Liberty Head Nickel

1913 Liberty Head Nickel (from the National Numismatic Collection).
  1. Liberty Head Nickel
  2. Liberty Head Nickel 1893
  3. Liberty Head Nickel 1898
  4. Liberty Head Nickel 1910

Liberty Nickels Minted from 1883 to 1912 The First year of issue, 1883, created quite a controversy, as the denomination 'Five Cents' was not placed on the coin. Later in that year 1883, the coin was redesigned and the word –CENTS- was placed on the reverse so that the Nickel when gold-plated would not look so similar to a $5.00 Gold Coin. The Liberty Head Nickel (often called the V Nickel) is a U.S. Five-cent coin that was designed by Charles Barber, the Chief Engraver at the U.S. Over half a billion Liberty Head Nickels were minted between 1883 and 1912.

Liberty Head Nickel

The 1913 Liberty Head nickel is an American five-cent piece which was produced in extremely limited quantities unauthorized by the United States Mint, making it one of the best-known and most coveted rarities in American numismatics. In 1972, one specimen of the five cent coin became the first coin to sell for over US$100,000;[1] in 1996, another specimen became the first to sell for over US$1 million. In 2003, one coin was sold for under three million dollars. In 2010, the Olsen piece sold for US$3.7 million at a public auction.

Only five examples are known to exist: two in museums and three in private collections.


The Indian Head (Buffalo) nickel was introduced in February 1913, replacing the Liberty Head design.[2] These were the first official strikings of nickels in 1913, since the United States Mint's official records list no Liberty Head nickels produced in that year. However, in 1920, the numismatic community learned of five Liberty Head nickels dated 1913, all owned by Samuel Brown, a numismatist who attended the American Numismatic Association's annual convention in 1920 and displayed the coins there. He had previously placed an advertisement in the December 1919 issue of The Numismatist soliciting information on these coins, offering to pay US $500 for each[3] and ostensibly purchasing them as a result. However, Brown had been a Mint employee in 1913, and many numismatic historians have concluded that he may have struck them himself (or had them struck) and taken them from the Mint.[1] If true, this was not a unique occurrence; such clandestine strikes were quite common in the 19th century, with the Class II and III 1804 silver dollars perhaps the best-known instance. Other numismatic authorities, such as Q. David Bowers, have questioned this scenario, and pointed out that there are several methods by which the coins could have been legitimately produced; e.g., they may have been lawfully issued by the Mint's Medal Department 'for cabinet purposes,' or could have been struck as trial pieces in late 1912 to test the following year's new coinage dies.[4] Bowers, however, did not entirely discount the private minting theory.[5]


In January 1924, Samuel Brown sold all five 1913 Liberty Head nickels. The intact lot passed through the hands of several other coin dealers before finally being purchased by Colonel E. H. R. Green (son of the famous Gilded Age investor and miserHetty Green), who kept them in his collection until his death in 1936. His estate was then auctioned off, and the five 1913 Liberty Head nickels were purchased by two dealers, Eric P. Newman and B. G. Johnson,[6] who broke up the set for the first time.

Eliasberg specimen[edit]

The Eliasberg specimen is the finest known 1913 Liberty Head nickel.

Of the five 1913 Liberty Head nickels, two have proof surfaces and the other three were produced with standard striking techniques. The Eliasberg specimen is the finest known 1913 Liberty Head nickel, with a grade of 66 from various professional grading services, including PCGS and NGC.

This coin was purchased from Newman and Johnson by the Numismatic Gallery, a coin dealership that then sold it to famed collector Louis Eliasberg. It remained in Eliasberg's comprehensive collection until after his death. In May 1996, it was sold at an auction conducted by Bowers and Merena to rarities dealer Jay Parrino for US$1,485,000: the highest price for a coin up until that point. When it was auctioned again in March 2001, the price climbed to US$1,840,000.[2] In May 2005, Legend Numismatics purchased the Eliasberg specimen for US$4,150,000.[7] In 2007, it was sold to an unnamed collector in California for US$5 million.[8]

Olsen specimen[edit]

The Olsen specimen 1913 liberty nickel

While the Eliasberg specimen is the best preserved of the five coins, the Olsen specimen is almost certainly the most famous. It has been graded Proof-64 by both PCGS and NGC, and was featured on an episode of Hawaii Five-O ('The $100,000 Nickel,' aired on December 11, 1973).[9] It was also briefly owned by King Farouk of Egypt.[6]

When Newman and Johnson broke up the set of five coins, the Olsen specimen was sold first to James Kelly and then to Fred Olsen. The latter sold the coin to Farouk, but his name has remained attached to it in numismatic circles ever since. In 1972, it was sold to World Wide Coin Investments for US$100,000, thus inspiring its title appearance in Hawaii Five-O the following year. Its price doubled to US$200,000 when it was resold to Superior Galleries in 1978. It has been resold on several occasions since then, fetching US$3,000,000 in a private treaty sale from California collector Dwight Manley to Bruce Morelan and Legend Numismatics in June 2004. Legend sold the coin to Blanchard and Co. in 2005, who sold it to a private collector, and more recently for US$3,737,500 by Heritage Auctions in January 2010.[10][11] The latest owner's name has not been disclosed.

