Olsen 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin realizes $3.29 million in FUN convention sale

Price realized less than its last appearance in 2010 FUN auction
Published : 01/14/14
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A 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin that figured prominently in an episode of the 1970s television drama Hawaii 5-0 sold for $3.29 million during the Jan. 9 Platinum Night sale by Heritage Auctions.

Bidding opened at $2.4 million and continued in $100,000 increments. The winning $2.8 million closing bid was placed by a mail/fax bidder. A 17.5 percent buyer’s fee was added to the hammer price to arrive at the total figure.

The auction was held in conjunction with the Florida United Numismatists convention.

The 1913 5-cent coin is certified Proof 64 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and stickered by Certified Acceptance Corp. It is considered the second finest of five known examples and is one of three in private hands. It is often referred to as the Olsen specimen, for collector Fred E. Olsen. The coin has counted among its owners Col. E.H.R. Green, Eric P. Newman, King Farouk I of Egypt, sports magnate Jerry Buss and Reed Hawn, among others.

The coin sold for less than it brought in its last appearance at auction. The Olsen 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin was last offered Jan. 7, 2010, by Heritage in conjunction with the Florida United Numismatists convention. The coin sold in that sale for $3,737,500. The winning bidder in that auction was The Greensboro Collection, which consigned the coin to the Jan. 9, 2014, sale.

In 1972, the Olsen specimen became the first coin to break the $100,000 level.

The coin was the subject of the Dec. 11, 1973, Hawaii 5-0 episode, aptly titled “The $100,000 Nickel.” At the time, the coin was owned by World Wide Coin Investments.

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 have speculated that Brown had the coins struck during his Mint tenure and, after waiting a few years, placed ads in which he claimed to be seeking to purchase examples as a means to legitimize their existence. ■

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