In Cheesie Mack Is Not a Genius or Anything, my grandfather Gumpy gave me a math problem while he was tapping his fingers together. Here’s what it was:

“Let’s say (tap, tap) there’s eighty-three cents in my pocket,” he said. “What’s the fewest number of coins I could have?”

He nodded (tap, tap).

I thought for a few seconds and answered, “Four.”

His forehead wrinkled up like he was surprised at me. “Nope. Six. A half-dollar, a quarter, a nickel, and three pennies.”

But I proved I was right . . . and he was amazed.

Did you figure it out?

Most kids think the correct answer is seven: three quarters, a nickel, and three pennies.

But that’s wrong because most kids don’t even think about a half dollar because they usually never see one. (I can’t remember the last time I held a half dollar!) But Gumpy knew about half dollars. That’s why he thought the answer was six.

So why is the correct answer four coins? Because in the 19th Century—at two different times, 1851-1873 and 1865-1889—the United States minted three-cent coins. I learned that when I was researching the 1909 Lincoln Cent that Georgie and I found in his basement.

I have never seen a three-cent coin for real.

If you want to try to puzzle your family and friends with questions like this, you need to know that the United States also had twenty-cent, two-cent, and half-cent coins.

Update: Look what I got in the mail!

Here’s what was in the letter.  I made the image much, much larger so the details are visible. You can see that it’s not the same as the three-cent coin above. The USA made two different designs in the 19th century. And now I actually own one. How cool is that?!

## back to the Genius List

1. Elizabeth says:

Love seeing my son who’s 11 actually reading a book. Such a nice change from all the technology! Thank you 🙂

2. Kristy says:

How do you make exactly 83 cents using 20 coins without using quarters

1. Cheesie says:

16 nickels, 2 pennies, and 2 half-cents = 20 coins.
Good one!

3. WussNot says:

At first I thought it looked like an Oreo Cookie

1. Cheesie says:

You would break a tooth if you bit it.

4. christiana alapa says:

i like your books it helps me

1. Cheesie says:

Thanks, Christina!

5. christiana alapa says:

how many coins make 83 cents pls i need to lean it halp me

1. Cheesie says:

2. christiana alapa says:

Thank you. you are nice to people. and pls i like the way you spell my name

3. Cheesie says:

Oh no! I misspelled your name and you were really nice about it! Sorry, Christiana!

6. Renee says:

I’m from Pritchett and WHOA!

7. Elaina Kravchenko says:

Your books are so amazing,extraordinary,and epic. I remember when you came to Pritchett school i loved the story about the mad man and you dragged a guys arm 😀
I hope you had a good time when you were carrying Stacey in the picture yay!

1. Cheesie says:

8. anna kordzakhia says:

hi Cheesie Mack I love all of your awesome books I am reading all of them. I want to be a writer one day maybe you can give me advice about it since you write awesome books and everyone loves them.I love how you also use educational things in the book too ( I love learning I call myself a nerd and I am proud of it) I am in fourth grade and live in Dumont new jersey.i home you can tell me some advice about becoming a writer but if you can not that’s fine.
from
Anna kordzakhia

1. Cheesie says:

Dear Anna—

You already are a good writer. I can tell that from your comment. The best advice I can give is to practice. You should write something (it doesn’t matter what) everyday. It’s just like soccer or piano playing. The more you do it, the better you get.

9. Hannah Russak says:

I love your books!! They are soooooooooooooooo awesome!! My friend, Frosting loves these books too. Anyway, I would love it if you wrote 200 more books. Frosting’s name is actually Callie. Do you remember when you visited our school? If you don’t remember the name of our school, your grandson goes there. Callie just told me that because of my email address, you know that your grandson goes there (unless you are like the average grandparent who doesn’t remember things that often). Just to let you know, my mom has a 1885 half dollar (she’s not trading it out for anything. It was her mom’s).

1. Cheesie says:

10. Cheesie fan says:

Where did you find that coin.i love your books!!!

1. Cheesie says:

Thank, Cheesie Fan (Isabella). If you’re asking about the three-cent coin with the hole in it…someone named Andy mailed it to me.

