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Coinage legislation left out the word “The”

 (Image courtesy

(Image courtesy

Why is “The” missing from the inscription “United States of America” on our coins?

Section 10 of the Mint Act of April 2, 1792, says, “...with this inscription, ‘UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,’...” Once this tradition was established, nobody saw any need to change it. Particularly in the early days when dies were hand-made, they economized in every possible way, so perhaps this was another reason for not adding the extra three letters.

I have a 1964-D dime that has been examined by several dealers who tell me it is a proof. Can this be true?

It is unlikely that your ’64-D dime is a proof, as the information that proof coins were struck only at Philadelphia that year is correct. What you may have is a first strike from new dies, which often will have an appearance similar to a proof. Send the coin to an authentication service if you are still in doubt.

Going through a lot of cents, I notice that a number have weak or missing letters in “STATES OF,” or the “E” and sometimes the dot in “E PLURIBUS.” What causes this?

This is a frequent question, since such defects are readily noticed. That very frequency is an indication of the value – none – because of the high mintages involved. The cause is poor die design, a perennial failing of U.S. coins, which allows too much metal to flow into the obverse design, not leaving enough to come up in the reverse design. If you check the wheat cents, you will find the same weakness on the “O” in “ONE” on a high percentage of the coins.

Weren’t there actually three different date sizes for the 1960 cents – a small, medium, and large date?

This is another situation akin to the problems with the different mintmarks on the 1979 and 1981 proof coins. Shortly after the small date 1960 and 1960-D cents were first reported, enthusiastic collectors reported that there were three sizes, and for a time the medium dates were advertised right along with the small. Later it was conclusively proved, based on Mint records, that only two different size dates were used for 1960.

I’ve heard that there is a $1,000 reward for a certain variety of the 1964 nickels. I have one, so will you get the reward for me, please?

I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I know of no variety of any kind in the minting of specifically the 1964 or 1964-D nickels that is worth $1,000, or even a significant fraction of that figure. The only one I can think of off hand is the “PLURIDUS” variety, attributed by the Mint to die abrasion, which is worth upwards of $150 to $175, depending on the grade. I don’t know of any legitimate offer of a “reward” for coin varieties, either.

What are so-called dollars?

They are privately issued medals or tokens similar in size to the old silver dollars.

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

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