Rare La. coin cost $1.5M

BATON ROUGE - A Louisiana businessman has purchased an extremely rare coin minted in 1844 New Orleans for $1.5 million.

The coin is a Proof 65 1844-O $10 gold piece - probably made as a gift for someone of importance - and is listed in the “100 Greatest U.S. Coins” at No. 39.

The O after the year stands for Orleans mint. A proof coin is a specially made coin with a mirror finish, while 65 is the coin’s grade.

Chuck Bloomfield, of Northshore Coins & Currency, bought the coin eight months ago from an undisclosed seller, with his partner Rod Sweet, a Florida real estate developer. The coin will be a part of the Rod Sweet Collection.

“It’s the rarest coin ever minted in the state of Louisiana,” Bloomfield said.

Some experts believe the $10 coin, and a similar $5 piece minted at the same time, were made as a gift for one of two southern U.S. presidents: either John Tyler, who left office in 1845, or James Polk, who entered office the same year.

“The research has never showed why they were struck. It’s still a mystery,” Bloomfield said.

Both the $10 and $5 coins are unique coins because they were minted in New Orleans. Only the Philadelphia mint was authorized to strike proof coins, Bloomfield said.

The $10 coin is on display in Orlando, Fla., Bloomfield said. Officials at the Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C. also have expressed interest in displaying the coin.

Even though it was created 46 years earlier, not many people knew the $10 gold coin existed until it was listed in an auction book in 1890, Bloomfield said. The coin belonged to Lorin Parmelee, who had one of the largest collections of rare coins at the time.

“The Parmelee Collection of American Coins” auction book says that because the coin was minted in New Orleans, and not Philadelphia, it must be extremely rare.

In fact, it’s one of a kind.

In 1890, the coin sold at auction for $16. The $5 companion piece sold for $9.50. This is the last known time that both coins were together.

The $10 coin resurfaced in 1911, as part of the William Woodin auction, and sold for $50. The coin is listed in the “Catalogue of the Magnificent Collection of Rare American Coins of William H. Woodin.”

Like its $5 companion piece, the $10 coin had disappeared until recently.

Bloomfield entered the business of rare coins in 1989 as a seller for Blanchard and Co. Inc. in New Orleans. Blanchard is one of the largest retailers of rare coins in the nation, Bloomfield said.

In 2000, Bloomfield, who lived in Mandeville until Hurricane Katrina, opened his own company, Northshore Coins and Currency.

Bloomfield, who now lives in Baton Rouge, has spent the past year searching for the $5 companion piece.

“If we can find it and put it back with the $10, it’ll be the first time in numismatic history we’ll have two unique coins in a set,” Bloomfield said.

Numismatics is the study of or collection of coins, medal, tokens, paper money, etc.

“Some of this stuff gets to be like James Bond,” Bloomfield said.

Other notable coins in The Sweet Collection include an 1842 “Small Date” Quarter Dollar. That coin also is listed in the 100 rarest coins at No. 55. The coin’s value is $300,000.

Only five of these coins were minted. One is on display at the Smithsonian, one is in the American Numismatic Collection, and the locations of the two others are unknown, Bloomfield said.

“It’s hard to find these coins in really good condition,” Bloomfield said. “A lot of the strikes are weak.”

However, several of the coins in the Sweet Collection are of the finest quality, Bloomfield said.

An 1844 Proof-66 Cameo Seated Dollar is part of the Eliasberg-Sweet specimen. The coin is the finest known. An 1851 Proof-65 Seated Dollar is listed as the No. 81 rarest coin. Only one finer of this type of coin is known, Bloomfield said.

An 1852 Proof-65 Cameo Seated Dollar is listed as the No. 82 rarest. It took Bloomfield five years to find. He said the Seated Dollar collection, showing a seated Lady Liberty, are extremely rare.

The Sweet collection also includes part of the U.S. gold set, which was legal tender at the time: A 1908 “No Motto” and 1908 “Motto” $20 gold coins are part of the collection. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt ordered that the motto “In God We Trust” be removed from this coin, because Roosevelt believed it was mainly used to pay prostitutes or gambling debts.

Because of public outcry, the motto was put back on the coins later in 1908.

(via Sun Herald)

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