Fifteen years ago, few would pay $1 million for a coin—no matter how rare. That’s changing.
hen Henry Voight designed the United States’ first copper coin in 1793, critics slammed the design.
“The American cents…do not answer our expectations,” wrote one journalist. “The chain on the reverse is a bad omen for liberty, and Liberty herself appears to be in a fright.”
The public joined in the penny pile-on. One critique: Lady Liberty’s casual locks signified madness or savagery. Another: the penny’s chain motif—intended to represent the interconnectedness of the founding colonies—reminded many Americans of the bonds of slavery.
The “chain cent” may have been unpopular in its own day, but last week, a single specimen sold for $2.3 million at a Florida auction, the latest in a series of high-profile coin sales that reflect all-time highs for the market. Coin World estimates that the 2014 market for coin sales was worth around $5 billion and listed 12 sales of more than $1 million. That included the $4.5 million purchase of a 1787 Brasher Doubloon and a Liberty Head nickel from 1913 that went for nearly $3.3 million.