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(CNN) - This coin was worth half a dollar when it was made in 1838. Now, it has an estimated value of half a million dollars.
The half dollar of 1838-O Bust Capped will be auctioned this week in Baltimore by the auction house Stack's Bowers Galleries, which describes it as "a truly legendary coin ... that will be revered, studied and dreamed forever."
It's not just old, it's extremely rare. Only 20 were created, and the Smithsonian Institution believes that only 11 still exist. Stack's Bowers says there could even be nine.
The currency that is auctioned, called Cox Specimen, changed hands for the last time in the 1980s, according to the auction house. It features a woman wearing a band that says "Freedom" on one side, and the national symbol of the bald eagle on the other.
It was created in New Orleans Mint, which opened in 1838 with the purpose of creating gold and silver coins. The coins created there are stamped with the letter "O", representative of the name of the city, to distinguish them from the coins made in other mints.
At that time, many silver coins were being imported to the United States from other countries such as Mexico, but Latin American silver coins had an "unequal quality," the auction house said.
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Turning them into half a dollar of silver would turn these unequal currencies into “suitable for banking and commerce” currencies.
According to the Smithsonian, American currency expert Walter Breen said the coins could have been manufactured to test the capabilities of a large new press, or perhaps they were designed to be presentation pieces.
However, the mint ended up producing very few of these half dollars. The spread of yellow fever that year closed the coin house for months, and technical problems halted the progress, which made the few existing half-dollar coins of 1838-O highly coveted by modern collectors.
One of the most enthusiastic collectors was a man named "Colonel" EHR Green, who once owned six of the half-dollar coins, including the Cox specimen, according to the statement. The Cox specimen was bought and sold by several other distributors before arriving at the auction house.
The other eight coins are owned by distributors or are on display: one of the coins is currently part of the National Numismatic Collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
Even if the coin sells for half a million dollars, it will not be the most expensive currency of its kind.
Another 1838-O half-dollar coin sold for $ 763,750 in 2014. More recently, one earned $ 444,000 at a Florida auction last January.
The difference in the sale price depends on market forces, as well as the degree and “visual appeal” of the individual currency, Vicken Yegparian, vice president of numismatics at the auction house, told CNN in an email. For example, the Cox specimen has highly reflective surfaces with clear and defined characteristics.
Stack Bowers Galleries have been astronomical sales owners before: a famous silver coin dated 1794 was sold for more than $ 10 million in 2013, setting the world record for the highest auction price for a rare currency.