Norweb specimen[edit]

The Norweb specimen is one of two 1913 Liberty Head nickels that have ended up in museums. It is on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution.

Newman and Johnson sold the Norweb specimen to F.C.C. Boyd, who then resold it to the Numismatic Gallery (which handled several of the coins over the years). In 1949, it was purchased by King Farouk to replace the Olsen specimen, which he had sold. It remained in Farouk's collection until he was deposed by Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1952. Two years after that, Farouk's possessions were all auctioned off by the new regime.[4] The Numismatic Gallery regained possession of it, and sold it this time to Ambassador Henry Norweb and his wife. The Norwebs donated the specimen to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Numismatic Collection- where it remains [12]- in 1978 to commemorate their sixtieth wedding anniversary.[13]

Walton specimen[edit]

The Walton specimen is the most elusive of the five 1913 Liberty Head nickels; for over 40 years, its whereabouts were unknown and it was believed to have been lost. George O. Walton, for whom the specimen is named, purchased it from Newman and Johnson in 1945 for approximately US$3,750, equal to $53,256 today.[14] On March 9, 1962, Walton died in a car crash en route to a coin show. He had promised the show's promoters that he would exhibit the 1913 Liberty Head nickel there, so it was assumed to have been among the coins in his possession at the time of the fatal crash. US$250,000 worth of coins were recovered from the crash site, including the 1913 Liberty nickel, which was protected in a custom-made holder. When Walton's heirs put his coins up for public auction in 1963, the nickel was returned to them, because the auction house had mistakenly determined the coin to be not genuine. As a result, the coin remained in the family's possession, being stored in a strongbox on the floor of a closet in his sister's home, for over 40 years.[15] In July 2003, the American Numismatic Association arranged to display the four specimens whose whereabouts were known. As a publicity stunt, public relations consultant and former ANA governor Donn Pearlman launched a nationwide hunt for the missing fifth specimen. He arranged with Bowers and Merena auction house (at the time a division of Collectors Universe, Inc.) to offer a minimum US$1 million to purchase the coin, or as a guarantee for consigning it to one of their public auctions. In addition, a US$10,000 reward was offered simply for letting representatives of Bowers and Merena be the first to see the missing fifth specimen when found. After learning about the reward, the Walton heirs brought their coin to the ANA convention in Baltimore, where expert authenticators from Professional Coin Grading Service examined it at length and compared it to the other four known specimens. At that time, it was determined that the Walton specimen was genuine.[16] The coin was sold at auction by the heirs in April 2013 for US$3,172,500, significantly above an estimated value of US$2,500,000.[17]The auction buyers, Jeff Garrett, (former ANA President) and owner of Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries in Lexington, Kentucky, partnering with esteemed numismatist, Larry Lee, put it on display at Lee’s store, Coin & Bullion Reserves in Panama City, Florida. It stayed there, on display for five years, viewed by legions of visitors. In June 2018 Garrett and Lee sold the 1913 Walton, in a private treaty sale reported to be between $3 and $4 million, to Martin Burns, a lawyer from Las Vegas and his brother Ron Firman, of Miami. PCGS reauthenticated the coin and sealed it a current PCGS Secure slab (holder). The brothers then arranged for the Walton specimen to come back to the ANA museum, where it has been since July 2018. [18]

McDermott specimen[edit]

Liberty Head Nickel 1893

Held by the American Numismatic Association's Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the McDermott specimen has the distinction of being the only 1913 Liberty Head nickel with circulation marks on it. Johnson and Newman sold it to James Kelly, who then sold it to J.V. McDermott, whose name ended up as part of the coin's pedigree. He often carried the coin around with him, showing it off to bar patrons and boasting of its extraordinary rarity and value. The coin lost some of its original mint luster in the process, and McDermott eventually protected it in a holder to prevent further wear.[4] After his death, the coin was then sold at auction to Aubrey Bebee in 1967 for US$46,000, who along with his wife donated it to the ANA in 1989, where it is exhibited in the Money Museum.[19]


