Saturday, September 13, 2014

What do Coin Rings and the NSA have in common?

NSA are the initials for a government organization known as the National Security Agency.  They are located on the edge of Ft. Geo G. Meade in Maryland. The National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) is home to America's codemakers and codebreakers. By its very nature, what NSA/CSS does as a key member of the Intelligence Community requires a high degree of confidentiality. The NSA could easily be thought of as the most secret government organization in all the USA.

Probably you are not seeing any obvious links between the NSA and the "art" of crafting coin rings.  Well, when I first got interested in learning how to make a ring from a coin - I had no idea that I was about to enter a world of "black art" and closely guarded secrets, similar at least in nature to the NSA.

Nevertheless, as I probed the Internet to learn what knowledge was available to me; it did not take me long to figure out that only a small handful of coin ring makers actually know the secret  "guarded fabrication techniques" - and NONE of them were divulging any of their special techniques, tools and methods.  Similar I guess to the way craftsmen at craft shows guard and protect their methods and designs. Now, of course if you look on YouTube, you will find a nice selection of videos, wherein it "appears" the authors are explaining how to make a ring from a piece of currency.  In ALL the videos I've seen; they all plainly describe what I would call The Hammer and Mandrel Technique. Further, the unsuspecting novice has not a clue that what they are being taught is really a very primitive and basic method; quite common knowledge throughout the Internet, and has been for several years.

And, if the novice follows this "common" technique (to the letter), their resultant coin rings will come out looking like 95% of the coin rings you see for sale on Etsy, Ebay and other sites on the Internet.  However, the other 5% of the coin rings, made by that handful of coin ring makers, that know the secret "guarded fabrication techniques", look NOTHING like the other 95%.  Their coin rings look beautiful, most have a rounded or domed shape and are perfectly finished. While the other 95% have been made with the "hammer and mandrel technique", and come out having a definite cone or wedge shape (such as the one pictured here), they retain details on the outside but very few on the inside and a finish that is only mediocre at best. Naturally, most of the 95% would like to know the secrets used by the 5%. And therein lies the problem (for the 95%) - the 5% ain't talking; kind of like the folks that work for the NSA.

Now for most of the 95%, they still turn out their "kind" of coin rings. They sell a few now and again, but they also end up giving them away. Then there are a few of us, new to the craft, that are determined to learn the secret techniques (and tools), either from someone who leaks them to us, or merely by our own trials and errors. You see, to a few of us determined individuals, finding out that "hidden information" is keeping us from turning out a more admirable product is like pouring gasoline on a fire. It just makes us all that much more determined and resolute in our quest for "the holy grail" - so to speak. And, no matter which way we learn the "secrets"; it is hard-fought for information, hence we become part of the 5%, with our lips sealed, and the saga continues. 

It is interesting really to see the lengths that some will go to in order to keep their secrets from becoming known. I'm pretty sure I could never stoop this low but here is just one example that I know of, and I'm sure there are others. One of the "senior" members of that 5% group actually puts out instructional videos (YouTube) and other information on his blog. When a novice finds this information, and views the videos, they truly believe what they are being told. They follow the instructions to the letter, because the coin rings this fellow sells are beautiful. Yet, when they follow the instructions and the videos, they always end up with a sub-standard result; kind of like the one pictured above. Do you know why they can never get the "beautiful" result?  It is quite simple really; this particular maker holds back his secret techniques, tools and methods. All he really gives out is the same old Hammer and Mandrel Technique. That way, no matter how closely the novice follows his instructions - they can NEVER produce anything but a sub-standard coin ring.  Thus, that senior member of the 5% has protected his secret for all time. That is kind of an extreme case of protecting the secret techniques and tools.  But, I suppose it is cheaper than applying for a US Patent.

Some of the others belonging to the 5% merely get on discussion boards, or post video instructions where they pretend to give out some information, but in reality they are not sharing anything that cannot be found in hundreds of other places on the Internet, and are really excerpts, bits and pieces of the Hammer and Mandrel Technique.   Or, sometimes I've seen them just taunt the novice coin ring maker by showing them some really beautiful coin rings and then brag that they know the "secrets" and they are not giving them up.

Well, now you know what Coin Rings and the NSA have in common.  They are both very secret organizations.  So, in reading this particular posting, did you discern which group (5% or 95%) I am in?  Well, certainly I started out in the 95% group - but today I could be in the 5% group. I can't really divulge any more than that.... sorry... <grin>.


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