Old Pueblo Coin – Tucson, AZ

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Of Pennyweights and Grams

If Math makes you queasy, you may want to skip this post and move on to your favorite sports site. There are weights and measures involved in gold and silver that confuse consumers. You can’t blame consumers, this stuff is confusing. And occasionally there is intent by shop owners to deceive. Here is what you need to know. Gold and silver are measured in a unit called a ”Troy Ounce”.  This is different from the ounce you may weigh at home on a postal scale or to measure food. That ounce is called the Avoirdupois and is 28.35 grams. The troy ounce is 31.103 grams. This is the magic number that we use to determine how much silver or gold is in an item. Jewelers have a tendency to use pennyweights. It takes 20 pennyweights (dwt) to make a troy ounce.

In other words a pennyweight is 5% of a troy ounce and a gram is 3.2% of an ounce. Why is this important to you? Because someone using pennyweights can offer a higher price for an item, and yet pay less. Did I lose you? If I offer you $20 per gram for 14k gold, and they offer $25 per pennyweight for 14k gold, then here is what you just got offered per ounce: The $20 per gram equals is $1,063 per ounce. The $25 per pennyweight is only $854 per ounce.  The $20 per gram is almost 25% more than the $25 per dwt.

This becomes very important when people call around to get pricing on silver or gold. I always recommend people go in person to get prices on items. One reason is because of the confusion between pennyweights and grams. A second reason is that someone can tell you one thing over the phone and actual pay a different amount after they weigh your jewelry.

Okay, so we didn’t really do that much math….maybe next time!


Posted in: Consumer Awareness, Education, Uncategorized

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The Furies

The Furies


On a stormy July night in Tucson, Arizona, a crowd of locals cram into the Paramount Theatre and sweat through the world premiere of the movie “The Furies”. It is 1950 and the Paramount Theatre does not have air conditioning. It had rained on the parade before the premiere and the 2,500 people that crowded into the theater got to see Barbara Stanwyck, Wendell Corey and Ms. America 1949, Jacque Mercer, a native of Arizona. Not present was actor Walter Huston, who died in April of an aneurysm. The Furies was his last film.furiescover

It was only a month before in June that Tucson Mayor Joseph Niemann had declared July 1st to July 22nd as the “Furies Festival of Tucson”. This launched a grand attempt between Paramount studios, the city of Tucson, and local businesses to bolster the local economy, and promote the film. The movie was shot in and around the Old Pueblo, Tucson’s nickname.

It was late 2009 when in a normal transaction at Old Pueblo Coin yielded an unusual find. There was a group of green notes with cancel punches through them. They were in $5 and $50 denominations. The backs say “Furies Money” and read, “GOOD ONLY AT FURIES AUCTION, JULY, 1950. World Premier ‘The Furies,’ Tucson, Arizona”. A giant “TC” is in the center. In the film, TC Jeffords creates his own currency (TC notes) and starts paying people with them! With 2 native Tucsonans and a third person on staff with 40 years here in Tucson, we were all surprised at these notes and unaware of the movie and its local consequences, until this point in time.

tc5revAt first glance they look like movie prop currency and in fact they were used in the movie and were an integral part of the story. The face of the note depicts a bare breasted woman riding a bull and the denomination in each corner as well as the words “IOU FIFTY DOLLARS” across the top. It is “signed” by TC Jeffords, the main character of the movie. The center of the note reads, “AMICUS HUMANI GENERIS”. This translates to “A friend of the human race”. All the notes are punch cancelled “PAID +7.22.50 91.11”.

The notes are both referenced and used in the movie, as “TC’s” and are used to pay people that TC and his family deal with. They play a major role in the overall theme of the movie. In the end … well, I won’t ruin the movie for you, but as you can guess, “TC’s” don’t hold their value.

IMG_5316The Furies Festival here in the Old Pueblo was a big deal. Tucson businesses were taking out full-page ads in the Tucson Daily Citizen, the local newspaper, advertising that they would give their customers Furies money with every purchase. They promoted “Furies Value Days”, “Furies Money-Saving Festival”, and don’t forget about the “Fabulous Furies Festival of July Values”! The Furies Money was being given out at a dollar-to-dollar ratio. If you bought a sofa for $59 from Rueben’s on Congress Street you got $59 in Furies Money. Although we only have seen the $5 and $50 notes, it is assumed that $1’s, $10’s and $20’s were made, possibly even $100.’s. In fact, the Furies Festival Committee pleaded in the paper “HELP! HELP! We cannot keep up with the demand for $1.00 Furies Bills . . all who have been able to collect a number of these can help us greatly, if you will take them to any store and exchange them for bills of larger denomination”.The Furies money and the Furies Festival were to culminate in the Furies Festival Auction, to be held July 22nd at Randolph Park. The happy consumers could bring their Furies Money to the auction and bid on items. The auction featured over 200 items; from household goods, clothing and watches, to the climax of the auction, with the main prize being a brand new Convertible Hillman Minx automobile sold by World Wide Motors.MinxMkIVcoupeAfter a wet and sweaty premiere, the people were looking forward to finally getting to spend their Furies Money in the auction, which started promptly at 7 p.m. Here are some excerpts from the Tucson Daily Citizen:“Furies Auction under heavy criticism. Boy’s Bicycle $4,000, portable radio, $4.000: man’s hat, $3,500… Those prices do not reflect the inflationary picture of some foreign country where it takes a suitcase full of money to buy a loaf of bread, but they do indicate the terrible amount of inflation that was rampant at the “Fabulous Furies Auction”.

