Delve into a 90-year-old mystery involving five of the most valuable coins in America – collectively worth over 12 million dollars. Million Dollar Nickels invites the reader into an outlandish industry where $10,000 buys the privilege to look at a coin, and a million dollars just might coax a nickel out of hiding. Framed in the backdrop of a nation-wide media frenzy and a public mad with the hope of hitting the jackpot, Million Dollar Nickels unveils a story of America’s most eccentric and famous collectors
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Only five are known to exist. Millions of dollars have been spent acquiring them and advertising for them. Such is its power, the authors write, that the 1913 Liberty Head, or “V” Nickel is credited with popularizing coin collecting in America. They quote an expert: “For decades, more people searched for a 1913 Liberty Head Nickel than for any other single U.S. Coin. Mystery, rarity, publicity, and record prices elevated it to legendary status, the likes of which few coins in the world can claim.”
But how could they have been created when all U.S. Mints were ordered to convert to the Buffalo Nickel in 1913? Who produced them, and how did they do it? Further, considering the federal government’s confiscation of the 1933 Double Eagles, also not officially released, is it even legal to own them? The authors address these questions, and also include tales surrounding the known owners. Among the unlucky ones: a collector, on his way to a 1962 coin show to exhibit his prized nickel, killed by a suspected drunk driver. In his telescoped station wagon, police recovered his briefcase, not realizing until much later it contained one of the world’s rarest coins.
The authors also present the history of the nickel in coinage, focusing on the shortage of all coins during the Civil War; the emphasis on fractional currency instead; the country’s disgust with this paper currency (particularly after the face on one five-cent issue was not of famed explorer William Clark, as intended, but of Spencer M. Clark, an employee of the Currency Bureau); the cornering of the country’s nickel supply by mining tycoon Joseph Wharton, and his successful lobbying of Congress to embrace the metal for a new nickel coin.
Rich reading, and a nice gift.