"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.
clerk or storekeeper, according to his employment transcript, resigning to enter business for his own account. He was born in Brownstown, Pennsylvania, circa 1879, and died in North Tonawanda, New York, in June 1944. It seems that Brown was always well liked and respected. After resigning from the Mint, he relocated to North Tonawanda late in 1913, where he was associated with Wayne Fahnestock in the Frontier Chocolate Company. He was later associated with the Pierce-Brown Company and retired in 1924 at the age of 45. He was a Mason and a past master of Sutherland Lodge No. 826. Brown also served as district deputy grandmaster of the Niagara Orleans district and as a member of the Shrine club and the Ismailia temple. Serving several terms on the Board of Education, he was mayor of North Tonawanda in 1932 and 1933.
Ray Knight comments: "The mysterious Mr. Brown confounds understanding. Just when you think you have him pegged as a crafty, scheming thief, he conducts the rest of his life in what appears to be a completely exemplary manner."
The Hobbs Episode
The authors of Million Dollar Nickels observe: "The whole affair of the 1913 Liberty nickels would possibly never have come up--and the coins may never have been created--had it not been for The Hobbs Episode."
Treasury Secretary Franklin MacVeagh had an opportunity to make a permanent mark on the U.S. coinage before his term expired in 1913. The nickel was the only coin whose design could be changed under the 25-year law that states coin designs must remain in production for 25 years before they can be changed. MacVeagh served as Secretary of the Treasury from March 8, 1909, to March 5, 1913. After seeing James Earle Fraser's designs for the Buffalo nickel, he awarded Fraser the commission. In his annual report, Mint Director George Roberts stated about the Buffalo design: "The coin is distinctively characteristic of America, and in its execution promises to take high artistic rank among the coinages of the world." Everything was coming along smoothly, and the Buffalo nickel was about to become a reality--until the Hobbs episode began.
Hobbs Manufacturing Company began business as a manufacturer of paper box machinery, originally in Lynn and Boston, relocating to Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1891. In 1910 the firm began production of vending machines for postage stamps, railroad ticket sales, and change-making.
Officials from Hobbs Manufacturing found the new Indian/Buffalo nickel entirely unsatisfactory, demanding change after change to the Fraser design. Fraser sent a set of Hobbs-approved models to Charles Barber, who received them on December 26, 1912. He went to work reducing them and preparing dies, with test strikes minted on January 7, 1913. Hobbs was still unsatisfied and demanded more changes. Another six weeks of meetings and changes took place until MacVeagh had had enough. He certainly wanted the Buffalo nickel released before his term expired, and a meeting with Hobbs representatives on February 15, 1913, put an end to the episode. MacVeagh advised Roberts