Missouri Numismatic Society President Chris Sutter saw last week's item about the 'Unsearched Vault Bags' Consumer Warning, and kindly passed along a related article he wrote last July for the MNS's annual publication, the Missouri Journal of Numismatics. With permission, we're republishing the article here. Thanks!
Coin Investment Offer
by C. Joseph Sutter
In the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the exclusive St. Louis newspaper, advertisements have
been appearing over the past year offering coin investments. As a coin collector these
ads seem to offer numismatic investments to the uninformed. They offer fantastic
deals and claim that collectors and dealers will be attempting to purchase all the item
quantities before the general public has a chance.
So what is the story behind these ads?
For this article, five ads covering five different items were reviewed. These ads appeared
in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on December 15, 2020, January 20, 2021, January 26,
2021, April 08, 2021 and June 7, 2021.
The ads were all headlined by
ADVERTISMENT followed by, except for the last ad,
SPECIAL ADVERTISMENT FEATURE. They offered, respectfully:
Bags of over 100 U.S. Gov't issued coins dating back to the 1800's, limit
First Bank of the United States Jumbo Gold bars with the destination state
stamped on it, no limit
Rolls of ten Morgan Silver Dollars labelled with State of Missouri
RESTRICTED on the wrapper, limit four
Rolls of ten Missouri one ounce silver ingots, limit four
Bags of three pound (over 100) U.S. Gov't issued coins dating back to the
1800's, no limit.
Where are these ads from? Canton, Ohio. To be more precise: The Lincoln Treasury,
Inc (ad 1) and the National Mint and Treasury (ads 3,4) are in Canton while the Federated
Mint, LLC (ads 2,5) is in Massillon which is 8 miles from Canton.
Other interesting observations:
The bags in ads 1 and 5 look identical. Both ads state that after the bags were
filled, my emphasis, the dates were never searched and the bags were sealed
The gold bars not only have Property of the First Bank of the United States
stamped on them they also say
EST. 1791 making you think the bars were
created back then. They are also stamped
Missouri which conflicts with the
1791 date since Missouri did not exist until 1821
The bars are stamped
.999 Gold and state
a full 20 ounces of 24 Karat Gold
and valuable bullion copper. Since another part of the ad tells you these are
mainly copper the offering firm would tell you that the ad is not misleading you
into thinking more gold is present then actually is. I believe it is misleading.
All the offers are restricted to local residents: Missouri residents (ads 2,3,4) or
selected zip codes (ads 1,5)
All the offers are time conditioned: two days or 48 hours. Note: since these are
the same time frame the advertisers are probably seeing which of the references
yields the best results
All offers have penalties if the deadline is missed: offer extended to beyond stated
group and/or increased price.
None of the offers provide grades of the coins.
Browsing the offering firms websites:
National Mint and Treasury – website just has text from ad 3
the Federated Mint, LLC – due to coronavirus concerns their phone lines
are closed. They are trying to ship previously received orders. It says this
in June 2021 even though most businesses have moved on from this
The Lincoln Treasury, Inc – they do have an active website which features
items similar to those offered in the ads.
So what about the price, is it a good one?
$49 per bag. The ad shows a 1908-S Indian Cent (value estimated in the ad at
$90.00), a 1914-D Lincoln Cent (value estimated at $215.00) and a 1943-S Steel
Lincoln Cent (value estimated at $6.00) but does not indicate the grade of these
coins nor promise that one of these will be in the bag.
$49 per ounce or $980 for a brick, the basic sales unit. A Brick is four bars, each
bar is five ounces. Each bar is five ounces of high demand bullion copper layered
in 24 karat gold. With copper at $4.27 / ounce that's $85.40 for the twenty ounce
Brick. Depending on the amount of gold in the layer, $980 seem high.
$59 per coin $590 per roll. Since each Morgan dollar contains .77344 ounces of
silver and silver is under $30 per ounce and condition is not specified, $59 seems
$79 per coin $790 per roll. Similar to Morgan Dollar. While these coins are one
ounce of .999 silver $79 seems high.
$980 per bag. In one part of the ad these coins are: silver, scarce collectible and
non-circulating U.S. coins. When describing the coins they include bicentennial
quarters, wheat cents and Buffalo nickels. The descriptions conflict. Seems high.
The words in the ads were chosen to instill confidence in the buyer if they are not read
carefully and analyzed to determine their meaning. For example: stating that the coins in
ads 1 and 5 were not searched after sealing them in the bags implies un-searched coins.
A careful reading discovers that the coins could have been selected before placing them
in the bag.
The ads also contain quotes from famous or at least famous sounding people to justify the
value of the items. Ads 2 and 5 use Mary Ellen Withrow as a source. Who is Mary Ellen
Withrow? She was the 40th Treasurer of the United States. Appointed by Bill Clinton
she served from 1994 – 2001. She is ninety years old. The ads call her emeritus Treasurer which is a fancy way of saying she was formerly in the job. She is not quoted as
to the value of the items, only about how they are offered. If you think she is
recommending the purchase, she is not. She is telling you that a limited window of
Ad 3, for the Morgan Silver Dollars is representative of the potentially misleading word
choices. The ad does not refer to Mary Ellen Withrow by name, instead she is
Treasurer of the United States of America. She is quoted as saying In all my years as
Treasurer I've only ever seen a handful of these rare Morgan Silver Dollars issued by the
Gov't back in the 1880's. Since Morgan Dollars are easily available and can be found at
numerous coin shows or retail locations by numerous dealers, her statement lacks
credibility. The ad mentions the possibility of finding a 1892-S worth thousands of
dollars in the unsearched rolls. It does state that
there are never any guarantees. I agree
with the ad on this point.
The ad refers to the rolls as
Restricted because the coins are placed in a paper wrapper
with the words
RESTRICTED / FOR MISSOURI STATE RESIDENTS ONLY printed
on them. I am not sure how restricted this really is. In fact any roll not purchased within
the time window maybe be purchased by non-Missouri residents, for an increased amount
of $136 / coin or $1,360 a roll.
While no grade for the Morgan Dollars is provided, ad 3 does mention the Official Red
Book, A Guide Book of United States Coins and illustrates four specific coins: 1886-S,
1888-S, 1896-S and 1899-P. Looking at the 2021 addition of the book the values stated
in the ad match the values for grades vf-20 through ms-60. The ad also states that all
Morgan's are worth a minimum of $125. Of course they did not offer the 1881-S or
1882-S as examples.
The offering firm's websites do not inspire much confidence since one is basically
shut down, another only has the one ad in it and the third offers a few similar type items.
None of the websites provide information about the company or other pertinent
Are these good deals? I admit that I entered this research with a closed mind. I thought
the ads were intending to sell overpriced numismatic items to unknowledgeable people.
Since ad 3 say the rolls make
amazing gifts for … children, parents, grandparents,
friends or loved ones, it does not appear that the target market is collectors. No collector
would think this is money well spent. Nothing in my research changed my mind. I
believe the items are vastly over-priced and should be avoided.
Chris couldn't provide images of the specific ads reviewed, but he was able to send the above image from a February 4, 2022 Post-Dispatch ad featuring Walking Liberty Half Dollars. Thanks.
To read the complete journal issue on the Newman Numismatic Portal, see:
Missouri Journal of Numismatics, Missouri Numismatic Society (2021)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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