An uncirculated $20 gold piece minted in 1933 was sold for a record $7.6 million at auction tonight.
The bidding, which started at $2.5 million, lasted about 10 minutes in Sotheby's crowded showroom on Manhattan's East Side.
The 1933 "double eagle," bought by an anonymous telephone bidder and sold by the U.S. Mint, has a checkered history.
The $20 coins minted that year were not circulated because President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to take the nation off the gold standard. The auctioned coin is believed to be one of 10 to have survived an order in 1933 that the coins be melted down. The front features a standing Liberty figure. The reverse features a majestic eagle.
Two of the coins were given to the Smithsonian Institution for historic safekeeping. Another coin -- the one auctioned tonight -- was thought to have been smuggled out of the U.S. Mint and ended up in the storied collection of Egypt's last monarch, King Farouk.
The coin disappeared in the 1950s and surfaced again in 1996, when British coin dealer Stephen Fenton tried to sell it to undercover Secret Service agents in New York posing as buyers. An out-of-court settlement with Fenton last year cleared the way for the auction, Mint officials said.
The director of the U.S. Mint, Henrietta Holsman Fore, said money from the sale of the rare coin will go into the U.S. Treasury. "It will be used to pay down the public debt and fund the war on terrorism," she said.
The sale price includes $6.6 million for the U.S. government, a 15 percent commission for Sotheby's auction house and the coin's $20 face value.
The previous record auction price for a coin was slightly more than $4.1 million, paid in August 1999 for an 1804 U.S. silver dollar, Reuters reported.