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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 19, May 7, 2006, Article 8

BOOK REVIEW: MILLION DOLLAR NICKELS

A few months ago I ordered a copy of "Million Dollar Nickels:
Mysteries of the Illicit Liberty Head Nickels Revealed", by Paul
Montgomery, Mark Borckardt, and Ray Knight.  I've been reading it
off and on as time allows, and thought I'd write a short review.
Published in 2005, the book chronicles the story of the famed
nickels, culminating in the 2003 re-discovery of the long-lost
fifth nickel owned by the family of George O. Walton.

The book is a wonderful one-volume compendium of information on
the coins, but it's not a mere reference book - it reads like a
novel.  I would recommend it to numismatists and interested
non-collectors alike.  Not unlike the tale of the famed 1933
Double Eagle, the story is replete with mysteries, shady
characters, questionable stories, big money and big surprises.

As a bibliophile I was delighted to see how well the authors
documented their research.  The book includes a six-page index
and eight-page bibliography. In addition, there is a list of
references following each chapter.  Throughout the book appear
illustrations of original source materials such as letters,
telegrams, receipts, checks and handwritten notes by the likes
of Eric Newman.  Portraits of Newman and Burdette Johnson (who
once owned all five of the nickels) are included, along with
other owners including King Farouk, George Walton, Aubrey Bebee,
J. V. McDermott, Dr. Conway Bolt, Louis Eliasberg, Dwight Manley,
Reed Hawn, Abe Kosoff, Edwin Hydeman, Fred Olsen, James Kelly
and others.  The book even includes a photo of the elusive Samuel
W. Brown, who introduced the coins to the hobby.

It's hard to pick favorite chapters since I found something of
interest in every one, but here are a few that stand out.  Chapter
5, "The Mysterious Mr. Brown" sheds light on the man at the center
of the coins' origin.  Chapter Six, "The Set Period" covers the
early days when the five known coins traded together as a set.
The chapter includes a photo of the original black leather case
that housed the nickels when Newman and Johnson acquired them
from the Col. Green estate.  Chapter 9, "The Clockwork Miracle"
is a great behind-the-scenes account of the famous million-dollar
offer for the missing fifth nickel and the pandemonium that broke
out once the story hit the wires and the phones began ringing.

In short, this one's a real keeper - one of the few numismatic
books that make easy cover-to-cover reading.  Many thanks to the
authors for pulling together the threads of the tale into a great
reference.  As a kid, "The Fantastic 1804 Dollar" was the book
that really fired my imagination about numismatic history and
research.  "Million Dollar Nickels" is a book that could do the
same for a new generation of numismatists - every school library
should have a copy.

Published by Zyrus Press under license from Bowers and Merena
Galleries, Inc., the book is 6" x 9" hardbound with a pictorial
dust jacket, 369 pages, including over 100 black & white photos
and color plates of the five specimens.  For more information,
see the publisher's web site: zyruspress.com

[I should add that one thing I haven't been able to learn from
the book is the answer to our recent question of who exhibited
a 1913 Liberty Nickel at the 1957 American Numismatic Association
convention.  But that's a minor point, and perhaps something which
could be addressed in a future edition.

QUIZ QUESTION: The famous black leather case contained not just
the five 1913 Liberty Nickels, but three other coins. What were
they, and where are they now?  -Editor]

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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