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Overstruck quarters raise eyebrows

Who is responsible for the quarters that have been overstruck to poke fun at some political figures?

No one appears ready to admit to making these, although there are a number of coin dealers willing to sell them.

I understand there was a problem in Canada recently when, due to the drop in the spot price of silver, the face value of some of Canada’s commemorative silver coins exceeded their intrinsic value. Has this happened elsewhere?


It has happened previously in both Panama (gold $100 coins) and the British Virgin Islands (silver coins). In both of those cases, the governments reneged, removing their legal tender status. Each was a one-sided deal, earning money for the government but with no intention of honoring these coins as money.

Could the same thing happen in the United States?

Absolutely, if you believe gold will drop below its $50 face value on one-ounce bullion coins and $100 on the new Liberty coins. Platinum would have to fall below $100 an ounce to make the $100 face value relevant on the one-ounce bullion piece. Silver needs to fall below $1 an ounce on bullion coins. An important reason the United States selected such low face values for its precious metals issues is to make it unlikely any would ever be tendered to a cashier for face value. If such deflationary falls in the price of the precious metals occur, the second step would then be that the U.S. government would not honor the face value of precious metal coins. That doesn’t seem likely, either.

What about our copper-nickel composition commemorative coins? Would these be honored as legal tender?

As unlikely as it appears that someone would spend them, in theory they should be honored as money. Realistically, most bankers wouldn’t recognize them, and for that reason would likely refuse them. Bankers who recognize them as being something real and different would likely redeem them, then buy them from their own cash drawer.

Silver commemorative half dollars issued through 1954 were occasionally put into circulation when the distributors couldn’t sell them. Is there a reason why the Mint doesn’t do the same thing with unsold copper-nickel commemorative coins today?

If the Mint were to release unsold non-precious metal commemoratives into circulation today, over-the-counter sales of these coins at a premium price would likely drop in anticipation of finding them in circulation at some later date. This is my view. I don’t believe the U.S. Mint has ever considered this possibility.

The United States continues to struggle between using a dollar bill or coin. What other major countries continue to use their equivalent of a dollar bill?

According to an Oct. 15 CNBC report on the subject, “The United States is one of only three industrialized nations, along with Argentina and Botswana, that still use low-denomination paper bills rather than high-denomination coins.”

How much government support is there for a major overhaul of the U.S. coin and currency system?

According to the same Oct. 15 CNBC report, “Thought leaders from business executives and former top U.S. Treasury officials to editorial boards spanning the country all have advocated for currency reform and the benefits it will bring to consumers and taxpayers. And in 10 reports issued over more than two decades, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office – Congress’ budget and financial analyst – has supported currency reform, describing in detail the billions in taxpayer savings that would come from common sense” changes.

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More Collecting Resources

• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1601-1700 is your guide to images, prices and information on coins from so long ago.

• With over 25,000 listings and 15,500 illustrations, the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, Modern Issues is your go-to guide for modern bank notes.