Author Archives: FalconCurrency

Braille Coins

By | January 15, 2017
The 2009 Republic of Palau $5, 2009 U.S. Bicentennial Silver Dollar, and 1999 France 10 Franc Louis Braille Coins.

The 2009 Republic of Palau $5, 2009 U.S. Bicentennial Silver Dollar, and 1999 France 10 Franc Louis Braille Coins.

January is National Braille Literacy Month. January is chosen since Louis Braille was born on January 4, 1809. Louis Braille was, of course, the creator of the Braille writing code for the blind. Braille actually began devising the system during his teenage years. As a young blind man with a passion for music, he had a personal interest in both writing and sharing writings with others without sight. Braille taught at the National Institute for Blind Children in Paris where he attended as a child.

There have been a few coins produced worldwide with Braille, most somewhat recently. The U.S., Peru, India, Mexico, France, Italy and a few others have issued coins with Braille writing, most in commemoration of Louis Braille. However, these coins were not issued to help the visually impaired to distinguish among denominational coins. Blind people have less trouble with this task than those with 20/20 vision. The true purpose of the coins has been to raise awareness, literacy, and funding. Braille texts are far more labor intensive and expensive to produce than standard texts. And those who knew it enough to teach it to blind children were previously few and far between.

The 2009 U.S. Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar Coin carried with it a surcharge of $10. The additional money raised by its sale throughout the 2009 year was used to fund the National Federation of the Blind. The U.S. Mint also sold the coins as part of an educational package to help raise awareness. Approximately half of the authorized 400,000 coins minted were sold.

Trivia: The 2009 Louis Braille $1 Coin was the second U.S. coin minted with Braille writing as part of its design. Do you know which coin was the first?

Discovering Coins

By | January 9, 2017
Saddle Ridge Coin Hoard - original photo submitted to Wikipedia by Kagins Inc.

Saddle Ridge Coin Hoard – original photo submitted to Wikipedia by Kagins Inc.

Have you ever imagined discovering a rare coin? I certainly have. In fact, as a child I had to refill many a hole in my grandparents’ backyard in Texas as a result. 🙂 Still today I can’t help but examine any coin I might find on the ground. Most of us will not stumble across an amazing find like the Saddle Ridge Hoard pictured above or the Queen Anne Vigo Coin. But you will find coins. And you will find some you like.

Coin collecting is an adventure. Each coin you acquire is a discovery with a history, a purpose, and a unique set of characteristics. Once secured in your album or preferred method of coin storage, the newly discovered coin will wait patiently for you to uncover its mysteries. And unlike so few good things in life these days, coin collecting is no longer only a hobby for the rich and famous. My reasoning here is that unless you only live and operate with cash, one no longer needs to spend the coins they collect.

With our Coins on Approval Service, you can discover new and exciting coins regularly. Since 1945 we’ve been perfecting our methods to serve you with only the best coins for your collection. Our highly experienced staff members are coin experts. But while they do know coins, their real value is learning to best serve your unique needs. Just tell us what you like and we’ll do the rest. You only pay for what you keep. So, it is in our best interest to send you exciting new coins you’ll want to add to your collection. Give it a try today. Let us bring the coin store to your door. We look forward to helping you make many new coin discoveries this New Year!

Coin and Banknote Specifications

By | December 30, 2016

A while back we talked about the origin and mystery of the Buffalo Nickel. One of the major delays in the historic coin’s authorized production and cause for its later redesign was how it affected vending machines. On the one hand, this does make some sense. Existing vending machines and other devices from the past like pay phones do depend on uniform dimensions and weights of denominational coins. I ignorantly assumed that the only real influencing factors to coin and banknote specifications were cost, security, and (at least in the past) precious metal value. On the other hand, it’s difficult to imagine one of the most collected coins in U.S. history being influenced in any way by the vending machine industry.

