From the May 4 Numismatic News E-Newsletter:
Is the 1913 Liberty Head nickel the most recognized American rare coin?
Here are some answers sent from our e-newsletter readers to Editor Dave Harper.
Yes, the 1913 nickel is one of a handful of coins famous in our history. This was even portrayed on the original Hawaii 5-0 TV series. Also (not mentioned) was the 1916-D Mercury dime. This had been portrayed on the Dennis The Menace TV series Yes, by the original Mr. Wilson (George Kearns). Those who have a good memory will have it in mind.
On the same list, and maybe above the 1913 nickel, I would put the 1909 S-VDB Lincoln cent and that “fabulous” 1804 dollar. They never made it on Hawaii 5-0 but I believe are quite well known.
Thanks to B. Max Mehl, the 1913 Liberty Head nickel was on the mind of every person who read a magazine or comic book – 60+ years ago. I am not so sure nowadays. The Brasher doubloon recently sold for headline money, and that may be the one that everyone recognizes (with thanks to Raymond Chandler). These things are out of reach of 99.9999 percent of us, so who cares?
Have you ever noticed that the premier American rarities are spurious or questionable issues? Why is that?
The 1913 nickel may be the best known because of the publicity garnered with its high sale price.
Kind of like the publicity surrounding the 24-cent inverted Jenny stamp.
I put together an XF or better Liberty nickel collection back in the 1980s. The 1913 has always been “That Coin” for me. I saw one at the Smithsonian once. They are beautiful set of coins. When I saw 1913 in your title, I knew it was the V nickel!
Since there are five reported to exist, I may tend to say that the 1933 gold double eagles (which reportedly were 10, and were removed from the Langbord Family) may take that title.
Most recognized coin or coins. Interesting question.
Steven R. Angle
No, the 1804 silver dollar is.
Maybe those 1933 double eagle gold pieces will take the place of public awareness.
I love the story about the five “Million Dollar Nickels,” It does hold a place in my heart, too!
Also right up there is the story of the 1933 double eagles that were never meant to go into circulation, but somehow quite a number of those magnificent coins found their way out of the Philadelphia Mint into greedy hands. One even managed to leave the country into the hands of King Farouk of Egypt!
AND whatever became of the famous 1804 silver dollar, too? So much publicity surrounds that so-called “King of Coins.”
Those are my nominees. I’m sure other numismatists have their own favorites, too!
St. Claire Shores, Mich.
In my early collecting years, the coin everyone was talking about and hoping to find in circulation was the 1909-S VDB Lincoln Head cent, perhaps the reason being that it was produced here in California at the San Francisco Mint and it seemed highly plausible that an example might turn up in pocket change somewhere in the “Green and Gold” State.
I was extremely fortunate to have found one in a roll of cents from a bank that was located 20 miles from where we resided in the Central Valley. In accordance to current grading standards, it probably would have been attributed as VF-35.
At the time, no collectors, dealers or attendees of coin shows ever discussed the 1913 Liberty Head nickel. It was probably considered too esoteric to expend any time discussing such a limited rarity.
Based on my experience in the news media and public relations, and helping in 2003 to find the long-lost example owned by George O. Walton, I firmly believe that the 1913 Liberty Head nickel is the most recognized U.S. rare coin.
Dealer and aggressive promoter B. Max Mehl of Fort Worth, Texas, put the coin on the public’s radar during the 1930’s Great Depression when he advertised nationally that he would pay $50 each to purchase them – knowing that all five known examples already were accounted for at the time. In the mid 1960s, a humorous-to-numismatists story line in a Superman comic book involved the Man of Steel using his X-ray vision to locate two 1913 Liberty nickels that were among coins donated to a Daily Planet newspaper charity project.
Finally, the worldwide publicity generated from the 2003 publicity stunt search and surprisingly successful discovery of the Walton coin certainly enhanced the reputation of 1913 Liberty Head nickels as the most recognized American rare coin. “Multi-Million Dollar Nickel” is a headline that attracts the public’s attention in any media, whether’s it’s the Daily Planet or a daily blog.
Las Vegas, Nev.
In terms of best-know rarity, I would go with the 1804 silver dollar. Alternatively, the 1933 $20 gold.
Great question, I would say that the 1913 is certainly considered one of the most recognized within the numismatic communities, but I would say the general population, which is little involved in collecting, would think of the 1933 double eagle or the 1943 copper cent.
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.
More Collecting Resources
• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-2000 is your guide to images, prices and information on coinage of the 1900s.
• Any coin collector can tell you that a close look is necessary for accurate grading. Check out this USB microscope today!