When 1792 rolled around, the United States started to produce coins under the Coinage Act Of 1792. Some of the coins that the United States mint (which is based in Philadelphia) include a half dollar, a cent, and even some gold pieces. But did you know that they also produced a coin called a half disme?
Pictured above is one of the early examples of a half disme, which ultimately became a half dime. The face value of the piece is what the name suggests it was worth 5 cents. The coin was produced in pure silver up to the time it was renamed in 1873.
The coin was renamed to 5 cent piece, which is what it is called today, and today one of the nicknames for it is “nickel” (which is a pretty good description for the metal which it is made of).
What kind weird names have you heard a coin called?
This was an actual design that the United States mint produced from 1836 through 1891. The design was produced at the main mint in Philadelphia, as well as the branch mints in San Francisco, Carson City, and even New Orleans.
This design was put on the half dime (which later became the 5-cent piece), dime, quarter, twenty cent piece, half dollar, and even the dollar.
Because there were so many years and denominations, this gives you a massive assortment of coins to choose from to form a collection. Each denomination has its rare examples (it could be a rare year, mint mark or die variety), so it might take some hunting and some saving on your part to find them.
The design itself even gives you another way to collect them. In 1853 and 1873, weights of the each of the denominations were changed by the U.S. mint. When they did this, they added arrows around the date. These arrows were then removed in 1856 and 1875, so you could collect either or both styles. A lot of the times, you will see the coin being described as “with arrows” or “without arrows”.
You can see that the coin pictured above is the “without arrows” variety around the date.
This design also has some stars near the edge (this is on the same side that Miss Liberty is on). These stars were then replaced with rays around Miss Liberty in 1860. Like with the arrows, you will sometimes see these coins described as “with rays” or “without rays”.
The “with rays” variety can be seen on the photo above on the eagle side.
“Buy the book before the coin” is a famous saying to keep in mind when you are about to embark on collecting this design.
Have you run across this design either at a flea market, antique mall, a show, or even a coin shop?
Did you know that there was actually a 2-cent coin that was produced by the United States mint?
The Two Cent piece officially ran from 1864 to 1872, but there was a copy made for collectors in 1873.
The economic turmoil of the American Civil War caused any and all government-issued coins to vanish from circulation (they were hoarded by the public) Even the Indian Head cent—which was made of bronze—was pretty much gone from circulation (The Coinage Act Of 1864 authorized the cent to switch to a bronze composition and the production of the Two Cent coin).
Even though there were other mints actively producing coins at the time, this coin was only produced at the mint based in Philadelphia. What this means is that there will not be a mint mark anywhere (which is the way this mint was marking the coins until 1980).
Two of the more famous die varieties happened in 1864. One is called the “large motto,” and the other is called the “small motto.” These two varieties deal with the motto, “In God We Trust.” The words IN, GOD, and TRUST has some small differences, while the word WE has the most differences. It all hinges on the size of it, and it is very noticeable. The WE on “large motto” is larger than the WE on the “small motto.”
The “small motto” is much scarcer than the “large motto.” The best idea is to keep an eye out for it in case you might walk across a case full of coins at a mall, or happen to be at a coin shop or show.
Greenbacks, moola, clams and even loot—we have all heard some of the nicknames for paper money. What are some that may not be as well known?
We all know that the $1 bill is sometimes called a “single,” a “buck,” a “greenback” but did you know that it’s even called an “ace”?
The $2 bill is sometimes referred to as a “deuce” and it is even called a “Tom”.
The $5 bill has been referred to as a “fin”, “fiver” or even a “five-spot”, but did you know that the $10 bill is called a “sawbuck“? And since we are talking about sawbucks, the $20 bill is also called a “double sawbuck”.
Horse racing gamblers are known to call the $50 bill a “frog” and it is considered unlucky.
The $50 bill is a “half a yard” while the $100 bill is called a “yard”, so $300 is “3 yards”.
“A rack” is $10,000 in the form of one hundred $100 bills that was banded by a bank. The nickname “Blue cheese” is the new U.S. 100-dollar bill that was introduced in 2009 (this deals with the color of the bill).
The United States Mint has also printed $1000 notes occasionally, and they are referred to as “large” (“twenty large” being $20,000, etc.).
In slang, a thousand dollars may also be referred to as a “stack” and is also known as a “band”.
$100,000 US dollars is called a “brick”. This is only a small portion of the nicknames for the United States money that you will run across. What have you heard?
