Facts About Coin Collecting

Wondering what the name is for an individual that collects coins? That would be a Numismatist. (Pronounced new-miss-ma-tist.) It means “someone who studies and collects things that are used as money, including coins, tokens, paper bills, and medals.”

Interested in the art of coin collecting? This type of collection was once called “The Hobby of Kings”. Today, numismatics is a hobby available to anyone. With coins flooding the internet, anyone with access and a desire to hold history their hand is able to join in on this passion. Believe it or not, the origins of this captivating hobby are quite unusual. Until the 20th century, coin collecting was exclusively a pastime of royalty and wealthy.

The first recorded person to have a coin collection was Augustus Caesar, the first emperor of Rome. He lived from 63 B.C. to A.D. 14, and the eighth month of our year is named after him.

Not only did Augustus keep adding coins to his collection, but he also gave them as gifts. Starting this trend, many of the Roman emperors who ruled after Augustus also had large coin collections. The hobby became even more popular during the Middle Ages, when wealthy individuals and royal families built awesome collections.

This question may have crossed your mind from time to time, how long do coins last? And what happens to them once worn out? Most coins can circulate for about 25 years before they become too worn to be used anymore. That’s a long time when you consider that the average dollar lasts for only 18 months.

The United States Mint recycles worn-out coins it receives from a Federal Reserve Bank. The Mint then sends any usable metal that’s recovered to a fabricator, then repurposes for new coinage.

At first glance, many coins may look almost identical, but when you see the difference in the price tag you may think twice about how similar they really are. The things that affect the value of the coin most are age, rarity, condition, and precious metal. The value of any one coin can be surprising. For example, you can buy some Roman coins that are more than 1600 years old for less than $10.  But then there are some worn 1909 wheat pennies that sell for hundreds of dollars, or more!

Usually, the harder a coin is to find and the more people who want it, the more it’s worth. This is known as the law of supply and demand. It holds true no matter what the collectible.

The motto IN GOD WE TRUST first appeared on a U.S. coin in 1864, during the Civil War. In particular, the two-cent piece; first minted in that year, was the first coin with the slogan.

Since gaining independence, the U.S. has minted coins in denominations that today may seem odd. For example, the U.S. has minted half cents (1793-1857), two-cent pieces (1864-1873), three-cent pieces (1851-1889), twenty-cent pieces (1875-1878), $2.50 gold pieces (1796-1929), $3.00 gold piece (1854-1889), $4.00 gold pieces (1879-1880), $5.00 gold pieces or half eagles (1795-1929), $10.00 gold pieces or eagles (1795-1933), and $20.00 gold pieces (“double eagles”) (1849-1933). Currently, the only coin denominations for circulation being minted are the penny, nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar, and dollar.

Coin collecting is a pastime that has been around for thousands of years. It can grow with you as you find interest in different time periods in history, art-work of a particular coin and culture. There are as many avenues in coin collecting as you wish to travel, and with coins you can venture virtually anywhere around the world and to any period of time back to early human civilization right from the comfort of your home. Coin collecting can be a journey into history that lasts a lifetime – and the first coin to strike your interest may be sitting in your pocket or local coin shop right now.

Enjoy your journey in this very exciting hobby!

Coins in the Bible

Whether you take the Bible as word from God or as an incredible piece of writing; it’s undeniable that it is a fantastic reference point fir history and gives us an unparalleled look into the past. One thing we can closely exam are the coins in the Bible. A number of coins are mentioned in the Bible, and they have proved very popular among coin collectors. Specific coins mentioned in the Bible include the widow’s mite, the tribute penny and the thirty pieces of silver.



The Widow’s Mite by James Tissot

Widow’s Mite

The Lesson of the widow’s mite is presented in Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4, in which Jesus is teaching at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Gospel of Mark specifies that two mites (Greek lepta) are together worth a quadrans, the smallest Roman coin. A lepton was the smallest and least valuable coin in circulation in Judea, worth about six minutes of an average daily wage.

Mark 12:41-44 (NAB) reads:

He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.

The traditional interpretation of this story tends to view it as contrasting the conduct of the scribes with that of the widow, and encouraging generous giving; often compared with 2 Corinthians 9:7, “…for God loves a cheerful giver.”

However, in the passage immediately prior to Jesus taking a seat opposite the Temple treasury, he is portrayed as condemning religious leaders who feign piety, accept honor from people, and steal from widows:

Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.

The same religious leaders who would reduce widows to poverty also encourage them to make pious donations beyond their means. In some peoples opinion, rather than commending the widow’s generosity, Jesus is condemning both the social system that renders her poor, and “…the value system that motivates her action, and he condemns the people who conditioned her to do it.” It is also to be noted that if Jesus’ statement was to be seen as an endorsement of the widow’s action, it bears none of the usual comments, such as “Go, and do likewise.”


Mite minted by Alexander Jannaeus, King of Judaea, 103 – 76 B.C.

