Friday, July 26, 2013

Day 176, July 26

We're jumping ahead in time--again.

During the Civil War, Americans were hoarding all the silver coins, making it nearly impossible to transact small business.  A mining tycoon, Joseph Wharton, produced nickel and needed a market for his product.

Wharton had two friends in positions of power:  Thaddeus Stevens and William D. Kelly, both members of Congress.  The two congressmen pushed through laws authorizing the U.S. Mint to manufacture nickels, though the coins were never called nickels.  Even today, the U.S. Treasury refers to "nickels" as "5-cent pieces."

Issued in 1866, the first nickel caused no trouble.  But the second nickel issued by the Mint, in 1883, caused a great deal of headache.  The reverse side of the coin had only the Roman  numeral V on it; there was no "5" and no "cents." 

Never fear.  Enterprising Yanks goldplated the nickles by the thousands.  They passed them off as $5 gold pieces.  Yankee ingenunity, indeed!

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