Coin Facts vs Coin Fiction… Do You Know The Difference?


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How much do you know about U.S. coins and coin history?

Here is a fun and informative article I have put together to test your knowledge of coins.

1. All U.S. dimes, quarters, half dollars, and silver dollars minted prior to 1965 are 100% .999 fine silver. Fact or Fiction?

2. It used to be illegal to possess gold coins in the U.S. Fact or Fiction?

3. The 1943 wheat back cent was made out of silver to save copper for the war. Fact or Fiction?

4. Some buffalo nickels were minted only having 3 legs. Fact or Fiction?

5. Other than copper, nickel was also a critical material during the war. Therefore from 1942 to 1945, nickels contained silver instead of nickel. Fact or Fiction?

6. Gold coins are better to collect and will always be worth more due to the price of gold. Fact or fiction?

7. The penny is the lowest face value coin ever produced in the U.S. Fact or Fiction?

8. The Philadelphia mint is the oldest mint in the U.S. Fact or Fiction?

9. The average life expectancy for a circulating coin is 25-30 years. Fact or Fiction?

10. United States mint facilities produce 30 to 40 million circulating coins per day. Fact or Fiction?

11. The initials of the coin designer do not appear on every circulating U.S. coin. Fact or Fiction?

12. It is against the law to deface U.S. coins. Fact or Fiction?

Answers below

Correct Answers To Questions:

1. Fiction. Coins for circulation prior to 1965 were composed of 90% silver.

2. Fact. In 1933 President Roosevelt ordered that circulation of gold coins was not allowed anymore. The coins were turned in to the banks by people who were given other types of currency in exchange. Most of the coins were melted.

Here’s more info about the 1933 gold confiscation and the actual document signed by President Roosevelt.

3. Fiction. The 1943 penny was indeed made from a different material due to the war. However, it was zinc-coated steel, not silver as some mistake it to be.

4. Fact. Normally the buffaloes on buffalo nickels have 4 legs. The dies for the 1937D nickel produced some buffaloes only having 3 legs and 3-1/2 legs on the 1936D. These varieties of the buffalo nickel are not common and are highly sought after by collectors.

5. Fact. Unlike the 1943 cent, nickels from 1942 to 1945 did in fact contain 35% silver to preserve materials for the war. As a result, these nickels are valued higher due to their silver content.

6. Fiction. A simple nickel can be worth more than a gold coin. It is true that in a lot of cases the amount of pure gold in these coins will generally make them more valuable than other coins. However, coin collectors should try to collect coins of the highest grade that they can afford — regardless of the material in the coin. For example: I would much rather have a 1913 Liberty Head nickel than a $10 gold eagle coin that looks like it was dropped from the Sears Tower, ran over by 50 cars, and chewed on by a pit bull. A high grade 1913 Liberty Head nickel has sold at auction for nearly $2,000,000, whereas a gold coin in horrible condition wouldn’t be worth much more than the value of its gold content. (Which today would be around $400 for a ten dollar gold coin.) Most of a coin’s value comes from the grade of the coin and how scarce it is.

7. Fiction. From 1793 to 1857, the U.S. produced half cents — most of which are scarce today. If you are not a collector, you probably would answer this question as fact simply because there are a number of coins with denominations the U.S. used to produce which we haven’t used in many years. Some of these include the half cent, the 2 cent piece, the 3 cent piece, and the half dime.

8. Fact. The Philadelphia mint is the oldest U.S. mint which started producing coins in 1793, but the coins produced in the early years did not contain a mint mark on them.

9. Fact. The average life span of a coin in circulation is indeed 25 to 30 years. For paper currency, it’s only about 18 months.

10. Fiction. It is actually a lot higher. U.S. mints produce anywhere from 65 to 80 million coins every day. Wow.

11. Fiction. Although not all coinage from the early 1900’s had the designer’s initials, all coins that are currently in circulation today do carry their initials. If you have a dime and a magnifying glass handy, look at President Roosevelt’s neckline — just beneath his ear. You will see the tiny initials JS for the designer John R. Sinnock.

12. Trick Question. It is somewhat fact and somewhat fiction. It is not illegal to deface coins BUT they can no longer be used anywhere for currency or you would be breaking the law. It is perfectly legal to drill a small hole in a nickel, paint a quarter, or bend a penny if you want. But you cannot use it to help buy that new video game or drop it in a Coinstar machine! Coins that have been defaced are only good for keepsakes or can only be sold as novelty items.
So you got a two-headed quarter from the gas station, every person that keeps using that quarter as currency would be breaking the law since it was not minted like that and somebody defaced it to be a novelty item.

According to U.S. code Title 18, Chapter 17, Section 331:

Whoever fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the mints of the United States, or any foreign coins which are by law made current or are in actual use or circulation as money within the United States; or

Whoever fraudulently possesses, passes, utters, publishes, or sells, or attempts to pass, utter, publish, or sell, or brings into the United States, any such coin, knowing the same to be altered, defaced, mutilated, impaired, diminished, falsified, scaled, or lightened —

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”

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