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If you know the number of coins, say it

Some of my numismatic friends tell me I’m far too precise with reference to our king of hobbies, but let me run something past you and let you be the judge.

Some of my numismatic friends tell me I’m far too precise with reference to our king of hobbies, but let me run something past you and let you be the judge.


At my most recent coin club meeting, some of my numispals heard me utter that I had just read in a popular numismatic magazine that the number of surviving examples of a famous and rare U.S. coin was, and I quote, “two to seven known.”

I informed my fellow club members that this didn’t make sense because you can have two known, or you can have seven known, but you can’t have two to seven known because known means known.

If the number is known, really and truly known, give the known number. Hence, if two coins are known to exist, say that. If seven examples are known, say that. But not two to seven known.

“You needn’t be a rocket scientist to see this,” I told my chums. “It’s easy to see, right? Come on.”

My fellow club members rewarded my impassioned plea for reasoned rationality with blank stares, followed by inane, insane arguments too peppered with colorful language to repeat here. So I stared back at them and calmly defended my position.

“Look guys and gals,” I pointed out, “let me try an analogy or two so as to clarify my point. Think about it for a second.

“Suppose you ask me how many days there are in a week and I answer, ‘seven to nine known.’ Is that precise or sensible? Or suppose you ask me how many states there are in the United States of America and I answer, ‘50 to 55 known.’

“What if a child asks me how many eggs there are in a dozen and I answer, ‘12 to 14 known’? If you ask a young mother how many children she’s had, should she answer, ‘one to three known’? Suppose a school teacher asks a student how many years are mentioned in the first line of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the student answers, ‘four score and seven to four score and 12 known.’

“And just how many sexes, ladies and gentlemen, are there in our human race? Two to seven known? Come on, people, get with it. OK?”

My friends looked edgy and uncomfortable so I backed off and calmed down a bit.

“Hey, everybody, relax,” I said. “It’s no big deal.”

For the remainder of our club meeting, my fellow members looked at me as though I’d just cleaned their MS-70 1909-S VDB cent with steel wool. When it came time to leave, I wondered just how many more meetings the club president would give me before terminating my membership. “Probably zero to one known,” I thought to myself.

As I walked out the door, the club president yelled out to me. “Hey Curt,” he said, “How many bottles in a six-pack?”

My answer was precise, for I knew what he wanted me to say. “Mr. President,” I responded, “I have absolutely no idea.”

Curt Wood is a numismatist from Van Nuys, Calif.

Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion on a variety of numismatic subjects. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Numismatic News.
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More Resources:

2010 U.S. Coin Digest, The Complete Guide to Current Market Values, 8th ed.

• State Quarters Deluxe Folder By Warmans

Standard Guide to Small-Size U.S. Paper Money, 1928 to Date

Strike It Rich with Pocket Change, 2nd Edition