When's a nickel worth $3.1M? When it's a 1913 Liberty Head
SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — A rare century-old U.S. nickel that was once mistakenly declared a fake and forgotten about for decades has sold at auction for more than $3.1 million.
The 1913 Liberty Head nickel is one of only five known to exist. But it's all the more prized because of its unusual back story: It was surreptitiously and illegally cast, discovered in a car wreck that killed its owner, declared a fake, forgotten in a closet for decades and then declared the real deal.
It was offered up for sale Thursday by four Virginia siblings at a rare coin and currency auction in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg where it sold for well over the expected $2.5 million.
The winning bidders were two men from Lexington, Ky., and Panama City, Fla., who bought the coin in partnership, according to Heritage Auctions.
“Not only is it just one of only five known, genuine 1913-dated Liberty Head design nickels, this particular one was off the radar for decades until it literally came out of the closet after a nationwide search,” said Heritage Auctions Vice President Todd Imhof.
The coin was struck at the Philadelphia mint in late 1912, the final year of its issue, but with the year 1913 cast on its face - the same year the beloved Buffalo Head nickel was introduced.
A mint worker named Samuel W. Brown is suspected of producing the coin and altering the die to add the bogus date, according to Douglas Mudd, curator of the American Numismatic Association Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Col., which has held the coin for most of the past 10 years.
The coins' existence wasn't known until Brown offered them for sale at the American Numismatic Association Convention in Chicago in 1920, beyond the statute of limitations. The five remained together as a set under various owners until 1942.
A North Carolina collector, George O. Walton, purchased one of the coins in the mid-1940s for a reported $3,750. The coin was with him when he was killed in a car crash on March 9, 1962, and it was found among hundreds of coins scattered at the crash site.
One of Walton's heirs, his sister, Melva Givens of Salem, Va., was given the 1913 Liberty nickel after experts declared the coin a fake because of suspicions the date had been altered. The flaw probably happened because of Brown's imprecise work casting the planchet — the copper and nickel blank disc used to create the coin.
“She kept the nickel in a box with family items in the closet, and it stayed there for four decades,” said Givens' son, Ryan Givens of Salem.
After his mother's death, the siblings brought the coin to the 2003 American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money in Baltimore, where the four surviving 1913 Liberty nickels were being exhibited. A team of rare coin experts concluded it was the long-missing fifth coin. Each shared a small imperfection under the date.
Since its authentication, the Walton nickel has been on loan to the Colorado Springs museum and has been publicly exhibited nationwide.
“This is one of the greatest coins at that price range,” said one of the successful bidders, Jeff Garrett of Lexington, Ky.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pitt senior Weatherspoon’s work ethic second to none
- WPIAL champions wall unveiled at Heinz Field
- NFL notebook: Manning fined for taunting Texans safety
- DEP finally releases full list of wells ruined via gas drilling
- Not to be left behind, speedy Steelers are on the fast track in NFL
- Rock removal prompts lane closure on Rt. 51
- Pirates’ Cole growing in 1st full season
- Rossi: Steelers will make small strides this season
- Carnegie on-ramp to I-376 to close Friday
- Feds approve compromise on Corbett’s alternative Medicaid plan
- Chicago officer accused of putting gun in suspect’s mouth