U.S. church strikes gold with donation of early ‘In God We Trust’ coin

A donation given by an anonymous woman to an Indiana church earlier this year brought big money—about $706,350 Cdn.—at an auction last week.

The rare and valuable 19th-century U.S. gold coin, which features one of the earliest uses of the motto, “In God We Trust,” will help Valparaiso’s GracePoint Church fulfill its mission of having its own building and avoid missing a crucial financial deadline for the ongoing project.

“This is one of only 10 known surviving 1866 proof Liberty Head double eagles with the ‘In God We Trust’ motto,” said Sarah Miller, director of numismatics at Heritage Auctions’ New York headquarters.

Lot 4356 eventually crossed the block for $517,000 USD on April 27.

“According to United States Mint records, only 30 proof Liberty double eagles were struck in 1866,” added Miller. “Today we can track only 10 known surviving specimens, and three of them are part of permanent collections, including one in The Smithsonian Institution. The ‘In God We Trust’ motto first appeared on U.S. coins in 1864, starting with copper two-cent denomination coins, and was used on $20 denomination gold coins starting in 1866.”

COIN NEARLY STOLEN IN 2013

Before being donated GracePoint Church, the coin survived an attempted theft at the donor’s home in 2013.

Pastor Ben Lamb described the situation as “an incredible gift in God’s story.”

The donor—a widow who wishes to remain anonymous—gave the coin to the church as “seed money” for the congregation to construct its own church building. The congregation was founded in 2009 and has been conducting Sunday morning services in an elementary school.

The coin was authenticated as genuine in 1992 with a grade of Proof-65 from NGC.

SEED MONEY BOOSTS CHURCH-BUILDING PROJECT

“Pastor Ben,” as he’s referred to by his congregation, consigned the coin to Heritage to launch the church-building project.

“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,” said Lamb, who added the donor’s husband died 14 years ago, but the donor kept the coin.

“Four years ago she was attacked at home by four assailants who wanted to steal the coin, but she and the coin were saved by a neighbour. She told me that after the attempted theft it had been a thorn in her side.”

‘NEVER DREAMED HOW HUGE THE TRUE VALUE WAS’

“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,” said Lamb, who added this was an advance payment toward the final price realized at the auction. “We were absolutely blown away. Honestly, we were completely stunned by the value of the coin.”

The coin was authenticated as genuine in 1992 and graded Proof-65 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. The back of the 1992 plastic holder has a scratch; however, the pristine surface of the 1866 coin inside is unaffected.

“This coin is an incredible gift in God’s story. Although this gold piece brought grief to the widow for many years, ultimately it brought incredible joy,” said Lamb. “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.”

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