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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Resources  |  Authentication, Fakes and Frauds (Moderators: maridvnvm, Ilya Prokopov)  |  Topic: Suspicious coin reported in Portsmouth, New Hampshire 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Suspicious coin reported in Portsmouth, New Hampshire  (Read 2355 times)
Andrew McCabe
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« on: May 01, 2012, 02:53:15 am »

From the local police call-out ledger:
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otlichnik
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« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2012, 03:32:42 am »

Ha!  That's when you know that there are too many quarter designs floating around...

Reading this you can easily picture any market in the ancient world a couple of thousand years ago. 

"What is this!"

"It's an X coin from Y."

"No way."

"No, really."

"I am not taking that."

"Someone get the city officials!"

Shawn
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« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2012, 08:54:23 am »

Damn sneaky quarters. Angry
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Romanorvm
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« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2012, 12:25:36 pm »

And then those bastards sneak in a Susan B Anthony and ruin everything.
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Ryan C
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« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2012, 12:45:56 pm »

I live very close to Portsmouth, you must understand, not much happens up here. Nice clipping, always good to have a laugh. I guess I won't be using any Sacagawea Dollars in P-town south, as we locals here in Southern Maine call it.
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Andrew McCabe
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« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2012, 12:52:15 pm »

I live very close to Portsmouth, you must understand, not much happens up here.

Evidently! At first I thought that there was a local lingo I did not understand, a "suspicious coin" perhaps referring to an unorthodox  delivery of a package of dope, and a "quarter" referring to 1/4 ounce, or 250 lbs or a quarter ton. It took me some time to realise that the police had been called out because someone was unsure about the numismatic design on a modern coin.

I'm such an innocent when it comes real innocence, I always assume normal conditions such as encountered in Lagos, Peckham* or the Bronx where you only call the police when the consequences of not doing so are very bad indeed.


*wikipedia: "Peckham is a high-crime area with high levels of gang violence, for which it has a notorious reputation". [I assume Lagos and the Bronx carry their own reputations]. I can just imagine calling the police in any of these cities and telling them I've seen a "suspicious coin".
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« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2012, 01:39:23 pm »

I live very close to Portsmouth, you must understand, not much happens up here.

Evidently! At first I thought that there was a local lingo I did not understand, a "suspicious coin" perhaps referring to an unorthodox  delivery of a package of dope, and a "quarter" referring to 1/4 ounce, or 250 lbs or a quarter ton. It took me some time to realise that the police had been called out because someone was unsure about the numismatic design on a modern coin.

I'm such an innocent when it comes real innocence, I always assume normal conditions such as encountered in Lagos, Peckham* or the Bronx where you only call the police when the consequences of not doing so are very bad indeed.


*wikipedia: "Peckham is a high-crime area with high levels of gang violence, for which it has a notorious reputation". [I assume Lagos and the Bronx carry their own reputations]. I can just imagine calling the police in any of these cities and telling them I've seen a "suspicious coin".
 police
Very true Mr. McCabe. I would have to say that you would be correct in assuming that Northern New England has a wide variety of colloquialisms refering to dope and the like, I wouldn't be knowledgeable about that. However given the fact our crime rate is so low, as far as violent crimes, I still was surprised myself that the police were called. They should have called the Secret Service because they are the Government agency that handles counterfeits and the like.   Roll Eyes   Very nice clipping, very humorous! Thanks Mr. McCabe you just made my day.- Ryan
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James A2
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« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2012, 02:54:41 pm »

Here's  a quarter I found in my change this morning. Can you identify it? Jim A
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Enodia
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« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2012, 03:19:14 pm »

1975-76 Bi-centennial commemorative.
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James A2
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« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2012, 05:20:11 pm »

I knew what it was. I wanted to see if anyone else would. I sometimes see the grocery store clerks scratching with a fingernail on these "suspicious" bicentennial coins, trying to decide
whether they are genuine or not.
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dougsmit
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« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2012, 05:50:14 pm »

A suspicious quarter these days might be one with a funny soapy feel.  Probably 75% of all workers in retail don't know that quarters used to be made of silver and how that feels in hand.  I wonder if someone took a 90% silver proof of recent manufacture and wore it down a bit so it didn't shine, how many people would recognize what it was and how many would think it 'suspicious'?
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Andrew McCabe
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« Reply #11 on: May 01, 2012, 09:18:28 pm »

A suspicious quarter these days might be one with a funny soapy feel.  Probably 75% of all workers in retail don't know that quarters used to be made of silver and how that feels in hand.  I wonder if someone took a 90% silver proof of recent manufacture and wore it down a bit so it didn't shine, how many people would recognize what it was and how many would think it 'suspicious'?

In an idle excuse for pedantry and time-wasting I guess I'd challenge the "75%". The last silver 25c was issued in 1964. After the silver price peaks of 1974 and 1980 effectively nothing would have been left in circulation. I recall spending a summer in the US in 1984 and (already very interested in coins and an avid change-checker) never seeing a single silver coin in all that time. So we can presume that a retail worker from 1980 (if not from 1974) would never have cause to see a silver coin. What proportion of retail workers have been more than 32 years in the job, and even if they had, what proportion of that tiny number would recall how a silver quarter feels in the hand? So I guess I'd assume 99% or thereabouts would not know how silver feels in the hand.

