| April 26
April 26 One of the rarest American coins has
been sold at auction for $3.17 million after being thought of as
a fake and stashed away in a closet in Virginia for decades.
The 1913 Liberty Head Nickel, known as the "lost" nickel,
was put up for auction by four siblings who inherited the
heirloom, which was mistakenly identified as a fake in 1962.
The nickel was auctioned off on Thursday in the Chicago area
by Dallas-based Heritage Auctions. It was sold to Jeff Garrett
of Lexington, Ky., and Larry Lee of Panama City, Fla., auction
house officials said.
"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," Todd Imhof, executive vice president of Heritage
Auctions, said in a statement.
This nickel was one of only five known, genuine Liberty Head
nickels minted in 1913.
Two of them are in museums and two others have been bought
and sold by collectors over the years. This nickel has not sold
since it was bought for a reported $3,750 by North Carolina coin
collector George Walton in the 1940s.
Walton was on his way to a coin show with part of his
collection on March 9, 1962, when his car was stuck by drunken
driver and he was killed, Heritage officials said.
The nickel was recovered from car. After it was examined for
authenticity and determined to be an altered fake, it was
returned to Walton's sister, Melva Givens.
She kept the nickel in a box in a closet of her Salem, Va.,
home while continuing to search for the authentic nickel that
she insisted that her brother had owned.
After her death in 1992, two of her four children grew more
curious about authenticity of the nickel their mother had
"We looked it over and over again and never could figure out
what was wrong with it," said Ryan Givens, the oldest of the
When a reward was offered for the "lost" nickel at the 2003
American Numismatic Association's World's Fair of Money in
Baltimore, the siblings took their nickel to be examined. The
other four Liberty nickels were on display at the event, and
rare coin experts determined the Walton nickel was authentic.
"We were all stunned that the mystery had been solved and
the lost nickel was found," said Donn Pearlman, a former
governor of the American Numismatic Association. "A lot had
changed in forensics since 1962, making it easier to determine
this nickel was authentic."
Givens, 66, and now a coin collector, said it was never
determined why only five 1913 Liberty nickels were produced.
"They stopped printing the Liberty nickel in 1912," he said.
"These five may have been minted clandestinely or to test the
die cast. That's just speculation because no one knows."
Since 2003, the nickel has been on display at the American
Numismatic Association Money Museum in Colorado Springs and
shown at coin shows across the country, Pearlman said.
(Editing by Brendan O'Brien and Bob Burgdorfer)