The Racketeer Nickel & Other Popular Cover Ups

I hit up my second ever coin show over the weekend, and as I salivated over all the rarities I could only DREAM of acquiring one day (some of them were in the tens of thousands of dollars! For just ONE!), my eyes – and wallet – were struck by one coin in particular. An old 5 cent nickel piece which looked to be gold?

UPDATE: I now have a coin collecting blog! Check it out!

I asked the coin dealer what the heck it was (who was rockin’ a KILLER handlebar ‘stache btw – hadn’t shaved in 42 years!) and he told me the story of the “Racketeer Nickels” dating back to 1883. When the US Gov’t failed to mark these new “V” nickels with “cents” anywhere on the coin, and they started being pawned off as $5 gold coins instead! (I forgot to ask if they were actually gold plated, or just gold painted, but either way they *looked* like gold when in fact they weren’t). Apparently one of the more popular racketeers was deaf and mute, and ended up conning a ton of people out of money, and then walked away scott-free even after being arrested. It was a pretty neat story :)

The Gov’t eventually wised up and started producing them going forward with “cents” allocated on the back, but for a while these “racketeer nickels” flooded the market and I, now, was holding one 130 years later. And after some sexy little bargaining moves, I managed to pick it up for only $13 instead of $15 – woo! A lot more than the 5 cents they were initially worth, haha, but still a fun buy :)

Now I know you didn’t come here today to learn about the awesome hobby of coin collecting, so I “rack”ed my brain (get it?) to tie this into some sort of personal finance lesson for ya instead. That way I could *sneak in* this little history gem which you can now use for the rest of your lives at cocktail parties ;) You’re welcome.

And that personal finance lesson is: Don’t hide behind these popular cover ups!

“I don’t have the time”

This is one of my favorite cover ups. Every single one of us has the same amount of time as the next guy – 24 hours a day – the only difference in success is how we USE them. Are we prioritizing them to get us farther to our financial goals? Are we wasting them away doing who knows what when people aren’t looking? Is your sleeping or TV watching or all that sex you’re having getting in the way of your goals? ;) If so, then change it!

Yeah some people are strapped with a lot more responsibility than others, and also going through much harder times as well, but generally speaking we all have complete control of our hours. And it’s completely up to US on how to use them. The ones that are paying off their debts faster or saving up their retirement funds quicker are usually the ones making better use of their time. And they have the exact same hours in the day as we do. As my ex-girlfriend once told me, “If something’s really that important to you, you’ll find the time.” Wise words to live by, which unfortunately took me too long to figure out (hence, the “ex” part ;)).

“They got lucky”

I hear this one a lot too – and it drives me bananas. Especially when it goes down that “overnight success” path, when most people have actually FAILED a good 313 times before, only to finally make it on their 314th try. I believe the perfect quote for this goes something like, “The harder I work, the luckier I seem to get” – a very true fact! People like to cover up their laziness/insecurities/jealousy by telling themselves successful people are just “lucky.” Unless they’re winning the lottery over there, it’s usually not luck. It’s hard-ass work.

The same can go with money: Want to have a million dollars? Start saving something today. Want to start paying off debt? Start throwing money at it! And then take up a side hustle or start selling things off your walls. The opportunities to earn more money are endless, but it’s up to US to again *prioritize* these goals and start making things happen. $hit doesn’t appear out of thin air – you gotta go out there and EARN it. And if you happen to grab a little luck on the way, even better.

“Wanting more money means you’re greedy”

Oh man, this one REALLY chaps my hide! I won’t get too into this right now because a) I’ve already said my peace on this a few months ago, and b) I don’t want to ruin the good mood I’m in :), but let’s just say money is a *tool* and nothing more. It’s up to the PERSON who has it to determine what to do with it – good or evil. And there’s a TON of good things that money can do for humanity too, outside of our own desires which there’s nothing wrong with. Including these 10 which I’ve previously blogged about:

  1. You can help the less fortunate
  2. You can help your friends
  3. You can help your family
  4. You can help your future kids, grand kids, great grand kids
  5. You can help someone adopt
  6. You can help someone rescue a pet
  7. You can start a foundation
  8. You can quit your job and VOLUNTEER 40 hours a week
  9. You can invest it and make a million dollars and THEN give it away or quit your job and volunteer
  10. You can get rid of stress and help yourself live longer and be there for all your loved ones!

