CONTURSI
Lisa Kyle  /  AP
Steve Contursi holds his 1794 silver dollar, likely the first ever struck by the United States, at the World's Fair of Money in Pittsburgh.
updated 8/18/2004 8:09:22 PM ET 2004-08-19T00:09:22

Chump change it is not.

A silver dollar insured for $10 million and nickels worth as much as $3 million each are among the $1 billion in coins on display at the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money.

From Wednesday through Sunday, as many as 16,000 people are expected to stroll through the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to buy, sell or gawk at coins — from a half-cent coin to a $100,000 bill.

The 1794 coin believed to be the United States’ first silver dollar and two of five existing 1913 Liberty Head nickels are on display.

The U.S. Mint also gave conventioneers a glimpse of the designs being considered for the next round of special-design nickels. And the U.S. Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing placed on display the newly designed $50 bill that goes into circulation in September.

Kyle Aber, a refinery operator from Houston, Texas, was among those surveying approximately 500 booths where about 1,000 dealers displayed their collections. He was looking for two Morgan silver dollars — a 1889-CC and a 1893-S — to complete his set.

One of the coins is worth about $20,000.

“My family and friends are supportive, more or less,” of the hobby, Aber said. “My dad really didn’t understand spending 50 cents to buy a penny.”

Aber and others believe coin collecting has become more popular in the last decade, thanks to the advent of the Internet and the popularity of auction Web sites like eBay.

Like any other collectibles, supply, demand and condition are factors that determine the value of a coin, ANA spokesman Donn Pearlman said. A 100-year-old Indian Head penny could cost anywhere from $1 to thousands of dollars, depending on its condition, he said.

‘Money has a story to tell’
But old doesn’t necessarily mean valuable. A 2,000-year-old Roman coin might be worth $25, while a 100-year-old coin might be worth $1 million or more, Pearlman said.

Many collectors don’t buy coins for an investment, he said.

“Every piece of money has a story to tell. Money, literally, is history you can hold in your hand. It’s either a symbolic representation or a historical artifact of an era,” Pearlman said.

One of the most coveted items at the event is the Neil/Carter/Contursi 1794 Silver Dollar. Researchers and other experts said while it is impossible to unequivocally say the coin was the very first silver dollar struck in the United States, it probably was the first.

“This coin is to our economy and international trade what the Declaration of Independence is to our country’s freedom: a significant piece of history and a national treasure,” said Steven Contursi, the president of Rare Coin Wholesalers and the owner of the coin.

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