Mr_Norris_LKNS's Blog

22 May 2018

Elongated Cents: A WW2 "Squishin' Mission"

Exonumia | Mr_Norris_LKNS

Recently some friends visited the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Since that is not very far from us, my son and I met them there. The NMUSAF is a VERY cool museum, especially if you are at all interested in the history of powered flight, military aviation, American history, the space race, etc. It's all fantastic, but I must admit my favorite gallery is still the Second World War gallery. Among the many displays there are a handful scattered around the museum that contain items of numismatic interest. But this past month has been all about the "Memphis Belle", arguably one of the most famous aircraft of WW2, if not US Air Force history. This particular B-17 Flying Fortress is to the Air Force what the flag raised over Mount Suribachi is to the USMC: a symbol of the dedication and great sacrifice leading to ultimate victory over the enemy. "Memphis Belle" just finished up a 13-year tour of duty in the Wright-Patterson AFB restoration hangar, and now sits proudly on display for all to enjoy.In the Museum gift shop, along with several types of "challenge coins" for sale, are three penny press machines, each with four different designs from which to choose. With a US cent and two quarters, you can go home with a neat little souvenir of your visit. Our friends, also being numismatists, decided to do so. They carefully chose pre-1982 US cents, and positioned them so that the date, although squished, would still be visible on the unmarked side of the elongate.In case you weren't aware, in mid-1982 the composition of US cent coins changed from 95% copper/5% zinc to almost the exact inverse: 97.5% zinc, plated with 2.5% copper. While these will work in a penny press, the end result is an elongate with silvery zinc showing through the copper plating. This initially can make the image harder to see; but worse than that, exposed zinc quickly deteriorates. Cents from 1864 to 1962 are bronze: 95% copper, with the remaining 5% a mixture of tin and zinc; these press well, and tone the same over time as an unpressed cent. There are two exceptions to the 1864-1962 bronze composition: the 1943 zinc-plated steel cent, and the 1944-1946 "shell case" cents. Shell case cents had some spent brass cases from military munitions thrown into the mix when melting the metals from which the coin blanks would be made. Many folks don't know about shell case pennies, but even the most casual "wheat cent" collector seems to know about the 1943 steel version. It is therefore likely the most recognizable WW2-era US coin. Coincidentally, 1943 was the year "Memphis Belle" completed her 25th, and last, combat mission.Two of the penny press designs available were of the venerable B-17 bomber and the famed P-51 Mustang fighter. I decided I would not only like to press these images onto pennies, but that I would use pennies with WW2 dates. See the picture. Note that these were pressed onto 1943 steel cents. The quintessential WW2 US bomber and fighter on the quintessential WW2 US coin! I don't know why the B-17 coin didn't roll out as nicely on the edge as the P-51, but I still like it. Although not pictured, I did press these same designs into some 1944 shell case cents also. Maybe the shell cases in those cents were from spent rounds fired by an actual B-17 gunner, or a P-51 pilot! (grin).[UPDATE: I think I've figured out why the B-17 rolls out short... The machine rolls the image left to right. The wing, engine cowlings, and front canopy in the design leave such a mass of metal "un-pressed" near the right end, that it doesn't push enough metal ahead to the right to finish it. I have both full-length and short elongates of this design done on bronze cents, but mostly full length, so the hardness difference between bronze and steel is a likely contributor, along with extreme wear being a possible reason a bronze one came out short. Crank speed might be a factor but I don't know.]Some people may not feel good about "squishing" pennies, like it's destroying coins. I'd agree if these were rarities or mint state coins... but they aren't. "Steelies" and shell case pennies are very common in circulated grades. In fact, most wheat cents are. I'd advise anyone to get familiar with the Red Book before squishing pennies... you wouldn't want to squish a rare variety and potentially deprive the world of a treasure (or yourself of a small fortune). (I carefully checked my 1969-S pennies before squishing XB-70 Valkyries into them...) But think about all the boxes, jars, or jugs of wheat pennies you might have, some of which are pretty scuffed, dinged, worn down, burned, or green, that once you've filled a few Whitman folders with the better ones, you're left with a bunch of "problem pennies". They aren't desirable, but you can't bring yourself to get rid of "because they're wheat pennies". Why not turn them into some cool elongated cent souvenirs? You actually WANT darker brown ones because it makes the image show up better... and unnaturally-toned or oddly-discolored coins can make for some beautiful elongates. Trying to match the imprint with a cent of a date that is significant to the design adds a new layer of fun to it, and makes for an even more interesting collectible.My next "squishin' mission" is to find a beater of a 1903 Indian cent where the date is still clear, because another image choice at the Museum is the Wright Flyer, which flew that year!

