Welcome to the summer 2001 issue of Making Cents, the online newsletter that tells you what's new and striking at the United States Mint. Be sure to check back every 3 months for a new issue.
Recently, H.I.P. Pocket Change renewed its commitment to education by establishing The Teachers' Network. This online community for educators helps teachers develop innovative ways to instruct about coins, and the history that surrounds them.
The Teachers' Network offers a variety of options. Participants may choose to receive email notification of educational opportunities new to the site. Also, teachers can submit lesson plans and educational units for potential posting on H.I.P. Pocket Change. Members are informed whenever new lessons are added to the site; they can even specify the subjects and grade levels in which they are interested. Finally, several nationwide classroom projects will be made available through The Teachers' Network, merging government, technology and curriculum in a new and exciting way.
To find out more, visit the Teachers' Network—and tell your favorite teacher or parent about this great opportunity!
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Once Congress decides that a coin should be made, how do they decide what it should look like?
There are some guidelines. For one thing, all coins must have a symbol of liberty on one side. Ever since Congress decided this back in 1792, designers have used Lady Liberty and soaring eagles to represent our political freedom.
On the other side of the coin is an engraving of an important person, place, animal, or event. Usually, Congress turns to the Mint's own engravers for the design. But sometimes they hold a contest and ask artists from all over the country to compete.
A good example of how this works is the story of the new Sacagawea Golden Dollar, which Americans of every age and background helped design.
In 1998, after Congress decided that a new golden dollar should be made, they chose a committee to come up with a design. The Dollar Coin Design Advisory Committee, which included a sculptor, a Smithsonian museum official, and the Director of the Mint, considered ideas which were emailed, phoned, and mailed in by people from all over the country.
The winning subject was Sacagawea, the Native American woman who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their exploration of the American West.
After the coin's subject was chosen, the Mint asked 23 artists to create designs featuring the young Shoshone woman. These were then shown to a group that included Native American tribal leaders, members of Congress, historians, and coin collectors. To get the opinions of as many people as possible, they were also displayed on the Mint's Web site.
The response was overwhelming! The Mint received over 120,000 emails, plus 2,000 letters and faxes from Americans of all backgrounds and ages, including many school children.
In May of 1999, the Mint displayed the winning coin design at the White House. On the obverse, Sacagawea carries her infant son on her back and—unlike any other American circulating coin—looks straight out at the holder.
On the reverse, a soaring eagle is encircled by 17 stars. The bird expresses the same feeling of freedom seen in the young woman's face.
The Sacagawea golden dollar is a beautiful coin, well worth the time and effort it took to design. Most importantly, it's a coin that truly belongs to the American people.
Next Installment: Punching Out the Coins
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Collecting coins is fun and exciting. But where do you start? First, decide which types of coins you're interested in:
Next, you need to know what you should look for when choosing a coin to collect.
Teacher Feature: Location, location, location!Appearance is the first consideration. Is it pretty? Interesting? Shiny and clean? Unless it's a very old coin, it should have a bright luster (shine) and be in good condition. There shouldn't be any scratches or dents on it, either. Also, make sure that the image and writing on the coin aren't worn away.
The mint mark, which indicates the date and place the coin was made, is another consideration. Old dates are more rare than new ones. And as you learn more about collecting, you'll discover other interesting differences in mint marks.
The next thing to consider is what kind of coins you want to collect. Some popular kinds of collections are Types, Dates, and Themes.
Types: Collect the same design for all the years that coin was issued, with all four different mint marks. For instance, all Lincoln pennies from 1909 to the present, minted in Philadelphia, Denver, West Point and San Francisco.
Themes: How about an animal collection? Birds, national monuments, presidents and other political figures are also popular.
Dates: Pick a date important to you—the year you were born, perhaps, or the year of the first Moon landing, and collect all the coins from that year.
Should you buy coins for your collection, or is it better to find them?
You can do either or both. Look for the coins you want in your change. Or go to the bank and exchange paper money for rolls of coins to search through.
If you're having a hard time completing a collection, you can purchase the coins you need. Either through a dealer (whom you can find in the yellow pages, coin collecting magazines, or online) or directly from the United States Mint's online catalog.
Next Installment: Storing Your Collection
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Ever wonder who keeps an eye on the United States Mint's money? The Mint Police, of course. They're on the job 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Here's what they do:
As you might guess, these police men and women are specially trained in many skills. They have to know how to use weapons, of course, and some of them also ride bicycles.
That's right! A special Mint Police unit patrols the Mint parking lots and neighborhoods on bike, riding in and out of traffic, protecting people as well as property.
Mint police have some fun duties, too. In 1999 and 2000, they rode along on the United States Mint's float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. Last year, when the "Wheel of Fortune" TV show offered $20,000 of Sacagawea Golden Dollars as a prize, the Mint Police went along to safeguard the money.
However, the usual duties of the Mint police are a lot more serious. After all, they're responsible for keeping our money safe, day in, day out. And we all owe them a big "thanks" for that.
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What could be more American than a buffalo and a Native American from the Old West? These icons have graced our nickels from 1913 until 1939, when they were replaced with the images of Thomas Jefferson and his home, Monticello.
Why is that news? Because those original images, designed by James Earle Fraser, appeared again on June 7, this time on a commemorative silver dollar.
And here's some more news. The American buffalo (actually a bison) was nearly extinct, but thanks to government protection, herds are once more beginning to flourish in the western United States. So the buffalo is returning in more ways than one.
The American Buffalo Commemorative Coin program includes a "proof" version and an "uncirculated" version. To learn more about what those terms mean, look up the article "Categorize That Coin" in the last issue of Making Cents (Spring 2001). To learn more, visit American Buffalo Commemorative Coins page.
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If you thought our old games were fun, wait until you see what we've got for you now! H.I.P. Pocket Change has revised, updated, and added new activities to our Web site. Besides being fun, they're rich with educational value: history, math, geography, and more. You'll be amazed at all you'll learn!
Cents of Color: This old favorite has new faces and scenes to color from the 50 State Quarters Program™. Color the coins however you like—with pink sky or blue horses if you want—and print your creations out.
Puzzle Mint: It's even more puzzling—and fun! This updated game has five more state quarters, new animation and text, and new music too.
Wishing Well: Look into the future and get answers to your strangest questions by dropping a coin into the Wishing Well. Like a Magic 8 Ball, this new game has an answer for everything.
Mark My Words: This animated brainteaser offers six different crossword puzzles, each with its own coin story and eight new coin related words.
Golden Dollar Puzzle: If you love puzzles, you'll love this challenge: put together a Golden Dollar, bit by bit, piece by piece... and try to beat the clock while you're doing it.
We'll be adding some great new stuff too, including games of skill that are just plain fun. So check out the new additions to our site now, and keep an eye out for the coming attractions!
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