When is a nickel worth $3.7 million?

As cameo appearances go, this has to be the best.
Hawaii Five-O 1913 Liberty Head 5c.jpg
A rare 1913-dated U.S. Liberty Head nickel that was featured in a 1973 episode of the TV series, “Hawaii Five-O,” was purchased for $3,737,500 in a public auction conducted in Orlando, Florida by Dallas’ Heritage Auctions last night (Jan. 7, 2010).

Only five such coins are known and the winning bidder “is a very advanced, East Coast coin collector who was filling a hole in his collection with the addition of the 1913 Liberty nickel,” said Greg Rohan, president of Heritage Auctions.

The nickel’s star studded past doesn’t stop at television.

This one was owned over the years by an infamous Egyptian King and a Los Angeles sports team owner. Although the name of the seller also was not disclosed, previous owners of this 1913 Liberty nickel included King Farouk of Egypt who was deposed in 1952.

In December 1973 it was prominently featured in an episode of the TV series, ‘Hawaii Five-O,’ entitled ‘The $100,000 Nickel.’  Los Angeles Lakers owner, Dr. Jerry Buss, paid $200,000 for the coin in 1978, and it changed hands several times since then, crossing the million-dollar mark in 2003.

So beside its famous owners and cameo on the small screen, why is this coin so valuable?

“The U.S. Mint struck tens of millions of Liberty Head nickels from 1883 through 1912, but switched designs in 1913 to depict a Native American on the “head’s” side and a bison on the “tail’s” side.  However, five nickels with the new date, 1913, but the old design of the symbolic Miss Liberty secretly were made at the Philadelphia Mint and eventually sold to collectors,” Rohan said in a release.

One of the five fabled 1913 Liberty nickels is in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC; another belongs to the American Numismatic Association (ANA) Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado; and the three others, including the coin in the January auction, are privately owned by collections.

-posted by Eric Bradley