Jewish World Review Jan. 6, 2003 / 12 Teves, 5764

Jeff Elder

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Consumer Reports

The reason behind the coin ridges; where 'baby corn' comes from; more | Q: Why do some coins, like quarters and dimes, have ridges on the sides? - John Lilley, Charlotte

A: For the answer to this question, let's turn to our friends at the U.S. Mint.

(Hey Mint guys, can I have some money? PLEEEEEEEEASE. Do you know what it costs just to buy shoes for my kids? Who's gonna miss, say, seven grand? I'll sweep up around the Mint, empty the trash, everything. Just leave me the keys.)

As I was saying. The stingy people at the Mint, who won't even share a LITTLE, say the dollar coin, half dollar, quarter and dime were originally made of gold and silver. Some people would file the edges off the coins to get shavings of the precious metals.

Some coins in circulation were reduced to about half their minted weight. Merchants took to weighing every coin they were passed, which slowed down business.

The grooved, or "reeded" edges prevented shaving, and also made counterfeiting more difficult. The penny and nickel never contained precious metals, so reeding wasn't necessary. None of the coins now contain precious metals.

Quarters, dimes and half dollars have a copper core and an outer layer made of copper and a copper-nickel alloy. Nickels are made from that same alloy. The golden dollar has a copper core, and the alloy layers on each side are copper, zinc, manganese and nickel. The penny, once a copper coin, is now composed of copper-plated zinc.

The Mint continues to use reeded edges because it helps the visually impaired identify the coins. For example, ridges make it easy to identify a dime from a penny.

There are 188 ridges on a dime; 119 on a quarter.

Last year the country produced 7,288,855,000 pennies; 1,230,480,000 nickels; 2,567,000,000 dimes; 3,313,704,000 quarters; 5,600,000 half dollars and 7,597,610 golden dollars.

It costs 10.03 cents to make a golden dollar; 9.63 cents to make a half dollar; 4.29 cents to make a quarter; 1.88 cents to make a dime; 3.13 cents to make a nickel; and 0.81 cents to make a penny. And I'll give anyone those rates in exchange. PLEEEEEEEEASE.

Know why the Mint workers went on strike? They wanted to make less money.

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Q: Where do the tiny ears of corn that you find in Chinese restaurants come from? Who grows them? Where? What does a field of tiny cornstalks look like? - George Meyer, York, S.C.

A: George, first you get yourself a little farmer, about the size of GI Joe or Barbie. (You could put `em together and play mini "Green Acres"!) Then you get `em a little tractor...

Actually, baby corn is not mysterious at all. It's just what it sounds like: the ear of the plant harvested young, as the corn silks are emerging, and before pollination. Baby corn is normally harvested, by hand, when the plants are about 2 months old. Corn grown for grain is harvested at about four months.

The little guys are grown all over the world. Most of the li'l huskers we get in the United States are imported in cans from Thailand. Thailand's made one heckuva business out of baby corn. They export about $1.74 million worth of the stuff each year. Whoooee! That's a lot of baby corn.


dormitory - dirty room.

"Glad You Asked" - "Ask Leo dad guy." (I'm both a Leo and a dad.)

The check is in the mail - Claim, "Heck, I sent it!" (heh).

Snooze alarms - Alas! no more Z's.


Time for our quiz, this week, this time on Broadway show tunes. Name the show the following lyrics are from.

1. "Ev'ry night my honey lamb and I sit alone and talk and watch a hawk makin' lazy circles in the sky."

2. "Tote that barge. Lift that bale. Get a little drunk and you land in jail."

3. "Would it spoil some vast, eternal plan if I were a wealthy man?"

4. "Touch me. It's so easy to leave me. All alone with the memory of my days in the sun."

5. Last question is a little different. The brilliant chief of research and archives at The Charlotte Observer is named Marion. Her name and profession are reminiscent of a character in what great American musical?



1. "Oklahoma!"

2. "Showboat"

3. "Fiddler on the Roof"

4. "Cats"

5. Marian the librarian in "The Music Man"

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Jeff Elder is a columnist for The Charlotte Observer. Comment or try to stump him by clicking here. If you send him a great question, he'll send you a Glad You Asked T-shirt.


12/29/03: Can the colorblind see rainbows?; What causes moles? What's the difference between moles and freckles?
12/22/03: It's all lunch to me
12/04/03: The sad poem in a romantic comedy; Why do some coins, like quarters and dimes, have ridges?; more
11/25/03: Diner lingo; How do chickens know what size eggs to lay?; a computer input device is called a mouse, what is the plural?; more
11/19/03: Did Betsy Ross sew the first official American flag?; Do the 9 numbers in our Social Security number have special meaning? Will they run out of numbers or have to re-issue them?; more
11/11/03: How to be a Nielsen rater; Why did Charles Schulz name his comic strip "Peanuts"?; Was Chef Boy-ar-dee a real person?; Why are Georgetown University teams called the Hoyas?
11/05/03: Decoding the laws of buoyancy; What actually happens when you crack your knuckles?; origin of the expression "three sheets to the wind
10/30/03: Buttoning on the 'correct' side; when you breathe on your hand it feels warm, but when you blow on your hand it feels cool?; Why do dogs eat (and enjoy eating) dirt?; more
10/23/03: 'American Pie' explained; Why are tennis balls seamed like baseballs?; more
10/14/03: Origins of comic strips and hush puppies; a college football quiz; dogs that don't bark
09/24/03: Why do snooze alarms go off every 9 minutes?
09/17/03: Glad You Asked: Fun with college football
09/09/03: What's so great about Wiffle Ball?
09/03/03: What kinda wine goes best with heartache?; What did people do before alarm clocks were invented?; which has more caffeine: coffee or tea?
08/26/03: These inventors were just toying with us
08/12/03: Why do wheels appear to turn backward on film?; showdown over high noon
08/07/03: Wood'n you know it? Money doesn't grow on trees; all we are is dust in the wind
08/05/03: Where have you gone, Calvin, Opus and Cow?; fine feathered friend pecking on itself
07/31/03: How a dashing hero became a notorious traitor
07/29/03: Little red caboose rolling outta sight; From my 'I'll be a monkey's uncle' file
07/24/03: Road scholar: A lesson on asphalt; when identical twins marry
07/23/03: The sweet science of Life Savers' sparks; how do Pop Rocks work? ripping newspaper

© , The Charlotte Observer Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.