The headline-making authentication of the long-missing Walton specimen 1913 Liberty Head nickel by a team from Professional Coin Grading Service in 2003 is the subject of an episode in a new program, “Accidental Fortune,” to be aired on The Learning Channel May 2.
The segment will feature interviews with Paul Montgomery, who offered a minimum $1 million reward for the coin in 2003 on behalf of a division of PCGS’ parent company, Collectors Universe; and Ryan Givens, nephew of George O. Walton, who had an appraisal business based in North Carolina.
Walton was killed in a 1962 car crash and the 1913 Liberty Head nickel was among the many coins recovered from the wreck. When Walton’s estate was settled among his heirs, Givens’ mother – Walton’s sister – received the coin.
Givens lives in the Virginia house where his mother unsuspectingly kept the famous coin in a closet for 41 years after she was incorrectly told in 1962 that it was a fake.
When he made the reward offer, Montgomery, president of the Professional Numismatists Guild, was president of Bowers and Merena Galleries, then owned by Collectors Universe. The reward was a publicity stunt created by public relations consultant and former American Numismatic Association Governor Donn Pearlman as a tie-in to the 2003 ANA World’s Fair of Money in Baltimore. The show was to feature a display with four of the five known 1913 Liberty nickels, the first time they were to be together since the set of five was broken up in 1942.
Givens, his sister Cheryl Myers and her husband, Gary, brought their inherited coin to the ANA’s 2003 Baltimore convention, where it was first examined by Montgomery, Mark Borckardt and John Dannreuther. Hours later, they joined a team of PCGS experts led by David Hall, who examined the coin along with the four other specimens in a secret, midnight authentication meeting held in the security room of the Baltimore Convention Center. They unanimously concurred that the Walton coin was genuine and, indeed, the long-unaccounted-for specimen.
Montgomery told the Walton family members that night, “It’s genuine, it’s worth significantly more than a million dollars, and God bless you.”
The TV episode has a recreation of that authentication meeting along with information about events leading up to it.
“This story, kept alive by the Givens family, brings to life what our hobby is truly all about,” said Montgomery. “This episode of ‘Accidental Fortune’ was a blast to work on, but for me was simply the next chapter of an already great story. It makes me wonder what’s next for the Walton nickel?”
The Walton heirs still own the coin. Following the 2003 convention, they placed it on long-term loan to the ANA and it has been exhibited at the ANA Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colo., and various ANA conventions around the country.
Viewers should check their local listings for the time “Accidental Fortune” is scheduled to be shown in their area. The program is produced by Mike Mathis Productions of Pasadena, Calif.