A coinundrum

The tightly sealed, hollow stem of a small cream jug presents collectors from two different fields with quite a problem — no less than a coinundrum

Trapped within is a rare, nearly uncirculated 1831 United States five cent coin, known to collectors as a "capped bust half dime."

Any uncirculated coin of this period is a rarity. Circulation—that is, passing from pocket to purse, purse to drawer, drawer to pocket, time and time again—steadily erased details of a design struck in soft silver. The shallow letters of LIBERTY were lost from her headband, along with the curls of her hair and the folds of her dress. On the reverse, the eagle's feathers were blurred and the shield lost its stripes. The banner's letters became a single blur—out of many letters, one long ribbon, if you'll excuse the pun.

Yet here all is preserved, thanks to a glassblower's party trick— dropping a coin into a small open cup that was then covered over, sealed and finished as the stem of a creamer.

Coin stem pieces are not only rare, but are thought of as commemorative. The coin's date tells us that the glass could not have been blown before the coin was struck, although it could have been made any time after. Even if not newly minted, the coin could be selected to match an important event. This creamer might commemorate an 1831 marriage as it happened or twenty years later, although the more time that passed, the more it would show as wear on the coin.

So coin collectors be warned! Don't go breaking a piece like this apart, just to retrieve a coin ... even if that makes it easier to display in an album! It may be a good coin, but it's a considerably better piece of glass!