The "lost" nickel sold at auction for $3.17 million

Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:22pm EDT
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By Marice Richter

(Reuters) - 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.   Continued...