to the CCF, Nece.
IMHO, the Smithsonian article puts nothing to rest. Apparently, the guy who wrote it is no authority on coins. One of his sources, Coin Trackers, said that the word CENTS was added in 1884, when it was actually added the same year, 1883.
It's extremely likely that more than one individual engaged in plating the nickels. Thus, there's no way of defining an original in any way, methinks. The gilt nickels, bearing reeded edges obviously took more time and effort to produce. Then too, there are far fewer of them on the market. Atop this, the reeded edges give them a more authentic appearance, so they command more collector interest and higher prices. Regardless of the edge, these are all altered coins.
The specimen cited in the Smithsonian benefits from provenance and publicity. IMHO, these aspects don't make it any more "original" than other, high grade, gilt pieces. It's true that the electroplated pieces are easier to peg as modern. I've seen many plain edge nickels like the reeded one I posted, bearing partially worn gilt, evidencing some degree of circulation. When it first entered circulation, fully gilt, these would've been more deceptive.
Playing devil's advocate, the "Deadwood nickel" is richly plated which suggests it may not have circulated at all. Perhaps, it was gilded for another reason? If so, the "Racketeer Nickel" label doesn't fit this piece. I've yet to see one made as a button, but an item of jewelry is more likely. It may have been made for a collector?
I view the Smithsonian article to be fanciful but a fun read, nevertheless. It draws attention to their activity, but factually, the article falls far short of being serious research.
Try as I did, I'm unable to define an "original" Racketeer nickel. I do see two categories of these puppies ....
1) fully plated, mostly low grade specimens (Littleton pieces and the like, circa 1960's) - made for collectors
2) partially plated, predominantly high grade pieces that experienced wear in circulation - made to deceive
@Nickelcollector .... May we view your slabbed piece?