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But do you know why?


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Most people know that it is a federal crime to deface, mar or otherwise alter US currency.

But do you know why this law was passed?

 

In 1883 a deaf man by the name of Joshua Tatum noticed that the Roman numeral V on the US five cent coin did not specify cents, dollars or pfennigs or any other amount.

So Tatum hired a jeweler to plate several thousand coins with gold and mill the edges so that they looked like five-dollar pieces.

Then, and this is an important part, so pay attention, Tatum went from store to store making 5 cent purchases with his gold plated nickles.

When the shop keeper handed him $4.95 in change, Tatum accepted it without saying a word.

Before long Tatum had amassed a fortune, $4.95 at a time, not to mention a huge amount of nickle goods.

 

But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end and so it was for Joshua Tatum and his gold plated nickles.

He was arrested and stood trial.

Angry merchant after angry merchant came to the trial to testify and point an accusing finger at Joshua Tatum as the man who had bilked them out of money.

Sounds like an open and shut case of counterfeiting doesn't it.

Well not so fast my "jump to conclusions" friends.

Joshua Tatum was found not guilty.

His defense?

 

He had never purchased anything over 5 cents, the amount that the coin was actually worth.

As for the extra $4.95 that the shop keepers had given him in change?

Well, he had never asked for any change, had he?

So Joshua Tatum went free to spend his money and presumably open the first 5 cent store.

 

As for the federal government, they decided that from then on, no one else would be able to get away with this type of crime and so it became a federal law to deface, mar or otherwise alter US currency.

 

As the man used to say, now you know the rest of the story.

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Is the story possible? maybe

 

But odds are, the story was manufactured in the late 1960s. There are no newspaper articles from the late 1800s involving fake nickels or a josh tatum. The story first appears in 1968

 

People in the coin collecting business think it is just folklore:

http://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v10n08a15.html

 

"there were only four Joshua Tatums in the 1880 U. S. federal census, and none of them was a deaf mute! I suspect his story most likely originated in the 1960s in reaction to the Secret Service's recently adopted policy of confiscating "racketeer nickels" from irate coin collectors"

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Is the story possible? maybe

 

But odds are, the story was manufactured in the late 1960s. There are no newspaper articles from the late 1800s involving fake nickels or a josh tatum. The story first appears in 1968

 

People in the coin collecting business think it is just folklore:

http://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v10n08a15.html

 

"there were only four Joshua Tatums in the 1880 U. S. federal census, and none of them was a deaf mute! I suspect his story most likely originated in the 1960s in reaction to the Secret Service's recently adopted policy of confiscating "racketeer nickels" from irate coin collectors"

 

That is from one persons research.

There are many articles in the coin industry and in books on crime and criminals, that say it did happen.

Here is an example from US Coin Values.

 

http://www.us-coin-values-advisor.com/Liberty-Nickel-key-dates.html

 

Either way, it is a fact the V nickel was passed off as a $5 gold piece by some people during those times, so who knows, maybe old Josh did exist.

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