08 May 2018

Military Numismatics and the MPC Post-Fest Tour

| Mr_Norris_LKNS

Each spring, a group of military payment certificate (MPC) collectors and experts in military numismatics gather in Port Clinton, Ohio, for MPC Fest. I've been invited for several years now but with family obligations I've not yet been able to attend. Hoping to next year for their 20th Fest.This year, the MPC Fest group decided to do a post-Fest tour of military museums in the region. This was an opportunity for those Festers that had traveled from quite a ways to make double-duty of their travel budgets and take advantage of being here to see some really great museums of military history... some of which, of course, include items of numismatic interest. One of the best military museums in the world is the National Museum of the United States Air Force, located at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. When my son and I found out the MPC Festers were planning to visit it, we thought, well, since we can't make the Fest this weekend, maybe we can meet up with some of them at the NMUSAF instead. So we did.We met with several Festers and a spouse or two that made the trek to the Museum. We already knew Fred Schwan from meeting him at the huge annual D-Day reenactment in Conneaut, Ohio (www.ddayohio.us), but we had not yet met Joe Boling. Fred and Joe co-wrote the book "World War II Remembered: History In Your Hands, A Numismatic Study" (https://www.amazon.com/World-War-II-Remembered-Numismatic/dp/0931960401). We were glad to meet Joe and his wife, along with Bill, Mike, Dave, and Brett (who is involved with the Central States Numismatic Society). We toured around looking at all the amazing aircraft and historic exhibits, which included a couple of notable numismatic items in the WW2 hangar: a long example of a "short snorter" (the type with banknotes from various countries taped together end-to-end), and a display regarding a rather infamous example of another type of short snorter, the type where one would gather signatures of many people on a single note. I say infamous because typically the signatures gathered would be of friends, military unit-mates, or famous figures and celebrities whenever they were encountered. This note had signatures of 25 high-ranking individuals, but not any who the typical US GI would have considered friends. They were the leaders of the Japanese war machine, and the signatures were collected on a post-war 100 yen note by an American guard at the Sugamo Prison, where the accused were being held during their trials for war crimes. Included on the note was the signature of Hideki Tojo, probably the most recognizable Japanese name to the American public at the time aside from Emperor Hirohito. (Hirohito was not put on trial, per an agreement between the Allies and Japan as part of their surrender.) Of those who signed the banknote, a handful ended up being executed (including Tojo), but most served prison terms before being released.Military history and numismatics overlap in many ways. Wars not only cost a country a lot of money to wage, they also have effects on the forms of currency themselves. Coin collectors will encounter these effects sooner or later; whether they realize the connections or not is a matter of how much history the collector knows. Even if history isn't one of your main interests, a knowledge of it helps you understand the changes in coinage and currency that you see as you sort through and collect these items. The disappearance of metals like silver, copper, and nickel from coins and their replacement with metals like zinc, steel, tin, or even ceramic or fibrous materials is often an indication of the toll of wartime material shortages. The changes in national symbols on coins and paper money from certain areas can be indicators of a change in governments effected by war, as nations are conquered and occupied, and then later liberated. This only touches on national currency used by civilian populations. There is an entire subset of numismatics dealing with coins, currency, and other financial items made for the exclusive use of military personnel from various nations: Allied Military Currency (AMC), Military Payment Certificates (MPC), military currency or "canteen money", transfer currency to be used to transfer between war zones, etc... even banknotes included in escape kits for fliers shot down over foreign territories. Wars have affected most American families in that most people had a family member involved in one in some way or another. I had a brother in the Vietnam War, four uncles in WW2, a grandfather in WW1, a direct ancestor in the French and Indian War, and many more relatives in the military from the American Revolution through the Civil War to modern times. Making the connection between wartime numismatics and family history just makes the hobby all that more interesting... at least to my son and me. This is what makes this subset of numismatics so fascinating to many people.The NMUSAF is always a fun place to visit, but this trip we were most happy to be able to talk with these experts and make some new friends.

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