Yet while researching the topic of Polymer Banknotes as we discussed briefly on FaceBook, again vending machines are an influencing factor? Apparently one of the major arguments against introducing polymer banknotes in the United States is concern over how they will perform in existing vending machines. Hmmm. I might be able to lend that argument some credibility if vending machines accepted paper banknotes with any satisfactory consistency. 🙂

Nevertheless, coins and banknotes produced around the world adhere to very strict specifications. Take a look at any nation’s central bank Web site and you will find an entire section devoted to listing a dizzying array of dimensions, weights, and compositions. And the ability of vending machines to distinguish their differences certainly isn’t the only contributing factor. Human ability to discern a coin’s denomination by touch has certainly also played a role in specifications here in the U.S. and Canada. I suppose it makes “cents” that such a fascinating and detailed hobby requires such exacting standards! 🙂

New in World Currency for 2017

By | December 26, 2016

A New Year is one of the most exciting times for collectors around the World. New themes, new design techniques, even new production material are all introduced proudly by various nation’s currency producers. How does one keep up to date with new currency for the coming new year? A search engine is all you need.

Let’s say you collect coins and paper money from Mexico. Fire up your favorite search engine and search for “bank of Mexico”. Once you find the Central Bank of Mexico’s Web site, you’ll find a link to “Banknotes and Coins”. And there you will find many listings of past, present, and future coins and banknotes like the new Mexico 50 Peso Polymer Banknote.

Keep in mind that some currency issuing nations like the U.S. and Canada have different governing bodies for coins and banknotes. In the U.S., coins are under the authority of the U.S. Mint. Banknotes are governed by the Federal Reserve and Bureau of Engraving and Printing and ultimately the Department of the Treasury. For Canadian Coins, you’ll want to see the Royal Canadian Mint’s Web site. There you may find Canada’s amazing new glow in the dark coin. For Canada Banknotes, you’ll want to visit the Bank of Canada’s Web site where you will find their attractive new polymer banknote series.

No matter what country piques your collecting interest, you’ll not only find what’s to come in the new year. You’ll also discover rich fascinating historical information of currency from the country’s past. We’ll see you in 2017 when you come back up for air. 😉

Happy New Year from all of us at Falcon Coin and Currency where we bring the coin store to your door!

Approvals – The Personal Collectors Touch

By | December 19, 2016

When we began as Falcon Stamp Company in 1945, we primarily communicated with our valued customers about their collections via postal mail.  Over half a century later in 2017, we plan to continue making use of modern and emerging technology for the convenience of our customers.  However, we do not plan to lose the personal touch.  We feel the approvals system is the most effective way to personally serve postcard, banknote, and coin collectors the World over…unless they happen to visit us in person.

If you do visit our facilities, you will not encounter conveyor belts carrying coins across the building.  Nor will you find banknotes being packaged by advanced robotic equipment.  Likewise, you can rest assured that real people prepare your customized approval selections with their very own hands!  If you call our 800 number, you will get an automated company directory to choose from but you will never hear, “Press 1 if you collect coins…press 2 if you collect coins from countries that start with the letter “A”…and so on.

Yes, you can use our Web site to peruse items and place orders 24 hours a day.  And, of course you can email us–even from your cell phone if you like.  But we’ll keep right on serving you the best way we know how–the old fashioned and personal way.  While we may have to squint at printed reference manuals and hunch over the stacks of coins and banknotes every day.  We wouldn’t have it ay other way.  We love the job.  We love the hobby.  And we love our customers.  Happy Holidays from all of us at Falcon Coin and Currency Company.  We look forward to serving you for many years to come.

Why do You Collect Currency?

By | December 11, 2016

“I don’t think any collector knows his true motivation.” – Robert Mapplethorpe

My mother used to collect spoons.  Each year we’d make up to two road trips.  Any stops we made along the way that sold spoons with the location’s name would be added to the collection.  Eventually we got her a display case for them which proudly showed all the places we had been.  There was nothing  particularly special about any of the spoons.  There may have been one or two oddball shaped spoons and one I remember well from Bucksnort, Tennessee.  But the fun and purpose, I think, was the hunt for a spoon and then later the recollection of a certain roadside gas station or souvenir shop.

While I have coins and banknotes from every country I’ve visited, my motivation for collecting currency isn’t quite the same as my Mother’s when she collected spoons.  But it is similar.  For example, when I look over my banknotes from Mongolia I fondly recall the gers (or nomadic huts) and the Naadam Festival which both appear on Mongolian currency.  Likewise Cuban coins remind me of all the national heroes of the past that emblazoned fences and the sides of buildings.

