Who Put the Ding in the Darned Old Dollar?

Hey, folks. Have you ever toured a historic home and spotted something like, say, a pretty good nick in a door jamb? And did you wonder what had happened and when?

It could have been something as simple as people moving a piece of furniture, back in, oh, let’s see, 1922. Or it could have been a sword nick that a Yankee soldier made when trying to intimidate the owner of a plantation, back in 1864.

Such little flaws are, to me, character marks, rather than something to be deplored. Every little nick and knock in a historic item, from a house to a tiny piece of something such as a con, can be fascinating. For example, there’s a couple of tiny dents in the dashboard of my 1939 Chrysler. So, were they caused by a mechanic clumsily using a wrench when he was fixing the radio back in 1948, or perhaps was the little mark made by a teenager beating time to Glen Miller music in 1945. We’ll never know, but it’s fun to speculate.

So, the reason I came up with this column topic was that I was looking over my coin collection Wednesday night. One of my rare coins is a silver dollar from 1847. We were just getting into the Mexican-American War at that time, but my coin is pretty well worn (I couldn’t afford one in better shape — they’re not cheap) so it probably circulated well into the 1850s or 1860s.

The obverse, or head, depicts what was called Seated Liberty, a female seated, looking to the left, holding a Liberty cap on a rod in her left hand and holding an American shield in her right. She is surrounded by our 13 stars and the date, 1846, is below her. On the reverse, or tails, is the American Eagle, with the words Untied States of America above and ONE DOL. below. Our noble national bird holds the traditional olive branch of peace in her right claw and the arrows of war of defense in her left. (You can easily look this coin up on the Internet, if you wish.)

But what caught my attention, was a tiny ding in the rim, at about what would be 11:56 on the obverse, just to the left of Seated Liberty’s head. So, having nothing better to do, I began speculating on what may have caused the ding.

Was this coin used in a poker game in the old Wild West, with one of the players tossing it into the pot, only to have it skip off the table and hit the floor? Did some gent, in reaching for his pocket watch in the 1850s, inadvertently push it hard against his pocket watch chain.

Did some youngster playing with the coin in the 1850s drop it on a pavement. Was it carried by a Civil War soldier, in the 1860s and he used it to pry open a tin of beef?

For absolute certain, we’ll never know what caused the ding. It’s more than likely that none of my above speculations was what actually happened. But, the fact remains that the ding is there. It detracts slightly from the value of my coin, but I care not a whit for that. I’m just proud to have this little bit of history in my hand.

Maybe this all just goes to show that we need to appreciate the little things, things that seem unimportant, but that perhaps had a meaning for someone who lived long, long ago. And that, my friends, is good enough for me to just simply love history.

One thought on “Who Put the Ding in the Darned Old Dollar?

  1. Enjoyed your article. I once had (perhaps still do, just can’t find it) a large (in size, not value) coin from the Belgium Congo with a very large gash in it. I often looked at it and imagined all kinds of wild stories about how this coin became damaged. I don’t recall the date on the coin, but it had to be prior to 1960 when the Belgium Congo became the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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