Dear Mr. Berko: I saw in a recent edition of USA Today that the federal Mint is offering (to use your word) a Golconda — selling individual state $100 bills at only $99. These are beautiful productions that look exactly like $100 bills, except the symbol of your state is embossed on the front. Each is made of 1 ounce of silver, and these 100s are struck in high relief and have a 0.999 pure silver proof finish. A friend of mine has six of them, and they’re absolutely beautiful. Mary Ellen Withrow — the 40th U.S. treasurer — claimed in the paper: “We can barely keep up with all the orders.” These are the first and only “State Silver” 100s ever struck by the U.S. Mint. And everyone living outside the United States must pay $198 for the State Silver 100s. I could buy 10 of these and sell them for a big profit. — RE, Erie, Pa.
Dear RE: I’ve seen the advertisement in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and, surprisingly, even my hometown newspaper. I’ve also seen the State Silver 100s themselves, and suffice it to say that they shine and sparkle like GIA-certified flawless 5-carat diamonds. They glitter. They’re exquisite. They’re dazzling. But they’re a colossal rip-off.
First be mindful that the Federated Mint (a private for-profit company in North Canton, Ohio) is not in any way related to the federal Mint, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Then be mindful that though these brightly shining bills contain 1 ounce of silver, 1 ounce of silver is worth about $17. So the Federated Mint grosses $82 on every one of these 100s it sells. Meanwhile, thousands and thousands of stupids out there are willing to pay $99 for this bauble. If you decided to make a $1,000 mortgage payment with 10 of these “$100” gimcracks, the bank would laugh you all the way to the curb.
Those full-page Federated Mint advertisements are so chock-full of misleading and contestable hyperbole that I’m gabberflasted even stupids like you fall for the crap printed there. And I’m especially flabbergasted that The Wall Street Journal and other papers would run those duplicitous ads. Mary Ellen Withrow says the response for these 100s is like a modern-day gold rush. What tommyrot. It’s embarrassing when a former treasurer of the U.S. stoops so low as to claim, “Everyone wants to get their hands on the first and only State Silver 100s now being handed over to U.S. residents at just the state minimum.” She also said to “get as many of these new State Silver 100s as you can before they’re all gone.” Shame on you, Mary Ellen. Holy moly, great googly moogly and holy frijole, if readers believe this and “the phone lines are ringing off the hook,” then I have frightful reservations about the future of America. And I think newspaper publishers ought to be more circumspect about the ads they print. They know that such ads in their papers give the products some form of legitimacy.
Please be mindful that you’ll be able to buy these baubles at the same price six months from now or a year from now. Federated has a big inventory, and I guarantee you there’s no scarcity of these 100s. Consider buying just one for $99. When it arrives, enjoy talking about it, touching it and holding it for six or so months. Then take it to a jeweler, telling him or her that you want to sell it. I doubt that he or she will offer you $10 for it.
Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at email@example.com. To find out more about Malcolm Berko and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.