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Gerald Tebben

Five Facts

Gerald Tebben

Gerald Tebben, a Coin World columnist for more than 30 years, also contributes to Coin World’s Coin Values and edits the Central States Numismatic Society’s journal, The Centinel. He collects coins that tell stories.

Coin World’s bloggers are not edited by Coin World’s editorial staff and blog posts reflect the views of the individual author.

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Archive for 'July 2015'

    Worthless cents and a partial country

    July 31, 2015 2:47 PM by

    In the early days of the United States Mint, dies were created by hand using punches to place design elements, letters and numbers. In some cases, mint workers grabbed the wrong punch or failed to properly space the lettering.

    Large cents produced from late 1793 to 1807 expressed the value as a fraction 1/100 on the reverse, except when it didn’t. 

    In 1801 a die cutter botched three reverse dies. All expressed the value as 1/000 – zip, zero, nothing. He caught the error on one of the three dies, punching a 1 over the first zero in the denominator, the lower set of numerals in the fraction. His third die was spectacularly bad. In addition to the nonsensical value, he used two I’s for a U in the word United and left off part of the wreath – the central design element.

    Because dies were expensive, even bungled ones were used to produce coins until they wore out. One of them was still going strong in 1803.

    Coins struck by the bungled dies tend to be worth more than regular coins, especially in higher grades.

    In 1793, the engraver producing the first die for the first cent abbreviated America as AMERI.

    Why remains a mystery. There was plenty of space for the last two letters. Some believe the engraver thought the completed word would end too close to the next word – UNITED in UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The late researcher Walter Breen speculated it was done on purpose, somehow in sympathy with the unfinished pyramid on the Great Seal of the United States.

    Whatever the reason, only about 7,000 were struck before the die broke, making a rarity for the start of the now 222-year-old 1-cent series.

    Less is more when it comes to the nation’s first cent. The Ameri. coin catalogs for $10,000 in Good condition in Coin World Coin Values. Coins with the whole word catalog for $7,500.

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    The amusement park dime

    July 23, 2015 5:34 PM by
    The 1982-P Roosevelt No P dime touched off a wave of change-scouring when stories started appearing in Ohio and Pennsylvania newspapers about the discovery of odd dimes that did not have a Mint mark.   Since 1980, every circulating coin, except cents, has a Mint mark above the date. These dimes, though, were blank.

    The Philadelphia Mint had neglected to place a Mint mark on one or two dies.  Coins with a noticeably strong strike surfaced in Sandusky, Ohio. Many were unknowingly given out in change at the city’s Cedar Point Amusement Park. 

    In an article in the Central State Numismatic Society’s journal, The Centinel, Steven Bieda wrote, “In March or April of 1982 the amusement park requested its seasonal allotment of coins through Citizens Bank. The bank ordered the coinage from the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland. As it turned out, the vast majority of the 1982 No-Mint Mark dimes were contained in this order.”

    Less desirable coins with a weak strike were released in Pittsburgh.

    Bieda noted that some think that all the No P dimes were struck from the same set of dies, but that the pressure used to strike the coins was raised during the production cycle, resulting in a sharper strike.

    Strong-strike 1982 No P dimes catalog for $300 in Mint State 65 in Coin World’s Coin Values.  Weak-strike coins are not cataloged there, but tend to sell for less than half the value of strong-strike coins.

    Less, once again, is more when it comes to numismatics.


    Next: Worthless cents and a partial country

    The Philadelphia coin that wasn’t

    July 14, 2015 3:12 PM by

    Collectors knew something was up in 1922 when cents without a Mint mark started showing up in circulation. For the first time since 1815, the Philadelphia Mint was not striking cents that year. Only the Denver Mint was coining Lincoln cents. All Denver Mint cents should have had a D below the date. These didn’t.

    The 1922 cents without a Mint mark weren’t Philadelphia products. They were Denver cents without a Mint mark. Here’s how it happened.

    During the production of some 7 million cents that year, several dies clashed – banged against each other without a cent blank between them – because of a mechanical error. Clashed obverse dies showed parts of the reverse. Clashed reverse dies showed parts of the obverse.

    The standard remedy was to grind off the clashed parts and place the dies back in service. Sometimes, though, the grinders got overly enthusiastic. On at least one die, they ground off the Mint mark. True 1922 No D cents – called Die Pair 2 by collectors – have a strong reverse.

    Three other dies also produced cents with a very weak or in some cases missing Mint mark. These coins were probably created by worn dies – Die Pairs 1, 3 and 4 – on which the D Mint mark recess gradually filled with debris or grease – a not uncommon occurrence – until the D entirely disappeared.

