Liberty Head nickels are not necessarily rare, but as a 1913 Liberty Head nickel that was illegally struck where only 5 are known to exist, such a coin can fetch a nice sum at auction. However, this specimen comes with an interesting story, which makes it one of a kind.
It is believed the nickel die was altered and the coin was illegally struck by mint worker Samuel W. Brown in late 1912 as the Liberty Head series nickel were coming to an end. The 5 coin set that was produced was sold by Brown to the American Numismatic Association Convention in Chicago in 1920 after the statute of limitations expired. The set exchanged hands a few times until the set was broken up in 1942. At this point, North Carolina collector, George O. Walton, acquired one of the coins in the mid 1940’s for a reported sum of $3,750. Tragically, Mr. Walton died in a car crash on March 9, 1962. The unusual coin was transported in the car along with hundreds of other coins that were scattered at the scene.
Mr. Walton’s sister, Melva Givens of Salem, Va, inherited the 1913 Liberty nickel. Since the story died with it’s owner, coin experts at that time declared the specimen a fake, as the date on the coin was too imprecise to be genuine.
Ms. Givens, inserted the coin in an envelope and stashed it away in a closet, never to be thought of again until 1992, when her son Ryan was preparing his mother’s estate after her death. The family attorney had some knowledge of the 1913 Liberty nickels and asked Ryan to examine the coin. “He looked at it and he told me he’d give me $5,000 for it right there”, Ryan said. Pending his siblings’ approval, Ryan declined the offer.
Thereafter, the siblings took the coin to the 2003 American Numismatic World’s Fair of Money in Baltimore, where the other four 1913 Liberty nickels were on display. After a team of rare coin experts examined the coin, they concluded it is indeed the missing 5th nickel from the set, due to the unique imperfections found under the date that each nickel in the set shared.
The coin has been on loan to the American Numismatic Association Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado to be exhibited nationwide.
The family have now decided that it is time to offer the nickel for sale to the public. Todd Imhof, executive vice president of Heritage Auctions expects the nickel to attract many high valued bids to challenge U.S. records for the sale of a single coin. Heritage Auctions estimate that the Walton nickel will sell for $2.5 million or more when it hits the auction block on April 25th in suburban Chicago.
“This is a trophy item that sort of transcends the hobby,” Imhof said. “It’s an interesting part of American history and there are collectors who look for something like this.”