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    • Posted on August 21, 2017
    • By TPM
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    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.
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    • Posted on August 14, 2017
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    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.
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    • Posted on August 7, 2017
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    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.

    • Posted on July 31, 2017
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    “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.
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    • Posted on July 24, 2017
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    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.
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    • Posted on July 17, 2017
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    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.
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    • Posted on June 26, 2017
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    California was sparsely populated prior to the arrival of American settlers in the early 19th century. Even by 1846, San Francisco was a still small settlement with about 200 residents. It was in June of year that a group of American settlers rebelled against Mexican rule and raised their own flag, featuring a grizzly bear. The rebellion was soon subsumed into the official US takeover of California as part of the Mexican-American War. The discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848 sparked the California Gold Rush, and the ensuing immigration of hundreds of thousands of settlers cemented American control. California became a state as part of the Compromise of 1850. The “Bear Flag” was adopted as the official state flag of California in 1911.
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    • Posted on June 19, 2017
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    The Presidential $1 coin program was established by Congressional legislation in 2005. Beginning with the George Washington coin in January 2007, the US Mint produced four separate varieties each year, with each President honored in succession. The obverse design of the coins changes with each President, while the reverse design featuring the Statue of Liberty is consistent. Grover Cleveland, who served two separate terms as both the 22nd President and 24th President, is honored on two separate issues.
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    • Posted on June 12, 2017
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    The Pilgrims were English Dissenters, a religious group that objected to certain practices of the Church of England. Facing persecution under the rule of James I, a group including William Bradford fled to the Netherlands in 1608, and more famously to the New World in 1620 aboard the Mayflower. Though they planned to sail to Virginia, they were forced to land in Massachusetts by poor weather. They established the Mayflower Compact to govern their settlement outside the governance of the Virginia Colony; this document is considered a founding document of American democracy. The annual Thanksgiving holiday is traced to the Pilgrim’s celebration of a successful harvest in 1621.
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    • Posted on June 5, 2017
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    In 1803, Thomas Jefferson commissioned the Corps of Discovery, a small group of volunteers tasked with exploring the American West. The leaders of the expedition were Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, and the venture is more commonly known as the Lewis & Clark Expedition. The United States had somewhat inadvertently purchased a large claim from France, the Louisiana Purchase, and Lewis & Clark were some of the first Americans to explore these territories and the lands further west. They reached the Pacific Ocean near the mouth of the Columbia River in November 1804 and spent the winter there near present-day Astoria, Oregon. The expedition helped later American claims over the Oregon Country, which was also claimed by Great Britain until the Oregon Treaty of 1846.
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