The 1913 Liberty Head nickel, one of only five known to exist, is headed to auction where expected to reach $2.5 million or more at April 25 in suburban Chicago. But, the coin’s rich backstory that could boost its value. It was made illegally and later found in a car wreck that killed its owner. Then it was declared a fake and forgotten in a closet for decades before being rediscovered.
A rare coin with a interesting story will trump everything else and may be reach $4 million and even up to $5 million, according to Douglas Mudd, curator of the American Numismatic Association Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colo., which has held the coin for most of the past 10 years.
The nickel 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. Worker named Samuel W. Brown was suspected of producing the coin and altering the die to add the bogus date. The coins’ existence wasn’t known until Brown offered them for sale in Chicago in 1920. The five remained together under various owners until the set was broken up in 1942.
A 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. So, the coin stood with her the next thirty years.
The coin caught the curiosity of Ryan Givens, the executor of his mother’s estate. A family attorney offerd $5,000 for coin but he couldn’t accept without his siblings’ approval. They 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.
“The sad part is my mother had it for 30 years and she didn’t know it,” Cheryl Myers, her daughter said. “Knowing our mother, she probably would have invested it for us. She always put her children first.”
Since its authentication, the Walton nickel has been on loan to the Colorado Springs museum and has been publicly exhibited nationwide.
A 1933 double eagle, a $20 gold coin, holds the U.S. record: $8 million. We shall see if a humble 5-cent coin will come close to that amount.