Question: Would You Rather Have 1.5 Million Dollars, or One Cent?
I guess, for we coin collectors (especially the well heeled among us) the answer is – it depends on the “cent”!
Without question, the most frequent question I am asked by the general public is: “What is the most expensive coin you have ever owned?”
My answer often prompts them to ask several follow up questions. Since these questions tend to be similar, I will attempt to answer all of them here.
What is the most expensive coin you have ever owned?
That's an easy one. Far and away the most expensive coin I have personally bought and sold was this coin:
It is a 1793 Chain Cent, With the word AMERICA abbreviated as “AMERI”. I purchased it for $1.5 million.
How did you discover the coin?
Well, I wish I could say something like, “I found it in a wooden chest in an attic of an old New England farmhouse”. The truth is more ordinary. I purchased it out of a major coin auction held in Florida in January of 2019.
What is the history associated with the coin?
The coin is quite famous in numismatic circles, and was previously owned by two prominent coin collectors. Ted Naftzger, who assembled the greatest collection of Large Cents ever formed, owned it from 1947 to 1996.
Alan Weinberg purchased it in 1996 at Mr. Naftzger's kitchen table. Mr. Weinberg owned it from 1996 to when he auctioned it off in 2019 along with the rest of his spectacular collection.
What attributes of the coin lead to its significant value?
There are two big reasons why this coin is so darn valuable. The first is: It is considered by most to be the very first cent design. This design was used for only a few weeks back in 1793.
The second reason (and perhaps the more important one) is condition. This particular specimen is among the finest known. There is one finer specimen of this issue, but that coin is a little different; it was likely a presentation piece that was purposely made to be saved by someone important at the time. It is currently valued at $5 million or so.
The specimen I purchased, on the other hand, was obviously made to be spent by the public. For some reason it never circulated and was likely put away and saved in pristine condition back in 1793. As a result many collectors consider this coin to be the finest example of the first circulating US cent.
And that is a very big deal in the world of coins.
How did you initially authenticate the coin and assess its quality and value?
Because it is so well known within the coin collecting community, this coin “carries its own credentials”, as they say. But it has also been authenticated and graded as “MS-64 plus” by the PCGS grading service, and that grade has been verified by Certified Acceptance Corporation (CAC).
What was your strategy for acquiring the coin in the auction?
I had known about this particular coin for decades. Because I have several collector customers who only want the very finest, I keep track of those coins as best I can.
I was aware that there was a collector who approached the owner of this coin several years ago with an $3 million offer for it. The offer was refused, as it was not for sale at the time.
Then in late 2018 it was announced the the coin was going to be sold at auction at auction in Orlando. I knew the collector who made that $3 million offer was (and is) still around, but he was not collecting those super-expensive “trophy coins” like he was in years prior, so he would not be bidding.
Thus I thought there was a chance to acquire it at a favorable price, with a bit of luck. While many folks would not consider spending $1,500,000 for a penny a “favorable price”, in this case it really was.
When the coin came up for bid, I raised my paddle along with several others in the auction room. Then very quickly – it was all over. The auction house hammered the coin down to me. I was thrilled, and a bit terrified too, truth be told.
What did you do with the coin?
I sold it right after the sale. It now graces the collection of a prominent Midwestern family. They are quietly building a world class type set of US coins. This is the centerpiece of their collection obviously, but they have other amazing coins in their set.
All in all it was a great, if a bit stressful, experience.
Have You Ever Wanted to Receive a Nobel Prize?
So – are you still upset that you haven't won a Nobel prize yet? Not even one?
I know exactly how you feel. I haven't done anything great in my life, but I still feel like I should get one. Sure, Nobel prize winners have discovered penicillin and the structure of DNA and other wonderful stuff.
But only I have discovered a way to carry two heaping laundry baskets of dirty clothes down the stairs at one time – thus saving a second trip. And I have discovered many other equally amazing things too. But no medal for me … so far.
I have some good news though. You can now “win” (er, I mean purchase) a genuine Nobel medal in Gold – see below. And it's in nearly perfect condition to boot. See below.
Featured Item – A Gold Nobel Medal
(1975) Nobel Nominating Committee Gold Medal For the Nobel Prize in Economics. PCGS graded Specimen-66.