11. Dong Won Kim says:

you are smart. wats ur real name?

1. Cheesie says:

Ronald Apton Mack. You can see my whole family tree here.

12. Indira says:

amazing knew about half dollar but not the rest!!!!

1. Cheesie says:

Coins are neat, huh?

2. Cheesie fan says:

Yes they are

13. Vivien says:

That is sooo intercool!!! I never knew there was a 3 cent coin!1

14. skydoesmincraft says:

It is sOoOoOoOo col

15. Qwerty says:

1. Cheesie says:

Thanks, Qwerty!

2. Rachel says:

Dear Cheesie Mack,I think your books are great and I think I have another hint to the problem in book one your Grumpy gave you, he was tapping his fingers four times and that is what I thought before I came to your website for the first time. I also think you should have some games on this site because sometimes I might want to see what you look like and what your life is like. How come you invite yourself over to eat? I think that tuna fish sandwiches are delious.
Rachel

3. Cheesie says:

Thanks, Rachel.
Games are hard to make.

4. Rachel says:

Don’t forget to eat your corn🌽🌽🌽🌽

5. Cheesie says:

Thanks, Rachel.
I like games, too. But they are hard to make.

16. Rebeca leung says:

Omg ily and your books. Theyre so funny! Keep writing!

1. Cheesie says:

I definitely will. Thanks, Rebecca!

17. jamie says:

hi i found a coin in a big box at my nonnies house andit was from either from 18161 or 1863 sorry i dont have a picture of it but when i get one ill show you and actully yu visited my school today,Christa McAuliffe it wa very fun thank you

from jamie

1. Cheesie says:

Your coin could be very valuable.

18. Parker says:

Hi, Cheesie! I really like your splenderful (splendid plus wonderful) first book! I found two pennies! (or Lincon cents!) I tried to look closely at them, and guess what I saw! A very tiny VDB! I know that you (or maybe Glenora Jean Prott) said in your first book, Cheesie Mack is Not a Genius or Anything, That those coins are very valuable! But they look kind of rusted. Should I keep them or sell them?

1. Cheesie says:

Lucky you! I would take them to a coin dealer and find out what they are worth. Then make up my mind.

19. London LOVES MAC'N'CHEESE!!!!! says:

Hey,Cheesie, my sister has 10 half-dollar coins! By the way, she has a messed up room! Also at my school we take AR tests, on books, and I made 100% on my test I made on your book! My sister likes you, and she’s in 6th grade, plus you live all the way up in Massachusetts!(I don’t remember when you told me, but I don’t know where you live. I spelled Massachusetts right the 1st time!) And my cat just blooped(mixture of bloped and pooped, I don’t really know why my sister thought of that) on my foot and now it is numb.

1. Cheesie says:

That is a very interested comment about LOTS of things.

That’s so cool that ‘Andy’ (I think) sent that to you!

1. Cheesie says:

Yeah. I love it!

21. charlotte says:

your book is AMAZING!!! i can’t believe you can write so good! i read a lot so i know a lot of words to!

1. Cheesie says:

Thank you, Charlotte (which is, in my opinion, a very cool name).

22. charlotte says:

how old are you?

1. Cheesie says:

I was 11 on August 16.

23. charlotte says:

Hi. your a boy, right? well, i was wondering and how should i know if a boy likes me?

1. Cheesie says:

Gosh…I am definitely not a genius or anything when it comes to boy & girls and stuff like that. Don’t ask me. I don’t understand a bit about it.

2. charlotte says:

well, what would you do if you liked somebody?

3. nerddude says:

It is quite the trouble…

24. Jessica says:

I’m. Reading your book right now and your sister is mean maybe get her witha prank and tell Alex welch to back off.ive always Been bad at math what should I do?!?(I study every day )

1. Cheesie says:

The math question is hard to answer (I’m not a teacher or an authority on how to learn math). I guess the best way to get better in math is to find a way to get more interested in the subject. I have always found that if I’m interested in something, I remember it better.

2. charlotte says:

i HATE math!!!!

