Talk about a pretty penny. A 1792-dated copper cent has sold for $1.15 million, a US auction house said Friday.
The experimental coin with a silver center was one of the first ever struck at the United States mint and is one of just 14 known to have survived.
It was purchased in 1974 for $105,000 and was sold to a dealer representing a group of investors at an auction held in conjunction with the annual Central States Numismatic Society convention being held in a Chicago suburb.
“Some 1792-dated cents have a silver plug as a proposed way to overcome a flaw in the Mint Act of 1792,” said Todd Imhof, vice president of Texas-based Heritage Auctions.
“That congressional law would have made pennies of the era too large and heavy for practical use,” he added. “So the mint’s chief coiner suggested making a smaller sized coin using a tiny silver plug with three-fourths of a cent worth of silver and a quarter-cent’s worth copper surrounding it.”
Congress then reduced the official weight of the cent, making an all-copper coin more practical. The first early American cents were struck for actual circulation in 1793 were a little larger than a modern quarter coin.
The experimental coin is graced with a portrait of “Miss Liberty” and the inscription “Liberty Parent of Society and Industry” on the front and a wreath and the words “United States of America One Cent” on the back.