Liberty Nickels - APMEX offers a superb selection of Liberty Nickels. The Liberty Nickel, designed by Charles Barber, followed the Shield Nickel. The obverse features Barber’s Liberty design surrounded by 13 stars, representing the 13 states of the Union. The reverse depicts the Roman numeral V encircled by a wreath. These coins were minted between 1883 and 1913. Also called the V Nickel, for the Roman numeral on the back, the Mint realized that a serious mistake had been made.
The V Nickel Coins
In 1883, the Shield Nickel design was being replaced with a better, sleeker and overall more impressive design. Or so thought the United States Mint. They designed a coin featuring an allegorical representation of Liberty on the obverse and a Roman Numeral “V” for the face value of five cents on the reverse. However, they left off the word “Cents” from the reverse. Some enterprising individuals realized the coin did not have the word “Cents” displayed and proceeded to take advantage of the public and store owners alike. They would Gold-plate the coins and pass them off as $5 Gold pieces, due to their similar sizes. This was a new coin design that was relatively unknown to the public, causing many people to fall victim. As that continued with surprising frequency, the U.S. Mint was alerted and after almost 5.5 million coins were struck, the mint added the word “Cents” into the design.
History of Liberty Nickels
Many of us have heard the expression “Are you Joshing me?” and we have the Liberty Nickel to thank for that. A man named Joshua Tatum was hearing impaired and could not speak. He would go into a saloon and order a 5-cent beer by pointing to it. He would then throw down a Gold-plated 1883 Liberty Nickel and await his change. Most bartenders, thinking it was a $5 Gold piece, gave Josh his beer and $4.95 in change. Tatum would never say a word and would simply pick up his change and leave. After successfully running this con repeatedly, Tatum was tracked down by authorities and found possessing several hundred Gold-plated Liberty Nickels. At his trial, the swindled merchants spoke about how he deceived them. However, the case was dismissed as Tatum never asked for change but instead took what the bartenders offered. Now you know the story of that familiar phrase and also why the 1883 Liberty Nickel “without Cents” is sometimes called a “Racketeer Nickel.”
The 1913 Liberty Nickel is one of the hobby's greatest rarities with only five known specimens. At one time, all five were owned by one wealthy collector! V-Nickel coin values vary, but they make an excellent addition to your collection.
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