Rare coin hidden for thirty years in family closet may be worth £2.5m

Rebecca Lewis

A rare coin which was at one point declared a fake, survived a crash that killed its owner and lay forgotten in a closet for decades may be sold for more than £2.5m when it goes under the hammer.

The 1913 Liberty Head nickel, one of five in existence, has been surrounded in mystery since it was cast and is just as valuable for its rarity as it is for its remarkable personal history.

One lucky family has had it in their possession since the 1940s. Unaware how valuable it was, the coin spent thirty years hidden in an envelope in the back of a closet.

The rare American coin goes up for auction in Chicago later this year, where bids could exceed £2.5m ($4million).

Douglas Mudd, curator of the museum it is housed in, said: "A lot of this is ego: I have one of these and nobody else does."

The five-cent coin was stuck at the Philadelphia mint in 1912, the final year of its issue, but with the year 1913 cast on its face.

George Walton, a North Carolina collector, bought the coin in the mid 1940s for £2,390. He was carrying it when he died in a car crash in 1962.

Found among the wreckage, the coin was deemed a fake by experts and was given to Melva Givens, one of Mr Walton's heirs and sister.

Regarded only as a memento of her brother, the coin was kept in an envelope in the closet until her death in 1992.

Cheryl Myers, her daughter said: "The sad part is my mother had it for 30 years and she didn't know it. Knowing our mother, she probably would have invested it for us. She always put her children first."

The family were alerted to its worth when a family lawyer offered $5000 dollars for the coin on the spot.

Finally, they brought the coin to the 2003 American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money in Baltimore, where the four surviving 1913 Liberty nickels were being exhibited.

A team of rare coin experts concluded it was the long-missing fifth coin. Each shared a small imperfection under the date.

It was then displayed by the American Numismatic Association Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for ten years before becoming one of the star lots in the upcoming auction on April 25.

Four siblings will split the cash, a reward to the family who never let the coin out of their possession.

Todd Imhof, executive vice president of Heritage Auctions, said: "This is a trophy item that sort of transcends the hobby. It's an interesting part of American history and there are collectors who look for something like this."

One 1913 Liberty nickel was sold for £2.6m in 2005.

Regardless of its monetary value, the coin has meant a great deal for the family who safeguarded it for so long.

"It has been quite a ride," said Ms Myers.