Thousands showed up, many leaving right away and ‘’throwing their Furies money to the ground in disgust’’. The Minx car sold for $46,000. as well as “Every other price realized, equally out of reason for the average bidder…” . It was unlikely that average income locals spent many, many thousands of dollars during this 3 week period just to accumulate Furies Money. Although the bleachers were packed, they were empty by 10:30, even though the auction went well past midnight.

What caused all this inflationary bidding? It sounds as if there were some security issues with the notes. “Any number of employees of local business houses could be seen in the crowd flashing huge rolls of bills which could not have been collected during the three-week promotion with purchases. Sales girls with $19,000 in Furies Money, teen-age boys with $8,000 to $15,000– individuals with various amounts ranging upward from $10,000. Obviously – the average person does not purchase merchandise totaling such amounts in a year – much less in three weeks.”

To this day it is still unkown who paid for the Furies and how much they paid. Since they are cancelled as ‘’paid’’ the same day as the auction, some one was turning them in for Federal Reserve Notes. Our belief is that Paramount paid for the notes. They then gave a percentage of value for them when they were turned in at the auction. The only problem for the payer of these notes (presumably Paramount) is that the businesses had no incentive to keep them under wraps, as all notes that are brought back in during the auction, go to bolster the auction items price. In other words, the seller of the car possibly worked out a deal to have the other businesses bid up the items without any risk of them losing money on their item.

This neat piece of Old Pueblo history which ties together local business, politics, movies, actors, an actress, new cars, Mrs. America and scriptography ends with disdain and anger from a small community that felt like it was duped into taking TC dollars….just like in the movie!

Additional Notes

Victor Milner was nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White.

Theme Song- TC Roundup by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. Listen Here.

You can see a Hillman Registry list here.

You can order the Furies movie here.


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Bit Coin….

A lot has been made of Bitcoin over the last year. First, the overly verbose definition:

“An electronically derived unit of value exchanged anonymously between two parties to a transaction. An electronic version of paper currency but digitally signed/encrypted instead of being physical.”

What?!? Imagine trading a bond or a stock but without it being backed by a company or an entity. It is traded between companies or individuals and is like using your debit card, and having an amount subtracted from your account. The only difference between bitcoin and federal reserve notes is that bitcoin is completely fabricated, unlike US currency which is….hmmm….perhaps they have more in common than I  first thought.

You can find a buy and sell price for Bitcoin on mainstream websites. You can find the history of bitcoin here.

The amazing part of the history is that bitcoin has been deemed currency and has been seized in some cases, and yet more and more entities are looking at taking bitcoin in exchange for services. This is particularly interesting when you look at how volatile the ”currency” has been.

We will see where it all ends up. It has given us a lot to talk about and some companies have made copper versions of ”bitcoin”. I’m waiting for the second rendition to come out , so we can see what a 2 bitcoin looks like.


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JFK and his Half Dollar

John Kennedy was the 35th president of the United states. Today (November 22, 2013) marks the 50th anniversary of the fateful day he was assassinated. The day is not lost in the realm of coins. In fact it created a coin we still have today- the Kennedy half dollar.

About 3 days after the assassination Mint Director Eva Adams called Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts and instructed him to start looking into designs for a US coin with John F Kennedy’s visage on it. On December 10th President Johnson issued a press release recommending passage of a bill before congress, and on December 30th the congress passed the law issuing the Kennedy half dollar. During that short window Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts and his staff worked behind the scenes to get a design ready, even before they knew what denomination it would be on. They had the widow, Mrs. Kennedy approve of the design before the law was even passed.kennedy

On January 2nd, 1964 proof dies were delivered and the mint presses started on a coin that we still have today. Coins started to reach circulation around the end of March. Mass hoarding of the coins was taking place. Many people sought them for the historical significance. Others were grabbing them up as silver prices started to rise. Over 425 million of the coins were produced, over 4 times as many as the year before.

Not only did the Kennedy half dollar replace the Franklin half, it also was the final year the US mint put 90% pure silver into the coins. Silver quality was reduced to 40% purity in the half dollar from 1965-1970. Since 1971 there has been no silver in circulating half dollars. Today the Kennedy half dollar’s value is based on the current silver market. With silver around $20 per ounce, the half dollar has about $7.25 of silver in each coin.

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Coins 101 The Flying Eagle Cent

The Flying Eagle cent was a transitional coin. It was the stepping stone from the large cent to the Indian head cent. It was only produced for circulation for two years, 1857 and 1858. It is the same diameter as our current cent, but is about twice the thickness. It was a big step down in size. The previous cent (“large cent”) was 27.5 mm in size and the Flying Eagle cent is 19mm.

James Longacre designed the coin, as well as the Indian Cent. The name of the coin comes from the design. It has an eagle in flight on the front with the legend “United States of America”. The back of the coin has a wreath and says “ONE CENT” in the middle. Well worn examples of the Flying Eagle Cent start at about $20. Middle grades range from $75 to $100. An uncirculated example exceeds the $400 price barrier.


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