Published: January 10, 2012
A 1793 chain cent sold for $1.38 million in Heritage’s Platinum night event at the Florida United Numismatists (FUN) convention on January 4. According to James Halperin, Heritage co-chairman, 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 United States made its own coins. “Classic rarities in spectacular condition, like this coin, are a red hot area of the market these days,” he said. The name of the buyer was not revealed, only that he is “a major collector.”
The coin’s pedigree includes the Cleneay, Atwater and Eliasberg collections, and is depicted in the reference book, Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of Early United States Cents 1793‱814 .
The Philadelphia Mint struck cents with the 13 linking rings design on the reverse only during the month of March 1793. The linking rings on the back of the coin were intended to represent the original 13 colonies, but critics claimed the chain was symbolic of slavery and the design was quickly changed with a wreath replacing the chain.
Halperin said there remain a few hundred 1793 coins in different condition, but that the one auctioned off January 4 is rare because it was not in circulation: it shows no wear on its lettering, its lady liberty face nor on the chain of linking rings on its back. Halperin also said that the coin was one of two in the auction that brought the same price, which includes the buyer’s premium.
A complete review of all the FUN auctions will appear in a future issue. AK
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