$2.58 Million for Rare 1792 U.S. Cent

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January 19, 2015
By James Massey

ORLANDO, FLORIDA, USA - An extremely rare U.S. penny, born out of political controversy and known as one of the earliest U.S. coins, set a new world record by fetching $2.58 million at Heritage.

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The coin, a 1792 Birch Cent, named after its engraver Robert Birch, has quite a story behind it.

The story could have completely changed the look of the coin, and the use of Presidential power. If things had gone differently.

Story goes... Congress passed The Coinage Act of 1792. That created a Mint and authorized construction of a Mint building in the nation's temporary (1790-1800) capitol in Philadelphia.

President George Washington appointed David Rittenhouse as the first Director of the new U.S. Mint. It's been said the President lived just a few blocks from the new Mint at the time.

Controversy erupted when Congress learned of an idea to use a portrait of President Washington on the new coin. Full story can be read here.

This meant a sitting President would sign an Act authorizing the use of his own image on a coin. As you can imagine, it stirred up quite a debate.

Eventually the dust settled, after the House and Senate choose Miss Liberty for the coin, rather than President Washington's portrait.

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Why's It Valuable?

Reportedly, there are only ten examples of the 1792 Birch Cent known to exist (see video). This particular example is certified MS65, giving it the highest grade known of its type.

Besides its historical significance of being one of the earliest U.S. coins to be minted, Birch Cents are also considered to be artistically superior to other coins of the era.

The coin also has a unique lettered edge which states; " TO BE ESTEEMED * BE USEFUL*" (unfortunately this cannot be seen in the photos).

VIDEO (1-MINUTE): More about the 1792 Birch Cent (Source: ODN)

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