DON'T JOSH ME
The recent surveys indicating that many Americans believe that
the new "Golden Dollar" actually contains gold is reminiscent of
the "Racketeer Nickel", the 1883 five-cent piece without the
word "cents", which was sometimes gold-plated and passed off
as a five-dollar gold piece.
An ANA "Money Talks" transcript by Mark Van Winkle features
the best-known of the "racketeers":
"In one famous court case,
a deaf-mute named Josh Tatum was accused of passing off
many of these gold-plated or "Racketeer" nickels. But he was
able to go free, since no one could ever successfully testify
against him. As a deaf-mute, he never actually called the coins
anything . . . he merely gave them to clerks, and politely took
whatever change they gave him."
Some numismatic references state that the story of Josh Tatum
is the origin of the English word "josh", as in "You're joshing
me." But my favorite online dictionary, Merriam-Webster
(http://www.m-w.com/) has this entry for the word:
Josh: Etymology: origin unknown. Date: 1852
transitive senses : to tease good-naturedly : KID
intransitive senses : to engage in banter : JOKE
Given that this citation predates the 1883 coin by over 30 years,
it seems unlikely that Mr. Tatum is actually the original source of
In none of the references I've come across in my library is
there a citation for the Boston trial of Mr. Tatum. How can
we verify any of this without consulting original source
materials? Does anyone know of any contemporary
newspaper articles discussing the trial?
Wayne Homren, Editor
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