A square beneath Central Park in Manhattan, an unassuming shop shows up, from the vantage purpose of walkway bystanders, old, dusty, and uninteresting. However it contains treasures.
In board loaded New York City, the boutique’s beige shade scarcely grabs a look. “Stack’s Rare Coins,” the signage promotes over a plated, candy machine measured ATM offering “gold to go.” Inside the entranceway and through a vestibule, the restricted boutique smells like an exhibition hall, resembles a lepidopterist’s showroom, and feels like Ollivander’s wand shop.
I visited this odd alcove—Stack’s Bowers Galleries, a collectible mint piece retailer—to observe a valuable example prior this month. After entering, my eyes were attracted to the substance of the corridor’s glass-shrouded wooden show tables. They contained specie from all sides of the old world—Thrace, Turkey, Rome, Carthage, Greece. A stone measured coin printed ages prior included a smaller than usual appearance of Alexander the Great, briskly looking as the centuries progressed. His sideways glare, settled on an inconspicuous skyline under an upturned cap, yet gleamed. The brilliant stater should have spoken, Look on my works, ye forceful…
Survey an engraved representation of the Macedonian vanquisher was not the motivation behind my visit. I was here to see a nickel. An extraordinary nickel—an exceptionally unique nickel. A nickel that had acknowledged in an incentive by a factor of about one hundred million in the century since its creation. (For the nit-pickers: a factor of 3.5 million, if changing for swelling.)
Vicken Yegparian, Stack’s Bowers VP of numismatics, brought me into his back office where he outfitted the coin: a 1913 Liberty Head nickel. It is one of five known in presence, Yegparian let me know, and this was the best case of the parcel. (Nobody knows the coins’ exact birthplaces, albeit a few speculations exist—including one that includes workers at a U.S. mint denouncing any kind of authority.) As a booklet in my ownership states, “Likely, there is not any more renowned single coin in presence anyplace!”
I was amazed my chaperone let me handle the doodad. I lifted it up and turned the New Colossus’ stoic face over in my grasp. A serifed “V” uncovered itself on the invert side. For security, the coin was encased in a rectangular, plastic shell—a sturdier form of the translucent sleeves I used to monitor the Magic The Gathering playing cards I exchanged my childhood.
This week that nickel sold at closeout to an undisclosed purchaser for more than $4.5 million. One some level, it astounds me that somebody would pay such a whole for a little bit of metal. However, would it be a good idea for me to be astounded? We are weird animals, attributing an incentive to all way of apparently self-assertive things throughout our history: shells, globules, stones, metals, and math. While assessing the Liberty Head nickel in the midst of the abundance of civic establishments long past, I really wanted to consider the destiny of another money, one made of an alternate metal: Bitcoin, that silicon-struck seigniorage. Will it bear, even as cryptographic money costs dive in all cases, as they have all through 2018? I ponder what the years ahead may yield—and past that, the decades and hundreds of years.
The Liberty Head nickel will keep on appreciating, I think, insofar as individuals like Yegparian are around to wonder about its quirk. For a numismatist, this is as close get in touch with one may ever have with the numinous.