Archive for June, 2012

Difficulties with Liberty Nickels

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Liberty nickels were produced by the US Mint between 1883 and 1913. Although a simple design, this coin holds a great appeal for collectors. There is a Liberty head on the obverse and V, the Roman numeral for five, on the reverse in the middle of a wreath. This five cent piece was struck in a composite of 75% copper and 15% nickel in a low relief that has worn well.

Both its beginnings and its end were marked by interesting events. The unveiling of the new coin took place on January 30, 1883. Almost immediately Mint officials realized that the five million new nickels that were already distributed did not show the word ‘cents’ under the V for five. This meant that scam artists were able to coat the surface with gold and pass them off as five dollar gold pieces as they were almost the same size as those coins. Although a new coin with the right word on it was struck and distributed quickly, it was too late as many people had already been conned. A collector delights in finding one of these phony coins today.

After being produced by the Philadelphia Mint for all its life, the Liberty nickel was moved to Denver and San Francisco in 1912, its last year to be struck. However, a few years later, collectors were amazed to find least five examples of a 1913 Liberty nickel. Unlikely as it seems, someone at the Philadelphia Mint must have struck these few coins, perhaps in protest of their demise. One of these Liberty nickels sold in 2010 for almost four million dollars, a rather expensive historical oddity.