1913 was a big year for the United States Mint. This was the year that the mint rolled out a new design that is called the Buffalo nickel. This is also the year that 5 Liberty Head nickels were produced.
There were only five issues of the Liberty Head nickel. All of the examples of the nickel are accounted for, so making a counterfeit is tougher. Even though it is tougher, there are still some ways to make a counterfeit example of this coin (and there are plenty out there).
The first way a counterfeit coin can be made is called the lost wax method. This type of method takes some wax and embeds one side of an authentic coin into it. Once the coin is removed, an image of half of the coin is left behind. This process is done for both sides. Since all of the 1913 nickels are accounted for, the person creating the mold redoes the year portion on the mold to read 1913. The two molds are put together and a hole is formed in the mold and molten metal is poured into the mold, creating a coin. The wax is then taken off of the coin (or it could have melted away when the metal was poured in) and any excess metal is filed off and the coin is finished.
One way to tell this type of counterfeit is by looking at the edge of the coin. There is a good possibility that there will be the remnants of a seam from the mold. Also look at the date of the coin. 1903, 1910, or even 1908 Liberty Head nickels are very plentiful, and it would be easy to alter these dates. Examine the coin for any possible date tampering.
Another way to counterfeit a coin is to create your own set of dies. This method, if done right, can create some coins that can come very close to looking like the real deal. Just like the lost wax method, a die will need to be made for each side of the coin. The dies can either be heated up and a host coin is imbedded into it, or the dies can be engraved if the person is good enough. The date is going to be harder to disguise, since the die is made of metal.
This method makes it tougher to tell if you have a fake or not. One thing to look for is what’s called a “weak strike.” When someone produces a coin from a pair of homemade dies, the images on the coin (like Miss Liberty) are more than likely going to be faded or missing in spots. The areas to look at are the edges of the obverse and the reverse. So, if you run across a 1913 Liberty head nickel, be cautious.
What kinds of items have you run across that made you think twice about it?
The nickname “Little Half-Sister” in the world of coin collecting is directly tied to the half cent coin produced by the United States mint.
This coin first came about with the Coinage Act Of 1792 (this law established the United States mint and regulated the coinage of the United States). The coin was produced from 1793 to 1857 and was made of 100 % copper (there were a few years along the way that a half cent was not produced).
There are no mint marks on any of the half cents that
were ever produced, and this is because of the fact that they were made at the
Although half cents were issued for more than 60 years,
they remained one America’s unwanted coins. They proved to be of little use, and
they were often kept in storage at the Mint. Production of this coin
(often stopped for a couple of years) was often interrupted by shortages of
copper and lack of demand. After a few years, the mint turned to English
based companies to produce the planchet for the coin (the war of 1812 stopped
this, and the US went back to producing the planchets for the coins).
This denomination would make a great conversation piece and would be a great way to help introduce people to coin collecting.
Have you run across one of these “little half-sisters” yet?
The United States has produced some interesting coins,
and the Three Cent piece is definitely one of them.
The term “trimes” is widely used today as a
nickname for these coins. That nickname was first used by the mint
director James Ross Snowden at the time of their production.
The United States started to produce this coin in 1851 as
a result of the decrease in postage rates (which went from five cents to
three). The mint also started to offer this coin to answer the need
for a small-denomination, easy-to-handle coin. This coin was
released in silver (the silver content was raised in 1854) to help encourage
Silver coins were hoarded in the early 1800’s–and when
the Civil War erupted, silver coins were hoarded even more. This led
to the Three Cent piece getting hoarded as well. Because of this,
the United States mint would eventually print fractional currency (paper money
with a face value of 3 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 15 cents, 25 cents, and 50
The composition was changed in 1865 to
nickel. The design of the coin was also changed when the composition
was changed, so it’s easy to tell the nickel variety from the silver one.
Production of the trime began to taper off in the 1870’s, but mintage of the coin did not come to an end until a couple of years later in 1889.
Like with any coin, there are unlimited ways to collect this denomination. Will it be just silver examples? Nickel copies? Certain years or die varieties? It is completely up to you.
When it comes to the designs on United States coins,
there are many different designs. There are
the Seated liberty coins and even the Barber coins series. There are also coins that feature presidents,
eagles, and roman numerals—there’s enough to make your head spin!
One of these designs is the Capped Bust series. There’s one question that comes to mind about this design—what exactly is it?
