The Sideshow

$1 million for a penny; one of world’s rarest coins sold at auction

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

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One of the first pennies ever produced by the U.S. Mint was put up for auction Thursday night and reportedly sold for more than $1 million.

Bids for the 1792 Silver Center penny reached $1.15 million Thursday night, according to Heritage Auctions, which conducted the sale. The U.S. Mint itself was founded in April, 1792.

If you don't have $1.15 million on hand, there are more affordable rare coins available. The Canadian Mint recently began selling a limited-edition glow-in-the-dark quarter featuring a dinosaur skeleton for around $30.

And the website ThinkGeek offers electromagnetically shrunk quarters for $25, or 100 times their actual value as currency.

ABC News reports that the rare penny is made of copper with a small silver plug at its center. It was an experiment by the then-fledgling U.S. Mint, which shelved the penny before it could go into mass circulation. The U.S. Mint determined the penny was too large and heavy for practical use.

Todd Imhof at Heritage Auctions told ABC that unlike today's legal tender which bears the inscription, "In God We Trust," the copper-silver penny reads "Liberty Parent of Science & Industry."

"At the time, industry and science reflected an enlightenment mindset," Imhof said. "People believed freedom of thought and industrial growth would bind and unify the new country, not religion or God."

An anonymous collector who has owned the coin for 10 years sold the penny. "With collectible items, for an item to sell for over a million dollars it is an unusual event," Imhof said.

However, Imhof also said a coin of the same type sold for close to $3 million over a year ago. Still, the $1.15 million sale is one of only 30 $1 million-plus coin sales in history.

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