Category Archives: November 2010

Many People Find a Lifetime of Fun For Only a Few Pennies

Do you remember the very first coin you ever got for your collection? For some unexplainable reason most collectors do. At a recent coin club meeting, I asked a dozen seasoned collectors if they could still identify the coin or group of coins that started them collecting. Every one of them knew exactly which coin was the first, and most of them still had that particular piece in their collection even though it may have been upgraded by a better specimen years ago.

My first coin was a funny looking copper piece from China. A neighbor gave it to me many years ago when I was probably no more than four years old. It was fascinating because it did not look like any other coin I had ever seen. This one was about the size of a quarter but it was thin and had a square hole in the middle. I later learned that it was called a “cash”, and the hole was there so that large batches of them could be strung together for easy carrying.

The collectors who took part in this survey were all very specific in describing what got them started in their hobby. They seemed to remember everything about that first coin and what it meant to them. It didn’t seem to matter if it was a rare and valuable piece, or just something of no particular worth. It was the fact that there was something different and intriguing about that coin that caught their fancy. Nearly everyone remembered exactly where, when and how their treasured introduction was acquired, and they talked to me enthusiastically about the event.

Reminiscing about my Chinese cash coin always brings back fond memories of the long departed neighbor who gave it to me, and what it meant to me then, and even now. It makes me realize that it was that chance acquisition that started me on a life-long interest in money from all over the world. I am just like all the others in that survey, in that my first coin is something that will always have a special place in my collection, even though it is still worth less than 25¢!

For many these new coins will be a novelty, but others see them as an opportunity to invest in a metal that has numerous unique uses in industry, and one which is in short supply throughout the world. The limited number of working mines that produce this precious metal can rarely keep up with demand, and there is no other metal that has the same properties as platinum.

Posted in November 2010 | Leave a comment

Pennies Or “Coppers”… They Were All Cents

1844 Large Penny

1844 Large Penny

The first United States one-cent pieces, issued from 1793 to 1857 were called “coppers” by just about everyone. The reason was simple enough, they were made of pure copper, and prior to that many of the low denomination coins used by the Colonial settlers came from various places and they too were called “coppers.” Oddly enough, the term “penny” was not in general use here until more recent times. Both of the terms refer to what should more properly be called the U.S. One Cent coin.

1863 Indian Head Penny

1863 Indian Head Penny

Many people believe that their pennies are still made of copper, but that is not so, and hasn’t been for many years. From 1857 to 1864 cents were made of a much smaller size than the original “coppers” and they were made of an alloy of 88 per cent copper and 12 per cent nickel. The coins were straw colored with a golden tone. The addition of nickel made the coins better able to stand wear. It was a very serviceable alloy that would have been continued in use except that there was a shortage of nickel during the Civil War, and production was curtailed.

1943 Steel Penny

1943 Steel Penny

In 1864 a thinner version of the cent was made using 95 per cent copper and 5 per cent tin and zinc. That same size and alloy continued to be used up until 1943 when copper became a critical war metal. Zinc-coated steel cents were tried for the first time in 1943, but that experiment was a failure and the Mint returned to a different form of bronze in 1944. Some of the cents made from then until 1946 contained a mixture of old brass and bronze that has been called “war time alloy”. After that the mint returned to something like the original formula using approximately 95 per cent copper and 5 per cent zinc.

When the price of copper again rose to nearly the face value of the penny, another change was made. This time, starting in 1982, the basic metal became 99.2 per cent zinc and 0.8 per cent copper, with a light plating of pure copper. That is the composition of most of the “coppers” that you have in your pocket today.

Call them coppers, cents or pennies, as you wish, they have very little purchasing power now, and may become a thing of the past someday.

Purchase a Unique Penny Collection

Posted in November 2010 | 2 Comments

Take A Closer Look At Your Coins

What do you see when you look at your coins? Do you really see all that is there, or only part of what they have to offer? Many coins are admired for their beauty and the fine details in the design, but some of that is lost if it can’t be seen clearly. For those who want to get the most out of viewing their coins there is an easy solution by using an inexpensive magnifying glass.

Magnifiers come in all shapes, sizes and quality. To get the most out of seeing your coins, use a glass that seems best suited to you and the way that you or your friends want to view your coins. A glass that is too powerful will show only a small portion of the coin in its field, while one that is low powered will not bring out the fine details. A typical “reading glass”, of the kind that is used mostly for magnifying printing, may be too weak to be efficient for looking at coins. Those are usually rated as 2+, or 2 power, and while they magnify things to twice their size, that is not enough to bring out the kind of details that should be seen on coins. An inexpensive reading glass will usually be made of plastic, rather than glass, and that too will limit the clarity of what can be seen through it.

Jeweler's Loupe

The magnifier known as a “jeweler’s loupe” is a precision instrument made for close scrutiny of tiny objects. Those are made of special glass and are often constructed of two or three pairs of magnifying optics that correct the image so that there is no distortion at the outer edges.

Some are also color corrected so that the clarity and brilliance of a diamond can be fully appreciated. Loupes come in a variety of sizes from about 7+ to as high as 20+. These are fine for examining gems, but are usually way too powerful for looking at coins. The problem with them is that the field of view is so small that only a portion of the coin can be seen.

An experienced coin dealer will often use a loupe of 6+ to 10+ to detect counterfeit coins, or to carefully grade a rare coin, but for general viewing this kind of power borders on overkill. A good rule of thumb is to leave the powerful and expensive magnifiers to the professionals, and work with a modest glass that will be better suited to your needs.
Another advantage to an inexpensive lens is that you can have several of them so that you and your friends can use them to enjoy seeing your beautiful coins. If you haven’t ever used a magnifier, you owe it to yourself to try one. It could open up a whole new vista for you to get more out of your hobby through taking a closer look at those miniature works of art we call coins.

Posted in November 2010 | 4 Comments

Know The Presidents

Born on January 7, 1800 in Moravia, Cayuga County, in the Finger Lakes region of New York, Millard Fillmore was the thirteenth President of the United States (1850-1853).

Millard Fillmore, the second of nine children, worked on his father’s farm as a boy and became an indentured apprentice to a cloth maker as a teenager. Fillmore managed to borrow $30 to pay off his obligation to the clothmaker, then walked over 100 miles back to his home. He attended school in a nearby town, where he met Abigail Powers, his teacher and future wife. During Fillmore’s term, Abigail set up the first White House library and had the first cooking stove and the first bathtub installed in the White House. Interestingly, Millard Fillmore was:

  • Never elected president–he became president after the death of Zachary Taylor.
  • The first president to never have a vice president.
  • The last president to be born in the 18th century.
  • The last president to belong to the Whig party.
  • One of six presidents born in a log cabin.
  • One of four presidents born in New York.
  • A founding member of the Buffalo chapter of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
  • Founder, in 1846, of the private University of Buffalo, which today is the public State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo)–the largest school in the New York state university system.

At the end of his first term as president, Millard Fillmore was not nominated for a second term. He died in 1874 in Buffalo, New York at age 74.

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Fascinating Coin Fact

In 1797 President Adams sent three envoys to France in an effort to iron out monetary differences. When it was whispered in Paris that a properly placed bribe would be needed before the envoys would be received by French officials, C.C. Pinckney, leader of the delegation and Minister to France, is said to have remarked, “War be it then, millions for defense, but not a cent for tribute.”

Posted in November 2010 | 2 Comments