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South liked hard money after Civil War

Were silver dollars popular only in the West in the latter part of the 1800s?

A point often overlooked in the annals of this unloved and mostly unwanted coin was that it did enjoy a period of popularity after the Civil War in the South for at least two reasons. Most of the emancipated slaves were illiterate and on that account refused paper money in any form. The memory of the worthless paper money of the Confederacy was still fresh in the minds of everyone so the metal dollars took on a special importance, but one that would not last.

Who was the first coin dealer in the United States?

That title is generally given to Edward Cogan, who came to Philadelphia from England in 1853 at the age of 50. He began selling coins part-time in 1856. He held a private bid sale on Nov. 1, 1858, which is considered to be one of the first, if not the first, such sale of coins. At this sale he sold 77 lots to a total of 19 buyers for $128.68. The average of $1.67 a lot for large cents seems minuscule compared to today’s multi-million dollar sales, but it was a major landmark at the time.

 Harry Houdini

Harry Houdini

Is there some sort of story connected to magician Harry Houdini, who reputedly used real gold coins in his act?

One source says that Houdini, in a World War I version of the USO tours, entertained American troops by first filling a fishbowl with half dollars and then going into the audience and pulling gold $5 half eagles out of the ears and hair of his audience. He would cap this by tossing the coin to some lucky soldier – most magicians used simulated coins. By the end of the war he reportedly had given away some $7,000 in gold coins in this fashion.

How many coins are in the Smithsonian collection?

A old figure of 850,000 was the best I could find, but it is undoubtedly much larger by now. The total compares with the half million coins in the Royal Dutch collection in the Hague, and the same size collection in the Vienna Kunst Museum. The Hermitage Museum in Leningrad has a collection of 1.4 million coins. That collection began sometime before 1825.

Did Leonardo da Vinci sketch a design for a coin press?

Yes, da Vinci actually did sketch a design for a coin stamper. A 10-foot model was built from da Vinci’s plans by the Roger Williams Mint and donated to the American Numismatic Association’s museum. Had the stamper been built, it would have vastly improved the quality of coinage in his time.

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