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Bill Symbols Can Be Easily Misinterpreted

October 09, 1986|DON ALPERT

Question: I have always been interested in discovering the truth pertaining to the Star of David, which is located on the back of the $1 bill. I am especially interested in its origin and what its meaning represents.--H.S.

Answer: I was puzzled by your question until I took a hard look at the reverse of a $1. I could not recall the Star of David, a symbol of Judaism, being there. In fact, it takes quite an imagination to picture it. There is quite a bit of symbolism represented on the bill, which depicts the Great Seal of the United States, adapted in 1782. The obverse of the seal, on the right of the bill, has an American eagle. The eagle holds a branch with 13 leaves and 13 berries, symbolic of peace, in its right talon; 13 arrows symbolic of the original colonies' fight for liberty in its left talon. The eagle holds a ribbon inscribed with the Latin motto, E Pluribus Unum, "one out of many," referring to the unity of the 13 colonies.

Now, over the eagle's head is a cluster of 13 five-pointed stars, surrounded by clouds. Undoubtedly, it is the arrangement of the 13 stars that you have misinterpreted as a Star of David. I admit, they are arranged in such a way as to give the impression of being a Star of David. But I have been unable to find anything that would support that point of view. It's simply that the 13 five-pointed stars, arranged in rows of one, four, three, four and one do seem to form a six-pointed Star of David.

It would be nice to report, during this period of the Jewish New Year, that the Star of David is pictured in all this symbolism, but I'm afraid that's not the case.

Other symbolism is depicted on the reverse of the Great Seal, which is on the left of the $1 bill. The pyramid with the Roman numerals MDCCLXXVI on the base represents the year of the Declaration of Independence and permanence and strength. The pyramid's unfinished condition means there is more work to be done to form a more perfect government. The eye represents an all-seeing deity. The phrase Annuit Coeptis translates as "He (God) has favored our undertakings," while Novus Ordo Seclorum translates as "A new order of the ages."

Q: I have recently come across three bills of U.S. currency among the papers of my deceased father-in-law. One is a Federal Reserve Note, Series of 1914, issued from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. The bill is a $10 denomination. The next one is also for $10 from the Mechanics Bank of Augusta, Ga. The third bill is from the Lake Washington & Deer Creek Railroad & Banking Co., dated in script June 16, 1844. Are these old bills of any value, and is the Federal Reserve Note still redeemable?--S.H.M.

A: Your $10 Federal Reserve Note is worth about its face value to collectors. I don't believe it's redeemable. The other two bills are called broken bank notes and are worth $3 to $25, depending upon condition.

Q: Being an old, old man, I'm not into coins, stamps or other valuables. But in cleaning out old files, I ran across several penny postal cards. I'm not thinking of their value, but before giving them to my very young grandson (through his father), I would like to give him some facts about them. Should I really bother about them at all? From whom can I become better informed?--E.M.F.

A: The penny postal cards would be a wonderful gift for your grandson. They might trigger his imagination and get him involved in collecting, which can be educational and stimulating. Check with some stamp dealers or use a Scott stamp catalogue as a guide for background information. If he's not interested in the cards, try coins or even baseball cards. Anything that will get your grandson started could stay with him for a lifetime of fun and excitement.

Q: I have inherited a coin that my grandfather received as payment of a debt. It is bronze colored with flowers embossed on one side, a large No. 1 and Sultinate Grunci 1304 on the other side. This must be a museum piece. I don't know how to trace its origin.--L.M.

A: Your coin will have to be seen to be identified. Take it to a knowledgeable dealer.

Q: I have a $500 bill (Federal Reserve Note), Series of 1934. Although circulated after 1928 (later dates seldom have premium value), does it have any collector value due to the amount and its being in good condition?--J.R.

A: Some collectors and dealers will pay 10% over the face value of $500 and $1,000 bills--just because they want them. You will have to find people with that interest. A major coin show would probably be your best bet.

Q: My coin has printing around the outside edges, a woman's profile, and there are little scrolls or designs in between. It weighs about 1 ounce. Can you identify that as a coin, medal or what?--M.B.

A: Your coin is an Austrian Maria Terissa. It's worth about $9 and is probably one of the most widely circulated coins worldwide. It's essentially a trade dollar, has been minted in several countries and is still used in some parts of the world. It is, indeed, silver.

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