Coin Puzzle Answer (The stuff on this webpage was mentioned on page 91 in my book)

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?”

“United States coins?” I asked.

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.

Massachusetts quarter New York quarterCalifornia quarterJefferson nickel

Lincoln centLincoln centLincoln cent

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.

half dollarMassachusetts quarterJefferson nickel

Lincoln centLincoln centLincoln cent

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.

half dollarMassachusetts quarterJefferson nickel

I dont know which side is heads.

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

This is the other side of the three-cent coin. It doesn't have a head on it, either.
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!

Dear Cheesie Mack: I saw on your website that you have never seen a real 3-cent US coin, so I thought I would send you this one. My father, who is a numismatist (which is a word I know you know), found it in his collection. It was minted in 1869. This coin has a hole in it because it was probably worn on a necklace or sewn onto a dress. Andy


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?!

3 cent coin, front3 cent coin, back

Book 1

Mystery, mice, and money at the end of fifth grade!

from my book

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Comments from my Readers & Friends

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

  2. 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!

  3. 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.
    Anna kordzakhia

    1. 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.

  4. 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. 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.

    1. 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.
      Your favorite reader,
      P.S eat your corn

  5. 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

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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. 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.

  9. 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. 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. 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.

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

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

    thank you
    your books are the only one my dad likes me to read!

    im a big fan please email me back

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

  12. 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.

  13. 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!).

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

  15. 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. 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!

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

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

    1. 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?

  17. 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. 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?

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