Three Coins With Face Value of $1.15 Nets $13.35MM Payday for Las Vegas Collector

December 7, 2021

A group of coins known as the "Big Three" of numismatics — an early 20th century nickel, a 19th century dime and a vintage silver dollar — recently netted a spectacular $13.35 million payday for Las Vegas collector Bruce Morelan.

The grouping included the finest example of the five known 1913 Liberty Head nickels, a high-grade example of one of the nine known 1894-dated dimes struck at the San Francisco Mint and one of finest of the 15 known "King of Coins," an 1804-dated U.S. silver dollar.

The three coins with face value of $1.15 had been acquired by Morelan over the past four years working with dealer Laura Sperber of Legend Numismatics in Lincroft, NJ. The coins were authenticated by Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS).

Paying the record purchase price was Ian Russell, president of GreatCollections Coin Auctions of Irvine, CA.

“The PCGS Price Guide estimated the combined value of the ‘Big Three’ at $10.85 million, but I happily paid 23% more for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get the Holy Trinity all at one time. Each of the three coins set a new record price,” stated Russell.

Russell said he paid above book value because quality and rarity costs money in today's robust coin market.

"The 1913 Nickel is the ultimate U.S. rarity, and this is the finest known," he told The Jeweler Blog. "We had reached out to the owner and representative of the other two examples in private hands, and they were not interested in selling theirs, so I knew we had to pay a premium to secure this coin."

Russell purchased the trio as a group for $13.35 million, but estimated that the 1913 nickel accounted for approximately 50% of the total value.

GreatCollections is primarily an auction house that specializes in rare coins and banknotes, but the company also represents buyers and sellers in private transactions, such as the one with Morelan.

Russell told The Jeweler Blog that two of the three coins already have new owners, and he expects the third coin to be sold very soon.

"In talking with the new owner of the 1913 Nickel, he is ecstatic," Russell said. "We had discussed this coin for some time, and for the transaction to happen unexpectedly and so quickly, made his day. It was a goal of his to own a 1913 nickel — likely America's most famous coin."

Russell explained that the 1913 Liberty Head nickels are among the most famous and coveted rarities with only five examples known.

"Two are permanently in museum collections, including one at the Smithsonian, leaving just three for the public to own,” he said.

Prior to Morelan’s and Russell’s acquisitions of the 1804 dollar, 1894 San Francisco dime and 1913 Liberty Head nickel, only a few other collectors are known to have owned examples of all three. They include the late owner of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team Dr. Jerry Buss (1933-2013) and the late Baltimore financier Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. (1896-1976).

Credits: Images courtesy of GreatCollections Coin Auctions.