Penny Bank Find: 1793 Strawberry-Leaf Cent Coin

Penny for your thoughts! Well if I chose a 1793 Strawberry Leaf cent as my offered penny, it would cost me about $360,000! One of only four in known existence of the 65K originally struck, this 1793 example marks the beginning of minted U.S. coins. It will be auctioned off here on Stack’s Bowers Galleries at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nevada on August 6th. The opening bid is $360,000.

OK, so now, Barn Finds is not turning into Numismatics Finds, but since money is obviously a critical component of what happens when a barn find is found, why not take a closer look at it, right? I suppose this story would be more enticing if this 227-year-old coin was a barn find itself, but it has been in private hands and traded six times since 1877.

The Coinage Act of 1792 brought about the minting of coins at the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania mint in 1793. All early coins were stamped from copper and along with this Strawberry-Leaf cent, which is also known as a “Liberty Cap” or a “Flowing Hair Portrait”, half-cent coins were minted as well. This particular coin is known as a “Large Cent”, measuring about 27 MM in diameter as opposed to a modern cent which is closer to 19 MM in diameter. Numismatics grade coins as PO-poor; FR-Fair; AG-Almost Good, G-good; VG-Very Good, F-Fine; VF-Very Fine; EF-Extremely Fine; AU-Almost Uncirculated; Unc-Uncirculated and BU-Brilliant Uncirculated. Our subject, which is listed as an NC-3 (non-collectible, type 3 version) is considered in a VG category. The three other existing NC-3 coins are graded VG, G and AG. There is a slightly different variation in existence, referred to as an NC-2 version, it is only considered FR however. The sale history for this particular coin is as follows:

  • J.W. Scott & Co.’s sale of October 1877, lot 201, for $77.50
  • New York Stamp and Coin Co.’s sale of the Lorin G. Parmelee Collection, June 1890, lot 671, for $79
  • Purchased by Charles Steigerwalt and resold to Dr. Thomas Hall in October 1890 for $90
  • Sold as part of the intact Hall Collection to Virgil Brand on September 7, 1909 (not referenced)
  • Brand estate, consigned by Armin Brand to Burdette G. Johnson along with 16 other important 1793 cents on February 7, 1941, for $2,500 – flipped to Roscoe Staples later in 1941 for $2,750
  • Staples family; our (American Numismatic Rarities’) Frog Run Farm Collection sale, December 2004, lot 13  (not referenced)

The coin guide, The Insider’s Guide to U.S. Coin Values – 2003 by Scott Travers, values this coin north of $2,400, depending on precise condition but the 2004 auction price is not listed, so it’s hard to true up a price guide vs. reality comparison. So we are looking at an increase of $357,250 over 79 years (1941-2020). This much does seem reasonable, it’s time to start going through pants pockets, penny jars, car map pockets (and ashtrays if the car is old enough to have one), seat cushions and drawers; you never know what you may find!

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Comments

  1. JACKinNWPA JACKinNWPA Member

    Let me be the first to say this is interesting, if I didn’t want to read it I could have just skipped to the custom Conestoga wagon. Kidding, keep the good stuff coming.

    Like 21
  2. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    cool…..my dad collected the rare ones out of the coin machines he managed….my brother has the collection now.

    Like 11
  3. Rex Kahrs Member

    $360,000? I don’t have that kind of coin.

    Like 8
    • Mike

      For $360k you CAN have that kind of coin. :)

      Like 13
      • Phlathead Phil

        And then it could be said: ‘it’s not a penny for Benny, but a coin for Kahrs. And that’s a phact, Jack!

  4. Mike

    If this was on Craig’s List, they would be asking $500k, have just one picture of it in a junk drawer covered with stuff plus a one sentence description with misspellings and a “I know what it is, don’t waste my time” comment.

