The prototype for the first-ever U.S. cent is being auctioned off for what Barron’s reported is around $1 million — or 100 million times it value.
According to Barron’s, the first penny auction will happen later in October and is being handled by Stack’s Bowers in Baltimore. John Kraljevich, senior numismatist at Stack’s Bowers, said the one-cent piece comes as part of the Archangel collection that is being auctioned off and includes coins from the American colonial days and throughout the founding of the U.S. Mint, which happened in 1792, reported Barron’s. “Every cent every Americans ever had in their pocket draws their lineage back to this one,” Kraljevich told Barron’s. The coin was printed in 1792, which Barron’s noted was the year before the U.S. Mint began circulating coin currency. “This was the first attempt to make a cent and see if it worked,” said James McCartney, another numismatist at Stack’s Bowers, in the report. “We don’t know how many were made; 10 to 11 probably survived.”
Barron’s noted the coin had a picture of Lady Liberty on it with Abraham Lincoln making his debut on the penny in 1909. The front reads “Liberty Parent of Science & Industry.” When the cent went into circulation, this text changed to “Liberty United States of America,” according to the report. Another bit of penny history: Barron’s noted that the cent was printed on Filbert Street in Philadelphia, which was the place of the first building that was ever purchased by the U.S. government. The penny became part of the Archangel collection back in 1976 with the previous owner Laird Park’s collection of early American items including coins, books and artifacts from the early Revolutionary War period. Park had purchased the one-cent piece in 1967 from the Charles Jay collection. “Its history is very closely intertwined with all the romantic notions of our founding fathers,” McCartney added.