Friday Odds and Ends, July 22

 

 

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Tom from the Blind Coin Collector blog gave The Stamp and Coin Place an extraordinary review; thank you so much! (You can read our companion piece here.)

 

 

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Check out this great article on Numismaster.com about the benefits and challenges of collecting Seated Liberty coins. (Looking for Seated Liberty coins? We have them!)

 

 

 

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Have you heard the story of “The Ruble for the Czar Who Wasn’t Czar”? Numismtic News has the story, and it’s a doozy. Scandal! Murder! Intrigue!

 

 

 

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Learn some of Romania’s history through its stamps on Linn’s Stamp News. (Don’t miss the part with the elopement!)

 

Making Coin Collecting Accessible: A Retail Perspective

(This is a companion piece to this post on the Blind Coin Collector blog.)

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Screenshot of Tom’s Twitter profile

You meet the most interesting people on the internet. That’s a cliche, but it’s also true. Shortly after I began blogging for the Stamp and Coin Place, I began to connect with other collectors and coin bloggers. Everyone had an interesting point of view, but I was especially intrigued by Tom Babinszki, who blogs at BlindCoinCollector.com. You can read his story there (and follow the blog, it’s terrific.)

Tom and I had traded comments on social media and regularly read each other’s blogs. When he proposed a joint project, I jumped at the chance to work together. The idea was simple: I would help him with an online purchase from The Stamp and Coin Place, and we would both write about the experience.

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1830 bronze Guernsey 1 double coin

I asked for a general idea of the coins he was looking for and got to work browsing our inventory for items that might be of interest. Almost immediately, I found myself stymied. I’m accustomed to describing the appearance of items; now I had to describe items in a way that would be useful for a customer who wanted to know how the coins felt. Instead of describing what I saw or copying the coin’s description from our store site, I had to concentrate on other concerns. How deep was the design? How clear was it? Were any blemishes strong enough to become tactile or were they primarily visual? Would the fine detail on a coin be distinguishable by touch, or would all the tiny lines blend together?

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1973 Kenya 5 shilling coin

It was a whole new way of thinking. I looked for coins with deep or clear designs, or any other interesting physical detail (like a Kenyan coin with 9 sides) and described them as best as I could. I took some cues from the coin description on the Let the Blind See project, which I had found through Tom’s blog.

Tom let me know which items he wanted, and the order went off to accounting and shipping. I was very nervous about whether or not Tom would like the coins he picked. Were my descriptions helpful and accurate? Had I given enough detail? Would the actual coins live up to expectations? I was relieved to find out that Tom was happy with his new coins. The experiment was a success!

speak-238488_960_720.jpgAccessibility is a major concern for any business wanting to provide a good customer service experience. Disability activist Heather Ratcliff writes, “One of the number one things that can be done to improve customer service for the disabled is to recognize that we’re paying customers, too. Disabled humans make up 20% of the population and our money is as good as any non-disabled human. When we ask for special accommodations, it’s not because we want special treatment. It’s because we want to have the same experience that non-disabled humans do, which sometimes requires different types of service. Not only that, but an excellent customer service experience that caters to our needs is going to be something we pass on and share with our disabled community.”

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1919 Norway iron 5 ore coin

Coin collecting is one of the oldest and most popular hobbies in the world; it has the potential to be one of the most diverse, if we are willing to put in the effort to make sure that everyone is included. New technology is helping with this, through the internet, phone apps, and more. When Tom and I were discussing this project, he said something that struck me: “It is technology that makes me able to be a coin collector, and not a coin hoarder.” The doors are opening for more and more people to be active coin collectors; it’s the future of numismatics. With understanding, a little work, and some help from newer technology, we can ensure that the hobby we love is open to everyone.

