"Olsen" 1913 liberty nickel sold for $3.7 million "Olsen" 1913 liberty nickel sold for $3.7 million at Heritage Auctions Florida United Numismatists (FUN) Auction, at the Orange County Convention Center Thursday.
NGC and PCGS have both graded the coin PR64. While there is a difference of opinion among some about terminology, the difference between a Mint State designation and a proof designation for an issue with just five pieces known is moot.
Past owners of the Olsen specimen, beginning with Fred Olsen, include Egyptian King Farouk, department store owner Edwin Hydeman, Los Angeles Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, Texas oilman and numismatist Reed Hawn, and Dwight Manley, distributor of the S.S. Central America treasure. The current owner desires anonymity, but would certainly hold his own with those before him. The provenance is impressive, and the next collector who owns this coin will be in good company. In Million Dollar Nickels, Ray Knight observes: "Owning one of these treasures automatically elevates the holder upon a pedestal of honor in the numismatic community."
The Olsen specimen is sharp and complete in its design definition. Every star on the obverse is fully defined, Liberty's hair detail is crisp, and the individual agricultural elements are sharp. Similarly, every element of the wreath on the reverse is bold, down to the individual kernels in each ear of corn. The surfaces are fully pleasing and attractive, with uniform surfaces that show exceptional mirrored reflectivity. The surfaces are pristine, without any marks. Only a slight matte appearance separates this piece from a full PR65 grade.
The current offering is only the 12th time that any 1913 Liberty Head nickel has been offered at public auction since their first auction appearance in November 1944.
A Starring Role
After the Olsen nickel broke the $100,000 price barrier, it became the "central character" of a Hawaii Five-O episode appropriately titled "The $100,000 Nickel." The genuine Olsen specimen was only used for the close-up shots during filming. For all other scenes the nickel had its own "stunt double."
Hawaii Five-O was a popular television police series starring Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett, the head of the elite state police unit in Hawaii. His partner and second in command was Danny "Danno" Williams, played by James MacArthur. Nearly every episode ended with McGarrett saying to Williams, "Book 'em, Danno." The series was broadcast on CBS from September 1968 to April 1980 and was filmed almost exclusively in Hawaii, one of the big draws for its fans.
The plot of "The $100,000 Nickel," originally aired on December 11, 1973, involved a coin convention and auction held at the Ilikai Hotel in Honolulu. A 1903 Liberty nickel was carefully altered to 1913 and used in a sleight-of-hand trick to steal the real 1913 nickel. Victor Buono played Eric Damien, a thief who orchestrates the robbery. With the switch detected before Damien can leave the hotel, he drops the coin into a vending machine, expecting to recover it later. Meanwhile, money from the vending machine was already collected, and a struggle ensued for the coin. That struggle resulted in coins being scattered over the ground, whereupon a young boy picked up the nickel and later spent