Image credit: Tatiana Flowers | AP
“I’m 99.9999 percent certain this is the first U.S. coin,” rare coin dealer, John Dannreuther, told CNBC on the discovery of just that — the first minted piece, ever, in the nation’s history — after an odious yearslong investigation.
Researchers believe United States founding politician, Alexander Hamilton, himself, might once have clutched the one-of-a-kind coin — undoubtedly, a penultimate prize for coin collectors, or numismatists.
As senior researcher for the coin and collectibles firm, Kagin’s, David McCarthy never imagined the storied first coin was looking back at him from the pages of an auction catalogue — but the piece’s lack of inscription immediately piqued his interest. Similar coins, he noted for CNBC, bore the Latin inscription, “Nova Constellatio,” or ‘new constellation,’ above “the all-seeing eye of God, surrounded by rays of light” on the front side. “The rays shoot out toward 13 stars—one for each of the colonies that had rebelled against Great Britain.”
Image credit: Nova Constellatio coin | AP
“He had a hunch it was the first coin ever minted by the U.S. government in 1783 — the prototype for a plan discussed by both Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson that arguably shaped the course of the nation. McCarthy staked his company’s money to buy the coin for $1.18 million at the 2013 auction. After nearly four years of late nights sifting through the papers of the Founding Fathers and studying the beading on the coin’s edges, he is now making an exhaustive case that this silver piece is indeed the first American coin, the precursor of what ultimately would circulate a decade later as the U.S dollar.”
Despite its somewhat mythical quality, numismatists have always known of the first coin’s existence — wealthy Philadelphia businessman and financier of the American Revolution, Robert Morris, discussed it in writing on April 2, 1783.
Astonishingly, the coin sat in plain view for years, when — having been labeled by experts as “Type 2” upon its discovery years after the aforementioned constellation coin — time convoluted meaning, and soon those watching the coin believed it to be among the second coins minted, rather than the solitary and treasured first.
“You have this powerful word ‘2’ that implies something and it hijacked everyone’s ability to see what was right in front of them,” McCarthy explained.
On a hunch, the coin professional began digging into his purchase’s history immediately — spending some four years sorting through historical documents, analyzing minute edge details, and examining every conceivable data to make the case of its prominent past nearly irrefutable.
Calling the 44-year-old’s research “really, really good,” Jeff Garrett, President of the American Numismatic Association, had only the comparison sale of a 1794 silver dollar four years ago for $10 million as reference — noting a coin’s metal composition and rarity aren’t the only drivers of price:
“People always ask, how could a coin be worth a $1 million or $5 million? I always say it’s because of the stories.”
As for America’s first coin, the story continues to unfold as new generations of currency rise to prominence — even when the term ‘coin’ departs drastically from anything Hamilton could have conceived centuries ago.
“You’ve used the progeny of this one coin in every transaction you’ve done in your life,” McCarthy ruminated, “whether it’s a bitcoin, a dollar or a euro.”
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Contributed by Claire Bernish of The Daily Sheeple.