Miss Liberty showed up again on the US five cent
coin in 1883. The Shield Nickel, in production since 1866, was viewed
as rather plain, and
had few defenders when talks began to replace it with something more
Very soon thereafter, the Mint realized a
serious omission on the new
"V" nickel design had occurred. No where on the coin did the word
"CENTS" appear. This oversight gave
swindlers the idea of gold-plating the coins, and passing them off as
$5 gold coins!
The most infamous distributor of the Racketeer
Nickel was a Boston man named Josh Tatum. He linked up with a friend
who gold electroplated thousands of the new “V” nickels. Tatum
successfully passed many of these off as five-dollar gold coins, buying
small items to receive at least four real dollars in change.
While This Coin Was Minted...
The Brooklyn Bridge was opened on May 24, 1883. At top is how
the bridge looked in its early days. The bottom photo was taken in
recent years. The bridge itself looks much the same, but the New York
City skyline has changed dramatically. On its first day, 1800 vehicles
crossed the bridge, at a cost of five cents each. No doubt many people
paid the toll with a shiny new 1883 Liberty Nickel.
Eventually, the law caught up with Tatum.
He was put on trial,
but was found not guilty on the major charges. It seems he never told
merchants the gold-plated coin was worth five dollars, nor did he ask
for any change; he simply presented the coin and happily accepted the
money offered in return. The court accepted Tatum’s argument that he
did not speak falsely of the coin, for as a deaf mute, he couldn’t
Key date Liberty Head "V" Nickels are offered for sale below through US coin eBay auctions. The left hand side of each "Sales Box" is value trend data over a very long period of time for a coin of that date in VG-8 condition. The percent annual increase is computed for comparative purposes. The coin pictured for sale in the right hand side, if any, is not necessarily the same condition coin as that represented in the value trend analysis on left hand side.
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