Once appearing in an episode of the 1970s television drama
Hawaii Five-O, the Fred Olsen example of the 1913 Liberty
Head 5-cent coin will cross the auction block in January for the
second time in four years.
The Olsen 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin was last offered Jan. 7,
2010, in Orlando, Fla., in conjunction with the Florida United
Numismatists convention. The coin sold in that sale for $3,737,500.
The coin is now part of The Greensboro Collection.
The coin is certified Proof 64 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and
considered the second finest of five examples known.
The Olsen coin will make a return visit to the auction block at
FUN during the Jan. 9, 2014, Platinum Night session at the Orange
County Convention Center.
In 1972, the Olsen specimen became the first coin to break the
The coin was the subject of the Dec. 11, 1973, Hawaii
Five-O episode, aptly titled “The $100,000 Nickel.” At the time,
the coin was owned by World Wide Coin Investments of Atlanta.
In the episode’s story line, according to the Internet Movie
Database (www.imdb.com): “A rare 1913 Liberty Head nickel, one of only
five ever made, is to be auctioned at a coin show held at the Ilikai
Hotel. European master criminal Eric Damien [actor Victor Buono] gets
con artist and sleight-of-hand expert, Arnie Price [actor Eugene
Troobnick], freed from jail so that he can switch a cleverly-made fake
with the original before the auction. But things do not go as planned,
as Price, fearing capture, tries to dispose of the nickel in a news
rack, and the chase is on to recover the nickel before anyone else
The coin switch is detected before Price can exit the hotel. The
thief deposited the coin in the coin slot of a newspaper vending
machine, expecting to recover the coin later.
However, when Price returns to recover the coin, he discovers the
paper boy who swaps out papers has just emptied the change. A scuffle
ensues and the paperboy is killed. Price runs away without finding the
coin. During the struggle, coins are scattered over the ground.
Shortly afterward, a young boy, unaware of the coin’s rarity,
notices and picks up the stolen 1913 coin and subsequently spends it.
The coin is eventually returned to its rightful owner after
passing through a number of hands.
During the filming of the episode, the genuine Olsen 1913 5-cent
coin appeared on camera four times and was held only by Buono. A
“stunt coin” was used for the remainder of the appearances in the
show, including during the close-up scene of the coin being placed
into the coin slot.
Five 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coins were struck clandestinely at
the Philadelphia Mint. Treasury officials had decided that in 1913 no
Liberty Head 5-cent coins would be struck for circulation before the
introduction of the 1913 Indian Head 5-cent piece.
Collectors were unaware that any 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coins
existed until Samuel W. Brown, a former Mint Cabinet curator at the
Philadelphia Mint, advertised in the December 1919 issue of The
Numismatist that he wanted to purchase any existing examples for $500 each.
Brown subsequently exhibited the five 1913 5-cent coins at the
American Numismatic Association’s 1920 convention in Chicago.
Some collectors have speculated that Brown had the coins struck
during his Philadelphia Mint tenure and, after waiting a few years,
placed advertisements in which he claimed to be seeking to purchase
examples as a mean to legitimize their existence.
From Brown, the five coins have been traced as passing through the
hands, circa 1924, of Philadelphia coin and stamp dealer August
Wagner, Philadelphia dealer Stephen K. Nagy, and New York dealer Wayte
Raymond. Raymond quickly placed all five coins with one of the most
prominent collectors of the era — Col. Green. Green retained ownership
of the five coins until his death in 1936.
In December 1941, in two separate transactions totaling $2,000
combined, Eric P. Newman — attorney, principal in Edison Brothers
stores, numismatic scholar and collector from St. Louis — purchased
the five 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent from the Green estate with the
assistance of his mentor, Burdette G. Johnson.
Johnson, who operated the St. Louis Stamp & Coin Co., assisted
numismatist Fred C.C. Boyd in appraising Col. Green’s estate and was
responsible for dispersing it into the marketplace.
All five examples of the 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin remained
together until 1943 when Newman chose to retain only the finest
example; he sold it in 1948.
Of the other four pieces, one was sold to Boyd for $1,000 and
three were sold to Ohio coin dealer James Kelly in 1943 for $750 each.
The example being sold in January traditionally bears the name of
a former owner, Fred E. Olsen.
According to Heritage Auctions: “[Olsen] was born in England in
1891 and finished his technical training at the University of Toronto.
He later lived in Alton, Ill., where he was employed as technical
director at the Western Cartridge Company. ... Olsen died in 1986 at
his home in Guilford, Conn.”
Kelly sold the coin to Olsen for $900 circa 1943 to 1944,
according to Heritage.
Fort Worth, Texas, dealer B. Max Mehl eventually brokered the sale
of the coin in 1944 from Olsen to King Farouk I of Egypt, who owned
the coin briefly.
Department store owner Edwin Hydeman purchased the Olsen specimen
for $3,750 in 1961 and kept it until 1972 when World Wide Investments
purchased it for $100,000. Jerry Buss, a collector and sports magnate
who owned the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, purchased the coin
in 1978 for $200,000.
Collector Reed Hawn purchased it at public auction through
Superior Galleries in 1985 for a hammer price of $350,000 plus 10
percent buyer’s fee.
Dwight Manley, distributor of the SS Central America treasure,
acquired the coin for Spectrum Numismatics in Stack’s October 1993
sale of the Reed Hawn Collection for a hammer price of $875,000 plus
the then 10 percent buyer’s fee.
The coin has been more recently owned by Bruce Morelan and Legend
Numismatics, and then by John Albanese and Blanchard and Co. Inc.
before its placement with The Greensboro Collection. ■