#DUMP_DICK: A numismatic hashtag circa 1974

My wife’s wake-up ritual includes reading non-work email, news feeds, and tweets on her iPhone. The silence is occasionally punctuated by her telling me that one of my favorite teams had won or lost, or that a famous person had died, or that a major hurricane or snowstorm would be arriving in two days. This morning it was “Richard Nixon resigned 40 years ago today!”

photoUnlike my usual passive reaction, her announcement today galvanized me. While I am not a numismatist, I have kept one coin for a bit more than the aforementioned 40 years. It is a 1965 U.S. quarter with the familiar profile of George Washington on the obverse. What sets it apart are the words “DUMP DICK” that someone lovingly — or angrily! — counterstamped into the surface in two lines framing our first President’s visage. So I found it and took this photo.

I gather that there might be some dispute among collectors as to whether the object is numismatic or exonumic. But as I read the Wikipedia article on exonumia, the appropriate category seems to be down the page under “Tokens > Modified/Augmented > • Counterstamped / countermarked coins (done by merchants or governments).” Either way, I can’t help but think of it as the pre-Internet, one-off equivalent of a tweet. Or more narrowly, the 1970s version of a circulating hashtag: #DUMP_DICK.

Unlike a tweet, the coin has no @username, which raises some interesting questions for which we will presumably never have answers:
• Who created this? And when? And how many of them did they make?
• How many other people saw the coin in circulation — or missed the message completely — and then passed it on (rather than keeping it, as I did)?
• Was this a general communication mode of the era that I just didn’t notice, or did someone’s anger boil over because of the Watergate scandal and prompt this distinctive form of protest?

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