If I had a nickel for every time a rare 1913 Liberty Head nickel sold for $3.1 million at auction… well, I’d have $0.05. After decades believing the coin was just a fake, a Chicago-area family finally received validation when the nickel, one of only five ever made, raked in multi-millions at auction last night.
The coin has led quite a storied life: Its former owner died in a fiery car crash in 1962 en route to a coin show, and appraisers told his family that the coin was a fake, reports the Chicago Tribune. Despite that, his sister hung onto the coin — and it’s a good thing she did.
“She put it in a padded envelope and wrote, ‘It’s not real,'” said one of the four heirs who worked with an auction house to sell it. “She died … never knowing she had the real thing.”
After spending 40 years stashed in the closet, the coin was finally given its due when the man’s heirs decided to get it reappraised in 2003. Its authenticity was confirmed, turning the money into a bona fide moneymaker.
The U.S. Mint stopped making Miss Liberty Nickels in 1912, but historians believe a renegade Mint work struck five of the coins himself and then generated buzz around the coins to drum up interest. He placed an ad in a 1919 newspaper saying he’d pay $500 for a 1913 Liberty Head coin, and according to an expert with the American Numismatic Association, his plan worked.
“No one had ever heard of such a thing, and it caused a stir,” he said.
The maverick worker eventually sold off the five coins and thus, a legend was born and one family is millions of dollars richer. As the saying goes, “All’s well that ends with a whole lot of money.”
Rare 1913 nickel goes for $3,172,500 [Chicago Tribune]