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One nickel jingles like a fortune

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 31, 2003

BALTIMORE - A million-dollar mystery was solved early Wednesday with experts certifying that a nickel that had been missing for decades is the fifth 1913 Liberty Head nickel.

Relatives of the late George Walton, a North Carolina coin dealer, took the coin to the experts at the American Numismatic Association convention that opened Wednesday. The relatives did not want to be identified.

The family had put the coin away after Walton's death because they didn't believe it was genuine, said Paul Montgomery, president of Bowers and Merena Galleries, a Louisiana-based coin dealer and auction house.

They decided to bring it out for inspection after learning that Montgomery had offered a $1-million reward for the coin and $10,000 just to be the first to see it.

The association brought the six experts together late Tuesday. After comparing the coin to four documented coins, they declared the coin authentic early Wednesday.

The family had no immediate plans to take Montgomery up on his offer of $1-million for the coin. However, Montgomery said he would write the relatives a check for $10,000 for letting him be the first to see it on Tuesday.

The Liberty Head nickel was replaced by the Indian or Buffalo nickel after 1912, Montgomery said. But five Liberty nickels with 1913 dates were minted illegally by Mint official Samuel K. Brown.

The coins weren't put into circulation and for many years they were considered illegal to own because they weren't regular issue.

Two of the coins are now in private collections and the other two are in museums.

The reward amount was based on the auction of a 1913 nickel for $1.4-million in 1996. It was the first coin to sell for more than $1-million.

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