A rare 1913 Liberty Head nickel, buried in a family closet for 40 years, sold at auction Thursday for $3.2 million.
Only five of the nickels are known to exist and three are available to collectors, according to Heritage Auctions, which handled the sale in Schaumburg, Ill., and received 19 bids.
The winning bidders were two men from Lexington, Ky., and Panama City, Fla. The final price exceeded an initial estimate of at least $2.5 million.
“The 1913 Liberty nickel is one of America’s most famous rare coins,” said Todd Imhof, executive vice president at Heritage Auctions. “This particular one was off the radar for decades until it literally came out of the closet after a nationwide search.”
The nickel took a circuitous route to the auction house. It was recovered from the wreckage of a deadly car accident in 1962 and then tucked away in a Virginia family’s closet for four decades.
Family members eventually brought it to experts for authentication in 2003.
A North Carolina collector, George Walton, purchased the nickel in the mid-1940s in a trade for other coins worth about $3,750, according to Heritage Auctions. Walton was carrying the nickel and other collectibles when he was killed in a car crash in 1962 en route to a coin show.
At one point later, the nickel was mistakenly labeled a fake due to concerns that the date had been altered.
In 2010, another 1913 Liberty Head nickel was bought for $3.7 million, according to the auction site.