Mark Borckardt submitted this update on his research into the source of the 1913 Liberty Nickels.
In December 1923 and early in 1924, August Wagner advertised the five 1913 Liberty nickels for sale. His address was 31st and York Sts., Philadelphia. Past authors have called Wagner a coin dealer or a stamp dealer, giving no further clues about who he was. Former ANA Historian Jack Ogilvie stated in a letter to Eric Newman that Wagner was never an ANA member, even though his advertisements ran in The Numismatist.
I have recently learned a little more about Wagner. An image of his World War I draft card on www.ancestry.com gives his residence as "NE cor. 65th and Camac" in the community of Oak Lane, and his business address as "NW cor. 31st and York." Ancestry.com is a wonderful website, useful for more than just family history.
Wagner is listed in the 1910, 1920, and 1930 Federal Census records as a real estate broker. He was born in Pennsylvania on April 26, 1881, married to Alice (maiden name unknown), and was the father of five children. In 1942 he filled out a World War II draft registration card. In 1950, Mrs. August Wagner is listed alone at their residence address according to a Philadelphia City Directory. Therefore, it appears that August Wagner died sometime between 1942 and 1950. While it is certainly possible that Wagner dealt in coins and stamps, it seems that real estate was his primary business.
Coincidentally, this week the About.com numismatic editor Susan Headley published a piece about the nickels.
he 1913 Liberty Head Nickel is one of the most valuable coins in the world. Only 5 specimens are confirmed to exist, although there is an intriguing hint that there might be a sixth. The finest-known 1913 Liberty Nickel is valued at a minimum of $5 million, the price for which it sold in May of 2007.
On the face of things, you might ask why this 1913 Liberty Head Nickel is so valuable. There are certainly rarer U.S. coins, where only 1 or 2 specimens exist. There are definitely U.S. coins which are more historically important. I think most people would even agree that there are more artistically beautiful coins. So why are people willing to pay millions of dollars to own a lowly 5-cent coin?
The answer is hype. The 1913 Liberty Head Nickel was part of the hopes and dreams for something better that saw our nation through the terrible Depression Era of the 1930s. Riding on the foundation of this hope, later coin dealers who handled the 1913 Nickels built upon the legend, enhancing and enlarging it. When it comes to the extraordinary premium placed on the price of rare coins, perception is everything, and savvy dealers through the years have created the unshakable perception that the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel is among the most sought after of all U.S. coins. And they're right!
Millions Search for a 1913 Liberty Nickel
Entrepreneur and enterprising coin dealer B. Max Mehl of Fort Worth, Texas, spent a fortune advertising for specimens of the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel. He promised to pay $50 to anybody who found one in their pocket change and sent it to him. In addition, for just 50 cents, you could send away for his Star Rare Coin Encyclopedia, which listed the prices he would pay for scores of other coins, (plus it had other useful information about coins, foreign and domestic.)
Mehl sparked a nationwide treasure hunt for the nickel that was worth $50, a princely sum of money during the Depression Era. It became the hopes and dreams of millions of Americans, to find that elusive rarity in their change for a dime. It is said that cable cars and tramways would run behind schedule or sometimes even come to a dead stop because the conductor was too busy checking all the nickels he collected in fares, trying to find a 1913 Liberty Head.
To read the complete article, see:
The 1913 Liberty Nickel - The World's Most Hyped Coin
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DAVID F. FANNING NUMISMATIC LITERATURE
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