The most expensive one-cent coin of all time: £1.55 million

Why did it fetch so much at auction - and how does it compare to other desirable coins

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Chain Cent

A US one-cent coin (also known as a penny) has sold at auction in Orlando, Florida, for an astonishing $2.35 million (or £1.55 million). It reached such a heady sum because the coin design, from 1793, was controversial, and so it was quickly replaced.

The coin is known as a 'chain cent', because it features a picture of a chain on the back - with 13 links to represent the 13 original colonies. Heritage Auctions president, Greg Rohan, said that the design immediately caused offence, because the chain was linked to the idea of slavery. As a result, the design was soon dropped and the chain replaced with a wreath.

Most expensive coins

It's the most expensive one-cent coin ever sold at auction, but it has a long way to go to rival the most expensive coin ever sold. That title belongs to the first dollar coin ever made by the US government, which is known as the Flowing Hair dollar. It was made in 1794 and 1795, and one of the coins sold in 2005 for $7.85 million.

The second most valuable coin ever sold was the 1933 Double Eagle, a $20-gold coin which was auctioned at Sotheby's, New York, in 2002 and fetched $7.59 million. The coins are incredibly rare, as they were produced in the same year that FDR banned gold coins, and so although they were produced legally they were illegal to own, and were never circulated.

The third priciest was a rare Edward III coin - produced some time in 1343 or 1344, and one of only three known to have survived. It was sold for $6.8 million.

In fact, the chain cent is the tenth most valuable coin ever sold at auction.

Only one coin featuring Elizabeth II comes out ahead of it: an enormous gold coin struck by the Canadian mint in 2007. The coin is made from the purest gold available, and weighs an incredible 100 kilos, so despite having a $1 million face value, it fetched $4 million at auction. According to the Guinness Book of Records it remains the world's largest gold coin.

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