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How Can I Tell if My 1913 Liberty V Nickel is Real?

In numismatics, there are a multitude of authentication methods that may be employed, and the best method varies from coin to coin. Since there are only five known 1913 Liberty V nickels, the provenance of the coin is the easiest and most accurate method of authentication. 

About the 1913 Liberty V Nickel 

The 1913 Liberty V nickel is one of the most rare and famous coins in U.S. numismatics.  

No Liberty V nickels were officially produced in 1913. That is the year that the Buffalo nickel was introduced. It was not until 1920 when a coin dealer named Samuel W. Brown brought all five known 1913 Liberty V nickels to the American Numismatic Associations convention in Chicago.  

Brown had taken out newspaper ads offering $500 and then $600 for 1913 Liberty V nickels months earlier. No one knows where Brown acquired these nickels and no others have been identified. 

Today, there are two in private collections and three that are in museums. The nickels are known by the names Olsen, Eliasburg, Walton, Norweb, and McDermott specimens, the surnames of the collectors who purchased them.  

Value of the 1913 Liberty V Nickel 

In 1972, a 1913 Liberty V Nickel became the first coin to sell for more than $100,000. Again in 1996, a 1913 Liberty V Nickel broke another record, this time for the first coin to sell for more than $1,000,000.  

In 2004, a 1913 Liberty nickel was sold for $3 million and then resold for $3.7 million in 2010. In October of 2022, a 1913 Liberty V nickel was sold for $4.2 million. 

Controversy Surrounding the Liberty V Nickel 

The Liberty V nickel has been shrouded in controversy from its first year of issue to today. 

In 1883, the nickel was issued without the word CENTS on its reverse. Certain individuals took liberty with that and plated the nickels in gold and sold them as $5 gold coins. The word CENTS was added to the Liberty nickel later that year. 

What is Provenance? 

Provenance refers to the historical record of who has owned a coin and the path by which a coin took to reach its current owner. Documented proof of provenance can be a crucial detail for establishing the authenticity of a coin, confirming its rightful owner, and ensuring a coin has not been altered. 

A trustworthy provenance can increase the liquidity of a coin, as well as its market value. The extent of this value depends on the reputation of a coin’s previous owners within the numismatic community and how verifiable the provenance is.  

Recording the details of ownership and sale is often done on a dealer’s stock card, a written entry in an auction catalog, or in published research. 

To learn the provenance of a coin, look for a coin’s documentation, which should include prior owners and channels through which the coin was purchased. If a coin has been sold at auction, the auction catalog may provide this information. 

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