Rare penny sells for $1 million at coin show

Jan 10 2012 - 10:31am

Images

This undated photo provided by Heritage Auctions shows the front and back of one of the first pennies struck at the United States Mint in Philadelphia. This 1793 “Chain Cent” sold for a record $1,380,000 in a public auction conducted by Heritage Auctions at a coin collector’s convention in Orlando, Fla. on Wednesday evening, Jan. 4, 2012. The linking rings on the back of the coin were intended to represent the original 13 colonies, but critics claimed the chain was symbolic of slavery and the design was quickly changed with a wreath replacing the chain. (AP Photo/Heritage Auctions)
This undated photo provided by Heritage Auctions shows the front and back of one of the first pennies struck at the United States Mint in Philadelphia. This 1793 “Chain Cent” sold for a record $1,380,000 in a public auction conducted by Heritage Auctions at a coin collector’s convention in Orlando, Fla. on Wednesday evening, Jan. 4, 2012. The linking rings on the back of the coin were intended to represent the original 13 colonies, but critics claimed the chain was symbolic of slavery and the design was quickly changed with a wreath replacing the chain. (AP Photo/Heritage Auctions)

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Talk about a lucky penny. It was actually worth $1 million.

That was the final bid by an unknown buyer for the one-cent copper coin minted in 1793, the first year the United States produced its own coins. Its sale was one of the biggest deals at the coin show and annual convention of the Florida United Numismatics at the Orange County Convention Center.

With nearly 600 dealers of coins and currency, the show is the largest in the country, said Cindy Wibker, convention coordinator for the Florida organization of avid coin collectors. More than 100,000 people are expected to attend. Sunday is the show's last day, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

On display were Buffalo nickels, dozens of silver one-ounce pieces and coins from antiquity, as well as misprinted cash, Confederate notes and foreign currency. Dealers were not only selling, but also appraising and buying coins from attendees.

People could also see demonstrations of a 19th century spider press, once used to print bank notes, by Mike Bean, who retired from a federal career of printing money.

Coin collecting has been a popular hobby and there's renewed interest from people interested in coins as income or investment, said David Lisot, executive producer of cointelevision.com, a news and video website.

"Everyone has that stash of old coins, Grandma's stash, that was saved because no one ever throws away money," Lisot said. "But if you're interested in the value of what you have, you could go to a coin store, or to a convention like this, with hundreds of dealers available."

Gold and silver are selling at record prices with bullion sales dominating the industry, said Nick Boyd, who runs Tradernicks Collectibles in Kissimmee, Fla., and Coins & Currency of Orlando, Fla.

"Because of the economic situation, gold, silver and precious metals are a good place for people to put their money for long-term investments," he said.

Among the top-dollar finds, the 1793 penny fetched a high price because it is rare and was in outstanding shape, showing no wear on its lettering, its Lady Liberty face or the wreath on its back.

On the other end are young collectors, like 11-year-old Zach Minicucci of Orlando, who became interested after seeing a friend's coin collection.

"It's cool because it looks different than the money we have today," he said.

He and his father, John Minicucci, browsed the coins and Zach bought a Buffalo nickel and an old dime, but his dad was particularly interested in selling some of their coins, one of which was appraised at $55.

"We brought some here just to see what kind of booty he has. Maybe we can put him through college," John Minicucci joked.

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