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James V. "J.V." "Mac" McDermott and his 1913 Liberty Nickel

ZoinsZoins Posts: 33,735 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited December 9, 2021 11:52PM in U.S. Coin Forum

I looked up coin dealer Mac McDermott after @Oldsycamore mentioned him in another thread and found that he seems like a very interesting fellow! It seemed like he deserves his own thread so this thread is to celebrate and remember Mac.

Of note, almost all references refer to him as "J.V. McDermott" but he was called "Mac" by those who knew him.

Apparently he passed his 1913 Liberty Head nickel around at bars, used it for baroom betting (according to Breen) and sent it through the USPS mail uninsured, and even had mail sent to him via care of general delivery. His fondness for and trust of the postal service is summed up in this quote:

J.V. McDermott said:
Heck, everybody knows you can trust the mails!

This quote is from a larger article by Ed Rochette:

Ed Rochette said:
I worked at Krause as an editor during the 1960s and thus have a store of anecdotal memories to call upon. There was the time we wanted to photograph a well-known but very rare coin to illustrate the cover of an early issue of Coins Magazine. The 1913 Liberty Head nickel seemed to fit the bill.

This coin is one of the best known of all American rarities. There are but five specimens known and, at the time, one was owned by a collector in Milwaukee, J.V. McDermott.

"Mac," as he was known, used to loan it to collectors to show at their club meetings or conventions. He carried the coin in his pocket to major coin shows.

In our minds there was little doubt that Mac would loan us this rare coin to be photographed. A phone call to Milwaukee confirmed it. Yes, we would receive it in a few days.

True to his word, the 1913 Liberty Head nickel arrived in the mail a few days later -- uninsured. When asked about it later, Mac replied, "Heck, everybody knows you can trust the mails!" That was almost 30 years ago.

Mac was indeed a trusting soul. Not only did he carry the coin around in his pocket, he also was known to imbibe in less than moderate terms. Evenings, after the bourse had closed, he often headed straight for the hotel bar, taking along his nickel.

The coin was passed around so much that it became the only specimen of the five known that could no longer be called "uncirculated."

Ref: https://buffalonews.com/news/he-trusted-rare-nickel-to-the-post-office/article_2c3cd6d9-d372-500e-be53-7f0d86d6336d.html

David L. Ganz said:
It is the 1913 Liberty nickel, which Breen described as "nicked, scratched, cleaned, exhibited at hundreds of conventions, reportedly used by [former owner J.V.] McDermott for baroom betting"

Ref: https://books.google.com/books?id=7hNjDwAAQBAJ&q=mcdermott

Of note, his 1913 Liberty Head nickel isn't in the following pedigree list but needs to be added:



  • ZoinsZoins Posts: 33,735 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 9, 2021 11:51PM

    Dave Hirt mentioned his ads in Numismatic Scrapbook and his trust is the postal service in a post to E-Sylum.

    He also mentions a photo that Mac sent him of his 1913 Liberty Head nickel. Does anyone have a photo of this photo?

    Click through for more.

    Dave Hirt said:
    I first subscribed to the Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine around 1953 or 54. McDermott always was the first advertiser listed. He usually had a five or six page ad. I started to buy coins from him with money I made from my paper route. I did not have a checking account at that time, so my mother had to write a check to pay for the coins.

    She was not happy sending checks to Mac's address, which was always "care of general delivery" where ever he happened to be at the time. He was in South Milwaukee in the summer, then made his way to Texas, then Arizona as it got colder.

    Mac later sent me a photo of his 1913 nickel, and wrote on it, "Don't try to spend this one, Mac"

    I wonder if some of our readers have memories of this colorful dealer and his famous nickel.

    Ref: https://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n28a15.html

  • rickoricko Posts: 98,724 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Really interesting person... and so casual about the nickel. I could not bring myself to put such a coin in my pocket, unprotected. However, it worked for him and he seemed like a happy guy. Cheers, RickO

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