This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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Where can I get some Sacagawea dollars that are gold-plated, or where can I get some plated? I want to give 50 of them as a golden wedding gift.
This is a rather “hollow” gift, as you will be giving the couple a set of altered coins, which have no numismatic value, now or in the future. If you must, then try any local jeweler for a source. Better be prepared for some bitterness when the couple or their heirs find out the true value of your gift. A $50 check would be much more appropriate.
I have a coin that has a very thick edge but no reeding. Was this done at the Mint?
From your description, it sounds like your coin has had the edge hammered. This will thicken it and eliminate the reeding and explain why it is under size. On larger coins, this was frequently done as the first steps in making a silver coin into a ring.
Fascinating Facts, Mysteries & Myths About U.S. Coins
I have a quarter that is substantially larger in diameter than a normal coin. It appears to have a normal but slightly enlarged design on both sides. How could this possibly happen?
From your description, you apparently have a coin that has been enlarged (altered) by placing it between two thicknesses of heavy leather and repeatedly hammering it. President Harry Truman signed a law in July 1951 that made the practice illegal, and tacked on a $2,000 fine and five years in prison to make it really sting.
I have a coin that has a large area of raised metal on the reverse. Does it have any special value?
I was sorry to have to disappoint this reader, but his coin had an area of glue attached to the reverse. A bit unusual is that there was a thin layer of foil sticking to the surface of the glue, which masked the usual appearance. Glue on a coin is one of the most common accidents that is mistaken for a minting variety, especially when another coin has been pressed into the surface of the glue. Always be suspicious of anything raised above the normal surface of the coin, especially if it doesn’t look like coin metal.
I have a wrong metal coin I’m trying to identify. A dealer wanted to file the edge to test it. Is there a better way?
Cutting, filing, nicking, scraping, scratching or cleaning are all destructive tests, so I hope you didn’t allow it to be done. Weigh the coin instead. Weight is a non-destructive test that will usually tell you far more about a coin. If it is out of round, wrong weight with areas of weak or missing design, then it might be a wrong metal or wrong planchet strike with some possible value. If it is plated, it is virtually impossible to cut through the plating short of cutting a notch in the coin with a file.
I have one of the rare 1976-D zinc cents that made all the newspapers back then. Where can I sell it?
The year was 1974, the rare pieces were aluminum and your coin undoubtedly is something else. It is very unlikely that your 1976-D cent is zinc, if it is normal size with a normal strike, round, and of normal weight (48.0 grains). Much more probable is that it has been plated with another metal, which makes it an altered coin and worthless.
Which fake coin generates the most questions for your column?
It’s a toss-up between the 1943 “copper” cents and the $20 Blake & Co. copies. I’d lean to the latter piece since anything having to do with gold attracts more attention. The Chrysler Corp. gets the blame for the Blake pieces since they passed out thousands of them in 1969 as an ad stunt. Both pieces seem to run in cycles, as do many other fake and genuine coins.
Did the U.S. Assay Commission ever actually find any underweight coins or coins that were below the standard alloy?
In one of the rare instances when the Assay Commission found something wrong during their annual meetings, the 1881 body discovered that about 3,000 “CC” dollars had been struck in 1880 from an alloy that assayed .892 fine rather than the normal .900 fineness. The original tolerance for the silver dollar was 1.5 grains. The commission of 1895 reported finding one dollar dated 1884 that was 1.51 grains below normal weight. Since then, the specifications were changed to allow 6 grains. In 1792 the original specified 1 part in 144.