Just Joshing

W1801433_insetJosh Tatum was a deaf mute who was able to use an oversight of the Mint to his advantage. In 1883, the Mint produced the newly designed Liberty nickel. On the reverse of the coin, the design featured a Roman numeral "V" but nowhere did the word "cents" appear. Realizing an opportunity, Mr. Tatum had several of the newly minted cents electroplated with a thin layer of gold. Tatum then traveled to various stores, buying items with a value less than 5 cents. When the clerk rang the item up, Tatum handed over one of the gold plated nickels. The store clerks usually assumed that the coin was a $5 gold piece and would give Mr. Tatum change. Tatum amassed quite a bit of money before being caught by police. He was found innocent of charges since by being mute, Tatum never represented that the coin was a $5 gold piece.

 

The Mint soon realized the error of their ways and redesigned the nickel to show the word "cents" later in the same year. Josh Tatum's flirt with the Law gave birth to the phrase, "I'm just joshing you."

 

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