The fabulous Rarity

1913 Liberty Nickel

As a person whose been deeply involved in the collecting of stamps and coins from more than half a century - in the world of numismatics, I’ve seen it all. But among my experiences I can report that one of the most irritating situations for any trader, dealer or serious collector in coin, is being confronted by fantastical, and often erroneous tales of rare and fabled coins. In my own experience, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard remarks offered regarding mysterious discoveries of a “1943 copper cent". In that year, in the midst of World War II, when copper was needed desperately for shell cases and other critical applications, that metal couldn’t be wasted on so frivolous a use as the striking of pennies. So it was that, in that year exclusively, among the three mints which were then in operation, over a billion one-cent pieces were struck in zinc-plated steel. In that same year, whether by error or deliberate intent, a very few pieces were struck in bronze. I’ve always found it curious that, in all my experience, no one has ever made reference to the even scarcer pieces, of that year, that were struck in silver, not to mention the very few oddities that were struck in steel, in the following year,1944. But of course, when confronted with a bright copper cent of 1943, the “plated” fraud is quickly revealed by simply testing it with an ordinary magnet.

Among the most fabulous legitimate rarities is the 1804 Silver Dollar, of which (in two varieties) only about a dozen pieces are known to exist - each, at auction, capable of realizing several million dollars. But then, it has to be understood that during the earliest years of the Philadelphia mint’s operation (between 1794 and 1804), the U.S. Silver Dollar represented a huge unit of buying power, so that during those years, annual mintages rarely reached1000 coins. Which is not too surprising, when it’s recognized that they were all struck on presses powered entirely by human labor. Steam-driven presses weren’t invented until 1807.

But with the wild flurry of tales regarding fabulous rare coins, with which I’d been confronted, over the years - mostly of a spurious nature, or mixed with various levels of inaccuracy - it now delights me to see an accurate unfolding of the tale of a true American coin rarity - the remarkable “Barber” or “V” nickel, dated 1913. The year 1913 saw the first release of the well-known “Indian-Buffalo” nickel, which then continued in issue until the middle of 1938. But it was in late 1912, that a mint employee (reportedly Mr. Samuel W. Brown) took it upon himself to alter the date on a 1912 die, to “1913", and then to strike off only a few pieces. Only five of these coins are known to be in existence, and curiously enough, for whatever reason, Mr. Brown delayed offering them for sale until 1920. Presumably, the delay in disposing of the coins had to do with the legal statute of limitations, beyond which Mr. Brown could no longer be prosecuted by the government. The lot of five pieces, after the sale, apparently remained in the hands of single owners until finally broken up in 1942. It was about then that one of the coins was acquired by Mr. George O. Walton, in whose hands it remained until his death 1962.

Mr. Walton’s heirs have now elected to place this rarity on public auction, where it’s expected to realize in excess of two-million dollars.

But if nothing else, at least this event makes abundantly clear for all the public to see, the full and true details of at least one truly rare piece of American numismatic history.

The article from USA Today - http://usat.ly/116C1wX

- Ron