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Top officials on Assay Commission

Our now defunct Assay Commission included some coin collectors. I’m certain this wasn’t the original intent. Who were the commissioners initially?


The first U.S. Assay Commission consisted of the Chief Justice of the United States, Comptroller of the Treasury, Secretary of the Treasury and the U.S .Attorney General – a high-powered group of officials if ever there was one. Such was the importance attached to coinage.

The 2000-P Library of Congress $10 coin is the first ringed bimetal coin issued by the United States, or is it? What about the 1792 Birch cent?

The 1792 is a copper coin to which a silver plug was added. This makes it a bimetal coin, but I would argue it has a plug rather than a center and ring sandwiched together.

Why did the United States issue a ringed bimetal Library of Congress coin when the Mint could have issued a more traditional composition coin with no effort?

The true reasoning behind this coin is likely buried in some correspondence filed somewhere in the Library of Congress. It was likely issued to demonstrate the technical capabilities of the U.S. Mint.

It doesn’t make any sense that the United States issued both a gold and a silver dollar at the same time during the 1850s to the 1880s. Why did we do it?

The Gold Rush in California was the trigger, this having caused an increased supply of gold at a time when silver dollar coins were typically hoarded or exported. Once Congress lowered the weight of the silver in coins in 1853, the silver version began to circulate once again, making the gold redundant. The gold version never recovered.

Why were both Shield and Liberty Head nickels struck during 1883?

Treasury Secretary Charles J. Folger initially rejected the proposed Liberty Head nickel design because the design submitted to him had “United States of America” on the obverse rather than the reverse. Coin designer Charles Barber modified the design, but by that time Shield nickels were already in production.

Why weren’t nickels struck at Denver or San Francisco earlier than during 1912?

Congress lifted a legal requirement that all cents and nickels be produced exclusively at Philadelphia. This occurred in 1906.

Someone recently showed me a copy of the June 17, 2015 “The Dalles Chronicle” newspaper from Oregon. The article begins, “Freebridge Brewing is taking over The Mint downtown The Dalles.” Was there a mint in Oregon at one time?

Congress commissioned a branch mint in The Dalles, Ore., in 1864 due to gold mining in nearby Canyon City. The mines were depleted while the mint building construction experienced delays and cost overruns. In 1870, construction ceased without any coins ever having been struck. The building still exists and is currently the home of Freebridge Brewing.

How did the United States come to have a branch mint in Manila, The Philippines?

The Casa de Moneda in Manila issued gold and silver coins for its Spanish government beginning in 1861. The facility closed in 1912 but was reopened as a U.S. branch mint facility in 1920. It issued Philippine coins until 1922, then again between 1925 and 1941 when Japan overran the country during World War II. The mint building was destroyed in 1945 as the Allies retook the Philippines from Japan.

I’ve seen quarters used as the host for comical themes including Arnold Schwarzenegger as “the governator,” George W. Bush chasing terrorist Osama bin Laden, and Bill Clinton shown in a compromising position. Has a similar comical theme for President Donald Trump appeared on a quarter?

Trump quarters have already appeared bearing such messages as “Trust Me” or “Take a dump on Trump.” Since he has only been President for a little more than a year, I suspect others will follow. If you see one, send me an email.

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

More Collecting Resources

• With over 25,000 listings and 15,500 illustrations, the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, Modern Issues is your go-to guide for modern bank notes.

• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1601-1700 is your guide to images, prices and information on coins from so long ago.