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Game counters look like old coins

What can you tell me about a coin that appears to be a mule of an Argentine coin and a U.S. gold quarter eagle? It’s been in the family for many years.

Were it not for the disappointment, I would be tempted to make a pun about “playing games.” Sadly, this is no mule, but instead a game counter or poker chip. It is one of the American counters, as opposed to the multitude in use in Europe, and further one of three with similar obverses and the reverses of the $2.50, $5 and $10 gold coins. So far I have not been able to pinpoint the manufacturer, leaving that to a reader. The pieces are brass or copper, and they have no precious metal content.

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Do you have mintage figures for the Fugio cents?

The Breen reference does not have any mintage figures for the varieties. The only mintage figures quoted are a shipment by the James Jarvis Mint of 398,577 pieces, “supposedly representing 15 percent of the initial coinage of 2,657,180.” He lists numerous varieties but no other mintage figures.

Are there any known platinum counterfeits of gold coins?

There are several. For example, in 1860 platinum was one-third the value of gold. Crooks obtained $10 and $20 gold coins, sawed them in half, scooped out the gold in the center and replaced it with platinum. This sharp practice almost ended the mintage of the $20 gold coins, but by 1876 the price of platinum had risen enough to make the scam unprofitable. Today platinum is worth about 75 percent of gold’s price.

Is it true that a substantial number of proof sets were lost in the mail back in the 1960s?

The year was 1964, and according to published reports 36,086 sets failed to reach the destination addresses. Since this apparently was a perennial problem, the Mint had a reserve of 20,000 sets to cover both mail losses and to use as replacements in the sets. However, the replacement supply was quickly exhausted and some 16,000 collectors got refunds instead of the sets they had ordered. I suspect that this incident led to the overkill practice of sending collector sets by registered mail that went on for a number of years and added substantially and needlessly to the cost of sets.

I read that there were less than two dozen coin dealers in the United States at the turn of the century. Is that accurate?

My source says there were “21 coin dealers in the United States in 1900.” Quite a difference from today.

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

More Collecting Resources

• If you enjoy reading about what inspires coin designs, you'll want to check out Fascinating Facts, Mysteries & Myths about U.S. Coins.

• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-2000 is your guide to images, prices and information on coinage of the 1900s.