Back in the 1790s, the United States was quite a different place. George Washington gave the country’s first State of the Union address. Thomas Jefferson was in charge of the first U.S. Census, which asked a total of six questions. The largest urban area was New York City, with a population of just over 33,000 people. And in 1793, the federal government minted the first cents for general circulation on its own equipment.
These were the Chain cents that featured Lady Liberty on the front and a chain design on the reverse. Despite the fact that collectors now prize these coins, public reaction at the time was decidedly mixed because many related the chain design to slavery.
Thus was born the Wreath cent. While Lady Liberty remained largely unchanged on the front of the coin, the reverse depicted an elegant wreath of leaves that resembled laurel. Records from the fledgling Philadelphia Mint show that just over 63,000 Wreath cents were struck, and experts estimate that probably only 3,500 or so survive today, most of which aren’t in very good condition.
So when a gentleman walked into the Bellevue location of West Seattle Coins and Bellevue Rare Coins with a 1793 Wreath cent certified XF-40 (Extra Fine), senior buyer Eric Hoolahan was understandably interested. “He’d bought the coin about 30 years ago, had it certified 10 years later, and then took it out of his safety deposit box 20 years later and brought it here.”
“It’s a great coin,” Eric says. “1793 was the first year that the U.S. was minting half cents and cents, and so this is a very significant coin to buy.” Eric estimates that when the man bought the coin back in the 1980s, it would have cost him somewhere between $300 and $600. “And when he came in, he actually just wanted to know what his coin was worth. He was planning to put it back into his safety deposit box, but I just really wanted it, so I kept asking him how much he wanted for it. He probably was a little surprised when I bought it from him for $20,000.”
Now the coin has a new home at West Seattle Coins and Bellevue Rare Coins. But, says Eric, “this particular type of coin and this particular grade has never seen an auction anywhere. We’re very proud of it, so it’ll probably be something we hold onto for a while.”
Not everyone has a 1793 Wreath cent sitting in a safety deposit box, but there are all kinds of valuable old coins. If you’re interested in learning more about old coins, or want to see how much your rare coins might be worth, come see the experts at West Seattle Coins and Bellevue Rare Coins in West Seattle, Bellevue and Lynnwood. We do more than buy and sell coins — we’re also avid collectors who love to talk about coins and their history.
West Seattle Coins and Bellevue Rare Coins specialize in gold buying and dealing in rare coins. We are a family-owned business that was first established in 1979 and is now located in West Seattle, Bellevue and Lynnwood. We also buy and sell gold, silver, diamonds, currency and jewelry. Visit us first for a free evaluation.
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