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The Flipside with Robert R. Van Ryzin

Stop the coin abuse NOW
August 27, 2007

I'm flippin' angry. It has to stop. The shameless abuse of collectible coins has to end. I called this blog "The Flip Side" after a column I used to write, but I never advocated the flipping of coins and particularly not rare ones such as the 1913 Liberty Head nickel.

If you haven't read about it, recently an announcer at a television station in Milwaukee, having been handed the Bebee specimen of the famed 1913 Liberty Head nickel, decided it would be fun (much to the shock and surprise of those around him) to flip the coin while on air. Fortunately he caught, and fortunately the coin was in a Kointain capsule that helped protect. But still...

Interestingly, the coin in question has an earlier tie to Milwaukee and a different kind of abuse. There are only five specimens of the 1913 Liberty Head nickel known, and all bring big money when offered for sale. The Bebee specimen is so-called because a coin dealer named Aubrey Bebee once owned it. Earlier, however, it was known as the McDermott specimen, having been named after its prior owner, J.V. McDermott, a hard-drinking coin dealer from Milwaukee. Shown is Bebee with the coin in a holder that underneath the tape bears McDermott's name.

Old hobby stories have it that McDermott, who often did business in bars, was very generous about allowing others to see his rare coin. It is said that he at times slid it down the bar for others to look at. If so, hopefully it was in a holder. Cabinet friction (the wearing of a coin from years spent jostling around in a display cabinet) would probably have nothing on bar.

Actually, the Bebee specimen has some minor flaws, but it was minted with them. Still, flipping is no way to treat a coin of this caliber.

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About the Author
Robert R. Van Ryzin has been a coin collector for 30 years. He has served as editor of Krause Publications Coins and Coin Prices magazines since 1994. He joined the firm in 1986 after obtaining a master of fine arts degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Prior to becoming a magazine editor, he worked on World Coin News as a staff member and later served as managing editor of Numismatic News. Van Ryzin, whose specialty is U.S. coinage history, is also the award-winning author of the book Crime of 1873: The Comstock Connection (Krause Publications, 2001), as well as two earlier titles, Twisted Tails: Sifted Fact, Fantasy and Fiction from U.S. Coin History (Krause Publications, 1995) and Striking Impressions: A Visual Guide to Collecting U.S. Coins (Krause Publications, 1992).

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