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Rare 1913 Nickel for Sale
By Donn Pearlman, Special for Numismatic News
September 26, 2013

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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A legendary rare nickel that was made under mysterious circumstances and was unknown to even exist for many years is coming back in the spotlight.

The Olsen specimen 1913 Liberty Head nickel, sometimes known as the “Hawaii Five-O” specimen because of its featured appearance in an episode of that popular television program, will be offered in the Heritage Auctions U.S. Signature Coin Auction at the Florida United Numismatists Convention in Orlando, Jan. 8-12, 2014.

It is graded NGC PR64, and Heritage officials estimate it will sell for $3.5 to $4.25 million.

Even though Heritage has not yet issued any formal news release about its upcoming auction, collectors already are inquiring about this internationally famous coin.

“We have received serious inquiries from dealers and collectors, including at least one collector from Asia and another from Europe, who are interested in acquiring the Olsen 1913 Liberty Head nickel,” revealed Todd Imhof, Executive Vice President of Heritage.

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Only five 1913 Liberty nickels have been known to exist since 1920, and two are permanently part of museum collections.

The Norweb specimen, named after Emery May Holden Norweb, a Cleveland, Ohio newspaper heiress and wife of a U.S. diplomat, has been part of the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History since 1977. The McDermott-Bebee specimen, named after Milwaukee, Wisconsin collector J.V. McDermott and Omaha, Nebraska dealer Audrey Bebee and his wife, Adeline, was donated by the Bebees in 1989 to the American Numismatic Association’s Edward C. Rochette Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Heritage sold the Walton specimen 1913 Liberty nickel, graded PCGS Secure PR63, at auction earlier this year for $3,172,500. The coin is named after North Carolina collector George O. Walton who was killed in a 1962 car crash while taking the nickel to a coin show.

Walton’s heirs were mistakenly told it was a fake, and they kept it for decades in a Virginia closet. The coin was declared genuine by experts in 2003 in an astonishing and exciting case of numismatic detective work.

The Olsen specimen is named after Fred E. Olsen, an Alton, Ill., explosives expert who briefly owned the coin in the 1940s. Olsen’s work to improve ammunition was instrumental in U.S. efforts during World Wars I and II.

In recent decades, this particular coin has become known as the “Hawaii-Five-O” nickel after it was featured in a December 1973 episode of that TV show entitled, “The $100,000 Nickel.” The nickel actually had sold for that record-breaking amount in 1972, becoming the first rare coin to break the $100,000 level.

Three years ago it became part of what is known as the Greensboro Collection when it was purchased by an anonymous collector for $3,737,500 in an auction conducted by Heritage at the January 2010 FUN convention.

The fifth known 1913 Liberty nickel, the Eliasberg specimen, is named after Baltimore banker, financier, civic leader and “King of Coins,” Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. He was a legendary collector who assembled a virtually complete, one-of-everything collection of United States coins before his 1976 death.

“Shortly after the Walton example sold this past April, I received a couple of aggressive inquiries about the possible availability of the Olsen or Eliasberg specimens. The Greensboro collector was impressed with our promotion and the results of the Walton coin auction, and now is confident Heritage can deliver a satisfactory result for him as well,” said Imhof.

“Each of the 1913 V nickel specimens enjoy remarkable, storied pasts. And each coin has a registry of past owners that reads like the Who’s Who in numismatic lore.”

In addition to the anonymous Greensboro collector and Olsen, some of the previous owners of this particular 1913 Liberty Head nickel include:

• Samuel Brown, a former United States Mint employee who advertised in 1919 that he wanted to purchase previously unreported 1913 Liberty Head nickels, then appeared with five of them at the 1920 American Numismatic Association convention in Chicago;
• Wayte Raymond, a prominent mid-20th century dealer and numismatic publisher;
• Colonel Edward Howland Robinson Green, an avid and eccentric collector of coins and stamps, including the entire sheet of 1918 “Inverted Jenny” airmail stamps;
• Respected collector and numismatic researcher Eric P. Newman jointly with St. Louis, Missouri dealer Burdette G. Johnson;
• Fort Worth, Texas dealer and numismatic promoter B. Max Mehl, who extensively advertised during the Great Depression he’d pay $50 each for 1913 Liberty Head nickels even though he knew all five known were accounted for;
• Egyptian King Farouk;
• New York City department store owner Edwin Hydeman;
• World Wide Coin Investments and then jointly with Bowers and Ruddy Galleries;
• Superior Galleries;
• Chemist, real estate investor and Los Angeles Lakers co-owner Dr. Jerry Buss;
• Austin, Texas energy industries business executive Reed Hawn;
• Spectrum Numismatics;
• Pacific Northwest business executive Bruce Moreland and Legend Numismatics;
• PCGS, NGC and CAC co-founder John Albanese and Blanchard & Co.

“It’s tough for any coin to match the wonderful story of the Walton example. But the quality of the Olsen specimen is notably higher, so it’ll be interesting to see how the marketplace values it,” said Imhof.

For additional information, contact Heritage Auctions at (877) 437-4824 or visit online at

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