US Coins

GreatCollections buys Walton 1913 5¢ for $4.2 million, then sells to new owner

The George O. Walton example of 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin has found a new home at more than $4 million.

Graded Proof 63 by Professional Coin Grading Service in 2013 and stickered by Certified Acceptance for its superior condition within the grade, the Walton coin is the second of two 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin to be acquired within the past 11 months by Ian Russell and GreatCollections and subsequently placed with separate well-heeled collectors.

On Nov. 25, 2021, in a three-coin deal totaling $13.35 million, Russell also acquired the PCGS Proof 66, CAC-stickered 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin once owned by noted Baltimore collector Louis Eliasberg Sr. The purchase, from collector Bruce Morelan, also included a PCGS Proof 65 Class I 1804 Draped Bust dollar and a PCGS Proof 65+ CAC-stickered 1894-S Barber dime.

The two 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coins Russell acquired in this 11-month period are among the five examples known, three of which are in private hands. The remaining two are held in museum collections.

Russell purchased the former Walton specimen in October 2022 for $4.2 million, according to a bill of sale Russell provided to Coin World Oct. 17 to verify the transaction. Russell said he has placed the coin with an unidentified collector for an undisclosed price.

Russell purchased the Walton coin from the Firman family [Ron Firman, Martin Burns and their mother], which had acquired the coin in 2018 for a price between $3 million and $4 million from then co-owners Larry Lee from Coin and Bullion Reserves in Panama City, Florida, and Jeff Garrett from Mid American Rare Coin Galleries in Lexington, Kentucky.

Lee and Garrett bought the coin for $3.17 million from the Heritage Auctions April 25, 2013, sale held in conjunction with the Central States Numismatic Society’s spring convention in Schaumburg, Illinois.

That auction price realized totals the $2.7 million auction bid Garrett placed plus the 17.5% buyer’s fee.

Ron Firman said the family never accepted physical possession of the Walton coin, having the coin reholdered by PCGS and shipped to the American Numismatic Association Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where it has been on public display.

Firman said his collection of early U.S. large cents, including a PCGS Mint State 67 1793 Flowing Hair, Wreath cent, are being readied to be put on public display at the museum.

The 2013 auction was 10 years after the Walton coin surfaced publicly after more than 41 years at the bottom of a closet in the home of one of Walton’s heirs, who mistakenly believed experts who said the piece was counterfeit.

Walton was an eccentric collector and dealer who was killed in 1962 in a motor vehicle accident in which the coins he was carrying, including the 1913 5-cent coin, were scattered along a North Carolina highway. The 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin eventually wound up in the hands of one of his relatives who placed it in a closet in his home after being told that it was counterfeit.

In 2003, during the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Baltimore, an effort was made to try and reunite all five examples of the 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin for the first time since the 1940s when they were owned by consummate St. Louis collector Eric P. Newman who bought all five from dealer Burdette G. Johnson.

Walton’s heirs brought the closeted example that their uncle had owned.

At that 2003 convention, a half dozen top numismatists met and examined the five 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coins, including the Walton coin, concurring that all of the coins were genuine, debunking the long-held belief that the Walton coin was fake.

In 2018, Lee and Garrett parted with the Walton coin, selling it to the Firman family in a transaction brokered by Philadelphia dealer Bob Paul from Bob Paul Rare Coins.

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