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1793 Chain cent a steal in early auction

? What is the earliest auction record of the sale of a U.S. cent?
When the Dr. Lewis Roper collection was sold in 1851, it was one of the earliest recorded coin auctions in the U.S. An uncirculated Chain cent of 1793 was sold for 10 cents. Current catalog for the same coin is $33,000 in EF-40 grade.

? What is meant by a ?false metal piece??
It is defined in the 1887 U.S. Mint Report as, ?A false-metal piece, or replica, or copy of a coin in a metal or alloy or of a weight and fineness other than prescribed by law.?

Part of this definition would cover what we now call wrong-metal strikes. The definition was used at the time by the Mint to describe items of its own issue, but it is not clear whether they intended it to also cover non-mint produced copies or replicas. At least it was a better term than the misrepresentative ?off metal? term we inherited and can?t seem to eradicate.

? I have a 1922 Peace dollar that has a countermark, ?ALP,? on the reverse, just above the eagle?s tail. Can you tell me the source of the countermark?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you have a counterfeit coin. A large-scale operation in Malaga, on the southern coast of Spain, produced them. Large quantities of these fakes turned up in the early 1980s. Copies of German 5-mark pieces, Straits Settlements coins and a number of different Spanish and Portuguese coins appeared as well. The pieces were sold through flea markets and antique shops, and many of them were undoubtedly brought into the U.S. by tourists. ?ALP? stands for alpaca, which is the name of the nickel-zinc alloy used to strike the pieces.

? Are there any counterfeits of the clad coins?
You bet. Large quantities of them appeared in the 1980s in Nevada. Fakes were used to operate slot machines that had unsophisticated slug rejectors. Both dimes and quarters were faked. Curiously, some of the earliest English counterfeits were clad pieces ? thin silver layers attached to a pewter core.

? Didn?t Abe Kosoff once predict silver coins would be worth 30 times face value?
In 1970 Kosoff, an astute coin dealer, made the statement, ?20 years from now silver coins probably will be up to 10, 20 or even 30 times face value.? He ended up being off by a decade, but in 1980 silver jumped to double-digit multiples of face value ? as high as $52 an ounce ? before crashing.


Address questions to Coin Clinic, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Because of space limitations, we are unable to publish all questions. Include a loose 41-cent stamp for reply. Write first for specific mailing instructions before submitting numismatic material. We cannot accept unsolicited items. E-mail inquiries should be sent to Answerman2@aol.com.

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