John Reich designed the capped-head concept of Liberty, and it was modified by the United States Chief Engraver of the Mint, William Kneass.
The design proved to be a popular one—it lasted several years on the circulating coins. The half dollar ran from 1807 to 1839, the quarter’s design ran from 1815 to 1838, the dime ran from 1809 to 1837, and the half dime ran 1829 to 1837.
There was a capped bust design on the gold coins, and it is more popularly known as the “Turban Head”. This name was because it had an unusual and exotic appearance, and this design ran from 1795 to 1834.
The Capped Bust coin series is still very popular today with coin collectors, and this is but one of the designs that you will run across. What designs have you seen?
The Liberty Head nickel is a 5-cent coin that was produced by the United States mint starting in 1883 until it was replaced by the Buffalo nickel starting in 1913. It has a simple design with the portrait of Liberty wearing a coronet and wreath on the obverse while the reverse has the Roman Numeral V surrounded by a wreath on the reverse.
In 1883, the coin had a word missing from its design—the word CENTS (it only had the V on the obverse designating the denomination of the coin). Another problem that this coin had was that close in size to the $5 gold piece. To top it off, the two coins had a similar design as well.
The racketeer nickel came about soon after the U.S. mint issued the Liberty nickel in 1883. What happened was this nickel got a gold plating on it to make it look like the $5 gold piece even more.
There are stories about the gold-plated coin being pawned
off as the legitimate $5 gold piece at stores or even poker games.
There is even a story of a man named Josh Tatum. One version states that he could not speak,
and I have even heard that he was deaf and could not speak. In the story, Josh would walk into a store
and get a 5-cent cigar. He then would pay
with the gold-plated coin and get $4.95 back in change.
After doing this a few times, Josh was arrested and tried
in a court of law for his actions. Josh
was exonerated since no one heard him speak—they didn’t know if he knew if it
was a 5-cent coin or the $5 gold piece.
The United States mint halted the production of the Liberty
Head nickels as the design was changed with the addition of the word CENTS on
the reverse—the revised nickel was issued on June 26, 1883.
When you run across an 1883 Liberty Head nickel you need
to see it has the word CENTS or not. Out
of the two different varieties (one is called WITH CENTS and the other is
called WITHOUT CENTS)—the WITH CENTS variety costs a little more.
What kinds of stories like the “racketeer
nickel” have you heard?
When it comes to the United States Mint, did you know
that there have been several branch mints that have been opened in different
cities other than Philadelphia? There
are several locations across the country, and here are some of them:
Carson City Mint—this was a branch mint found in Carson City Nevada. This Mint primarily made silver coins from 1870 to the early 1890’s due to the vast amounts of silver being mined in that area. Carson City minted coins are easily identified by the “CC” mint mark that they put on them.
The Dahlonega Mint—this is a former branch of the Mint that was based in Dahlonega, Georgia. The coins produced at the Dahlonega Mint bear the “D” mint mark, which is the same mint mark that is used today by the Denver Mint. All the coins from this mint are gold (the $1, $2.50, $3, and $5 denominations were made there). The coins that were made there were made from 1838 to 1861, and this mint was built during the Georgia Gold Rush to help the miners get their gold assayed and minted. This way, they didn’t have to travel to the Philadelphia Mint.
The Denver Mint is another branch mint that struck its first coins on February 1, 1906. The mint is still going strong and producing coins for circulation (as well as mint sets and commerative coins). Like the Dahlonega mint, coins produced at the Denver Mint bear a D mint mark. It has been said that the Denver Mint is the largest producer of coins in the world.
The San Francisco mint—this branch mint was opened in 1854 to serve the gold mines during the California Gold Rush. The mint quickly outgrew its first building and moved into a new one in 1874. This building was also known affectionately as “The Granite Lady”, and this building is one of the few that survived the great San Francisco Earthquake in 1906. It served until 1937, when the current facility was opened.
The New Orleans Mint—this branch mint operated in New Orleans, Louisiana from 1838 to 1861 and then again from 1879 to 1909. When the mint was operating, it produced over 427 million gold and silver coins of nearly every American denomination (this has a total face value of over $307 million). It was closed during most of the American Civil War and Reconstruction. The mint was formally decommissioned by the mint in 1911.
There are several more branch mints that are still open today like the ones at Fort Knox and West Point. Which mint marks have you run across?