Tribute Penny


The Tribute Money by Titian 

One of the next most popular coins is the tribute penny. The tribute penny was the coin that was shown to Jesus when he made his famous speech “Render unto Caesar…” The phrase comes from the King James Version of the gospel account: Jesus is asked, “Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” (Mark 12:14) and he replies, “bring me a penny, that I may see it” (Mark 12:15).

The Greek text uses the word dēnarion, and it is usually thought that the coin was a Roman denarius with the head of Tiberius. It is this coin that is sold and collected as the “tribute penny,” and the Gospel story is an important factor in making this coin attractive to collectors. The inscription on the coin reads Caesar Augustus Tiberius, son of the Divine Augustus, claiming that Augustus was a god. The reverse shows a seated female, usually identified as Livia depicted as Pax.


Denarius of the Emperor Tiberius

However, it has been suggested that denarii were not in common circulation in Judaea during Jesus’ lifetime and that the coin may have instead been an Antiochan tetradrachm bearing the head of Tiberius, with Augustus on the reverse. Another suggestion often made is the denarius of Augustus with Gaius and Lucius on the reverse, while coins of Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and Germanicus are all considered possibilities



Judas receiving thirty pieces of silver for betraying Jesus, by Mattia Preti, c. 1640

Thirty Pieces of Silver

Lastly, an often cited coins are the thirty pieces of silver, which famously, was the price for which Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus, according to an account in the Gospel of Matthew 26:15. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Judas Iscariot was a disciple of Jesus. Before the Last Supper, Judas went to the chief priests and agreed to hand over Jesus in exchange for 30 silver coins. Jesus was then arrested in Gethsemane, where Judas revealed Jesus’ identity to the soldiers by giving him a kiss.

According to Chapter 27 of Matthew’s gospel, Judas was filled with remorse and returned the money to the chief priests before hanging himself. The chief priests decided that they could not put it into the temple treasury as it was considered blood money, and so with it they bought the Potter’s Field. A different account of the death of Judas is given in Acts of Apostles; it describes Judas as using the money he had been rewarded with – no sum is specified – to buy the Potter’s field, and then falling there, dying of the resulting intestinal injuries.

The word used in Matthew 26:15 for the coins simply means “silver coins,” and scholars disagree on the type of coins that would have been used. Donald Wiseman suggests two possibilities. They could have been tetradrachms of Tyre, usually referred to as Tyrian shekels (14 grams of 94% silver), or staters from Antioch (15 grams of 75% silver), which bore the head of Augustus.

Alternatively, they could have been Ptolemaic tetradrachms (13.5 ± 1 g of 25% silver). There are 31.1035 grams per troy ounce. At spot valuation of $17.06/oz (the closing price on Monday, December 12, 2016), 30 “pieces of silver” would be worth between $185 and $216 in present-day value (USD).

The Tyrian shekel weighed four Athenian drachmas, about 14 grams, more than earlier 11-gram Israeli shekels, but was regarded as the equivalent for religious duties at that time. Because Roman coinage was only 80% silver, the purer (94% or more) Tyrian shekels were required to pay the temple tax in Jerusalem. The money changers referenced in the New Testament Gospels (Matt. 21:12 and parallels) exchanged Tyrian shekels for common Roman currency.

The 5th century BC Athenian tetradrachm (“four drachmae”) coin was perhaps the most widely used coin in the Greek world before the time of Alexander the Great (along with the Corinthian stater). It featured the helmeted profile bust of Athena on the obverse (front) and an owl on the reverse (back). In daily use they were called γλαῦκες glaukes (owls). The reverse is featured on the national side of the modern Greek 1 euro coin. Drachmae were minted on different weight standards at different Greek mints. The standard that came to be most commonly used was the Athenian or Attic one, which weighed a little over 4.3 grams. A drachma was approximately a day’s pay for a skilled laborer. So 30 pieces of silver (30 tetradrachm), at four drachmas each, would roughly be comparable to four months’ (120 days) wages.



An Antiochan tetradrachm

There are several other mentions of coins in the Bible but this is a snapshot of some of the most important and widely discussed instances of coinage in the Bible. It’s incredible to think that some of these exact coins can be found in coin collections and museums across the world today.


Coins Connecting You to the Spirit World

Save your coins! This is five creepy ways, your coins could connect you to the spirit realm.

Clinton_Road_signTake Your Coins to the Ghost Boy Bridge

The Ghost Boy Bridge is located on Clinton Road, the ‘most haunted road in America’. It can be a bit tough to find at first, because along the road’s 10 miles there are several bridges — this one is just the one with the most litter, graffiti, and coins sitting on rocks beneath it.

Legend has it that if you throw a coin over the bridge it will be thrown back at you by the ghost of a boy who drowned in the brook. In other versions, he recovers the coins you leave between lane lines at midnight, or, on some days, he might even push you in.


Polybius_Arcade_1Spend Your Coins on Polybius

Polybius is an arcade game that is the subject of an urban legend that supposedly first emerged in early 2000. The mythical game allegedly was part of a government-run psychology experiment based in Portland, Oregon. Gameplay supposedly produced intense psychoactive and addictive effects in the player. These few publicly staged arcade machines were said to have been visited periodically by men in black for the purpose of data-mining the machines and analyzing these effects.