As to the proportion that know quarters used to be made of silver, my armchair stats differ. Ask a non-numismatist today what coins are made of and he might well say "silver and copper", and then pause to think on the question, and perhaps correct it to "well, probably not sterling silver". An amazingly high proportion of people still think coins are made, at least in part, of silver, possibly because nickel is a pretty rare metal in normal conversation. They would have even less idea that the "copper" coins are in fact steel.

But back to Doug's real point: would a retail worker know what a suspicious coin should feel like? Overwhelming evidence in the UK says no. Retail workers cannot distinguish the worst cast fake from a newly struck pound coin even when you point it out (and I have). But apparently they have better luck challenging a Thai 10 Baht coin when offered for a 2 euro piece, and I know that the rare and enigmatic island currencies (Falklands, Guernsey etc) do sometimes merit a second and third glance (and so long as the Queen's head is on it, are accepted).

So I would guess that the police were called simply due to someone not recognising a State Quarter design. But you would have thought (Queen's head analogy) that Washington's head would have reassured.

I love the small dollar coins in the US - a chance to use coins as real money rather than as discards for tips (I'm even ashamed to leave coins as tips in the US for fear of looking mean and on trips there generally hoard all coins received and leave them as a pile for my chambermaid when I checkout - as well as the usual paper tip - pretending somehow that I forgot them). When in New York I always buy my metro card using a machine just in order to get a golden cascade of dollar coins that I can use as "real" tips. Because that's what such coins are ideally suited for.
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Andrew McCabe
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« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2012, 09:40:29 pm »

So, just to prove the point that you can hardly expect retail workers to know what coins are made of, I googled "what are coins made of" and came up with some surprising (apparently true) answers. I bet no-one on this list knew the following:

- whilst the UK 50p, 10p and 5p are made of 75% copper, 25% nickel, the 20p differs, being made of 80% copper, 20% nickel. I always had the impression they looked somehow duller but never knew they were of lower nickel content

- cores of US pennies are zinc whereas UK pennies are steel

- the UK manufactured both plated-steel and pure bronze pennies side by side at the same time in the late 1990s (why is a mystery, but apparently they did)

- the Swiss used pure nickel in their lower denominations for about a century (I knew that, and recall that old Swiss coins always looked as if brand new) but sneakily switched to cupro-nickel in recent decades (I didn't know that)

- the Irish also struck pure nickel coins (I'm Irish and didn't know that!) until munitions needs in WW2 meant their supplier, the Royal Mint insisted on them changing to cupro-nickel in 1942. What amazes me about that statistic is that the UK happily continued to ship pure nickel coins out of the UK to neutral Ireland for three years after the war started, when even the US had changed their so-called "nickels" to a silver alloy by then.

I have to say that I was equally surprised by today's posting on the silver content of Gloria Exercitus types. I can somehow imagine the value of having 5% silver coated coins in the late 3rd century, but the value of having 1% silver coins (which would at least double the manufacture cost, and last about as long as a foil-covered kit-kat wrapper) escapes me. And I don't ever recall seeing "fully silvered" examples of late Constantinian bronzes, my hazy mental recollection (as an LRB non-fan) is that silver coins seemed to have petered out around the Tetrarchy. But apparently not.

Now I don't feel sure that I know what anything is made of.
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James A2
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« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2012, 11:01:06 pm »

I'm surprised to hear the current version of the US dollar coins circulate in
New York. I've never seen one. If you brought  such a coin here to north
Florida and tried to spend it someone might very call the police!
I suppose the 1% silver in the 3rd century coins was just to make people
think they had something silver. I have a one para billon coin from 1799
Egypt that resembles a tiny scrap of metal foil. It is so light it will stick to
your finger. The amount of silver in it must be miniscule, yet I suppose
people wanted these because they thought of  them as silver.
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« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2012, 03:01:01 am »

Oddly enough I received a silver quarter in change last week from a blind coffee shop owner.  As soon as it hit my hand we both said silver because of the distinct ring that the clad quarters lack.  First one I have seen in nearly ten years.

Colin
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otlichnik
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« Reply #15 on: May 02, 2012, 06:46:28 am »

Andrew,

The GLORIA EXERCITVS coins (330-341) were not silveredSilvering appears to have ended in 330 and then been re-introduced for a few issues later (the two larger denominations circa 348-350, maybe Julian's Bulls).

The roughly 1% silver was, like most silver in LRBCs circa 294 to 364, mixed into the alloy.  A given number of scrupula (1/288th of a Roman pound or roughly 1.125 grams) were added per Roman pound of "bronze" (itself a varying mixture of copper, tin and lead plus other residual/unintended metals).

Given that the value of silver was approximately 100 times that of bronze the addition of 1% of silver in the alloy doubled the intrinsic value of the coin. 

