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Why do portraits face to left or right?

 

By: Richard Giedroyc

Is there a reason why Lincoln faces right on the cent, Jefferson faces left on the nickel, Roosevelt faces left on the dime, and so on?

Chalk it up to artistic merit. There is no rule governing which way a person should be depicted on our circulating coinage. In Great Britain it became a tradition that each succeeding monarch would face a different direction on his or her coins, however Edward VIII interrupted this tradition because he wanted only what he saw as his “good side” to be seen.

 

Is there anything mandating we must depict a person or personification on the obverse and something different on the reverse of each of our coin designs?

Any design that is approved by Congress can be depicted on our coinage. It is only by tradition that we typically depict a person, several persons, or a personification on the so-called “heads” or obverse side of our coinage.

 

If I have an idea for a coin design, who would I contact at the Mint?

You would need to contact a congressman, not a Mint official. There are committees in Congress that determine the future of our nation’s currency. The U.S. Mint is treated as a manufacturing arm of the government. The Mint is told what to make, not asked. On occasion this has become a problem when Congress mandates something the Mint is not prepared technologically to produce.

 

Are all mints worldwide told what to make by their governments?

Most mints worldwide have sufficient autonomy that they can propose what new products to make. While in the United States it is Congress that determines what will be struck, most mints elsewhere controlled by a government simply submit their proposal to the appropriate parliament or congress for a yes or no vote. In our country lobbyists will likely get involved, and any proposal, regardless of its origin, will be debated and changed rather than given the opportunity for a straight up or down vote.

 

Everything you need for collecting U.S. coins is on this CD.

Everything you need for collecting U.S. coins is on this CD.

Is there a tactful way to explain to a novice that age does not equate with rarity for a coin?

If there is, I’ve never found it. The general public is more impressed with how old an object may be than with its quality. Furthermore, they don’t understand that age has nothing to do with survival rates or with how many of something was made. About the only explanation they appear to understand is if I explain that a government anywhere in the world at any time of history needs to produce sufficient coinage to drive the economy. Since coins are metal objects, they don’t have a shelf life.

 

There are market indicators often mentioned by stock market analysts. Are there reliable market indicators for the rare coin market?

Anyone can claim they have identified a reliable market indicator, be it for stocks, bonds, commodities, or the antique trade. All are opinions. I’m sure there are readers out there who have their own rare coin market indicators. To answer your question I will quote Harry Miller from his September monthly Coin Market commentary in Numismatic News where Miller says, “One bellwether that I like to use in regards to the ANA [American Numismatic Association] event is the DMPL [Deep Mirror Prooflike] Morgan dollar market, which always seems to be very active going into successful major shows and it is active and positive.”

 

How can I differentiate between the machine-doubled and the doubled-die 1969-S Lincoln cents?

It is the obverse that is doubled on this coin. The mintmark is not doubled on the true doubled-die coin, while it appears doubled on the less valuable machine-doubled cent. When this error was first discovered some of the coins were confiscated by the government as being counterfeit!

 

I’ve been told my gold coin mounted as jewelry is only worth its scrap gold weight. Is there an explanation for this?

Coins mounted as jewelry are likely held in a bezel or in a ringed holder held in place by several claws. If the coin is in a bezel it likely as not damaged by that bezel, although the coin may have wear due to rubbing against clothes or skin once it has been worn. The “claws” will likely leave marks when the coin is removed from this holder, in which case the coin is considered to be damaged by coin dealers.

 

What happens to proof and uncirculated sets that are returned to the Mint when they are damaged or defective? The 2013 proof set I originally received had glue on the Jefferson nickel.

 

Defective sets are destroyed by the Mint. It would not make sense to release them into circulation, where collectors would consider them to be mishandled proofs.

 

What is a mishandled proof?

In theory all proof coins are perfect when they are issued. The mishandling takes place once the coins are in private hands. In fact, the quality of the proof strike plays a part, which is why third-party certification services grade proofs in increments through Proof-70. Should a coin grade Proof-58 or lower this indicates the coin was likely used in circulation.

 

Wouldn’t finding a proof coin in change suggest the Mint did put a damaged or defective proof returned to the Mint into circulation?

Proof coins get into circulation when an individual removes the coins from the set in which they were housed. Most mishandled proofs I encounter were acquired by employees of drive-through establishments and gas stations. The employees tell me the most commonly purchased items were tobacco and liquor. This suggests that someone raided a family member’s coin collection for quick money.

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