Eventually, all of these Polybius arcade machines allegedly disappeared from the arcade market. But it is rumored you can sometimes still find Polybius. There have been accounts of people playing the machines only to return at a later date and for them to not be there any longer.


s-l1600 (15)Use Your Silver Coins to Play Spirit of the Coin

Spirit of the coin is a game similar to the Ouija board, the spirit of the coin uses a talking board to contact spirits and communicate with them. You just need a coin, a piece of paper, and a pen, then you’re ready to turn out the lights and talk to the dead.

On a blank sheet of paper write the alphabet around the edges and write numbers 0-9 across the bottom of the paper. Add the words start, end, yes, and no to the middle of the sheet. Then, in a dark room, light a candle and set a coin on the start. It has been reported that typically silver coins work the best and using objects you have an emotional attachment always enhance the possibility of connecting to the spirit world.

Once set up, just like with a Ouija board, have everyone present place a finger on the coin. Ask the spirit questions and hope for the best!


s-l1600 (14)Place Your Pennies Over Doorways When Moving

This is called the penny charm, and before you move any of your belongings into a new home, it is polite for you to greet the spirits who dwell there. You introduce yourself, explain who you are, how you intend to share the space, how you wish to interact with them, ask for their blessing, and invite them to provide security for you.

If the spirits accept you as a new member of the family and agree to let you reside in their house, they will leave a coin (or coins) on the floor. The coin, usually a penny, will appear close to a door or window (sometimes, it may appear on the actual window sill).

You should express your thanks to the spirits and place the penny on the top of the closest door or window-frame.

The penny acts as a symbolic charm of protection; the coin itself has no power. It represents the signed contract that the spirits have agreed to provide protection, to the best of their abilities, in the dimensions which they can affect.


smoke-1031060_1920Use Your Coins to Play Sara Sarita

This game allows you to communicate with Sara Sarita which legend says is the daughter of Lucifer while in another legend is cited as two sisters who died gruesomely. To play, two people will sit facing each other and ask Sara Sarita if they may enter the game then toss a coin over their shoulder. If both coins are heads up proceed to the game, if both are tails up it is highly encourage to not partake in the game. If one is heads and the other tails than politely ask again.

Once in the game you can ask Sara Sarita only yes or no questions. One at a time ask and then have both parties toss their coin. If both are heads up than the answer is yes, both tails up is no, and one heads and one tails than the answer is maybe. Continue as long as you like but make sure and ask permission to leave the game in the same fashion in which you ended it. If you do not get permission to leave make sure to continue asking until you get a yes. It is said that terrible luck will come upon anyone who leaves the game without permission.

Make sure and keep the coins safe during and after the game since Sara Sarita would not be happy if you spent them.

This post is apart of our 13 days of Halloween series. Checkout our other spooky posts:

  1. Washington Ghost Stories
  2. Out of Place Artifacts
  3. Henry Rathbone
  4. Charon and the Journey to Hades
  5. Post-Mortem Photography
  6. All Hallows Eve Divination Games
  7. Saved By The Bell and other Idioms
  8. Halloween Coins
  9. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  10. Coins Connecting You to the Spirit World
  11. Ancient Egyptian Alien Coins
  12. Superstitions Around the World
  13. A Brief History of Halloween

Coins: Haunted Canada, The Day of the Dead, Zombies

What’s a better way to get into the Halloween spirit than to add some ‘frightening’ coins to your collection? Here is just a sample of some coin series’ that have come out throughout the years that might just fulfill that love of all things spooky in your soul.

Haunted Canada Coin Trilogy

The Royal Canadian Mint released the Haunted Canada Coin Series, a coin series that aims to bring to life some of Canada’s legendary ghost stories. Coin collectors, who are interested in ghost stories and tragic love stories, should find this coin series intriguing.

hc2The Ghost Bride Coin
A 2014 25-Cent Cupronickel Coin, the Haunted Canada: Ghost Bride, features a portrait of a bride with her eyes closed. Until you tilt the coin and her eyes open and the once black background is filled with lit candles. Below the bride there is also an image of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, the 6th most haunted hotel in the world according to some sources.

The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel was built in 1888, located in the picturesque town of Banff, Alberta, the heart of Banff National Park. The luxury mountain getaway is legendary for its hospitality and attracts travelers, nature lovers and members of high society year-round. Legend has it that a ghost bride has been haunting the place since a fatal accident in the 1930s. The ghost bride stumbled and fell to her death down a curving stone staircase in the hotel: this happened shortly before the start of the wedding banquet. Stories have circulated for years now “about an apparition in a white wedding dress that moves quietly up and down the aforementioned staircase in the hotel.” There are some that even claim to have seen the bride dancing alone, the very same bride that was denied a first dance with her husband.

hc1Brakeman Coin
The second coin in the series debuted in 2015 and features Canada’s headless brakeman. In one image, the dark train tunnel is suddenly illuminated by the bright glow of a lantern as an otherworldly figure emerges before the viewer, dressed in a railway uniform from 1928. Chillingly, the brakeman appears without a head, with two small, glowing orbs that create the illusion of eyes peering out towards the viewer. When the coin is tilted to the other side, the light suddenly goes out, leaving the viewer alone in the darkness with this shadowy presence, as the ill-fated brakeman continues his eternal walk along the train tracks.

