A historic hoard of nearly 300 1883 NO CENTS Liberty nickels – hidden for more than a century in a simple canvas sack – may prove irresistible for collectors seeking one of the most fascinating and curious discoveries in modern numismatics. Heritage Auctions is offering the entire hoard of 297 coins (and the sack, too) as a single lot in the firm’s U.S. Coins Auction during the Central States Numismatic Society Convention April 25-30 in Chicago.
“The consignor wants to present the cache as it was originally discovered: Inside the original canvas sack which was found untouched since the late 1880s,” said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage Auctions. “Most of the coins grade Uncirculated to Choice Uncirculated.”
The hoard is the numismatic stuff of dreams. The coins were found stashed in an age-stained canvas sack for fishing weights made by the New York Lead Company. Cinched shut by a simple drawstring, the bag retained a hand-written note dated Oct. 21, 1889. The numismatic newspaper Coin World touted the discovery in 2009 when the sack full of coins was purchased at a small New England auction.
The 1883 NO CENTS nickel quickly became a popular collectible shortly after they were issued. Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber designed the undenominated coin to depict a left-facing bust of Lady Liberty surrounded by stars. The reverse features a bold Roman numeral V inside a laurel wreath surrounded by the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and E PLURIBUS UNUM. Later that same year, the Mint added the word CENTS to the reverse after it learned scoundrels were gold plating the coin to pass them off as five dollar gold pieces.
Barber’s original design appeared 30 years later on what would become five of the most sought-after coins in numismatic history. A Mint employee secretly produced five Liberty Head nickels marked 1913. The famously rare coins are now worth millions. Heritage Auctions sold one of the five 1913 Liberty Head nickels for more than $3.7 million.
“One could say the 1883 NO CENTS Liberty nickel is responsible for one of the most fascinating chapters in numismatics,” Rohan said. “Ironically, the hoard we’re offering in April adds one more page to the coin’s curious history.”
As the official auctioneer, Heritage Auctions will offer the hoard of nearly 300 1883 NO CENTS Liberty nickels in its U.S. Coins Auction April 25-30 during the Central States Numismatic Society annual convention. Online bidding opens April 6 on HA.com/1274 and a full preview of the auction’s lots is April 24-28 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel, 1551 North Thoreau Drive, Schaumburg, IL.