Most of us are familiar with the lore of dropping a coin into Trevi Fountain, but there are lots of urban legends about coins. Here are some of our favorites for United States coins!
In 1947, a rumor spread like fire across the United States: if you took a copper 1943 cent to your local Ford dealer, you would receive a free car! The company was flooded with inquiries about the “promotion,” and were mystified. Not only did no such promotion exist, Ford insisted, but they doubted the coin itself existed, as the 1943 cents were not minted from copper at all. As it turns out, there are a handful of copper cents from 1943, though each of these is worth considerably more than most Fords. One such coin sold at auction for $46,000 in 2001. These copper cents were first discovered in 1947, which may have sparked the initial rumor, but this is only speculation.
The Roosevelt dime was first minted in 1946, and almost immediately sparked a conspiracy theory. If you look very closely at a Roosevelt dime, you can see two tiny letters, “JS,” just to the right of the lowest point of the bust. This was a subversive tribute to Joseph Stalin, the theorists insisted. Of course, the letters were simply the initials of the designer, John Sinnock, the eighth Chief Engraver of the United States Mint. (This rumor popped up again in 1948, when the first Sinnock-designed Franklin half-dollars began to circulate.)
A similar legend surrounded the Kennedy half-dollar upon its release. Some people insisted that the design incorporated the hammer and sickle of the USSR; finally, to stop the rumors, coin designer and ninth Chief Engraver of the US Mint Gilroy Roberts explained that the tiny symbol was his own monogram, a stylized representation of the initials “G.R.”
As long as there are small differences and varieties in coins, there will be an urban legend to explain the “secret” story behind it!