This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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Why were the rays dropped from the design of the Shield nickel?
The key reason was die steel problems. The rays, which appear as raised lines between the stars, weakened the dies and caused them to crack and break. The rays were removed in 1867.
What’s the record for the length of use of a mintmark?
The Mexico City Mint is a contender as it has used “Mo” since 1535. However, it gets upstaged by the Paris Mint, which has used an “A” since 1500 under Francis I. This date may not even be old enough since there seems to be a number of conflicting dates in various references.
I know of the Canadian and Cuban card money, but didn’t the Germans also have playing card money?
Several varieties of German notgeld after World War I were printed on the backs of playing cards, so that makes three countries.
Why do many of the early Philippine pesos come as “sea salvage?”
A substantial quantity of the silver pesos were dumped into the sea by the Americans when the Japanese were attacking Manilla and Bataan. Some of them were salvaged by the Japanese, using American prisoners as divers, and more were salvaged after the war. It is from these post-war salvaged coins that the pieces that have been attacked by sea water come from.
Why was the tombac (brass) alloy used by Canada for its 5-cent coin in 1942-1943 used for only two years?
The coin was created and discarded for the same reasons as the U.S. steel cent of 1943. A shortage of nickel caused the switch to the tombac, an alloy of 88 percent copper and 12 percent zinc. The name comes from the Malaysian “tembaga,” their word for copper. It is also spelled “tomback” or “tamback.” The dingy appearance of the circulated coins caused them to be easily confused with cents and brought on the decision to end their use.
Were Panama coins struck on U.S. clad planchets?
The Panama coins do have different designs, but they are on the same planchets as our U.S. coins. The 1/2 balboa is on a half dollar planchet, the 1/4 on a quarter planchet, the 1/10 on a dime planchet, the 5 centesimo on a nickel planchet and the 1 centesimo on a brass cent planchet. Panama switched to the copper-plated zinc planchets used for the U.S. cent, but not until centesimo production, which stopped in 1982, was resumed in 1991. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the Franklin Mint struck some of the coins.
I’m told that the general who had the automobile dollar minted secretly put his name on the coin. Is this correct?
Several authorities agree that General Chow, who was governor of Kweichow Province from 1926 to 1929 did order that the Chinese characters for “Hsi-ch’eng” be hidden among the grass blades that cover the ground in the foreground of the obverse. Hsi-ch’eng was the general’s given name. If the coin is turned 90 degrees so that the grass is at the left, the two characters can be seen, one above the other. One of the authorities cited is the Rev. Arthur B. Coole, a noted authority on Chinese coins. Fulfilling predictions of the local soothsayers, General Chow was killed while riding in his auto when it sped out too far in front of his troops and he was ambushed.