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<   No. 2393   2009-08-15   >

Comic #2393

1 Host: Your first question is for $100. According to the saying, a penny what is a penny earned? A. Saved. B. Slaved. C. Shaved. D. Staved.
2 Nigerian Finance Minister: Well shaving pennies is a good way to earn extra cash...
3 Nigerian Finance Minister: Lock in C. Shaved.
4 Host: Um. Are you sure?
4 Nigerian Finance Minister: Is that my next question?

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Coin shaving, or clipping, is the process of cutting off tiny bits of metal from a coin. In the days when coins were made of actual precious metals such as gold or silver, this was a profitable business. A coin missing a tiny bit of metal shaved off the edge would pass unnoticed for its full face value. Do this to enough coins and you can melt down all the shavings into a nice lump of precious bullion.

This problem became much less of a problem when someone had the bright idea of marking the edges of coins with a pattern, so that it would be obvious if any of the metal had been shaved off. This was the invention of the milled edge that we are familiar with in modern coins today - prior to the 18th century, coins merely had bluntly rounded edges on which it was easy to conceal the fact that you'd sliced a sliver of metal away.

The person believed to have come up with this idea to protect the coin of the realm is none other than our old friend Sir Isaac Newton, who served a 28 year stint as Master of the Mint in England. Besides inventing gravity and basically all the rest of physics as well, he was responsible for several monetary reforms that helped sustain England as a leading economic power in the 18th century.

I suspect Newton would have done pretty well on the original 1709 run of Verily, Who Wants to Be Endowed With £1000?

2023-01-08 Rerun commentary: A modern analogue of coin shaving can, in principle, be done with banknotes. Cut a thin vertical strip from each of several banknotes, such that the strips can be assembled into another note.

Do be aware that this is illegal though, and they have methods of figuring out what you've done. For starters the serial numbers will be mangled.

In general, just because I tell you how to do something stupidly illegal doesn't mean you should do it. Quite the opposite, in fact.

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