David McCarthy figured the ash grey coin had to be one-of-a-kind after spotting it in the auction catalog .
Its front features the all-seeing eye of God, surrounded by rays of clean. The rays shoot out toward 13 stars – one for each of the colonies that had rebelled against Great Britain. A like coin bore two words in Latin above the starburst : “ Nova Constellatio, ” or “ new constellation ” to describe the baby United States. But this silver patch bore no inscription at all. It was the first gear clue that the coin was something curious, said McCarthy, a aged research worker for the mint and collectibles firm Kagin ’ sulfur .
He had a intuition it was the first mint ever minted by the U.S. politics in 1783 – the prototype for a plan discussed by both Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson that arguably shaped the path of the state. McCarthy staked his caller ’ randomness money to buy the coin for $ 1.18 million at the 2013 auction. After about four years of late nights sifting through the papers of the Founding Fathers and studying the bead on the coin ’ south edges, he is now making an exhaustive shell that this silver patch is indeed the first american coin, the precursor of what ultimately would circulate a ten late as the U.S dollar.
The coin is on display this week at the World ’ s Fair of Money in Denver .
“ You ’ ve used the offspring of this one coin in every transaction you ’ ve done in your life, whether it ’ s a bitcoin, a dollar or a euro, ” McCarthy said. ”
McCarthy published the details of his findings in the August offspring of a coin principal magazine, The Numismatist, adenine well as in a post on Medium. He vetted and refined his findings over the years with other top experts such as John Dannreuther, a rare coin dealer who found identifying marks on another coin that indicates that it had to have been strike days or even weeks by and by from the lapp steel dies .
“ I ’ thousand 99.9999 percentage certain this is the first U.S. coin, ” Dannreuther said .
It was long-familiar among collectors that a first mint existed. Robert Morris, the Philadelphia merchant who financed the american Revolution, recorded its universe in his diary on April 2, 1783 .
As first Superintendent of Finance of the United States, Morris wrote he received a delivery of “ a Piece of Silver Coin being the beginning that has been struck as an american Coin. ” Hamilton visited Morris a week later and the two corresponded on the “ subjugate of the Coin. ” The continental Congress was then presented with a entire stage set of coins on April 22, which was then forwarded to Jefferson for his thoughts .
Both Hamilton and Jefferson – now popularly known as rivals from the musical “ Hamilton ” – embraced the estimate that the U.S. currency should be in units of 10.
The mint purchased by McCarthy had a back with a wreath identifying it as a “ 500 ” quintuplet, basically the precursor of the half-dollar. It had initially been found in 1860, about 15 years after the exchangeable mint with the “ raw constellation ” inscription. Because the fresh configuration coin was found earlier, experts labeled McCarthy ’ s coin as “ Type 2. ” Over the years, that label was mistakenly believed to refer to the mint being struck after the one with the inscription .
“ You have this brawny discussion ‘ 2 ’ that implies something and it hijacked everyone ’ s ability to see what was veracious in front of them, ” said McCarthy, 44 .
The day of the 2013 auction in Schaumburg, Illinois, McCarthy sat in his hotel room with his files and vent condition cranked on high. He methodically convinced his party boss, Donald Kagin, that the coin up for auction was the nation ’ s first. It was a nuanced font since early dealers claimed it was a counterfeit. But the initial explanation was that mints tended to add inscriptions to the steel dies used to make coins after having engraved the images .
so McCarthy bid on the silver coin – and then began the inquiry needed to make his case ironclad. He searched through the National Archives for records, lone to learn that the microfilm of original documents didn ’ thyroxine match to the actual files .
His constantan moment came in a New York hotel board while reviewing the original receipts for the steel dies used to make the coins. There had been a full of 10 dies made by a blacksmith, but the receipts showed that 12 dies had been engraved by two different artisans. This suggested that two of the dies had been recycled and refined after the first coin had been struck. He compared the beadings on the edges of the different coins, vitamin a well as a dent in the eye at the center of the inscripted “ 500 ” coin and its homely cousin. The tell all pointed to him having uncovered the nation ’ second first gear coin .
Jeff Garrett, president of the united states of the American Numismatic Association, called the inquiry “ truly, very thoroughly. ”
In terms of the mint ’ s possible measure, Garrett said the closest comparison was a 1794 silver dollar that sold for more than $ 10 million four years ago. But the tempt of coins international relations and security network ’ t equitable their rarity or metallic content but the history that comes embedded to them as they pass through the ages .
“ People constantly ask, how could a coin be worth a $ 1 million or $ 5 million ? ” Garrett said. “ I always say it ’ second because of the stories. ”