Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Everybody Needs a Hobby

With counterfeit coins in the news lately, I came across a nice piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer highlighting Henning nickels and the people who still search for them. Apparently, in 1954, Francis Henning, a mechanical engineer in Cleveland:
made hundreds of thousands of fake nickels in a machine shop in rural Erial, Camden County, all by himself, using a 250,000-pound press and sheets of cupronickel that cost him thousands of dollars. Then he'd launder the money for real bills at local banks, posing as a vending-machine operator
Why counterfeit nickels, especially when he already had a good-paying day job? The Inquirer continues:
Henning, according to one old newspaper account, needed to make his nickels to pay off the debts he incurred building the industrial machine that fabricated them."You wasted tremendous talent," a judge told him after he was sentenced to three years in prison.
According to www.NumismaticEnquirer.com which also has an image of a Henning Nickel with the markers for identifying the 1944 counterfeit:
It is estimated that more than 100,000 of Henning's nickels reached circulation. Henning dumped another 200,000 nickels in Copper Creek, New Jersey, of which only 14,000 were recovered. Another 200,000 are thought to have been dumped in the Schuylkill River.
The legacy of Mr. Henning and his illegal hobby continues: as noted in the Philadelphia Inquirer piece, people still search the rivers for examples and the nickels still trade on eBay.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

New Dansco Coin Albums Coming Soon

I have it on reliable authority that Dansco will be shipping new coin albums for The Lincoln Shield Cent and Jefferson Nickels. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Remembering Liberty

1820 Large Cent Matron Head (Large Date)
Image courtesy CoinPage.com
If you remember 1947, you remember the last time Lady Liberty was featured on the obverse of a new circulating US coin. The coins of our country's first 150 years featured several artist's representations of Liberty. There was Seated Liberty, Standing Liberty, Walking Liberty, even Winged Liberty. However, not all of the depictions were
especially attractive.

As the nation's mint technology improved, Americans enjoyed increasingly beautiful representations of Liberty. The last, and in my opinion most striking, was the portrait of Teresa de Francisci, designed by her husband, Anthony de Francisci for the Peace Dollars of 1921 to 1934*.

1934 Peace Dollar portrait of Teresa De Francisci
Image courtesy Wikipedia
Today, as President Lincoln begins his second century on the cent, we have fully embraced the cult of the presidency with only presidents and an occasional nod to historic figures on our circulating coins. I look forward to the day when Liberty returns to our coins. Not simply the restrikes of previous designs but new designs by new artists that reflect our country's continued passion for liberty.

*Yes, 1947 saw the last Walking Liberty but that design was created in 1916.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

President Roosevelt Drops "In God We Trust"

1907 Proof Ultra High Relief double eagle graded Proof-69 by PCGS
Image courtesy of www.CoinWeek.com

One of 20 Ultra High Relief strikes of the 1907 $20 Gold coins just sold for over $2.7 million. Notably missing from this coin was the traditional "In God We Trust" motto. This was no accident as the NY Times reported: "ROOSEVELT DROPPED 'IN GOD WE TRUST'; President Says Such a Motto on Coin Is Irreverence, Close to Sacrilege. NO LAW COMMANDS ITS USE He Trusts Congress Will Not Direct Him to Replace the Exalted Phrase That Invited Constant Levity."

"WASHINGTON, Nov. 13. -- In answer to one of the numerous protests which have been received at the White House against the new gold coin which have been coined without the words "In God We Trust," President Roosevelt has written a letter, which he to-day made public." Here's the PDF

I knew of President Roosevelt's objections regarding sacrilege but I didn't know the phrase was so often used in jest. He wrote:

 "...In all my life I have never heard any human being speak reverently of this motto on the coins or show any sign of having appealed to any high emotion in him. But I have literally hundreds of times heard it used as an occasion of, and incitement to, the sneering ridicule which it is above all things undesirable that so beautiful and exalted a phrase should excite. For example, throughout the long contest, extending over several decades, on the free [silver] coinage question, the existence of this motto on the coins was a constant source of jest and ridicule; and this was unavoidable. Everyone must remember the innumerable cartoons and articles based on phrases like 'In God we trust for the other eight cents'; 'In God we trust for the short weight'; 'In god we trust for the thirty-seven cents we do not pay'; and so forth and so forth. Surely I am well within bounds when I say that a use of the phrase which invites constant levity of this type is most undesirable."

Mr. Roosevelt's trust that "Congress Will Not Direct Him to Replace the Exalted Phrase That Invited Constant Levity" was misplaced. "In 1908, Congress made it mandatory that the phrase be printed on all coins upon which it had previously appeared." This apparently exempted the nickel but that was changed in 1938 with the introduction of the Jefferson nickel. Despite President Roosevelt's concerns of levity, irreverence, and even sacrilege, our long-mandated motto of trust continues to be coined.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

How to Identify the 7 Varieties of 1982 Lincoln Cents

In 1982, the US mint switched from a copper cent to a copper plated zinc core. This decision created four varieties: copper and zinc from both the Philadelphia and Denver mints. Four varieties of any date is rare but the 1982 cent became exceptional when large and small date varieties were discovered in both the Philadelphia copper and zinc cents and the Denver zinc cent for a total of seven varieties. No small date varieties in the Denver copper cent have been identified, yet.

Three decisions are required to correctly identify a 1982 Lincoln Cent variety. The first and easiest step is to identify the mint: Cents from Philadelphia have no mint mark and those from Denver feature a D below the date. Next, compare the date to this large date variety courtesy of The Coin Page

Determining the composition is the most difficult step. If you have a scale capable of measuring to tenths of grams, the copper cent weighs approximately 3.11 grams and the zinc cent weighs 2.5 grams. While the scale is the most accurate method, the zinc and copper cents sound different when dropped. The copper cent has nice ring tone compared to the thud of the zinc cent.