1913 Liberty Nickel

The 1913 Liberty Nickel is one of the most famous and valuable coins in American numismatics. There are only five specimens known to exist, one of which sold for $3,737,500 at auction in January 2010.

Part of the allure is that it is an issue which is not supposed to exist. The Liberty Nickel series officially concluded in December 1912 and was replaced in 1913 by the new Buffalo Nickels. Thus, all 1913-dated nickels were supposed to carry the new design. In 1919, Samuel Brown placed an advertisement offering to pay $500 for any 1913 Liberty Nickel, and the following year publicly displayed such a coin. It is believed that he illegally struck or arranged to strike the coins and placed the ad as a means of legitimizing the coins.

There are believed to have been five examples of the 1913 Liberty Nickel originally struck. These remained together for a time, until the set was split up and sold to five different owners in the early 1940’s.

Today, one of the coins (pictured above) resides within the Smithsonian Institution’s collection and one resides with the ANA’s collection. The Eliasberg specimen, which is the finest known, was sold for a rumored price of $5 million to an anonymous collector. The Olsen specimen most recently sold in January 2010 for $3,737,500. The Walton specimen was lost for several decades until it was rediscovered in 1993 within the hands of the Walton family. They had believed the coin to be a fake, but a panel of experts at the 2003 ANA convention confirmed it as genuine.