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.

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

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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

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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

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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?

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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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What Are Pedigree Coins?

What Are Pedigree Coins?

There are many things that make objects valuable. Origin, usefulness, condition, scarcity, and history all make a difference when considering value. We understand this easily when it comes to other items. For instance, a pipe may have value to someone who likes to smoke a pipe and no value to someone who doesn’t. A pipe made from rare or valuable wood might have value as a piece of artistry. The same pipe once owned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would be a very sought after item among Sherlock Holmes fans, and if it could be proven that Conan Doyle smoked that pipe while he wrote A Study in Scarlet that item would even more valued for the role it played in the history of an iconic fictional character. The proof that that particular pipe was owned by Conan Doyle and smoked during the writing of a specific novel would be its pedigree. It’s much the same with coins.

We’ve often discussed the importance of scarcity in regard to coin value. Mint origin is also important to collectors who like to locate and purchase all variations of a certain coin. Coins that have never circulated are much more valuable than ones that have. All of these things factor into the determination of value. If a coin has a rare pedigree, this can make a large difference as well.

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The Maine Penny: A Coin Mystery from History

The Maine Penny: A Coin Mystery from History

Do you know about the Maine penny? Also known as the Goddard coin, the Maine penny isn’t a penny like the Lincoln Wheat cent but a very old coin that dates to the time of the Norwegian king, Olaf Kyrre, who reigned as King Olaf III between 1067-1093. One of the silver coins minted to honor his reign somehow found its way to the Goddard site on Naskeag Point in Maine almost a thousand years ago. It was discovered in 1957 along with some worked copper, pottery remnants, and other evidence of human habitation.

The Goddard site has been dated by archeologists to 1180-1235, and historians believe the people who lived there were the ancestors of today’s Penobscot Indians. That means that this coin may have been used as metal currency in America some 500 years before the next New England silver coins, including the Pinetree shilling, were minted. What was going on that this coin could have been left behind there?

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The George Washington Quarter Dollar

The George Washington Quarter Dollar

As we discussed before, during the early years of the Great Depression far fewer coins were minted. An economy in a tailspin meant that coins were circulating less and fewer people were collecting them. The exception to this coin dearth in those early years was the 1932 quarter dollar minted in honor of the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth.

Originally, the Treasury Department intended to strike a half dollar, and in cooperation with the Commission of Fine Arts and the Washington Bicentennial Commission, it held a competition. Entrants were to design the obverse of this new coin using the celebrated bust of Washington sculpted by Jean Antoine Houdon as inspiration. Laura Gardin Fraser, talented artist and wife of sculptor James Earle Fraser, was a prolific medalist. In 1932 she designed the George Washington Bicentennial medal, and she entered this contest along with 97 other people. The Commission chose her design unanimously - but the U.S. Treasury declined to use her design on the coins it produced.

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Guest — Bill Helder
Thank you and welcome, Kathy. I hadn't known about the contest for a new design to the 1932 Washington quarter.Interesting! Bill,... Read More
Friday, 03 March 2017 10:30
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U.S. Coins and the Great Depression

U.S. Coins and the Great Depression

Previously we’ve talked about the scarcity of U.S. coins minted during the years of the Civil War. Collectors looking for coins from another historic period - the Great Depression - will also have to search for some of them, particularly the ones struck during the earliest years of the 1930s. What was going on during this period, and why are coins from this era harder to come by?

The stock market crashed in October of 1929, and some of its effects were felt immediately. Fortunes were lost overnight, and millionaires jumped out of buildings rather than face financial ruin. For working class Americans who had not invested in the stock market, it took a little longer for this disaster to affect them, but in time the economic collapse brought them down too. Subsequent years saw unemployment at rates as high as 25 percent.

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Guest — Rob Leigh-Pink
Many thanks, Rob! I am happy that you learned something--always enjoyable for me, too. Katherine Very nice article! Always glad ... Read More
Friday, 23 December 2016 19:02
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The Most Collectible Lincoln Wheat Cents

The Most Collectible Lincoln Wheat Cents

Last time we discussed the origins of the 1909 Lincoln cent. This coin has been around for over a hundred years in various forms, and we’ve gotten used to seeing it in purses, on sidewalks, in cup holders in cars, and under the cushions of our couches. Have you ever wondered if any of those pennies you’ve overlooked for years are valuable? Many of them are. In fact, the most rare type of Lincoln wheat cent - the 1943-S - sold for $1 million dollars in 2012.

