Tiffany I. writes: My husband recently inherited some old coins. One of them is a copper 1854 liberty head one cent. Facing left. United States of America and laurels on the back. Mint P. The odd thing is on the back-it doesn’t say one cent….it says ” Onu Cunt”. I have looked for wear-as if parts of the E in one and cent had worn….but no. It is stamped ” Onu Cunt”. WHat can you tell me about this coin? Does it have a value? Have you ever seen anything like this???
This is a well known alteration done outside the Mint as a scatological joke. The technique involves the use of a tool called a “graver”, that is used to “chase” the metal in the lettering into the desired shape. The metal is moved around by the tool to alter the “E” into a “U”. The word “One” is usually not altered but perhaps the “artist” was practicing.
This type of alteration of a large U.S. cent was common in the 19th century and there seems to be many available. These large cents are often seen at shows and are sold as a novelty. Value: about $5.
Other alterations of large cents include stamping the name of a store or individual for use as an advertising token, the adding of political messages or slogans and as “love tokens” where one side is planned off and a message is engraved.
Coins are used for a great many more purposes than money. Alterations done outside the Mint, for various reasons, are common. Coins are seen plated with various metals, ringed for placing in advertising holders or shaved or reengraved with messages or symbols. These private “mutilations” have some appeal to collectors of exonumia (tokens, medals and other items of monetary origin) if you can ascertain how the alteration was used. Other than that, alterations have no collector value.
For some examples of modern coin alterations see the CoinSite FAQ article, Re-engraved Cents .