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Irvine coin dealer sells rare Brasher Doubloon

The coin, one of the first created in the United States, subsequently sold for $7.4 million

by Caitlin AdamsPublished: December 20, 2011 09:45 AM

Steven Contursi, president of Irvine-based Rare Coin Wholesalers, last week sold a unique Brasher Doubloon. After passing through two intermediary entities, the coin was bought by an undisclosed Wall Street investment firm for the purchase price of $7.4 million, the most expensive private coin sale on record.

A number of the historic rare Brasher Doubloons were struck in New York in 1787 by silversmith Ephraim Brasher, a neighbor of George Washington. The 26.66-gram coins depict the sun rising over a mountain with the sea in the foreground on one side and an eagle clutching an olive branch in one talon and arrows in the other.

" This [eagle] subsequently was a common design theme on many United States coins, indicating that America wants peace but also has the strength and willingness to defend itself,” Contursi said.

Contursi, along with investment partner Donald Kagin, purchased the coin in 2005 for the then-record price of $3 million; Contursi owned a two-thirds interest in the coin. Over the last seven years, the coin has toured several states.

"It's a national treasure, and I wanted tens of thousands of people to see it in person because it has tremendous significance for American history. It underscores the beginnings of our economic system," Contursi said.

A total of seven of these Brasher Doubloons still survive today. The one that sold last week is unique, in that the caster’s hallmark –– "EB" –– is stamped across the shield on the eagle’s breast on the front of the coin, whereas the other coins bear the stamp on the eagle’s right wing.

"The denomination 'doubloon' may seem unusual today, but it was the coin-of-the-realm when the Brasher Doubloon was issued in 1787 as proposed coinage for the new republic,” said John Dannreuther, co-founder of the Professional Coin Grading Service. “At the time, doubloons contained $14 worth of gold, but the Brasher Doubloons actually had $15 worth of gold when they were made."

"Fifteen dollars in 1787 is the equivalent of about $2,800 in today's buying power standards," Contursi said.

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