The question on a local coin club quiz — List as many denominations of circulating U.S. coins as you can — seemed simple. The answer was not.
Quizmaster Jonathan Goodfellow prepared the question as a tiebreaker. Two members had answered the previous nine questions correctly. They both had different answers for the tiebreaker.
I anticipated that some club members would insist that a silver 3-cent piece was a different denomination from a copper-nickel 3-cent piece.
As I was the fill-in quizmaster (Goodfellow had moved away by the time the quiz was given), I ruled that a denomination was a coin’s value, regardless of the coin’s metallic content. A dollar is a dollar, be it gold, silver or something else.
With that in mind, I had 15 denominations: half cent, cent, 2 cents, 3 cents, 5 cents, dime, 20 cents, quarter dollar, half dollar, dollar, $2.50, $3, $5, $10 and $20. The correct answer in my mind was 15 different denominations.
Not, so fast, said fellow club member and Coin World columnist John Roberts.
John, a Morgan and Peace dollar VAM authority, can always find a different way to look at a coin and at a numismatic question.
What about the Trade dollar?
The Trade dollar, minted from 1873 to 1885, is an odd animal.
It has about 2 percent more silver than a Morgan dollar and wasn’t supposed to circulate in the United States.