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Small coins less sought than large

Maybe it’s my imagination, but Barber dimes appear to be modestly priced compared to other Barber and other U.S. coins. Any idea why this is so?

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Supply and demand determine coin prices. With the exception of our one-cent coin collectors tend to take more interest in larger than smaller diameter coins.

Why would the cent be an exception to this?

Availability and the fact this is our lowest face value coin are the likely reasons.

The early U.S. Mint made coins on a screw rather than on a steam press. How many coins could a screw press produce daily?

The Mint made about 6,000 coins daily if no mechanical or die problems were encountered. Considering it took several people to operate a screw press the system was very inefficient by modern standards.

Was one of the people operating a screw press responsible for inserting coin blanks by hand?

The first feeding device to make U.S. coins was employed by the Mint in 1795 for minting half dimes. Otherwise someone needed to watch his fingers as blanks were fed into the screw press manually.

How can I tell if my Hobo nickel is a “jungle” or “hobo camp” original or if it is a modern product?

The earlier Hobo nickels were carved rather than using machine tools. These are usually of higher artistic quality than are most modern Hobos. Punches and power are often applied when making modern Hobos. The area behind the head is rough when a power tool has been used.

I recently acquired a Buffalo nickel carved into a Hobo nickel with the initials GH for George Hughes. Someone told me Hughes’ signature was applied to the work of later artists. What gives?

Both John Dorusa and Frank Brazzell applied GH initials to some of their work until collector Bill Fivaz convinced them to start signing their own names to their nickels.

Has a collar always been used when minting U.S. coins?

U.S. coins – yes – Colonial coins – no. Medieval quality coins were struck for New England and Maryland without using a collar.

Prior to 1857 it was legal to use foreign coins in the United States. Was counterfeiting of these foreign coins a problem?

Enterprising citizens did counterfeit foreign coins, but it is questionable just how widespread this became. Counterfeit Spanish colonial American silver reales fractional denominations was a sufficient problem in Palmyra, N.Y., in 1845 that a committee was formed to find the culprits. These were die-struck silver-plated brass fakes. It was later learned two committee members were among the guilty. One later escaped prison, taking working coinage dies with him.

How can I tell if a coin has been dipped?

If the surface of a coin has not been “improved” by dipping that surface should be smooth. Once a coin has been dipped there will be minuscule pockmarks due to surface metal having been removed. Unless the coin was dipped for too long a period the natural luster will be retained.

I have a 1954 double mint set on which the coins are darkly toned. How can I tell if the toning is natural due to the sulfur in the paper, or due to some artificial enhancement?

If the coins are evenly toned it is likely the sulfur in the paper is the reason. Sniff the paper holders for signs of tobacco smoke. Since smoking was more prevalent at the time this set was issued this might be the culprit.

Trade tokens are used sporadically to promote local businesses. Aren’t they against the law to issue?

“Community currency” is a complementary currency used by groups with a common bond. Most are geographically based and used within a base of businesses. Since federal law prohibits people from making metal coins intended for use as currency the legality of these souvenirs is questionable.

Are there any community currencies that are in regular rather than limited use, in other words, there is no expiration date of these tokens?

Among interstate community currencies used recently is the blue money of Brattleboro, Vt., and Chesterfield, N.H.; BNI used in areas of Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania; Disney dollars used in Disneyland and Disney World; and something called the Fourth Corner Exchange used in the Pacific Northwest.

How can these community currencies be legal?

Each of the four just named is considered to be a complementary currency. This means they are interchangeable with our national currency, but they are not meant to displace or be a substitute for it. They are viewed officially more like coupons than legal tender.

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

More Collecting Resources

• The 1800s were a time of change for many, including in coin production. See how coin designs grew during the time period in the Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1801-1900 .

• Start becoming a coin collector today with this popular course, Coin Collecting 101.