    Like 25
  5. Howard A Member

    Well, I’ll admit, this is a bit of a stretch for a find in a barn. By that logic, what’s next, vintage nails? Perhaps in the interest of attracting new readers,( coin collectors?) may I remind the staff, we’re here for vintage vehicles, battleships, planes and campers, okay too, but coins are too far out there, sorry.

    Like 8
    • Tom Nemec Member

      Nailed it. Sorry. I will bet that this coin based on its age WAS at least ONCE in a BARN.

      I’m done.

      Like 6
      • Sherminator

        Better yet, it may have been in a barn and a car. Voila!

        Like 2
      • Howard A Member

        Nah, stick around, Tom. It’s nothing I’d throw in the towel for, still some great stuff comes through here. Thanks to BF’s talented writers, we’re all becoming armchair experts at classic European cars, worth the membership alone!!

        Like 5
    • Josh Josh Staff

      The term barn find is commonly used outside the automotive world too, especially for primitive antiques. Heck, even the watch collecting world uses it these days. We tend to stick with automotive stuff because that’s what really interests us, but I for one enjoy seeing stuff like this every once in a while. Trust me, it isn’t going to be something you see here with any kind of frequency.

      Like 3
  6. DW

    $360,000 opening bid? I can’t even see where “Porsche” is stamped on it….

    Like 9
  7. ILoveCarz

    @Mike, that is hilariously accurate! +1

    Like 3
  8. Tony Primo

    Definitely brings new meaning to the phrase a penny for your thoughts!

    Like 1
  9. Magnus

    I rescue old buildings that otherwise often would have been demolished. My current project is an old hotel from 1885 that was abandoned for 43 years before I bought it.

    Many years ago I started sticking 41 cents into walls that I had to open up and refinish. One quarter, one dime, one nickel and one penny. Now I add a coin dollar to make it $1.41. I always imagine that someone will open that wall up some time in the future and think it’s fun to find some old coins. In the hotel I might leave 15-20 such stashes.

    Like 16
  10. Poppy

    At first I thought it was a Beverly Hills Car Club listing…

    Like 1
  11. JohnfromSC

    Just goes to show you how much inflation has done to the value of one cent since 1793…

  12. PairsNPaint

    It’ll buff out.

    Like 2
  13. angliagt angliagt Member

    I was thinking about putting my Pioneer SX1280 receiver
    on eBay,but I think I’ll list it here instead.

    Like 5
  14. Mark

    Just to keep things in perspective….it would take this penny and another 4 added to it to buy a gumball.

    Like 1
  15. LarryS Member

    Bring-An-Armored-Car?

    Like 2
  16. djjerme

    I prefer the Continental Currency dollar coin..

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continental_Currency_dollar_coin

    “Mind your business”

    …words we should all live by.

    • John

      “We are one”
      Need more of that today too

  17. dogwater

    I had some old coins thought they might be worth something looked on E-bay at prices but they are not worth much as people think sorry

    Like 1
    • Howard A Member

      Mmm-hmm, I can hear it now,,”nah, them coins ain’t worth nothing”, they give you peanuts, and make a call, “yeah, Joe, you won’t BELIEVE what some doofus brought in”,,,sorry, that’s how I think. Old GF had a guitar signed by someone, we took it to a collector, “nah, I get these all the time”, he said, gave my GF peanuts. Come to find out later, they really were worth something.

      Like 2
  18. George P

    It’s a bit of a stretch for this to bring $360,000 even if it is rare the first and for most collectors are going to consider is the condition and is this real or did someone make a fake from a real coin these are things Collectors will look very closely at before putting a bid on coin, Just Saying!!

  19. Mitchell Member

    This reminds me of a stand-up bit I once heard: “No, they’re special quarters. And you can buy two quarters worth 50 cents for the low price of $19.95!”

    Like 1
  20. TimM

    Was it found in a barn??? Maybe I’m on coin find???

  21. TBAU Member

    So where are the other 64996 coins?

    Like 1

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