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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 2016'

    ​Mountains, monuments and money: Two mountains and a coin

    July 26, 2016 12:33 PM by

    Mountains and money. Those are the canvases some artists have worked with since the early 1900s when the U.S. Mint started asking non-mint engravers to design some of the nation’s coins.

    For the next five weeks I’m going to look at sculptors who were equally at home with monumental and minuscule commissions — with mountains, monuments and money.

    Part 1: Two mountains and a coin

    Gutzon Borglum, who sculpted one of the nation’s largest pieces of art — Mount Rushmore — also designed the Stone Mountain commemorative half dollar.

    Between 1927 and his death in 1941, Borglum directed some 400 workers as they blasted 60-foot tall portraits of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln from the granite face of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

    The monument did not appear on a United States coin until 1991 when small versions of it were placed on half dollars, silver dollars and $5 gold pieces marking the memorial’s 50th anniversary.

    In this century, the monument has appeared on two quarter dollars — the 2004 South Dakota State quarter and the same state’s 2013 America the Beautiful coin.

    The 2004 coin is a crowded affair, showing the monument beneath a bird and between wheat ears. Designer John Mercanti didn’t have the space to give dimension to the portraits, rendering them more as caricatures than faithful reproductions.

    Joseph Menna’s 2013 America the Beautiful quarter dollar features a bold design showing a worker beneath Jefferson’s eye.

    While Mount Rushmore is Borglum’s masterwork, numismatists know him better as the designer of the Stone Mountain half dollar. The coin shows Confederate generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse.

    Before Mount Rushmore, Borglum was hired to sculpt a massive memorial to the Confederacy on Stone Mountain, Georgia. He planned to blast a high-relief frieze of mounted figures of Lee, Jackson and Confederate President Jefferson Davis leading troops.

    Borglum only got as far as Lee’s head before he was fired. The Stone Mountain coin, curiously, may have played a part in his firing. “Some observers felt that he was spending so much time on the coin models that the stone sculpting was not being properly supervised,” Q. David Bowers wrote in Commemorative Coins of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia.

    After Borglum was fired, his portrait of Lee was blasted off the face of the mountain and Augustus H. Lukeman took over — until the money ran out in 1928. Work began again in 1963 and was completed in 1970. The actual Stone Mountain differs markedly from Borglum’s coin.

    James Earle Fraser, designer of the iconic Indian Head five-cent piece, sat on the Commission of Fine Arts that approved the design. Fraser found fault with much of Borglum’s design and only grudgingly approved it.

    Next: A nickel and the Supreme Court

    Odd uses for coins: Heat dispersion

    July 15, 2016 3:33 PM by

    This blog usually ends with the fifth item, but when I thought I was done, a sixth – really modern – non-numismatic use for coins turned up.

    Copper coins placed on a laptop can disperse heat, making the computer easier to handle.

    On Nov. 2, 2015,Akinori Suzuki, a musician from Kanagawa, Japan, Tweeted a photo of his MacBook Pro laptop with about 50 copper 10-yen pieces placed where the keyboard meets the display.

    He wrote, “People who are having trouble with their MacBook Pros getting too hot and not cooling down should gather up all the 10-yen coins they have lying around the house. The copper in the yen is a better conductor of heat than the aluminum in the computer and is good at letting the heat escape.”

    The Tweet went viral among the computer gaming community and was picked up by newspapers around the world in June. Copper yen became pennies in England and pre-1983 copper cents in the states.

    Techworm.net showed a thermal scan of a MacBook Pro computer showing the area at the top of the keyboard and the bottom of the display was very hot.

    The website noted, “He (Suzuki) chose copper coins because copper has much greater thermal conductivity than aluminum or plastic – which most laptops are made out of. Suzuki worked on the laws of thermodynamics and used it on his laptop. Essentially it means that if the copper coins you stack on your laptop are cooler than the laptop itself, the copper coins start soaking up the heat to balance themselves with the laptop.

    “Suzuki’s brilliant hack worked and the copper coins ‘soaked up‘ the heat that would otherwise be causing issues for his laptop’s central processing unit.”

    The hack does not work with modern copper-plated zinc cents, but it’s a great way to get some use out of the older cents in your coin jar.

    ​Odd uses for coins: A wine-saving tip

    July 8, 2016 4:08 PM by

    A penny saved may be a penny earned, but a penny dropped into a glass of smelly wine can save the drink.

    “Wine drinkers rejoice, if you've got a bottle of wine on hand that's pumping out bad, sulfury smells, we've got a cheap chemistry life hack to help,” the American Chemical Society teases on its YouTube channel.

    In a late 2015 Chemistry Life Hacks video, “How to Save Smelly Wine,” the society says a pre-1983 copper cent can turn bad wine good.

    “You had a brutal day and finally earned yourself a moment to breath,” the narrator intones. “Take a seat and enjoy a glass of wine from that lonely bottle that’s been waiting for you. You crack it open, pour yourself a glass, only to find out that your wine stinks like match sticks and burnt rubber.”

    The culprit is thiols (stinky sulfur molecules) that either built up in storage or were created during fermentation gone wrong. Swirling the wine in the glass might help a bit, but the American Chemical Society has a sure-fire, better-living-through-chemistry cure.

    “Head straight to your coin jar. Pull out an old penny, give it a nice, solid cleaning in the sink and then drop it right into your glass. Stir it around briefly with a spoon. Pull it out and taste and smell a world of difference.”

    The society reports, “When you drop a penny into your wine, the copper reacts with these thiol compounds producing odorless copper sulfide crystals.”

    The result is delicious and you get your penny back.

    Next: Bonus odd coin use: Heat dispersal