NUMISMATIC NICKNAMES

Posted on May 12, 2017 by

A nickname is a name given as a substitute for a real name. Most of us picked up a nickname or two during our lives which were given to us by family, friends, or even enemies. My wife and I gave our son, Christian, the nickname “Bubby”, which was a popular and familiar name when we lived in Kentucky, but became out-of-place when we moved to California. He is all grown up and married now, so I refer to him most frequently as “Son.” Occasionally, I’ll call him “Boy” as a throwback to the old Tarzan movies, but that doesn’t fit either since he’s bigger, heavier, and stronger than I am.

Coins are not immune to the nickname phenomenon.  There are literally scores, if not hundreds, of nicknames for coins, both U.S. and World.  Some nicknames are descriptive, such as “Buffalo” Nickel (instead of Indian Head Nickel).  Even the term “Nickel” is a nickname for a Five Cent piece made primarily of Nickel.  Canadian “Loonies” are dollar coins with a Loon on the reverse.

Loon

1987 Canadian “Loonie”

Nicknames can also be somewhat generic.  “War Nickels” refer to the silver-alloy Jefferson Nickels issued from 1942 to 1945.  “Trime” is the nickname given to Three-Cent Silver pieces (which are sometimes — but less-frequently — referred to as “fish-scales”).  “Steelies” are zinc-coated 1943 Steel Cents.  The term “Bow Dollar” is sometimes used for “Morgan Dollar”, which is just another name for the “Liberty Head” Dollar.

War Nickel1942-P “War” Nickel

Variety collectors love to give nicknames to unusual and distinctive varieties.  Dr. Sheldon and his forerunners gave all sorts of nicknames to Large Cent varieties.  Dr. Maris, who was instrumental in nicknaming New Jersey Copper varieties, was equally influential in the world of Large Cents.  Thus, we find nicknames for 1794 Large Cent varieties that might include: “Tilted 4”, “Double Chin”, “Sans Milling”,  “Apple Cheek”, “Scarred Head”, “Plicae”, “Office Boy Reverse”, “Pyramidal Head”, “Many Haired”, and more.  And, that’s just for the 1794 Large Cents.

Walter Breen used the nickname “Gynandroid Head” to refer to a variety of 1794 Half Cents. This, of course, is not an affectionate term, as it described the lovely Miss Liberty as being “mannish.” Where’d that come from?

Gynandroid

Walter Breen’s “Gynandroid Head.”  Does Liberty look “mannish” to you?

Individual dates have been crowned with their own special nicknames. The 1804 Dollar has been called the “King of American Coins.” The 1844 Dime has been referred to as “Little Orphan Annie”. The term “Holy Grail” has been misused and overused to describe any number of special coins.

Collectors sometimes give nicknames to individual coins of special importance. For instance, the Gem 1793 Chain Cent (Sheldon 4) from the Joseph J. Mickley Collection is known simply as “The Coin.” C. Douglas Smith once owned an 1816 Large Cent (Newcomb 1) that he called “The Golden Biscuit.” Do you have nicknames for any of your coins?

Golden Biscuit

“The Golden Biscuit”

Find out which coins the following nicknames refer to and post your answers below (I promise they are all real): Serpent Head, Skeleton Hand, Transposed Arrows, Horned Bust, Spiked Chin, Comet, Starred Reverse, Bridle Variety, Snipe Nose, Spiny Tree, Ghost Tree, and Ice Cream.

Let me know your favorite nicknames. Have fun!

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Comments (10)

 

  1. Nickels Are Not Mostly Nickel, the alloy is 75% Copper, 25% Nickel. That’s Mostly Copper. Just to keep everybody honest.

  2. Rick McCormick says:

    The “Bugs Bunny” 1955 Franklin Half comes to my mind.

  3. 3sidesofsver says:

    I have a MS65+ 1904-O Morgan I call “ring of fire”. As you might guess, the reverse has an orangish red band around the full circumference near the rim, and both sides are toned completely. There is no white on this coin.

  4. Jonathan Coolidge says:

    I’ve got a Morgan Dollar, a fairly generic 1880S issue, but it’s got very unusual toning. Its obverse is darkened and splotchy, while its reverse has flashy color. I thus refer to it as the “abalone coin.” To add to its character, it’s in an early PCGS rattler holder, and one that actually rattles. It is graded MS64. I suspect it could regrade at 65 today, but I prefer the added novelty of the holder to go with an already distinct coin.

  5. Dave St.Thomas says:

    One of my favorite nicknames is the “RACKETEER NICKEL” made by gold plating an 1883 no cents Liberty Nickel.

  6. Gdnp says:

    No discussion of this topic would be complete without mentioning 1839 cents, with silly head and booby head varieties.

  7. Alan Glasser says:

    How about “Trime” or “Fish Scale” for 3 cent silver pieces??? Or Boobie Head and Silly Head Large cents?

    Alan Glasser

  8. Tim Glaue says:

    How about “two bits” for quarters.

  9. Sam Dibitonto says:

    How about a “buck” for one dollar?

  10. Finn says:

    What? No mention shinplasters?
    Always loved that for fractional currencies.

    And cart wheels for a Morgan dollars.

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