Suit filed over Liberty coins
by Anne Wallace Allen
Coins seized by
federal agents in Coeur d'Alene and elsewhere in
Liberty Dollar has minted gold and silver
medallions in denominations of $50, $20, $10 and
$5. Founder Bernard von NotHaus said the coins
will prove a better investment than U.S.
government-backed currency. "Most people think
prices have gone up, but in reality it is the
value of the U.S. dollar that has gone down,"
von NotHaus said. "Real money like gold and
silver holds its value."
Twelve people who said they bought the coins
being touted as an alternative to legal tender
have sued the government in a federal court in
Idaho to get their coins back.
Federal agents seized the gold and silver coins
from the Sunshine Mint warehouse in Coeur
"I didn't lose very much at all, about $158,"
said John Crowe of Rupert, who holds
certificates to coins he bought from a company
called Liberty Dollar Inc. "But the government
has no right just to seize my property."
Privately minted medallions intended as
collectibles are nothing new. But the ones at
issue, promoted by Bernard von NotHaus of Miami
and made of gold or silver, are promoted as
barter currency on von NotHaus' Liberty Dollar
Web site. Von NotHaus, described as "monetary
architect" on the site, said the medallions hold
their value better than the government's
"The price will fluctuate, but nothing like the
U.S. dollar is doing today, and nothing like
it's about to do tomorrow," he said Monday. "We
need a new gold standard."
Under a gold standard, currency can be converted
into a fixed amount of gold. The United States
went off the gold standard in 1971. U.S.
currency today is backed primarily by faith in
the dollar, not gold.
Though von NotHaus said he is careful not to
promote his coins as legal tender, in 2006 the
U.S. Mint warned consumers that von NotHaus'
company - then known as NORFED - was breaking
federal law. In November, agents seized tons of
coins from six warehouses in Coeur d'Alene,
North Carolina, California and Evansville, Ind.,
where Liberty Dollar's "Fulfillment Center" has
its headquarters. NotHaus said Sunshine Minting,
the Coeur d'Alene company where the coins were
seized, no longer makes coins for him.
"They were raided, and they weren't happy about
it," he said.
Last week, a dozen people holding certificates
for von NotHaus' coins sued to get it back.
Crowe, of Rupert, said he's one of 1,700 people
supporting the lawsuit. Crowe added he thinks
the money was seized because von NotHaus also
created thousands of copper and silver
medallions bearing a likeness of Ron Paul, the
Libertarian-leaning Republican former
"We were going to bring them into the public
arena during the primaries," Crowe said. "Not
only has the government taken property that
belongs to people who haven't broken any law ...
they have also altered the possibility of the
way history might have gone. Had all these Ron
Paul copper and silver medallions been put in
circulation at the time, it would have been
Von NotHaus said the government took the coins
to stifle competition from his company. He
planned to sue in Indiana Tuesday over the
Evansville seizure and in the other two states
Meanwhile, he's still producing medallions - he
won't say where - and still using them.
"I pay for haircuts and clothes and services and
car repairs" with them, said von NotHaus, who
lists businesses on his Web site that accept the
coins (including four in Idaho).
And he's raising money for a legal fight. Von
NotHaus expects Idaho - where Ron Paul earned a
strong 24 percent of Republican primary votes in
May - to be a good place to fight. At the GOP
state convention earlier this month, Idaho
Republicans voted to abolish the Federal Reserve
System and return to the gold standard.
"The judge will make a decision in our favor and
will vindicate the liberty dollar, or - I can't
imagine this happening in Idaho - he might agree
with the government, and then we'll appeal," he
Calls to Thomas Ascik, the assistant U.S.
attorney in North Carolina handling the case,
were not returned Monday.