There was a Half Disme? Really?

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?

*Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.com

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?

There was a Seated Liberty design on United States coins?

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.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.com

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”.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.com

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?

Two Cents worth? Yep

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.

photo courtesy of Wikipedia.com

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.”

Large motto photo courtesy of Wikipedia.com
small motto photo courtesy of Wikipedia.com

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.

Have you seen one of these really cool coins?

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?

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?

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?

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?

Two Cents worth? Yep

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 very heavily 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.

800px-1865_two_cent_obverse
Photo courtesy Wikipedia.com

Even though there were other mints actively producing coins in the United States 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.

Have you seen one of these really cool coins?

small-motto
Small motto courtesy Wikipedia.com

large-motto
Large motto courtesy Wikipedia.com