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Coin Clinic: Plastic coin issue might be first – or not

By Richard Giedroyc

Transdniester recently issued coins made of plastic. Are they really the first government to issue coins of this material as they claim to be?

When you say “first government,” that becomes questionable. Keeling Cocos was established by two gentlemen in the 19th century. Captain John Clunies-Ross brought his family (including his mother-in-law), while Alexander Hare was accompanied by his private harem of 40 Malay women. A feud and “invasion” of Hare’s “kingdom” by the captain’s sailors ensued. Following the victory, the captain’s employees were later paid in Cocos rupee denominated company store money. In 1913 plastic ivory composition coins were issued, followed by plastic coins in 1968. Since Keeling is an Australian Territory it can be argued the coins are tokens. Likewise, since only Russia recognizes Transdniester are the Transdniester issues coins or tokens?

I can’t visualize the United States issuing coins composed of plastic rather than metal due to the vending machine lobby. Would you agree on this?

Not necessarily. When a vending machine accepts cash that means it has to store that cash until the machine is emptied. Someone could break into the machine and steal the money. There is labor involved in emptying the cash container as well as in filling the machine with change. Plastic composition coins could make sense if the idea ever got past the congressional lobbies representing the mining industries supplying the metal for our coins. Should the day come when vending machines accept only debit or credit cards coins of any composition become relics.

East Syracuse Coin Club Vice President Mark A. Brown has responded to questions in the Sept, 9 Coin Clinic column regarding 9/11 commemorative coins. Readers are encouraged to share information that helps answer inquiries.

British Virgin Islands, KM 207, commemorates 9/11 with the Twin Towers and the legend “Lest We Forget.” Cook Islands, KM-470, with Twin Towers and “We Will Never Forget.”  There was also the Spitzbergen token X Tn15, with Twin Towers under attack.

I have a 2004-P Wisconsin state quarter on which a ghosting of a lower leaf appears as is on one of the Denver varieties for that issue. Is it possible there are leaf varieties of the Philadelphia strikes as well?

I would recommend sending the coin to one of the major third-party certification services. Should this coin be determined to be as you say the U.S. Mint would have even more explaining to do regarding the shadowy reasons these varieties exist. The Mint has never satisfactorily explained how these leaf varieties came to be. A coin struck at Philadelphia consistent with one of the varieties known until now exclusively from Denver would raise more questions than answers.

Henry Voight was a watchmaker in Philadelphia, yet he was appointed as the first chief coiner at the Mint there when it was first established. Did he have any credentials or was this a political appointment?

Voight (some sources suggest the surname was spelled Voigt) was born in the colony of Pennsylvania, but he had gone to Germany sometime before the Revolution, where he worked in a mint. Among the many things Voight was involved in, he had repaired clocks and watches for Thomas Jefferson. There is little question Voight was qualified to be chief coiner, but if you read his biographies it appears he was also well connected throughout Pennsylvania.

E-mail inquiries only. Do not send letters in the mail. Send to Giedroyc@Bright.net. Because of space limitations, we are unable to publish all questions.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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