Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What does “two-bits” mean?

Two-bits is American slang for a U.S. quarter dollar or Spanish-American 2 real coin.

Until the late 1850s, Spanish-American coins were legal tender in the United States. By far the leading specie coin circulating in America was the Spanish silver dollar worth 8 reals, or equal to about one U.S. dollar.

The dollar was divided into "pieces of eight," or "bits," each consisting of one-eighth of a dollar. A one bit coin (or 1 real) was valued at 12½¢. Hence, the term two-bits referring to a 2 real coin or one U.S. quarter dollar.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

What is the Master Hub when minting coins?

The master hub is a steel bar with the coin's design on the end in raised relief just like the coin. It is used to create the working dies which are used to strike the coins.

A master hub is created from a Janvier transfer reducing machine that traces a larger than actual coin design from a galvano or epoxy shell. The resulting design on the hub is the actual size of the coin.

Die Varieties vs Hub Varieties

Master hubs don't always have all the details needed to make the working dies. Things like the date or mint mark may be stamped directly into the working dies before they are ready to be used.

Differences in these dies are called die varieties and collectors frequently collect coins by their die varieties. Since a single master hub can be used to make many dies, you usually don't hear about hub varieties, but they do exist.

One of the more interesting hub varieties is that of the Double Eagle gold coins. From 1850 until 1866, Double Eagle dies were created from only two master hubs. The first was used from 1850 until 1858. The second from 1859 until 1866.

What makes this interesting is that the first master hub actually had the word LIBERTY misspelled as LLBERTY. This was corrected by placing an I over the second L, but the original mistake can be clearly seen on those Double Eagles struck from 1850-1858.

If you are lucky enough to have a Double Eagle gold coin from 1858 or earlier, get out your magnifying glass and take a look.

Monday, May 13, 2013

What is the exergue on a coin?

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Exergue is the area on a coin or medal that is below or around the general design and is used to give secondary details about the coin.

Examples may include areas of the coin that display the date or mint mark.

Some definitions state that this area resides strictly on the reverse of a coin, while others state that it can be on either the obverse or reverse.

The word comes from the French word for “highlight” and it is often used in descriptions found in old coin catalogs.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

What is a Janvier Reducing Machine?

A Janvier transfer reducing machine traces a larger than actual coin design from a galvano or epoxy shell unto the end of a piece of steel which will become the master hub.

The resulting design on the master hub is the actual diameter of the coin and in raised relief just as it will appear on the coin.

1911 image of two Janvier machines in the die-sinking department 
of the Gorham Mfg. Company of Providence, Rhode Island 

The way the machine works is that a large pattern of the design is attached to the copy-holding table (Labeled A in photo). A die is held by the chuck in the work-holding table (Labeled B).

The two tables turn at the same speed while a lever is pivoted on which one end you will find a tracer, and the other end a cutter. 

As the tracer (Labeled E) moves in and out as it rides upon the pattern, it transmits its movements via the lever to the cutter (Labeled D) which cuts a duplicate of the design into the die.

Since the fulcrum of the lever is closer to the die than the pattern, the result is a much smaller version of the original pattern. 

Monday, May 06, 2013

What is a “whizzed” coin?

“Whizzed” is a term that refers to coins that have been unscrupulously altered via a wire brush attached to a drill.

The purpose of “whizzing” is to remove a thin layer of metal on a lightly circulated coin in order to simulate the mint luster of an uncirculated coin.

Whizzing can often be detected under magnification by ridges or crests of metal attached to the edges of letters, digits, or other raised devices.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

What is a coin with Shipwreck Effect?

“Shipwreck Effect” is a term used to describe a coin that could not be assigned a numismatic grade due to the coin showing signs of having been in a shipwreck.

Generally, this impairment consists of microscopic coralline structures embedded in their surfaces or etching of the surfaces due to being immersed in saltwater. This latter is often referred to as saltwater etching.

The term shipwreck effect was originally coined by numismatist John Albanese to describe many of the silver Seated Liberty half dollars recovered from the S.S. Republic shipwreck. It was included on coins encapsulated by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC).

More recently, shipwreck effect has been used to describe coins recovered from the S.S. New York shipwreck.

NGC has since divided their shipwreck effect designation into subdivisions, in essence, giving the coins a grade.

Friday, May 03, 2013

What is meant when a Morgan dollar is said
to have a good Cartwheel Effect?

The Cartwheel Effect can be seen in
this image of an American Silver Eagle
Cartwheel Effect is a phrase used to describe the windmill-like effect of reflected light off a coin when it is rotated under a light. This occurs due to the light reflecting off the flow lines created when the coin was first struck.

This cartwheel effect occurs on all uncirculated coins, but it is more pronounced on silver dollars such as the Morgan dollar due to the larger size and heavier flow lines of the coins.

In fact, Morgan dollars were nicknamed “Cartwheels” soon after they debuted due to a combination of their large size, and the cartwheel effect when rotated under a light.

Why is the Cartwheel Effect so important?

The flow lines that cause the effect wear down with circulation or improper cleaning and eventually cause the effect to disappear giving coins a dull, lifeless look.

A coin described as uncirculated but without a nice Cartwheel Effect could mean that the coin is actually in circulated condition or was improperly cleaned at some point. This would have a negative effect on the value of the coin.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

What was a Bank Note Reporter?

After the failed Continental Currency of the 1770s and before federal bills were reintroduced in 1861, thousands of banks issued their own paper money.

At first only banks that had been granted a charter by their state's legislature were allowed to issue notes, but a booming economy caused the number of banks seeking charters to grow faster than state legislatures could handle. The result was that many states adopted "free banking" laws.

Free banking allowed any bank to issue notes as long as they had deposited with a state authority a designated amount of government bonds that covered the amount of notes that they issued. The idea was that if a bank should fail, the state would sell the bonds to cover the notes that were issued.

This mix of competing bank notes backed by the institutions that issued them caused a real headache among merchants and bankers when it came to accepting the notes. Each institution's notes tended to trade at a discount to face value based on the perceived financial health of the bank.

To help merchants and bankers with these problems, publications known as Bank Note Reporters began circulating. These typically contained tables arranged by state and bank that gave the current discount rate of the note.

In addition, counterfeit notes were very common so that Bank Note Reporters also described known counterfeit notes to help merchants avoid accepting bad notes.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

What is Fiat Money?

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Currency issued by a governing body as money that does not have any intrinsic value, and is not backed by any precious metal reserves such as gold or silver, is referred to as “Fiat Currency.”

Since it is not backed by any physical reserves, there is no limit as to how much a government can print. The value of the currency relies solely on the public's faith that it has value.

Print too much fiat money and inflation will result as the public places less value on the currency.