Sunday, March 18, 2018

Curse of Oak Island - The Date on the Coin is Meaningless

In the season finale, and in the “Digging Deeper,” recap, it was Marty, I believe, who said something with which I disagreed. They were examining a coin they had found that was dated in the late seventeenth century, 1694, I believe. Marty suggested that it proved that someone had been walking about the island some
Marty Lagina
hundred years before the digging in the money pit began. I didn’t think it proved any such thing.

I wondered if anyone had ever made a study of the circulation of coins in the late seventeenth century. I mean, if you dig into your pocket today, you might find coins that are a half century old or older. I do know that in 1964, the US Mint changed the way they made coins, taking out almost all if not all the silver content. Coins, with the exception of pennies, were quickly bought up for the silver content. Prior to that, you could actually find silver dollars in circulation… but not today. That change in our change (yeah, I couldn’t resist) meant that it is difficult to find a coin older than 1964 in circulation. But you can find coins that are fifty years old.

The point is this. Walking around today, I might drop a coin that was dated, say, 1968. Doesn’t mean I dropped it in 1968, or that someone else had, only that the coin had been minted in that year. It really tells us very little about the timing of the events.

But what we do today isn’t necessarily what they might have been doing three hundred years ago. No one on the Curse of Oak Island seemed to have wondered about this. How long would coins stay in circulation in the late seventeenth century? Is it possible that someone, in the eighteenth century, had dropped the coin? We know that there were British soldiers on the island in about the middle of that century. Could one of them have dropped the coin?

I couldn’t really find a good answer to the question. I remember reading something somewhere that sometimes coins were dated not with the year they were minted but in the year the coin was designed. Some of that had to do with the reign of various rulers and some of it had to do with coins that would be considered commemorative in today’s world. Given that I couldn’t find anything definitive, this doesn’t really answer the question.

I did find something that was relevant at:

Here we see that:

When money is found at a site, it can often lead to a misinterpretation of the actual site date. Coins, although dated with the year they were minted, are often in circulation for years afterwards. At the Lost Towns site, a coin minted in 1664 from the Isle of Wight was found. Considering the position of the coin relative to the body and the date on the coin, the earliest date of the burial is 1664.
This seemed to be important because of the first sentence. And this was the point I was making. All the finding of the coins on Oak Island meant was that the earliest they could have been dropped (deposited, in the vernacular) was 1694. In reality, it could have been dropped the day before it was found… which is not to say that it was.

So, while they were excited by the old coins and the dates on those coins, it proved nothing about when they were deposited. The enthusiasm of the Laginas and their pals sometimes seem to outweigh the value of the find. It means that we still don’t know if there is a treasure there, though those among us who have been paying attention know the answer… we just hang on for the fun.


Mr. Sweepy! said...

On the coin(s), here is a story that you can relate to. My late mother was the treasurer for a large school system. The way they did accounting was group of schools would deposit lunch money, (a long time ago mostly coins) into big bags. The coins were separated out by machines. Well, there many valuable old coins in those bags that might be 50 years old. Kids just robbed the parents coin collections to buy something extra for lunch. Mom had so many some weeks that she bought that she could buy everything she wanted.

There is no point to this but it is interesting what might show up if you look hard enough.

M Louttit said...

It’s been said that ancient Roman coins have been found in parking meters in Los Angeles. Whether apocryphal or not it illustrates Kevin’s point exactly.