I've been told that the old Franklin halves have some advertising
on them. Can you tell me what they are advertising?
J.R. Lowell, MA
Above the crack in the Liberty Bell the words, "Pass and Stow
Phila., MDCCLIII," appear. This was the name of the business which recast the bell after it cracked during
testing along with the year they worked on it 1753 in Roman numerals.
This inscription was ordered by the Philadelphia Assembly. The bell
finally used to announce the Declaration of Independence was the third
bell Pass and Stow submitted and it was also cracked while ringing to
mark the death of John Marshall, the Chief Justice, in 1835. If you
can read the lettering on your coin it is undoubtedly a well struck
piece possibly worth over $20 depending on the date.
Why is the 1895 $1.00 so expensive?
T.P. Rahway, NJ
This date has been nicknamed the "King of Morgan Dollars".
Only 12,000 business strikes were originally minted which wound
up being melted without ever being released to commerce. Thus,
collectors wishing to finish their sets are forced to purchase
one of the 880 proof specimens issued. The 1895 can range from
$12,000 to $35,000 for a choice example as opposed to a $1,000
to $4,000 price for other proof Morgans.
Are there any ancient Jewish coins available today at reasonable
B.S. Weehawken, NJ
Jewish shekels and half shekels, featuring a chalice on the
front and a pomegranate flower bud on the reverse, were struck
during the First Revolt of the Jews, 66-70 AD. Eleazar led the
revolt and had the silver and copper coins with Hebrew inscriptions
struck. In spite of the Jewish zeal and resistance Jerusalem
fell to Titus in 70 AD.
Many of these coins have turned up in discovered hoards and
low grade but identifiable pieces sell for about $25.
I found $18 washed up on the beach which were partially torn.
Can they be redeemed in this shape?
B.K. Nahant, MA
If you have at least 50% of a mutilated note it can be
exchanged at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Office of
Currency Standards, 14th and C St. Washington DC 20013
I have a Confederate half dollar from 1861-O and wanted to know its
M.H. Clearwater, FL
It is possible that the silver 1861-O half you own was struck by the Confederacy
however you can't be certain of that fact. The 1861-O half dollar
was coined under three different governments in the same year. The New
Orleans Mint began by producing 330,000 halve as a branch mint of the
U.S. The state of Louisiana seceded from the Union and minted another
1,240,000 coins for their government. Later, that year Louisiana joined
the Confederacy and the New Orleans Mint continued production and turned
out an additional 962,633 halves.
Although this issue was produced under unique circumstances the dies
were never altered and the combined total of 2,532,633 coins are indistinguishable
from one another. After 1861 the New Orleans Mint remained closed until coining began
again in 1879. An average circulated specimen of this coin can still be purchased for under $25.
My grandmother left me a medal from the opening of the Panama Canal.
Can you tell me what it is worth?
P.F. Secaucus, NJ
The official bronze medal marking the opening of the Panama Canal
was struck by John F. Newman Co., New York. On August 3, 1914 the Panama
Railroad Steamship "Cristobal" became the first ship to pass through the
canal and she carried 50,000 of the medals on board which were individually
numbered. The medal was designed by Elizabeth Rodman and the highly
artistic work features a Goddess-like figure of Columbia riding on a boat
through the Panama Canal bordered by connecting globes. The reverse depicts the
Seal of the Canal Zone commemorating the Opening with the signatures of
Geo. W. Goethals, Chief Engineer, with the individual number beneath it.
The U.S. spent $340,000,000 building the Canal to eliminate the 8,000
mile voyage around South America. These medals although seldom encountered
are presently valued at $150.
I received an almost perfectly new silver certificate from 1935 with
the signature of Clark on it. Since it is now almost sixty years old
I'm wondering what I can get for it?
F.S. Hoboken, NJ
The signature of Georgia Neese Clark appears on the lower left side
of the note. After the death of W.A. Julian; Harry Truman appointed her
to become the first women Treasurer of the U.S. Clark was sworn in as
Treasurer on June 21, 1949; a post she would hold until Jan. 20, 1953.
