1913 Liberty Head nickel auctioned for record $4.56M

Liberty Head nickel

Obverse and reverse views of 1913 Liberty Head nickel sold by Stack’s Bowers for a record $4.56 million. It is one of only five such coins ever produced. Image courtesy of Stack’s Bowers

PHILADELPHIA- Numismatic auction powerhouse Stack’s Bowers Galleries sold the rarest and most valuable U.S. nickel in existence for $4,560,000 million at their August 15 auction held at the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money at Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Convention Center. At this price it becomes one of the five most valuable coins ever sold at auction as well as the most valuable non-precious metal coin ever.

The Eliasberg 1913 Liberty Head nickel, one of only five ever produced, is the finest graded example of its kind and traces its provenance to the only complete collection of United States coins by date and mintmark.

“This is truly a momentous sale and one for the history books,” said Brian Kendrella, president of Stack’s Bowers Galleries. “The new owner of the Eliasberg nickel now possesses one of the rarest, most valuable United States coins, and one of only three examples of this coveted coin in private hands.”

The 1913 Liberty Head nickel comes from the family of Dr. William Morton-Smith, an old-time collector whose numismatic interests were spurred by a remarkable discovery. Morton-Smith’s passion for collecting can be traced back over generations. As in any family, heirlooms passed down through generations and in this particular circumstance, Bill inherited a beautiful antique colonial desk. As he was combing through the desk discovering its many features, he came across a compartment that housed a coin collection consisting of colonial coins, half cents, large cents, a complete set of Proof Liberty Head nickels and much more. The coins had once belonged to his great grandfather.

Bill was amazed that the coins had been in the desk all that time. He determined to learn all he could about them and continued to add to the collection. He spent decades finding important rarities, including the Eliasberg 1913 Liberty Head nickel.

Named for Louis E. Eliasberg Sr, who bought it in 1948 on his journey to amassing the greatest coin collection in U.S. history, the nickel was the centerpiece of that collection, which was complete with every date and mintmark from the 1793 half cent to the 1933 double eagle. No collection like it had been assembled before, and none like it will likely ever be formed again.

The other four 1913 Liberty Head nickels that were struck have gone on to private collectors and museums, including the Smithsonian, but none is graded as high as the Eliasberg example, which has been certified as Proof-66 by PCGS.

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