There is currently some controversy over whether the lowest denomination US coin – the penny – should be eliminated from circulation. Has the penny become obsolete
From the perspective of the US Mint, the most basic argument for eliminating the penny is its cost. It now costs about 1.5 cents to produce a one-cent coin. The penny’s composition was changed from a bronze (95% copper) to mostly zinc in 1983 due to inflation and rising material prices. Nickels suffer from the same problem – they cost more than 9 cents to produce! A 2007 regulation prohibits the melting of US pennies and nickels; while some scrapping of pennies probably does occur, the illegality of the process does preclude a more widespread level of hoarding for this purpose.
As long as coin collecting has been a hobby, numismatists have enjoyed exhibiting and displaying their collections. With the advent of the internet, a new means of sharing collections has been developed: the online set registry. The two major third party grading services, PCGS and NGC, have created an internet-based database whereby collectors can input the details of their collections. In addition to basic details like the date, denomination, and grade of each coin, collectors can also upload photos and personal notes about each piece. Each registered set is then scored and ranked.
Doubled die errors are a type of mint-made error. There are a few famous examples of doubled die errors in US coinage, such as the 1955 doubled die cent (one of the most valuable mint-made errors in existence). A doubled die error is a type of hub-and-die error, rather than a strike error, as many assume. The error originates when the die itself is constructed – not when the coins are actually struck. The process of making a die begins with a hub, which bears a raised (or “relief”) image of the design. In older times, the hub was modeled off of a plaster sculpture up to a foot in diameter, created by the coin’s designer (often a sculptor). Special machinery was used to reduce this large model down to the size of the actual coin on the master hub. In modern times, this process is accomplished with the aid of computer-controlled drilling machines and other technology. The master hub is used to create a number of master dies; since the hub (bearing the relief image) is pressed into the die, the die bears a sunken (or “incuse” image). These master dies are in turn used to create working hubs (relief), which themselves are used to create working dies (incuse). It is from these working dies (with the incuse image) that the design is struck onto a planchet (or “blank”), thus resulting in the coins themselves having a relief image. It is through this long and complex process that the final product bears an image similar to the one originally made by the designer. Sometimes, in the process of transferring the relief image on the working hub to the incuse image on the working die, an error occurs. In older times, one impression was not enough to fully transfer the design from the hub to the die, so the hub and die came into contact more than once. If either the hub or die is even slightly misaligned on a subsequent strike, the die may receive a second incuse image offset from the first (hence, “doubled”). When this die is used to create coins, the coins themselves bear a corresponding relief image showing the multiple, offset strikes. Numismatists have identified eight classes of doubled die errors, each very specific to what went wrong: rotated, distorted, offset, pivoted, and so on. The US Mint’s die making process was improved in the late 1990s. As a result of these technological improvements, the working dies only require a single impression to receive the image from the working hubs. Nonetheless, the immense pressure required to transfer the design in a single impression sometimes causes the die to rotate. Even though the hub and die only come into contact once, this is still considered a class of doubled die error. Some 2004-5 “Westward Journey” Jefferson nickels show signs of this doubling error. True doubled die errors should not be confused with die deterioration doubling, another type of mint-made error. Die deterioration doubling, as the name might suggest, is caused by a problem with the die itself. It is possible that there was an error in the annealing process, a heat-treating procedure the dies undergo before striking. If there is not enough carbon present in the furnace, or if the dies are not cooled completely (ferrous metals, unlike other metals, must be cooled slowly), the die may be too soft. Die-deterioration errors may also occur when a die has simply been in use for too long. These errors are usually noticed first on the date and mintmark, which often appear alone in the “field” of the coin and are most susceptible. These details may appear “soft” and may give the impression of a doubled die error. Unlike doubled die errors, most die-deterioration errors are not valuable; these errors have occurred on almost every US coin series. Many unscrupulous dealers have attempted to pass off die-deterioration as much rarer doubled die errors, but savvy collectors should not be fooled.
