It was a nice little coin, a 1792 silver center cent bought for $400 at a police auction. It’s even nicer now that the owner has learned it’s worth $300,000.
A California collector is just now absorbing the news from ANACS that the coin he had purchased at a 2006 Modesto Police Department auction is one of only 14 known pieces. This one was graded VG-10 details but scratched.
“I’m still a little in shock myself,” said the collector, who wishes to remain anonymous.
The process of finding out the truth about the coin took more than two years and was not without its skeptics.
“I actually showed it to a local coin dealer who said, ‘No, no that’s nothing,’” he recalled.
Even the members of the local coin club were not encouraging. The members passed it around, but the “club treated it as a novelty,” he said.
Because the collector is a regular submitter of material to ANACS, he decided to send the silver center cent along.
“I’m probably throwing good money after bad,” he said he thought at the time.
But his courage was bolstered by looking at auction lots on the Stack’s Web site. He noted that a coin being offered had a similar wear pattern.
ANACS President James Taylor said that when his firm received the coin for authentication and grading, it was shown around at shows to the top experts. Each one was not told of the opinions of the others.
The experts included Ken Bressett, John Kraljevich, Julian Leidman, Anthony Terranova and Alan Weinberg, who concurred it was authentic.
The silver center cent was made as a pattern where a silver plug worth three-quarters of a cent was inserted in copper worth a quarter of a cent. It is listed as the first pattern, Judd-1, in the classic United States Pattern Coins, Experimental and Trial Pieces by J. Hewitt Judd.
ANACS came back with the good news and shipped the pattern back to the collector on Dec. 15 – a perfect Christmas gift.