My two-cents on money

Published 1:40 am Saturday, November 21, 2009

When was the last time you really looked at a coin? They pass through our hands just about every day, but we don’t pay much attention to them. A few years ago, when the new quarters began circulating, my husband and I started sorting our change and dropping them in a container. We enjoyed looking at those shiny new coins with the unfamiliar scenes on them. I even spent some time researching them on the Internet to learn the significance of the selections.

Recently as I flipped through a time-line book running from 1945 to 1999, I ran across an item for July 11, 1955. It was the day that President Dwight Eisenhower signed the bill into law to place “In God We Trust” on all U.S. Currency. Did you know that during the Civil War “In God We Trust” appeared on the two-cent piece? Another inscription on our currency, “E Pluribus Unum,” meaning one from many, first appeared on the $5 gold piece in 1795.

President George Washington refused to have his likeness on a coin because he didn’t want it to give the impression of a monarchy. The head of the first living person that appeared on a coin was one of Alabama’s governors, Thomas Erby Kilby Sr., in 1921. He served from 1919 until 1923. He was shown on the Alabama Centennial Half Dollar with Alabama’s first governor, William Wyatt Bibb, who took office in 1819 and served one year. In 1926, Calvin Coolidge became the first living President to have his picture appear on a coin. The first coin that featured an African-American was the Booker T. Washington Memorial Half Dollar in 1946. Washington was an educator, orator, author, and a dominant leader of the nation’s African-American community from the 1890s to his death.

Did you know that if you look at your coins closely, you can tell what mint made them? Just look for a letter to the right of the subject’s face on the main side of the coin. If it’s a P, it was minted in Philadelphia; if a D, it was minted in Denver; and if it’s an S, it was minted in San Francisco. There’s one exception. The Philadelphia Lincoln cent has no mint mark.

Did you know that the first five-cent pieces weren’t called nickels? They were made of silver, not nickel, and were called a half disme. In 1866, a new five-cent coin made of nickel and copper appeared. Seventy-six years later, there was another time when they weren’t really nickels, again because there was no nickel in them. That occurred due to a war effort between 1942 and 1945. They were made of copper, silver, and manganese.

We’re about to celebrate Thanksgiving, so I leave you with this tidbit relating to the historic landing of the Pilgrims. In 1920, Congress authorized a coin to celebrate the 300th anniversary of that event. It was called the Pilgrim Tercentenary Commemorative half-dollar.