Coin storage for beginners

Before getting started with a coin collection, you should research and see which storage method will work best for your collection and budget. Fortunately, you have many options; each has advantages and disadvantages. If you have a local coin shop, they may be able to help you make your decision.
lock-1292282_960_720First, you need to decide where you will store your coins. Excessive heat, cold, or moisture may damage coins. When you’re starting your collection, it’s fine to keep it in your bedroom: coins respond well to the same basic conditions that humans do. When your collection gets more expansive, you may want to consider a safety deposit box. Avoid storing coins in attics or basements; it’s also inadvisable to store them in a freezer, as some have recommended, as this is now one of the first places thieves look when robbing a home. Along these same lines, be careful if you decide to talk to anyone about where you keep your collection; thieves have been known to stalk collectors to gain access to a collection.
pipe-986318_960_720.jpgOnce you’ve decided where to store your collection, it’s time to think about individual coins. The first rule is always to use supplies specifically designed for coins. Many non-coin items have chemical or other properties that can severely affect the value of your coins; items made for coin-collecting will be formulated to avoid this. If your storage system contains plastic with PVC, you will want to change it immediately, as PVC has a very negative effect on coins. Once you’ve moved your collection to a more stable system, dispose of the plastic entirely, as even fumes from it can seep into your collection.

 

 

You can use plastic or paper coin flips for a short time, but they are not airtight, so it’s recommended not to store in these flimsy items for long. If you’ve got a lot of coins of a certain type that aren’t your most valuable, you can keep them in hard plastic coin tubes. These are inexpensive and offer good protection for your coins. Remember, a good coin is an investment, so it’s worth the cost and effort to protect them.
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Cardboard holders with Mylar windows are another solution. If you choose this method, make sure to staple the holders very carefully, being sure not to get the staples too close to the coin. It’s best to use stainless steel staples, to avoid the danger of rust.
Coin boards and folders are a good option for circulated coins that have some wear on them, but it’s not recommended to use them for proof or uncirculated coins, as coins can receive light damage in these holders. Album pages allow you to see both sides of a coin, but coin movement in the plastic can cause scratches; again, these are fine for circulated coins, but do not use them for proof or uncirculated coins. Some albums are specially designed to hold coins inert, and these are acceptable for proof and uncirculated coins.
s-l1600.jpgThe best coin protection is a hard case known as a slab, but this can be an expensive process, so it may be best to reserve this only for your prized coins that may suffer damage in another storage system. Coins are slabbed after being professionally graded by a third party not involved in buying or selling the coin; this helps to assure the buyer that the grade is accurate, and that the coin has not deteriorated after the grading. You can send coins to professional services to be graded and slabbed, for a fee. This process is also referred to as “encapsulation.” Both PCGS and NGC offer industry-standard third-party grading and encapsulation services.
Avoid storing coins in bags, or in paper or soft plastic tubes. These are likely to allow damage to your coins, without offering any protection from the environment. Never store any coin in aluminum foil: moisture in the air can react with the cheap metal and cause corrosion, damaging a coin beyond repair.
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Use gloves when handling a coin, and only touch the edges; this will prevent any oils in your fingers from being transferred to the coin and tarnishing it. If your coin came in a holder, keep it in that holder, unless it is unsafe or not adequately protecting the coin.

 

FAQs: “How can I know what my coin is worth?”

 

It’s difficult to have a single, simple answer to this question, as there are multiple variables for thousands of coins. However, there are some general principles that will help you find the information you’re looking for.

 

Condition of the coin

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1833 Silver Capped Bust Dime with fine scratches

One of the biggest variables with any coin is the condition. If the coin is mint or near mint condition, it will bring a much higher value than a damaged coin. To a coin grader or collector, damage can be very minor to the eye and still drastically affect the value of the coin. This is why most collectors do not clean coins that they find; even the most gentle wash is capable of scratching thin lines onto the surface of the coin. Coins are usually damaged from the rigors of circulation, where no special care is taken to protect them.

 

Rarity and Date

Another major factor is the rarity of a coin. A coin that was only minted in the thousands will often have a higher value than coins with mintages in the millions.

The date of a given coin can also be an indicator of rarity, and therefore of value. More coins may have been minted in one year than another, or the coins in a particular year are made of a different metal (for instance, the 1943 steel pennies).

 

Mint Mark

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San Francisco mint mark on 1908 Indian Head penny

 

The final major factor is the mint mark. This is a small mark on the coin, usually a single letter, that indicates which mint the coin originated at. United States mint marks are: Charlotte, North Carolina (C, gold coins only, 1838-1861); Carson City, Nevada (CC, 1870-1893); Dahlonega, Georgia (D, Gold coins only, 1838-1861); Denver, Colorado (D, 1906 to date); New Orleans, Louisiana (O, 1838-1909); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (P, 1793 to date); San Francisco, California (S, 1854 to date); and West Point (W, 1984 to date.)