    These varieties have a mushy, poorly defined reverse. Coins with a weak D command a small premium over regular 1922-D cents. Coins on which the D is entirely filled command a larger premium, but much less than the No D cents with a strong reverse

    Less is more when it comes to 1922 cents. In Good condition, regular 1922-D cents catalog for $20 in Coin Values, Weak D cent go for $30, and No D cents struck from Die Pair 2 fetch $600.

    Next: The amusement park dime

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    A crippled buffalo

    July 10, 2015 3:18 PM by
    A press striking Indian Head 5-cent pieces in Denver misfired in 1937. No blank was in the press when the obverse and reverse dies slammed into each other. Part of the Indian’s head was impressed into the reverse die, just below the left side of the buffalo.

    As usual, Mint workers tried to fix the reverse die by grinding away the clash marks. However, this time they got carried away, removing not only the offending clash marks but most of the creature’s foremost leg.

    When the die was placed back in service, only the animal’s hoof remained. The buffalo on coins struck from it hobbled along on only three legs.

    Collectors immediately seized upon the coin, which apparently was released mostly in Montana.

    Collector Aubrey Bebee, who later gave much of his collection to the American Numismatic Association, reported in a 1943 article in Numismatic Scrapbook. “While touring the West for several months in 1939, we stopped at Bozeman, Montana, for several days, where Mrs. Bebee and I had the great pleasure of meeting Harold C. White, who informed us of the existence of this freak. I bought several of these nickels from Mr. White, as I doubted that I would be able to find any as late as 1939. However, the next day I went to the banks there and from four $50.00 bags found about 30 specimens.”

    Collectors sucked up the coins. Most grade Extra Fine or better. David W. Lange, author of The Complete Guide to Buffalo Nickels, says, “Low grade specimens are somewhat scarce.”

    In About Uncirculated condition, a standard 1937-D 5-cent piece fetches about $10. Grind off a leg and the value jumps to $1,000.

    With Indian Head 5-cent pieces, less is more.


    Next: The Philadelphia coin that wasn’t

    The case of the missing signature

    July 8, 2015 11:01 AM by

    The Provincial Congress of New Jersey authorized a 30,000-pound (later raised to 50,000 pounds) paper money issue Feb. 20, 1776. Nineteen people were authorized to sign the bills, and each bill had to be signed by three men before being released into circulation. 

    John Hart, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was one of the signers. Notes signed by him command a premium of several hundred dollars over other New Jersey notes. Hart, for his part, was paid £12 10s & 10d by New Jersey to sign 15,600 notes.

    In late 1776, notes that had been signed by two people – Hart and Samuel How – were sitting in the state’s treasury awaiting the third signature. As the British advanced on Trenton, the treasury, consisting of fully signed bills and partially signed ones, was moved to John Abbot’s farm.

    The partially signed bills were placed in a trunk in the attic. The fully signed bills were hidden under broken pottery and other debris in tubs in the basement.

    On Dec. 9, 1776, British Lt. Thomas Hawkshaw in command of 20 troops searched the farmhouse after being tipped off by a loyalist local. They found the partially signed bills, but not the fully signed ones.

    Colonial Williamsburg reports, “Apparently the British released these non-monetized notes into circulation, no doubt as a form of economic warfare. A warning against the acceptance of these incompletely-signed notes appeared in the Pennsylvania Journal.”

    The Feb. 26, 1777, article read, “The PUBLIC are hereby cautioned not to receive any of the Paper Bills emitted by the Convention of the State of New-Jersey, dated the 20th of February, 1776, unless they have three signers names thereto; as a quantity of those Bills were plundered by the enemy from one of the person’s appointed by the said Convention to sign them, before he had put his name to the same; some of which have been since circulated through New-Jersey and Pennsylvania. As they are not perfect, and of consequence not a legal tender, and being the property of the State of New-Jersey, the public are requested to stop such as are offered in payment.

    N.B. [Nota bene, that is, “note well”:] The names of the two persons who have signed the said Bills, are JOHN HART and SAMUEL HOW.”

    The bills, called raid notes by collectors, are especially prized. They are dated 1776, were signed by a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and played a real part in the Revolutionary War.

    Raid notes typically command a premium of two to three times the value of notes with all three signatures. Less is more when it comes to Colonial paper money. (Note to grammarians: Get over it. “Less” works better than “fewer” in this entry.)

    Next: A crippled buffalo

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