Oops By The U.S. Mint
In 1883 the United States Mint issued the 1883 Liberty nickel. This was a unique coin because it was changed after being in circulation for a short time. The original nickel did not have a designation of value that read five cents. Instead there was a large Roman Numeral V on the back. Unscrupulous persons added gold coloration and some redesigned reeds along the edges and passed these coins off as five dollar gold pieces. The mint was forced to add the word “cents” to the obverse side of the coin, near the Roman V to designate this was a nickel and not a five dollar piece. This change was made after three months of circulation.
In 1883 these nickels were composed of mostly copper with a 25% nickel content for coloration and strength. The front of the coin has the head of Lady Liberty surrounded by thirteen stars while the rear has the Roman Numeral V and the word cents. Around the coin on the back are the words E Pluribus Unum and United States of America.
The mint never attempted to capture all the coins that did not have the word cents on the reverse. Many seemed to remain in circulation after March of 1883. There are rumors among collectors that some of these rare cons remain in collections today.