The United States entered World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. During the war years, the availability of metals significantly decreased as they were assigned for artillery use. This meant a change in the metal composition of the coins minted, therefore in 1943 the copper cent became a zinc-plated steel penny. U.S. mints struck more than a billion of this new coin between the mints in Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco. The public didn’t particularly take to it, although coin collectors have softened on it over the years and have come to view it as a novelty. These steel cents are available for purchase very inexpensively in either circulated or uncirculated condition.
 
The 1943 copper cent is another story. The reason that some 1943 pennies are so collectible is - as is often the case - due to a minting error. In 1943 between 30 and 40 Lincoln wheat cent coins were struck on copper planchets, likely leftover from 1942.  Because of their rarity, the Philadelphia copper cents are worth more than $45,000, the San Francisco copper cents are worth $100,000, and the one known 1943-D (Denver) copper cent is likely worth more that $500,000. No question they are the most collectible U.S. cents on the coin market.

Interestingly enough, the same thing happened in reverse the following year when the 1944 Lincoln wheat penny was stamped on leftover steel planchets. The U.S. Mint returned to using copper for coins in 1944, recycling metal that came from spent ammunition shells. These pennies differed from the pennies minted between 1909 and 1942 which were 95% copper and 5% zinc and tin. Pennies minted from 1944 to 1946 contained no tin so they were slightly different in color than the earlier version, but this is only visible in uncirculated coins now. The 1944 steel cents are worth upwards of $125,000 as well.

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Guest — Claudia Guzman
Hi my name is claudia i haven a 1945 and 1928 penney and a dime 1888 and a nickel 1889 and another nickel 1912 I want to know if t... Read More
Wednesday, 30 November 2016 22:05
Guest — Tom
Thanks Tom! We really appreciate your note. Have a great 2017! Kathy Great posts on here Kathy!! Tom http://www.wilmingtoncoinsh... Read More
Saturday, 31 December 2016 19:17
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The Story of the 1909 Lincoln Wheat Cent

The Story of the 1909 Lincoln Wheat Cent

Collectors of U.S. coins will no doubt be familiar with the many iterations of the Lincoln cent, but most of the public will go their whole lives without paying any attention to the details of this ubiquitous coin. It’s as familiar to Americans as baseball, and yet it’s completely overlooked, the story behind this everyday object unknown. 

Interestingly enough, the man behind this famous miniature portrait of Lincoln wasn’t American. He was Victor David Brenner, but he was born Viktoras Baranauskas to a Jewish family living in  Šiauliai, Lithuania - which in 1871 was a garrison town on the edge of the Russian Empire. At age 19, rather than be exiled to Siberia, he immigrated to the United States and settled in New York City.

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Gold Coins Help Identify Lost Battle of Teutoburg Forest Site

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We’ve talked numerous times about how coins have historical consequence. Most are designed or minted as a commemoration of an important event or person or are the result of politicking or maneuvering by various people in power interested in maintaining their power. Another way coins have historical importance is that they can be used to date or identify people, places, or things.

Recently archeologists in Kalkriese unearthed eight Roman coins that historians believe may be the key to identifying the site of Rome’s greatest defeat: the Battle of Teutoburg Forest. You may wonder how the site of Rome’s greatest defeat could have gone missing, given the importance of Rome in the ancient world and the fact that this battle was hardly obscure and went on to have far-reaching effects for Rome and greater Europe. It’s an interesting story.

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The History of the Gold Sovereign

The History of the Gold Sovereign

The British gold sovereign is another coin that was designed and minted as a result of a politics.

People unfamiliar with the strife, plotting, unseating, and court intrigue that resulted when Henry of Bolingbroke, one grandson of Edward III, rose up and deposed Richard II, another of his grandsons, might be interested to know that the civil war depicted in the popular television show, Game of Thrones, is loosely based on the chaos of this period - the Wars of the Roses - in English history. For nearly a century, the country saw assassination attempts, imprisoned kings, secret marriages, brothers betraying brothers, and, of course, the famous missing and murdered Princes in the Tower.

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