Rare1913 Liberty Head nickel up for auction at Heritage Auctions

This image provided by Heritage Auctions shows an authentic 1913 Liberty Head nickel that was hidden in a Virginia closet for 41 years after its owners were mistakenly told it was a fake. The nickel is one of only five known and expected to sell for $2.5 million or more in an auction conducted by Heritage Auctions in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, Ill., on April 25, 2013. (AP Photo/courtesy of Heritage Auctions.)

April 24, 2013 3:38:12 PM PDT
A nickel is a nickel is a nickel. Unless it's worth millions.

Rare coin collectors from around the world gathered at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center to buy, sell and bid on some of the most unusual and expensive legal tender that has ever burned holes in pockets.

The four-day auction runs through Saturday and includes more than 10,000 items valued at more than $40 million. But one little item is the star of the show. One nickel.

The extremely rare 1913 Liberty Head nickel, or, as it's also called, the lost nickel. Only five of the coins were minted in Philadelphia 100 years ago.

"What makes this special is it has the old style design on the coin. In 1913 we switched over to the now famous buffalo design," Todd Imhof, executive v.p. Heritage Auctions, said.

No one can really explain away the suspiciousness of why only five were minted. In 1945 a Virginia man named George Walton bought one of the coins. He, however, was killed in a car crash on his way to a rare coin show. His collection was scattered all over the highway.

"The police at the time gathered up as many of the coins as they could. All the coins and this coin included. They returned them to his widow and there they remained along with this one special coin for many years," Imhof said.

The Walton family was told by one so-called expert that the coin was not authentic, so it was stored in an unlocked drawer in an unlocked closet for more than 40 years. It was lost. But then in 2003 they had the coin appraised again, and this time it was the real thing.

On Thursday, it goes up for auction.

"Internet bidding has already reached over $2.5 million. We expect there are other bids out there still to come forward so we'd like to see it go up to the $3 million mark," Imhof said.

A single nickel- worth 60 million times more.