This former bank president was placed in custody of over twenty-seven
billion dollars in combined assets as U.S. Treasurer and would transfer
to her successor Ivy Baker Priest over thirty-two billion dollars, three
and a half years later.
Her signature also appears on a number of other U.S. notes including
the 1928 $1.00 and $5.00 and again on five denominations of the 1950
notes. The note you have is not quite as old as expected but is worth about
I have an old Hibernian copper from 1815 with the bust of a man on the front.
Who was he and what is the coin worth?
J.R. Kenilworth, NJ
The penny sized piece you own may have originally been issued for
political propaganda rather than general commerce. It depicts Edmund
Burke (1730-1797) the renowned author, orator, and statesman. This Dublin
native, as Secretary to Prime Minister Lord Rockingham, helped delay the
outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by advocating conciliation rather
than coercion. He wrote three great speeches on the American struggle: A
Letter to the Sheriff's of Bristol 1772, American Taxation 1774, and Con-
ciliation with the Colonies 1775. His 1790 writing "Reflections on the
Revolution in France" provoked Thomas Paine to reply with "Rights of Man".
This token was issued with the stated value of "one pound for 240"
and the reverse features Hibernian holding an olive branch next to an oval
shield bearing the Irish harp with the exergue marked 1815. These pieces
were designed by the diesinker Parkes and most likely were overstruck on
earlier James Stephens' copper tokens. Most examples are usually seen in
low grades and can be valued at $25 to $35.
Why is Confederate money still not worth a great deal of money?
C.G. Staten Island, NY
The Confederacy produced approximately two billion dollars worth of
paper money during the Civil War. They weren't actually legal tender when
produced but worth 95 cents on the dollar in gold at the start of the war. By
1863 Confederate currency dropped to 33 cents, Confederate privates were paid
$8.00 a month in 1864 yet their boots cost $500 a pair in their inflated
currency market, and by April 9, 1865 the time of Lee's surrender at Appomattox
the notes dropped all the way down to 1.6 cents. By May 1,1865 the notes were
valued at 1,200 to 1 with only General Kirby Smith and Brigadier General
Stand Watie of the Cherokee Nation still fighting the North.
This massive production of notes which became unredeemable makes them
available today for less than $25 in many cases.
I have a stickpin with a small 1851 one dollar gold piece in it. What can
you tell me about it?
O.B. Hackensack, NJ
Back in 1791, Alexander Hamilton wanted a yearly production of 50,000
gold dollars but was turned down by Congress. In 1849 James Mc Kay of North
Carolina, one of the country's gold producing area's at the time, was responsible
for the issuance of the coin. The country was experiencing a growing mistrust
of banks' paper money and gold was discovered in California; therefore
Mc Kay amended his bill to include the issuance of $20 gold pieces.
The coin in your stickpin is an early type I gold dollar designed
by James Longacre which contains .04837 oz. of gold. There were two
design changes later in the one dollar gold series which were minted until
1889. As a jewelry piece in a stickpin the coin is likely to be soldered
on the reverse and not higher than extra fine condition making the coin
worth between $80 and $100 but somewhat more as a piece of antique jewelry.
I was given a $500 bill as a wedding gift back in the 1970's. Why doesn't
the U.S. produce the large denomination bills anymore?
T.M. Miami, FL
As part of the effort to win the war against illegal drugs and the
underground economy the government has reduced the number of large sized
bills. While the U.S. has stopped issuing large denomination notes, Germany
facing a unification of European trade, has recently come out with a
200 mark note to go along with the 100 mark, 500 mark, and the 1,000 mark note
(approx. $640. U.S.) thus increasing the preference for its' notes in inter-
national trade. The possibility of the U.S. continuing to decrease the
larger notes such as the $50 and $100 would seem counterproductive if we expect the
U.S. dollar to remain a stable and desirable currency in world trade.
Back in 1992 I suggested the U.S. reintroduce the large notes including
a new issue of the $1,000 note to honor Theodore Roosevelt. A number of U.S. Senators
notified me they were in favor of the idea but it has not yet come to fruition.
perhaps in a couple of years with the 100th anniversary of TR's presidency
coming up the idea will meet with renewed interest.
