Skip to main content

Gold scam nearly ended production of $20

Are there any known platinum counterfeits of gold coins?

Are there any known platinum counterfeits of gold coins?

There are several. For example, in 1860 platinum was one-third the value of gold. Crooks obtained $10 and $20 gold coins, sawed them in half, scooped out the gold in the center and replaced it with platinum. This sharp practice almost ended the mintage of the $20 gold coins, but by 1876 the price of platinum had risen enough to make the scam unprofitable. Today platinum is worth twice as much as gold.

Is it true that a substantial number of proof sets were lost in the mail back in the 1960s?

The year was 1964, and according to published reports 36,086 sets failed to reach the destination addresses. Since this apparently was a perennial problem, the Mint had a reserve of 20,000 sets to cover both mail losses and to use as replacements in the sets. However, the replacement supply was quickly exhausted and some 16,000 collectors got refunds instead of the sets they had ordered. I suspect that this incident led to the overkill practice of sending collector sets by registered mail that went on for a number of years and added substantially and needlessly to the cost of sets.

 I know that fanciful names were popular for minting varieties in the 1960s and that different type coin designs have been nicknamed, but were there similar slang terms for die breaks on older coins?

There are numerous examples in the old listings. One in particular that stands out is the 1817 cent as there are at least four different dies that show a small die break above the Liberty head. These were variously called a dolphin, a snail, a mouse or a rat head. Certainly these are not too different than the alligator, flying saucer, baseball bat, floating head and other nicknames that confounded and confused variety collectors in the 1960s.

Somewhere I read that there were less than two dozen coin dealers in the United States at the turn of the century. Is that figure accurate?

Narrowing it down even further, my source says there were ?21 coin dealers in the United States in 1900.? Looking at today?s multitudes, one would have to call it a growing hobby.

Address questions to Coin Clinic, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Because of space limitations, we are unable to publish all questions. Include a loose 41-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 to