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.