This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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Joseph Presti has seen his share of rare coins. It’s his business.
But even he was surprised when a husband and wife recently stopped by his coin shop in Milford, N.H., and showed him a New York copper coin that is one of only three known to exist.
The 1787 copper was minted in New York and carries an Indian on the obverse and George III on the reverse.
“We looked at it, and we are rare coin experts, but not experts in Colonial coins,” Presti said. “We agreed that sending it to the Professional Coin Grading Service was probably the best choice.”
PCGS graded the coin VG-8, the lowest grade of the three coins known to exist.
The couple received the coin from the wife’s father, a carpenter, in the 1950s, Presti said. He was remodeling the staircase in a house in Southport, Conn., and when he was taking it apart, he found the coin under one of the risers.
“It was a tradition to put a coin under the threshold of the front door or the riser of the first step as a good luck piece,” Presti said.
The man offered the coin to the home-owner, who seeing how old and dirty the coin was, told him to keep it.
“He also tried to offer the coin to friends who were collectors, but no one recognized it for what it was,” Presti said.
So the man held on to the coin, and in 1970 gave it to his son-in-law, who was a coin collector. He sent it to an expert on Colonials and pre-federal state coinage who lived in California, who verified that the coin was authentic. Up until then, only one other coin was known.
“Subsequent to that, New England Rare Coin found a third specimen in the 1970s,” Presti said.
The couple is considering selling the coin, he said, perhaps as a private treaty sale or at auction.
“It’s pretty cool,” Presti said. “The only other public sale of this coin was the Garrett coin in 1979. That was an XF-40 that sold for $20,000 and is the coin pictured in the Red Book.”