Rarities Never Meant to Be
Some of the highest-yielding coins in auction history aren’t technically coins at all. By dictionary definition a coin is a “small, flat and usually round piece of metal issued by a government as money.” The critical component there is “issued by a government as money” and the vast majority of $1 – 4+ million coins sold in history were never actually minted or issued with the intended purpose of making it into circulation.
In 1933 President Roosevelt took the country off of the gold standard and recalled all minted gold coins for melting. A small number of the 1933 specimens were smuggled out of the mint by employees or were never returned at the time. A 2002 auction yielded over $7 million for one such piece.
The 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar is a flagship rarity to numismatists. President Jackson asked the mint to produce a small number of them for foreign dignitaries in 1834. None had been pressed for about 30 years in an effort to combat counterfeiting schemes. These coins were dated 1804, the only eight coins to bear that year, and are now worth well over $1 million each.
Probably the second-most famous scarce coin is the 1913 V-nickel. It’s price infamously inflated around 1920 by one man who was a mint employee back in 1913, he advertised the rarity of the coins and offered a high sum paid to anyone who possessed one. Unbeknownst to all, he actually owned all five examples ever produced. It’s speculated that he himself minted or contracted another employee to mint these specimens. Recent sale price yielded $3.1 million.
The Brasher Doubloon was a gold coin minted in New York before the state adopted the Constitution in 1789. Like other states, they had the right to mint their own coinage by way of contracts with private outfits and smiths. Ephraim Brasher gained one such contract to mint copper coins but, for reasons unknown, largely ignored the contractual details and went on to produce a number of very artistic gold coins instead. $2.2 – 5 million.
Lastly, and widely recognized, is the 1943 copper penny which found it’s way into existence, again, from a mischievous mint employee who added a small number of copper planchets to the production run. Over 1.1 billion zinc pennies were produced that year compared to approx. 20 copper pennies. Bob R. Simpson, owner of the Texas Rangers and business executive owns the finest grouping of each coin from their three respective mints. One could not place a value on this collection.
Whether they were meant to exist or not, these coins have become the object of intrigue and desire for many collectors. Check your change!