May 6th, 2013

Rare nickel adds to legend with auction sale

By MintState

A coin with one of the more fascinating stories in U.S. numismatics added another layer to its legend last month.

One of five known copies of the famed 1913 Liberty Nickel sold for some $3.1 million at an auction held in late April just outside of Chicago. That puts the sale of the coin on par with other recent auction prices of U.S. rarities, including the $10 million sale of a1794 Silver Dollar and the $1.6 million auction of an 1873 Dime minted in Carson City. For the latest auction involving the 1913 Liberty Nickel, it’s not a bad take considering the coin was never intended to be cast in the first place.

As the story goes, the coin – which was minted at the Philadelphia facility in 1912, even though it bared a 1913 date was believed to have been either produced illegally by a U.S. Mint worker or for use as a test die, as it was the same year in which the government swapped out the Liberty head obverse in favor of the popular Buffalo head design. The five coins, which were first exposed to the public in 1920, were eventually split up, with one copy ending up in the hands of a coin dealer out of North Carolina, who purchased the coin for $3,750 in the 1940s and was in possession of the piece when he was killed in a car accident in 1962.

The coin, which was found at the crash scene along with hundreds of other coins scattered about, was initially identified as a fake by examiners, leading a beneficiary of the coin dealer to tuck the prized piece away in a closet for decades. It wasn’t until that woman passed when her children discovered the coin among her belongings, eventually having it verified as authentic when the “lost” fifth 1913 Liberty Nickel was reunited with the four other examples at 2003 American Numismatic Association World’s Fair.

Though the coin won’t likely go through that kind of roller coaster again now that it has been properly recognized (unless, of course, the coin comes with a curse, which could be conceivable given its history) the recent sale certainly adds to its lore. Considering the new buyer has stated he intends to hold on to the piece, don’t be surprised if a 1913 Liberty Nickel fetches big bucks if it ever comes up for auction again.

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