Olsen 1913 Liberty nickel ready to break $3.7m record

The famous Olsen 1913 Liberty nickel is due to appear in Heritage Auctions' January 8-12 sale in Orlando with a starting bid of $1.1m.

The origins of the 1913 Liberty nickel are somewhat murky, but it is known that a master die with the Liberty design had been prepared for 1913 - although ultimately the famous Buffalo Head nickel was chosen for that year.

Olson Liberty Head nickel
A persistent rumour abounds that the coins were secretly produced by an employee of the US Mint

Just five examples of the Liberty Head were struck - all of which ended up in the collection of Colonel EHR Green, an eccentric stamp and coin collector, until his death in 1936.

Only three examples, including this one, are in private collections - with the other two examples held in the collections of the Smithsonian and the American Numismatic Association.

The Olsen coin, named for its former owner Fred Olsen, is graded the second highest of the five known examples and is ranked the fifth most valuable coin in the world after it sold for $3.7m in 2010.

It is the most famous of the five, having featured in an episode of the TV series Hawaii Five-O, in which it was stolen from a numismatics convention in Honolulu.

Since 1972 (when it sold for $100,000) until its last sale in 2010, it has achieved a 10% annual rate of return - an impressive figure that is likely to ensure frenzied bidding on the day of the auction.

January will be a big month for Heritage Auctions, with a 1787 Brasher Doubloon and an 1890 Grand Watermelon banknote also coming up for auction.

You can view our collection of rare coins here.

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