1883 Racketeer Nickels
In 1883, the U.S. Mint issued a new nickel, known as the Liberty nickel. This new coin had no recognizable denomination on the back. Josh Tatum a deaf mute noticed the coin was the same size and had a similar look to circulating $5 gold coins. So Josh being an enterprising man, gold plated the nickels and passed them off as $5 gold coins. He would take a gold plated nickel into a store and for example make a purchase of a 5 cent cigar. He lay the newly plated nickel on the counter and the clerk would promptly give him change for a $5.00 gold coin. All good things must come to an end and Josh was soon arrested. At his trial it was discovered that he never told the clerk to give him change. His defense attorney knew this to be true because Josh was unable to speak! Because he didn't demand change, or misrepresent the value of his coin, no crime had been committed. It was ruled that the clerk erred by giving him money. This is the history behind the coin that became known as the "Racketeer Nickel". Soon after, the U.S. Mint changed the design and placed the words "Five cents" on the reverse. And to this day, the Mint has never again failed to put a denomination on a U.S. coin.