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Rare Liberty nickel worth a pretty penny

1913 coin will be auctioned tonight at the Salt Palace

A 1913 Liberty nickel, only one of five such coins ever minted, last sold in 1996 for $1.5 million. Friday night at the National Money Show in the Salt Palace Convention Center, that coin is up for auction again.

"It's one of America's coin collecting rarities," American Numismatic Association spokesman Donn Pearlman said.

This nickel was the first U.S. coin to ever sell at a public auction for $1 million.

The rare coin will be auctioned off during a 7 p.m. event by Superior Galleries of Beverly Hills, Calif.

According to Steve Deeds, rare coin specialist with Superior Galleries, the nickel should hit the auction block around 8:15 p.m.

"It's a trophy no one else can have," Deeds said. "It's the finest of the rare."

He's not sure what the starting bid for the nickel will be. That depends on the book bids, advance bids, he will receive later today.

The public can attend the auction, and admission is free to both the Money Show and the auction.

It's a mystery why only five 1913 nickels were printed.

"We'll probably never know exactly why," Pearlman said.

Starting in 1913, the American nickel switched from a design showing the Liberty head and Roman numeral five to the Indian and bison design. Somehow a mint employee made five new nickels with the old design, which had been used since 1883. No one knew the five nickels existed until they surfaced at the 1920 ANA show in Chicago.

For two decades, the nickels remained together in one collection until they were sold separately in 1940.

Today, two of the 1913 Liberty nickels are in museums, another is held privately and another is lost.

Past famous owners of these rare nickels have included King Farouk of Egypt and Jerry Buss, former owner of the Los Angeles Lakers. The nickel was even a subject on one of the old "Hawaii Five-O" TV series episodes.

Pearlman said the nickel to be auctioned off in Salt Lake is by far the best preserved of the five coins. It has received meticulous care.

Deeds said a 1916 buffalo head nickel will also be auctioned off Friday for an estimated $100,000, and some other rare coins could go for $500,000. He said the Money Show's auction will draw collectors from all over the world.

Even after the Friday auction, the rare nickel will remain on public display throughout the National Money Show, which continues Saturday 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Free consultations, educational seminars and a free treasure hunt for school-age children will be featured. There's also a $20 million exhibit of gold from the 1857 SS Central American, alias "The Ship of Gold," as well as two rare $100,000 bills, worth over $1 million each