A 1793 penny known as a "1793 chain cent" sold for a record $1,380,000 by Heritage Auction on 4 January 2012. The chain cent get its name from the interlocking chain with 15 links on its reverse. It were struck during late February and early March 1793 with only approximately 36,103 pieces minted. The coin was made at the Mint in Philadelphia in 1793, the first year that the U.S. made its own coins. Heritage officials said in a news release that the name of the buyer was not revealed but that he was "a major collector." One of the coin's earliest owners was a well-known Baltimore banker, Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.
During its time, people had been misinterpret the chain with slavery (similar iconography had been utilized on the reverse of the earlier Fugio Cent and Revolutionary War era Continental currency). The chain had been changed with a wreath cent, quickly prepared and approved. Originally, the reverse chain had been intended to symbolize the togetherness of the newly formed Union.
The obverse design consisted of a stylized Liberty head with flowing hair. The inscription "LIBERTY" appeared above the portrait, and the date below. The design was rather sparse and empty compared to those that would come later.
The reverse's central design figure, for which the coin is named, is an interlocking chain with 15 links, representing the 15 American states in existence at that time. Both the words "ONE CENT" and the fraction "1/100" appear within the chain. Along the outer edge is inscribed "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA". On the first working die, the engraver failed to allow adequate room for the entire inscription, and it had to be abbreviated to "UNITED STATES OF AMERI.". These early dies were cut by hand, rather than being made from master hubs as is the practice today.