Outside the Waterfront Station, situated at the western end of Gastown, Vancouver, the ghost of a rail worker is sometimes seen on rainy nights. In 1928, the unfortunate brakeman, Hub Clark, was killed while he was making repairs in the rail yard. He slipped on the wet tracks and was knocked unconscious. Horrifically, a passenger train came along and ran him over, decapitating him. Since then, some have reported seeing the headless brakeman roaming the tracks, his lantern glowing in his hand. Others say they’ve seen him in different parts of Gastown. Does he think he’s still on the job or, even worse, is the poor man looking for his lost head?

hcBell Island Coin
The final 2016 coin in the series tells the myth of Bell Island. The coin features the glow of a hand-held lantern providing the only light for one anxious young man, who is making his way through the marshes near Dobbin’s Gardens. The first image finds the young man nervously looking over his shoulder, as behind him, an ethereal female figure dressed in white appears to hover over him. Tilting the coin to the other side reveals a frightening transformation: the ghost’s youthful appearance has suddenly aged while the facial features and hands are twisted in a terrifying manner!

Dobbin’s Garden on Bell Island is home, supposedly, to the “Bell Island hag.” This legend dates back to the Second World War, when German U-boats attacked the island. The story goes that a group of German sailors had secretly landed on the island to resupply their U-boat with the help of local sympathizers.

An unfortunate woman came upon the scene and was dragged into the marsh and killed. Locals, fearing a fairy trick, ignored her cries for help, and her restless spirit is said to still plague the site. Witnesses have described what initially looks like a woman in white walking up from the marsh after sunset.

As the thing gets closer, the colour starts to go gray, and then the thing falls to its knees and starts to crawl on all fours like a dog,” Crane says.

The creature’s “wormed-out face” and foul, sulfuric smell then knock out the unfortunate spectator.


Day of the Dead Skull Coins

Skull coins struck by Lichtenstein’s Coin Invest Trust for the Republic of Palau have proved highly popular. The Día de Muertos – Day of the Dead – is a Mexican holiday that is becoming increasingly popular throughout the world. Celebrated at the end of October the iconic skull or calavera makeup based on the famous La Catrina skeleton adorns many faces and is nowadays prominently featured in pop culture and art.

The Mexican Day of the Dead celebration is similar to other societies’ observances of a time to honor the dead. The Spanish tradition, for instance, includes festivals and parades, as well as gatherings of families at cemeteries to pray for their deceased loved ones at the end of the day. People go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed and build private altars containing the favorite foods and beverages, as well as photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed.

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Zombucks is an apocalyptic inspired series by the Provident Mint. The undead collection has 10 historical figures and coin designs that fall victim to the zombie apocalypse. The coins are produced in silver and copper bullion and proof versions. The coins include: the saint, dying eagle, slayed dollar, starving liberty, feast dollar, murk diem, the barber, american zombuff, morgue anne, and walker.

The Texas-based company tapped into the horror genre vein, replacing the dollar sign with a Z and employing futuristic dates on the rounds, suggesting a Zombie apocalypse in the not-too-distant future (2017 to 2019 dates appear on the rounds). The reverse of each round features a zombie-splattered biohazard symbol, warning the world of a dreadful new era.

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This post is apart of our 13 days of Halloween series. Checkout our other spooky posts:

  1. Washington Ghost Stories
  2. Out of Place Artifacts
  3. Henry Rathbone
  4. Charon and the Journey to Hades
  5. Post-Mortem Photography
  6. All Hallows Eve Divination Games
  7. Saved By The Bell and other Idioms
  8. Halloween Coins
  9. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  10. Coins Connecting You to the Spirit World
  11. Ancient Egyptian Alien Coins
  12. Superstitions Around the World
  13. A Brief History of Halloween

Why do Copper Coins Change Colors?

If you’re a coin collector or just happen to handle change a lot, you’ve probably seen old copper coins in various colors. From white to green to blue! Why do these coins take on so many different colors? One may think it’s because of something that got stuck to it, maybe a candy wrapper or some sticky food but these colors are actually naturally occurring!

s-l1600 (13)

pile of various cull wheat cents

There are two common forms of attack upon these older metals. In the milder case, a metal may tarnish. “Tarnish” is a thin coating on the surface of a metal and is usually very uniform and does not often destroy the intended purpose of the metal. “Corrosion,” on the other hand, is often not uniform, but may cause pits and may reach such proportions as to destroy the metallic object so that it cannot be used for its intended purpose.

