A US collector pays US$4.8mil (RM17.3mil) for two vintage coins with a total face value of only US$0.26 – say what?
Kevin Lipton is a happy man for two reasons. The first is a rare 1792 American penny that he shelled nearly US$2.6mil (RM9.4mil) to own. It’s the most ever paid for a one-cent piece at auction.
Named after its engraver, Robert Birch, the so-called “Birch Cent” was among the first pennies struck for the US, part of a series of prototype coins. Only 10 are believed to exist and collector Lipton says the coin he purchased is in the best condition of those 10.
“I felt elated, just wonderful,” says Lipton, 55, of Lipton Rare Coins Inc, on Jan 12. He won the bid for the Birch penny at the Heritage Auctions sale in Orlando, Florida on Jan 8. “I thought the coin would bring more money. This was a really good buy.”
One side of the Birch Cent features the profile of Lady Liberty with flowing hair and the motto “Liberty Parent of Science and Industry.” The other side says “United States of America” and gives the denomination “One Cent” within a wreath.
Penny for your thoughts: Above and below, the two faces of the so-called "Birch Cent" that sold at auction for US$2.6mil, making it the most valuable one cent coin in the world. Minted in 1792, only 10 of these coins are believed to remain in existence. – Reuters
“It’s a gorgeous coin, breathtaking,” says Lipton. “And the history is important. This is our earliest depiction of what we thought of ourselves as a nation.”
Jim Halperin, co-chairman of Heritage Auctions, says the US$2,585,000 Lipton paid for the coin tops a record set the day before at the same auction. That coin, a 1793 “chain cent” named after the chains around the denomination, fell under the hammer for US$2.35mil. Before that, the record was US$1.38 million, also for a “chain cent” that was sold in 2012.
Halperin says the auction brought in a total of US$80mil over five days, with rare coins a hot commodity these days. “The economy is pretty good right now and there isn’t a lot of other things to put your money in. People recognise that diversity is a very good financial strategy. And coins are just cool,” he says.
Lipton, who plans to hold onto his new purchase for himself for now, says he was so excited to get the coin that the next day he spent another US$2,232,500 for the “Wright Quarter,” America’s first quarter – the second reason why he is a happy man.
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