Skip to comments.Eye for detail pays off big (mint error with 2005 Buffalo Nickel)
Posted on 07/24/2005 8:42:52 PM PDT by Born Conservative
In a cabin-like home on a typical suburban road three blocks from downtown Dallas borough, one avid coin collector left his mark on the coin collecting world in March.
It began with dozens of new 2005 buffalo nickels and a hard-to-see mistake.
It's hard to confirm whether 58-year-old Jim Davis, a Dallas man who has been collecting coins since the 1960s, was the first to discover a manufacturing error on some of the nickels: the buffalo's innermost hind leg appeared to be floating in mid-air, detached from the rest of its body.
Davis believes he was first. For a collector who has thousands of coins worth perhaps $100,000, ranging from a 1748 imperial Spanish dollar coin from Mexico to a gold $20 U.S. coin from 1924, the discovery gives Davis a sense of self-satisfaction only an avid hobbyist would know.
"It is something that people will remember," said Davis, as he sat in his kitchen with two dozen antique coins sprawled on the table in front of him. "People are coming up to Dallas and saying, 'Did you know there's a nickel out there with a detached leg? The guy lives right here in Dallas who found that.'"
Davis, who keeps his collection in a safe deposit box in the bank, found 21 buffalo nickels with a detached leg in the three 40-coin rolls he bought from the mint soon after they were issued. He has since sold nine of them on eBay, one for more than $200.
Two dozen of the coins were up for auction on eBay on Wednesday, ranging from a $1 starting bid with some bids going as high as $130. Davis said the coins were featured on the Home Shopping Network - and sold out in 15 minutes.
"I'm amazed with what he finds," said Davis' 38-year-old son Scott. "I don't know how he does it. I spend my change, I don't sit there and look at it."
Davis has been staring at his change ever since he began coin collecting. It's a good way to find rare coins, he said, because a lot of people - especially older folks - don't know they have a rare coin, so they go out and spend it.
"He'll sit here for eight hours with a little magnifying glass up to his eyeballs," said his wife Maggie. "When we're on vacation, he keeps all the change wherever we go, and we go back to the hotel and that's what he does for the rest of the night. No dancing for us."
When Davis discovered the coins, he said he sent the news to Coin World, a weekly newspaper for coin collectors, which ran an article on May 23 using Davis' information. He also had the coin verified by ANACS, a coin certification company.
An employee at ANACS said the company does not keep records on who was the first person to certify a new coin error. And an editor at Coin World could not confirm Davis was the first to discover the defect.
Whether Davis was first or not, some coin enthusiasts said similar defects are commonplace.
The floating leg is the result of a die error, explained Fred Weinberg, owner of Fred Weinberg & Co., a rare error coin dealer from Encino, Calif. The die, the metal plate that stamps the coin to create the image, was probably polished last minute by the mint as they tried to perfect the coin, he said.
"Things like this occur every year on all different denominations of coins," he said. "If you give me your pocket change, I can find something wrong with almost every coin."
One reason for the hype surrounding the 2005 nickel, Weinberg said, is its similarity to a 1937 buffalo nickel, where a die error erased an entire leg of the buffalo. Depending on the condition, that coin is worth anywhere between $500 and $7,500, Weinberg said.
No one knows how many detached-leg nickels were minted, so any future worth of the coin will be based on how many are actually found - some could be lost in circulation - and whether anybody cares.
Bill Reese, a North Port, Fla. coin collector, is taking that chance.
"Any coin is worth what somebody is willing to pay for it," said Reese, who is collecting the nickels and sold a couple on eBay for $100. "Who knows? I'm gambling that it's going to be worth money."
For Davis, it is exciting to take part in an error discovery, but he said the most interesting thing about coin collecting is the history.
"Maybe Abraham Lincoln had that in his pocket one time," he said while examining a three-cent piece from 1852. "Maybe he made a bet with it, or maybe he bought a beer."
Unfortunately things are so easy to fake these days, people will likely reproduce his discovery and ruin its overall value.
If you're going to collect stamps or coins, do it for the appreciation of what it is, not what it's worth.
I thought it was illegal to be a numismatist in Texas...
its funny I just got interested in coins for the first time since I was a kid and bought a 2005 eagle dollar and the 230th Anniversary silver Marines dollar, 2 pretty coins.
Good luck with your new hobby...