United States of America, Medal, Le Pape Benoit XVI
AU(55-58) - Copper-nickel
- Denomination: Medal
- Composition: Copper-nickel
- Country: United States of America
- Year: Undated
- Token Title: Le Pape Benoit XVI
Cupronickel (or copper-nickel), also known by the French registered term cuivre blanc (white copper), is an alloy far less modern then one might initially think. Appearances can be misleading! There are examples dating from the Warring States period in China between the 5th and 3rd century BC. Back then, it was used for weapons. In its natural state, the alloy was probably of extraterrestrial origin, arriving on Earth with falling meteorites.
As the Chinese traded with the neighboring Bactrian kingdom, it is there that the first traces of cupronickel coins are found.
Jumping ahead a few millennia and some meteor dust, it first appeared in the West in the US in 1857.
With the price of copper at its highest ever, cupronickel was chosen for the new one cent coin. The alloy at the time contained 88% copper to 12% nickel, and the coin was smaller in diameter than its predecessor (there are no small savings, right?).
Cupronickel is now extremely popular and frequently used for coinage.
Dark gray in color, this alloy, generally comprising around 75% copper to 25% nickel, is highly resistant to corrosion.
United States of America
- Geographical location: North America
- Current political regime: Constitutional republic with presidential and federal regime
- Current capital: Washington, D.C.
From the exploration of the territory by various European countries from the 16th century to the 13 colonies behind the founding of the country at the end of the 18th century, there were Spanish expeditions to the South, encounters and negotiations with the local Native Americans – sometimes peaceful, sometimes far less so – French settlements in New France on the Northeast coast and beside the Mississippi, Dutch and English in the East, Russians in the West…a disparate patchwork which would prefigure the future materializing little by little. Ultimately, it was the British who would carve out the lion’s share for themselves first of all and drive the Dutch and French out of the East and North of the territory.
The Thirteen Colonies extending all along the East Coast, from Massachusetts to Georgia, quickly shook off the yoke of the British administrative supervision and proclaimed their independence in 1776. The American Revolutionary War, led with France as an ally (did anyone say revenge?), was finally won in 1783. The separation from Canada, which remained loyal to the Crown, was enacted, and the brand new country drew up a constitution.
Next, an unprecedented period of territorial expansion westward began. In 1803, Louisiana was purchased from the French. Further territories were also ceded by Spain, for example Florida. In 1848, the Mexican-American War permitted them to annex the Southwestern United States. This expansion was largely to the detriment of the indigenous tribes, despoiled of their lands and sometimes simply massacred by the army as in the case of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1890.
In the mid-19th century, there were three sets of territories in the United States: the Northeast with its urban tendencies and on the road to industrialization; the South with its plantations and system based on slavery; and the still wild West. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln, an opponent to slavery, was elected president and seven Southern states, a little later eleven, decided to secede from the Union. The resulting American Civil War lasted from 1861 until 1865. It concluded with the abolition of slavery and victory for the Union.
In 1912, the admission of Arizona and New Mexico to the Union brought the intraterritorial expansion to an end. The United States were complete. In the 20th century, following a frantic race to industrialization and an exponential dynamic thanks to immigration, the U.S. established its status as a world power by joining the Triple Entente in 1917.
Then came the roaring twenties and prohibition, followed by the Great Depression, Roosevelt’s New Deal, World War II, and, in the 1950s, global influence, consumer society, and the advent of the middle classes. Not to forget the Cold War and the Iron Curtain. The 50s (finally) saw an end to segregation. But it would not be without problems. In the 1960s, the Baptist minister Martin Luther King fought for equal rights, before being assassinated in 1968.
The first Catholic president would never have expected it – John Fitzgerald Kennedy lost his life, assassinated in Dallas in 1963. He was succeeded by Lyndon B. Johnson, who spearheaded a campaign on the war on poverty. However, it was another war that reared its ugly head: the Vietnam War. Not long after, the Watergate scandal besmirched the reputation of both the White House and President Nixon. Closer to the present day came another war, the War in Afghanistan, following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Then Iraq.
In 2008, 40 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Barack Obama became the first African American to be elected President of the United States of America.
In the 17th century, the monetary system in the Thirteen Colonies was quite unstable. Too poor for an exclusive monetary system, the reference therefore remained for the most part, under the influence of Great Britain, the pound sterling, the shilling, and the penny, even though there were multiple currencies in circulation.
During the American Revolutionary War, bills of credit, (paper money in dollars which could not be converted to silver) were issued. In 1779, Congress introduced the Continental dollar. At the time, the word dollar referred to a Spanish peso or piece of eight coin. It is therefore possible that the dollar symbol derives from there and represents a graphic distortion of the number 8.
From 1787, only Congress retained the right to mint coins and define their value. Federal banks had the right to issue paper money on the condition that it be convertible to metal currency upon request.
The Coinage Act, passed in 1792, brought with it clarity. The unit of currency was officially the dollar ($), based on a bimetallic (gold and silver) system and a decimal system for its subdivision into cents. One dollar at that time was worth 371.25 grains of silver and 24.75 grains of pure gold. The coins were minted by the Mint of Philadelphia (The Mint).
The quotation on gold and silver fluctuated over time. The first “greenback” was issued in 1861. Some banknotes issued by the federal banks proved to be inconvertible, while others, such as the silver certificates, could still be converted into silver. Over the course of time, this confusion regarding the convertibility of the banknotes would give rise to a number of banking panics. 1913 saw the creation of the Federal Reserve System (Fed), the central bank charged with regulating the circulation of currency on the basis of a gold standard.
The dollar remains the currency of the United States up to the present day. There are 1 dollar, half dollar (50 cents), quarter (25 cents), dime (10 cents), nickel (5 cents) and cent (1 cent) coins available. In addition, there are $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 bills in circulation.
Among other things, the U.S. Americans invented the lightning rod (Benjamin Franklin, 1752), bourbon (Eliza Craig, 1789), the revolver (Samuel Colt, 1835), the telegram (Samuel Morse, 1844), the telephone (Graham Bell, 1874), the phonograph (Edison, 1878), the zipper (Judson, 1891), and even Tupperware (Earl Tupper, 1945).
Painting: "View of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C." by A. Meyer (1860)
An “AU(55-58)” quality
As in numismatics, it is important that the state of conservation of an item be carefully evaluated before it is offered to a discerning collector with a keen eye.
This initially obscure acronym comprising two words describing the state of conservation is explained clearly here:
This means – more prosaically – that the coin has been in circulation but sufficiently little that its original beauty is preserved almost in its entirety. The wear is barely visible and any other defect can only be identified with a magnifying glass or a particularly keen eye. The number (55-58) indicates that between three quarters and almost all of the original luster remains.