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1883 nickels plated to look like $5

I saw an ad offering an 1883 gold coin, described as a “racketeer nickel.” What’s it supposed to be?

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I saw an ad offering an 1883 gold coin, described as a “racketeer nickel.” What’s it supposed to be?


The coin offered is an 1883 nickel that has been gold plated to simulate a $5 gold piece. These supposedly were passed on unsuspecting people when they were first issued because the nickel didn’t have the denomination spelled out. For this reason they became known as racketeer nickels, but there is no guarantee that the coin you buy today was plated in 1883. It is not a gold coin, just a gold-plated nickel.

I’m familiar with the Idler specimen of the 1804 dollar, but what is the Dexter specimen?

The Idler coin has probably had more publicity, but the Dexter piece runs it a close second. The coin was purchased in Berlin, Germany, in 1884 by the Chapman Brothers and sold by them the next year to James V. Dexter, a Denver banker. It is a proof and considered to be the second or third finest of the known examples of the date.

Coins have a long life expectancy, but wasn’t there an unusual period estimated for the steel cents?

When the 1943 zinc-plated steel cents went into circulation, Moses E. Smith, superintendent of the Denver Mint, is quoted as stating, “Steel pennies [sic] will probably be in circulation for the next 100 years.” This ranks with President Johnson’s statement that silver coins would remain in circulation alongside the clad coins in 1965.

Why wasn’t the goloid alloy accepted for our coinage?

Goloid is an alloy of gold, silver and copper patented in 1877 by Wheeler H. Hubbell. It was used for several 1880 patterns for metric dollars. The untreated coins failed to show any special identification, were easily counterfeited and it was impossible to control the value of the silver and gold, requiring a constantly changing ratio.

Some old literature on the 1969-S doubled die cents says that “several thousand” of them were confiscated, but another source says that only a handful were taken. Which is correct?

The lower figure is correct as the Secret Service only grabbed less than a dozen of the 1969-S doubled dies. They did confiscate several thousand of the 1969-(P) doubled dies, which were counterfeit.

Why do dealer ads refer to “full date” Buffalo nickels? Is there something here that I’m missing in the description?

The Buffalo nickel design is such that the date wears off first, long before the rest of the design is seriously affected. Coins with partial dates generally have only slight premiums to face and those with the date completely gone have value as souvenirs such as what belt makers might pay. The dealer is telling you that you can distinguish all four digits in the date on his coins.

A coin I sent to a grading service was returned with the notation that it had been “whizzed.” What does this mean?

It means that your coin has been altered. The American Numismatic Association definition is: “The artificial treatment of a coin by wire brushing, acid dipping or otherwise removing metal from the coin’s surface to give it the artificial appearance of being in a higher grade.” Although I am unaware of anyone ever being prosecuted for whizzing a coin, Federal law states that “fraudulent ... diminishing of a coin” is illegal.

I have a coin that has a lot of cracks into the surface like a spider web. What could have caused this?

The coin had been lying in the bottom of a city sewer for some time, and the acids in the waste water had eroded the cracks into the surface of the coin.

I have a recent date clad coin that was struck with too small a core. The clad layers hang over the edges, but you can see the reeding on the smaller diameter core. How did this happen?

I’m sorry, but from your description you have an altered coin. The quarter has been dipped in acid, which cut down the core more rapidly than the rest of the coin, leaving a “slot” between the clad layers but still showing the reeding on the edge of the copper core. As an altered coin it has no value.

I have a 1903-dated Lincoln cent. Is it a pattern?

You undoubtedly have an altered or counterfeit coin. There were no patterns for the Lincoln cent at that time.

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