In a tale that’s closer to the National Treasure movies than a
typical coin-related story, the George O. Walton example of the 1913
Liberty Head 5-cent coin — presumed lost for a generation — made waves
when it sold for $3.17 million at Heritage’s April 25, 2013, Central
States Numismatic Society auction.
The coin was purchased by Larry Lee of Coin and Bullion Reserves,
Panama City, Fla., and Jeff Garrett from Mid-American Rare Coin
Galleries, Lexington, Ky. The auction achieved mainstream press
coverage with more than 1,000 media outlets ranging from CNN to Al
Jazeera reporting the auction.
The coin’s story is one that would be hard to make up: It was
owned by Walton, a collector who was killed March 9, 1962, in a
head-on automobile collision on a North Carolina highway en route to
Wilson-Goldsboro Coin Club’s show where he planned to display the coin.
After Walton’s death his treasured coin was inaccurately
identified as being an altered date piece. Considered missing by the
numismatic community, It remained with his heirs for a generation.
It resurfaced and was authenticated July 29, 2003, at the American
Numismatic Association’s convention in Baltimore when the 5-cent piece
was examined by a panel of experts alongside the four other known examples.
After the coin was validated as authentic, the family decided to
keep the coin for a decade, displaying it at the ANA’s Money Museum at
Colorado Springs, Colo. It remains in the same acrylic plastic holder
that George Walton had custom-made for it more than 40 years ago, and
was graded at the 2013 Florida United Numismatists show as Proof 63 by
Professional Coin Grading Service.
In deciding to sell the coin, the Walton heirs met with Paul
Montgomery, who was part of the team that authenticated the coin in
2003. The family finally decided, in October 2012, to sell the coin
and, while they had reservations, the fact that the Walton name would
always accompany the coin meant that in a way, “it will always be
their coin,” according to Montgomery.
It’s a story that Coin World has been following for more
than 50 years. In fact, Coin World’s longtime editor Beth
Deisher encouraged Walton’s heirs to bring the coin to Baltimore in
2003, and Deisher was the second person the family saw when they
entered Baltimore’s convention center. In a letter published in the
June 10, 2013, Coin World, the Walton family thanked the
numismatic community for its generosity and kindness. ■