Category Archives: Numismatics

Harriet Tubman On the $20 Bill

/home/content/04/10839404/html/steve/wp content/uploads/2016/04/160428 Harriet Tubman

This is the first $20 bill. It was issued in the 1860’s. Lady Liberty was on it.

We’re just bringing her back as Harriet Tubman.

Another important note: Andrew Jackson didn’t appear on the $20 bill until 1928.

Before that it was:

  • Grover Cleveland (1914).
  • George Washington (1905)
  • Hugh McCulloch (1902) (Not a President!)
  • John Marshall (1890) (Not a President!)
  • Daniel Manning (1886) (Not a President!)
  • James Garfield (1882)
  • Stephen Decatur (1878) (Not a President!)
  • Alexander Hamilton (1869) (Not a President!)
  • Pocahontas (1865) (Not a President!) and
  • An Eagle (1863) (Not a President…)

Lots of not-Presidents. 🙂


A Quandry: The “Earliest Fragment of Mark”

I have a question for you.

With this whole purported 1st century Mark fragment found in the papier-mâché egyptian funerary mask thing that’s hit the media, the biggest quandry in my mind is:

Assuming that such a retrieval would be done by trained professionals in a controlled environment without any pressures from fundamentalist corners, what is more valuable to the world: A funerary mask? Or the texts it is potentially made up of?

It’s not an easy question.

What do you think?

These are my thoughts:

Fake Gold Eagle vs real

A fake bullion coin and a real one. I’ll leave it to you to figure it out.

When looking at, for example, high quality counterfeits of expensive coins, I could be faced with a similar (albeit not identical) dilemma. There are presently a glut of fake American Gold Eagles on the market which are made of thickly gold-plated tungsten. Some of them have such carefully made strikes that the only way to truly confirm if they’re fake (when you have a “hunch” and have tested it via other means) is to destroy them, mainly drill into their center and see if the gold goes all the way through.


A destroyed edge revealing a tungsten core.

Where Gold Eagles are relatively common (they’re a bullion coin currently minted) drilling one would destroy its premium (a few hundred dollars over the gold it’s made out of) and most of its collectibility. In this case, the question becomes “Is it worth it?” when there’s suspicion that it’s fake.


A picture of the 1907 “Ultra High Relief” St. Gaudens Double Eagle. A major rarity.

The question’s weighting changes when we’re no longer looking at a common but valuable coin, but instead consider a numismatic rarity of which there are only a small number of known examples.

Do we chance destroying it? Not as readily. It seems to be our duty to exercise every possible non-destructive test first and then, and only then, if there is still suspicion, we try other options.

The quandry truly is where that threshold lies, and with egyptian funerary masks, how its commonality or rarity influences the risk of disassembling it over the prospective gains to the corpus of ancient texts. If it’s one of a number of well-known examples that are well documented or if it’s a singularly unique example potentially have weight.

Some will say “There is no acceptable threshold. It’s a cultural relic and the mask is priceless.” where others will say “The texts it’s made up of represent dozens of cultural relics which combined are worth more to humanity than the intact mask.”

Sadly, there is no “right” answer so long as chance plays a part.


Found a “Godless Dollar” and a Counterfeit

So you may remember a while back about the story of the so-called “Godless Dollars” where some of the early Presidential dollar coins missed the machine that added the edge-lettering, which in turn left them devoid of “In God We Trust.” The media fiasco was enough that the Mint moved “In God We Trust” to the face of Presidential Dollars from that point on to avoid such accidents in the future.

Well, I just found one searching through some $1 coin rolls, and it’s genuine. It’s not a so-called “Buffy” dollar (i.e. a fake “Godless Dollar” where some enterprising idiot took a dremmel to the edge of the coin to buff off the edge lettering) as it’s weight is completely to spec and the edge is rough in the manner it should be.

From the same box of coins I also pulled my first contemporary counterfeit that I’ve found in the wild: A 2000-D Sacagawea dollar. The strike is horrid in odd spots, it’s not worn properly, and it’s almost a half-gram underweight. My guess is that it’s one of the infamous South American counterfeits (from either Ecuador or Colombia) as there were more enterprising individuals who produced several large stashes of fakes due to the fact that dollar coins circulate widely there.


An Amazing Quarter

Came across this going through a cigar box of State Quarters.

This Connecticut issue seems to have a much younger Charter Oak on its reverse due to a really — excusing the pun — striking example of what a bit of grease will do to a die (a.k.a. “struck through grease”).

Above is how it normally looks. 🙂