Coin Collector Blog

Mullen Coins Collection Blog provides valuable articles and content about coin collections, rare coins, currency, antiquities and interesting reviews of news and events within the numismatic community.

Coins have a rich history, making collecting a rewarding hobby. Learn interesting facts about the history behind rare coins.

The Eisenhower Dollar and the U.S. Space Program

1971-eisenhower-dollar

With the passing of Michael Collins, an astronaut from the famed Apollo 11 moon voyage, it might be time to discuss how the history of the U.S. space program intersects with U.S. coins. Do you know the history of the Eisenhower dollar coin? It was created to honor a successful general and past president at a very interesting time in our country’s history - when the space program was at its zenith.

The Eisenhower Dollar 

Younger Americans today may be less familiar with the name Dwight D. Eisenhower, or “Ike” as he was known, but he wasn’t just a two-term president. He was also the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe during World War II, and a five-star rank General. Eisenhower ran for president in 1952 and presided over the post-war expansion of the economy. He ended the second term of his presidency in January of 1961 and was succeeded by John F. Kennedy

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The Buffalo Nickel, Another Iconic American Coin

Buffalo-nickel

The Buffalo nickel is another iconic American coin that is very enjoyable to collect. Preceded by the Liberty Head nickel and succeeded by the Jefferson nickel, this coin pays homage to Native Indian history and the history of the American West. It is a piece of Americana and, in the words of Eames MacVeagh, “a permanent souvenir of a most attractive sort.”

The Earlier Version - The Liberty Head Nickel

Before the Buffalo nickel the Liberty Head nickel was in use. It featured designs by then Mint Engraver, Charles Barber. This coin was first issued in 1883, but its design created a sticky problem. The Liberty Head nickel was very similar in size to the half eagle. This meant that criminals could pass it off as a five dollar coin with a little work. Because of this, the design was modified to add the word CENTS to the reverse. With this modification, this nickel continued to be minted until 1912.

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The History of U.S. National Bank Notes

Old-National-Bank-of-Grand-Rapids

Most Americans have lived their entire lives using the standard American currency we all recognize. They might be surprised to learn that in its earlier years the American money system was the opposite of standard. The genesis of our modern currency was the National Bank Act which President Lincoln signed into law in 1863. This created the United States National Banking System, a prototype of what we use today:

“The National Banking Act (ch. 58, 12 Stat. 665; February 25, 1863), originally known as the National Currency Act, and was passed in the Senate by a narrow 23–21 vote. The main goal of this act was to create a single national currency and to eradicate the problem of notes from multiple banks circulating all at once. The Act established national banks that could issue notes which were backed by the United States Treasury and printed by the government itself. The quantity of notes that a bank was allowed to issue was proportional to the bank's level of capital deposited with the Comptroller of the Currency at the Treasury. To further control the currency, the Act taxed notes issued by state and local banks, essentially pushing non-federally issued paper out of circulation.”

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Mint Marks: What Difference Does a Letter Make?

mint-marks

In a previous blog we talked about the great American Money Experiment. In its infancy our country broke with the British currency system. In 1792 the fledgling United States Congress passed the Coinage Act which authorized the building of the United States Mint and created a brand new currency: the U.S. dollar. The first mint was built in Philadelphia, but eventually coins were minted in eight different locations. Mint marks help coin collectors identify where their coins originated. 

What Are Mint Marks? 

Mint marks are letters located on either the reverse or obverse of a coin that identify the location where a coin was minted. They were instituted as a way of keeping the different mint branches accountable for the quality of the coins they produced. This was especially important when circulated coins had a high gold or silver content. In fact, at one time there was a commission that evaluated coins from different mint facilities to ensure that they had the correct percentage of specific metals. 

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The Franklin Half Dollar, a Popular Collector Coin

Franklin-half-dollar

The Franklin half dollar is a popular series to collect. These coins were minted between 1948 and 1963 and remain in demand today for many reasons, not the least of which is their relative affordability and the ease with which they can be obtained. This is a great coin set project for beginning collectors.

Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father

Benjamin Franklin, while never an American president, was a founding father who is well remembered for his inventions and his work during the American Revolution and afterwards on behalf of the new nation. In 1947, Nellie Taylor Ross, the director of the U.S. Mint and a fan of Franklin’s, pushed for a coin that would feature his likeness. She asked the mint’s chief engraver, John Sinnock, to create a design. Sinnock had also designed the Roosevelt dime, but he died before he could complete the Franklin project. His successor, Gilroy Roberts, finished up the work on the Franklin half dollar.

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How Much Was a Biblical Talent Worth?

biblical-talent-denarii

The Bible contains many mysteries within it, but not all of these were meant to be mysteries. Some are just references to a culture that no longer exists. One of these is found in The Parable of the Ungrateful Servant in the Gospel of Matthew. In this parable a king (or “master”) forgives the debt of a man who owes him ten thousand talents. The reader is meant to understand this is a huge sum of money and the king, who represents God, is very generous. How much money was a talent worth, though? What was a biblical talent? Here we will answer those questions. 