In dry air, even tarnishing takes place quite slowly; however, with the usual atmosphere around us, the humidity accelerates the tarnishing process. The lowest oxide level of copper is cuprous oxide, or cuprite. Its color is pink. Barely noticeable at first, a penny becomes darker over time due to the tarnish layer thickening, as well as the continued oxidation to the black cupric oxide, tenorite.

Over time, and upon repeated or prolonged exposure to moisture in the presence of dissolved acidic substances, such as carbon dioxide and the polluting substances found in acid rain, tarnished copper turns green. Among these acid substances are the oxides of sulfur and the oxides of nitrogen. Reacting with moisture, they form dilute solutions of strong acids.

Copper that is exposed to open air will corrode and undergo a series of chemical reactions that lead to the development of a patina – a coating of copper oxide molecules which actually protects the metal beneath. Over time, copper transitions from its shiny brown color to a darker brown shade.

After many years it transitions into blues. At an even later stage the formation of copper sulfate, carbonate and chloride salts in varying concentrations turns the surface green. There are several factors which affect the amount of time these processes take including moisture, temperature, and the level of pollution. The formation of the natural green patina seen on copper roofs and statues takes a very long time, but methods have been developed to speed the process up using chemical reactions.

Statue_of_Liberty_7Coins aren’t the only place we often see this chemical reaction take place; we’ve all seen the greenish blue Statue of Liberty, but did you know Lady Liberty was once a copper color? That’s right, the famous statue was once covered in a thin layer of copper and was bronze when she first arrived in the United States from France. Acid in rain covers the Statue of Liberty whenever storms hit New York, and her exposure to oxygen from being in the middle of the ocean gradually turned her blue over the years.

10 Rare Pennies to Look for in Your Coin Jar

Ever wonder if that coin jar laying around your house has any value? Or are you new to coin collecting? Here is a list of ten rare pennies you want to be on the lookout for that either hold some historical significance or are worth more than face value.


  1. 1983 Doubled Die Reverse Lincoln Penny


A doubled die coin refers to a mistake in the minting process where a coin is struck twice. This means the coin’s design will be overlapped slightly. In the 1983 doubled die penny, the error is noticeable on its backside where the phrase ‘ONE CENT’ is printed. It may be difficult to spot at first, but when under magnification, it is very clear that there are two layers of words.


  1. 1984 and 1997 “Double-Ear” Lincoln Penny


During the minting process on the obverse side of the coin a double die gave Abraham Lincoln’s engraved portrait an extra earlobe. This one is easy to spot with the naked eye.


  1. 1909-S VDB Lincoln Penny


1909 is the first year of the Lincoln cent making it a particularly interesting one. Also be on the lookout for the designers initials of Victor D Brenner’s on the reverse. The large VDB marking on the reverse was only kept for a couple of days but when deemed too prominent was removed.


  1. 1990 No S Proof Lincoln Penny


In 1985 the U.S. Mint abandoned the practice of punching mint marks into working coin dies and instead, it began punching the mint mark directly onto the working hubs. However, the 1990 No S Proof Lincoln cent was inadvertently struck by a mint state die that had been processed as a proof die. This occurred because the Mint had shipped a mint state die to the San Francisco Mint without the die containing the S mint mark. Surprisingly, the 1990 No S Proof Lincoln cents deceived both the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mint employees.


  1. 1943 Copper Penny


In 1943, all pennies were made out of steel. The U.S. Mint decided to use steel instead of copper because they needed the copper for military equipment during World War 2. But a few copper pennies from that year were minted. There are only a few known to exist, but it is believed that there may be more out there.


  1. 1909-S Indian Cent


Similar to the 1909-S Lincoln Penny – this is the last year the Indian Cent was minted. Because the Lincoln Penny began production this year there are a smaller amount of total 1909-S Indian Cent’s than other years making it more rare and valuable.


  1. 1992 Close “AM” Penny


For these coins you’re going to want to check their backsides. What you are looking for is the placement of the letters “A” and “M” in the word “AMERICA.” In 1993, all pennies switched to the close AM design. Therefore, the pennies from 1992 should have a noticeable space between the “A” and the “M.” So if there is no space between the “A” and “M “on the backside of yours, then you have a rare coin.


  1. 1993 Wide “AM” Penny


In 1993, the penny switched to a close AM design—the two letters actually touch! A few of them managed to slip by with the old, wide AM design. For this year you will want to look on the reverse for a space between the “A” and the “M”.


  1. 1955 Double Die Lincoln Penny


In 1955, 20,000 to 24,000 doubled die pennies were released to the public, mostly as change given from cigarette vending machines. The doubling is visible on the letters and numbers almost entirely, with the bust of Lincoln remaining unaffected.


  1. 1886 Indian Head Penny


There were two different versions of the design printed that year — one with the last feather from the headdress pointing toward the space between the “I” and “C” of “AMERICA” and the second version with the feather pointing between the “C” and “A” instead. The second version is the more valuable of the two.

