Pocket Contents


Posted on

Three coins, a pocket knife and three wooden buttons were recovered from the pocket of one of two sailors whose remains were discovered inside the turret during archaeological excavations in 2002. The treatment of the coins was completed recently.

The first piece below is most likely a Braided Hair Large Cent. The top pictures correspond to the Monitor’s coin; the pictures directly below them were found online and used for comparison. On the observe side of the Monitor’s coin (left picture), one can slightly distinguish the outline of Liberty. On the reverse (right picture), the word ONE is readable (again, barely) in the top half section of the coin. This type of coin was minted between 1835 and 1857. They were the last version of the Large US Cents. They were 2.75cm diameter and a 100% copper. The diameter of the Monitor’s coin is 2.55cm. If this is a Braided Hair Cent, this loss in diameter can be related to corrosion phenomenon. The composition of this piece was analyzed by XRF a couple weeks ago (see Dave’s blog form August 25th) and was determined to be 100% copper!


(http://www.coinfacts.com/large_cents/braided_hair_large_cents/braided_hair_large_cents.html, 09/21/10).

The second coin found in the pocket of the crew member seems to be a Flying Eagle Cent, the first small sized cent minted in the US, replacing the earlier large cent (i.e. the Braided Hair Cent described above). As for the previous coin, pictures were found online for comparison and place under the Monitor’s pictures to show you what it may have looked like. These coins were minted between 1856 and 1858. They were 19mm in diameter which has not changed for this coin despite burial and corrosion.

The tail and a wing of the eagle can barely be distinguished on the obverse side of the coin (left picture). The reverse side is not readable anymore.


The Flying Eagle Cents were struck in an alloy of 12% nickel and 88% copper (also called “German silver”), which is the alloy found by XRF analyses in early September! See the spectra below. The analyses were made with a Bruker Tracer Handheld XRF (40kev, yellow filter). Iron traces were also located at the surface of the coin (left peaks) which is not surprising considering it was surrounded by iron for 140 years underwater.  

The last coin is still enigmatic. The letters “F PENNY” are readily readable on one side, suggesting that it was a half penny. A date “18??” appears on the other side… Its maximum length is 2.47cm. The XRF analyses told us that is was also made of 100% copper. 

No half pennies were minted in the US. In Great Britain the half pennies of Queen Victoria were mint until 1860 but PENNY is facing the center of the coin and not the outside like for this coin… See the pictures below. This might be a “1850 Bank of Upper Canada Half Penny Token”. But it is hard to say because so little was preserved. Any thoughts? 



6 thoughts on “Pocket Contents”

  1. Elsa, Could the “F” in “F PENNY” on 02-01-317-05 have been a worn off “E”, and thus the remains of an inscription “ONE PENNY”? Just a thought. Miss y’all! Karin (LOL I still type accession numbers without periods!)

    1. Karin!
      Yes, that is a very good point. Thanks!
      I will look into that shorly and add another comment if we have new info.
      Take care!

      1. I have a 1850 Bank of Upper Canada Half Penny, but through further inspection and comparison, I believe it is safe to say that yours is not one. Then again, the remaining state of yours is very aged, and some of the words may be covered by rust or other imperfections, but that is just my 11 year old coin collector opinion
        -Ryan D.

Leave a Reply