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The Flipside with Robert R. Van Ryzin

Anyone for a free 'COD," some "SOD," or a 'FORD'?
September 18, 2007

I love coinage history, particularly when it's a bit bizarre. A great example of this appeared in the January 1915 issue of Mehl's Numismatic Monthly under the title, "An Automobile for Four Mint Marks."

B. Max Mehl, a prominent early 20th-century coin dealer from Texas, related that a rumor circulating in the general press of his day was that if a lucky collector were to find four U.S. dimes with the mintmarks F, O, R, and D, he or she would win a car from the Ford Motor Co.

One of those newspapers forced to explain that such a combination was impossible was the Utica (N.Y.) Herald Dispatch. Noting that due to the rumor, "many Uticans are searching for the four coins that are said to bear these letters," the Dispatch broke the news that "Their search is hopeless. Two of the letters are 'F' and 'R.' There is no coin ever struck that bears either of these letters as a mintmark."

The Dispatch was right. At that time you could get a coin from either Philadelphia (no mintmark); Charlotte, N.C. (C); Carson City, Nev. (CC); Dahlonega, Ga. (D); San Francisco (S); New Orleans (O); and Denver (D). Not all of these mints, of course, struck dimes. Charlotte and Dahlonega only minted gold.

Among the few recognizable words you could make, using different mintmarked dimes, was "SOD." By stretching the rules and adding in Charlotte gold coins, besides free "SOD," you could get a free "COD" or, maybe, a free visit to a "DOC." However, when it comes to "FORD," and a free car, the best you could "DO" with your dimes was the "O" and the "D."

The Dispatch related that the necessary four letters could, however, all be located in the legend "United States of America" found on dimes and other U.S. coins, which certainly would have made for a lot of new happy owners of Model Ts would that it had been true.

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About the Author
Robert R. Van Ryzin has been a coin collector for 30 years. He has served as editor of Krause Publications Coins and Coin Prices magazines since 1994. He joined the firm in 1986 after obtaining a master of fine arts degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Prior to becoming a magazine editor, he worked on World Coin News as a staff member and later served as managing editor of Numismatic News. Van Ryzin, whose specialty is U.S. coinage history, is also the award-winning author of the book Crime of 1873: The Comstock Connection (Krause Publications, 2001), as well as two earlier titles, Twisted Tails: Sifted Fact, Fantasy and Fiction from U.S. Coin History (Krause Publications, 1995) and Striking Impressions: A Visual Guide to Collecting U.S. Coins (Krause Publications, 1992).

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