Adair County News, February 14,
Professor Ballard's Mysterious Nickel
Prof. A.H. Ballard, has in his possession, a nickel
dated 1883 different from any other issue of that denomination that has
ever come under his observation. Furthermore, he has never met a person
who has seen a nickel like it. it has a milled edge like a silver coin
and the word "cents" is off. It there is a person in the county who has
a nickel like it, Prof.
Ballard would like for it to be presented.
[Professor Ballard's nickel was the
product of a rather egregious mental lapse on the part of the U.S. Mint
and the resulting unscrupulous "entrepreneurship" on the part of at
least one individual. The story is thus:
In 1883 the Mint changed the five-cent
piece to what in now known as the Liberty Head design, familiarly known
as the "V" nickel because of the large Roman symbol for "five" on the
reverse. Unfortunately, this "V" was the only designation of the value
of the coin. The first of these coins had hardly left the Mint when at
least one fellow discovered a way to make a quick buck; or, more
precisely, a quick $4.95.
Since only the large "V" represented
the value on this coin, it took little effort for those of such a bent
to "mill" the edge (like the dimes and quarters of today), then plate
the coins with a thin layer of gold, and pass them off as quarter-eagle
(five dollar) gold coins, not at all difficult considering the minuscule
difference in diameter of nickels and quarter-eagles -- about
16-thousandths of an inch.
The Mint quickly realized the fatal
flaw in the coin and did a hasty redesign of the reverse to include the
words "five cents" on the nickels produced later in 1883 and thereafter,
but still today, sixscore and five years later, the earlier version is
known as the racketeer nickel. Most likely, the gold plating on the
example held by Prof. Ballard had worn off or flaked off.]