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Buying Pidyon Haben Coins for Cheap

4 Tamuz 5771
The Question:

I own specially minted pidyon haben coins. To purchase new is approx £140. The silver content itself (which is the shiur of the silver i.e 100g) is worth today approx £72.

When I sell the coins to the father, who is doing a pidyon with me, can I sell it for just £72, or must I sell it for the full £140.
See shevet levi Shevet Levi CHelek 3. Y.D S’ 153; and Pidyan Hebn kiHilchoso – P. 205. To my mind, if not sold for £140, then its not a complete outright sale, and therefore questionable, if its proper ‘lachem’ of the father, and hence not a pidyon. And to rely on selling it to him for far less, only that he can be podeh to me etc., seems (unlike the shevet levi) not a proper lechatchilah sale.

Answer:

It is fine to sell the coins for less than their retail value.

Although this is far less than the retail value of the coins, this does not affect the validity of the transaction, and the coins will halachically belong to the (Yisrael) buyer.

Sources:

Although the sale is being made for half the price, the seller (the Kohen, in our case) will not be able to nullify the sale, and the issue of ona’ah doesn’t arise.

Although the Gemara (Bava Metzia 51) indicates that even when a person knows he is receiving a bad deal, he can nonetheless claim ona’ah (as ruled by the Mordechai no. 307, and by the Rema, Choshen Mishpat 227:7), many rule that this does not apply where the discrepency in price is more than one sixth (see Taz, as explained by the Nesivos Hamishpat 227:4; see, however, Sema 227:18, and Nesivos Hamishpat 284:8).

Moreover, if the seller (in our case) clealy intends to forego his claim of ona’ah, and is knowingly prepared to receive half the price, it is considered as if a stipulation was made whereby the principles of ona’ah don’t apply to the transaction (see Bava Metzia 51a; both parties are aware of this, and the stipulation is considered to be made between them). Therefore, the sale remains valid, and no claim of ona’ah can be made.

There are other issues that the question raises, such as the question of the buyer’s limited use of the coins (he has to give them back to the Kohen), and the question of the Kohen’s giving special deals only to those who give him the Pidyon.

The latter issue only applies when the Kohen will be selling the coins to others for a higher price, and will not apply to somebody who doesn’t sell coins to anybody, but only uses a single set of coins for individual pidyon haben’s. For the former issue, because the intention is clearly that the Yisrael should have the degree of ownership that allows him to fulfill the mitzvah, this is sufficient, as the Shevet Halevi (3:153) explains.


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