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Same Date – 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 humble cent.

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 1857.

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 1865.

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 coinage changeovers.


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