Hawaii Five-O' Nickel Sells for $4M

A private client bought the famed “Hawaii Five-O” specimen of the 1913 Liberty Head nickel from Stack's Bowers Galleries for about $4 million on Nov. 8.

Stack's Bowers' stand at the Long Beach Collectibles Expo in October 2021 had this 1913 Liberty Head nickel, the second finest of five known, three of which are privately owned

Another two are permanently impounded in the Smithsonian and American Numismatic Association collections. NGC grades the sample PF-64+, while CAC gives it a green sticker for high quality.

The King of 20th Century Coinage, the 1913 Liberty Head nickel, is one of the most famous and valuable U.S. issues. Since the Liberty Head series ended in December 1912 and was replaced by the Buffalo design in 1913, this coin should not exist.

The most likely explanations for the 1913 Liberty Head nickels are that they were produced as a favor to a wealthy collector, to swap for ultra-rare coins for the Mint's collection, or for the Mint employee's entertainment.

The 1913 Liberty Head nickel is one of the “holy trinity” of U.S. rarities, together with the 1894-S dime and 1804 silver dollar. It was No. 1 in a previous edition of 100 Greatest U.S. Coins (2019, 5th edition) and is now No. 6. All five surviving versions are historic treasures, but the Hawaii Five-O is likely the most famous.

In December 1973, “Hawaii Five-O,” one of the most popular shows of the day, featured this coin. This episode and coin made the 1913 Liberty Head nickel renowned to non-collectors. Before its broadcast debut, this specimen had a distinguished pedigree, tracing back to Colonel E.H.R. Green, Eric Newman, Fred Olsen, Dr. Jerry Buss, and King Farouk of Egypt.

Stack's Bowers Galleries has handled 1913 Liberty Head nickels for 85 years, the five pieces discovered around 1919 having only been auctioned 15 times. In 2018, the business sold the Eliasberg 1913 Liberty Head nickel for $4.56 million, setting a public auction record. The business is familiar with this “Hawaii Five-O” specimen from Stack's Bowers Galleries' 1993 Reed Hawn sale. Before this 2021 private sale, it sold for $3.29 million at public auction in January 2014.

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