Why are so many of the old large cents holed? Many have one hole, but I’ve seen several with two holes in them.
The coins were holed for a wide variety of reasons, including such items as putting them on a string for a teething baby. The reader mentioned the story of the coins being sewn into the clothes of Civil War soldiers as a primitive form of a bullet-proof vest. Another use, explaining the double holes, was for a toy. A string was looped through the holes, then the coin was rotated to twist the string. By alternately pulling and releasing the tension, the coin would spin back and forth at high speed, causing a humming sound.
Is there, or was there, a “world” mint?
You no doubt are referring to the title that the Mexico City Mint was given in the 1700s. Because of the millions of coins and the sheer tonnage of silver produced and struck into coinage, the Mexico City Mint was dubbed “La Casa de Moneda del Mundo.” This translates from Spanish as “ The Mint of the World.”
Any luck on finding a definition of die burn? (In regards to the question about the term “die burn,” a reader has a couple of coins that exhibit burned areas he thinks came from contact with hot dies.)
In normal use the dies do not get to more than a couple of hundred degrees at most, so it would be virtually impossible for the dies to actually burn a coin. The burned areas are more likely the result of repair work on the die.
Can you tell me, just what is a “Yankee dime?”
Back in the days when New England was still a group of colonies, it was the custom for girls to pay off a debt or favor with a kiss. These kisses, while not exactly cheap, got the nickname of a Yankee dime. While this sounds like a good story, it is somewhat curious that the term “dime” would be used, long before our first “disme” made its appearance. Joe Boling quotes the Oxford English Dictionary as tracing “dime” back to the 14th century, so it preceded “disme” by quite a bit.
What’s a “door hanger?”
I’m going to blame the late Burnett Anderson for bringing this bit of slang back from West Point. The Mint workers use this nickname for a particular partially plated zinc cent planchet, supposedly because it got hung up in a bin door and didn’t get the full plating treatment.
Did you ever come up with a definitive definition for a “hay mark?”
This question had been kicking around for several years. At one time I thought perhaps it might refer to what we now call a filled die – missing design due to dirt and grease packing into the cavity in the die – that leaves a rough irregular surface on the coin from the embedded metal fragments. However, Walter Breen told me that it is an obsolete term for what we now call hairlines, the tiny scratches that result from cleaning, polishing or buffing a coin. The term is still used in England to describe coins suffering from this kind of damage.
Where did the expression “plug nickel” come from?
The original phrase was “not worth a plugged nickel.” I believe the original source was the practice in the West of using nickels for targets. A nickel that was hit by a bullet was considered “plugged” and worthless. Earlier, the term “plugged” traces back to an issue of tin coins with copper plugs in early England. The plug was supposed to be a deterrent to counterfeiting.