US Coins

Dannreuther book to include new details on 1913 5¢

Although the three 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coins in private hands are certified as Proofs by Professional Coin Grading Service, new soon-to-be-published research by professional numismatist John Dannreuther indicates all five clandestinely made 1913 coins were struck with circulation quality dies on unpolished planchets.

The new findings also suggest that the U.S. Mint had full intentions to strike 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coins for general circulation.

Dannreuther is putting the finishing touches on his manuscript for a new reference on United States Proof nickel alloy coinage that will include new revelations regarding the 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coins.

Helping to fuel the findings is a copy of an official letter from the U.S. Mint archives, addressed Dec. 31, 1913, from Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber to Philadelphia Mint Superintendent John H. Landis seeking permission to destroy used Proof dies and unused completed dies from calendar year 1913.

Dannreuther secured the documentation during a 2015 visit to the Philadelphia Mint accompanied by Whitman Publishing LLC Publisher Dennis Tucker, Littleton Coin Company President David Sundman and numismatic author and professional numismatist Q. David Bowers.

Their mission in 2015 was to examine documentation. One of their discoveries was evidence of the Mint’s plan to strike not only Peace dollars in 1964, but also Morgan dollars. While the supporting 1913 documentation was found in the Philadelphia Mint archives in that same adventure, Dannreuther until recently did not realize the importance of the Dec. 31, 1913, letter from Barber seeking destruction of the coinage dies.

Dannreuther provided a copy of the letter to collector Bruce Morelan, who now owns for the second time the PCGS Proof 66 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin once owned by Baltimore industrialist and collector Louis E. Eliasberg Sr.

Morelan recently shared Barber’s letter by posting it on the PCGS U.S. Coins online forum.

In the 1913 letter from Barber — who designed and engraved the Liberty Head 5-cent series — Barber identifies that one Proof obverse and three reverse dies were used for the 5-cent denomination.

Itemized among the completed unused dies slated for destruction, Barber accounted for 50 obverse and 80 reverse dies for his own Barber (Liberty Head) design, and 24 obverse and 72 reverse dies for the 1913 Indian Head 5-cent coin, which succeeded the Liberty Head series.

What finish?

While some researchers have held the belief that the five 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coins known are Proofs, executed clandestinely at Philadelphia by Mint clerk Samuel Brown and some unknown colleagues, Dannreuther now believes the five 1913 coins were executed with circulation strike dies on planchets used for circulation strikes.

As such, Dannreuther believes the issues should now be classified as Specimen or special strikes and certified as such.

Dannreuther was one of six veteran professional numismatists who examined all five 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coins together, during a midnight session held July 29, 2003, in conjunction with the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Baltimore.

The viewing was the first time in more than 70 years that all five coins were together in the same place. The last previous assemblage of all five was when the late numismatist Eric P. Newman owned all five pieces, having secured them in the early 1940s from the estate of noted collector Col. E.H.R. Green.

Dannreuther noted that Newman, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 106, purchased two of the five coins for $500 each and subsequently the remaining three for another $1,000, for a combined $2,000 — the financing provided by St. Louis dealer and Newman’s mentor Burdette G. Johnson.

During more than a decade of conducting research, Dannreuther said he traveled to St. Louis to meet with Newman to discuss his vast numismatic holdings, as well as details associated with the 1913 coins.

Dannreuther said it was Newman’s maintained belief, circa 2007, that two of the five Liberty Head coins exhibited Proof details, with the remaining three being circulation strikes.

Dannreuther says the characteristics for a Proof strike involve the fields of the working die being polished as well as the intended planchet also being polished.

Proof strikes are often executed with one or more strikes at higher pressure than a circulation strike to bring up the relief and design details.

His new research does not support the Proof designation, Dannreuther said.

Five examples

The three 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coins graded and encapsulated by PCGS and in private hands are the former Eliasberg coin at PCGS Proof 66; a Numismatic Guaranty Corp. Proof 64 coin previously owned separately by Fred E. Olsen, King Farouk I of Egypt, and Morelan; and a PCGS Proof 63 example once owned by North Carolina collector George O. Walton. The latter piece vanished after Walton was killed in an early 1960s automobile crash; his coins, including the rare 5-cent coin, were in the car. The coin was recovered, but when the family attempted to consign it to auction, they were informed that it was a counterfeit. The piece remained in the family and out of public view for decades, with the collector community assuming that the genuine piece had been lost. Efforts to find the coin led back to the family, who brought the piece called a counterfeit to the 2003 ANA convention. After comparing its characteristics to the other four examples, the experts declared it genuine, identifying it as the “missing” coin.

The remaining two examples, once owned by Omaha, Nebraska, dealers and collectors Aubrey and Adeline Bebee and James V. McDermott are held, respectively, in the collections of the ANA’s Edward C. Rochette Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Dannreuther has the former Bebee coin listed as Proof 62 and the McDermott coin as Proof 55.

Historical origin story

The five 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coins are widely believed to be clandestine strikes from the Philadelphia Mint. after Treasury officials decided that in 1913 no Liberty Head 5-cent coins would be struck for circulation, before the introduction of the 1913 Indian Head 5-cent piece.

Collectors were unaware that any 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coins existed. Then, Samuel W. Brown, a former Mint Cabinet curator at the Philadelphia Mint, advertised in the December 1919 issue of The Numismatist that he wanted to purchase any existing examples for $500 each. This was the first public reference to the possibility that such coins might exist.

Brown subsequently exhibited the five 1913 5-cent coins at the American Numismatic Association’s 1920 convention in Chicago. Historically, researchers have speculated that Brown had the coins struck during his Mint tenure (without the authority to do so) and, after waiting a few years, placed ads in which he claimed to be seeking to purchase examples, as a way to legitimize their existence.

The 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin often makes the “top three” list of U.S. coins along with the 1804 Draped Bust dollar and 1894-S Barber dime, though rarer U.S. coins exist.

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