Gold. 26 mm. 20.2 grams. Bright golden textured surfaces throughout. Privy marks and date on edge. This medal in silver is bestowed to members of the Royal Academy of Science during the nominating process for laureates in Economics. Upon receipt of ten silver versions they may be traded for one example in gold such as this. As these rare medals are given to non-collectors, they usually suffer from mishandling to one extent or the other. Hey – who wouldn't want to show it to friends and pass it around the dining room table. This example, however, is still in exceptional condition. Ex. Estate of Lars Ernster, Swedish researcher of the physiology and biochemistry of mitochondria and all-around good guy. $4500.
1877 3 Cent Nickel. NGC graded Proof-65 CAC (fatty holder).
The key, proof-only date in this completable series. Decent cameo contrast as well. PCGS #3773. $2850.
1811 Bust Half Dollar. PCGS graded VF30 CAC.
Small 8 Redbook variety. Beautiful multicolor toning. PCGS #6097. $375.
1883-CC Morgan $1. PCGS graded MS65 CAC (ogh).
Older generation slab from the 1990's. Untoned obverse, with a blush of golden reverse toning. PCGS #7144. $450.
1885-CC Morgan $1. PCGS graded MS65 CAC (ogh).
Older generation slab from the 1990's. Pure white - like the snow capped mountains in, um, someplace where you would find snow capped mountains. PCGS #7160. $950.
1922 Peace Dollar. PCGS graded MS62 CAC.
Naturally toned, attractive Peace dollars are very uncommon, and avidly sought by fans of toners. PCGS # 7357. $175.
World Coins, Exonumia, Flotsam & Jetsam
1794 dated Flowing Hair Half Dollar Copy. Double Struck.
Struck in silver by Ron Landis back when the Gallery Mint was operating. Very collectible; “copy” stamped on the reverse. $295.
1794 counterfeit Flowing Hair Half Dime, Copper. Fine [uncertified].
This doesn't appear to me to be a contemporary counterfeit. Still, it is cool to see the first year of issue half dime “struck” in copper. This coin is ex “JD's” counterfeit collection. $495.
(ca. 1826-33) Boston Military Goods Token. Almost Uncirculated [uncertified].
MASSACHUSETTS. BOSTON. Horace Porter & Co. Rulau E-Mass 84 (R-7). Brass, RE.. Gleaming gold surfaces with plenty of silvering remaining. A high grade example. ex John Ford Collection, $375.
1856 Large Cent Inlaid with an 1859 Indian Head Cent. Fine [uncertified].
The first of these I have ever seen, made for a purpose unknown to me. It was purchased from a Connecticut estate. $250.
1857 Jacques Wiener Cathedral Medal. Silvered. Uncirculated [uncertified].
Van Hoydonck 152. St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. St. Peters is the largest house of worship in Christendom. Significantly, this specimen has been silvered at the time of striking, and quite rare as such. It has toned in gorgeous iridescent colors. $595.
(1911) Belgium Skull medal. Uncirculated [uncertified].
Nothing to see here. Just a big ol' medal with a big ol' skull on it. Medals and coins depicting skulls have become a popular collector item in recent years. Here is a large (38 mm) bronze medal made in Belgium in the early 20th century with a matte finish and with a reported mintage of just 50. $195.
1969 Large Silver Medal Depicting a Dragon. Uncirculated [uncertified].
A large (45 mm) and heavy (2.5 oz.) silver medal depicting the Prince of Wales on one side and a dragon on the other. Gorgeously toned. $195.
Three Piece French Theater Tokens in felt display tray. Uncirculated [uncertified].
This is apparently a set of restrikes of French theater tokens originally made in the 1700's. I'm not sure when these uniface restrikes were made, but I assume it was circa 1900 or so. These were #116 of an issue of 500. Housed in a custom made display board of that era that they were made. $250.
Antique Whist Set Carved out of Whale Bone.
Such a neat item; I've never seen one before. The four numbered whist "chits" fit inside a case. The lower part of the outer case has a split. A perfect compliment to those brutal Early American Copper convention whist matches. $195.
Website - www.DaveWcoins.com
My email address – firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone - (203) 231-1213
Always Free Shipping. And unlike with auction purchases, everything comes with a 7-day return privilege