The George Walton specimen of the 1913 Liberty Head nickel sold April 25 at auction in Schaumburg, Ill., for $3,172,500.
Jeff Garrett from Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, Lexington, Ky., placed the winning floor bid during Heritage Auction’s Platinum Night session held in conjunction with the 74th anniversary convention of the Central States Numismatic Society.
Garrett said he purchased the coin in partnership with Larry Lee of Coin and Bullion Reserves, Panama City, Fla. Garrett said he and Lee have no immediate plans for the coin.
For Walton’s heirs, the sale of the coin brought a range of emotions.
One of Walton’s nephews, Ryan Givens, said the sale validated his Uncle George’s ownership of the coin, whose authenticity some had questioned after its acquisition from another collector circa 1945 to 1946 for $3,750.
Givens said he was pleased that Garrett was the buyer of the coin. Garrett was one of six numismatists who certified the coin as genuine at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Baltimore in 2003.
“I was afraid somebody would buy it online or by phone and [we would] never know who bought it and where it went,” Givens said. “We’re glad Jeff bought it, since he was one of the original authenticators.
One of Givens’ sisters, Cheryl Myers, was also happy with Garrett being the buyer.
“He’s well thought of in the numismatic community. He’s well-respected,” Myers said. “You want somebody who will appreciate it and who doesn’t look at it just as an investment. He’s going to enjoy it for what it is. And we’ll know where the nickel will be for awhile.”
Ryan Givens congratulates Jeff Garrett for placing the $3,172,500 million bid for the 1913 Liberty Head nickel.
Minutes after the 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin was sold, Garrett phoned Lee to inform him he was co-owner of the Walton coin.
Myers said in the 10 years since the Walton coin was authenticated, the family has learned a lot about their uncle and Walton family history.
“And we’ve met some incredible people that will remain friends for life,” Myers said.
Myers was able to continue satisfying her penchant for collecting the 5-cent denomination by placing the winning bid of $7,000 plus buyer’s fee for an 1882 Liberty Head 5-cent pattern, Judd 1684, graded Proof 65 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and bearing a Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker. Myers purchased the coin from the previous auction session that featured selections from the Eric Newman Collection.
Givens’ and Myers’ sister, Betty Givens, said, “it’s been a very exciting experience meeting everybody.” Betty Givens attended the sale of the Walton 1913 5-cent coin, but was not present in Baltimore in 2003 when the coin was authenticated.
Another sibling, brother Richard, did not attend the authentication session nor the auction.
Before the bidding began, Heritage President Greg Rohan said some 1,000 television stations, including BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera, were reporting the auction.
It’s the best story in numismatics,” Rohan said.
George Walton was killed March 9, 1962, in a head-on automobile collision on a North Carolina highway en route to a coin show. The coin went “missing” shortly afterward when it was inaccurately identified as being an altered date piece. It remained missing for 40 years.
When the Walton coin was authenticated in 2003 at the ANA convention by being examined alongside the other four examples, it was the first time since Eric Newman owned all five coins from the Col. E.H.R. Green estate that all five were together in the same place.
The five coins were first displayed at a Chicago Coin Club meeting in December 1919, bringing to the numismatic world the story of their existence. The five coins were again displayed at the 1920 ANA convention in Chicago.
During an afternoon educational forum that reunited some of those involved with the 2003 authentication, Ryan Givens said the story of the 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin could have ended in 1963 had a Secret Service agent seized the coin rather than permitting the family to keep it.
Secret Service agents from Richmond, Va., visited the Givens family home after learning that some of the coins inherited from Walton included counterfeits and coins with altered dates, which the 1913 coin was suspected to be.
Givens said the lead agent told the family the 1913 coin was an altered date and illegal to own, but informed the family they were being allowed to keep it with the proviso not to sell it as genuine.
Ryan Givens said that from their uncle’s estate, their mother had distributed a selection of coins. Ryan got dimes. Richard got half dollars. Betty got quarter dollars. And Cheryl got 5-cent coins.
Cheryl Myers jokingly said the 1913 coin should have been among the 5-cent coins she received in 1963.