How a Rare 19th Century Gold Coin Donated By a Widow Saved an American Church

One church in America is thanking a widow for saving it with her most precious donation: an old coin.

(PHOTO: HERITAGE AUCTIONS)The 1866 Liberty Double Eagle gold coin.

The coin turned out to be a rare 19th-century U.S. gold coin—an 1866 proof Liberty Head double eagle with the motto "In God we trust"—that Heritage Auctions expects to sell for $300,000 or more in a public auction in Chicago and online on April 27, CBN News reported.

The unidentified woman made the donation just days before a financial deadline for the GracePoint Church in Valparaiso, northwest Indiana to have its own building. GracePoint Church was established in 2009 and has held Sunday morning services since that time in an elementary school. The donated coin will allow it to have its own church building.

"The widow told us the coin was rare, but we never dreamed how huge the true value was or the money it could ultimately bring for GracePoint Church," lead pastor Ben Lamb told CBN News.

Earlier, the pastor said they found an ideal location at the right price, but their lender only gave them a few days to come up with a $300,000 guarantee, ABC7 Chicago reported.

Lamb said getting that amount of money seemed like an impossible task until one of the church members came forward and offered the church her coin.

The church learned afterward that the coin was no ordinary coin. When they contacted Heritage Auctions, they immediately sent an advance payment of half its expected value—$150,000—to GracePoint.

"We were absolutely blown away," said Lamb. "We were completely stunned by the value of the coin."

The rare coin features one of the earliest uses of the motto "In God we trust," which is strikingly relevant to GracePoint.

"It's ironic that the last few hours before our financial deadline, the congregation had to do exactly what the coin's motto said over a hundred years ago: Trust God," Lamb said.

The gold coin was confirmed genuine in 1992 and graded Proof 65 (on a scale of 1 to 70) by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, one of the world's largest rare coin authentication companies, according to Heritage Auctions.

"According to U.S. Mint records, only 30 proof Liberty double eagles were struck in 1866," said Lisa Miller, Director of Numismatics at Heritage Auctions' New York office. "Today we can track only 10 known surviving specimens and three of them are part of permanent collections."

ABC7 Chicago learned that the woman who donated the coin had been robbed several times just to get to it. That partly explained why she wanted to remain an anonymous donor.

"I was beat up, held at gunpoint. I wanted to get rid of the coin. It was just a burden," she said.

"From the beginning everyone is asking, 'Are you sure you want to do this?' And from the beginning all I could think of is, 'Yeah. This is right. This is good.' And I feel blessed being able to do it."