Of course you can ask why on earth add a paltry 1% to the mix and who could ever tell.  But of course no one ever set out to add 1% silver to the coin.  It simply fell from much higher levels.  What was once say "add 12 scrupula per pound" just fell bit by bit over time to "add 3 scrupula".  Shortly after the GE coinage the practice of adding silver was eliminated - like silvering it had a few brief rebirths - but was gone for good by 364.

Shawn
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Andrew McCabe
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« Reply #16 on: May 02, 2012, 12:52:46 pm »

The roughly 1% silver was, like most silver in LRBCs circa 294 to 364, mixed into the alloy.  A given number of scrupula (1/288th of a Roman pound or roughly 1.125 grams) were added per Roman pound of "bronze" (itself a varying mixture of copper, tin and lead plus other residual/unintended metals).

Given that the value of silver was approximately 100 times that of bronze the addition of 1% of silver in the alloy doubled the intrinsic value of the coin. 

Of course you can ask why on earth add a paltry 1% to the mix and who could ever tell.  But of course no one ever set out to add 1% silver to the coin.  It simply fell from much higher levels.  What was once say "add 12 scrupula per pound" just fell bit by bit over time to "add 3 scrupula".  Shortly after the GE coinage the practice of adding silver was eliminated - like silvering it had a few brief rebirths - but was gone for good by 364.

Shawn

Is it possible that the 1% resulted from melting down 5% coins with partial silvering - ie it did not involve any deliberate addition of valuable silver, but rather a deliberate choice to use coinage-metal for LRBs. That, in itself, would be an important fiscal decision, but it would be a fiscal decision one could understand, especially the silver in melted coin was at such a low level that it was almost easier to make new flans and reissue than to extract that silver. The idea of throwing a good silver denarius or argenteus into each pound-pot of bronze seems a lot less likely.

Andrew
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otlichnik
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« Reply #17 on: May 02, 2012, 02:23:23 pm »

That is a very interesting idea.

One extra piece of evidence for it is the fact that silvering stopped in 330. Some authors have thought that the whole point of silvering by the LRBC era was to signify that the coin did contain silver deliberately added.

However, I still think that it was deliberately added during this era. I think this for the following reasons:

- they could remove silver over around 1/2 % from molten bronze alloy and it would be worth it to do so
- they could and did calculate by scrupulum each of which represents around 0.34% AR by volume
- all the later coins that are unambiguously "pure bronze" or "pure copper" contain 1/2 % or less AR
- the roughly 1% is around half the previous standard.

But I think that the strongest piece of evidence is that the GE coinage lasted for almost 11 years at roughly this 1% AR level. There is no evidence it drops below 1% late in its life as you would expect if it was not deliberately added.

That is my first reaction but it was a very thought provoking idea and I am curious about the views of others.

Shawn
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« Reply #18 on: May 02, 2012, 04:32:57 pm »

  I got a 1964 d quarter in change just the other day!
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« Reply #19 on: May 05, 2012, 04:08:06 am »

Here's one for you. Most people know that Quarters, Dimes, Halves and Dollars were silver, but most don't realize that NICKELS were 35% silver from 1942-1945. In addition, Halves contained silver in lessening amounts up to 1969.
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Andrew McCabe
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« Reply #20 on: May 05, 2012, 04:19:48 am »

Here's one for you. Most people know that Quarters, Dimes, Halves and Dollars were silver, but most don't realize that NICKELS were 35% silver from 1942-1945. In addition, Halves contained silver in lessening amounts up to 1969.

Does anyone recognise the significance of the below-illustrated coin (hint ... it was the last ever 'something' in the world)
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« Reply #21 on: May 05, 2012, 04:54:46 am »

That coin is Aluminum.
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Andrew McCabe
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« Reply #22 on: May 05, 2012, 05:23:17 am »

That coin is Aluminum.

uhhmm ... not quite.

That coin is the last circulating silver coin issued, from any country. Of course there are plenty of medallic commemoratives, but as far as I know, the Austria 10 Schilling of 1973 was the last ever real silver coin.
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« Reply #23 on: May 05, 2012, 05:28:50 am »

Sorry, wasn't trying to be a smart alec on that one. It just had no toning and looked Aluminum to me is all. Looks like you got me.
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« Reply #24 on: May 05, 2012, 05:33:20 am »

Sorry, wasn't trying to be a smart alec on that one. It just had no toning and looked Aluminum to me is all. Looks like you got me.

I guess that proves the point of the discussion in this thread. We are all so unfamiliar with silver in modern coins (but much more familiar with nickel) that even when a coin collector sees a real silver coin he doesn't recognise it. A shop assistant (or that infamous person in Market Square, Portsmouth, NH who called the police about a suspicious coin) would have even less idea.
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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Resources  |  Authentication, Fakes and Frauds (Moderators: maridvnvm, Ilya Prokopov)  |  Topic: Suspicious coin reported in Portsmouth, New Hampshire « previous next »
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