US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Feb. 13, 2023: Please ask us

Images of this Jefferson 5-cent coin were submitted to our "Readers Ask" column in the hopes that it was an error coin. It isn't; the coin is damaged.

Coin World file image.

When I was hired by Coin World in October 1976, I was first assigned to the “Collectors’ Clearinghouse” department. As a subscriber and collector interested in error coins, the “Clearinghouse” column had been my favorite article in each weekly issue, so I was happy to be assigned to help with the backlog of unanswered correspondence, much of it containing coins or other numismatic objects.

At the time, a majority of the material sent for examination and an explanation were coins that the readers thought were errors or die varieties. Sometimes they were, sometimes not. We received a lot of coins featuring accidental or deliberate damage or alteration.

We also received medals and tokens and paper money that readers wanted identified.

The column was usually based on reader finds, with the items displayed and explained.

Some years after my hiring and after the column was turned over to a new staff writer, it was decided to narrow the focus to error and variety coins. A new column, “Readers Ask,” was created to answer questions on exonumia, paper money and generic numismatic questions. For years, we received enough questions on this kind of material to fill the weekly column.

Eventually, though, the weekly “Clearinghouse” column was turned over to Mike Diamond, and he took a different approach to writing, which was less focused on reader reports. At the same time, questions directed at “Readers Ask” began to focus on suspected error coinage. Eventually, questions on medals and tokens and other similar material mostly dried up. Today, many of the questions are about coins that are substandard but are not errors. It is sometimes tough to get a question that has not been asked a dozen times over.

Here is hoping that we get new questions on exonumia and paper money and not the oft-repeated stuff like gas-bubbled copper-plated zinc cents and 1975 Roosevelt dimes.

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