 

 

Denominations

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US disme, the original name of the dime

One thing to note is that denominations of coins have changed over the course of history; be sure you know the face value of the coin, when possible, to get more accurate information about the value of the coin.

 

Valuation, Grading, and Identification

Your best bet for getting a good valuation on your coin is to have it professionally graded: PCGS is an excellent resource, as is NGC. Once the coin is graded, it will be much easier to find a value for it. If you don’t wish to take your coin to a professional, there are a few forums and Facebook groups that may be able to help you. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. If you have a digital camera, use that to take the picture. If you don’t, a decent smartphone will work, if you are careful.
  2. Light the coin well, making sure to light from several angles to eliminate shadows and glare.
  3. Position the coin on a blank background, preferably either black or white.
  4. Use a tripod, if you have one. The more fine detail you can capture, the better. If you don’t have a tripod, try to brace the camera or phone against something solid while taking the photo.
  5. Get as much information about the coin as you can. If you know the country, denomination, etc, include that information with the photo. If the coin doesn’t come with that information, a Google Image search may be helpful.

 

Once you have the photo and information, share it with the group. You are likely to get some conflicting answers, and will still need to do your own research, but this can give you a good place to start. Once you know what kind of coin you have, you can look it up in the Red Book or other guide to get a more precise valuation.

 

The information from a group or forum should never be considered as a professional evaluation, but if you just want more information about a coin you happened across, it can be a great resource.

How to Stop Worrying and Love Technology

 

With interest in coin and stamp collecting on the decline, many collectors have begun to worry that their beloved pursuits could be in danger of falling into the dustbin of history. Government agencies have begun trying to spark interest in these hobbies as well; the Royal Mail recently released an “Animail” design of highly-colored stamps shaped like animals, designed to appeal to children.

 
pexels-photo-largeOne blogger responded, “Personally I think new blood in the hobby will come from older people.  Many young people don’t ‘collect’ anything these days, not even Panini cards, unless it is Apps on their smartphones or pads.  No, the target audience should be anywhere from 25 upwards, but especially the over 50s, even if they don’t get as much opportunity as a few years ago for early retirement and hours of time to fill…Few young people will use them: even the use of email is being overtaken by things like WhatsApp and Skype.”

 
While the author is welcome to his opinion, this is an unnecessarily pessimistic view of the way technology influences collecting. Coin and stamp collecting have been around for centuries, and there is no reason to believe they will disappear or be relegated only to certain age groups because of emerging tech. Change, on the other hand, is inevitable.
Coins and stamps are intrinsically tied to technology. The artistry and technique present in a coin or stamp is a way to gauge the technology of the culture that produced it, and advances in technology inspire collectibles of greater complexity, detail, and uniformity.
Hoard_of_ancient_gold_coinsBut sometimes it can feel like historic fields such as numismatics and philately are out of place in a world of Tweets, drones, and self-driving cars. Some are even advocating digital currencies to replace bills and coins, while historians and others are insisting that all antique coins be removed from sale and returned to their country of origin. More interpersonal communication happens online rather than via written letters.

 

Devotees of cyber currencies, like BitCoin, claim that these new currencies will soon replace traditional funds. Some, like the proposed Hayek currency, are still backed by gold. According to the press release, the Hayek coin will “be valued at 1 gram of gold at the day’s market price, [and] will serve as a more secure store of value than Bitcoin.” CEO of Anthem Vault, the creator of the Hayek,  Anthem Blanchard cites security concerns as a strong reason to support cyber currency. “Talking with friends of mine in the intelligence agencies, they say this is a real threat.” An attack could DDoS the current financial system, causing widespread chaos. Since cyber currencies do not rely on such central systems, they would theoretically be secure from this kind of attack, making them an attractive replacement for traditional cash, for some people.

 

Traditional stamps are also being challenged by websites like Stamps.com, which allow users to print legal, customized stamps for use on letters and other mailings. Many businesses simply use digitally printed postage instead of stamps, and personal mailings of all types have been on a steady decrease with the rise of the internet.
But new technology doesn’t have to mean an end to old traditions. It can not only enhance them, but actually preserve them, and enable current collectors to share their passion and knowledge with new collectors.

