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History Moves On
May 21, 2010

When the 1933 Saint-Gaudens $20 gold piece set the record price of $7.59 million for a U.S. coin, I was there at the auction. It was thrilling.

Yesterday, I received a press release that says that record is now broken. A 1794 silver dollar that many believe is the first one struck is now the holder of the new record at $7,850,000.

I wasn’t there for the transaction.

The press release says the coin, which is graded Specimen-66 and is the finest known, was sold by Steven L. Contursi, president of Rare Coin Wholesalers of Irvine, Calif.

The buyer is a nonprofit, the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation of Sunnyvale, Calif.

It was a private sale brokered by Greg Roberts, president and CEO of Spectrum Group International of Irvine, Calif.

Now I know the world doesn’t wait for me to be present for historical moments, but it is a little disappointing not to be able to say anymore that I witnessed the sale of the record-holding U.S. coin.

However, I can console myself if that is needed.

The press release notes that at the 2004 American Numismatic Association summer convention in Pittsburgh, Pa., the coin was carefully removed from its PCGS holder so it could be closely examined by experts assembled there.

I happened to be in the room for a part of that process and was able to see the coin close up. It definitely is something to see.

I was never able to do that with the 1933 gold $20.

So time marches on and I have to change my story.

Is that so bad?

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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