US Coins

Collector buys bag of 297 1883 No CENTS 5-cent coins

Why would a collector pay thousands of dollars to buy 297 examples of the same coin?

St. Louis collector Steve Farrell did just that on April 27. He bid $8,000 to secure the 297-coin bag containing Mint State 1883 Liberty Head, No CENTS 5-cent coins, and says he was willing to bid higher. The coins were offered as a single lot in Heritage Auctions’ April 27 auction held in conjunction with the Central States Numismatic Society’s Convention in Schaumburg, Illinois.

With a 20 percent buyer’s fee added to his top closing bid, the lot cost $9,600, just over $32 per coin. Farrell’s only competition was online; he was the sole active bidder in the auction room at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center. His winning final bid was just $500 above the underbidder.

Farrell said he bid on the lot to ensure that the coins remain together. Farrell, who is the owner of a commercial construction company, says he has no plans to sell off the coins piecemeal.

“I’m keeping it intact,” Farrell said. “The hoard should stay together. It’s not something you see every day. Too often such hoards are split apart. In my opinion, it’s better left untouched.”

When offered in the Heritage auction, the lot was already one coin short of the original number in the cloth bag marked “New York / Lead Company’s / HIGHLY FINISHED / DROP SHOT / Tower & Office / 63 Centre St / New York / 3.” An article by this author in the Feb. 9, 2009, issue of Coin World explains that Jeff Garrett from Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries in Lexington, Kentucky, acquired the coins from another auction. At that time, the bag contained 298 coins. Garrett said April 30 that he does not know whether the individual to whom he sold the bag of 5-cent coins personally retained one or possibly sold one, before the bag was consigned to the Heritage auction.

The 1883 Liberty Head, No CENTS 5-cent coins at the time of Garrett’s acquisition had been housed in their cloth bag since Oct. 2, 1889.

Farrell said that from his examination of the coins, some of which exhibit minor toning, he estimates the pieces are in Mint State 63 to MS-64 condition. Farrell said he is not a specific collector of Liberty Head 5-cent coins. He said he currently is working on a date and Mint mark set of 1907 coins in Mint State, with only one more coin needed to complete his goal — a 1907 Indian Head, With Periods, Wire Rim gold $10 eagle.

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The Liberty Head 5-cent coin was introduced with the No CENTS reverse in 1883, with the denomination presented simply as a large letter V. Because the diameter of the 5-cent coin, at 21.21 millimeters, is similar to that of the Coronet gold $5 half eagle, at 21.54 millimeters, unscrupulous individuals gold-plated the 5-cent coins, and in some cases even reeded the normal plain edges of the 5-cent coins, and then passed them off to the unsuspecting public as $5 coins.

After the introductory mintage of more than 5 million coins with the No CENTS reverse, the Mint removed further fraud potential by redesigning the coin’s reverse, adding CENTS below the wreath encircling the V.  

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