■ Have there been U.S. coins on which a serial number appears?
Serial numbers and state abbreviations appear on some 1925 Stone Mountain half dollars. According to A. Steve Deitert in the January 2011 The Numismatist, “... every town with a coin quota was designated as a ‘unit.’ Each unit was entitled to ‘at least one coin showing on the face the State initials and a serial number.’” Serial numbers also appear alongside the Madison Foundation initials on the edge of 9,656 1993 Bill of Rights half dollars, these being marked by the American Numismatic Association as a special promotion. Readers, are there others? There are no U.S. coins serial numbered by the U.S. Mint.
■ Why don’t serial numbers appear regularly on coins?
Bank notes are a certificate and for that reason require a serial number. When coins were specie (having intrinsic value), it was that intrinsic weight and purity that certified the coin. Our current fiat money coins have even less reason to carry serial numbers.
■ What are the pros and cons on 2021 Morgan and Peace silver dollars being treated as part of the older series versus being treated as modern non-circulating legal tender commemoratives?
The 2021 Morgan and Peace dollars were not meant to circulate; however, each is legal tender for $1 if someone really wants to spend them. Since the design elements are identical to the earlier series, the coins can be argued either to be part of the series or to be simply commemoratives. The 1990 Eisenhower dollar was marketed as a commemorative, but likewise, despite having a different depiction of the president, could be argued to be part of the set alongside the circulation strikes of 1971 to 1978.
■ How can I tell if a coin found in circulation is a proof?
Proof coins have been produced using ever-changing technologies. For that reason, there is no one-size-fits-all way of determining when a proof has gotten into circulation. In general, examine the fields for mirror-like surfaces not present on business strike coins. The edge of a proof is typically sharper than is the edge on a coin meant to be a circulation strike. Mishandled proofs are particularly challenging to identify, as is the difference between a proof and a prooflike Morgan silver dollar.
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