There’s a lot more to this statement which many a books and essays have written upon already, but the point is there’s nothing necessarily wrong with *money* itself. It all relies on the person utilizing it. You can check out my post on this if you want to get more into it and see what others had to say too – there was a pretty good discussion on it in the comments.

And I think I’ll stop there :) It’s funny what one random coin can conjure up on a blog, haha… But hopefully this gives y’all some good food for thought… I reckon most of you already know most of this, but it never hurts to get a reminder, right? Especially in the “what are you doing with your time?” department – something I’m constantly working on myself.

I literally had to put sticky-notes up on my wall to keep me focused and in check lately. One says, “What are you doing RIGHT NOW?” and then points to other sticky notes with important projects written on them in hopes I’m, indeed, working on one of them ;) It sounds lame, but it’s been working like a charm lately. And one of them even says “Dumb $$$ Work,” haha… Cuz even if you’re doing your dream job, you’ve still got a bunch of crap to deal with! No one ever said this stuff was *easy*, just DO-ABLE. But it is up to us to set things into motion…

sticky notes focus

What are you doing that you “don’t have time for” lately? How are you staying motivated?

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  1. October 7, 2013 at 5:32 AM

    Interesting story! You should have got a photo of the guys mustache though!! Loving the post-it notes!

    1. J. Money October 7, 2013 at 1:28 PM

      Haha, good idea :)

  2. Brian October 7, 2013 at 9:16 AM

    Just heard a good “Lucky” one the other day. Remember that QB Tom Brady with the super bowl rings and super model wife, well he was drafted in the 6 round and had to work is butt off to get were is is now, he would practice and work out by himself in May, 2 months ahead of all the other players.

    1. Kyle | October 7, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      Solid example Brian. Another from the NFL I heard yesterday was Arian Foster, probably the best RB in the league, was UNDRAFTED! How crazy is that, especially when everyone and there uncle who is worth a dam gets drafted these days. He worked his ass off, finally got noticed, and made it happen. No luck involved.

      1. J. Money October 7, 2013 at 1:29 PM

        Yeah!! I saw that one too last night during the game – love those kinds of stories :)

  3. Mark Ross October 7, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    Yeah, Those are some of the most common cover-ups. This is an interesting article. Very nice. :)

  4. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel October 7, 2013 at 9:38 AM

    The lucky one chaps my hide the most. It’s nothing but a cop out! It’s basically saying that you’re a victim of circumstance, and there isn’t much I hate more than people acting like victims of circumstance rather than getting off their butt and making their life the way they want it.

    1. J. Money October 7, 2013 at 1:29 PM


  5. EL @ MoneyWatch101 October 7, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    YEah I am quilty of using some excuses in the past, as long as you realize that hard work pays off then you can change for the better. Nice pic of the sticky notes. I was expecting to see $ on all the S’s. HA

    1. J. Money October 7, 2013 at 1:31 PM

      I’m loving those sticky notes right now – I feel like I look at them almost every hour when I start to get sidetracked, and they reign me in a bit ;)

  6. Debt Blag October 7, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    Nice little $2 savings :)

    There are so many flimsy cover-ups. Can’t say that I haven’t used a few of these, but I”m trying to fix it little by little

  7. Mike Collins October 7, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    People always use the “not enough time” excuse and it drives me nuts. Not saying I’ve never uttered those words myself but most people have more than enough time if they just got their priorities straight. Sure, you can spend 6 hours straight eating crunchy cheese doodles and watching Family Guy re-runs but can’t you cut it down to an hour and do something more productive with the rest of your time? I have a full time job, a wife, 3 young kids who need attention and a house that needs maintaining…but I still manage to find time to work on my side business.

    1. J. Money October 7, 2013 at 3:26 PM

      Yeah doggy! Cuz you’re a hustler like that!

