"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.
to proceed with production of the new nickels, and production finally commenced on February 21. All of the delays provided an opportunity for a special coinage.
Production Fact and Fiction
Much of what we know or think we know about the 1913 Liberty Head nickel remains undocumented. It seems that factual accuracy has never been a concern of numismatists in the past. John Dannreuther sums up the problem: "Once a rumor is repeated and put into print, it becomes fact. When one person repeats it and the next guy repeats it and the next guy repeats it, it becomes absolute fact. Then it becomes part of numismatic lore." Fortunately, the approach of 21st century numismatic research is a fresh look at past lore and legends. Instead of assuming that a story is correct, current research is verifying the source material and eliminating the speculation.
There has been considerable discussion about how and when the 1913 Liberty nickels were made. The coins made their first public appearance in 1920, in the possession of Samuel W. Brown. Circumstantial evidence points to Brown, although it is unlikely that he actually struck the five coins himself. He was a clerk or storekeeper at the Mint, rather than a coiner or someone with knowledge of coin production. Brown almost certainly had one or more accomplices, but who were they?
In Million Dollar Nickels, the authors devote an entire chapter, "Covert Origins," to the mystery of their production. The truth may never be known, as the facts are most likely buried with those responsible. Some have speculated that the coins were made late in 1912, while others suggest early 1913, and some have even said that they could have been made as late as 1919, although the latter is highly improbable.
Lee Hewitt made several suggestions in the March 1958 issue of Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine:
1. They were struck to exchange for coins needed for the Mint cabinet.
2. The coiner and engraver were merely amusing themselves when they struck the coins.
3. They were struck exclusively for a wealthy collector.
Five years later in September 1963, Hewitt suggested they were die trials. Don Taxay responded that they were made expressly for Brown, and that they are fantasy pieces. In 1968, Clyde Mervis reported that the coins were die trials, and that a worker carelessly tossed the coins in a desk drawer where they remained for an unspecified period of time. David Bowers and Walter Breen have both mentioned possible accomplices. In the Eliasberg catalog, Bowers went so far as to suggest it may have been George Morgan.
There have been a number of individuals identified as possible accomplices, from engraver Charles Barber to assistant engraver George T. Morgan, numismatist Stephen Nagy who supposedly had ties to the Mint, to an unidentified security guard who was reportedly fired in 1918. In Million Dollar Nickels, the authors suggest that Brown may have been an accomplice for someone else. "A different angle must consider that Brown was not