Coin experts say they have found the first silver piece minted by the United States—one likely held by the most en vogue of Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton. David McCarthy figured the silver coin had to be one-of-a-kind after spotting it in an auction catalog. Its front features the all-seeing eye of God, surrounded by rays of light. The rays shoot out toward 13 stars—one for each of the colonies that had rebelled against Great Britain. A similar coin bore two words in Latin above the starburst: "Nova Constellatio," or "new constellation" to describe the infant United States. But this silver piece bore no inscription at all. It was the first clue that the coin was something singular, McCarthy tells the AP.
McCarthy, a senior researcher for the coin and collectibles firm Kagin's, had a hunch the "quint" coin, a forerunner of the half-dollar, was the first coin ever minted by the US government in 1783—the prototype for a plan discussed by both Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson that arguably shaped the course of the nation. McCarthy staked his company's money to buy the coin for $1.18 million at the 2013 auction. After nearly four years of late nights sifting through the papers of the Founding Fathers and studying the beading on the coin's edges, he is now making an exhaustive case that this silver piece is indeed the first American coin, the precursor of what ultimately would circulate a decade later as the US dollar. The AP has more on McCarthy's research into the coin. (Read more Alexander Hamilton stories.)