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World’s Rarest US Gold Coin Rediscovered (?): Part 3

Our last two blog posts have explored the origins of the rarest coin in US history – the $3 gold coin. Only two were produced in 1870, and one of them was damaged and lost. It seemed the famous “1870-S” coin was one-of-a kind. But, another one surfaced this year.

This “new” coin’s story is a bit of a mystery. In 1992, a European tourist found the coin glued to the inside of an old souvenir book from a San Francisco book shop. Current reports do not indicate whether he realized the value of his find. However, since he did nothing with the coin for 15 years before taking it to the Four Seasons Auction Gallery just outside of Atlanta and completely shocking everyone there, we’re guessing he did not. A coin of this rarity and value might have been more suitable on Sotheby’s auction floor.

At the time of this writing, the coin is undergoing preparations to be auctioned off. However, it has not been evaluated by any coin grading authorities. This, combined with the fact that the coin doesn’t exist by any historical accounts, has lead to many numismatists questioning the authenticity of the coin.

There are number of possible explanations for the origin of this coin. Perhaps it’s the specimen that was removed from the San Francisco mint’s cornerstone and the extent of its damage had been exaggerated. Or, because the first coin had been lost and damaged, perhaps the mint ordered more than one replacement and didn’t make a record.

In any case, if this new 1870-S is authentic, it could be worth $4 million or more (which is the current valuation of the 1870-S on display at the American Numismatic Association Museum). Although it may be the rarest US coin, it’s far from the most valuable. That honor goes to the 1933 Double Eagle – which was auctioned off for more than $7.5 million.

The whole story is shaping up to very interesting. We’ll be following it closely for more developments.

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