US Coins

Chaos and Order - Coinage during World War I

Propaganda played a big role in how governments attempted to shape their citizens’ views on the war and its aftermath. Shown is a portion of an anti-German poster and the obverse of Chester Beach’s 1919 medal celebrating the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

Image courtesy of Library of Congress and Heritage Auctions.

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Chaos and Order: World War I

In his Cover Feature, Steve Roach explores World War I as illustrated through the numismatics of the period. Just as the various opponents in the war produced propaganda posters glorifying one side and vilifying the other side, they also issued medals and coins.

One nation issued a medal critical of an opponent’s decision to use a passenger liner to transport military contraband, making it a target for sinking by a submarine, while another nation issued its own version of the medal to paint the sinking as a planned atrocity. In the United States, one coin’s design was changed to illustrate the nation as preparing to enter the battle, while after the war another coin was issued to celebrate the peace that followed.

Read the article exclusive to the print and digital edition versions of the May 7, 2018, issue of Coin World.

Before all of the others, came the Krugerrand

When South Africa issued the first Krugerrand gold bullion coins in 1967, it did something no other nation had done — release a bullion coin containing a full ounce of pure gold. In his World Coins feature, Mark Benvenuto writes, “For a younger generation of coin collectors, what can be called the field of gold bullion coins seems to have always been around, presenting a wide variety of examples from the world’s major mints. …”

He adds: “Yet the time certainly was when no such array of gold bullion coins existed. For a short span of years, the choices for a gold bullion coin were essentially one, the South African Krugerrand.”

Read the article found exclusively in the May 7 issue.

Note designs reflect American history, good and bad

Christopher Bulfinch writes in his Paper Money feature, “Circulating currency of any nation provides a canvas on which a government or other institution can articulate its aspirations, its history, or its values.” In particular, the First Charter national bank notes offered artists a broad canvas on which to tell stories about American history, both good and bad.

He writes: “A year before The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was first published and two years before the Compromise of 1877 ended Reconstruction and the Great Railroad Strike ushered in a new era of labor relations and as the Gilded Age began in earnest, images of the Pilgrims, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Hernando de Soto were emblazoned on American notes.” What stories were these notes telling, and hiding?

Why do silver coins tone, and is that bad?

In his “Back to Basics” column, William T. Gibbs write, “Whether you call it tarnish or toning, the changes in color to the surfaces of a silver coin over time amount to the same thing — chemical reactions between the silver and a range of sulfur compounds both solid and gaseous. These chemical reactions happen naturally, though toning can also be artificially generated through various means.”

But are these changes good or bad? Professional conservators take one view, while collectors and dealers take a broader view of toning. In the end, whether a coin’s color is good or bad is often in the eyes of the beholder.

The column appears exclusively in the May 7 issue of Coin World.

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