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Nickel caused Confederate rumor

The first Shield nickel design was supposed to be a Confederate trick, wasn’t it?

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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The first Shield nickel design was supposed to be a Confederate trick, wasn’t it?


With the usual distaste for any new coin issue, the rumor got started that the rays and stars represented the Confederate “Stars and Bars,” and claims this was why the rays were dropped in 1867. The more mundane and real reason was that the very hard nickel alloy was busting dies faster than they could make them, and every sharp corner in the design meant another die crack.

Didn’t the vending machine industry claim that the zinc cent would result in hoarding of all the old brass cents?

One of their arguments cited a Mint internal memo that indicated that the Mint expected the withdrawal to range up to 10 billion cents a year, raising consumer demand to 21 billion coins each year.

Has anybody ever found any of the treasure supposedly lost by Montezuma?

A four-pound gold bar found at a construction site in Mexico City in 1981 is claimed to be part of the Montezuma hoard, which was lost in 1520 and never recovered.

Didn’t the Mint stop selling the Bicentennial silver proof sets at one time?

The rising price of silver forced a halt to bulk sales of the three-coin uncirculated sets on Sept. 17, 1979. On Sept. 19, individual sales of those sets were stopped, and on Dec. 14 sales of the proof sets were halted as silver reached close to the $24 an ounce mark. This made the bullion value of the set slightly greater than the retail cost. When silver prices dropped again, sales were resumed. Similar problems have occurred in recent years.

At one time wasn’t there a fake 1972 hub-doubled cent reported?

Certainly. Almost any rarity gets faked or copied, and the hub-doubled coins were no exception. The markers on one very deceptive fake included a weak left leg of the “W” in “WE,” and a raised lump of metal between the “PL” in “PLURIBUS.”

Is it true that some of the pattern coins from the U.S. Mint are found in badly damaged condition?

Mint practice in certain cases was to deface the pattern coins with a heavy hammer, leaving deep dents in the coin. Since the damage is assumed (but can’t be proved) to have occurred at the Mint, it has a limited effect on the value of the piece.

How many different titles has Coins magazine appeared under?

Bet you could catch a few Krause employees with this question, as the answer is ... five. The first issue, May 1955, was titled, You Name It. Starting with the third issue, it became The Flying Eaglet. In September 1959 it was The Coin News, then two months later The Coin Press Magazine. In January 1962 it became a part of Krause Publications and changed to Coins.

Why did Alexander Hamilton pick on “unit” as a denomination for our coinage?

Although there are numerous references to this choice for the dollar, I haven’t been able to find one that explains the exact reasoning. It seems to be a desire to establish a term that would be readily recognizable as American coinage. Hamilton had better success in naming the $10 gold coin an eagle.

Is there a difference between a coin that has 95 percent of an ounce of gold and one with .9500 of an ounce of gold?

As stated, the two would contain the same amount of gold. However, if the coin is .9500 fine, then the amount of gold would depend on the total weight of the coin, with the gold in this case being 95 percent of the total weight of the coin. It is much easier and general practice now to give the fineness to three or four places, and the decimal fraction of an ounce to four places.

It doesn’t seem possible to me that so many rare coins have survived the years. Every time I open your newspaper I see some new “discovery.” How can that be?

There is no single specific answer that would convince you, I’m sure, but the fact remains that despite wars, floods, fires, depressions, volcanic explosions and any and all forms of human and natural disasters, coins do survive and in surprisingly large numbers.

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