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Fasces on the dime made sense at time

By Richard Giedroyc

Did Adolph A. Weinman have any specific reason for picking the fasces for the reverse of the Mercury dime?

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Adolph Weinman’s Mercury dime design features a fasces on the reverse, later seen as a symbol of fascism.

A direct quote from the designer: “I selected the fasces and olive branch to symbolize the strength which lies in unity, while the battle axe stands for preparedness to defend the Union. The branch of olive is symbolical of our love of Peace.” This is a fitting quote for a coin struck first in 1916 in the midst of World War I and years before Mussolini adopted the ancient Roman symbol to represent his fascist Italian government.

Is a filled die the only cause for missing design on a coin?

Missing design details are often the result of heavy die abrasion, or a filled die. Other causes may include a thin planchet, a weak strike, or alteration, but the filled die is probably the most common cause. Faulty die design will also cause weak or missing design elements because the coin metal fails to flow into them properly. Then, of course, the missing design may never have been put on the die in the first place.

Are there two edge varieties for the 1814 half dollar?

The edge comes in two varieties, one with, and one without a star. During the production year for the 1814 halves, a star was added to the edge design, between the words DOLLAR and FIFTY.

Is there really an 1803/2 half cent overdate?

Although this particular variety has been listed several times over the years in various coin auctions as an overdate (one or more digits over different digits), the actual variety apparently is the doubled date with 3/3 (Breen I-A). This was made by punching the 3 originally with a larger, cent-sized punch, then correcting it with the smaller half cent punch.

I have a 1962 dime with a dot in the midst of IN GOD WE TRUST. What is it worth today?

Dots on coins were something of a fad in the early 1960s, the interest tracing back to the legitimate dots that were added to the die on some of the Canadian issues to indicate the interim issues between monarchs. However, while a number of dots have been reported on U.S. coins, including several on the cents, they have had no lasting value and currently would probably be lucky to draw 10 to 25 cents over the normal numismatic value of the coin. All of the dots on (20th century) U.S. coins were the result of accidental damage to one particular die. (If it were on the hub it would affect hundreds of dies and millions of coins).

Is it possible to have a recent cent struck on a pure copper planchet? I believe I have one.

The only way a pure copper piece could be produced would be to punch a planchet out of a sheet of copper of the proper thickness, which is not likely to occur, even in the private manufacturing plants making planchets. Such a piece would weigh significantly more than a copper-plated zinc cent, so what you may have if the weight difference is slight, is a piece which accidentally received a thicker than normal plating of copper.

I’m told there were some high quality counterfeits of the early commemorative half dollars produced not long after the original coins were struck. Is this a fact?

As early as 1935 The Numismatist reported that “dangerous” cast fakes were being sold by small dealers in New York City, that were “good” silver, had a good ring and color, but were slightly smaller in diameter than the genuine coins. The surprising part was that few of the commemoratives commanded any premium at that time, and many had been melted because of poor sales.

Are there other “open” and “closed” 3 varieties besides the well known 1873 dates?

The Mint struck the two varieties on dimes as early as 1803.

Any idea how many different U.S. transportation tokens are known?

An outdated source indicates 5,500, so my guess would be that a figure around 6,000 would be safe.

Is there really a die variety of the 1828 half cent with only 12 stars, or is it just another filled die variety?

This is a case where the star was left off the die, putting it in the same situation as the modern dies used without mintmarks. It is not particularly rare, except in the highest grades.

I have had several offers in the mail or by telephone for miniature gold coins. Are these a good buy?

These pieces are usually not coins, but medals with designs often copied from real coins. Without a specific example I can’t give you any exact figures, but if you read the fine print – carefully – you may find a weight in grams or grains. Make sure the weight refers to the actual gold weight and then figure from there. Most of the miniatures contain only a very few grams of gold, so they rarely are a good buy. Watch out too for the implied bullion medals (especially on the Internet) which actually are only gold or silver plated. Any bullion in the plating would hardly be worth the cost of extracting it.

What effect do spots on a coin have on grading it?

More important than whether there are spots on a coin is the cause of the spots. If they are water spots or from contact with other liquids, they can be removed without damaging the coin. They would not normally affect the grade. If the spots are corrosion (among them so called “carbon” spots), then the coin has been permanently damaged and removing them would only further damage the coin, reducing the grade and the value. I would strongly recommend that you get a copy of the ANA Grading Standards for United States Coins and learn all you can about grading.

What does the future hold for coins with credit cards bitcoin and other forms of electronic money?

I think that there is very little likelihood of the world going entirely to electronic money in the immediate or even distant future. Europe still uses cash and its people are nowhere near ready for exclusively electronic payments. While the trend in the United States is more and more toward cash replacements, the demand for cash remains  high. I don’t think anyone is predicting the demise of coins in the foreseeable future, but logic says it will happen someday.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express.
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