Think you might have one or more of these coins but are unsure? Or you have a different interesting coin that isn’t listed? Download the Lookzee app on Google Play or iOS App Store and share your coin with the Lookzee forums. The forum is a great place to connect with coin collectors and learn more about coins!

Currency in Leper Colonies

Leper colonies or houses became widespread in the Middle Ages, particularly in Europe and India, and often run by monastic orders. Historically, leprosy has been greatly feared because it causes visible disfigurement and disability, was incurable, and was commonly believed to be highly contagious. A leper colony administered by a Roman Catholic order was often called a lazar house, after Lazarus, the patron saint of lepers.


Depiction of A 13-year-old Boy with Severe Leprosy

Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease (HD), is a long-term infection by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Initially, infections are without symptoms and typically remain this way for 5 to 20 years. Symptoms that develop include granulomas of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes. This may result in a lack of ability to feel pain, which can lead to the loss of parts of extremities due to repeated injuries or infection due to unnoticed wounds. Weakness and poor eyesight may also be present.

Leprosy is spread between people, this is thought to occur through a cough or contact with fluid from the nose of an infected person. Contrary to popular belief, it is not highly contagious. The two main types of disease are based on the number of bacteria present: paucibacillary and multibacillary. The two types are differentiated by the number of poorly pigmented, numb skin patches present.

Leprosy has affected humanity for thousands of years. The disease takes its name from the Greek word λέπρᾱ (léprā), from λεπῐ́ς(lepís; “scale”), while the term “Hansen’s disease” is named after the Norwegian physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen. Social stigma has been associated with leprosy for much of history, which continues to be a barrier to self-reporting and early treatment. Some consider the word “leper” offensive, preferring the phrase “person affected with leprosy”.


Leper Colony in Crete, Greece, Closed in 1957

Some colonies historically were located on mountains or in remote locations in order to ensure quarantine, some on main roads, where there was hope for donations that would be used for their upkeep. Debate exists over the conditions found within historical leper colonies; while they are currently thought to have been grim and neglected places, there are some indications that life within a leper colony or house was no worse than the life of other, non-quarantined individuals. There is even doubt that the current definition of leprosy can be retrospectively applied to the Medieval condition. What was classified as leprosy then covers a wide range of skin conditions that would be classified as distinctly different afflictions today.


1921 2 Centavos Leper Coin

Some leper colonies issued their own money (such as tokens), in the belief that allowing lepers to handle regular money could spread the disease. However, leprosy is not easily transmitted by casual contact or objects; actual transmission only happens through long-term, constant, intimate contact with leprosy sufferers and not through contact with everyday objects used by sufferers.

Special leper colony money was used between 1901 and around 1955. The oldest money known was made in 1901 for use in three leper colonies of Colombia, called Agua de Dios, Cano de Loro, and Contratación. Five denominations of coins were issued: 2.5 centavos, 5 centavos, 10 centavos, 20 centavos, and 50 centavos. “República de Colombia 1901” was engraved. These coins were issued after the first leprosy congress in Berlin in 1897. Between 1919 and 1952, special coins were used in a Panama Canal Zone leper colony called Palo Seco Colony. One cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, 50 cents, and one dollar coins with holes in the centers were made in the United States. 

Other countries that minted leper money include the Philippines; in 1913, special aluminum coins were minted, japan; in 1919, special coins were made in Tama Zenshoen Sanatorium,  and Malaysia; in 1936, 5 cents, 10 cents and 1 dollar notes were issued in the Sungei Buloh Settlement. Leper colony money is also known to have existed in Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Korea, Nigeria, Thailand, and Venezuela.

The original reason for leper colony money was to prevent leprosy in healthy individuals.  In 1938, Dr. Gordon Alexander Ryrie in Malaysia proved that paper money was not contaminated with leprosy bacteria, and all the leper colony banknotes were burned in that country. Separating people by placing them in leper colonies still occurs in places such as India, China, and Africa. However, most colonies have closed, since over time it has been determined that leprosy isn’t easily passed along. Leper colony money can still be found sometimes and is an interesting find for collectors while telling a story of our world’s history.

Joseph Wright

Credited as the first designer of US coin, Joseph Wright, was born July 16, 1756 in Bordentown, New Jersey and lived until September 13, 1793. His career for most of his life was as a portrait painter and Wright was George Washington’s first choice to become the first Chief Engraver of the US Mint, but unfortunately, he died before he could officially take the position. 

There is some controversy about the first US coins ever made and who designed them. Most people believe that Wright was the designer of the original Liberty Cap Large Cent and Liberty Cap Half Cent (head facing left variety), but many others believe that Henry Voigt was the designer. Although most numismatists and historians officially give Wright the credit for designing this coin.


Portrait of Patience Wright

It is thought that perhaps Wright gained his artistic abilities from his Mother, Patience Wright, who is often regarded as America’s first sculptor. Patience Lovell was born in Oyster Bay, New York, into a Quaker farm family. The family moved to Bordentown, New Jersey when Patience was four years old. At age 16 she left the family home and moved to Philadelphia, where in 1748 she married Joseph Wright, a barrel maker who was many years her senior. She often amused herself and her children by molding faces out of putty, bread dough, and wax.

