A rare 1913 five-cent piece made a bit of money this week, fetching $5 million from a Southern California collector. The buyer was represented by local rare coin and jeweler Ronald J. Gillio. For Gillio, a coin collector since his youth, it was a dream come true to be a part of the transaction. “Since I was a kid, everybody’s known about this coin,” Gillio said. “To be a part of this and handling this is fabulous.”
The coin was purchased by Legend Numismatics for $4.15 million in 2005 and has had at least ten owners since being made in 1913. After Legend Numismatics posted on their website they were selling the coin, a customer of Gillio’s expressed interest in the coin. So Gillio, who owns Gillio Coin and Jewelry at 8 W. Figueroa St., acting as an agent for the collector, struck a deal for the coin. The pewter gray-colored coin is in “virtually perfect condition,” according to the Legend Numismatics website. The unnamed buyer-who only wished to be identified as a Southern California collector, Gillio said-took possession of the coin yesterday.
The coins are considered very rare and are some of the finest known coins in the world. The Mint acknowledges the coins were made, and the nickel was certified by experts at Professional Coin Grading Service in Newport Beach.
As the story goes, Samuel Brown was working at the Philadelphia Mint when orders came down in December 1912 not to mint anymore “Miss Liberty” nickels in favor of a new design featuring a bison on the back and a Native American Indian on the front. The dyes had already been made, however, and Brown somehow ended up with five 1913 nickels with “Miss Liberty” on the front and a Roman number V on the back. It’s not clear if the coins were made before or after the design switch, or who made them, but Brown eventually left the Mint.
A few years later an advertisement ran in numismatic magazines, promoting the coins for sale for $500 each, an outrageous amount of money for that period of time. After that similar ads ran, this time with a $600 price tag. In 1920, Brown exhibited the coins at an American Numismatics Association show, saying he bought them off the advertisement. Historians speculate Brown struck the coins himself, as well as placed the ads to legitimize his coins. He eventually sold all five nickels in 1924.
Two of the remaining 1913 Liberty Head nickels are in collections at The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and the American Numismatic Association Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The record price paid for a coin is $7.59 million paid for a 1933 U.S. $20 Double Eagle gold coin sold in July 2002, when it was thought to be the only one of its kind. Since the sale, more than ten of the Double Eagle coins have been discovered, thus diminishing the value.