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Coin Safe

Coin Safe

The United States Mint frequently receives inquiries from consumers who have confused coin-related products from private companies with genuine United States coinage. This page includes information about these products, plus other coin-related issues that may be of interest to our customers and to the general public. As more public inquires are received and new issues arise, additional information will be added, so remember to check this page for updates.


President-Elect Barack Obama "Commemorative Coins"

President-Elect Barack Obama
Source: The New England Mint
Not colorized by the United States Mint

It has come to the attention of the United States Mint that several private commercial businesses are advertising so-called “Barack Obama Presidential $1 Coins,” as well as commemorative half-dollar coins, American Eagle Silver Coins and multi-coin sets bearing images of the President-Elect. These advertisements feature genuine United States coins that the private commercial businesses have altered by affixing a colorized image to the coin. Additionally, some businesses have treated the coins by gold-plating them.

These items are not official United States Mint products. Furthermore, these products, businesses, and advertisements are not approved, endorsed, sponsored, or authorized by the United States Mint, the Department of the Treasury, or the United States Government.

The United States Mint receives frequent inquiries from the public concerning its position on the industry practice of superimposing colorized images—such as those of prominent public figures, celebrities, or cartoon characters—on genuine United States coins. The United States Mint does not encourage, endorse, or sponsor products that alter the fundamental images depicted on its coins. Congress itself mandates by statute the design themes and inscriptions that appear on United States coins. A superimposed image is entirely different from and obscures the coin's original design.

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2004 United States Mint Lewis and Clark Coin and Pouch Sets Containing Pouches From the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band of Ohio

It has come to the attention of the United States Mint that the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band of Ohio, one of the organizations whose artisans produced pouches for the 2004 United States Mint Lewis and Clark Coin and Pouch Set, is not officially recognized as an Indian tribe by state or Federal authorities. Accordingly, we are informing members of the public who own a set containing a pouch produced by the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band of Ohio that the pouch is not an authentic American "Indian" arts and crafts product.

Pursuant to the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-644), a product is an authentic American Indian creation only if crafted by a member of a federally or state recognized Indian tribe, or an individual certified as an Indian artisan by an Indian tribe. (See http://www.doi.gov/iacb/ for more information on the Indian Arts and Crafts Act). Because the pouches created by artisans from the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band of Ohio do not meet these criteria, they do not qualify to be marketed as authentic American “Indian” merchandise.

The United States Mint sold a limited number of the 2004 United States Mint Lewis and Clark Coin and Pouch Sets between September 7, 2004, and December 31, 2004. Each set consisted of a proof Lewis and Clark Expedition Bicentennial Silver Dollar, a handcrafted American Indian Pouch, and a certificate of authenticity (COA) hand-signed by the American Indian artisan who crafted it, stating the artisan’s tribe and its location. The United States Mint worked with the Circle of Tribal Advisors (COTA) to identify artisans from American Indian tribes to craft each unique pouch. When it was selected to produce pouches, the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band of Ohio was a member in good standing of COTA. However, as we now have become aware, the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band of Ohio did not meet the legal requirements to produce and market authentic “Indian” products under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. The Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band of Ohio reportedly dropped its membership in COTA late in 2005, and COTA adjourned late in 2006 at the end of the National Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Commemoration.

The names of the various artisans and their tribes who crafted the pouches for the United States Mint are identified in the COA accompanying the pouch sets. Customers may ascertain whether their pouch set was crafted by the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band of Ohio by referring to the COA.

Members of the public who own a 2004 United States Mint Lewis and Clark Coin and Pouch Set containing a pouch produced by the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band of Ohio may return the set, along with the COA, to the United States Mint. Those who return such sets to the United States Mint will receive a payment of $130.00 for each set, representing the original sales price of the product ($120.00), plus $10.00 for each set to defray shipping, handling, and insurance charges. The Owners of a 2004 United States Mint Lewis and Clark Coin and Pouch Set who desire to keep the Lewis and Clark Expedition Bicentennial Silver Dollar may return the pouch, along with the COA from the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band of Ohio, for a prorated refund of $90.00, representing the prorated sales price of the pouch ($80.00), plus $10.00 for each pouch to defray shipping, handling, and insurance charges.

To receive a refund, send the 2004 United States Mint Lewis and Clark Coin and Pouch Sets, or pouches, along with the COAs indicating that the pouches were made by a member of the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band of Ohio, by insured mail or overnight delivery to United States Mint, ATTN: Indian Arts & Crafts Return, 801 9th Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20001. Inside of the shipping package be sure to include return address mailing information for the refund, along with a note indicating that the item is to be directed to the Indian Arts & Crafts Return.

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FINAL REGULATION ISSUED PROHIBITING THE EXPORTATION, MELTING, OR TREATMENT OF UNITED STATES ONE-CENT AND 5-CENT COINS

On April 10, 2007, United States Mint Director Edmund Moy approved a final rule that generally prohibits the exportation, melting, or treatment of United States one-cent coins (pennies) and 5-cent coins (nickels), which became effective upon publication in the Federal Register on April 16, 2007. The final rule is based on the interim rule that was published on December 20, 2006, and it addressed public comments submitted in response to the interim rule. The United States Mint concluded the interim rule would be adopted as a final rule with certain changes based on the public comments and additional considerations. This measure has been implemented to protect the coinage of the United States by ensuring that sufficient quantities of 5-cent and one-cent coins remain in circulation to meet the needs of the United States. A violation of these restrictions can lead to a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment of up to 5 years, and forfeiture of the subject coins or metal. The authority for implementing this regulation is Title 31 of the United States Code, Section 5111(d).

