Rare coins sold for $23.3 million at auction in New York

Nov. 17, 2013 at 10:36 PM

NEW YORK, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- A 102-year-old St. Louis man's collection of early American coins fetched $23.3 million at a weekend auction in New York City, the auctioneers said.

Eric P. Newman, a retired lawyer and business executive, said he paid only about $7,500 to acquire his collection of about 1,800 coins, starting in the 1930s, officials at Heritage Auctions said Sunday, the day after the two-day auction wrapped up.

Newman plans to use his windfall to benefit a non-profit numismatic educational foundation named in his honor, the auction house said.

"Eric P. Newman of St. Louis began buying and studying the finest high-quality and rare United States coins he could starting about 90 years ago," Jim Halperin, co-chairman of Heritage Auctions, said in a release. "His return on investment is about 310,000 percent, but the knowledge he acquired about early American money, and shared with collectors through his writings over the years, is priceless."

Newman, who started collecting coins when he was 7, is well-known in numismatics as a collector, researcher and award-winning author. He began collecting coins at the age of seven.

The final total for his collection had been expected to bring only about $15 million, but determined buyers pushed the prices up.

"It was the first time collectors and dealers had a chance to own some of the finest-known early American and 19th century U.S. coins that had been off the market for over a half century in Mr. Newman's collection," Halperin said. "He acquired many of them in the 1930s from the estate of a colorful collector, Col. E.H.R. Green, whose wealthy mother, Hetty Green, was known as The Witch of Wall Street."

Among the coins was the finest known surviving example of a quarter-dollar struck in 1796, the first year that denomination was produced by the U.S. Mint, Heritage Auctions said.

Newman bought it for $100 and it sold at auction for $1,527,500.

A 1795 U.S. silver dollar brought $910,625, and a 1799 U.S. silver dollar was purchased for $822,500.

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