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Studying numismatic history can be fun

By the time you read this, I will have delivered my Money Talks program at the American Numismatic Association National Money Show in Irving, Texas. The title of my presentation is “Oops! A Lighthearted Review of Design Mistakes on Circulating U.S. Coins.”


There have been several instances where shortly after a new design appeared on a circulating U.S. coin, the design was revised. If you dig into the numismatic history behind the creation of the new designs and also of the subsequent design changes, you can uncover examples of political intrigue, outright mistakes by the designers that were never detected by those who approved the artwork, conceptual flaws in some coin issues that made them impractical for commerce, and several other issues.

In other words, studying numismatic history can be fun.

Just to give you some idea of what you can learn by studying numismatic history, here are some teasers from my presentation to pique your interest:

For what U.S. coin issue did the Secretary of the Treasury receive a demand to recall all specimens that were already in circulation and to modify the design for subsequent issues?

When James Barton Longacre created multiple design concepts for what eventually became the Indian Head cent, what other proposed design theme was rejected because of fears that it might stir up the residents in the former Confederacy?

Which U.S. coin designer created a lovely design who was then kowtowed by the U.S. president into adding more design elements to create a potentially ethnically objectionable and incongruous obverse?

What were the most confusing circulating U.S. coins in the 19th and in the 20th centuries?

Which circulating U.S. coin design was allegedly created by the designer using his own daughter as the model for Liberty, but was later confirmed not to be the model?

If you would like to receive a copy of my Power Point presentation on this subject, please send me an email to You are welcome to copy parts or most all of the information in creating your own numismatic educational projects, although a credit or acknowledgement would be appreciated.

Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2017 Exemplary Service and 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He was also honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild in 2017 and 2016 for the Best Dealer-Published Magazine/Newspaper and for Best Radio Report. He is the communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes “Liberty’s Outlook,” a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at Some of his radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at

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

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