      And I’ll admit I say I’m too busy myself at times – but only to those things that aren’t that important to me :) That’s the kicker right there – using your time towards things you care about in the long run vs those you don’t. We ALL don’t have enough time to do *everything* in the world, but we do for the *important* things. Which is a big difference, as you know…

  8. Carl October 7, 2013 at 4:04 PM

    Nice work weaving the story of the coin into the rest of the article. The racketeer nickel is one of those interesting stories that does have some truth, but who knows how much these days. (Kind of like the controversy with the 1916/1917 Type 1 Standing Liberty Quarters and how there was an outcry over her exposed breast. But, nobody can find good evidence of this outcry.) In this case, it seems widely accepted that people did use the nickels in this way, there is a lot of issue with the Tatum story. Check out this article on how Tatum popped up and became part of coin collecting legend.

    (I should note, it does appear that yours in genuine. There have been a lot of fakes of these made so the general suggestion is to look for wear on the plating on the high points and reeding around the edge which it looks like yours has.)

    1. J. Money October 9, 2013 at 8:53 PM

      Oh cool, thanks for the link! I was actually a bit concerned about that too (it being fake, which would be funny cuz it would be a faker faking a fake coin! :)) but hoped a dealer of 40+ years wouldn’t risk pawning it off just for a few bucks. Though I am still new and very much naive to a lot of things with coin collecting…

      Interesting about that exposed breast uproar too :) I’ve read it in passing in some of the coin mags, but never really looked into much. Maybe I should only collect those coins with crazy backstories? Haha… They would all match my hobo nickel that my grandma passed down to me :)

  9. Samantha October 7, 2013 at 4:32 PM

    The one that I think bothers me the most is the “lucky” comment, or variations thereof. The other day, when I mentioned to a friend that my husband and I will have our mortgage paid off next year (and we’re 30), she said to me how EASY it would be with no kids. The kicker? She doesn’t have kids either! We’ve been working our butts off! But I guess they are just spending more now in preparation for having kids?!

    Or another one I HATE: “must be nice”. As in, “oh must be nice to have a paid for house.” Yeah, actually it is quite nice. But it wasn’t very nice while we were paying it off. We didn’t just WIN a paid-for house. /endrant

  10. Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen October 7, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    Nice coin. Looks like a fun one to have in your coin collection. When you’re older and have grandkids you can tell them the story of the Racketeer Nickel!

    Hmm hmm the one thing I’ve been meaning to do is learn Mandarin…for a few years now…but it’s hard fitting it into a busy schedule. Plus honestly my motivation to learn it is pretty nil. My in-laws speak English but only conversationally. Thus…if I really communicate with them I need to learn Mandarin. My lack of motivation stems from my bad ear for languages, thus its hard for me to learn, and a fluctuating relationship with them. I know I can make time to learn it…but there’s so much other (more fun) stuff to do! Plus while it will score points…then I will also perfectly understand everything they say. Not always fun right? And so…I’m not realllyyy staying motivated.

    1. J. Money October 9, 2013 at 8:59 PM

      I think you’re fully aware of the difference between you and the others out there though – it’s not important enough to you yet to prioritize, and thus you don’t :) Maybe one day it will be and then you will start learning it, but for now keep on doing your thang my friend. It’s not like Mandarin is one of the easier languages out there, haha… You should tell your in-laws to switch to Español :)

  11. Micro October 7, 2013 at 7:36 PM

    I remember talking to a friend about how I’ve felt pretty lucky with how my career has progressed. I had a hard time getting my foot in the door for my first job but since then it has been gravy. He made the comment that fortune favors the prepared. I think that is really true that when you prepare yourself, “luck” tends to follow.

  12. Crystal October 8, 2013 at 12:08 AM

    Being a Big for Big Brothers Big Sisters was my “I don’t have the time” one that I finally just jumped into. It’s amazing how much time magically appears when you prioritize your life the way you want it to be…

    1. J. Money October 9, 2013 at 9:03 PM

      Agreed! And way to go and MAKE IT HAPPEN :) I need to get back to doing more philanthropy stuff these days… I went hardcore with Love Drop and then took a way too long breather from it. Need to start spreading the love again!

    1. J. Money October 9, 2013 at 9:03 PM

      Perhaps even a “unique gift?” (You see what I did there? ;))