The Walton family specimen of the rare 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent
coin will appear at public auction for the first time in its existence
when Heritage offers the coin at its Central States Numismatic Society
auction in April.
The coin, one of five examples known,
is believed to have been off the market since the mid-1940s. George O.
Walton, a North Carolina antiques dealer, acquired it in 1945 in a
trade worth about $3,750.
When Walton was killed in a
1962 automobile accident, coins were strewn about the crash site. News
reports of the accident recounted how law enforcement officers
retrieved hundreds of coins, including the 1913 Liberty 5-cent piece
still in a custom-made plastic holder.
accident, the Walton family consigned the collection to Stack’s in New
York City for inclusion in an October 1963 auction. The firm’s staff
examined the Walton 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin, determined it to
have an altered date, and returned it to the heirs.
that point, the coin essentially disappeared, lost for decades.
Questions eventually arose over whether Walton ever owned a
genuine example of the coin, although the Walton family maintained
that he had. However, numismatists could not verify the coin’s
pedigree after Dr. Conway A. Bolt, who owned the coin briefly in the
In the meantime,two examples of the 1913
Liberty Head 5-cent were donated by their private owners to the
National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution and to
the American Numismatic Association. That left just two coins in the
marketplace, to trade at increasingly higher prices. The piece once
owned by Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. became the first coin to break the
million dollar barrier at auction when it realized $1,458,000 in 1996.
More recently, the Olsen specimen of the coin realized $3,737,500 at
Heritage’s auction during the 2010 Florida United Numismatists
Todd Imhof, executive vice president of
Heritage, said the firm expects the Walton coin to realize $2.5
million or more at the April auction.
Back in the
The mystery of the Walton coin made
international headlines starting May 23, 2003, when Collectors
Universe offered $10,000 to see the long-missing coin and a minimum $1
million to buy it or consign it through Bowers & Merena auctions,
then a division of Collectors Universe.
At about the
same time, ANA officials were arranging with the owners of the four
known examples of the coin to exhibit them in a high-profile display
at its July 30 through Aug. 3, 2003, show in Baltimore. The display
would be the first time the four coins were seen together since World
War II, when the set of five pieces was broken up and sold.
A reporter from a Virginia newspaper writing about the
Collectors Universe search contacted Coin World Editor Beth
Deisher for background information.
Using the information provided to him, the reporter located
members of the Walton family and interviewed them.
family also showed him the coin identified as an altered date piece
decades earlier. The reporter in turn placed Coin World into
contact with the family, who provided Deisher digital images of the
Upon viewing the images July 25, 2003,
days before the other coins were to go on display, Deisher urged the
Walton family to take their coin to Baltimore, where it could be
compared to the other four genuine coins and examined by experts.
Behind the scenes, Deisher arranged for inspection of the coin.
Upon examination, the experts determined the coin to be genuine.
The “missing” Walton coin had been “found” in the early
morning hours of July 30, the day the ANA convention was set to
When the show opened a few hours later, five
genuine 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coins awaited collectors in the
exhibit, not four. The discovery of the missing coin electrified the
collecting community, and the exhibit of the five coins drew steady
crowds at the convention. After the end of the show, the Walton family
agreed to place the coin on extended loan with the ANA.
The coin was placed on exhibit at the ANA Money Museum in Colorado
Springs, Colo., and has been exhibited at various ANA
Tour before auction
to the CSNS auction, the historic coin will be exhibited by Heritage
at the Florida United Numismatists convention in Orlando, Jan. 10 to
12; the Long Beach, California Coin, Stamp and Sports Collectible
Expo, Feb. 7 to 9; and the Whitman Baltimore Coin & Currency Expo,
March 14 to 17.
The coin is being consigned to the
Heritage auction by Walton’s nieces and nephews.
additional information about the upcoming auction, contact Heritage
Auctions, 800-872-6467, or visit online at www.HA.com.