1796 Pole Half Cent found in matchbox to make $49,000?

A rare 1796 Half Cent coin, identified as a Liberty Cap With Pole, and discovered in a makeshift matchbox display case, is coming to auction on January 22.

The American coin is one of only 1,400 ever struck and, due to its scarcity and condition, carries a pre-sale valuation of £30,000 ($49,000).

Rare half cent with pole to auction
The mint condition 1796 Liberty Cap carries a high presale estimation of £30,000 ($49,000)

The coin, which was struck in pure copper at the Philadelphia Mint, is still in mint condition.

It was originally designed by the mint's chief engraver, Robert Scott, without a pole. However, the obverse die broke before many coins had been struck and the pole replacement was introduced. Coin World has asserted: "Fewer than 20 examples of the With Pole variety have been certified in all grades by the Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and Professional Coin Grading Service."

The coin comes from the collection of Mark Hillary, a British student of classics at Oxford University. Hillary is thought to have been on path to receiving a first class degree before he died aged 20 in 1963 during a climbing accident in Greece.

Daniel Fearon, the consultant who first assessed the lot, commented: "A relative brought in the matchbox cabinet of coins in and on first inspection there did not appear to be much of interest but then this one coin just jumped out. I hope it will always be remembered as the Mark Hillary coin."

For more information and advice about capitalising on the rare coin market, please read our investing in coins page.

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