You can view the complete press release and the Federal Register Notice for the final rule.

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Fraudulent Presidential $1 Error Coins Being Sold

The United States Mint has recently learned that some individuals are grinding the rims of Presidential $1 Coins to remove the edge-incused inscriptions and then marketing these altered items as error coins. This practice not only exploits unwary consumers and collectors, but also is a Federal crime.

The United States Mint recently announced that an undetermined number of George Washington Presidential $1 Coins were minted and issued without the required edge-incused inscriptions, "E Pluribus Unum," "In God We Trust," the year of issuance, and the mint mark. Because true error coins such as these can be rare, they often become very attractive among collectors, many of whom are willing to acquire them at a premium above their face value. Apparently, some individuals are exploiting this situation by altering the rims of perfectly good Presidential $1 Coins to make them look like the recent error coins.

Although altering and defacing United States coinage generally is not illegal, doing so violates a Federal criminal statute (18 U.S.C. § 331) when the act is accompanied by an intent to defraud. Accordingly, a person is committing a Federal crime if he or she intentionally alters an ordinary Presidential $1 Coin to make it look like an error coin for the purpose of selling it at a premium to someone who believes it to be a real error coin. Under this statute, it is also a Federal crime to sell at a premium an ordinary Presidential $1 Coin that one knows has been altered so it looks like an error coin to someone who believes it to be a real error coin. Penalties include a fine and up to five years in prison.

The United States Mint has no Federal enforcement authority. Rather, it refers such matters to the United States Secret Service, which is lawfully authorized to detect and arrest any person who violates a Federal law relating to United States coinage.

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Presidential $1 Coins With "Upside-Down" Edge-Lettering Are Not Errors

It has come to the attention of the United States Mint that some people are offering to sell so-called George Washington Presidential $1 "error" coins with "upside-down" edge-lettering on on-line auction sites. These coins are not "error" coins. The Presidential $1 Coins are inscribed on the edge without regard to their "heads" or "tails" orientation.

The edge-incused inscriptions on Presidential $1 Coins are the year of minting or issuance, "E Pluribus Unum," "In God We Trust" and the mint mark. The United States Mint incuses these inscriptions on the edge of each coin at the second step of a two-step coining process. In the first step, the blanks are fed into a coining machine which impresses the obverse and reverse designs onto the coins, and dispenses the coins into a large bin. In the second step, the bin is transported to the edge-incusing machine, into which the coins are fed at random, without regard to their "heads" or "tails" orientation. Therefore, statistically, approximately one-half of the coins produced will have edge-lettering oriented toward the "heads" side (obverse), and approximately one-half of the coins will have the edge-incused inscriptions oriented toward the "tails" side (reverse).

For more information on the Presidential $1 Coin Program go to www.usmint.gov/$1coin.

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Early Release of Presidential $1 Coins

It has come to the attention of the United States Mint that several private businesses are offering to sell George Washington Presidential $1 Coins prior to the official public release date on Thursday, February 15, 2007. The United States Mint wants to make consumers who are considering the purchase of these products aware of certain facts.

  • The United States Mint has issued George Washington Presidential $1 Coins only to the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve has made arrangements with banks and other financial institutions to ensure that these coins are in their inventories up to two weeks prior to the official public release date, February 15, 2007.
  • George Washington Presidential $1 Coins will be available for purchase at face value to all members of the public at their local financial institutions beginning on February 15, 2007. The banks and other financial institutions that have entered into such arrangements have agreed not to distribute George Washington Presidential $1 Coins before this official public release date.
  • The Presidential $1 Coins currently being offered for sale by private businesses, often with a considerable mark-up, are the same circulating quality coins that will be available to all members of the public from their local banks and other financial institutions on February 15, 2007. These are not the proof or uncirculated quality coins that are found in United States Mint proof and uncirculated coin sets, nor are they official "early releases" or "first strikes."
  • For more information on the Presidential $1 Coin Program go to www.usmint.gov/$1coin.

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NORFED’s "Liberty Dollars"

Liberty Dollar Obverse Liberty Dollar Reverse
Source: NORFED, Inc.

The National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve Act and the Internal Revenue Code (NORFED) is producing and marketing gold and silver medallions that NORFED calls "Liberty Dollars." The United States Mint and the United States Department of Justice have received inquiries regarding the legality of these so-called "Liberty Dollar" medallions. The United States Mint urges consumers who are considering the purchase or use of these items to be aware that they are not genuine United States Mint bullion coins and they are not legal tender. These medallions are privately produced products and are not backed by, nor affiliated in any way with, the United States Government. Moreover, prosecutors with the Department of Justice have determined that the use of these gold and silver NORFED "Liberty Dollar" medallions as circulating money is a Federal crime.

