Like all modern coins, Cuban coins have three sides, although not much is talked about the third side: the edge. When it comes to edge variations in Cuban coinage, maybe the best known examples are the 1915 “fine reeding” and “coarse reeding” varieties, although edge varieties can also be found among Cuban proclamation medals and also in the 1870 coinage of the Republic of Cuba in Arms. Here, we discuss edge varieties of the 1915 coinage, answering to multiple inquiries from our members.
Cuban coins were minted at the Philadelphia, USA mint during the first republic. In 1915, the first year of coinage, multiple adjustments were made to the designs, which is not uncommon in the initial minting stages. For instance, silver coins of 1915 (with the exception of the 10 centavos pieces) were initially minted with a high relief star on the obverse, which later was changed to a shallower, sharper, low relief star. All silver coins of 1915 also have a reeded edge. Although no edge changes were introduced for the 10 centavos, 40 centavos and 1 peso coins of 1915, two edge varieties can be found for the 20 centavos pieces. The 1915 20 centavos were struck with “fine” reeded edge initially, and later changed to a “coarse” reeded edge. Apparently, adjustments in edge reeding were made at about the same time that the star relief was adjusted, since there seem to be a correlation between the star relief and the edge reeding. Most high relief coins have fine edge reeding, whereas most low relief coins have coarse edge reeding, although all combinations of star relief and edge reeding can be found.
How can they be differentiated? The easy answer is: by counting the number of reeds, but don’t worry, we’ve done the dirty work for you. “Fine reeding” coins have 146 reeds and “coarse reeding” ones have 114 reeds. The image above shows a comparison of the two edge reeding varieties. The broadly spaced reeds of the top coin corresponds to the coarse reeding (CR) edge, and the narrow, closely spaced reeds of the bottom coin represent the fine reeding (FR) variety. In the mood for counting? Here’s a 360 view of the edge of each one of these coins. Note the difference in the sharpness of the star as well. Interested in learning how to take pictures of the third side of coins? Contact us, we’ll tell you how.
Why the adjustment? We have analyzed the edge reeding of all 1915 Cuban coins, and have found a high correlation between the weight of the coin and the number of reeds (see chart below). At 189, the 1915 peso coin has a “normal” number of reeds for its size, identical to the number of reeds of similarly sized coins such as the Morgan dollars. The 40 centavos piece, with 143 reeds, has a number of reeds comparable to similarly sized coins (the slightly larger half dollar has 150 reeds), whereas the 10 centavos coins, with 112 reeds, were also comparable to US dimes of similar size and composition. Not surprisingly, the number of reeds increased proportionally to the weight of the coin, a trend that is represented by the solid sloped line in the chart below. However, the number of reeds of the “fine reeding” variety falls way above that line, which means that the number of reeds of this variety was unusually high for its size. After adjusting the reed number to 114, the ratio reeds/weight is a lot closer to the other coins of the period, and sits very close to the trend line in the chart below.
Why the original number of reeds was so high is hard to explain, since similarly sized coins were being struck at the Philadelphia mint at the time (e.g.: US quarters), although the 20 cents denomination and size is unusual in the US monetary system, being used only briefly in the late 19th century. Although unintentional, the introduction of relief and edge changes in the 1915 coinage creates very interesting and challenging opportunities for the Cuban coin collector. If you have comments on this and other topics, please feel free to post your comments below or contact us with your question. As usual, we’d love to hear from you.