An auction in Chicago, Illinois on Thursday saw an exceptionally rare eighteenth century United States one cent coin realise an incredible $1.15 million – more than double the $414,000 realised for the same type of coin at an auction in January 2002.
Organised by Heritage Auctions, 22 bidders competed for the coin, with the winner revealed as an individual acting on behalf of an unnamed group of investors.
The coin is a 1792 silver-centre cent, a prototype piece commissioned by America’s first president George Washington, after U.S Congress had passed the Mint Act of April 2nd 1792.
At the time, there was a general consensus that the intrinsic bullion value of the new nation’s coinage should be approximately equal to its face value and so famous Philadelphia inventor and scientist David Rittenhouse was brought in to come up with a solution.
His idea to avoid an overly large copper one cent coin was to surround three-quarters of a cent work of silver with a quarter cent worth of copper, hence the ‘silver-centre’ cent. However, mass production of the prototypes was considered too complicated and Congress soon lowered the official weight of the cent coin anyway, making the silver-centre cent redundant.
With only fourteen of the original prototypes still known to exist today, it is clear how this one cent coin has become so sought after. Indeed, the numismatic premium of the silver-centre coin looks even more spectacular when you consider that the same coin sold for just $105,000 in 1974.