There really was a 1913 Liberty Nickel?

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?

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The Little Half-Sister for United States coins

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. 

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.com
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.com

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 Philadelphia mint.

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?

Need a Trime? That will be 3 cents!

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 circulation.

Photo By Bobby131313 for wikimedia.com

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 cents).

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.

Photo By Bobby131313 for wikimedia.com

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.

Have you run across one of these cool coins?

What exactly is a Capped Bust Coin series from the United States?

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?

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia.com

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.

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia.com

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?

A brief history of the 1883 Racketeer Nickel

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.

No Cent variety courtesy of Wikipedia.com

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.

With Cents variety courtesy of Wikipedia.com

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.

5 Dollar gold coin courtesy of Wikipedia.com

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?

There is more than one location for the United States Mint to produce coins?

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?

What in the world is an encased postage stamp?

In 1862, the United States was smack dab in the middle of a coin shortage.  It was bad, really bad.  Everything was being horded—even the cent was being stockpiled.

An American entrepreneur and inventor by the name of John Gault created something to help with this—the encased postage stamp.

The encased postage stamp is a stamp that was inserted into a small coin-size case.  This case has a transparent front or back. This type of “coin” was circulated as legal tender during periods when coins were scarce.

John Gault was pretty savvy—he saw two ways to make money off of his creation.   The first way was to sell them to businesses and stores that had a high demand for coins.  He sold his encased stamps at 20% of the face value of the stamp.

The second way that he made money was to sell the blank back of the case of the coin as advertising.  There is a minimum of thirty different companies that took up the advertising on the coins.  All of the different companies lend to find some great and different varieties on this type of coin.

Encased postage stamps circulated for about a year (until about the middle of 1863).  This is when the fractional currency released by United States Government became popular enough to help ease the coin shortage.

There were also some other factors that helped bring encased postage stamps to an end.  One reason was was that the postage stamps that were being used for this started to become unavailable.  Not only that, it cost more to buy the encased postage than what they were actually valued at in the market.

Encased postage stamps are rare today with a small fraction of the 750,000 that were originally sold surviving.

This is just one item people came up with over the years to help with coin shortages over the years.  Do you know of any other ways?

Look at all the different names that coins go by!

When I picked up my first copy of the Guide Book of United States Coins Book by Richard S. Yeoman (this is also called the “red book”), I noticed that there were tons of names and nicknames that coins go by.

It really made my head spin—I had to stop and figure out what was what.  I realized that coins often get nicknames that are more popular than their real name.  Here’s some of the nicknames that you will hear:

Half eagle—this is another name for a United States $5 gold coin.

Eagle—this is a nickname for gold $10 coins that were made up until 1932.  The reason for the nickname is that the coin featured an eagle design on the back.

Trime—this is a nickname for the US three cent coin.  The US mint made this coin in the 1800s.

Double dime—this is a nickname for the 20-cent coin made by the United States mint during the mid-late 1800’s.

Iron dollar—this is a nickname for the US silver dollar from the 1800’s.  The phrase was primarily used in the northeastern portion of the United States, and this phrase was used by people who disliked carrying silver dollars due to their heavy weight.

Mercury dime—this nickname was for the US 10 cent piece that was made between 1916 and 1945.  Even though it was called the Winged Liberty Head dime at the beginning, the name “mercury” dime quickly caught on with the public when it was compared to the Roman god Mercury.

This is just some of the nicknames that you will hear.  Which ones have you heard?

Some of the terminology you hear about cleaning coins

When I first started to collect coins, I found several articles talking about cleaning coins.  I found out that there was a special vocabulary when it comes to this area.  Here’s some of the words that you will run across quite a bit:

Slider—this is a term meaning the coin simulates a higher grade than it really is. Often, a slider has been cleaned, treated, or whizzed to give it the appearance of being uncirculated or even Mint State.  This type of coin is worth less than the coin that has not been cleaned.

Whizzed—this is a coin that has been buffed or polished to give it the appearance of the luster found on a mint coin.  More often than not, whizzing is done on a slightly lower-grade coin to try to sell the coin at a higher grade than it really is.  This is sometimes done by using a fine brush attachment on a high-speed drill.  Doing this may hurt the value of a coin rather than help it.  This is because it causes wear to the surface of the coin.  See buffing.

Brushed—this is a coin that has been brushed with a wire brush or some other material.  The surface will show fine lines, or hairline scratches from the cleaning.

Buffing—this is a polishing of a coin with an abrasive that leaves a finish that attempts to counterfeit mint luster.  See whizzed.

Artificial toning—this is when you change the color or surface tone of a coin by applying chemicals, heat, or treating a coin with something.  This is done to make the coin appear natural or unusual.  It’s also done to cover up signs that the coin has been cleaned.

This is just a small list of what you will run across when it deals with cleaned coins.  What have you heard?

The crazy world of coin collecting and its vocabulary

When I started collecting coins when I was younger, I found out that the crazy thing about it was the vocabulary.  It’s the craziest thing that I have ever heard—there’s about Good and about uncirculated (which are both terms that you use to grade a coin).  There’s even a matte proof, an inverted date, and even a hub.

Here’s some more words that will make your head spin:

Bag mark—these are marks on a coin that occur when coins bump into each other.  This could happen when they are placed in bags at the mint or being moved in the bag. Larger size coins typically exhibit more bag marks than smaller ones due to their size.

Rim—this is the raised edge of a coin that’s created by a machine called the upsetting mill. The idea of a rim is that if the edge on both sides of the coin is raised as high as the design it will help protect the coins design from wear.  This way the coin can be in circulation a little longer without being replaced.

Walker—this is a nick name for the United States Walking Liberty Half dollar.  The design was made between 1916 and 1947, and this is thought by some to be one of the US most beautiful coin designs. The current American Silver Eagles that United States makes have the same design on their obverse.

These are just a few of the terms that I’ve heard over the years.  What have you heard?