The Olsen-Hawn 1913 Liberty Head nickel sold last night for a bid of $3,250,000. With a 15 percent buyer's fee added, the number rises to $3,737,500. That's a nice chunk of change. It was sold by Heritage Auction Galleries in the firm's Platinum Night offerings at the Florida United Numismatists convention in Orlando.
Naturally, I wanted to be present when the famous coin went under the hammer. There are only five known, and there is always drama when large sums of money are involved, although "drama" is probably the wrong word to use when the consigner to the sale wishes to be anonymous and the buyer is taking the same position.
When I asked Greg Rohan, Heritage president, if he could tell me who bought the coin during a pause right after the coin was hammered down, he replied, "A prominent East Coast collector, that's all we can tell you."
There were about 100 hobbyists in the room when the bidding opened at $2,750,000. Rohan had strategically placed himself in the room. He was standing in front toward the right corner. He upped the bid to $3 million. A phone bidder than raised it. Rohan was asked if he wanted to raise it and he declined to do so. The lot changed hands shortly after 10:30 p.m. and I could go back to my hotel. Others in the room had the same idea. We might have seen history, but convention fatigue gets to us all sooner or later.