A rare 19th century gold coin is set to auction for more than $300,000, having been gifted to a church in Indiana by an anonymous donor.
The coin will hit the block at Heritage Auctions in Chicago, as part of a series of sales at the annual Central States Numismatic Society convention.
The 1866 proof Liberty Head double eagle is one of the earliest coins ever produced to feature the motto "in God We Trust".
"The donor’s husband was a quadriplegic for many years and used his time to study investing, including coin collecting. This was the very first one he ever purchased. He passed away 14 years ago, and she held onto the coin," explained Pastor Ben Lamb, of the GracePoint Church in Valparaiso.
According to records, 30 examples of the coin were struck back in 1866, and today just 10 are known to have survived.
Of those coins, three are housed in permanent collection, including one owned by The Smithsonian Institution, making the remaining seven examples highly sought-after – and not just by honest collectors.
Four years ago, a gang of four assailants broke into the owner’s home in an attempt to steal the coin. The robbery was thankfully prevented by a neighbour, but ever since then she had regarded the coin as "a thorn in her side".
She decided to donate the coin to the church to help fund a vital construction project. Since its foundation in 2009, the GracePoint Church had been conducting Sunday morning services in a local elementary school, and was struggling to fund the creation of its own church building.
With the payment deadline for the project rapidly approaching, they were stunned to receive the coin, which Pastor Ben described as "an incredible gift in God’s story".
"It’s ironic that the last few hours before our financial deadline, the congregation had to do exactly what the coin’s motto said over a hundred years ago: trust God."
"The widow told us the coin was rare, but we never dreamed how huge the true value was or the money it could ultimately bring for GracePoint Church. We were down to just a couple days to meet our financial deadline for our new building, and Heritage immediately wired GracePoint $150,000 (advance payment toward the final price realized at the auction). We were absolutely blown away!"
"Although this gold piece brought grief to the widow for many years, ultimately it brought incredible joy."
The Heritage Auctions CSNS US Coins Signature Auction takes place on April 26-30.