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Steam-powered presses began with copper coins

What were the first coins struck with the new steam-powered coin presses in 1836?

According to the Mint Director’s report, “All of the copper coins were struck,” beginning with successful tests on March 23, 1836. This would mean the cent and apparently the half cent, although only proof half cents were struck that year. The first half dollars were coined with steam on Nov. 8, 1836.


What’s the difference between Barton’s metal and Barton’s buttons?

Both the metal and the buttons are credited to Sir John Barton, who retired as controller of the British Royal Mint in 1820. Harrington Manville, an expert on English coins, describes the metal as a copper core to which thin sheets of gold are applied, in much the fashion of our current clad coinage strip. Barton made the buttons using this gold-clad copper.

There are lots of bi-metal coins like our current clad coins, but are there any tri-metal pieces?

One suggested is the emergency money issued in Ghent, Belgium, during the German occupation of World War II. It was reportedly struck on an iron core, brass plated on one side and copper plated on the other. I’m not aware of any national currency that would fit the title.


The Hobby Protection Act of 1973 bans all copies of numismatic items unless they bear a clear indication that they are copies. How do some of the fakes like the Blake $20 gold pieces get by?

The lack of a key clause in the law exempts those copies that had been produced or imported prior to enactment of the law. Many of the coin copies that are still around date to a production boom in the 1960s. The problem with banning unmarked copies was the fact that there was no way to identify those copies made before enactment of the Hobby Protection Act.


Love tokens I know, but are there funeral tokens as well?

Just like love tokens, funeral tokens are engraved on coins that have had one or both sides smoothed off and are then decorated with black enamel. Among other allied private engraving efforts are christening tokens. Readers may know of other special pieces.


Is it true that the San Francisco Mint struck gold coins in 1974?

Gold medals rather than gold coins. The San Francisco Assay Office (correct title at that time) struck its first gold in 44 years when it struck the Cable Car Centennial National Medals. Two examples of the 1.5-inch medal were struck in gold, one going to President Ford, the other to the San Francisco City Archives.

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 44-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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