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Why not a West Point cent to go with 2017-P?

 West Point Mint facility

West Point Mint facility

Will there be any 2017-W Lincoln cents made for general circulation with an explicit “W,” or will such cents be misleadingly minted as 2017-P like the Philly ones? What act of Congress forced the “P” into 2017-P cents?

The West Point Mint facility hasn’t struck Lincoln cents since 1986. West Point currently strikes proof and uncirculated bullion coins as well as some commemoratives. The addition of mintmarks and other design modifications are at the discretion of the Mint. The Treasury Secretary chooses coin designs and inscriptions.

In the Numismatic News July 6 issue, I saw a picture of a Marine Toys for Tots Foundation medalet on Page 28. Could you share more information about this medal as well as others like this one? What makes this particular medal a collectible item?

The MTTF medal you saw is one of many Marine Corps “Challenge Coins,” small diameter medals on which an organization’s insignia or emblem appears. Initially Challenge Coins were carried to prove membership and to enhance morale in an organization. Most are presented by a unit’s commander in recognition of an individual’s special achievement. Challenge Coins are widely collected, including by collectors outside of the military.

You have identified a number of Morgan silver dollar varieties recently that are known by colorful nicknames. Are there other denominations that have as many interesting descriptive names for varieties?

I will go one better. Look at the nicknames for varieties of the 1794 Capped Bust cent. Among these nicknames are Amatory Head, Apple Cheek, Frowning Face, Office Boy Reverse, Pyramidal Head, Scarred head, The Ornate, Trephined Head, and Ugly Teeth. The 1794 cent was struck using 39 obverse and 38 reverse dies.

I have a U.S. World War I Victory medal with four clasps identifying the campaigns in which the person to which this was awarded was involved. How do I know someone didn’t add some of these clasps later?

Campaign clasps on U.S. World War I Victory medals were affixed prior to these medals being mailed to each recipient. Check the suspension ring for alignment and any indication of gaps or tooling marks. The ribbon was sewn with purple thread at each side beneath the brooch. Watch for any thread color that doesn’t match.

I recently acquired a U.S. military medal that is missing the ribbon from which it should be suspended. Is it possible to get a replacement ribbon?

Military veterans or their next of kin can request replacement medals, decorations, and awards by using Standard Form 180 “Request Pertaining to Military Records” available through Veteran Administration offices or at For restoration of an existing medal you are collecting but was not earned by yourself or a close relative I would suggest contacting Medals of America.

Many foreign and ancient coin dealers identify coins they are selling by a catalog number. Why isn’t this done for U.S. coins?

Most of us are sufficiently familiar with U.S. coins that there is little need to use Breen, Krause-Mishler, or other catalog numbers to identify each coin. It does, however, often become necessary to use Overton, Van Allen-Mallis, or other such catalog number references to identify varieties.

Rotated die alignment coins usually sell for a premium. Can you give me a guide on how these coins are assessed?

In general rotated misaligned coins are rated as an III-G-3 if the die rotation is between 16 and 45 degrees, III-G-4 if the rotation is between 46 and 135 degrees, and as III-G-5 if the misalignment is between 136 and 180 degrees. Such coins have been struck with a coinage die incorrectly rotated from the opposing die. A loose die, loose die holder, or a broken shank are the reasons this might occur. A clockwise rotation is called CW, with counterclockwise rotation called CCW. It is the revere die that is out of alignment.

How can any of the published price guides, including your own, be certain they got all the prices right?

This is a frequently asked question. The answer is simple. None of us can be certain all the prices are right. In fact, it is almost guaranteed that some price somewhere is wrong due to mistakes, typos or misinformation. I recently shadowed two examples of a specific coin authenticated to be in a specific grade by the same service, finding it selling for significantly different prices through two different dealers, while a price guide gave yet another value off quite a bit from both. As one of my pricing sources recently wrote, “Some sellers appear to be unaware of values and listing some coins for sale below market value. The coins sell immediately; the seller leaves money on the table.” For a dealer offering a coin, the question is what is worth more to him: maximizing profits or velocity of turnover?

Is there more than one Morgan silver dollar date with the ‘Alligator eye’ nickname?

There are two different dates for on this hairline doubled eye lens variety. These are the 1878 8 Tail Feather VAM 14.1 (Leroy C. Van Allen and A. George Mallis “Morgan and Peace Dollar Varieties”), and the 1887 VAM 12. Readers, did I miss any more?

The European Union euro currency union is in the news all the time. Has the United States ever been involved in a currency union?

Not formally. The dollar was based on the Spanish milled dollar, which was legal tender in the United States along with other foreign coinage until 1857. The United States itself is a currency union of 50 states right now, but what that means is evolving. The Federal Reserve only gained a monopoly on bank note issuance in 1960.

Prior to the American Revolution did any of the states participant in a currency union?

Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, New Hampshire and Rhode Island each printed their own paper money, however shared in its acceptance through 1750. This included for tax payments. Once Massachusetts realized the other three were printing additional notes outside the union it (Massachusetts) chose to redeem its share of the currency for silver in 1751, instituting its own silver standard. Had Massachusetts not done this it likely faced inflation and currency devaluation.

Have our coins ever been part of a currency union?

Our federal coinage has never been part of a currency union, although several foreign countries treat it as legal tender within their borders. This includes the Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Belize, Cambodia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Vietnam. It is not officially legal tender in several of these nations.

In the May 2 issue of Numismatic News, R.W. Julian says coinage of 1793 and 1794 was struck on a screw press although a wheel press was available. What is a wheel press?

The wheel press invented by D. Uhlhorn used at some European mints is discussed in a paper presented May 28-29, 2015 at the “Silver Monetary Depreciation and International Relations” roundtable in Denmark. According to the paper, “Uhlhorn’s machine was called a knuckle-lever press because it was based on a knuckle-lever mechanism. The machine could exert a significant pressure on the upper die with short, quick and rotary motions. It was equipped with a flywheel and a crank, and it could be driven by most power sources, e.g,. hand- or steam-power. The knuckle-lever mechanism revolutionized coin striking… The machine had automatic feeding and extracting/ejecting, which combined with its successive motion meant that just one person was needed to operate one or several machines.”

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