This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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Why are some coins listed as “with arrows at date,” or without arrows?
The arrows were added in 1853 to signify the reduction in weight resulting from changes in the law affecting the weight. The earlier silver coins contained silver worth more than their face value, so they left circulation rapidly. The new weights were intended to bring the silver content down to match the face value. In 1873 arrows indicated a weight increase.
I have an 1878 Trade dollar with several chop marks. It has an extra date and outlines of some of the rest of the design. Is this from a hub-doubled die?
I haven’t seen one of these for several years, but there’s an explanation for the doubling that has nothing to do with the die used to strike the coin. In the Orient, the coins were placed on a block of wood while the chop marks were hammered into them with a mallet and a punch. After a quantity of coins had been “chopped,” the coin design had been pressed into the wood. As more coins were punched, the design transferred from the wood block back to the coin.
Where was the U.S. state of Franklin, and did it issue any coins?
This was a short-lived state encompassing the eastern tip of what is now Tennessee that broke away from North Carolina in 1785. Although plans were executed for three denominations – a dollar, 50 cents and 25 cents – and coin presses were purchased, there are no known examples in the hobby, although they may exist. In a previous column, I said that Colorado Territory was named Franklin, which was incorrect. Instead it was named Jefferson Territory, as several people reminded me.
What is meant by a “Bugs Bunny” half dollar?
“Bugs Bunny” is a nickname or slang term for a die clash that appears across Benjamin Franklin’s mouth on the half dollars, giving him the appearance of having buck teeth. The die clash is damage to the die from its hitting the opposing die without a planchet between them. This damage is then transferred onto the struck coins. A reader supplied statistics on some of the other dates: “The most common is the 1955 with 1954 coming in second, 1951 third followed by 1956, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1954-D and 1953-D. Other dates known to exist are 1954-S, and 1959. This is from Coin Facts Wiki.”
Most catalogs list 1793 as the first year that the U.S. Mint struck any coins. Is this correct?
Strictly speaking, the first coins for circulation did bear the 1793 date, although some weren’t minted until the following year, a practice that continued for some time to the despair of researchers. The Mint was authorized by Act of Congress April 2, 1792, and in the first two weeks of July 1792 some 1,500 half dismes were struck. These and four other early coins, the silver center cent, the Birch cent, the disme and the Wright quarter, are usually considered to be patterns. The silver center cents were the first coins struck in the new Mint building in December 1792.
I read somewhere that proofs weren’t struck until the 1800s.
Sorry, the information is wrong. Proofs were struck in England in the 1600s. There were other European proof coins, and some of our own coins of the 1790s were proofs.
Are there any branch mint proofs?
Yes, from New Orleans, Carson City, San Francisco and Denver, says Walter Breen. That includes the 1838-0 half dollar proofs. They are the first branch mint proofs listed by Breen in his encyclopedia, where he says, “Not more than 20 were struck.” He accounts for 11 known. Apparently there were none from Charlotte and Dahlonega. The first official mintmarked proofs were the 27,600 1942-P silver proof nickels. In recent years the U.S. Mint has struck proof commemoratives at Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco and West Point.
Which country made the first use of hubs?
Hubs were used to make dies by the early Romans. The method was lost, then rediscovered. Puncheons, a form of hubs, were used in England by 1760.