 

The sheer amount of information on the internet is staggering. Instead of spending hours paging through books, trying to find the relevant stamp or coin listing, collectors can ask questions on forums, use Google Image Search, or even reach out on Twitter or Facebook for information and help. On CoinLink.com, Doug Winter writes, “The best thing about the Internet for all hobbies has been the dissemination of information. 10 to 15 years ago, if you wanted information about rare coins you had to dig for it. You could open a Redbook and get mintage figures and you could find information about die varieties in various specialized books. But like the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz, in the past, information was strictly controlled. If you were lucky, you were invited into the secret circle and given some of the information you needed. If you didn’t know the secret handshake, you were pretty much on your own.”

 

Elsewhere on CoinWeek, Jeff Garrett writes, “Nearly every successful rare coin company is now a technology company. Most have at least one or more individuals on staff at all times to solve tech issues, post coins online, create digital images, and tackle other computer-related tasks. Many successful collectors have also become more tech savvy in recent years. Quite a few can perform detailed online research, including locating coins and establishing values. A few years ago, I taught a class at the ANA Summer Seminar on rare coin pricing. Much of the class involved how to properly use online tools available to collectors.”

 

The old stalwarts of numismatics and philately aren’t going anywhere, but they will evolve. Coin collecting has seen a move away from collecting by date, mintmark, and other traditional variables; the new trend is collecting by design or theme. Coin design enthusiasts show their collections and finds on Pinterest and Instagram, taking advantage of the visual nature of these mediums.

 
800px-Brick_storefrontCollectors aren’t the only ones facing change: local brick-and-mortar stores will need to adjust to new technology as well. When smartphone cameras became high enough quality to take high-resolution photos of coins and stamps, collectors began sharing photos online for sale and identification, rather than going to their local store. In addition, collectors could purchase directly from the US Mint and Post Office without a middleman. Auction sites like eBay sealed the deal: now anyone could sell to anyone else, anywhere in the world.

 

Pat Heller, writing for NumismaticNews.com, has some pointed advice for local store owners: “Extend your market. If you do not already deal with customers outside your local market, consider developing a regional or national presence. This can be easier to do if you specialize in some market niche. Serve customers online, by phone, or by any means you can.

 

Technology is changing and advancing every hobby, not just collectibles. The rise of “maker culture” and public maker spaces is providing access to new technology for more and more people to build and create everything from toys to costumes to prosthetic limbs. 3D printers are as affordable as inkjet printers were a few years ago, and will soon be just as ubiquitous.
 

sunrise-1371391077dmNIt’s an exciting time to be a hobbyist; the world is opening up to so many new possibilities. Rather than fear change or dismiss tech-focused younger generations, this is a chance to revolutionize collecting, and invite newcomers. Technology is coming to the world of collectibles: it’s only a question of when and how. The “when” is now, but the how is up to us.

Exonumia

When you begin to pursue coin collecting (numismatics), you may find a lot of terms and expressions that are new to you. One of the first you’re likely to see is “exonumia.” What is that?

Exonumia is a branch of numismatics that is worthy of its own study and pursuit; in short, exonumia refers to currency-like items that are not currency. These can include tokens, badges, pressed/elongated coins, medallions, wooden nickels, and more.

The word “exonumia” itself is as recent as 1960, when Token and Medal Society founding member Russell Rulau coined the term; Webster’s accepted it to their dictionary in 1965. Exactly what constitutes exonumia is often up for debate, as are the lines between exonumismatic branches (if a token bears an advertisement, is it a token or a promotional piece?)

The Token and Medal Society states that “Strictly defined, a token is any substitute for the money issued by governments. The most common form of token is a metal disc, similar to a coin, on which is inscribed the value and the issuer. In theory, tokens were redeemable only by the issuer, but some were accepted widely and often circulated just as coins. In practice, many other items, such as advertising pieces, are also called tokens as opposed to medals… A medal is an object made to commemorate some person or event. Medals have been made by governments, organizations, or individuals.”

While the items classified as exonumia are practically endless, there are a few major areas that will interest both serious collectors and those with a passing interest in historical curiosities.

 

Wooden money: 

Wood is rarely used as currency, since it has no intrinsic value, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. In the financial crisis of the 1930’s, factories shut down, banks closed their doors, and people held on to as much money as they could. The result? A drop in the amount of money circulating. Local bank closures meant disaster for business in rural or rugged areas, as a trip to a neighboring town was simply not feasible.

