1913 Nickel Brings $4.5 Million

The finest known 1913 Liberty Head Nickel brought a record-breaking $4.5 million at the Aug. 15 Stack's Bowers auction at the ANA World's Fair of Money in Philadelphia. (Photos courtesy Stack's Bowers.)
The finest known 1913 Liberty Head nickel brought a record $4,560,000 price Wednesday, Aug. 15, at the Stack’s Bowers auction held in conjunction with the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia.
The coin, purchased by an anonymous bidder, is one of five struck. Known as the Dr. William Morton-Smith/Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection specimen, or simply the Eliasberg specimen, it has “a glittering mirror surface and is the only specimen with this characteristic,” according to Stack’s Bowers.
It is the finest graded example of its kind and traces its provenance to the only complete collection of United States coins by date and mintmark, according to Stack’s Bowers. It comes from the family of Dr. William Morton-Smith, an old-time collector whose numismatic interests were spurred by a remarkable discovery.

Morton-Smith’s passion for collecting goes back generations. As in any family, certain heirlooms pass down through the generations and in this particular circumstance, a beautiful antique Colonial desk was inherited by Bill. As he was combing through the desk discovering its many features, he came across a compartment that housed a coin collection consisting of colonial coins, half cents, large cents, a complete set of proof Liberty Head nickels, and much more. These had once belonged to his great grandfather.

Bill was amazed that the coins had been in the desk all this time. He determined to learn all he could about them and add to the collection. He spent decades adding important rarities to the collection, which had been started generations before. A connoisseur at heart, he pursued other collectibles, all of which he enjoyed sharing with others.

Named for the collector who bought it in 1948 and amassed the greatest coin collection in U.S. history, Louis E. Eliasberg Sr., the Eliasberg 1913 Liberty Head nickel was the centerpiece of his collection, which included a cabinet complete with every date and mintmark from the 1793 half cent to the 1933 double eagle. No collection like this had been assembled before, and none like it will likely ever be formed again.

The other four 1913 Liberty Head Nickels have gone on to private collectors and museums, including the Smithsonian, but none are as finely graded as the Eliasberg example, which is graded Proof-66 by PCGS.

Visit Stack’s Bowers’ website for more details and auction results.


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