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Coin Clinic: What’s up with $100?

I have a $100 Federal Reserve Note on which there are two violet color marks stamped on the back as well as an inscription in Arabic. Can you explain what this is all about?

By Richard Giedroyc

I have a $100 Federal Reserve Note on which there are two violet color marks stamped on the back as well as an inscription in Arabic. Can you explain what this is all about?


The bank note was signed by an individual named al-Sayyid al-Mutawalli Abd al-Qadir, who apparently left the note at a bank in an Arabic country while the bankers examined it for authenticity. Once they were satisfied the note was genuine they countermarked it. The note eventually found its way back to the United States.

The papers that came with my $5 1988 commemorative gold coin say it has 90 percent gold, 4.2 percent silver, and 5.8 percent copper. This content is not shown in the Red Book. I wonder if this is the only U.S. gold coin that has any silver?

I wasn’t able to find a copy of the 1988 $5 gold Olympic Coin legislation in time to answer your question, but I did find the legislation for the Medal of Honor Coin Act of 2009 and for the 2013 Five-Star General Commemorative Coin Act. In each case the legislation reads: “contain 90 percent gold and 10 percent alloy.” I also found a certificate accompanying a 1992 gold Olympic $5 indicating the coin is 90 percent gold, six percent silver, and four percent copper. The certificate for a 1996 gold Olympics $5 indicates the coin is 90 percent gold with 10 percent silver-copper alloy. The blanks for each of these were made for the Mint by private contractors. It appears the contractors had their own interpretations of what 10 percent alloy should mean.

Is the inverted mintmark on the half dollar in the 1990-S Proof set common?

The inverted mintmark 1990-S proof half dollar is becoming something of an urban legend. The proof coin mintmark has been added to the master die since 1985. For this reason the mintmark is consistent. If the “S” were inverted it would be inverted on all of the half dollars. This raises the question how some 1990 proof sets could contain the rare No Mint Mark Lincoln cent. This happened not due to the placement of the mintmark, but due to an inferior die made from the master die. At the time this Lincoln cent error was discovered U.S. Mint press secretary David L. Karmol acknowledged 145 No-S proof Lincoln cents were found in inventory and destroyed. Since a proof cent die could at that time make an average of 3,700 coins this suggests there might be perhaps 3,555 sets containing the error Lincoln cent that were sold before the problem was discovered.

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Some dealers advertise proof sets from 1955-1964 with the notation “unopened” or “unopened, sealed mint brown envelopes.” As a young man I purchased proof sets every year since the mid 1950s from the cashier’s window at the Philadelphia Mint. Never did I receive a sealed one. I recall that if I ran into a friendly cashier he would let me look through a few sets to pick out the one I wanted. But never did I run into a sealed set. What does this designation mean when, at least from my experience, sets were never sealed in the first place?

The flat pack proof set was introduced in 1955. Proof sets were available in the traditional box or in the flat pack that year, the flat pack coming in an envelope. Some of these envelopes were sealed, while others were not, likely at random. The proof sets in the sealed envelopes were often opened, damaging the envelope in the process. Today there are “purists” who seek 1955 to 1964 sets in envelopes that were sealed, but have never been opened. There are also collectors who seek proof and mint sets still sealed in the original shipping boxes. Some sealed sets have been tampered with, so be careful.

Isn’t there an 1854-O $10 gold piece with what is called the “huge date”?

Walter Breen describes the variety as having had the date punched with the logo used for the 1854 Seated Liberty silver dollar. It fills the entire space between the truncation and the rim.

What are the Masonic arms and what was the source for them?

The Masonic arms, used on many of the chapter pennies, are a quartered shield, each quarter displaying the supposed arms of one of the four main tribes of Israel. Tradition has it that the arms were given to the Company of Masons in 1472 by William Hawkesloe, Clarenceaux king-at-arms.

When did the practice of “throwing” the Mardi Gras medals begin?

Medals for Mardi Gras in New Orleans were issued as early as the1880s, but it wasn’t until 1960 that the Rex Doubloons were thrown to the crowds lining the parade route.

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