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You want handcuffs with that?

We coin collectors have had many laughs over the years over incidents where clerks don’t recognize real cash.

The incidents usually involve paper money.

It can be a current $ 2 bill. It might be an old Silver Certificate with blue seals.

But laughing is not something I wanted to do when I saw this story.

A man went to jail because a clerk called a $ 10 bill that he had tried to spend counterfeit.

How could something get so out of hand?

I can understand a clerk making a mistake.

Some clerks I encounter act like they can hardly count.

But there is a huge difference between refusing to accept a $ 10 bill and arresting the person who tenders it.

What kind of compensation is warranted for such a thing?

Note that the Secret Service was called in.

It took them three months, if the story is correct, to determine the $ 10 was genuine.

We in the numismatic community can’t get the Secret Service to crack down on millions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit coins flooding the country.

Now we know why.

They are busy making the country safe by examining a single example of a genuine $ 10 bill.

If coin dealers have a de minimis rule for reporting cash transactions, shouldn’t the Secret Service have a de minimis rule, too?

Perhaps they shouldn’t be called in unless the suspected perpetrator has multiple examples on his person, or a wad of them in his car, or a suitcase of them stashed somewhere?

Or perhaps the local police should have to show that they have multiple passing incidents of identical fake bills.

How many?

Well, I would think more than one should be required.

You pick a number.

Two cases? Three? A half dozen in the same area?

Naturally, as a collector, I would love to see a photograph of the note that set off this whole unfortunate chain of events.

It also reminded me of a time some years ago when I was trying to spend a $ 1 Silver Certificate at the Miami Airport.

I had time to kill. I thought it would be amusing.

Well, the clerk called the manager. I had to wait.

Fortunately for me, the manager was experienced and knew what genuine but old money looked like.

Reading a story like this one about the $ 10 makes me realize that I could have been held up long enough at the airport that I could have missed my next flight.

If that had happened, trying to spend a $ 1 Silver Certificate wouldn’t have been funny at all.

Fortunately for me, the hassle was small.

Incidents like the one with the $ 10 bill will speed up our society’s migration to cashlessness.

As clerks lose what little familiarity they have with cash, who wants to be on the receiving end of a comment:

“You want handcuffs with that?”

Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017 . He is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

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Watch circulating mintages continue to shrink

The pace of circulating coin production continued to slide in the month of April.

Only 878,740,000 pieces came off the presses of the Philadelphia and Denver Mints combined.

Each month in calendar year 2018, coin production dropped from the month before.

If we annualize this four months of coin production to 12 months, the Mint would strike 13,349,142,000 pieces in 2018.

That looks like a large figure, but it would be a 10.2 percent reduction from calendar year 2017.

Sliding coinage numbers is not the usual pattern in a growing economy.

In my April 24 blog, I pointed out that the peak coin production year of the current economic growth cycle was 2015, when 17,046,700,000 ccoins were struck for circulation.

The banking crisis of 2008 caused 2009 coin output to plunge to roughly 3.5 billion, the lowest since the late 1950s.

But the trend of annual increases in coin output each year thereafter went into reverse.

The 2016 output of 16,017,410,000 was 6 percent fewer than 2015.

The 2017 production of 14,859,360,000 was 7 percent lower than 2016.

One conclusion that can be drawn from the trend is more Americans are reducing or abandoning their use of cash.

Another is that even with these shrinking numbers, there are still enough coins being struck to prevent any from becoming scarce and valuable.

That is true, unless of course you look beyond these monthly figures and go to the collectible numbers that appear each week on the Mint Statistics pages of Numismatic News.

Since 2012, the Mint has been striking circulation-finish quarters at the San Francisco Mint. They feature the “S” mintmark.

The Mint sells these quarters in bags of 100, or rolls of 40 coins, directly to collectors.

If you look at the mintages of these ongoing offers, they are little more than one million pieces each.

I did the math for the 2017 Frederick Douglass coins. The total is 1,203,840.

Will this and other America the Beautiful quarters be scarce and valuable someday?

Certainly they will be more so than run-of-the-mill quarters from Philadelphia and Denver.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017 . He is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

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Missing mintmark error discovered

Mint error alert. Time to recheck the coins you own.

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has discovered five 2014 Great Smoky Mountain 5-ounce silver America the Beautiful collector coins with a missing “P” mintmark.

The collector version of the large silver coin is supposed to have a “P” mintmark on the obverse under IN GOD WE TRUST.

In contrast, the regular version sold to bullion investors does not have a mintmark.

You can guess how this error came to be.

A missing mintmark is a wonderfully collectible error.

Every collector can see it.

They can understand it.

They don’t need extreme magnification.

They don’t need to understand error collecting mumbo-jumbo.

The “P” is visible or it is absent.

What can be simpler?

Well, not so fast.

There can be some confusion.

Last year, when more No “S” proof cents in 1990 proof sets were reported, I received numerous emailed images of circulation strike 1990 Philadelphia cents.

The senders had leaped to the conclusion that because the coin had no mintmark, it must be valuable.

In the case of this 5-ounce coin discovery, it must be remembered that the collector version with a “P” mintmark has a vapor-blasted surface that leaves a granular-looking matte surface.

The standard regular bullion coin without a “P” mark has a brilliant, or shiny, reflective surface.

Since neither version of these 5-ounce coins can be found in circulation, I do not expect a flood of emails inquiring about the error.

NGC grades investment coins as Mint State and the collector version with the matte surface as Specimen.

David J. Camire, NGC finalizer and error specialist, said the error probably happened “when coins intended to be sold as Mint State versions (and therefore without the “P” mintmark) were accidentally mixed with coins designated to be vapor-blasted, which happens after the coins are struck.

“The vapor-blasted missing mintmark coins were then individually packaged along with the other Specimen issues and sold by the U.S. Mint.

“It is not known how many of these errors were released, or if others await discovery.”

What is known by NGC is “all of the coins had arrived at NGC in the standard U.S. Mint packaging for the Specimen issues and the error was unnoticed until the first NGC grader examined the coins.

“A fifth example was discovered in a separate submission.”

The sharp-eyed grader deserves a pat on the back.

Modern Coin Mart, which submitted the coins for grading, is to be congratulated on its good fortune.

What’s each of these coins worth?

How many zeroes after a numeral will be attached?

Modern Coin Mart is an expert marketing firm. I expect we will find out soon.

For the rest of us, if you have some collector “P” mintmarked 2014 America the Beautiful coins, you had better check them out again just to be sure the mintmark is there.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017 . He is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

• Like this blog? Read more by subscribing to Numismatic News.

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