Melva Givens put the coin in an envelope and stuck it in a closet, where it stayed for the next 30 years until her death in 1992.
The coin caught the curiosity of Cheryl Myers' brother, Ryan Givens, the executor of his mother's estate. “He'd take it out and look at it for long periods of time,” she said.
Givens said a family attorney had heard of the famous 1913 Liberty nickels and asked if he could see the Walton coin. “He looked at it and he told me he'd give me $5,000 for it right there,” he said, declining an offer he could not accept without his siblings' approval.
Finally, they brought the coin to the 2003 American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money in Baltimore, where the four surviving 1913 Liberty nickels were being exhibited. A team of rare coin experts concluded it was the long-missing fifth coin. Each shared a small imperfection under the date.
“The sad part is my mother had it for 30 years and she didn't know it,” Cheryl Myers said. “Knowing our mother, she probably would have invested it for us. She always put her children first.”
Since its authentication, the Walton nickel has been on loan to the Colorado Springs museum and has been publicly exhibited nationwide.
The coin will be up for grabs at a rare coin and currency auction.
Todd Imhof, executive vice president of Heritage, said the nickel would likely attract lofty bids that only a handful of coins have achieved at auction. That includes $8 million paid for a 1933 double eagle, a $20 gold coin, or the world-record $10 million paid Jan. 24 for a 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar.
“This is a trophy item that sort of transcends the hobby,” he said. “It's an interesting part of American history and there are collectors who look for something like this.”
Ryan Givens said he's not keen on selling the nickel.
“First of all, it had been in the family for so long,” he said. “It's not like something you found in a flea market or something you just found.”
Cheryl Myers said they're often asked why they held on to the coin for a decade after they learned it was authentic instead of immediately cashing it in.
“It was righting a 40-year-old wrong,” she wrote in an email. By allowing the American Numismatic Museum to display it for the past decade, it was honoring Walton's wishes.
“It has been quite a ride,” she said.