Consumers may find advertisements for these medallions confusing and should take note of several issues related to them.

First, the advertisements refer to the product as "real money" and "currency." These medallions might look like real money because they—

  • Bear the inscriptions, "Liberty," "Dollars," "Trust in God" (similar to "In God We Trust"), and "USA" (similar to "United States of America"), and an inscription purporting to denote the year of production; and

  •  
  • Depict images that are similar to United States coins, such as the torch on the reverses of the current dime coin, 1986 Statute of Liberty commemorative silver dollar and 1993 Bill of Rights commemorative half-dollar, and the Liberty Head designs on the obverses of United States gold coins from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s.
However, despite their misleading appearance, NORFED "Liberty Dollar" medallions are not genuine United States Mint coins and they are not legal tender.

Second, the advertisements confusingly refer to NORFED "Liberty Dollar" medallions as "legal" and "constitutional." However, under the Constitution ( Article I, section 8, clause 5 ), Congress has the exclusive power to coin money of the United States and to regulate its value. By statute ( 31 U.S.C. § 5112(a) ), Congress specifies the coins that the Secretary of the Treasury is authorized to mint and issue and requires the Secretary to carry out these duties at the United States Mint (31 U.S.C. § 5131). Accordingly, the United States Mint is the only entity in the United States with the lawful authority to mint and issue legal tender United States coins.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 486, it is a Federal crime to utter or pass, or attempt to utter or pass, any coins of gold or silver intended for use as current money except as authorized by law. According to the NORFED website, "Liberty merchants" are encouraged to accept NORFED "Liberty Dollar" medallions and offer them as change in sales transactions of merchandise or services. Further, NORFED tells "Liberty associates" that they can earn money by obtaining NORFED "Liberty Dollar" medallions at a discount and then can "spend [them] into circulation." Therefore, NORFED’s "Liberty Dollar" medallions are specifically intended to be used as current money in order to limit reliance on, and to compete with the circulating coinage of the United States. Consequently, prosecutors with the United States Department of Justice have concluded that the use of NORFED’s "Liberty Dollar" medallions violates 18 U.S.C. § 486.

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"First Strike"

The United States Mint has received inquiries from consumers regarding use of the term "first strike." The term has appeared in connection with the advertising and grading of 2005 and 2006 silver, gold, and platinum proof and bullion American Eagle Coins, and the new 2006 24-karat proof and bullion American Buffalo Gold Coins. Currently, there is no widely-accepted and standardized numismatic industry definition of "first strike." Coin dealers and grading services may use this term in varying ways. Some base its use on dates appearing on United States Mint product packaging or packing slips, or on the dates of product releases or ceremonial coin strike events. Consumers should carefully review the following information along with each dealer’s or grading service’s definition of "first strike" when considering a purchase of coins with this designation.

The United States Mint has not designated any 2005 or 2006 American Eagle Coins or 2006 American Buffalo Coins as "first strikes," nor do we track the order in which we mint such coins during their production. The United States Mint held a launch ceremony for the 2006 American Buffalo Gold Coin on June 20, 2006, two days before its release on June 22, at which two proof coins and two uncirculated coins were ceremonially struck. However, those coins were not individually identified and were put in regular inventory after the ceremony. The United States Mint did not hold any striking ceremonies for the 2005 or 2006 American Eagle Coins.

The United States Mint strives to produce coins of consistently high quality throughout the course of production. Our strict quality controls assure that coins of this caliber are produced from each die set throughout its useful life. Our manufacturing facilities use a die set as long as the quality of resulting coins meets United States Mint standards, and then replace the dies, continually changing sets throughout the production process. For bullion American Eagle and American Buffalo Coins, the United States Mint makes an average of about 6,000 coins from one die set. For proof versions of the 2006 American Buffalo Coins, the yield is an average of about 1,500 coins per die set. For proof versions of the American Eagle Coins, the yield is an average of about 300-500 coins per die set. This means that coins may be minted from new die sets at any point and at multiple times while production of a coin is ongoing, not just the first day or at the beginning of production. To put this in context, in 2005 the United States Mint produced approximately 356,500 one-ounce gold, 8,891,000 silver, and 6,300 one-ounce platinum American Eagle Bullion Coins.

American Eagle and American Buffalo Coins are not individually numbered and the United States Mint does not keep track of the order or date of minting of individual bullion or proof coins. The United States Mint begins production several weeks before these coins are scheduled to be released. By the release dates for 2005 and 2006 bullion coins, the United States Mint had already minted approximately 50% of the projected sales numbers for these coins. Any dates on shipping boxes containing uncirculated bullion coins sent to Authorized Purchasers are strictly for quality control and accounting purposes at the United States Mint at West Point. The date on the box represents the date that the box was packed, verified as 500 ounces and sealed, and the date of packaging does not necessarily correlate with the date of manufacture. The date on shipping labels and packing slips for proof coins, which are sent directly to United States Mint customers from our fulfillment center, is the date the item was packed and shipped by the fulfillment center. The other numbers on the shipping label and packing slip are used to track the order and for quality control.

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