I saw an ad for a "Racketeer Gold Nickel" at $25. Is this a good price for the gold nickel?
J.J. Palisades Park, NJ
The "Racketeer Nickel" became infamous in 1883 due to Josh Tatum of Boston. The U.S.
had just issued a new nickel sans the word cents but did carry the Roman numeral V on the reverse
while the front depicted the Liberty head motif similar to the $5.00 gold piece of the
time. Tatum took 1,000 of the nickels to a pawn broker for gold plating which he brought to stores.
He would point out a 5 cent cigar and place the gold plated nickel on the counter.
Store workers usually looked at the coin while the well dressed Tatum waited and they gave
him $4.95 in change assuming they received a new gold coin. Within a short time he managed to
spend the 1,000 nickels; altered an additional few thousand pieces with plans to continue his ruse on
the way down to N.Y.
Treasury agents finally apprehended Tatum who was arrested while still in possession of
hundreds of the nickels. When the case was brought to trial many of those who felt cheated
by Tatum were asked one question by the defense, "Did Josh Tatum ever ask for change?". The
answer was no as Josh Tatum was a deaf mute and the case was dismissed. After the trial the U.S. mint
altered the reverse of the coin to include the word - cents.
If you were being offered one of the original gold plated coins which would likely be in choice
condition it is not a bad deal at $25 however if the coin is a low grade example gold plated
much later as a novelty piece then it would be out of line to pay that much.
I've heard that in olden days the Irish used gunmoney. Can you tell me
something about it?
C.S. Manasquan, NJ
In an attempt to regain the throne of England from William of Orange
and Mary, James II drummed up Catholic support in Ireland while in exile.
A generation earlier during the reign of Cromwell, Irish men, women, and children were slaughtered
in great numbers. Tens of thousands, including all Irish orphans who could be captured,
were shipped to the British West Indies as slaves.
Faced with their religious freedom and land
rights taken by the English they fought under James II. Unable to finance his war efforts
with silver, he issued base metal tokens, referred to as gunmoney, from melted old canons, guns,
bells, etc. to be redeemed after the war was won. Low grade examples from 1689 and 1690 start
at about $35. and prices can run into the hundreds for choice examples.
In an old chest I recently came upon an 1863 coin just like a
penny except it says "Our Navy" and "Not One Cent". Can you let me know
what I have?
PJ Guttenberg, NJ
What you have is not a coin at all but a Civil War Token. These
were issued by hundreds of merchants during The War Between The States
since people hoarded coins and there wasn't enough coinage produced by the mint to meet
commercial demands. These tokens generally fall into
two categories "patriotic" featuring nationalistic motifs or "Store Cards" depicting
the regional advertising of the issuers business. Common copper varieties of
Civil War Tokens in less than mint condition generally cost $5 to $15.
I have a 1370 5 Franc coin from Morocco and was wondering
what something this old would be worth?
J.C. Lubbock, TX
Unfortunately your coin is really not very old at all. Morocco does not use
the same calendar we do and all their coins
dated 1370 were struck while under French control from 1954 to 1974. Although
somewhat intriguing, it is a very inexpensive item with a catalogue
value of just 15 cents in very fine condition.
I bought a Desert Storm commemorative silver $10 piece in 1991. How
much is it worth now?
DS Hillside, NJ
The Marshall Islands issued this coin and it is actually
brass not silver. They were heavily advertised in the U.S.
however there is not much of a secondary market for them. The original
demand for them came from the noncollecting public interested in new
designs and packaged gift items. The Marshall Islands have a stated
policy; only one coin a day can be redeemed at face value if you travel to their island and will
pay a $5.00 transaction fee on every coin.
Was Eisenhower the first president to appear on a silver
M.G. Windham, NH
No, actually Washington appeared along with the conjoined bust of General Lafayette
way back in 1900. It was our first commemorative dollar which was struck in honor
of the 1900 Paris Exposition. Interestingly enough, all 50,000 of the coins were
struck at the Philadelphia mint on Dec. 14, 1899 to mark the
100th anniversary of Washington's death.
I came across a coin with P.T. Barnum on it. Is it worth
M.W. Milford, CT
What you have is a 1936 U.S. silver commemorative half
dollar issued to mark the 100th anniversary of Bridgeport, Ct.
Designed by Henry Kreis, it features the likeness of Barnum who
originally came from Bridgeport but had nothing to do with the
anniversary celebration. If your specimen is slightly worn it
is worth just under $100 but could be worth a few hundred if
it survived in choice condition.
THINK YOUR BANKING FEES ARE HIGH?
The new U.S. $100 bill is causing quite a stir in Russia
where people hold somewhere between 15 to 25 billion dollars in U.S.
money approximately 80% in $100 bills. Even though the older U.S. bills
retain their full legal tender status try convincing Russians who have
seen old bills devalued and rendered worthless. As the new U.S. $100's are put into circulation
the Russian Central Bank will likely impose a 5% commission on
accepting old bills. U.S. Treasury officials in Moscow agree this
is a justified commission which means somewhere between $600,000,000 to
one billion dollars would eventually be collected in bank fees
if all old bills were to be exchanged.
I have an old $100 bill from 1929. What is it worth today?
G.F. Yonkers, NY
The U.S. banking system was in deep trouble in the early
1930's as bank failures grew following the October 1929 stock
market crash. Several governors, starting with Nevada's in November, 1932
introduced the practice of bank holidays; shutting down banking
operations to avoid a run on the bank.
