A typical coin collector has a certain respect for history, and an American coin collector will probably be able to tell you a fair bit about George Washington. But a more intriguing figure for them is his one-time next door neighbour, known as Ephraim Brasher.

Brasher was a skilled gold- and silver-smith, and a respected authority on the metals. Imported gold coins were brought to him, and stamped with an 'EB' in an oval if he believed they were what they were supposed to be.

The US Mint was established in 1793 to create a standardised, independent currency. Brasher had made proposals to strike copper coins for the government in the late 1780s, and also struck a few gold doubloons.

All of Brasher's gold coins - 7 are known of - are extremely valuable, being fine pieces linking a collector back to the time when America was on the cusp of creating the dollar as we know it (the word was already in use). But they are not equally valuable, as it turns out.

Coin collectors Steven Contursi and Donald Kagin bought one of the doubloons in 2005 for $2.99m. Kagin had previously joint-purchased Yale's Brasher doubloon in 1998. But this one was a little different - and at this point a legal case kicks in.

$2.99m was at that time the second greatest amount paid for a US coin, after a 1933 $20 gold coin went for $7.2m in 2002. But a rare coin expert named William Swoger still believed Kagin and Contursi had achieved a fantastic bargain.

All the doubloons are stamped with 'EB', but on six of the coins it appears on the wing of the eagle depicted. In the other case, it appears on the shield on the eagle's chest. This not only makes it unique in itself but seems to indicate that it is the last made - and made after the introduction of coin specifications by the US mint in 1793.

The doubloon is, in particular, a little heavier than the others and seems to be the first coins to be created according to the Mint's rules, in the year they were introduced.

Swoger asked for $500,000 for the information he was offering, on the basis that it would elevate the value of the coin to $10m. He claims that whilst he was given a fine gold coin as a deposit, Kagin and Contursi failed to produce the contract as he asked for it. The case has yet to be concluded.

Given the state of the economy, investment in coins is something people are particularly interested in at the moment, especially gold coins.   


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