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Numerous stars appear on coins

 (Image courtesy

(Image courtesy

Are there more than 13 stars on any of our coins?

Lots of them. There are 14- and 16-star dimes, and the 1796 quarter has 15 stars. The 1794 and 1796 halves have 16 stars, and the Gobrecht 1836 dollars has 26. The 1796-1807 $2.50 has 13 stars on each side, a variety of the 1804 had a 14-star reverse and the 1879 $4 stella had 13 on the obverse and one large star on the reverse. The $20 gold from 1907-1911 has 46 stars around the edge, with 48 around the edge 1912-1933, plus three stars separating “E PLURIBIS UNUM.” The $10 gold has 46 on the edge from 1907-1911 and a 48-star edge from 1912-1933, plus 13 on the obverse. The Kennedy half dollar has them all beat with 63 stars on its reverse.

Where did the suggestion come from to put Lincoln on the cent in 1909?

There is a letter preserved in the Library of Congress that answers this question. The initial proposal, or at least the first one to come to public attention, was a letter written by Jerome Sivia of Springfield, Ill., to President Theodore Roosevelt. In it, he suggested that the switch would be an appropriate memorial of the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. Four special designs were created for the 200th anniversary in 2009. Does that mean we do it better than they did in 1909?

Why is it that published pictures of coins sometimes look like the design was incuse rather than in relief?

You have run afoul of an optical illusion. There are several ways of correcting this, but one of the simplest is to turn the picture upside down. This will usually change the perspective enough so that the design will “snap” back into place and look as it should.

What’s a Black Dogg?

This was the nickname for the French Cayenne sous that circulated in the U.S. colonies in the 1700s. They were intended for New France but spread into other areas, despite an aversion to copper coins. This is possibly the cause for the nickname. More than 500,000 were struck, but only 8,000 circulated in New France. The remainder were returned. At the time, they passed for two English pennies.

Charles Swart appears on the South African coins of 1965-1968. Who is the man on the 1976-1979 coinage?

The bust is that of J.J. Fouche, a former president of South Africa.

What is the purpose of the large “C” in the design of the silver three-cent piece?

It was added as an abbreviation of “cents” to distinguish the denomination. Curiously, while U.S. coins have often been considered to be copies of French designs, the French seem to have borrowed that big “C” from us for their small denomination coins of the World War I era.

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This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express. >> Subscribe today

More Collecting Resources

• Are you a U.S. coin collector? Check out the 2018 U.S. Coin Digest for the most recent coin prices.

• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-2000 is your guide to images, prices and information on coinage of the 1900s.