This coin was just sold for nearly $1.2 million

Source: Stacks Bowers

One of the first American minted coins has just sold for nearly $1.2 million. Coin auctioneer Stack's Bowers auctioned the rare 1792 "Birch Cent" on Thursday.

"The Birch cent is, simply, the first of a cultural phenomenon that is known the world over: it is the first American cent," read a description of the coin on the Stack's Bowers website.

The coin, which sold for $1,175,000, features one of the most artistic coinage depictions of Lady Liberty, surrounded by the words "Liberty Parent of Science & Industry."

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The copper coin is among the first American coins to be minted. Its history can be traced back to written correspondence between George Washington and then-Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, during the late summer of 1792.

"It's a special even for coin collectors and for the broader perspective of American economic and monetary history," said Vicken Yegparian, Stack's Bowers vice president of Numismatics.

This coin is not alone. There are four varieties of the 1792 Birch cents although Yegparian says that this is the second-best of all the coins. The best was sold earlier this year for just under $2.6 million.

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The Birch cent has circulated through many auctions over the years. In 1890 it was sold for $85 and has since been owned by different collectors before making its way to Stack's Bowers in 1975.

The coin market overall is healthy, said Yegparian, but most of the activity is on the higher end of the spectrum for coins such as this one.

"A lot of attention has been paid to the crème de la crème of American coinage," he said. "And then there are those who are just looking for exquisite, top-notch items to add to their investment portfolios."