Rare U.S. Coins Sell for Pretty Penny at Auction in Florida

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -
rare coins, auction
Front of the 1793 penny made by the U.S. mint in Philadelphia. (Heritage Auctions via AP)

When is a penny worth $300,000?

When it’s one of the first copper coins struck at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, in 1793.

rare coins, auction
The back of the 1793 penny. (Heritage Auctions via AP)

The annual Florida United Numismatists (FUN) convention was held in Tampa this week. It’s considered one of the five largest coin and currency collectors’ shows in the nation, experts say, and three historic coins, including the pricey penny, went up for auction Thursday evening. In all, the auction drew $24.9 million in sales.

Mark Borckardt, a senior numismatist with Heritage Auctions in Dallas, said the George Washington-era penny is one of about 500 in existence.

rare coins, auction
An 1838 half-dollar minted in New Orleans. Only 10 examples are known to exist in the world. (Heritage Auctions via AP)

Other high-value U.S. coins sold at auction included a half-dollar minted in New Orleans in 1838. It was one of the first 20 produced there.

A $4 gold piece called a “Flowing Hair Stella,” sold for $750,000.

“It was an experimental piece that the government produced, hoping to create an international coinage,” Borckardt said. “It’s literally the forerunner of today’s euro. The government finally decided no, that’s not going to work.”

There are only about 15 to 20 of those quarter-sized gold coins in existence.

rare coins, auction
The 1880 $4 gold piece known as “Flowing Hair Stella.” (Heritage Auctions via AP)

The coins had high value due to their rarity and excellent condition.

“Collectors interested in these have a very strong sense of history, both American history and financial history,” said Borckardt.