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Sixpence Coin Discovered in Potato Field Realizes $430,000 in Auction

A famously rare New England sixpence, widely considered to be the most
valuable American coin discovered with a metal detector, crossed the block in the Stack’s
Bowers Galleries Official Auction of the Whitman Coin and Collectibles Baltimore
Expo. Rare coin experts have weighed in and believed the coin would sell for over
$100,000. It realized $430,000 USD.

The coin, struck in 1652, was discovered 339 years later in a Long Island potato
field. Lillian P. Rade of East Hampton, NY, recovered the rare coin using a metal
detector and made national news.

The 1652 New England sixpence was struck in Boston and was part of the first
group of coins ever struck in the future United States. The simple design of the letters
NE on the obverse and Roman number VI on the reverse was easily counterfeiting and
prompted a rapid change in the design following the first group of coins.

New England shillings are some of the most famous and desirable coins in
U.S. history as no other coins can be called the earliest coins made in North America.
Only seven sixpence examples are known, three of which are housed in museums. This
example was discovered 20 years ago and since it sold in 1991 for $35 no other examples
have been offered at auction until now.

The sixpence piece is the highlight of the renowned John Royse Collection
and was offered as a part of the Early American Coin Session at the Whitman Expo
in Baltimore. Over 100 other rare early American coins from the Royse Collection
were also offered with the first segment of the legendary Ted Craige Estate, a famous
collection of early American coins that has been hidden from the public for over 40 years.

Lawrence R. Stack, a senior numismatic consultant for Stack’s Bowers Galleries,
a Manhattan rare coin dealer and auction house, said they knew it was a rare coin and
knew it would reach six figures. He added it brought in $431,250, so he assumes they did
well.

Lillian King discovered the coin in 1990 during one of her regular hunts through
a potato field whose location she has not disclosed. King was searching in the field with
her boyfriend at the time, Ronald King, who is now her husband.

King said of the recent auction that it makes me think that I wished I had waited
to sell it and put it away in a safe-deposit box. The profit from the coin’s sale was used
to put a down payment on King’s East Hampton home, which she bought in 1992. She
added she is very happy for whoever bought it as it was a priceless object.

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