by Len Ratzman – California Numismatist – Vol. 6 No.2 (Summer 2009)
When a mint error is first discovered, a predictably lengthy process is begun involving multiple recognized experts in the field to examine and scrutinize the coin’s authenticity under high magnification to separate a bona fide error from a manufactured counterfeit.
Ideally, after sufficient time and examinations have been made, the coin is either accepted or rejected by the numismatic community. But, in reality, there is a third possibility – unending disagreement among the experts. This outcome, of course, leaves many of us who are looking for definitive answers in relative limbo.
If decades go by and recognized, numismatic authorities still are conflicted as to the authenticity of the coin, what then? If, for instance, someone tried to buy or sell a specimen with this error to a dealer, another collector or at auction, how could they vouch for the legitimacy of the error and, in turn, ask a realistic price? This article is devoted to one such enigma that the author discovered by accident.
In a relatively recent attempt to determine if the Smithsonian Institute’s buffalo nickel collection was missing any specimens after all these years, an email inquiry was sent in early January to Mr. Richard Doty, the senior curator of numismatics for the Behring Center.
Sent from the American Museum of Natural History Behring Center where the coins are stored, Mr. Doty’s e-mail responded, “Your inquiry was passed to me. We do have a set of buffalo nickels, only lacking the 1934 two-legged and 1916 doubled die and 1918/7 varieties.”
Nineteen thirty-four, two-legged? When anyone specializes in one coin and finds (after decades devoted to researching that coin) that a variety exists unknown to that collector, it’s a very humbling experience.
A search of the Red Book, several Internet population reports, and reference books containing buffalo mint errors revealed many mint errors were listed but no mention of any two-legged varieties. (more…)