FDR was inaugurated on March 4,1933 in the midst of a nationwide bank
holiday which was extended so the banks would have enough currency
to transact business. The new Congress immediately authorized
issuing Federal Reserve Bank Notes on altered plates from Series
1929 National Bank Notes. The spot bank presidents signed was
simply blackened out in haste to reopen the banks on March 13, 1933.
If your note is in choice unfolded condition
it is worth between $175 to $225.
Most of the old $20 gold pieces seem to be from the 1920's. Why is
D.M. Spring Valley, NY
Mintage figures exceeded a million for most of these dates and ran
up to over 8 million in 1928. The U.S. economy was especially strong during the roaring
twenties coupled with the high inflation in Europe after WW I led to strong
demand for U.S. gold overseas. Much of the gold minted during the 1920's was in European
storage and thus not available for melting when Roosevelt recalled the
gold in 1933.
Currently these St. Gaudens $20 are typically worth approximately
$425 and choice condition pieces can run to almost $1,000.
After the Declaration of Independence was signed did the U.S.
start issuing coins?
W.N. Albany, NY
No; during this period of federated colonies under the
Articles of Confederation, before the Constitution was signed
individual colonies proposed their own coinage. Eventually,
the following states authorized and issued coins, before the
first federal issues of 1787: New Hampshire, New Jersey, New
York, Connecticut, and Vermont. Today even a well worn New
Jersey copper would bring$200 to $300.
My grandfather left me some gold coins from the California Gold
Rush. They are in holders priced from $250 to $400 but I'm sure
they must be worth more after all the time I've had them. The front has an Indian and
the back has a bear walking across it.
S.U. Brooklyn, NY
What you have aren't real California gold pieces but
"fantasy" tokens made of goldine, a mixture of copper and zinc.
Almost one and a half million of them were produced in the 1960's
for use as premium giveaways or as novelty jewelry charms.
Unfortunately, many were used in various street scams and passed
off to unsuspecting buyers as genuine gold pieces of the 1850's.
They have virtually no value today except to serve as a reminder
not to involve yourself in buying something that sounds too good
to be true.
What is the Peace Dollar?
R.C. Hoboken, NJ
The U.S. began issuing a newly designed silver dollar in
1921 which included the word "Peace", the first time that any
country used the word on a coin. Struck under the Act of 1890 which
permits a design change on coins without Congressional approval
once a coin has been minted for twenty-five years. Thus the U.S.
was able to discontinue the old Morgan dollar style to adopt the
Anthone DeFrancisci design. A common date Peace Dollar in uncirculated
condition can be had for as little as $10.
On vacation in Turkey I bought an Anastasius gold coin. What are
E.N. Brooklyn, NY
Anastasius, who ruled the Byzantine Empire starting in 491
until his death in 518 AD, left the imperial treasury with an
excess of over 300,000 pounds of gold. He believed in Monophysitism,
yet did not subject the orthodox Constantinople people
altering their beliefs, therefore averting rebellion and affirming
his place in history as a reformer.
The solidi coins are 4.5 grams of pure 24KT gold bearing
the portrait of Anastasius in armor and a helmet holding a spear.
The reverse features the winged figure of Victory with a long cross
encircled by the words "Victory of the Emperors". A solidus coin
was equal to the average monthly pay of a soldier which is how the
word soldier came about. This Byzantine gold coin would be minted
for 700 years and was the standard medium of exchange used in Europe
to the Orient trade routes making it both one of the longest
lasting and commercially important coins ever issued.
An extra fine example generally costs between $250 to $350.
I have a gold coin with James G. Blaine on it from 1884 which was
passed down in my family. What can you tell me about it?
L.B. King of Prussia, PA
What you have is certainly scarce but it is not a coin nor
is it gold. This is a political token, which was usually holed
at 12:00 for suspension. The color is gold but not the metal which
is a combination of base metals.
James G. Blaine (1830-1893) was the Speaker of the U.S.
House of Representatives from 1869-1875 and served as Garfield's
Secretary of State resigning after his assassination. In 1884 he
was the Republican candidate for president who ran against Grover
Cleveland. Four years later he turned down the party's nomination
to run again but did accept the Secretary of State position
again, this time under Harrison. Blaine is remembered as a key
figure in establishing the strategic, diplomatic, and economic
policies which enabled the U.S. to become a world power.
Are there any actual coins of Dracula?
F.Q. Kearny, NJ
Although Irish writer Bram Stoker's fictionalized account of
Dracula has drawn much attention, the real Dracula was almost as
fascinating. Born in 1431 in the Rumanian town of Sighi-Soara,
Dracula, meaning "Son of the Dragon" became better known as "vlad
the Impaler", after a battle against invading Turks under Mohammed II, Dracula had
20,000 Turkish prisoners impaled outside the capitol of Targoviste.
Killed in 1476, Dracula's head was displayed on a stake for months
in Constantinople. it was rumored that his chests of treasures were
sunk off the island of Snagov with new coins he had ordered struck.
These have never been recovered.
His father Vlad Dracul, ruler from 1436 to 1447, did issue
coins depicting an eagle on the front and a dragon on the reverse
which are seldom encountered in today's coin market and usually
bring thousands at auction.
I have a very old bill from the Citizen's Bank of Louisiana and
wanted to find out its value.
P.S. Tampa, Fl
A typical bank note issued before the U.S. government
introduced bills during the Civil War, is usually valued between
$10 and $25. Large quantities of Citizen's Bank of Louisiana
notes circulated due to the vast amount of shipping which took
place at the port of New Orleans. Perhaps the most interesting
thing about this 19th century note was that "DIX" (French for
ten) was printed on it for the state's large French speaking
population. Many travelers noticed all the "DIX" bills; thus
the phrase "Land of Dixie", to indicate southern states came