When Wright’s husband died in 1769, she was pregnant with a fourth child and needed a way to support the family. Working with her sister Rachel Wells, who by then was also a widow, she turned her sculpting hobby into a full-time occupation. The sisters set up a business molding portraits in tinted wax, a popular art form in colonial America, and charged admission to see them. By 1770 they had become successful enough to open a waxworks house in New York City and mount tours of their work to Philadelphia and Charleston.

Wright’s portraits were life-sized figures or busts with real clothing and glass eyes. They were modeled from life and were considered to be very lifelike. They were often placed in tableaux, illustrating the activities the portrayed individual might have undertaken in life.

After many of her sculptures were destroyed in a fire in June 1771, Wright relocated to London, England. Through a relationship with Jane Mecom, sister of Benjamin Franklin, she made her entry into London society. Wright settled in the West End and set up a popular waxworks show of historical tableaux and celebrity wax figures. She was honored with an invitation to model King George III, and would go on to sculpt other members of British royalty and nobility.

Patience Wright became known in London society for her rustic American manners, which were a source of both fascination and scandal. She wore wooden shoes, kissed members of both sexes and all classes in greeting, and in general did not follow the contemporary rules for someone of her class or gender. One rumor held that she had even called the king and queen by their first names, in an outrageous breach of conduct. Her reputation for unruliness led to the nickname “The Promethean Modeler”, and she gained a level of celebrity in 18th-century London. Wright famously offended Abigail Adams with her over-familiarity and lack of modesty about her skills. Adams wrote a disparaging letter home describing their encounter, describing her as “the queen of sluts.”

Wright’s technique for sculpting wax contributed to this public conception of her


Wright’s statue of William Pitt

character. She used body heat to keep the wax at a temperature where she could shape it, molding it under her apron in a suggestive manner, which scandalized viewers and was even parodied in newspaper cartoons. The medium itself was a form of “low art” and considered unrefined when compared to sculpture in bronze or stone.

Wright is rumored to have worked as a spy during the American Revolution, sending information back to the colonies inside her wax figures. Wright eventually fell from royal favor as a result of her open support for the colonial cause, especially after she reportedly scolded the king and queen after the battles of Lexington and Concord. She was an outspoken patriot, and started a fund to support American prisoners of war held in Britain. A group of pro-American activists, including Lord George Gordon, Benjamin West, and Anthony Pasquin, would meet at her London workshop to discuss their cause.

The fragility of her medium means that few of Wright’s works survive today. A full-length figure of William Pitt, produced after the Earl’s death, still stands in Westminster Abbey Museum. A bas-relief profile of Admiral Richard Howe in the collection of the Newark Museum is attributed to her.

In 1775, Joseph Wright joined his mother in England and became the first American-born student to matriculate in the Royal Academy of Arts in London, where he studied for 6 years. He won a silver medal for “the best model of an Academy figure” in December 1778. In 1780, he caused a scandal at the Royal Academy by exhibiting a portrait of his mother sculpting a wax head of King Charles II, while busts of King George III and Queen Charlotte looked on.


Frederick Muhlenberg painting by Joseph Wright

In 1781, Wright and his mother traveled to Paris. While there, he painted several portraits of Benjamin Franklin. After 7 years in Europe, Wright returned to America in 1782, where he became the first of just two artists to make a plaster mold of George Washington. Thomas Jefferson judged Wright’s portrait of Washington very highly. “I have no hesitation in pronouncing Wright’s drawing to be a better likeness of the General than Peale’s,” he wrote in 1795.

Early in his Presidency, Washington and Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, diligently sought after talented European engravers to design the first United States coins. However, they failed in this endeavor and ultimately decided that Wright would become the unofficial Engraver at the nascent Philadelphia Mint in the second half of 1792. In August, 1793, Joseph was designated as the Mint’s “First Draughtsman & Diesinker.”

On December 5, 1789, Wright married Sarah Vandervoordt in Philadelphia. They had three children, Sarah, Joseph, and Harriet. Wright and his wife both died, most likely as a result of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793. Despite his early passing, Joseph Wright, has forever made an impact on American history as the first Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint.

Check out coins designed by Wright and other famous Chief Engravers at our Ebay Shop

Learn More about other Chief Engravers:
James Longacre
John R. Sinnock

The Trial of the Pyx

The Trial of the Pyx (pronounced pIks) is a procedure in the United Kingdom for ensuring that newly minted coins conform to the required standards. These trials have been held from the thirteenth century to the present day, normally once per calendar year.


King Henry III

In medieval times the Master of the Mint was ordered to save for trial one coin for every ten pounds of silver minted. A trial at that time was normally conducted every three months. This procedure was developed during the reign of Henry III and even with modern day technology, the form of the ceremony has been essentially the same since 1282 AD. These events are trials in the full judicial sense, presided over by a judge with an expert jury of metallurgical assayers. Given modern production methods, it is unlikely that coins would not pass the “trials”, but it has been a problem in the past—being too tempting for the Master of the Mint to not steal the coins’ precious metals.

