The History of the Morgan Silver Dollar

1878 Morgan Silver Dollar

In the 1870’s the United States had just passed through a silver panic that had caused the price of silver to plummet. Old coins that had been hoarded because of their silver value were now worth more as “ordinary money” at face value, so a flood of old and worn coins were now making their way into circulation.

In Congress a new law was about to be passed that was intended to benefit the struggling silver mines of Nevada and other western states, and the U.S. Government was about to be required to purchase between two and four MILLION dollars worth of silver every month and convert it into silver coins.

The History of the Liberty Head Nickel, part 2

1883 Liberty Head Nickel

A design crisis arose almost immediately. On the reverse of the coin the denomination was represented by a large “V,” the Roman numeral for five (and the origin of the Liberty Head Nickel’s other popular name, the V Nickel). The word “cents” did not appear on the coin because no one had thought it was necessary. Unfortunately, the Liberty Head Nickel was not much smaller than the current five-dollar gold piece, and a few dishonest people were gold plating the new nickel and passing it off successfully in rural stores as a five-dollar coin. (Supposedly one of these con artists was a deaf-mute named Josh Tatum, and according to the story this is the origin of the word “josh,” meaning “to fool.”) Mint officials were very concerned by these “racketeer nickels,” so production of the Liberty Head Nickel was abruptly stopped while Barber adjusted the design yet again, making room on the reverse side for the word “cents.”

The History of the Liberty Head Nickel

1883 Liberty Head Nickel

The Liberty Head Nickel (often called the V Nickel) is a U.S. five-cent coin that was designed by Charles Barber, the Chief Engraver at the U.S. Mint. Over half a billion Liberty Head Nickels were minted between 1883 and 1912.

Earlier U.S. coins had been minted from precious metals that were worth approximately the value of the coin — for example, a three cent silver coin contained about three cents worth of silver. But there was great economic uncertainty after the Civil War and it was decided that it might be a better idea to mint coins from less valuable metal so that the resulting coins wouldn’t be hoarded. Thanks in part to political pressure from the nickel mining lobby, Congress passed laws in 1865 and 1866 authorizing the Mint to create new three-cent and five-cent coins using a copper/nickel alloy (75% copper, 25% nickel).

The History of the Peace Dollar, part 2

1922 Peace Dollar

The new coin was put on a very tight production schedule. Baker asked for a few small design changes, which de Francisci made, and the obverse and reverse designs were presented to President Harding. Harding asked that a small dot be removed from Lady Liberty’s face because he thought it looked like an inappropriate dimple. De Francisci removed the dot, and the coin went into production.