It seems that the 1913 Liberty Head nickel still has the power to get the attention of collectors and to make them think.
A poll question that was put in the Numismatic News that went to press last week not only elicited results that seem to reflect the commonsense of collectors, but also prompted some deeper thoughts.
Only 22 percent said they would buy a 1913 Liberty Head nickel if they had $3.7 million to spare. This could simply be a reflection of collector interests, or that fact that most of us have never been able to spend even a tiny fraction of that amount on coins during our whole hobby career.
One collector e-mailed to ask why the 1913 nickel was not under threat of seizure as the 1933 $20 gold pieces are today.
I responded that technically they still are under threat, but because so much time has passed since they were struck in 1913 and entered the secondary market in 1920, there is little likelihood that a seizure would occur.
Early collectors feared the nickels might be seized and that kept the price down for many years. Aubrey Bebee, who bought one in 1967 for $46,000, was reminded of the possibility after the sale and his reply was, “Just let them try.”
Another collector wrote, “This item represents everything that is bad with the hobby.
“It was illegally made, illegally smuggled out of the mint, and then illegally sold.
“Cheat, steal and mislead, that is the 1913 V nickel legacy in my opinion.”
This writer’s final sentence is enough to send shivers down my spine:
“If ever there was a coin that should be confiscated and destroyed. This is it.”
He definitely won’t be a buyer.