Remember the mid-nineties, when Americans thought that the dollar was on a dangerous free fall and the only secure investment was Beanie Babies? That was crazy, but we all learned a lot. We learned that the only secure investment is nickels.
On Thursday night, a very rare nickel sold for over $3 million dollars at auction. The nickel was a 1913 Liberty Head, one of only five known to exist. The Chicago Tribune reports that two partners, one in Kentucky, the other in Florida, went in together to purchase the nickel (engraved value: $0.05) for a total of $3,172, 500 (63,450,000 nickels). If you put the nickel in a standard coin laundry machine, it would probably jam the slot because quarters are preferable.
One of the new part owners, Jeff Garrett of Lexington, called the timeshare nickel he does not completely own “one of the greatest coins at that price range.” If Garrett had nineteen more of 1913 Liberty Head nickels, he could combine the twenty to purchase a regular-sized candy bar from a corner store, although the cashier would probably be annoyed at him for paying in nickels.
The reason the 1913 Liberty Head nickel is so valuable is because it was never supposed to have been produced. It is a nickel against nature and reason.
Douglas Mudd of the American Numismatic Association explained to the Tribune that the U.S. Mint stopped production of Liberty Head nickels in 1912. One theory for how the five 1913 coins came to exist is that a “renegade” Mint worker produced them himself as a money-making scheme. According to legend, this worker took out a fake ad in 1919 saying he was willing to pay $500 for a rare 1913 Liberty Head in order to stir up interest in a coin-hungry public. Years later, he sold them.
Before winding up on the auction block this week, this specific coin survived a deadly car crash (en route to a car show), was declared a fake, and was stored in a closet for four decades.
It’s just a great $3 million nickel.