US dollar prototype fetches $840,000

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27 April 2021
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The first dollar coin struck at the US Mint in 1794 has gone under the hammer at Heritage Auctions in Texas, eventually selling for $840,000 (approximately £603,800).

The first dollar coin was an experiment in copper which would become the pattern for more valuable silver versions minted later. Referred to as the 'No Stars Flowing Hair Dollar', bidding opened at $312,000 and in less than a minute, intense bidding quickly pushed the coin beyond expectations.
 
The 230-year-old dollar has been off the market for 20 years, residing in the private collection of Bob R. Simpson, part-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team and a lifelong Texas energy executive.

Simpson purchased the coin in 2008 and has been selling highlights from his collection through Heritage Auctions, which have so far totalled more than $54 million.


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The unique rarity was excavated from the site of the first Philadelphia Mint before 1876, according to the coin’s first owner at its first auction appearance in 1890.

Jacob Lipson, a numismatist at Heritage Auctions said:

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'This coin has traded hands just eight times during the last 230 years. This is a coin of nearly unsurpassed historical significance.'

The rare coin's design

The front of the coin features the adopted Flowing Hair portrait of Liberty with LIBERTY above and the date, 1794, below.

The reverse is the regular-issue silver dollar design with a Small Eagle standing on a rock within a wreath and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA around the border. The copper coin features a lettered edge that reads HUNDRED CENTS ONE DOLLAR OR UNIT with ornamentation between the words.

'It’s all in the stars…'

Experts have spent more than two centuries researching the prototype, which closely resembles later silver dollars minted in Philadelphia, which now command $4 million to $5 million each. The variations between this copper piece and its silver counterparts make it unique among dollars struck following the Mint Act of April 2, 1792 because it is missing telltale decorative stars on coins stamped later.
 
Lipson said: 'It’s all in the stars. Similar ‘starless coins,’ such as a copper half dime, are held in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Numismatic Collection and this copper dollar is considered the companion piece to the half dime.'


Opinion: who's buying coins for millions?

FURTHER READING
As anyone who reads the numismatic press can tell you, a tremendous amount of rare coins are being sold globally, so who is making these eye-watering purchases and is it a sign that the coin market is healthier than ever?