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Blaine, Washington, found itself in this very predicament. Local businessman Albert Balch had been promoting slicewood, a pressed wood product made locally. (One thing Washington state has in abundance: trees!) He realized that this could also be used for printing emergency money, and the idea caught on. The Chamber of Commerce in nearby Tenino backed the money with non-interest bearing warrants, creating legitimate currency. Merchants could redeem these pieces for US currency or gold. The town of Blaine also adopted the idea, cutting pressed wood into circles to make wooden nickels. These “coins” featured an image of the Peace Arch Monument, and made Blaine nationally known.

After the Depression ended, wood was outlawed as currency, but wooden nickels remained popular as tokens for promotions, advertising, and souvenirs.

Pressed or elongated coins: 

Coin-pressing machines can be found at almost any national park or other attraction. For the cost of a dollar or two and a sacrificial penny, you can watch the machine press your coin into a long oval, printed with an image to remind you of your destination.

While many pennies get lost quickly, quite a few are the subject of serious collectors. Disney parks are known for their collectible penny designs, with aficionados scrambling to get every design available at every park.

1893_Columbia_Exposition_pennyThe oldest method of elongating coins is both dangerous and unreliable: just stick the penny on a railroad track and hope the passing train squashes it properly (note: this is DANGEROUS and should not be done, for the safety of all.) The first modern penny press machine debuted at the World’s Columbian Exposition (also known as the Chicago World’s Fair) in 1893. These coins proved immensely popular, and spread across the country as travelers brought them back from the fair. Some can still be found today.

 

Hobo Nickels

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“Buffalo nickels” by Danthomas – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Buffalo_nickles.jpg#/media/File:Buffalo_nickles.jpg

The Buffalo Nickel that was in circulation from 1913 to 1938 sparked a surprising art form: the hobo nickel. The Buffalo Nickel was thicker than other coins, and the head on the obverse was larger, allowing for the creation of fine details.

During the 1930’s, thousands of unemployed men traveled to find what work they could; commonly referred to as “hobos,” these men took available work (usually manual labor), and created these coins as a means of artistic expression, as well as to trade for necessities. Since these men were on the road, without means of proper tools for metalworking, each altered coin could take up to 100 hours for a finished piece. The variety of artists, combined with the wide range of rough tools used, resulted in coins that are completely unique: no two hobo nickels look alike.

Encased Stamps

us-encased_postage-0-01Have you ever wondered how many stamps you have lying around your house, and how much value might be caught up in them? This proved to come in handy during a time of financial crisis!

In 1862, America faced an intense shortage of coins. The government eased the situation temporarily by declaring that postage stamps could be used to pay off debts to the government, providing the debt was less than $5. This proved to be more difficult than initially anticipated, due to the fragile nature of stamps. A businessman named John Gault came up with an ingenious solution: Gault created metal cases for the stamps to protect them from damage while they served as currency.

Gault’s encased stamps were only circulated for a about a year, until the government issued fractional currency. The use of stamps as currency also created a shortage of stamps! The encased stamp didn’t last long in its original usage, but they make excellent exonumismatic collector’s pieces. Very few are still in existence, as most cases were opened to remove the stamp as soon as the crisis had passed.

Read more! For more interesting stories of exonumia and collector’s items, see our blog series!

Raining Cats and Dogs

Earlier this week marked the first day of Winter.  For many of us this means snow and lots of of it.  For those of us in the Pacific Northwest, it seems to mean rain.  In fact, I overheard someone describe the conditions outside with the phrase “It is raining cats and dogs out there.”  The most amusing scene popped into my head as I  really thought about this phrase I had heard so many times before.

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The phrase “Its raining cats and dogs” is another example of an idiom, or a group of words that have a meaning unrelated to the actual written words.  In this case the words, when said together, mean that it is raining really hard outside.

The origins of this phrase are mostly unknown.  The fist recorded use of the phrase in written word dates all the way back to 1651.  British poet Henry Vaughan described a house with a roof strong enough to endure “dogs and cats rained in shower.”

