Monday, November 30, 2009

Coin Monday: "The $100,000 Nickel"? Not Anymore!

November 30, 2009
Written by John Dale Beety
The Heritage Blog

Last week, I mentioned that the January 2010 FUN U.S. Coin Auction contains more than one million-dollar coin. As promised, this week I’ll discuss the other piece. Interestingly enough, this won’t be the first time I’ve talked about this particular million-dollar coin in the blog; I led off my “Seeing Double?” post with a reference to a 1913 Liberty nickel in an episode of Hawaii Five-O.

In early January, the same coin—called “The $100,000 Nickel” at the time of taping and “The Hawaii Five-O Specimen” (among other names) today—will be auctioned by Heritage. There are only five authentic 1913-dated Liberty nickels, and the five have appeared in many of the most famous coin collections of all time. While this is the first time Heritage has offered this or any other 1913 Liberty nickel at auction, there is a Heritage connection in the coin’s past.

Back in 1972, it first became “The $100,000 Nickel” when it was offered by Abe Kosoff for that sum. It was purchased by World Wide Coin Investments, which was co-owned by Warren Tucker, now the Director of Heritage World Coin Auctions.

(Aside: I often call Mr. Tucker Tucker-san, after a humorous incident that took place at a wedding in Tokyo. He had been invited there by the father of the bride, a leading Japanese coin dealer of the day. The wedding guests received appliances as gifts; the men were to get radios, the women crock-pots. As a jest, Mr. Tucker was led to the wrong receiving line, and afterward, the Japanese dealer would greet him with “Ah, Tucker-san, you like the crock-pot?”)

It was shortly after the record-setting and news-making purchase that World Wide Coin Investments lent the 1913 Liberty nickel to production of the Hawaii Five-O episode. Like many high-priced stars of the screen, the 1913 Liberty nickel had a “stunt double” for its various adventures in the show. The actual nickel appears only in close-ups, but in those close-ups, it was seen by millions of viewers, which has led some numismatic experts to call it "The Most Famous Coin in the World".

Before and after its brush with showbiz, the coin has been owned by a variety of famous collectors, including Wall Street scion Colonel E.H.R. Green, Fred Olsen, Dr. Jerry Buss of Los Angeles Lakers fame, and the Texan Reed Hawn. (Reed Hawn’s Class I 1804 dollar was bought by David Queller and sold as part of the Queller Family Collection of Silver Dollars for more than $3.7 million dollars in April 2008, the third-highest price ever brought by a U.S. coin at auction.)

It appeared in the news a month back that CBS is looking to revive the Hawaii Five-O franchise. If they ever do a re-make of “The $100,000 Nickel,” perhaps the coin’s next owner will let it reprise its role. Of course, the episode title is out-of-date now. Nearly four decades on, that $100,000 price tag seems almost quaint. While it’s too early to tell what this 1913 Liberty nickel might bring in January, all the early signs point to “The $3,000,000 Nickel”—or maybe something more.

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