Rare Half Cent sold for £225,000 Belonged to Tragic Mountaineer
By Dominic Gover | January 25, 2013 1:06 AM EST
A man who died in a climbing accident unknowingly bequeathed a valuable inheritance to his family - a rare coin struck after the turbulent birth of the United States.
The humble half-cent coin, minted in 1796, lay undiscovered for 50 years inside a matchbox before it was found by the family of Mark Hillary during a clean-out.
The coin fetched £225,700 ($353,000) at auction - 72 million times its original face value.
Only 1,400 of the coins were made at the Philadelphia Mint in the US.
Daniel Fearon, a coin consultant at Salisbury auctioneer's Woolley and Wallis, which sold the half cent, said it was in good condition.
"The condition of the coin is unchanged with a good, even brown colour and some traces of redness around the obverse letters and around the wreath on the reverse," he said.
"The coin is one of just a handful that have survived in this condition. Half cents have always been a rarity in the collectors' market."
Coin collecting thrived in Regency Britain during the years when the United States was forging itself as a nation.
"[Britain] is the natural place for coins of the former colony to end up," said Fearon.
"It was very exciting when it was brought to us. It is an instantly recognisable and beautiful coin. I'm so pleased to have found it."
The precious half cent was found during a house clean by the family of Hillary, who was killed in a climbing fall in 1963 at the age of 20.
Lagging behind auction stakes
Oxford University classics student Hillary had the coin as part of a collection of 70 he kept inside a set of miniature drawers made from matchboxes.
Despite making nearly a quarter of a million at auction, the half cent lags far behind in the auction stakes.
A dollar coin minted just one year before Hillary's half cent was sold for $7.85m in 2005. The dollar was the first of that currency unit issued by the United States federal government, in 1795.
Another US coin fetched $7.59m at auction. It was made from 98 percent gold and was struck during the California gold rush.
A medieval coin depicting King Edward III of England was bought for $6.8m. It was in circulation for just eight months from December 1343.
To contact the editor, e-mail:
Most Popular Slideshows
- Still The World Champions: Team USA Overpowers Serbia, 129-92 To Win 2014 FIBA World Cup [PHOTOS]
- Pope Francis: World War III Has Started On Piecemeal
- After Win Over Maidana, Mayweather Says He Is Prepared To Negotiate A Fight With Pacquiao
- From Fat To Fit: Celebrities Who Were Overweight Before They Became The Beauties That They Are
Join the Conversation
- Kate Middleton Pregnancy Sickness: Prince Harry Cancels His 30th Birthday Party, Opts For Simple Gathering
- 24-year-old Playboy Model Marries 81-year-old Construction Tycoon Richard Lugner
- ISIS Murder Videos 'Turning On' Foreign Jihadists To Fight US and Britain [VIDEO]
- Rare Blue Flawless Diamond, Costing $25.6 Million, Is The Newest Attraction At The Natural History Museum
- Auckland Gay Men Warned of Having Sex in Bushes of Public Park
- Google Release Roundup: Nexus 5 2014, Nexus 6, Nexus 8 and Android L Killer Features
- Samsung Attacks iPhone 6 Plus Through New Galaxy Note 4 Commercial: Apple Claims Imitating Galaxy Note Phablets
- iPhone 6 And IPhone 6 Plus Sold Out, New Stocks To Arrive In October
- Pregnant Kate Middleton May Call Off Malta Trip Due To Sickness: Royal Couple Will Move To Anmer Hall Residence
- Moto G (Gen 2) vs. Xiaomi Redmi 1S—Specifications, Features And Price Showdown
- Nexus 6, 8 Release Dates Imminent as Moto X Pre-Order Begins & Nexus 7 Deals Ramp Up
- iPhone 6 And iPhone 6 Plus Shipping Has Begun, Expected To Reach Customers’ Doorstep On Sept 19 Launch Date