Q2 gold demand of 953.4t was 10% lower than 2016, while H1 demand slowed 14% to 2,003.8t. Y-o-y comparisons are affected by record ETF inflows in 2016: demand from this sector slowed dramatically after last year’s H1 surge. Central bank net purchases of 176.7t were also slightly lower in the first half (-3%). By contrast, bar and coin investment improved, as did jewellery demand, although the latter remains weak in a long-term context. Technology demand also made modest gains.
“A penny saved is twopence dear,” wrote Benjamin Franklin. This aphorism is frequently misquoted as “A penny saved is a penny earned,” but the original version is much more informative as to the history of the penny. The term is English in origin, dating to the Dark Ages (cf. the German equivalent, pfennig). Its value was eventually standardized at 1/240th of a pound sterling under that currency’s pre-decimalization system. The US cent had a similar value at the time of its introduction.
When we think of wealth today, we often think of the massive personal fortunes of business magnates like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, or Warren Buffett. However, it is only since the Industrial Revolution that measuring wealth by one’s bank account has been a norm for the world’s richest.
For most of recorded human history, in fact, the lines around wealth were quite blurred. Leaders like Augustus Caesar or Emperor Shenzong had absolute control of their empires – while bankers like Jakob Fogger and Cosimo de Medici were often found pulling the strings from behind.
This infographic focuses on the richest people in history up until the Industrial Revolution – and in the coming weeks, we will release a second version that covers wealth from then onwards (including figures like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jeff Bezos, etc.).
Click here for a larger, more legible version of the infographic that you can explore in-depth.
While it is certainly fun to speculate on the wealth of people from centuries past, putting together this list is exceptionally difficult and certainly not definitive.
Firstly, much wealth in early periods is tied to land (Genghis Khan) or entire empires (Augustus, Akbar), which makes calculations extremely subjective. What is most of Asia’s land worth in the year 1219? What separates personal fortune from the riches of an empire that one has full control of? There are a wide variety of answers to these questions, and they all influence the figures chosen to be represented.
Secondly, records kept from Ancient eras are scarce, exaggerated, or based on legends and oral histories. Think of King Solomon or Mansa Musa – these are characters described as immeasurably rich, so trying to put their wealth in a modern context is fun, but certainly not guaranteed to be historically accurate.
Lastly, wealth and conversion rates can be approached in different ways as well. Take Crassus in the Roman Republic, who had a peak fortune of “200 million sesterces”. Well, that’s a problem for us in modernity, because that stash could be worth anywhere from $200 million to $169.8 billion, depending on how calculations are done.
So, enjoy this list of the wealthiest historical figures, but keep in mind that it is mostly for fun and that the list of the wealthiest people in history changes depending on who you ask!
The Money Project aims to use intuitive visualizations to explore ideas around the very concept of money itself. Founded in 2015 by Visual Capitalist and Texas Precious Metals, the Money Project will look at the evolving nature of money and will try to answer the difficult questions that prevent us from truly understanding the role that money plays in finance, investments, and accumulating wealth.
Before our five-cent coins were known as “nickels,” the US Mint actually produced silver half dimes. These half dimes were produced in a variety of designs from 1792 to 1873. However, the story of the nickel as we know it today begins shortly before the Civil War.
Over the past 30+ years, the two major third party coin certification companies (PCGS and NGC) have greatly expanded their holder and label offerings. Originally, both grading services offered just one standard issue holder with variation whatsoever. However, as time has passed, both companies have introduced a plethora of new options.
While the dollar was almost always regarded as the most prestigious US silver coin, it was not consistently produced. The half dollar was in fact much more important in everyday commerce and the development of the American economy. Its absence from today’s circulating coinage belies this important role it played in the monetary history of the United States.
During the 1780s, the currency system in the newly-founded United States was, to put it simply, a mess. The economy was still reeling from the inflationary collapse of the Continental Dollar. There was very little specie (gold or silver coinage) in circulation, and even copper coins were hoarded. Counterfeit coppers and underweight coppers often served as substitutes in commerce. The economy suffered greatly from this lack of circulating coinage.