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The E-Sylum:  Volume 7, Number 8, February 22, 2004, Article 16

SIXTEEN CENTS

  Regarding last week's question about coins circulating in the
  U.S. with a value of sixteen cents, Eric P. Newman writes:
  "I am sure that some of your readers will point out that many
  of the American Coin Chart Manuals of the 1850s illustrated
  the Pine Tree Shilling and valued it at 16 cents. The date of
  the letter was not given but it would indicate that it was about
  the time fractional souvenir gold was first made."

  Bob Leonard writes: "In the second edition of California
  Pioneer Fractional Gold I addressed the question of small
  change in San Francisco in 1851-3.  "Austrian 'zwanzigers
  [20 kreuzer],' worth 18 cents, were accepted for 25, and a
  rich parent in Germany sent a large cask full of them as a
  present to his son in San Francisco..." (p. 16, citing John S.
  Hittell, The Commerce and Industries of the Pacific Coast of
  North America; etc., p. 125).  An ever more likely possibility
  for a "16 piece" was turned up by indefatigable researcher
  Dan Owens: [on Nov. 16, 1853, Frank Lecouvreur had in
  his purse] "a greatly overvalued Prussian half-gulden or 1/3
  Reichsthaler which had been passed on him for a quarter."
  (p. 19, citing Lecouvreur's From East Prussia to the
  Golden Gate, 1906, pp. 288-92).

  These examples only scratch the surface of the bewildering
  variety of coins used in Gold Rush California, not excluding
  (in a "small" way) the California gold quarters, halves, and
  dollars."

  John M. Kleeberg concurs.  He writes: " The coin would be an
  Austrian Zwanziger. Edgar Adams, in his Private Gold Coinage
  of California (1913), page vii, mentions three foreign coins in
  circulation in California as quarters: Spanish pesetas, Austrian
  Zwanzigers, and French francs.  Of these three, the Zwanziger
  (the 20 kreuzer piece) is closest in silver value to sixteen cents.
  Sixteen cents worth of silver, before the weight reduction of
  February 1853, is .12368 troy ounces.  A Zwanziger contains
  .1252 troy ounces of silver.  Allowing for a little rounding down
  to take account of wear and the cost of re-coining at the mint, it
  would pass at sixteen cents in the United States.  One can
  understand why the coin would be called a "sixteen cent piece"
  - "Zwanziger" can be a difficult word for non-German speakers.
  DeLorey mentions that the reference probably does not refer to
  pistareens, for it would be unlikely for pistareens to be in
  circulation at this point.  This is correct.  I did an exhaustive study
  of the circulation of the pistareen in the Colonial News-Letter
  Number 109 (December 1998), and showed that the pistareen
  disappeared from US circulation in the 1830s, when it was
  exported to Cuba and Puerto Rico."

  Jack Wadlington writes: "Tom DeLorey asked if anyone could
  provide a reference to this usage [sixteen cent pieces].

  "The Coin Chart Manual, Supplementary to the Bank Note
  and Commercial Reporter, ..." compiled and arranged by J.
  Thompson, Banker and Broker, published at No. 12 Spruce
  Street, New York, 1853,   gives several possibilities for
  identification of the sixteen cent piece mentioned by the letter
  writer.  This publication has line drawings of all the gold and
  silver coins "found in circulation"  in the United States in 1853.
  Under each coin's picture is the value in U. S.  dollars and cents.
  [My copy was lot #1180 in Remy Bourne's April 9 & 10,
  1999 auction].

  page 8 ... "Silver coins of the U. S. of America."  ...
  "Pine-tree shilling, 16 cents"

  page 11 ... "Two reals, 16 cents" ... image of a coin with
  legend "Republica De Chile" and dated 1844.
  [Two real coins from other places had values from 15c to 20c
  but this was the only one valued at 16 c].

  page 15  ... "Silver coins of Portugal and Brazil."...
  200 reis, 16 cts"

  page 15 ... "Silver coins of Spain."  ...
  "Pistareen, 16 cents"  ...

  Five additional images of Pistareens are shown on page 17. ...
  "Pistareen, 16 cents" ... "Silver coins of Spain."

  The obverse and reverse images of a peseta with legend
   "En * Barcelona* 1811" are also on page 17.  "peseta,
  16 cents" ...

  page 23 ...  "Silver Coins of France" ... "20 sols, 16 cents."

  page 27 ... "Silver Coins of Italy"  ...  "Drachmi, 16 cts"
  [Yes, I know, but that's what this author wrote.]

  page 34 ... "Silver Coins of Germany"  ...   "Lira 16 cts"
  [for an Italian province of the Austrian Empire]

  page 45 ... "Silver Coins of Sweden, Denmark and
  Norway"  ...  "16 cents"

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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