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More Copper in a Nickel Than a Cent
By Numismatic News
March 28, 2013

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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Please settle an argument. Is there more copper in a cent or in a nickel?

The nickel, to the surprise of some, contains 75 percent copper, or 57.87 grains. If the comparison is made to the zinc cent, the cent has less. The bronze or brass cents contained 95 percent copper, or 45.60 grains, so the nickel beats it.

The Mint used $1,000 in face value as a unit of measure in bagging silver coins. What unit did it use for gold?

The Mint standard for gold was units of $5,000 face value, or 250 double eagles, 500 eagles, 1,000 half eagles or 2,000 quarter eagles. A unit had to weigh within one-hundredth of an ounce before release, and the exact weight was obtained by mixing coins that were slightly heavier or lighter than standard.

What is a “private treaty” sale?

This is a term that you don’t hear much any more, except perhaps at country auctions. It’s used for any private sale where a buyer and a seller agree on a price for some item and complete the transaction. Technically, almost any purchase you make is a private treaty sale, although the term usually is reserved for a sale of a rarity where there is some bargaining back and forth between buyer and seller.

I have an unstruck blank or planchet that I can’t identify. Can you help?

Unless the planchet is for a regular U.S. coin it may be difficult, especially if the edge is not upset, to produce a raised area where the rim of the coin will be. The problem is that anyone who has access to a punch press can produce a simulated blank. Producing a planchet with the raised rim is more difficult, but even that can be faked. Blanks for the recent copper-plated zinc cents are virtually impossible to authenticate.

What is a “dumb” coin?

It’s an old term applied to a coin – or a blank or planchet – that, although genuine, lacks the “ring” of a normal piece. The most usual cause is an internal crack. These pieces are ample reason for classing the “ringing” of a coin as only a negative test, as well as being dangerous to the grade of a high-grade coin. The term also applies to a coin that fails to identify the issuing entity.

I found a single specimen of a minting variety in a roll of coins. Isn’t that rather strange?

This question started popping up because of the intense interest in the 1995 doubled die cents. It’s not strange to find a single specimen from a given die in a roll, or even a bag. A typical roll of coins may contain coins from a dozen or more different coin presses. The output from the different coin presses is randomly mixed as the coins are dumped into gondolas or transported by a conveyor system. It’s not unusual to find a specimen in a bag of cents (5,000) because of the random nature of the collection process. It would be rare to find a full roll from the same press for this reason, at least for current coins. In the early days, when a single press might be striking every coin of a given denomination, it would not have been unusual to find what would be called a “solid” roll of a given variety.

When did Canada begin striking its own coins?

On Jan. 2, 1908, the first Canadian government-made coins were struck at the Ottawa Mint. The Ottawa Mint opened in 1908 as a branch of the Royal Mint of England.

Do I need a license to buy or sell coins?

The answer depends on where you live. Some states and cities have licensing laws for retail merchants, and laws lumping coin dealers with pawn shops have been enacted, so you need to check with your local authorities to find out whether you need a license to do business in your area. Some communities have regulations about doing business out of your home, so the safest way is to check first.

Do you have a list of dealers who wholesale coins?

As a matter of company policy, I can’t recommend any specific dealer, so your best bet is to check the ads in Numismatic News, as the dealers who wholesale coins usually mention it in their ads. Talk to established coin dealers, and you can often get sources from them. You will also find a lengthy list of dealers in the NumisMaster Business Directory online at

What sort of return privileges may I expect from a coin dealer?

Return privileges are usually stated in the dealer ad and may vary from dealer to dealer. In general, most offer a seven-day period, but the return must be for a legitimate reason, such as overgrading, wrong coin sent, etc. Individual dealers may accept returns for other reasons, but that is something you and the dealer have to work out between you, as there is no provision for third-party intervention. The usual outcome is that the dealer will refund your original payment but not your postage costs to return the coins to him.

Have the Brasher doubloons always been the most valuable American Colonial coins?

Currently holding several positions among our more valuable coins (using the term somewhat loosely), the gold coins with the “EB” countermark did not always rank quite that highly. For example, in the famous 1880 sale of Charles Bushnell’s collection, a Brasher doubloon was purchased by Frossard for $505, a princely sum in those days, but eclipsed in the same sale by a “Good Samaritan” shilling that brought $650 and a Lord Baltimore penny that sold for $550.

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