The Parable of the Ungrateful Servant 

For those unfamiliar with this story, the details are these: a servant who owes ten thousand talents to a king is brought before him unable to pay back his debt. He and his whole family are to be sold into slavery to settle what he owes. The man throws himself at the mercy of the king and begs a little more time to pay back the money. The king, in response, shows him pity and tells him the debt is forgiven and he can go. 

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The Walking Liberty Half Dollar, a Beautiful Collectible Coin

walking-liberty-half-dollar

The Walking Liberty half dollar is one of the three most collectible U.S. half dollar coins, with the others being the Kennedy half dollar and the Franklin half. This historic coin is not only very collectible, it’s also a beautiful and beloved American coin. Let’s talk about how the Walking Liberty half dollar came to be and what it’s worth to coin collectors today.

Early 20th Century Coin Revamps

In the early years of the twentieth century, several U.S. presidential administrations were motivated to update the coinage with designs they thought were more beautiful and modern than the Barber coins in circulation. In 1890 Congress had passed legislation regulating the design and issue of new coins, putting a 25-year limit on when the treasury could replace old designs for new. The Barber half dollar and other denominations were introduced to the American public in 1892, so the U.S. Treasury instigated the design process for a new half dollar in January of 1915. 

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The History of Vatican Coins

Vatican-coins

For Americans who collect primarily American coins, it can be hard to know where to start with coins from around the world. There are so many beautiful and history rich coins that have been produced over the millennia. Collecting Vatican coins would be a rewarding place to begin. The Vatican has a long and storied history of politics and art. Its mint produces new Vatican City money every year, and those coins tend to increase in popularity and value. 

The Catholic Church dates back to the death of Jesus Christ and the evangelism of his disciples, in particular Peter. In Catholic history, St. Peter is one of the earliest martyrs and saints. Tradition has it that he was crucified upside down in Rome in Nero's amphitheater in 67 A.D. This is the site on which the Vatican stands today. 

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How Did the "In God We Trust" Coin Motto Originate?

in-God-we-trust

Americans are very familiar with coins and currency that display the motto, “In God We Trust.” It’s our nation’s motto, so it only makes sense that it would appear on our money. This was not always the case, however. Why was the motto added to our coinage and when?

Civil War Upheaval 

The first coin to display the “In God We Trust” motto was the 1864 two-cent coin. Given the timing, you can imagine the impetus for the change. Shaken by the worst war that Americans had ever experienced and great casualties for both the North and the South, many people were looking for reassurance that all would be fine and that God had not abandoned them during this terrible ordeal. In 1861, the Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, received the first request for an acknowledgement of God on the national coinage. Rev. M.R. Watkinson wrote to him with a design for a coin in mind involving a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION, the all-seeing eye crowned with a halo, the American flag with all the stars of the once again United States, and the words GOD, LIBERTY, and LAW. 

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What Are Doubled Die Coins?

doubled-die-coins-2

Coin errors that occur during minting have often created coins that are in demand by collectors. There are many different types of coin errors. In our last blog we discussed off-metal coins. In this blog we will talk about doubled die coins - what they look like, how they are made, and which are especially collectible. 

Doubled Die Coins

Doubled die (not “double die”) is a numismatic term referring to doubling or repeating in the design elements of the die which creates the coins. As the term suggests, it is the die that is doubled and then used to create thousands of coins. 

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Early American Coins: Baltimore Coins

Baltimore-coins-1

Have you considered collecting early American coins? Since there were relatively few coins minted either in or for the American colonies, they may not be as accessible as Lincoln wheat cents, but they have a rich history attached. In this blog we will examine the Baltimore coins and the very rare Baltimore penny.

Colonial Coins Are Diverse

What we consider colonial coins are all the coins in circulation in the British colonies before the creation of the U.S. Mint in 1792. The original 13 colonies were settled by different countries and some of these territories were ruled by the Dutch, the Spanish, or the French before finally being taken over by the British. The coinage used throughout was both very diverse and scarce. A few colonies tried to mint their own coins. The British frowned on this, but in some cases, including Boston during the reign of Cromwell, colonists did succeed in creating their own money.

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Franklin Roosevelt and the Roosevelt Dime

Roosevelt-dime

You have probably heard of the March of Dimes, but the origins of that organization have faded from the public’s memory. One ever present reminder is found on the Roosevelt dime - the  ubiquitous coin you use everyday to pay for small items or make change. President Franklin Roosevelt, the March of Dimes, and the change in your pocket are all connected, and in this blog we will explain how.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt had an enormous impact on the history of the United States. He was the 32nd President of the United States, and he won four national elections - more than any other president. His presidency lasted from the early days of the Great Depression until the final days of World War II. He was loved (and hated) by Americans and citizens of many other countries.