I just got some new $1.00 bills from the bank dated 1988 but can't find
the 1998 notes. Can you tell me where to get them?
M.B. Everett, MA
The date listed on U.S. paper currency does not necessarily correlate to
the year it was printed and not every date is produced. For instance,
silver certificates dated 1935-G weren't printed until 23 years later
when the motto "In God We Trust" was added. Sharp eyed observers might
notice that 1934-C $20 notes show a balcony on the White House which was
added during the Truman administration in the 1940's.
While in Canada to watch a Blue Jays game I heard there used to be French
crowns used in commerce. When was this?
T.M. Edison, NJ
During the French regime in Canada (circa 1600-1760) French imperial
coins in limited supplies were sent to New France. The silver ecus which
were referred to as French crowns and the 1/2 ecus circulated there until
the early 1800's. Today a fine example of the ecu depicting Louis XIII,
XIV, or XV would be valued at approximately $40 in U.S. funds.
In a newspaper column I read that after flipping a Super Bowl coin and having
it come up heads six times in a row the odds were 64 to 1 against this
A.D. Newark, NJ
This is incorrect since the Super Bowl coin or technically medallion
is not a perfectly weighted disk but has extra weight on the side with the
higher relief. Also the coin is flipped a few feet above the ground and
allowed to fall to the ground so that the revolutions per feet will decrease
as it drops further and the chances increase that the heavier side
will not turn to the top as gravity pulls it toward the ground.
Another proof of this would be to take a Morgan dollar and spin it
on the edge at a high speed on a flat surface without allowing it to hit
anything. It will come to rest face down and tails will show since there is
greater weight extending from the obverse of the coin due to the raised
How come there are no coins or paper money in the U.S. honoring black
Rev. D.C. Irvington, NJ
Actually, there is a black man honored by being depicted on the reverse
side of the $2.00 bill. Samuel Poor, a Revolutionary War hero at the
Battle of Bunker Hill, is shown sitting in the front row at the signing
of the Declaration of Independence. Samuel Poor has also been depicted
on a U.S. postage stamp.
The U.S. did honor both Booker T. Washington and George Washington
Carver on commemorative silver half dollars back in the 1940's and 1950's.
Recent modern commemoratives have also featured black subjects including
coins issued in honor of Jackie Robinson the first black major league
baseball player in modern times after a ban on black players which lasted
about fifty years.
A number of black Americans including Louis Armstrong have been
depicted on U.S. medals struck at the mint. A recent honoree on this
prestigious list is General Colin L. Powell who has been depicted on
a medal authorized by the U.S. Congress. The Powell medal is available
for sale to the public through the U.S. Mint for $21 or $2.25 for a
small size replica.
Did the government melt old silver dollars during WW II?
Previous to 1943 the mints lacked the authority to melt uncurrent
silver dollars and for years they were stockpiled in Treasury vaults.
The Act of Dec. 18, 1942 allowed the mints to recoin silver. Copper was
badly needed for the war effort and cents were struck in steel in 1943.
From 1943 to Oct. 1959, fifty-eight million worn silver dollars made of
90% silver and 10% copper were melted down and recoined to make dimes,
quarters, and halves.
I was given an 1836 coin from the First Steam Coinage at the Mint.
What is this worth?
V.G. Mountainside, NJ
The medal you have features a cap with Liberty inscribed on the
bottom surrounded by a glory of rays with "United States Mint, First
Steam Coinage, Mar. 23, 1836" on the reverse. Originally it was intended
to have them struck on Feb. 22, 1836 in honor of George Washington but
the date had to be changed. Mint engraver, Christian Gobrecht, struck
them on cent planchets of the day.
The steam press improved production to 40,000 pieces per day as
opposed to 13,000 pieces per day on the old screw press. By the 1850's
all of the medals were finally dispersed and they were reissued. In 1862
Anthony C. Paquet issued new dies of the medal and they were struck for
years. Back in 1967 the 1 1/16" medal was still being sold by the mint
for 65 cents, therefore they are not scarce nor are they worth much today.