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Lincoln first person on circulating coin

The Lincoln cent was the first circulating coin, although some sources point out that it is a circulating commemorative, struck to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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When did “real” people first appear on U.S. coins?


The Lincoln cent was the first circulating coin, although some sources point out that it is a circulating commemorative, struck to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth. The switch to the Franklin design for the half dollar marked the last denomination to convert. The first commemoratives with real people were the 1892-1893 Columbia Exposition halves and the 1893 Columbia Exposition quarter.

Who was the first “real” person on a coin?

There are several claimants. One that I listed previously is Ptolemy Soter, ruler of Egypt in 323-284 B.C. Alexander the Great who died in 323 B.C. is on the list. There’s an early coin of Kyzikos, in what is now Turkey, that has a man’s bust on it that is billed as one of the earliest coins to depict a living person – in this case unidentified – minted in 380-350 B.C. The coin is gold and there are two known examples, one in a Karlsruhe, Germany, museum and the other in Odessa, Russia. The oldest would seem to go to Darius, who is shown on the coins of Lydia (515 B.C.), although it is more of a stylized design than an actual portrait.

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What do the seven 20th century overdates have in common?

At least five of the seven are hubbing varieties. The 1901/0-S $5 gold may be and the 1909/8 might be, although there is not enough evidence to prove it.

Who was the discoverer of the 1901/0-S $5 gold overdate?

Ted F. Clark was one of two numismatists who independently discovered the variety in 1973.

Do you have the discovery dates for some of the popular overdates of the 20th century?

The actual discovery date in most cases is unknown, so what we have to go on is the first public report or written mention of the coin. For example, the 1942/1941 overdate dime was spotted almost immediately, first reported in print in March 1943. The 1942/1941-D, however, was discovered in 1962 by Del Romines and wasn’t regularly listed until 1972. The 1918/1917-D Buffalo nickel got its first written publicity in 1931 while its sister coin, the 1918/1917-S quarter, showed up in a 1937 auction but was not reported in print until 1938. The 1901/0-S gold half eagle was discovered by Ted F. Clark in 1973 and first reported in Numismatic News in May 1974. The 1943/1942-P Jefferson nickel overdate was discovered in 1948 by Del Romines but not publicized until late 1978.

Are there any coin sets that show the aging of the British monarchs?

The Turks and Caicos coins of 1976-1977 show four George III and Victoria obverses, documenting the aging. Each of the coins come in three denominations.

Where was the Desert Mint?

The actual spelling is Deseret Mint. It was established in 1849 by the Mormons in Salt Lake City. During its lifetime it struck $2.50, $5, $10 and $20 gold coins, the latter being the first $20 struck in what is now the United States. Utah didn’t become a state until 1896, but it had been acquired from Mexico in 1848.

I found an ad that used the term “true replica copy.” Just what do they mean? What is an “authentic reproduction?”

Despite the redundancy, it still comes out as a copy of the original item. The best answer to that came from a previous conductor of this column, who remarked pointedly, “It’s a genuine copy!”

How many different Mint buildings have there been?

Philadelphia is in its fourth building, moving into it in 1969. The first was occupied in 1792, the second in 1833 and the third in 1900. For the branch mints, San Francisco has had three, Denver two. The Dahlonega Mint burned and was rebuilt in 1878. The Charlotte Mint building was torn down and reconstructed on a different site as an art museum. That makes 11, not counting the building constructed in The Dalles, Ore., but never authorized as a mint.

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