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Local News

May 7, 2014

Do you know what this is?

OSKALOOSA —

This past week's artifact from the Nelson Pioneer Farm is a gold coin scale.

Dorothy Vos made a guess as to the identity of the artifact. She wrote: “I think the artifact in this week’s shopper is an old weather barometer.”

Nelson Pioneer Farm Curator Kelly Halbert did some research on the artifact. She wrote: “In 1855 a patent was obtained by John Allender or New London Connecticut for the invention of the Balance Apparatus for Proving Genuine and Detecting Spurious Coins. This little brass scale is only 8 ½ inches long and operates as a rocker balance.

One side of the fulcrum has cavities or spaces labeled for a ten dollar and a twenty dollar gold piece; the other half of the scale has four cavities: five, three, and two & half dollar coins and one for the weight on the far extended arm. Each of the coin cavities has a slit in it that is the proper depth of the coin so that the proprietor of the business could check to make sure the coin was the right size – not shaved down.

The operation of the rocker balance was quite simple, using a fulcrum and distance, the exact location for each coin to balance was marked by a labeled cavity. When at rest the balance always tips to the ten/twenty dollar side, which is the heavier side of the scale. When a coin was placed in the appropriate space the balance would rock until it balanced and sat level. For the larger coins, a small brass weight was placed in the weight space and the coin in the ten or twenty cavity; the scale would balance evenly, parallel to the table top. For a smaller coin, the weight was not used, but the coin was place in the cavity and would balance the weight of the heavier coin slots.

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