Coins and tokensBy Mark Chervenka
Coins and tokens
Coins have been forged and counterfeited for thousands of years. Counterfeiting is different from forgery in that counterfeiting usually refers to making copies of currency or coins which can be passed for their face value among the general public. Forgeries and fakes, on the other hand, are created to fool or deceive only a small segment of the public, the coin collector.
The coins shown here are all sold as legitimate replicas, facsimiles or sought for their precious metal content. None are sold originally with any attempt at deception. In the secondary market, however, these pieces can show up as "valuable" collector's items.
A $20 gold piece....for only $5
Private, or non-government, minting of coins was not restricted in the United States by law until 1864. Even then production continued until 1882 when the law became strictly enforced. Most privately produced coins were made for use on the western frontier especially in California during the gold rush years.
One of the most active California private mints was Kellogg & Company of San Francisco. In the early 1850s, the official United States branch mint in San Francisco could not keep up with the demand for coins. The Kellogg firm stepped in with their own coins to fill this need beginning in 1854 with a $20 and $50 gold piece. Original Kellogg $20 gold coins in fine condition sell for $1,000-$1,200. The polished brass imitation shown here cost $5 from a mail order catalog. A thin gold plating would make the piece appear virtually identical to an original.
Loot and plunder from the Spanish Main?
Spanish settlements in the New World began minting their own coins in 1535. These coins were made in crude hand dies with silver sliced off the end of a rolled bar which accounts for their rough, irregular shape. Such coins are called "cobs" from the Spanish "Cabo de barra" meaning "end of the bar." All of the coins shown below are reproductions of cobs of different denominations.
A "piece of eight" is the common name of a Spanish 8 real coin; (1 real = 12 1/2 US cents, 8 reals =$1). One way of making change for a piece of eight was to divide it by cutting it with a knife into pie shaped wedges called "bits." The cross in the center provided the lines to make the cuts (see Fig. 6). "Two bits" has remained in the language and still means a quarter of a U.S. dollar today.
Spanish 8 real or "Piece of 8"
bit = 12 1/2 cents
2 bits (2 X 12 1/2) = 25 cents
4 bits (4 X 12 1/2) = 50 cents
8 bits (8 X 12 1/2) = one dollar
Back in the Saddle
Old cowboys may ride off into the sunset but their merchandising products may stay in the saddle forever. These three new tokens have been in flea markets and wholesale catalogs for years. Shown actual size.
A new coin that's 200 years old
This Austrian coin is called the Maria Theresa taler (taler is a unit of Austrian money). It is about 3/4 of an ounce of .833 silver and dated 1780.
Considered one of the most attractive coins ever designed, the Maria Theresa taler is still being minted today. Neither the size, design or date has been changed since these coins were first made in 1780.
These large silver dollar sized coins have been used in world trade for years and appear in many countries. Large quantities have been brought back to the United States with tourists who visited Europe. The recently minted uncirculated example shown here was purchased for $20.