Of all the rare coins that have come and gone in private collections and public auctions over the years, the reigning champ is an early American silver dollar. The coin, which sold to a private collector in 2013 for a record $10,016,875, is now on display in London- valued in British terms at £6,917,653.
This coin is a U.S. silver dollar dated to 1794, only 1.6 inches across and weighing just under 37 grams. Current silver prices would make that a value of only about $12, but the historic importance and rarity of the coin is far greater.
The very first silver dollar coin was one of these "Flowing Hair" dollars, so called for the long flowing locks of the Lady Liberty on the face of the coin. Congress approved the striking of silver dollars in the Mint Act of 1792, but problems getting the necessary quantities of silver delayed production until 1794.
The first dollar was designed by Robert Scot, a silversmith and engraver who born in Scotland but emigrated to the U.S. in 1795. He was appointed by President Washington to be the first Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint. The obverse of the coin features a bust of Miss Liberty surrounded by 15 stars, one for each of the then-existing states. The reverse shows the American eagle with outspread wings, surrounded by a wreath. Coins in those days were stamped under a screw which brought together the obverse and reverse silver dies over the silver slug under great pressure. These dies tended to wear out after repeated use.
Professional Coin Grading Service gave this a 66 out of 70 on the scale for Mint-state coins, which means the most valuable coin is in uncirculated and nearly perfect condition. The metal composition is actually 89% silver and 11% copper. It still retains original luster and has acquired some delicate toning (via natural oxidation of the silver) which also gives it some unique character.
The high strike quality of this particular 1794 dollar suggests it was among the first produced. That means it could possibly have been handled or inspected by George Washington himself, who visited the new U.S. Mint in Philadelphia when production began in October of 1794. Before that, the new United States relied on foreign coins for its currency. The first penny was not even struck until 1793.
Only 130 of the original 1,758 silver dollar coins are known to survive, and none at this quality. The coin's whereabouts before 1920 are unknown; at that time it was purchased by a collector remembered as "Colonel Greene" under unknown circumstances, but experts verify the coin's authenticity. There is a good chance that as one of the first few struck, it was given away as a gift to some dignitary, and prized in his own collection by himself and his heirs before being given up for sale. The most valuable coin in the world was bought by a different collector in 1947 for just $1,250.
The current owner who has loaned out the coin is the noted rare coin collector and dealer Bruce Morelan, associated with the organization CoinWeek, LLC.
He says he is willing to entertain offers - if you can afford it.