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Abbreviations give weight to bullion coins

Got a coin question? Send it to Alan Herbert, the Answerman.

What do the abbreviations ASW and AGW stand for?

Actual silver weight or actual gold weight. There?s a third one ? APW ? for actual platinum weight. In all three cases, the figure refers to the actual weight of the bullion metal, not the total weight of the coin.

What kind of a coin is a ?fouree??

A Frenchman talking about our current cents would call them a fouree, or plated coin. The German is ?gefuetterte muenze.? Also, Henry B. states that it is a contemporary counterfeit of an ancient coin, usually a silver-plated copper coin of the design of the current or recently past emperor.

Aren?t U.S. coins distributed free of charge?

Up to 1881, coins were distributed only at the mints and the sub-treasury offices. In that year, Congress appropriated $20,000 for free shipments to other points. Further financing was irregular and distribution was not generally free until 1920, when the Federal Reserve took over and assumed other duties of sub-treasury offices.

Even then, the coins were still not totally free, as non-member banks had to pay shipping charges. Now all banks, including member banks, have to pay the shipping charges.

Is there a numismatic equivalent of baseball cards?

The Topps Company in the late 1940s put out a ?Golden Coin Bubble Gum.? The gum was wrapped in foil printed in three colors, resembling a $1 note. On the back was a short illustrated item about one of the U.S. presidents. Included was one of 32 presidential medals, struck on a gold-colored metal, probably brass.

Was there a firm in New Jersey that made coin presses for China?

The Ferracute Machine Co. of Bridgeton, N.J., made presses for the Chinese in 1900 and later for the U.S. Mint at Philadelphia.

Michael Lantz added that the firm in 1965 made 10 coin presses for the Denver Mint that were used until the late 1970s.

Weren?t some U.S. coins in the last half of the 1800s struck illegally?

The Coinage Act of 1876 limited subsidiary silver and notes to no more than $50 million. The limit was reached in 1878, so small silver coinage was halted.

Until 1886, so many coins came back into the country that there was no need for new coins. From 1886 to 1904, silver coins were struck in direct violation of this law.

After a series of stop-gap measures, the attorney general ruled in 1906 that the Coinage Act of 1873 held precedence, removing the limit.

Address questions toCoin Clinic, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Because of space limitations, we are unable to publish all questions. Include a loose 39-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