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Josh Tatum


The story of Tatum is based at least partly on truth but has not yet been confirmed. It has become part of numismatic legend.

The new five cent piece of 1883 was first issued without the word "CENTS" on the reverse. Tatum arranged with a Boston jeweler to gold plate a thousand of these pieces. He presented them in tobacco stores for five cent cigars and received $4.95 in change. Eventually he was arrested for passing false coins. In court it was stated that Tatum was a deaf mute and never spoke during the transactions. The merchants had cheated themselves. Tatum was acquitted. The mint soon added "FIVE CENTS" to the reverse of the coin.

Profile: CW 12/22/03

Source credit: Pete Smith, American Numismatic Biographies


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