1793 penny fetches $1.38M at U.S. auction

A one-cent coin from 1793 has sold for a record amount of $1.38 million in a Florida auction. This kind of sale shows investors that demand for rare coins for collection purposes is still strong and that individuals are willing to spend large amounts of money.

January 8, 2012
The Associated Press
USA Today

ORLANDO, Florida (AP) – A once-cent copper coin from the earliest days of the U.S. Mint in 1793 has sold for a record $1.38 million at a Florida auction.

James Halperin of Texas-based Heritage Auctions told The Associated Press on Saturday that the sale was "the most a United States copper coin has ever sold for at auction." The coin was made at the Mint in Philadelphia in 1793, the first year that the U.S. made its own coins.

Heritage officials said in a news release that the name of the buyer was not revealed but that he was "a major collector." One of the coin's earliest owners was a well-known Baltimore banker, Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.

"Mr. Eliasberg was nicknamed, 'the king of coins' because before his death in 1976 he assembled a collection that consisted of at least one example of every coin ever made at the United States Mint, a feat never duplicated," Halperin said in the news release.

The final bid for the coin last week was one of the largest sales at the Florida United Numismatists coin show and annual convention, which runs through Sunday. Halperin said a five-dollar gold piece from 1829 also was sold.

Halperin said there remain a few hundred 1793 coins in different condition, but that the one auctioned off Wednesday night is rare because it wasn't in circulation.

Officials say it shows no wear on its lettering, its Lady Liberty face or the chain of 13 linking rings on its back.

"This coin is known as a 'Chain Cent' because the central design on the back is a chain of 13 linking rings. It represented the solidarity of the 13 original colonies, but some critics claimed the chain was symbolic of slavery, and the design was quickly changed from rings to a wreath," Halperin said in the news release.

Halperin said the auction had $60 million in transactions. The show runs through Sunday.

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