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Coin Clinic: Gold medals in guide

David Quante of the Myrtle Beach Coin Exchange has offered some additional information on the American Arts gold medallion program.
2014 U.S. Coin Digest

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By Richard Giedroyc

David Quante of the Myrtle Beach Coin Exchange has offered some additional information on the American Arts gold medallion program.

It was interesting to read the series of letters in the Oct. 29 issue regarding the American Arts medals. The 2009 Red Book [R.S. Yeoman, “A Guide Book of United States Coins”] lists them beginning on Page 405 with mintages, photos and a description of each. The pages were deleted in 2010 and have not reappeared, so I keep a copy of the 2009 Red Book just for that reason. (I have not checked to see if earlier Red Books also listed the medals.)

I recently found some red and blue cardboard ration tokens in a mix of coins. Can you explain their function?

Office of Price Administration ration tokens were introduced in 1944 during World War Two. The OPA used stamps, tokens, and chits for rationing such commodities as canned goods, coffee, fuel, meats and sugar. These tokens were to be given to consumers as change during transactions with merchants that involved food purchased using ration stamps. The blue tokens were for processed foods, while the red tokens were for meat and fats. The 16 millimeter diameter celluloid or vulcanized fiber composition tokens were used until the war ended during 1945. Today collectors have identified 30 different red and 24 different blue OPA tokens to collect.

Where did the dollar sign originate?

The dollar sign was likely shorthand when it was first used. There are many theories on its origination, but nothing has been concluded. The symbol appears on business correspondence regarding American, British, Canadian and Spanish-American businesses during the 1770s. This correspondence involves the Spanish and Spanish colonial American 8-reales coin, also known as a Spanish milled dollar or piece of eight. Among the theories surrounding the dollar sign are that it began as a slash through the numeral eight representing the 8 reales. It may have evolved from the symbol ps for peso. The Spanish silver mine at Potosi in what is today Bolivia superimposed the letters PTSI as the mint mark on its 1573 to 1825 coinage, this mintmark resembled the single-stroke dollar sign. Another of the many theories is that the dollar symbol originated from the scroll wrapped around the pillar on the portrait/pillar 8-reales coin, one again appearing as an S with a line through it. No one really knows which if any of these suggestions is correct.

Where does the cents sign originate?

A lower case letter “c” with a vertical or diagonal stroke through it indicates a monetary unit of one 100th of a basic monetary unit in many countries worldwide. Consider the symbol to be shorthand. The word cent is derived from the Latin word centum, which means hundred. Century is derived from the same word.

Where can I get information on collecting prison scrip?

Jerry Zara’s book “Prison Tokens and Medals of the United States,” published in 1992, is a primary source of information on this subject. Beyond that I would check both hard copy auction catalogs and online Internet sales for additional and possibly more current information. Prison scrip is considered to be an area of exonumia.

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