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June 5, 1990


In its June 5, 1990 issue, Numismatic News brought to its readers the story of an inspiring young researcher in the numismatic field.

Young researcher amassing data for definitive volume

By Robert R. Van Ryzin

Brother can you spare a nickel? If you can, 17-year-old Michael Wescott will not only two-by-two it for his collection, but just might study it in detail, log its identifying characteristics and then write about it.

For the past several years that’s what Wescott has been doing – compiling detailed information for what he believes will be the first book to cover the entire spectrum of U.S. five-cent pieces from 1866 to date.

Others also believe in the potential of his project.

Q. David Bowers of Bowers and Merena, Inc., Wolfeboro, N.H., liked Wescott’s manuscript enough to offer him a book contract and place it in line for publication as early as 1991.

Studying and writing about the U.S. five-cent piece is not new to Columbia, S.C., youth.

In 1987, finding no collector organization catered exclusively to nickel collectors, Wescott decided to found his own. To get the ball rolling, he sent press releases to various hobby publications and soon attracted 49 members to his American Nickel Collectors’ Association.

Today, membership has swelled to more than 200 and Wescott is kept busy preparing the association’s quarterly journal, Nickel News.

When first issued, Nickel News, featured 15 photocopied pages. Now each issue is professionally printed.

The latest issue, presented in an 8.5 by 11-inch format, is 30 pages in length and provides information on war nickels, reverse hub types of the Shield nickel and re-engraved nickels.

Top numismatists including Bowers, Bill Fivaz, Bernard Nagengast, J.T. Stanton and others have since joined the association and often contribute to the journal.

Wescott is also a regular contributor to Bowers and Merena Galleries’ Rare Coin Review. Articles relating to the U.S. five-cent pieces under his by-line have appeared in other hobby publications as well.

He first became involved in writing his book at the request of Kendall Keck, an ANCA charter member and coin dealer. At the time, Keck was working on a manuscript for a book on Shield nickel varieties and had asked Wescott to help.

They later decided to expand the scope of the book to cover not only Shield nickels, but all U.S. five-cent pieces, including the Liberty Head 1883-1913; Indian Head, 1913-1938; and Jefferson, 1938 to date.

After Keck’s death in 1988, Wescott continued, spending the next two years completing the manuscript.

“Walter Breen helped a lot,” Wescott said. “I corresponded with him for about a year and one half.”

“He sent me a lot of information as well as things he discovered after the encyclopedia [Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins] came out. He’s kept me up to date.”

Wescott also devoted time to pouring over back issues of hobby publications, searching out articles on discoveries and varieties that he says “came light and then dropped out of view.”

All totaled, he employed nearly 100 sources in the compilation of his book.

His association with Bowers proved fortuitous when it came time to look for a publisher. In fact, Wescott looked no further. He offered the manuscript to Bowers during an American Numismatic Association convention and roughly two weeks later had his first book contract in hand.

Michael Hodder, head of Bowers and Merenca’s research department, will edit the new work, which will include a date-by-date analysis of all four nickel series as well as pertinent historical background.

According to Wescott, there’s no word on an exact release date for his book as two projects by Breen will precede it, but the firm anticipates release sometime in 1991.

For Irmo High School junior, who first became interested in nickels at the age of six while visiting an area coin atore with his mother, the experience has been an exciting one.

Nickels, however, are only a part of his life plan.

Wescott hopes to eventually become a secondary school history teacher or a rock ‘n’ roll star, if his adventures in song writing and skill with a guitar take him far enough in that directions.

Along those lines, he amassed a collection of Beatles memorabilia and is working on a “definitive biography of the rock star Sting.”

For the moment, though, he looks like any youth – awaiting the release of his first book.