legendary Coins and Currency
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Some legends are accidental, but others are<br />contrived — usually for profit.
United States Mint employees making coins. National Archives, San Francisco Mint images.
United States Mint employees making coins. National Archives, San Francisco Mint images.


Mistakes happen. Sometimes a Mint recalls an entire issue of flawed coins in order to destroy them.  But a few survive.  Or a mint makes coins as an experiment but then cannot recover all the samples. The rare survivors of these accidents often become famous.  Other legendary coins are contrived. Unscrupulous mint employees have struck unauthorized coins, hoping to profit from them. The Philadelphia Mint was famous for such activities in the 19th century. With exposure, these “fantasy” objects may gain great monetary value.

Liberty Head Nickel, 1913


Collectors are especially intrigued by accidents, errors, and fantasies. They haunt coin stores, shows, and auctions seeking these unusual items.

Take the story of the 1913 Liberty Head nickel. In 1919, a well-known dealer began advertising his interest in purchasing this coin. But what few knew was that only five had actually been made — and he already owned them all. While thousands searched, the value grew. Years later the dealer sold the five at great profit.
Unexpected Legends The following objects are in this section.
United States, 20 Dollars, 1927United States, 1 Dollar, 1804 (Class Three)
United States, 1 Cent, 1974 (Aluminum)United States, 5 Cents, 1913
United States, 1 Dollar, 1804 (Class One) 
United States, 1 Dollar, 1804 (Class Two) 
Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Behring Center Learning Resources Flash Exhibition
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