A cent worth many millions of times its original value sells for $660,000

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A cent worth many millions of times its original value sells for $660,000
In May 1941 it quietly sold to a nearly unknown collector from Maine, Roscoe E. Staples, for $2,750.

SANTA ANA, CA.- Stack’s Bowers Galleries sold an historic and very rare 1793 Strawberry Leaf Cent for the third time in the firm’s history for $660,000. This sale, which occurred at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, represents only the fourth time this coin has sold at auction since 1890!

Known as the finest example of just four known 1793 Strawberry Leaf Cents, this important specimen was presented as part of the ESM Collection of US Large Cents. Among the 355 variants of early US large cents (1793 to 1814) known to enthusiasts of the series, no variety captures the imagination of specialists so much as the 1793 Strawberry Leaf Cent, named for the distinctive spray beneath the portrait of Liberty that differs from all others of the year. All four of the known specimens are well worn, a fact that contributes to the aura of mystery and desirability that surrounds them.

Stack’s Bowers Galleries offered the finest known of these four in their August sale, which has been graded Very Good-10 by PCGS. Researcher Walter Breen noted in a 1959 article that this specimen is "the only strawberry leaf coin with all four numerals of the date legible," allowing for the easiest comparison of the very strong similarity between these digits and the punches used on other 1793 Wreath cent varieties. Both sides of this coin are finely and evenly granular, the devices and peripheries a medium shade of brown that contrasts with the deeper dark brown toning present in the fields.

In addition to ranking as the finest known, it is also the most historic survivor of this variety. It was purchased at auction by famous Boston bean-baker Lorin G. Parmelee in October 1877 for $77.50 and was sold alongside his entire collection at auction in 1890, where it realized $79. It went on to be owned by several significant collectors throughout the late-19th and early-20th centuries including Bostonian Dr. Thomas Hall and Virgil Brand of Chicago.

“Any 1793 Strawberry Leaf cent is an historic rarity, but to handle the very finest example for a third time was a true privilege.” said Stack’s Bowers President Brian Kendrella. “In fact, we are one of just three firms to have ever sold this piece at auction over the past 143 years, and we are delighted that the ESM consignor chose to utilize our superior expertise once again.”

In May 1941 it quietly sold to a nearly unknown collector from Maine, Roscoe E. Staples, for $2,750. Roscoe Staples, a successful businessman, joined the Maine National Guard in 1934 and embarked for the Pacific theater in fall 1942. While his troops were actively engaged in taking the Munda airfield from the remaining Japanese forces in 1943, then-Major Staples was shot and killed by a Japanese sniper. Staples was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for bravery, and he was noted for being "a brilliant officer who had the respect of his men and his superiors.". After Staples' death, the coin remained with his family until sold in the Stack’s Bowers Galleries 2004 Frog Run Farm Collection sale.

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