Sunday, April 28, 2013

Numismatic nickel

According to the inflation calculator, a nickel in 1913 has the value of $1.18 in today's economy. But not this nickel. Sold on Thursday by Heritage Auctions for $3,172,500, it's got quite a backstory. The coin is one of five struck at the Philadelphia mint in late 1912, but with the year 1913 cast on its face. It was not a mistake, but a deliberate act by a mint worker to sell them at a profit, which he did after the statute of limitations ran out. The nickels remained a set until 1942, when North Carolina collector George O. Walton, purchased one for a reported $3,750. Twenty years later, Walton was killed in a car crash and it was found among the hundreds of coins scattered at the crash site. Walton's sister, Melva Givens of Salem, Virginia, inherited the 1913 Liberty nickel, but stashed it in a closet after experts declared it a fake because flaws in the date stamping raised suspicions that the struck coin had been altered. Givens' son Brian Myers found it 30 years later, when his mother died in 1992, became curious about it but did not have it valued until 2003. That year, the American Numismatic Association was holding a "World's Fair of Money" in Baltimore, and there – where the other 4 1913 Liberty nickels were being displayed – a team of rare coin experts declared it genuine. Myers and his siblings loaned their nickel to the American Numismatic Association Money Museum in Colorado Springs for nationwide exhibit over the last 10 years before finally deciding to sell it. The winning bid came from a pair of investors, one in Kentucky and one in Florida. "This is a trophy item that sort of transcends the hobby. It's an interesting part of American history and there are collectors who look for something like this. Basically, a coin with a story and a rarity will trump everything else," explains curator of the Colorado Springs Museum Douglas Mudd.

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