The curious case of the forgotten Liberty Head nickel came to a resolution Thursday night, when the rare piece of coinage was sold to a collector for $3.17 million. The coin is one of only five known to exist. The lucky sellers were a family of Virginian siblings, the children of the late Melva Givens, who held on to the nickel despite it being pronounced a fake years ago, The Star Tribune reports. Despite the financial reward, the Givens children expressed their disappointment at parting with a piece, imbued with so much history.
"I guess I still feel kind of sad about it and I'll probably feel that way for a while," said Ryan Givens, 66, who attended the auction with two siblings. "It's been in the family for so long."
The Liberty Head coin is thought to have been minted as a joke. It was created in 1912, the last year of the Liberty Head nickel, but carries a 1913 year stamp on its face – the year when the Buffalo Head was introduced. The five rare pieces of the set changed hands often, but they remained together until 1942. Sometime in the 1940s, a North Carolina collector, George Walton purchased the coin. He died in a car crash in 1962. The coin was discovered on the crash site, however and inherited by Walton’s sister, Melva Givens. This is how the Liberty Head ended up in the Givens family, but it wasn’t until years later, in 2003, when the siblings took it to the American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money in Baltimore, where the four surviving 1913 Liberty nickels were being exhibited. This is how the true identity of the coin was discovered and it was reunited with the rest of the set. And now, after passing through countless hands since its minting, the Liberty Head nickel turns out to be the luckiest thing anyone’s ever found while cleaning out the closet.