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Clinic: Taft’s head on nickel stretch of imagination

 

What’s the story on President Taft’s head appearing on the first Buffalo nickels?
This is a canard advanced by a reporter for a Boston newspaper, who in reporting the distribution of the first Buffalo nickels in 1913 averred that is was possible to see the outline of a human face on the lower part of the buffalo’s head, and claimed that it resembled President Taft. Not unexpectedly it takes a rather vivid imagination to reach agreement with the report, which also claimed that the new nickels were both “much lighter” and yet “thicker” than the old V nickels they would replace.

Besides the false rumors about Joseph Stalin’s initials on the Roosevelt dime and the hammer and sickle on the Kennedy half, wasn’t there some kind of a similar rumor about the Standing Liberty quarters?
There is a report citing a newspaper account of such an incident, although newspapers – then and now – rarely have the facts when they discuss numismatic topics. According to this source, a milkman received a dateless quarter in payment for milk he had delivered and got the idea that it was counterfeit. He spread the word to fellow workers and as the tale got around, the Russians were added to the mix and blamed for the manufacture of the “fake.”

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My grandfather had a small trunk full of Indian Head cents when I was a boy. He always was ready to tell a story about hauling that heavy trunk to the Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago in 1933 only to be told that the coins were worth only face value. What was the story behind this hoax?
I’ve found only a fleeting reference to it, indicating that someone unknown started a rumor that everyone should save their Indian Heads and bring them to the Fair to receive big money for them, but the story was, in fact, a hoax.

If a medal is described as .999% silver, does that mean it’s pure silver?
No. It means it is a fraction under 1 percent silver. The .999 by itself would mean that it was 999 fine, with only one part alloy, but that innocent little percentage mark changes the whole picture. This scam actually has been used to foist base metal bars and medals on unsuspecting or myopic customers.

Enclosed is a clipping from a local shopper’s guide. Is this story true?
The clipping stated that many years ago, a number of gold coins were “printed” accidentally with the words IN GOLD WE TRUST. All I can say is, “nope!” There isn’t a word of truth in it. There isn’t even anything that would come close. Not to mention the fact that coins are minted, not printed. This is on par with the rumors – about coins of many different countries – that were made with metal that included a quantity of gold “accidentally” dumped into the furnace.

Has the United States Mint ever been involved in the use or testing of a process to transmute gold from some other metal?
Shades of alchemy. Yes, the U.S. Mint did get involved in just such a scheme, although not of its own choosing. It’s an event that they probably would have preferred to have buried behind a veil of silence. The Patent Office rejected a patent for a process of making gold from one E.C. Brice, of Chicago. Under the law, the applicant may demand the opportunity to demonstrate his process, a loophole that Brice used in an attempt to get his patent approved.

 

 

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