Heritage sold the Olsen specimen of the legendary 1913 Liberty Nickel
January 14, 2010 – None other than one of the most famous American coins in existence, the „Olsen“ specimen of the 1913 Liberty nickel, was the anchor lot in Heritage Auctions January 6-10, 2010 Florida United Numismatists (FUN) Auction.
“The 1913-dated Liberty nickels are among the greatest mysteries of American coinage,” Greg Rohan, President of Heritage Auction Galleries. “James Earle Fraser’s famous ‘Buffalo nickel’ design should have appeared on every coin dated 1913. Yet there are five 1913 nickels that have the old Liberty design instead.”
Of the five Liberty nickels, two are in museum collections, leaving just three available to collectors. In the past decade auction appearances of 1913 Liberty nickels have been rarer than the coins themselves. Like the other 1913 Liberty nickels, the example offered by Heritage has become individually famous. It is known as the “Olsen specimen” after an early owner, but his is hardly the only notable name in its provenance.
Colonel E. H. R. Green, son of Hetty Green (“The Witch of Wall Street”), owned all five 1913 Liberty nickels, as did the numismatist-scholar Eric P. Newman. King Farouk of Egypt held the Olsen specimen for several years in the 1940s, and from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, it belonged to Dr. Jerry Buss, owner of the Los Angeles Lakers.
A coin such as the Olsen specimen is often in the limelight, and this was never truer than in 1972 and 1973, when it sold for a record-setting price and became part of TV history.
“In 1972, World Wide Coin Investments paid $100,000 for this 1913 Liberty nickel, the first time a collectible U.S. coin was bought for a six-figure sum,” said Rohan. “The newsmaking nickel went on-location to film scenes for an episode of the famous police drama Hawaii Five-O.”
Millions of viewers were watching on Dec. 11, 1973, as a thief and the police sought the precious coin. In the space of an hour, the Olsen specimen became the single most famous coin in the world.
“The title of that episode was ‘The $100,000 Nickel,'” said Rohan. “Times have changed. Today, the Olsen specimen is valued in the millions of dollars.”
Mr. Rohan was right: the coin sold for 3.737.500 $.
More numismatic information about the famous coin at http://coins.ha.com/common/view_item.php?Sale_No=1136&Lot_No=2455&type=&ic=Center-1913nickel-althome-010810