crid outside the lines
  • A Case of Mistaken Denomination

    In early 1883, a new design was released for the five cent denomination, commonly referred to as the nickel. In fact, the denomination itself was still relatively new as up until 1873, the so-called half dime also with a value of five cents was also being struck for circulation.

    The Liberty Head Nickel was designed by Charles E. Barber and incorporated the iconic figure and many agricultural elements. The front of the coin pictured the head of Liberty wearing a crown, with sprigs of wheat and cotton placed in her hair. The reverse featured a large Roman numeral V surrounded by a wreath of corn, wheat, and cotton. Important to note, the denomination was only expressed with the large “V” and nothing more.

    Immediately some began to take advantage of the ambiguity. They took newly minted Liberty Nickels, gave them a thin coating of gold, and passed them off as $5 gold pieces!

    Once the problem became apparent, there were rumors of a recall of the new coins, although this never took place. What did happen was a slight redesign of the reverse. The word “CENTS” was added immediately below the wreath.  Presumably this solved the problem, as the coins continued to be minted in this design without further modification until 1912.

    More unscrupulous action would eventually lead to the creation of the 1913 Liberty Nickel. It is believed that five examples of this coin that was not supposed to exist were secretly minted and removed from the Mint. Years later when they were publicized, they became valuable rarities. Despite their checkered history, the coins now reside in collections and are valued in millions of dollars!

    Published on February 15, 2011 · Filed under: Denomination; Tagged as: ,
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