One of the rarest pennies cost a Beverly Hills man a pretty penny.
At an auction last Thursday, Kevin Lipton shelled out $2,585,000 for the Birch Cent, a penny made in 1792 that is named after its engraver, Robert Birch.
It's the most money ever paid for a one-cent piece. And yes, he said, the purchase made sense.
“It’s like our very first penny,” Lipton, 55, told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday. “It’s such a spectacular coin. It’s so important, so rare.”
The coin is among 10 similar coins known to exist that were experimentally produced after the founding of the U.S. Mint, said Jim Halperin, co-chairman of Heritage Auctions.
It features a profile face representing Miss Liberty, framed by a motto that was later abandoned, “Liberty Parent of Science & Industry.”
Lipton, who owns a coin wholesaling business in Beverly Hills, had been eyeing the Birch Cent since he saw it in 1981 at a New York auction house.
That year, Johns Hopkins University consigned the penny for auction, and it was purchased by New York City developer Donald G. Patrick for $200,000. Patrick consigned the coin to Texas-based Heritage Auctions.
At the Orlando auction where he picked up the Birch Cent, Lipton also bought a quarter dollar from 1792 for a mere $2,232,500. All told, he paid about $4.8 million for 26 cents.
Lipton has collected coins since he was 12 years old, and his full-time coin business launched when he was just 17.
He conceded that he was nervous about plunking down so much, but he's confident his million-dollar coins will mature.
"They are a great store value, and will only be worth more in the future," Lipton said. "They are literally Mona Lisas of our coinage."
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