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Rare coins worth millions displayed in New Orleans

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 10, 2013 at 9:53 am •  Published: May 10, 2013

The show, which continues through Saturday, is being held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center along the riverfront, not far from the Old U.S. Mint that began operation in 1838. The New Orleans mint had the distinction of issuing coins under three government authorities — the United States, the Republic of Louisiana after its secession from the Union and the Confederate States. The mint ceased operations in 1861 as bullion ran out and reopened in 1879 after Reconstruction. It closed for good in 1909. Its coins can be identified by the distinctive "O'' mintmark.

Coins from the mint are on display at the show, as well as paper money and historic tokens produced in or for New Orleans and other locations in Louisiana. Some of the items are nearly 300 years old.

There are silver and bronze examples of the medal awarded to Zachary Taylor by Louisiana after his victories in the Mexican-American War and some rare items related to the great "Mississippi Bubble" paper currency scandal of the 1720s that created an economic crisis for France during colonial times and stunted Louisiana's growth for decades. The exhibit includes currency and satirical medals and tokens related to the financial disaster.

John Thornton, a coin collector from Baton Rouge, La., said he relished the opportunity to take in the exhibits.

"I find that when you go in your average coin shop, you don't see too many really early American issues of coins, but here you can see some of those, and the artwork on those is incredible," he said. "Just the beauty of those coins is something really to behold."

Mudd said New Orleans was a good place to produce silver and gold coinage because of its ability to import bullion from South America and the Caribbean.

"New Orleans has always been a port city with the mouth of the Mississippi River draining the middle of the country, so a lot of money has passed through this city," Mudd said.

The Old U.S. Mint was transferred to the state of Louisiana in 1966. In 1981, it opened as a state museum. It currently houses the Louisiana Historical Center, The New Orleans Jazz Club Collections of the Louisiana State Museum and a performing arts center.

The money show doesn't just attract history buffs, Mudd said.

"For some people, it's about the beauty of the coins and notes, the dies that were used. They are beautiful works of art," he said. "For some, it's about the investment potential."

During the show, the public can get appraisals of coins and paper money from about 300 dealers.