The title of these trials comes from the Greek word for wooden box, pyx. In modern day The Pyx are reinforced (often plastic) boxes of currency ready to be assayed or tested. In them are hundreds of envelopes containing thousands of coins.The coins in 2017’s Trial of the Pyx ranged from a £49,995 commemorative coin made from a kilo of solid gold, down to a simple 20p piece.

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Livery Hall at Goldsmiths’ Hall

Trials are currently (as of 2018) held at the Hall of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths; formerly, they took place at the Palace of Westminster. There is also a Pyx Chapel (or Pyx Chamber) in Westminster Abbey, which was once used as secure storage for the Pyx and related articles. The Goldsmiths’ Hall is an  impressive temple to the yellow metal, featuring huge chandeliers, gold-leaf on the walls, and prominently displayed treasures. For the trials, members of the public and invited dignitaries are sat on one side of the room. The Queen’s Remembrancer, a judge, sits at the head of the table to give her address and start the trial.

Throughout the year, coins are selected at random from batches of each denomination struck by The Royal Mint. They are then sealed in bags that contain 50 coins each and locked away in the Pyx chests. The chests of coins are taken to the Trial of the Pyx. The Jury at each trial is made up of leaders from the financial world and at least six assayers from the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, who put the coins to the test. The assayers are given two months to test that the coins meet the statutory limits for metallic composition, weight and size. They test the coins against what is known as a Trial Plate, which acts as a benchmark. Trial plates are kept by the National Measurement and Regulation Office. With more than 35,000 coins to count, a lot of the work is also done behind the scenes by machines. After two months the trial reconvenes and the Queen’s Remembrancer asks the Jury for its verdict. The verdict is given every May in the presence of the Master of The Royal Mint, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or his Deputy.

Statutory basis for the Trial of the Pyx is given by the Coinage Act of 1971, the latest in a long series of similarly named Acts of Parliament. Specific procedures are established by Order in Council, the most recent being the Trial of the Pyx Order 1998, which was amended in 2005, 2012, and 2016. It is not required for a new Order to be issued for each Trial: this is mandated (to occur) only with regulatory revision.

This age old tradition is an important step in the minting process for coins in the United Kingdom. It guarantees authenticity of all British coinage and keeps the Royal Mint accountable to their important job.

Civil War Tokens

The year of 1862 for the United States was one of tensions and disparity as the relationship between the North and South became more and more strained. The economy was shaky as precious and semi-precious metals rose in value. People were hoarding their coins because it made more sense then to spend them. The metal in a one-cent penny could be worth up to five cents; so people kept their coins stashed away in hopes of saving money.

By the end of 1862 newly minted coins weren’t being spent. Business owners were struggling and needed to find a way to still sell their goods and services. The Union’s government tried to solve this by creating unsupported paper money and even briefly issued postage stamps to use as currency. While a good idea the currency was not ever widely adopted and did little to solve the problem.

During the Napoleonic era the British people had created their own tokens to be used in exchange for goods until the crisis had been taken care of. With most Americans having close descent to the British it wasn’t a far stretch to take on this same idea and thus Civil War Tokens were produced. There were a variety of tokens produced and manufacturers charged an average of 73 cents per hundred tokens. These tokens typically mimicked small change about the size of a modern day penny. Made with metals not in as high of demand such as lead, copper, brass, and sometimes even rubber. For die sinkers and private minters hoping to profit, tokens were a legal gray area they were quick, but careful, to exploit. At the time, counterfeiting laws were specific when it came to gold and silver coinage, but other metals were not in the same category. Two common types of Civil War Tokens were Storecards and Patriotics.


Patriotic Civil War Token

Patriotics were coins that utilized a generic die to create and mass send out to merchants. It was common for them to feature pro-Union slogans and general patriotism- hence the name. These generalized coins were cheaper for merchants to purchase and were the best and easiest way to provide currency for their customers.






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Dry Goods Groceries Storecard

Storecards were specialized tokens that would feature a merchant or proprietors name, address, advertisement, etc. These cost more than the Patriotics because they were specific to a business and couldn’t be mass produced in the same fashion as the Patriotics. While each coin was different there was a popular wreath design that often adorned the Storecard coins and it was common for them to be inscripted with something such as “Business Card” or Store Card”.



As the Civil War was coming to a close in 1864 the Civil War Tokens began to lose value. Officially use of them was banned in April with the 1864 Coinage Act. While this act didn’t specifically prohibit Civil War Tokens the cent’s size, weight, and metal composition was revised in a way that mimicked the Civil War Tokens while simultaneously outlawing the tokens.


While Civil War Tokens we’re only used for a short two years there’s an estimated 25 million that were created. With over 10,000 varieties that represented 22 states, 400 towns, and about 1,500 merchants.

Check out our collection of Civil War Tokens on our Ebay store.

Thanks for reading!