The rare prototype penny, which was never circulated as actual currency, was minted in 1792. It fetched $1.15 million (including the $1 million bid and a 15 percent commission fee) at Thursday's bidding event sponsored by Heritage Auctions, the world's biggest auctioneer of collectibles.
California resident Kevin Lipton bidded for the coin, but his purchase was made on behalf of other investors. Both the consigner and the buyers remain anonymous.
The penny is made from copper, but features a tiny plug of silver at its core. It depicts an image of Lady Liberty -- eyes wide and hair flowing -- ringed by the phrase: Liberty Parent of Science & Indust. The year 1792 is inscribed below Lady Liberty. On the other side is a wreath framing the phrase 'One Cent,' and on the periphery is written United States of America.
A full 220 years since its creation, the coin looks a bit worn and has very minor imperfections in its façade. Small nicks are visible just above the bust line and just over the tip of the fifth hair strand, both useful for provenance research, says the Heritage Auctions website. Still, the coin is in remarkable condition.
This particular penny is one of only 14 such silver-center pennies still in existence. Heritage describes silver-center cents as the first coin struck inside the Philadelphia Mint.
The auction was held at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center in Chicago. Before the bidding, Heritage Auctions cofounder Jim Halperin told the Chicago Sun Times that this coin had been passed down through family generations, but had less than a dozen owners in all that time.
Halperin, a coin collector himself, was lucky enough to handle the rare find. I held it in the holder. I've never touched the metal, he said. It's gorgeous.
As one clever commenter said on Facebook, That's a penny that should never be thrown into a wishing well, unless you wish for 1 million dollars.