  • Paul Montgomery, Mark Borckardt, and Ray Knight. Million Dollar Nickels: Mysteries of the 1913 Liberty Head Nickels Revealed. Irvine, CA: Zyrus Press, 2005
  • Michael Wescott with Kendall Keck. The United States Nickel Five-Cent Piece: History and Date-by-Date Analysis. Wolfeboro, NH: Bowers and Merena, 1991


  1. ^ abGarrett, J.; Guth, R. (2003). 100 Greatest U.S. Coins. Atlanta, GA: H.E. Harris & Co. pp. 10–11. ISBN978-0-7948-1665-0.
  2. ^ ab'1913 Liberty Head Nickel NGC Graded PR66 (Finest Known) – Original Catalog Description'. Superior Galleries, Inc. 2001. Archived from the original on 2006-02-06. Retrieved 4 February 2006.
  3. ^'1913 Liberty Nickel'. ANA Money Museum. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 17 April 2007.
  4. ^ abcBowers, Q. David (1996). 'Pedigree of Five Known 1913 Liberty Nickels'. Professional Coin Grading Service. Retrieved 6 February 2006.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^Bowers, Q. David. 'The Story of the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel: A History and Appreciation'(PDF). The Finest Known 1913 Liberty Head Nickel. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  6. ^ ab'1913 Liberty Head Five Cents'. Collectors Universe, Inc. 1999. Archived from the original on 22 February 2006. Retrieved 4 February 2006.
  7. ^'1913 Liberty Head nickel sells for $4M'. USA Today. Associated Press. 2005-06-02. Retrieved 17 April 2007.
  8. ^'Eliasberg 1913 Liberty Head Nickel Sold for Record $5 Million'. US Rare Coin Investments. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
  9. ^'Hawaii Five-O: The $100,000 Nickel'. CNET Networks, Inc. Retrieved 6 February 2006.
  10. ^'Olsen-Hawn 1913 Liberty Nickel Sells for $3,737,500 : Coin Collecting News'. 2010-01-08. Archived from the original on 2012-01-06. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
  11. ^Mark Borckardt. 'Olsen 1913 Liberty Nickel Auction Description with Photos and Video'. Heritage Auction Galleries. Retrieved 1 August 2010.
  12. ^Bowers, Q. David (2003-06-20). 'The Incredible 1913 Liberty Head Nickel!'. Scoop!. Gemstone Publishing, Inc. Retrieved 7 February 2006.
  13. ^Montgomery, 2005, pp. 147, 148
  14. ^'George O. Walton, Collector (1907–1962)'. ANA Money Museum. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 17 April 2007.
  15. ^Montgomery, Paul; Borckhardt, Mark and Knight Ray. Million Dollar Nickels. Irvine, California, Zyruss Press, Inc. 2005, p. 220. ISBN0-9742371-8-3.
  16. ^Deisher, Beth (2003-07-30). 'Found! – Missing 1913 Liberty Head 5¢ coin in closet for 40 years'. Coin World. Amos Press, Inc. Archived from the original on 2006-10-22. Retrieved 7 February 2006.
  17. ^Rare 1913 nickel fetches more than $3.1M at auction
  18. ^[1]
  19. ^Deisher, Beth (July 2003). 'Liberty Head Legends: The famed 1913 Liberty Head Nickels and the whereabouts of the second specimen are making news – again'. - The Numismatist. American Numismatic Association. Archived from the original(PDF) on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 12 February 2006.
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  • The Top 25 Most Valuable Nickels
Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez

Nickels are not as widely collected as pennies or silver dollars, which may help explain in part why coin values for this denomination aren’t generally as high as for other silver coins. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some rare and valuable nickels. In fact, one of the most expensive coins in the world is the 1913 Liberty Nickel, of which only five were made. 1913 Liberty Nickels have sold for as much as $3.7 million at auction; three exist in private collections and two reside in museums.

Liberty head nickel 1898

The nickel has existed since 1866, but the United States has had a five-cent coin since 1794, when a tiny silver coin known as a half dime was first struck. Half dimes coexisted with nickels and were last made in 1873. The half dime, however, would not be the last silver five-cent coin the United States Mint would produce. That honor, to date, goes to the Jefferson Nickel, which was struck in a 35% silver composition from 1942 through 1945 when nickel was being rationed for military artillery during World War II. Coin values for these so-called “Wartime” silver Jefferson Nickels range from their intrinsic bullion value to about $25 for a Mint State-65 specimen of a regular-issue.

