Published in the New York Post 8/1/2017
By Bob Fredericks
Historic coin experts say they have found the first silver piece minted by the US and believe it was likely held by Founding Father — and founder of The Post — Alexander Hamilton.
David McCarthy, a senior researcher for the coin and collectibles firm Kagin’s, figured the 1783 silver coin had to be one-of-a-kind after he spotted it in an auction catalog.
Its front features the all-seeing 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.
McCarthy had a hunch it was the first coin ever minted by the US government — the prototype for a plan discussed by both 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 US 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 told AP.
McCarthy published the details of his findings in the August issue of a coin dealer magazine, 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.
Both Hamilton and Jefferson — now popularly known as rivals from the musical “Hamilton” — embraced the idea that the U.S. currency should be in units of 10.
The coin purchased by McCarthy had a back with a wreath identifying it as a “500” quint, essentially the forerunner of the half-dollar.
Jeff Garrett, president of the American Numismatic Association, called the research “really, really good.”
In terms of the coin’s possible value, Garrett said the closest comparison was a 1794 silver dollar that sold for more than $10 million four years ago.
But the allure of coins isn’t just their rarity or metal content but the history that comes embedded to them as they pass through the ages.