A super-rare Colonial Massachusetts silver coin originally struck in Boston barely three decades after the first Thanksgiving was sold at auction last week for an astounding $431,250 – more than four times the pre-sale estimate. The 1652 New England sixpence is one of only eight such coins known to exist.
The coin, which is roughly the size of a nickel, was originally discovered on Eastern Long Island in a frozen East Hampton, N.Y., potato field in 1989 by treasure hunter Lillian King. The discovery made national news and even found a place in Ripley's Believe It or Not! newspaper strip, according to a Newsday.com report.
"We knew it was a very rare coin and we knew it would reach six figures," said Lawrence R. Stack, a senior numismatic consultant for Stack's Bowers Galleries, a Manhattan rare coin dealer and auction house. "And it brought in $431,250, so I guess we did well."
Stack's Bowers Galleries had purchased the coin at a Sotheby's auction in New York in 1992 for the seemingly paltry price of $35,200. Stack's then sold it to John "Jack" Royse, 86, who decided a few months ago to put the coin up for sale. The most recent buyer is a collector who requested to remain anonymous.
With more than 200 bidders in the room, the auction took place in Baltimore last week at the Colonial Coin Collectors Club annual convention.
According to Newsday.com, the New England sixpence was one of the first coins minted in the colonies. Originally commissioned by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the coin has a simple design with just the letters NE (for New England) on the obverse and the Roman number VI (six, for sixpence) on the reverse. The design was soon altered because it was too easy to counterfeit.