1. Home

The Most Hyped Coin in History

By March 10, 2010

Follow me on:

Have you ever wondered why some error coins are so well-known and worth so much money, while others are virtually ignored? Take, for example, the 1937-D 3-legged Buffalo Nickel. The missing leg was caused by a Mint worker being careless while cleaning a coin die; he accidentally erased part of the leg. This sort of accidental erasure is known to exist on most circulating coin types to a greater or lesser degree.

Why do we know about the 3-legged Buffalo Nickel, and why are specimens worth many hundreds of dollars or more? Because of hype. A coin dealer who happened to get an early good supply of 3-legged Buffaloes decided to "specialize" in them. He promoted them heavily in his advertising and told everyone who would listen how rare and special they were. Once the 3-legged Buffalo Nickel got listed in the Red Book as a recognized variety, its fame was assured, because back then additions to the Red Book canon were very rare.

Despite this intriguing history, the 3-legged Buffalo is far from being the most hyped coin in history. That honor goes to a coin with an error so egregious that debate about it continues to this day: How did the coin get struck in the first place?! Thanks to the promotional efforts of legendary numismatic showman B. Max Mehl, average Americans across the country were searching their pocket change for a 1913 Liberty Head Nickel, hoping to sell it for an astonishing 1,000 times face value ($50.00)!

Although Mehl was certainly the prime mover in making the 1913 Liberty Nickel a household word, the hype surrounding the 5 known specimens of this coin has been extraordinary. It seems like every time one of them comes up for sale, the hype increases and the legend grows. When specimens come up for sale now, they sell for millions of dollars! Learn the fascinating story behind how a coin that shouldn't even exist has become the most hyped coin in history.


July 29, 2009 at 5:46 pm
(1) Scott says:

I think the 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle may beat the 1913 Liberty Head Nickels.

August 6, 2009 at 6:22 am
(2) coiny says:

This is an amazing hobby. Curiously, i only read good things about coins. Maybe i haven’t been in it long enough to see the other side of it. Are there no opposing opinions as to whether a coin, any coin is or is not, rare. By the hype attached to a coin. I don’t see much in the way of questions opposing an opinion. Is it just better for the hobby to let it go? Or, should there be any disputing about what is or isn’t rare in someones opinion.

Some how it still manages to catch on. With the public.


August 7, 2009 at 8:22 pm
(3) Michael says:

I’ve grown displeased with this site, as I continue to check it on a daily basis, and it seems the material is stale, rarely changing on anything but a weekly basis – if that.

Sorry, but since so many other sites in some ways ARE updated daily, I find my interests are more promptly satisfied elsewhere.

August 8, 2009 at 6:18 am
(4) lunaticg says:

When the story about that rare coin start to come out, coin collector will start to asked for that particular coin. With interesting story about this 3 legged Buffolo Nickel, who doen’t want to start collecting them? Thanks for sharing this.

March 13, 2010 at 6:46 pm
(5) tom says:

look at the 2009 lincoln penny formative years these came out of mint boxes dated 4/17 thru 4/30 now these to me are the newest in the error coins that will turn out to be collectables, will see how many were found the extra finger and extra thumb are pretty cool

March 27, 2010 at 11:39 pm
(6) World Coins says:

I had the privilege of watching the Olsen sell for $3,250,000+15% buyer’s premium on the Heritage Auctions website. It was exciting just to watch.

May 13, 2010 at 1:08 pm
(7) stephanie says:

While going through pennies w/my father in law and noticed some have been misprinted,backwards,upside down on the back. What is known of this?

August 22, 2010 at 6:23 am
(8) observer says:

it was nice to be able to put a smile on my face, just by lookng at its wonderfull bling. if it was a girl that i would most definetly have a quik fling side pics even look to b like a diamond ring .

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.