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Viking Coin Hoard Could Rewrite English History

Viking-coin-hoard

We’ve talked before about how coins preserve human history. They’ve been used to locate the lost location of Teutoburg Forest and determine the breadth and power of the once great Spanish Empire. Recently, a Viking coin hoard that the police seized in County Durham and Lancashire has shaken up historian’s ideas about Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, the Viking fighter and English king. 

Who Was Alfred the Great?

Alfred was the son of Aethelwulf, king of the West Saxons. During this period of time England was routinely being raided, sacked, and plundered by Vikings from Denmark. By 866 these Vikings had seized York and established their own kingdom. They then captured East Anglia and Mercia, two other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. By 870 Wessex was next on their list of goals. At this time Alfred was a very young man. He fought the Vikings bravely but suffered devastating losses and retreated to the Somerset tidal marshes where he continued to wage guerilla warfare against them. In 878 he was able to defeat the Vikings finally at the Battle of Edington, take back Wessex for his people, and establish a peace with King Guthrum who converted to Christianity as a provision of the treaty they made. Guthrum honored that treaty, left Alfred in peace, and history has accounted Alfred the savior of English England.

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The Jefferson Nickel, a Classic American Coin

jefferson-nickel

Most Americans have Jefferson nickels in their spare change or under their couch cushions. Even if the vast majority of our purchases are done through electronic means these days, the nickel remain ubiquitous. We are all familiar with it and have made hundreds or thousands of purchases using a Jefferson nickel. What is the history and value of this popular coin?

 

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The History and Value of the Kennedy Half Dollar

kennedy-half-dollar

The Kennedy half dollar is a very popular collectible coin that has both sentimental value for many Americans as well as numismatic value for coin collectors. Why is this coin worth seeking out? Which ones are the most valuable? We will answer those questions here.

 

The History of the Kennedy Half Dollar

When John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States in 1960, he was the youngest man to ever hold that office, and many saw in him hope for the future of the country. The war years were over, the economy was booming, and the future seemed bright. When Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, the nation was shocked and mourned him deeply. It was a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. Generations of people still can say where they were when they heard Kennedy was shot. An outpouring of grief resulted from this tragedy. One tangible symbol of that grief was the Kennedy half dollar.

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Gresham's Law: Bad Money Drives out the Good

Greshams-Law

One of the underlying traits of human behavior is the tendency of people to seek out true value. This applies to crowds staking out a department store on Black Friday, and it also applies to coin collectors. People know value when they see it, and they search it out. In economics the principle of Gresham’s Law describes how the perception of true value affects which coins remain in circulation.

 

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How Much Were Judas Iscariot's 30 Pieces of Silver Worth?

30-pieces-of-silver

Judas Iscariot’s 30 pieces of silver is so well known, so infamous in history, that it’s a euphemism for betrayal in Western culture. Have you ever wondered what those 30 pieces of silver were exactly - or how much they were worth? Scholars have debated these questions for years. Let’s go through some of their ideas.

The details of this story are found in the biblical book of Matthew, chapters 26 and 27. Before the Last Supper, Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’s disciples, went to the chief priests and arranged to hand over Jesus to them, saying:

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Alexander the Great, Coining Money to Make Money

Alexander-the-Great

One of the really wonderful things about coin collecting is that behind every coin is a story. Coins are art, coins are instruments of commerce, but above all, coins are history. In this article we’ll highlight Alexander the Great’s quest to conquer the world and how coining money helped him achieve that goal.

The coins that Alexander III minted would become standard currency for hundreds of years, but when his father, Philip II, died, what he inherited was not wealth, but debts. In the treasure chambers of the Macedonian crown were only 60 talents and some gold and silver objects that could be melted down. Alexander couldn’t rule Macedonia on that budget, so he borrowed money - 800 talents. He needed it to fund an army to fight off the Thracian invasion of his father’s empire.

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Indian Head Gold Pieces Are Unique American Coins

Indian-head

Do you have an Indian Head gold piece in your coin collection? If not, why not? Both the half eagle and quarter eagle Indian Heads are great coins with a rare incuse design and an interesting history.

The Indian Head Design

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What Happened to the Half Dime?

half dime

Did you know that 5-cent pieces haven’t always been called nickels? During George Washington’s presidency, the half-dime was first produced as part of the American money experiment that replaced the pounds-and-shillings monetary system of Great Britain. In 1792 the Coinage Act introduced the U.S. dollar to the world. One silver dollar was worth 10 dismes or 100 cents. The dismes became known as dimes, and half dimes were also struck and became a commonly used piece of American coinage for many years.

We don’t know much about the first half dismes. Legend has it that Martha Washington may have served as the model for the Lady Liberty portrait on its obverse side. George Washington himself may have supplied some of the silver for its first minting. The U.S. Mint in Philadelphia wasn’t even fully constructed at this point, and the half disme was the first American coin struck. Legend says this happened in the cellar of John Harper’s saw-maker shop.

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