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Silver Strike

The Lake Michigan Academy was appreciative when a patron donated an old coin thought to be worth only a few dollars. But that appreciation has skyrocketed into joy as officials of the private school discovered that it was a rare silver dollar worth more than $50,000.

Peter Cook, a Grand Rapids philanthropist, had no idea how valuable the dollar was when he gave it as part of a coin collection to the 48-student school, which serves children with learning disabilities. He had received the collection 20 years ago as payment on a debt, and it had languished in his basement ever since.

The coin's value might have gone undiscovered had it not been for an against-the-odds circumstance: Mr. Cook donated it through a friend, school treasurer Pat Mullen, who happens to be a numismatist. Suspecting the coin was rare, Mr. Mullen had experts certify its origin and value.

Bob Korver, whose company, Heritage Numismatic Auctions of Dallas, examined the find, said he expects the coin to fetch at least $50,000 at auction in Philadelphia this week. The coin is a Gobrecht silver dollar struck in the 1850s but never put into circulation. It was one of several patterns for a U.S. dollar coin tried by its engraver, Christian Gobrecht, as he refined the design, Mr. Korver said.

The coin, which depicts the figure of Liberty seated on a boulder, has been traced to the collection of King Farouk I of Egypt, who possessed one of the largest collections of the 20th century, Mr. Korver said.

Mike Murphy, the president of the Lake Michigan Academy's board of directors, said the windfall would give an unexpected boost to the school's effort to raise $3 million to finance the building of a new school, scheduled to open in the fall of 2001. For the 15 years of its operation, the school has rented space on a local college campus.

"This money will help us raise that money just that much sooner," Mr. Murphy said. View the coin (scroll to the bottom of the page) online at the Heritage Numismatic Auctions.

— Catherine Gewertz

Vol. 19, Issue 43, Page 3

Published in Print: August 2, 2000, as Take Note

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