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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

USA nickel - II

Buffalo nickel/Indian head nickel, 1930
usa buffalo nickel indian head nickel 1930 5 centThe buffalo nickel was minted for the first time in 1913. The American bison had become almost extinct because of inordinate and senseless hunting, and this was an effort to project the bison as a national symbol of the US and to put a curb on the mindless hunting and killing of the beasts. In this coin, the bison is standing on a mound. In another variant, it is standing on a line. The date on this coin is on the highest point and wears out very quickly, so it is quite common to find such coins with the date having been rubbed off and not visible.

The buffalo nickel is better known as the Indian head nickel as it shows the head of an Indian. A profile of a Native American is featured on the obverse of the coin, which was a composite portrait of three Native Americans: Iron Tail, an Oglala Sioux chief, Two Moons, a Cheyenne chief, and Big Tree, a Kiowa chief.

Liberty nickel, 1909
usa liberty nickel 1909 5 centThe liberty head nickel is also called the V nickel because the denomination was shown only as the Roman numeral V. It was minted from 1883 to 1912, but the most famous one is the liberty nickel of 1913 even though it was never supposed to be minted and was probably minted in an illegal way. The composition of the coin is 75% copper and 25% nickel.

The 1913 liberty nickel is one of the most famous coins to be minted in the last 100 years. The minting of the liberty nickel was officially up to 1912, but somehow 5 pieces of the liberty nickel were minted in 1913 and were circulated. The numismatist Samuel Brown spent quite a fortune in advertising that he would give anyone 500$ for the liberty nickel, or about 10,000 times the face value. The advertisement was there in The Numismatist in 1919. 500$ was a princely sum at that time, and given that the US was going through an economic depression at that time and millions of people were unemployed; the 1913 liberty nickel fever gripped the entire country. Trams or buses would be stopped at the stops for 10-15 minutes because the conductors would be checking for the liberty nickel in the change they got. The 1913 liberty nickel had already become a symbol of hope for a country entangled in stagflation and depression. Later on Samuel Brown displayed all five 1913 liberty nickels at the American Numismatic Association's annual convention in 1920. He had ostensibly bought them for 500$ each, but he had been an employee of the mint and he it is assumed that he had surreptitiously minted those coins and never released them for circulation. Such clandestine strikings were quite common in the 19th century.

Now the 1913 liberty nickel had started off with a price tag of 500$. With every auction, there is fresh hype and the price of the specimen shoots up. The 1913 liberty nickels have changed many hands and that includes Farouq, the king of Egypt who is said to have possessed two different 1913 liberty nickels at different times in his world class collection. In 2007, one of the specimens was sold for 5 million $ to an unnamed buyer.

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