Currently, I do not have much in the way of collectible currency from either Egypt or Australia.  But what I do have has camels, the Sphinx, and kangaroos.  Why?  Because as my collections grow, so does my understanding of the issuing nations behind the collectible coins and banknotes.  For me, the broadening of my understanding of the World around me through its currency is what keeps me collecting.  What is it for you?

How U.S. Coins are Made

By | November 13, 2016
The Coin Minting Process by Encyclopaedia Britannica

mint: minting process. Art. Britannica Online for Kids. Web. 13 Nov. 2016. <http://kids.britannica.com/comptons/art-90207>.

 

The U.S. Mint’s Overview of the Coin Minting Process makes it look easy. But that’s what professionals do: they make amazing feats look easy to us curious on-lookers. But just how does the World’s largest coin minting organization pump out tens of Billions of wonderfully collectible coins each year? Read on and find out.

The first element required to properly stamp a modern coin design is a master die. Actually many master dies will be required because they can and do wear out over time. The United States Mint’s brilliant artists must first go through the incredible process of turning original artwork into a stamping die which has the reverse image of the coin design. These sometimes unsung heroes are the Mint’s sculptors and engravers and are the Masters of Art Behind Collectible Coins.

If you’ve ever been involved with any artistic work, you know that the process is rarely simply going from vision to final piece of art. The artwork behind America’s coins go through several evolutions. The original design goes from computer or paper to clay. Then from clay to plaster. Provided that the plaster reproduction meets the Mint’s exacting standards, machinery and software take over. The large plaster design is read by software and reproduced onto steel reduction hubs. These now coin-sized reduction hubs are used to create the master dies. The master dies have all the features of the original engraved and sculpted artwork–but in reverse. That is, those areas that were recessed are now raised…and vice-versa. This is so coin blanks can be stamped, or formed into the recessed areas of the die and pressed by the raised parts. Quality Control is critical here as even the slightest flaw could mean the waste of millions of coins.

Now that we have dies, we need something to stamp them with. The U.S. Mint purchases pre-made coils of metal meeting the specific composition of a given coin to be produced. These 1,500 foot coils of metal are run through a puncher which punches out coin blanks. What remains of the metal coil is now riddled with holes and resembles a Web. The Mint recycles this webbing into reusable metal from which future coins can be made. After a heating, cooling, and washing process the coin blanks are somewhat soft and malleable. The coin blanks are fed through an upsetting machine which progressively squeezes the coin blank’s sides to produce ridged edges. These raised edges are not only a design feature, they also accommodate the outer rim of the master dies.

The master dies have waited patiently and are now ready to pound some metal into the World’s most beautiful currency. Coins are being stamped at a rate of up to 45,000 per hour at this stage and mistakes can occur. Inspectors meticulously scrutinize newly struck coins, rejecting those that are less than perfect into the dreaded waffler. The waffler brutally defaces the error coins so they are beyond recognition as legitimate currency. The waffled coins, like the webbing before, is also recycled for future coin production. Those coins that pass countless inspections are counted, bagged, and eventually shipped off to Banks requesting them. And a lucky few of these American masterpieces make their way into your coin collection!

See these videos to see the process in action:
How Coins are Made…for Kids – U.S. Mint
Modern Marvels – Coin Production – History Channel

History of the U.S. Mint part 2 – Gold Rush

By | November 6, 2016

With the U.S. Mint releasing the first official United States coinage at a central production facility in 1793, our new nation’s monetary system became more organized and less confusing.  That is, until the discovery of gold in North Carolina and Georgia.  Miners often found gold in mountain streams in the form of gold dust.  Imagine traveling the early American countryside, carrying dust as your currency.  The gold dust did function locally as a valuable commodity worthy of trade for goods and services.  However, it was obviously difficult to protect the dust from theft in areas with little in the way of official law and even more difficult to ship accumulations of gold back to the central Philadelphia based Mint location.

In 1830 an enterprising miner named Templeton Reid decided to illegally construct his own coin minting facility.  Being far closer to the mining facilities, rogue minting operations became quickly successful.  The Constitutional purpose of the U.S. Mint was to produce a uniform national currency. So, the government responded with a new Act in 1835 authorizing the construction of branch Mint facilities in Charlotte, North Carolina, Dahlonega, Georgia, and New Orleans, Louisiana.  These facilities were to produce gold coins only.  These new branch Mint’s gave mining operations much needed support and local trade far less confusing.