One possible theory for the origins of the this phrase comes from Greek Mythology.  Odin, the god of storms, kept with him a variety of dogs and wolves as his attendants and sailors associated them with rain.  Witches, who were known to take the shape of their cats, rode on the wind.  Perhaps, over time, cat and dogs became associated with heavy wind and rain for these reasons.

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Another potential explanation comes from the Greek phrase “cata doxa”, which means contrary to belief or experience.  If it is raining harder than a person could believe, it is not that far of a stretch to see how using the phrase cata doxa to describe it could become cats and dogs over time.

One final theory, and perhaps the most unbelievable, comes from Great Britain in the 1500’s.  During this time, roofs were made of thatch, which was essentially piles of hay with no wood underneath.  Apparently, at times, small animals (cats and dogs?) would climb on the roof and bury themselves in the hay to keep warm and stay safe.  If it rained hard enough, these roofs would become very slippery and wash the animals right out from their cozy little hiding spot.  Imagine walking by a house and having pack of small pets land on your head.  You might try finding a phrase to describe the phenomenon.  Its raining cats and dogs would seem the only natural fit.

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image courtesy of the French Wikipedia

Although we do not know the exact origins of the phrase “raining cats and dogs”, we do know that it has been used to describe heavy rain for quite some time.  We also know that there are many theories out there.  Which one is your favorite?  Comment below!

Chocolate Coins and Christmas

The other day I was finishing up my Christmas shopping.  I absentmindedly tossed a few mesh bags of chocolate, gold wrapped coins into my cart and went along my merry way.

When I got home I began reviewing my purchases.  The coin enthusiast in me stopped when I got to the “gold coins” to look at them more carefully.  “Are they replicas of real coins?  Can I determine a grade?”I asked myself.  The answer, in my case was “no” to both of these, but they did taste delicious (sorry kids).  Then I got to my final question,  why in the world did I just buy fake, gold wrapped chocolate coins for my children for Christmas?

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“Chocolate Coins (11734099083)” by William Warby from London, England

It turns out there are potentially several reasons we gift chocolate coins to each other at Christmas time.

One theory dates back to the Christmas story found in the bible.  When the wise men went to visit Mary, Joseph and Jesus in Bethlehem, they brought with them gifts fit for a king.  Along with frankincense and myrrh was gold which symbolized virtue and kingship here on earth.  Perhaps this gift carried over to the traditions we have today.

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“The visit of the wise-men” by Heinrich Hofmann

The history of the chocolate coins can also be linked back to jolly old Saint Nick who, before taking a job at the North Pole, was the Bishop of Myra in what we now call Turkey.   Saint Nick had inherited a fortune when, as a child, his parents both died.  He was also very shy, but wanted to give to the children of Myra.  One night, he tossed a few gold coins down the chimney of a house with three girls.  One of the girls had just hung her stockings up by the fire to dry and the coins landed right in them!  When word got out that this had happened, children all over the town began leaving their stockings by the fire in hopes that Saint Nick would leave them gold coins as well.  Piero_di_Cosimo_026

In Jewish tradition, gold coins (called “gelt”) play a role in Hanukkah as well.  In the 17th century parents used to give their children coins to pass along to their teachers as a token of gratitude.  Something like an end of the year tip.  Over time, the tradition expanded and parents started giving money to their children to keep as their own.

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By liz west (originally posted to Flickr as candy coins) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Regardless of the traditions your family celebrates this time of year, you can be certain that gold coins played a role.  Although I have no plans to put real gold into my kids’ stockings, I will continue to include these gold wrapped chocolate ones .  As they carefully peel back the foil, we will take a minute discuss the many traditions and meanings of Christmas and how they have evolved over time.

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions and can you trace their origins?  Please comment below!

From all of us here at the Stamp and Coin Place, we wish you and your family a Happy Holidays!

When Coin Making Goes Awry

During the coin minting process, errors can occur at every step in the process.  Often these error coins make it all the way to circulation where a person may be lucky enough to find one in their spare change.

There are several ways in which an error coin is produced.  Most error coins are the result of an accident or an equipment malfunction. Errors also occur  when the striking equipment begins to deteriorate, indicating it needs to be replaced. Finally, errors can occur if mint personnel make slight changes to the process in hopes of improving a coins quality. Sometimes this works and other times it fails, thus creating an error coin.

