Different Type Part II
by Mike Sherman
Last time, we
looked at four occurrences of a mid-year
changeover in a coin type during the 20th
century in the copper, nickel and silver series.
Someone pointed out that I did not include the
1913 Liberty/Buffalo transition. The 1913
Liberty nickels were not authorized issues, and
including them in the official "set" would make
it a rather difficult project for the average
collector to undertake with any reasonable
expectation of completing it.
Today, we'll finish the 20th century examples,
and then begin looking at the seven instances of
a mid-year changeover in circulating American
coinage that occurred in the 19th century.
At the 1920 ANA Convention, Farran Zerbe, one of
the most active collectors of the early 20th
century, proposed a coin commemorating the peace
treaty signed at Versailles. After some
congressional wrangling, a design competition
was announced in November 1921 and the following
month, approximately one million dollars were
struck bearing Anthony de Francisci's winning
design. Had they been struck only a week later,
they would have been dated 1922!
Now, turning the clock back a few years, we'll
begin our look at the 19th century with the
Large cents, while a mainstay of American
commerce, were never popular with the public.
They were large, heavy and attracted a great
deal of dirt. Technically, they were not even
legal tender, and some banks and stores even
refused to accept them. The idea for a smaller
alternative had been around since the late 1830s
and by the early 1850s, the rising price of
copper gave renewed impetus to this idea.
Experiments with various alloys were conducted
in the mid 1850s and in early 1856, Mint
Director James Snowden settled on an alloy of
88% copper and 12% nickel.
Pattern small cents with the Flying Eagle design
were made in 1856, and regular issues began the
following year. But because authorizing
legislation for the small cent (the Coinage Act
of 1857) was not signed until February 21, large
cent production continued through January of
Discussions for an improved five cent coin had
been going on for several years prior to the
introduction of Charles Barber's Liberty Head
design in 1883. The aim was originally to create
a uniform nickel coinage but in the end, only
the reverse with the large Roman numeral "V"
matched the large "III" seen on the smaller
nickel coin that had been in circulation since
Unfortunately, a rather foolish oversight
resulted in the omission of the word "Cents"
from the back of the original design, and
unscrupulous individuals gold plated and added
reeding to the first issue and passed them off
as $5 gold pieces. The word "Cents" was added
shortly after their introduction, resulting in
three varieties of five cent coins in 1883.
Our next installment will conclude the 19th
century portion with a look at the silver