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Stack’s Bowers auction for rare silver dollar sets record

Irvine-based auction house sold the 18th-century coin for more than $10 million

by Gabriel CortésPublished: January 29, 2013 09:05 AM

The 1794 'Flowing Hair' silver dollar
Stack’s Bowers Galleries made history last Thursday when it auctioned the 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar for over $10 million. The record-breaking bid was in large part due to the coin’s excellent condition and historical value. Despite having been struck over 200 years ago, the coin has few marks or scratches, and they do not obfuscate its focal areas. As a result, the Professional Coin Grading Service certified it as a “good strike” with a rating of 66 out of 70.

The prized coin was struck in 1794, the first year that silver dollars were ever minted. According to Stack’s Bowers, a close study of the coin and its characteristics suggests that it could very well be the first specimen struck during that first year of silver dollar production. Its history, along with exceptional condition, makes its sale a landmark event in the annals of coin collecting.

“To be a part of this historic occasion is nothing short of amazing,” said Chris Napolitano, president of Stack's Bowers Galleries. “Collectors competed with great fervor and energy with everyone in the audience on the edge of their seats until at last there was just one bidder remaining.”

The sale marks the highest price every paid for a rare coin at auction. By fetching whopping $10,016,875, the Flowing Hair silver dollar shattered the previous world record set in 2002, when a 1933 Double Eagle coin sold for just over $7.5 million.

“The event helped set a new standard of excellence in numismatics and pays homage to the history, legacy and lore of American coin collecting,” Napolitano said, referring to the study and collection of coins.

While the Flowing Hair silver dollar was the highlight of Stack’s Bowers’ recent New York Americana Sale, it was by no means its only star. In the end, nearly $27 million worth of rare coins and other consignments were auctioned, including a 1792 silver half dime for $1.1 million and a 1793 chain America large cent for almost $1 million.

Headquartered in Irvine with offices in New York and Hong Kong, Stack’s Bowers Galleries is a powerful player in the rare currency business. The company was formed in 2011 when Stack’s, the oldest rare coin auction company in the United States, merged with Bowers and Merena Auctions.

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