senior Treasury officials, who appeared sympathetic to the cause, were not about to rock the boat or risk their careers on an issue like coinage redesign.

So Wolf set her sights on Congress and legislation to force the Mint into action.

Please share your comments on this article. I’d love to hear from you.

What Are These Coins Worth? – Ask Beth

What Are These Coins Worth?

A website visitor recently contacted me to see if I could help her value some coins. You can read her question and my response below:

Glynis D. wrote:

I have two 50p coins dated 1994, one 50p dated1982 and three 2-pound coins dated 1986 and 1989. What are these coins worth please?

My response:

More information is needed in order to determine the value of your coins.

Continue reading

New Designs for Circulating Coins – The Road to Change

Road to change circulating coin designs begins: From The Memory Bank

Commems paved way for changes, but Congress lacked the will to make them
This article From the Memory Bank series was first published in the February 22, 2016 issue of Coin World available here.

New Designs For Circulating Coins

New Designs For Circulation Coins - Cash In Your Coins

Secretary of the Treasury James A. Baker III, seen on his official U.S. Mint medal, was reluctant to engage in a political fight to remove presidents from coin designs.
Images courtesy of Coin World, eBay seller stst201212 and the United States Mint.

Ironically the 1982 George Washington and 1983 to 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Coin commemorative programs launched a collector campaign for new designs for circulating coins.

During congressional hearings in 1981, the resumption of commemorative coins after a 28-year hiatus was hailed as the much-needed stimulus to bring new collectors into the market. But after the highly successful first two programs were completed, Coin World’s analysis of sales uncovered a surprise.

More than 90 percent of all of the commemorative coins had been purchased by collectors. Precious few were reaching the general public; thus, the hoped-for boost in coin collecting was proving to be a pipe dream.

It was time for a new approach. Continue reading

Elizabeth Jones’ gold Lady Liberty design proves popular

Elizabeth Jones’ gold Lady Liberty design proves popular
1986 gold $5 coin sells out in pre-release
This article From the Memory Bank series was first published in the January 25, 2016 issue of Coin World available here.

Gold Lady Liberty

Gold Lady Libety - 1986-W Statue of Liberty Gold $5 Half Eagle

The 1986-W Statue of Liberty gold $5 half eagle holds a record that still stands. The entire mintage of 500,000 sold out in pre-issue. Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

No U.S. commemorative coins would be issued in 1985, but the collector community was teeming with excitement over the prospect of coins to celebrate the approaching centennial of the Statue of Liberty in 1986.

Mint sculptor-engravers secretly began work on Statue of Liberty designs shortly after introduction of the authorizing legislation on Jan. 3, 1985. The legislation sought a gold $5 half eagle, a silver dollar, and a copper-nickel half dollar.

The House acted quickly, approving its version March 5. But the Senate bill was bogged down in political maneuvering. The bill did not gain approval until late June. Continue reading

FUN Show 2016

2016 FUN convention bourse floor (photo compliments of FUN)

FUN Show 2016

I will be attending the Florida United Numismatists show, which is being held Jan. 7-10 at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 S Franklin Street, downtown on the waterfront.

The January FUN show is one of the largest coin shows in the United States and will likely set the direction of the coin market for at least the first three months of 2016.

I will be at Whitman Publishing’s author’s table on the bourse both Friday and Saturday (Jan. 8-9). The second edition of my book, Cash In Your Coins – Selling the Rare Coins You’ve Inherited, will be available for purchase and I will be happy to autograph your copy. Even if you already have a copy of my book, stop by to say hello.

Learn More About Coins and Collecting – Ask Beth

The mother of a website visitor contacted me recently telling me about her son’s interest in coins and coin collecting. Read her email and my response below.

Angela wrote:


My name is Angela. My son Luke recently received a small case of old coins from his grandfather to start a collection. He has always been fascinated by his grandfathers collection and wanted to start one of his own. Ever since then he has been wanting to learn more about coins and collecting so we decided to some searches for any sites that might help. He came across and loved some of the resources you have up and found it to be a big help, thank you so much!

In the searches he also found this page that he found to be very helpful as well and wanted to share it with you. Would you mind adding a link to it?

I think it would fit great on your page and I’m sure the Luke would be more than excited to see he helped contribute to your site with his findings. Please let me know if you decide to add it 🙂

Thanks so much again!

Here is my response to Angela:

Thanks for contacting us.

You mentioned that your son, Luke, has recently received a small case of old coins from his grandfather to start a collection. Is his grandfather or someone available to help him identify the coins he received? Continue reading