Tiny, Early American Coin Brings Big Price: $1.5 Million One of the first coins of the early United States has traded hands for a record price, purchased by a nonprofit educational foundation from a well-known California rare coin dealer.
News-Antique.com - Jul 06,2007 - (Dana Point, California) -- A tiny, early American silver coin personally authorized by President George Washington 215 years ago has been purchased for a record $1,500,000 by a California educational foundation.
Slightly smaller than a modern dime and weighing half as much, it's the finest known surviving 1792-dated half disme (pronounced, "deem"), an early spelling of dime.
"Based on its weight of only about one-23rd of an ounce, it's the world's most valuable piece of silver. That's equivalent to more than $34 million per ounce," said Steven L. Contursi, President of Rare Coin Wholesalers of Dana Point, California who sold the historic coin after publicly exhibiting it in Baltimore, Maryland and Long Beach, California earlier this year.
The Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation of Sunnyvale, California purchased it from Contursi. The foundation supports research and publications about early American money.
"This extraordinary coin was struck in the basement of a Philadelphia saw-maker's shop in July 1792 when the Mint was not yet operational," explained Martin Logies, President of the foundation.
"The little half dismes were the very first coins authorized by President Washington under the Mint Act of 1792, and the then-Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, personally received them on behalf of Washington," he explained.
Logies says the foundation plans to display the coin around the country starting with the upcoming American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 8 - 12, 2007.
"Many 19th century collectors referred to the coin's design as the 'Martha Washington half disme' because the portrait resembles the President's wife."
The head's side depicts the portrait of a symbolic female representation of Liberty, the legend, LIB. (liberty) PAR. (parent) OF SCIENCE & INDUSTRY, and the year, 1792. The tail's side has the denomination, HALF DISME, and the words, UNI (united) STATES OF AMERICA surrounding an eagle.
Over the centuries the untouched silver surface has toned to deep blue with touches of purple and light red. Because of its exceptionally sharp details and immaculately preserved condition, researchers believe this particular coin was part of a group originally owned by the first United States Mint Director, David Rittenhouse.
"The previous record price for a 1792 half disme was $1,322,500 for one that sold in an April 2006 auction. Less than 400 surviving examples are known today from the 1,500 total that were recorded made," according to Logies.