First U.S. Dollar Copper Prototype Sells for $840,000

On Friday, April 23, an auction took place for $840,000. The coin, which was created in 1794 as an experiment in copper and served as a model for later, more expensive silver dollars, was struck at the then-inaugural U.S. Mint.

Auctioned off live on Friday night, the so-called "No Stars Flowing Hair Dollar" began at $312,000. Bidding wars erupted in within a minute, sending the price of the coin soaring much above the $350,000–$500,000 estimate.

The 230-year-old dollar has been kept in Bob R. Simpson's private collection for 20 years. Simpson is a career energy executive from Texas and a part-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball franchise. This coin was bought by Simpson in 2008.

According to the coin's original owner at its 1890 auction debut, the one-of-a-kind treasure was unearthed from the site of the original Philadelphia Mint prior to 1876

Heritage Auctions numismatist and cataloger Jacob Lipson estimated that, in the past two hundred thirty years, just eight transactions involving this coin have taken place. "The historical importance of this coin is almost unparalleled."

Flowing hair, the adopted portrait of Liberty, LIBERTY, and the date 1794 are displayed on the front of the coin. A little eagle perched on a rock within a wreath and the words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" surrounding the border characterize the reverse design of the regular-issue silver dollar. The copper coin has a border around it that is lettered and reads "HUNDRED CENTS ONE DOLLAR OR UNIT," with decorative elements in betwee

For almost two hundred years, scholars have studied the prototype, which is very similar to subsequent Philadelphia mint silver dollars that are today worth four to five million dollars apiece. This copper dollar is distinct from others created after the Mint Act of April 2, 1792, in part because it lacks the characteristic ornamental stars seen on pieces struck after that date. The piece also differs in design from its silver equivalent.

"It's all in the stars," Lipson bragged. "The National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution houses this copper dollar alongside other'starless coins,' like a copper half dime.'"

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