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The Fascinating Story of Rare American Coins

The Buffalo Nickel and Its Legacy

The Buffalo nickel, also known as the Indian Head nickel, was first introduced in 1913 as a way to upgrade the aesthetic of American coinage. The design, featuring a profile of a Native American warrior on the obverse side and an American bison on the reverse, was created by sculptor James Earle Fraser.

While the Buffalo nickel was a visually stunning coin, it faced numerous technical issues in both design and production. One of the biggest complaints about the coin was the indistinct striking of the details, making the features difficult to discern.

Additionally, the hardness of the nickel metal used to mint the coins resulted in significant wear over time. Despite these issues, the Buffalo nickel remained in production until 1938, when it was replaced by the Jefferson nickel.

The Jefferson nickel, with its simpler design of Thomas Jefferson on one side and his home, Monticello, on the other, was intended to be more practical to produce and easier to distinguish from other coins. Today, the Buffalo nickel is a highly sought-after collector’s item, with some minting errors making certain copies especially valuable.

In fact, the coin’s popularity among collectors is due in large part to these mistakes, such as a “double die” error that made the inscriptions on the coin appear twice, or a “3-legged” bison that was originally intended to be a four-legged design but had one leg inadvertently removed during production.

The Story of the Rogue Liberty Head Nickels

The Liberty Head nickel, designed by Charles Barber and first released in 1883, was a symbol of American freedom and independence. However, in 1913, a small group of men, led by a Philadelphia coin dealer named Samuel W.

Brown, took advantage of the coin’s popularity and produced five clandestine Liberty Head nickels that were never authorized by the United States Mint. These illegal nickels were created by modifying the design of a 1912 Liberty Head nickel, with the 1913 date engraved onto the coin by hand.

The illegally produced nickels were later marketed to high-profile collectors through ads in Numismatist magazine, using a marketing strategy that played up their rarity and illicit nature. Despite their illegal status, the rogue Liberty Head nickels were eagerly sought after by collectors and sold for handsome sums of money.

Some of the most prominent collectors of the coins included Col. E.H.R. Green, a wealthy philanthropist, and King Farouk of Egypt, who was known for his impressive coin collection.

Today, the whereabouts of all five of the illegal Liberty Head nickels are known, with four of the coins currently in the hands of private collectors and one held by the Smithsonian Institution. These coveted coins continue to be among the most valuable and sought-after objects in the world of numismatics.

In conclusion, the history and legacy of American coinage is full of fascinating stories, from the introduction of the Buffalo nickel to the illegal production of the rogue Liberty Head nickels. Understanding the background and context of these coins helps to deepen our appreciation of their beauty and significance, making them more than just objects of currency, but cultural artifacts that tell a story about our collective history and values.

The 1913 Liberty Head nickel is one of the rarest coins in the world, with only five known examples in existence. Two of these coins are part of museum collections, with the most famous example being held by the Smithsonian National Numismatic Collection in Washington D.C. The Smithsonian’s 1913 Liberty Head nickel was donated by former owner George O.

Walton in 1962, and is known colloquially as the “Walton nickel.”

The Walton nickel was discovered in 1962, and at the time, was thought to be one of only four existing examples of the 1913 Liberty Head nickel. However, in 2003, a fifth coin was discovered and authenticated, casting new light on the rarity of the coin and making its value skyrocket even further.

In the years since, the three known 1913 Liberty Head nickels held in private collections have exchanged hands multiple times, each sale setting new records for the price of a coin. The Walton nickel, in particular, has been the subject of several high-profile auctions, with the most recent sale taking place in 2022.

The Walton nickel was sold through GreatCollections auction house in January 2022, where it fetched an impressive price of $4.2 million. The coin was purchased by an anonymous collector, who kept their identity secret.

The sale set a new record for a 1913 Liberty Head nickel, surpassing the previous record of $3.7 million set in 2010 when another example was sold by Heritage Auctions. The other two 1913 Liberty Head nickels in private collections are the Olsen nickel and Eliasberg nickel.

The Olsen nickel was sold in 2010 for $3.17 million, and the Eliasberg nickel was acquired as part of a three-coin transaction in 2021 by GreatCollections for an undisclosed amount. Despite their high value, the 1913 Liberty Head nickels continue to captivate collectors and non-collectors alike, with their rarity and mystery making them some of the most sought-after objects in the world of numismatics.

The story of their illegal production, discovery, and sale has only added to their allure, cementing their place in the pantheon of great American coins. In conclusion, the rarity and value of the 1913 Liberty Head nickel is a testament to the power of history and rarity in the world of numismatics.

While the coins themselves are objects of beauty and wonder, their story is what truly captivates people and draws them in. From their illegal production to their discovery and sale, the 1913 Liberty Head nickels have found a place in the heart of collectors and enthusiasts, forever enshrined in their eternal rarity and value.

In conclusion, the history and rarity of American coins such as the Buffalo nickel and the 1913 Liberty Head nickels tell a fascinating story about our collective cultural heritage and values. While these coins are prized for their beauty and rarity, what truly captivates people is their history, from their design and production to their illicit minting and subsequent sale to collectors.

These coins are objects of great value and wonder, reminding us of our past and the unique stories embedded within it.

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