‘Lost’ 1913 Nickel Finds $3.17 Million At Heritage

SCHAUMBURG, ILL. — A century-old, rare US nickel, recovered from a fatal car crash and then unsuspectingly kept in a closet for 41 years because it was mistakenly declared to be a fake, sold for $3,172,500 on April 25, as part of Heritage Auctions’ Central States Numismatic Society US Coins Signature auction. The low estimate on the coin was $2.5 million.

The winning bidders were identified as Jeff Garrett of Lexington, Ky., and Larry Lee of Panama City, Fla., who purchased the coin in partnership.

 “This particular example of one of the world’s most famous rare coins is perhaps the most special of them all given its amazing story,” said Todd Imhof, executive vice president of Heritage Auctions.

This 1913 Liberty nickel was consigned by the heirs of George O. Walton, a North Carolina collector who acquired the coin in the mid-1940s for a reported $3,750. He had it with him when he was killed in a car crash on March 9, 1962.

Melva Givens of Salem, Va., one of Walton’s heirs, eventually received the coin after being told it was suspected of being an “altered date” fake.

“She kept the nickel in a box with family items in the closet, and it stayed there for four decades,” said Ryan Givens of Salem, Va., one of Walton’s nephews who consigned the nickel to Heritage with his two sisters and his brother.

According to the family, Givens believed the 1962 evaluation that it was an altered date coin, but she also adamantly believed her brother had a real 1913 Liberty Head nickel and continued to look for it. She kept the “fake” coin, likely out of sentiment for her late brother and perhaps because of the date on the coin, 1913, her birth year.

A minimum $1 million reward for the fifth 1913 Liberty Head nickel prompted Walton’s heirs to take the coin to Baltimore in July 2003 to the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money. The four other surviving 1913 Liberty nickels were scheduled to be exhibited at the convention. In a secret midnight meeting in a security room at the Baltimore Convention Center, a team of rare coin experts unanimously agreed the Walton nickel was the long-missing fifth coin.

The winning bid of $3,172,500 includes the 17½ percent buyer’s premium.

The 1913 Liberty Head nickel was one of the highlights of a $40-plus million auction of rare coins and historic paper money offered by Heritage Auctions, April 24–28, in conjunction with the Central States Numismatic Society (CSNS) convention, April 24–27. A full report of the sale will appear in a future issue.

For more information, www.ha.com or 800-872-6467.

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