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The Mystery Behind ‘Magicians Coins’

I’m looking to invest in rather than to collect gold in some form. Are gold stocks or gold coins the better choice?

Are you looking for growth or a hedge against market calamities or hyperinflation? Gold mining stocks can be part of a retirement portfolio. Gold stocks offer appreciation, compounding, and a likely faster return. Gold as a commodity offers a longer-term hedge against stock market downturns and against inflation.

I got a two-headed quarter in change. There is no seam around the edge. Should I assume the coin is genuine?

Many two-headed or ‘magicians’ coins are manufactured privately as a novelty item using genuine coins as their hosts. While some are simply made by sandwiching two coin halves together, others are made with the indication of their separation hidden in the rim.

Shown here is an example of a two-headed coin. (Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

two head(2)
two head

How can I determine for certain a two-headed coin is not genuine?

The ring will be different from that of a genuine coin if you drop a two-headed coin on a surface. Also, the weight of such a coin is less than its genuine counterpart, this being due to the hollowing out of one coin so the second coin can be dropped into the hollowed area.

Is it possible for a two-headed coin to be made by accident by the mint?

Obverse and reverse die shafts are purposely made of different sizes and shapes so each will only fit one way into the mint’s coining presses. Considering the speed at which coining presses operate if such an error was possible there would be thousands, rather than a single example, that would be produced by the time workers would have discovered the mistake. 

Have any genuine two-headed coins ever been made by a government mint?

You could consider the 1905 Lewis and Clark gold dollar to have two heads or obverse sides due to the portraits. Beyond that, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation and the US Secret Service each authenticated a two-reverse Washington quarter in 2000. The coin was found in a safe deposit box with San Francisco Mint error coins, suggesting it may be a trial piece spirited out of the mint. One such coin sold privately in 2001, while yet another sold through Heritage Auctions in August 2006.

Mad money is the name of a popular television financial program. Does the term ‘mad money’ have a numismatic tie?Mad money has a numismatic connection—sort of. Mad money was originally meant to be a small amount of physical cash kept for an unanticipated expense. My mother told me when she was single she kept ‘mad money’ in her purse in case she would need a taxi to take her home should a date become a problem. Mad money is a physical cash emergency fund.