Here is a list of common errors:

  1. Blank Planchet:  Occurs after a coin blank has been turned into a planchet, but some how skips the striking process, resulting in a coin with no design. Blank_planchets
  2. Clipped Planchet: If the metal strip that is used to stamp out the coin blanks is misfed through the machine, it can cause the machine to punch down a second time on a blank.  This results in a chunk of the coin being cut out. Clipped_planchet
  3. Double Die: Sometimes an image is accidentally stamped twice on a coin, making part of it (usually the text) appear slightly blurry.  Double Die errors are arguably the most popular type of error coin. 1995_DDO_LIB_-_Copy
  4. Off Center Coins:  If a blank planchet gets out of place on its way through the striking process it is possible that it will only receive part of its image.  The other part of the coin will be blank, causing the image to appear off center. Off-center_strike
  5. Broad Strike: During the striking process coins are held in place using a collar which helps give the coin a nice, uniform rim.  If a coin does not get placed in a collar prior to being struck, it may spread out a bit and make the rim look funny.  This results in a coin that is wider than it should be and may or may not have a rim at all.   See how the below penny is just as big as the nickel beside it?  Broad_strike
  6. Overdate or over mint mark: Not everyone considers an overdate to be an error coin, but they are interesting. In the past, rather than creating new dies (stamps used to press the image on a coin), the mint just modified existing ones to include a new date or mint mark over the old one. If this modification was not done perfectly, it would result in the appearance of both dates or mint on the struck coin.

Depending on the type of error, these coins can be very valuable.  The 1955 Double Die Lincoln cent is worth up to $1000.  Many off center coins can be worth hundreds.  Broad strikes are also fairly valuable ranging in price from $20 to $200.  Value, like with all coins, is based on rarity and condition.

This list is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to error coins.  Errors can occur at anytime and for a variety of reasons .  Although an error coin may be bad news to mint personnel, it is good news for collectors, proving once again that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

 

 

How Coins are Made

Coins are everywhere.  In fact, I’m willing to bet there are some hiding inside or under the couch or chair you are sitting in right now.  Have you ever stopped to think about how these round pieces of metal we absentmindedly set on top of our dresser , lose in the couch, or stash in a jar for a rainy day come to be?

The process can be explained in 7 steps:

  1. Blanking: In the United States, coins are minted in one of 4 cities (Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and West Point).   Sheets of metal measuring 13 inches wide and 1500 feet long are rolled into coils.  These coils are fed through a blanking press, which is basically a large cookie cutter that punches out coin sized discs that are blank.

    blank-coins

    Photo: Pat Loeb via CBS Loca

  2. Heating and Washing:  The blank coins are heated to 1500 degrees fahrenheit  in a furnace to make them soft.  They are then washed and dried.
  3. Riddling: The blanks get run through a “riddler” that pulls out any that are the wrong size.
  4. Upsetting: The coins that pass the size and shape test are run through an “upsetting” mill which gives each blank a raised rim.  Once a blank has made it to this point in the process, it is called a planchet. 
    Rondel2

    By Dqfn13 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], 

  5. Striking: The planchets are now are ready to become coins.  Large stamps  (called dies) give them the proper design and inscription to make them an official US coins. dies-for-gold-proof
  6. Inspection: The newly minted coins are spot checked for any blemishes or striking errors.  They are once again run through a sizer which gets rid of any bent or dented coins.
  7. Bagging and dispersing: The coins are counted (via machine) into large canvas bags, loaded onto pallets and shipped to the federal reserve. The reserve banks send them to your local banks where they are dispersed to local stores and eventually end up in your pocket or under your couch cushions.
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Coins being counted and bagged

All the U.S Mint locations provide tours so you can see this process first hand. In the event that you are unable to make it to one of these facilities in your lifetime, do not worry!  The U.S mint has provided a virtual tour on their website.

Today, the equipment they use to make coins can pump out up to 75 million coins in a 24 hour period.  That’s a lot of coins and explains why they can be found almost everywhere! Next time you empty your pockets, or lift up your couch cushions take a closer look at those coins you find and consider all the work that went in to their creation.

Stay tuned next week when we talk about what happens when this process goes awry and error coins are produced!

 

 

Sources:
http://factmonster.com/ipka/.html.” Fact Monster.
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02 Dec. 2015 <http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0854844.html&gt;.