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Exchanging coins at the Mint was not so easy in the 19th century

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Today we merely take coins to a bank and exchange one denomination for another. But in the 19th century, it was not so simple. Even coins that looked the same might or might not be exchangeable. Here's a typical letter from a bank.

Exchange Bank of Darling & Co.

Fond du Lac, Wis.

 June 27, 1866


U. S. Mint


 Dear Sir:

            I would wish to know on what conditions can we send you dimes, quarters, and half dollars in silver, and have them coined into American Silver dollars. Please answer.

            Yours Truly, etc.

/K. A . Darling/, Cashier

            Per W. Martin


From K. A. Darling, Esq.

Fond du Lac, Wis.

Old silver coins & American dollars in return, etc.


Answ’d by Circular. No American coins [are] received for re-coinage unless coined prior to 1853.

July 2nd ’66. P

Edited by RWB
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Before the Coinage Act of 1853, two half dollars, four quarters, ten dimes, or twenty half-dimes contained the same amount of silver as a standard silver dollar. After passage of the act, the total weight of all silver coins except the dollar was reduced. The standard silver dollar, which was unchanged, then required about $1.06 in subsidiary silver coin to equal the same quantity of silver. Further, Silver coins of the old standard had unlimited legal tender status; afterward only the dollar retained that.

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