3. Cheesie says:

Some kids are good at math and some aren’t. If you’re not good at it, you shouldn’t hate it because math is really important in all of life. I happen to be good at it (I guess I’m lucky my brain works that way), so it’s easy for me to stay interested. But if you aren’t good at it, you just have to try harder. I’m serious. it’s really important when you grow up. My dad drives limos, and because it’s his own business, he tells me he uses math all the time. Same with every other adult I know. I think everyone uses math in their lives.
It’ll get better if you don’t get angry or upset, Charlotte…I promise.

It is 4 coins because it is only 4 different types of coins

26. Boone says:

i own a 1904 cent! It looks weird but says its a United States Cent at least!

1. Cheesie says:

If it’s US money from 1904, it has to be an Indian Head cent. If it isn’t, something’s wrong.

27. alex tong says:

Wow
thanks for coming to my school warner
now im in pope the one near it.

thank you

im a big fan please email me back

1. Cheesie says:

28. Samantha Fullen says:

You are my favorite author thank you for the books and stumping my brother on the coin trick

1. Cheesie says:

Thank you, Samantha!

2. alex tong says:

Wow

29. :) says:

I did some research, and apparently 3 cent nickels were initially composed of 75% silver and 25% copper so that people wouldn’t melt them for the silver.

1. Cheesie says:

That’s great research. I did not know that.

2. :) says:

Yeah, pretty cool, huh?

30. gla says:

I’m back and are you going to update this page? anyway I still think this is neat(sorry I’m typing so much again!).

31. Jake Shevitz says:

This is too freaking complicated. I think my brain will crack into tiny pieces now.

1. Cheesie says:

Whoa! Great answer. You are RIGHT!

2. red wing black bird says:

you are a genious per!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

32. Nitin says:

Cool!

33. Athena says:

Cool!

34. Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

35. I never even heard of a 3cent

1. Cheesie says:

Me neither until I did some research on the web.

36. Alex says:

You used a 3 cent coin!

37. Mark Paley says:

I LOVE your book Cheesie i got your second book too i cant wait until i finish the first

P.S: i am sorry i paid you the wrong ammount the first time but i sent you the extra money in an envelop (hehehe)

1. Cheesie says:

Thanks, Mark. I got the check.

38. cyan says:

Did you know it is called a 3 cent nickel?

1. Cheesie says:

I never knew that! That is really interesting. Thanks.

39. Unknown says:

HEY CHEESIE, what is up, I just finished your first book, AND LOVED IT

1. I loved it to!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

40. kiki says:

do you know how much they are worth (48\$)!

1. Cheesie says:

I guess you are talking about my 3-cent coin…but it’s actually not worth anything because of the hole in it. Doesn’t matter to me, though. I love it!

41. peanutfang0 says:

42. peanutfang0 says:

Cheesie my man,my grandfather has lots and lots of half-dollars.He comes from the time where African Americans had too work in the cotton fields.

1. Cheesie says:

I have read about working in cotton fields. It was very hard work. Your grandfather must’ve been a strong man.

43. kiki says:

my papa gives me silver dollars each year i love your books!!!!!!

1. Cheesie says:

Granpa has a whole box of silver dollars and half dollars. I think he will give them to me someday. (I hope!)

44. Sam says:

Cheesie? respond now, or else I will sue you

1. Marco says:

That’s rude

2. Cheesie says:

Sam, you are pretty rude. If you don’t like my books, why don’t you tell me
why, rather than just threatening me like a lawyer?

3. kiki says:

y do people do things so mean to u

45. Sam says:

When I started your book, I thought it was Ok. At the end, I thought I would be scarred for life, that’s how bad your book is!

1. Cheesie says:

Sam, you are pretty rude. If you don’t like my books, why no tell me why, rather than just threatening me like a lawyer?

46. Sam says:

You suck Cheesie! You are the worst writer ever!

47. Anton says:

Pretty boss coin ya got there

1. Cheesie says:

I am so happy to have it. I don’t know any other kids with a three-cent coin.

48. Erin Szortyka says:

That is awesome wish I had one

49. Cool. I have a 2 dollar bill. Maybe i’ll send one or 2.