Liberty Head Nickel 1898

What follows is a list of the 25 next-most valuable nickels, with coin values included. This list is representative of all major design varieties of the nickel, going back to the Shield Nickel of the 19th century.

Below are coin values for the 25 most valuable nickels:

  1. 1913 Liberty Nickel: $3.7 million – Five 1913 Liberty Head nickels were made, and at one time all were in the possession of the famous coin collector Edward Howland Robinson 'Ned' Green, also known as Colonel Green, who owned all five of the coins late in his life. The 1913 Liberty Nickel was the first U.S. coin to surpass the $100,000 mark in 1972, and the first to eclipse the $1 million mark in 1996.

  2. 1916/16 Buffalo Nickel: $3,950 – The 1916/16 doubled die obverse Buffalo nickel is one of the most popular error nickels around and easily approaches $4,000 in Good-4 Grade, making this one of the most valuable nickels, aside from the 1913 Liberty nickel. The number of doubled die 1916 nickels is hard to determine, as the mintage was rolled into the issue’s original output of 63,498,066. Only several dozen may exist, more or less. But, whatever the total number of 1916/16 Buffalo Nickels happens to be, this is without a doubt one of the greatest rarities of the 20th century.

  3. 1877 proof Shield Nickel: $2,100 – In 1877, the nickel was struck only in the proof variety, though many escaped into circulation and therefore exhibit signs of wear. The price listed here is for an example in Very Fine-20 grade on the Sheldon Grading Scale. While 900 were made, most assuredly far fewer survive today.

  4. Secrets to winning texas holdem. 1878 proof Shield Nickel: $1,100 – Much like the case of the 1877 nickel, the 1878 nickel was also struck only in proof. Many entered circulation, and is represented in price here as a Very Fine-20 Grade variety.

  5. 1918/7-D Buffalo Nickel: $1,000 – This overdate Buffalo Nickel is one of several in the series and definitely one of the scarcer nickels of the 20th century. The $1,000 price quoted here is for an example that is graded as Good, though expect to ante up even more for a higher-grade example.

  6. 1936-D 3½-legged Buffalo Nickel: $750 – Over-polishing of the reverse die led to this popular variety, which is coveted among all Buffalo Nickel collectors. The price listed here is for an example in a grade of Good-4.

  7. 1885 Liberty Head Nickel: $585 – The 1885 nickel is the key to the Liberty Head series and a piece that is quite difficult to find, regardless of the grade. Only 1,476,490 were made, and only a fraction of that figure still exists. As with any of the dates in this most valuable nickels guide, be sure that if you buy an 1885 Liberty Nickel that it’s been certified by a third-party coin grading firm. The price quoted here is for an example in Good-4 Grade.

  8. 1937-D 3-legged Buffalo Nickel: $535 – Just as was the case for the 1936-D 3½-legged Buffalo Nickel, over-polishing of the die caused the virtual removal of the Buffalo’s front leg on this piece. Expect to pay a shade over $500 for an example grading Good-4.

  9. 1880 Shield Nickel: $500 – Only 19,995 nickels were made in 1880, and only a small number of them still exist today, making this one tough cookie to find in any grade. The price listed here is for an example in Good-4 grade.

  10. 1879 Shield Nickel: $390 – Shield nickels of the late 1870s and early 1880s were made in very small numbers, and such was the case for the 1879 nickel. Just 29,100 were struck, and just a small number of those survive to this day. The $390 figure here applies to examples in a grade of Good-4.

Here is a list of coin values for the most valuable nickels in the 11th through 25th spots. Prices listed below are for pieces in a grade of Good-4, unless otherwise noted. Do you have any of these nickels?

Liberty Head Nickel 1910

  1. 1913-S Type II Buffalo Nickel: $340

  2. 1997-P matte finish uncirculated Jefferson Nickel: $325

  3. 1886 Liberty Nickel: $285

  4. 1881Shield Nickel: $260

  5. 1914/3 Buffalo Nickel: $250

  6. 1883/2 Shield Nickel: $220

  7. 1912-S Liberty Nickel: $165

  8. 1913-D Type II Buffalo Nickel: $125

  9. 1914/3-D Buffalo Nickel: $115

  10. 1871 Shield Nickel: $72

  11. 1921-S Buffalo Nickel: $64

  12. 1935 Doubled Die reverse Buffalo Nickel: $50

  13. 1915-S Buffalo Nickel: $50

  14. 1917-S 2 Feathers Buffalo Nickel: $50

  15. 1918 2 Feathers Buffalo Nickel: $50

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