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Curls gave Lincoln portrait texture

 (Image courtesy

(Image courtesy

Is the bust on the Lincoln cent an accurate reproduction?

Victor David Brenner took liberties with Lincoln’s hair, giving it the 1909 version of a permanent wave, as all contemporary photos show Lincoln with straight hair. Look at the coin and the hair is curly – especially if you look at a 1909 date. But look at a photograph and you’ll see that his hair was relatively straight. Once again it was a case of artistic license. Brenner felt the curls would add depth to the design. To prove him right, compare it to the smooth locks of Ben Franklin and the bald pate of Dwight Eisenhower. Call the Lincoln cent good art created by a good artist who took artistic license with the details. In any case, the design is still with us 109 years later.

Is the drachm weight used by druggists the same weight as the original drachm?

When the Greeks used the drachm as a measure of weight before the birth of Christ it was equal to one-eighth of a troy ounce of silver, or 3.887 grams. This is the current value of the apothecary’s weight. The weights frequently turn up in coin junk boxes to puzzle collectors. They are round brass pieces that have some strange letters and what appears to be a large “3ii” on one side, which is misleading since the weight is actually 2 drachms.

The statement is made that the Lincoln cent was the first U.S. coin to depict the same person on both obverse and reverse. Is this correct?

The Lincoln cent, which has had a statue of Lincoln on the reverse in the center of the building since 1959, is the second such U.S. coin, not the first. The undated Lafayette dollar of 1899, predating the Lincoln cent Memorial reverse by 59 years, has Lafayette on both obverse and reverse. The reverse shows Lafayette as a statue. Whether this was a coincidence or not is something you would have had to ask the late designer-engraver Frank Gasparro, who created the cent reverse. You could say it is the first circulating coin with the same person on both sides since the public doesn’t know anything about the Lafayette dollar.

Is there any specific rule or regulation as to which way the bust has to face on U.S. coins?

The facing direction is more a matter of tradition than anything else, based in some small part on the custom in England of reversing direction with each new ruler. There is no law or regulation, so it is strictly a matter of the artist’s choice. Coins lately follow inauguration medals.

Why wasn’t the dollar sign ($) used on our coins?

No reason other than tradition. When it appeared for the first time on the Presidential dollar coin in 2007 some said it looked like a casino token, thus carrying on the tradition of snarky comments about new designs.

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This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express. >> Subscribe today

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