In 1849 our country experienced its second, even more significant Gold Rush in California.  Being even further than the previous mining operations in the East, the gold found in California took an estimated 6 months to go from mined dust to minted coin.  Again rogue private coin minting facilities cropped up to fill the demand for turning gold into currency.  These operations often took the less legally risky approach of turning the mined gold into golden bars, called ingots.  In 1854, the U.S. Government completed the San Francisco Mint branch to handle the huge demand for minting gold.  Today, the San Francisco Mint primarily produces proof coins and coins for collectors rather that circulating coinage.

See this video for more detail on this fascinating time in U.S. Mint History.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0YzK39yneE

The Beginning of the United States Mint – Part 1

By | October 30, 2016
The 1794 U.S. half-dime and the 1855 U.S. half-dime

The 1794 U.S. half-dime and the 1855 U.S. half-dime

Prior to 1792, American Colonists had no officially recognized currency of to call their own. Trade was often conducted by way of bartering goods or services for others. And sometimes even tobacco was used to conduct trade. Various foreign currencies were recognized and used for commerce. But the Spanish Peso, or Piece of Eight was the most common of foreign coinage used. So much so, in fact that the Spanish Peso became the basis for future denominations of American coinage. The abbreviation for Spanish Peso was also the origin of our U.S. Dollar Symbol. These Pieces of Eight were silver coins that were cut into as many as eight pieces when change was needed.

Colonies did issue their own paper currency. But its value was not backed by gold. The Continental Congress also issued paper currency during the American Revolutionary War. But its value was backed only by the promise to be redeemable for gold after the war. With all this differing currency and even British Pounds Sterling being circulated, commerce must have been confusing.When the Constitution was adopted in 1787, the former colonies now states, were prohibited from coining money. Only gold and silver could be used as legal tender until Congress acted upon its new authority to produce a uniform currency.

In 1792, the United States Mint was constructed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The U.S. Mint struck its first coins ever during the same year. These were silver coins known as Half-Disme. As the story goes, some of the silver used to produce these coins were donated from George and Martha Washington who lived nearby. However, the first actual circulating currency to be produced at the Mint was a batch of copper cent coins in 1793 under the leadership of newly appointed Director David Rittenhouse. The Philadelphia Mint (“Ye Olde Mint”) remained as the sole production facility of United States coinage until large deposits of gold and silver were discovered in the 1800’s. We’ll explore the origin of those facilities in the next installment of this series.

The Art Behind the Coins We Collect

By | October 23, 2016
US Mint Lead Scultor sculpts an Eagle coin in clay

CBS News photo of Don Everhart sculpting a coin – http://www.cbsnews.com/news/moneymakers-artists-at-the-u-s-mint/

 

October is National Arts and Humanities Month. As Banknote and Coin Collectors, we know there is a dizzying array of amazing art depicted upon Worldwide currency. If you’ve ever crafted any artwork yourself, be it a drawing, a short story, or even a sculpture, you know that the process involves far more than simply putting a pen to paper or a thumb to clay. Imagine being America’s coin production team who produce billions of coins, operating 24/7. The United States Mint and its team of talented artists produce some of the most beautiful artwork in the form of currency.

Recently we talked about sculptor James Earle Fraser’s Buffalo Nickel design. Fraser was one of many coin artists throughout our country’s coin minting history who was not an actual employee of the U.S. Mint. Even today, the Mint looks outside its own staff of 6 sculptors and engravers for artistic talent via its Artistic Infusion Program. These artists work with the Mint’s master staff to produce the artwork you carry in your pocket every day.

How do they do it? Every artist has their own set of preferred tools and methods. The aforementioned James Fraser sculpted in limestone. The current U.S. Mint Lead Sculptor Don Everhart sculpts in clay. Medallic Sculptor Joseph Menna uses commercially available software for his digital sculptures and reproductions. The digital coin designing process is an amazing improvement since the days of hammering coins out of Martha Washington’s silverware.