An experimental cent made from glass sold for $70,500 at a public auction held in conjunction with the Florida United Numismatists (FUN) convention in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Heritage Auctions presented the all-glass cent on Friday, Jan. 6, as part of its $65 million offering of rare coins and paper money this week. A war between bidders on the phone and floor drove the cent’s selling price to more than double its $30,000 expected value.
Made in 1942 to test as a possible alternative to copper, it is the only intact example known to exist. One other piece has surfaced but it is broken in half.
"This one-of-a-kind cent is a part of U.S. history," said Mark Borckardt, Senior Numismatist and Cataloger at Heritage Auctions. "Collectors love to own unusual specimens, and although glass failed as a substitute for U.S. coinage, this piece represents a unique artifact of the ingenuity and determination of U.S. Mint officials and private industry."
In 1942, the United States Mint researched other materials to make cents because of wartime copper shortages. The bureau also invited private companies to test various types of materials. The experiments were publicized in trade magazines around the country.
"Plastics fabricators, particularly those who made buttons, began to experiment with pieces the size of a cent but the Blue Ridge Glass Company of Kingsport, Tennessee, requested an opportunity to experiment with glass," Borckardt said.
The U.S. Mint had a pair of used dies sent from Colt Manufacturing Co., one of the plastics experimenters, and Blue Ridge obtained tempered, yellow-amber transparent glass "blanks" from Corning Glass Co. However, by the time the glass tests were completed in December 1942, it was too late for the U.S. Mint to consider the material as a viable replacement in making coins. In 1943, the Mint struck cents made of zinc-coated steel.
The 62nd annual FUN Convention is January 5 to 8, 2017 at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward Convention Center.
Heritage Auctions is the largest auction house founded in the United States and the world’s third largest, with annual sales of more than $800 million and over one million online bidder members. To learn more about the company, visit HA.com.