Ex­pert be­lieves this is the first coin minted by U.S.

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Josh Boak Ta­tiana Flow­ers, The As­so­ci­ated Press

WASH­ING­TON» Old inns along the Revo­lu­tion­ary War trails boast of Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton sleep­ing there. But coin ex­perts say they have found the first sil­ver piece minted by the United States — one likely held by the most en vogue of Found­ing Fa­thers, Alexan­der Hamil­ton.

David McCarthy fig­ured the sil­ver coin had to be oneof-a-kind af­ter spot­ting it in the auc­tion cat­a­log.

Its front fea­tures the allsee­ing eye of God, sur­rounded by rays of light. The rays shoot out to­ward 13 stars — one for each of the colonies that had re­belled against Great Bri­tain. A sim­i­lar coin bore two words in Latin above the star­burst: “Nova Con­stel­la­tio,” or “new con­stel­la­tion” to de­scribe the in­fant United States. But this sil­ver piece bore no in­scrip­tion at all. It was the first clue that the coin was some­thing sin­gu­lar, said McCarthy, a se­nior re­searcher for the coin and col­lectibles firm Ka­gin’s.

He had a hunch it was the first coin ever minted by the U.S. gov­ern­ment in 1783 — the pro­to­type for a plan dis­cussed by Hamil­ton and Thomas Jef­fer­son that ar­guably shaped the course of the na­tion. McCarthy staked his com­pany’s money to buy the coin for $1.18 mil­lion at the 2013 auc­tion. Af­ter nearly four years of late nights sifting through the pa­pers of the Found­ing Fa­thers and study­ing the bead­ing on the coin’s edges, he is now mak­ing an ex­haus­tive case that this sil­ver piece is in­deed the first Amer­i­can coin, the pre­cur­sor of what ul­ti­mately would cir­cu­late a decade later 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 prog­eny 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 is­sue of the coin jour­nal, The Nu­mis­ma­tist, as 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 struck days or even weeks later from the same steel dies.

“I’m 99.9999 per­cent cer­tain this is the first U.S. coin,” Dan­nreuther said.

It was well-known among col­lec­tors that a first coin ex­isted. Robert Mor­ris, the Philadel­phia merchant who fi­nanced the Amer­i­can Revo­lu­tion, recorded its ex­is­tence 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 first that has been struck as an Amer­i­can Coin.” Hamil­ton vis­ited Mor­ris a week later and the two cor­re­sponded on the “sub­ject of the Coin.” The con­ti­nen­tal Congress was then pre­sented with a fuller set of coins on April 22, which was then for­warded to Jef­fer­son for his thoughts.

McCarthy’s eu­reka mo­ment came in a New York ho­tel room while re­view­ing the orig­i­nal re­ceipts for the steel dies used to make the coins. There had been a to­tal 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, as well as a dent in the eye at the cen­ter of the in­scripted “500” coin and its plain cousin. The ev­i­dence all pointed to him hav­ing un­cov­ered the na­tion’s first coin.

Jeff Gar­rett, pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Nu­mis­matic As­so­ci­a­tion, called the re­search “re­ally, re­ally good.”

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