1913 Liberty Head Nickel Sells for Bargain Basement Price

Did the light scratch on Liberty's neck cost nearly 2 million dollars in value?

The news is probably fish and chip paper by now, but a 1913 Liberty Head nickel was just auctioned for $3,172,500.  In a previous pre-auction blog post, I mentioned that even at five million dollars, the nickel would be a tremendous bargain.  Even a Huffington Post article called it a bargain -- so it's not just me.

Of the five 1913 Liberty head nickels produced, two are in museums, leaving only three for the rest of us.  The finest specimen sold for five million dollars in 2007, while the other (famous for appearing on Hawaii Five O in the 1970's) sold for $3,737,500 in 2010.  As can be seen in the picture, the current specimen has a scratch on the neck of Miss Liberty.  If the scratch was absent, would this also be a five million dollar coin?

The specimen has an intriguing history (and I don't want to sound like a broken record -- but stories add value to coins).  It was to be displayed at a coin show in 1962, but the owner was killed in a car crash en route.  Missing for over forty years, it will now go back into hiding with a private collector.

Read more about liberty head nickels here.

The internet sales tax: A threat to coin investors

As I write this, The United States Senate is working on a bill to allow states to collect sales tax on purchases made on the internet.  This will put the damper on those making numismatic investments by purchases rare coins on sites such as ebay .  When you invest in stock there is no sales tax -- but rare coins are considered a taxable purchase.  Let's consider what happens to a Philadelphia resident (subject  to a whopping 8% sales tax) purchasing $1000 worth of coins over the internet.  After tax, the price will be $1080.  Suppose the seller then wishes to resell the coins at a break even price.  The new buyer must pay 8% tax making the cost $1166.  The table below shows the effect of cumulative sales for a $1000 coin.

  1. $1080
  2. $1166
  3. $1260
  4. $1360
  5. $1469
  6. $1587
  7. $1714
  8. $1851
  9. $1999
After nine sales, the coin must be sold for nearly double the initial cost to merely let each buyer recover the original purchase price.  Under the same scenario, a buyer in one of the five states without sales tax will still find the coin for $1000.

Investments are tough when one must immediately recover 8% merely to break even.