By Shaquille Brissett for Gainesville Coins ….
The church is typically kept strong by the contributions of its people. One patron, though, has taken the practice of paying tithes to new heights. An anonymous woman donated an 1866 proof gold $20 coin to the GracePoint Church of Valparaiso, Indiana. The donation will be used to build a brand new church for the congregation.
Since their founding eight years ago, the members of GracePoint church have been without a permanent home. Due to financial straits, churchgoers were forced into a nomadic existence, often convening at the local Washington Township Elementary School when no better option presented itself.
Church officials were made to tow around a trailer full of audio and visual equipment. They would perform the strenuous and tedious work of setting up this equipment in the elementary school. After service, the mass of equipment would be lugged back to the trailer and packed up. They did this every week.
Not far off, though, was an abandoned furniture store that church officials hoped to convert into a place of worship. The conversion of the furniture store hinged upon an expensive construction project. The church scrimped and saved to meet the demands of bank lenders, but the collection of $300,000 required to secure a loan was no easy feat.
The deadline rapidly approached.
“Our people have been resilient, giving money and pledging, but we were down to this $300,000 gap and for us, that’s a lot of money,” said Pastor Ben Lamb.
One generous member donated $150,000 to the project. The GracePoint church was immensely grateful, but still short on cash.
“It’s just weird because I began to not trust,” said Lamb. Dejected, he decided it was time to refund his members.
That is until he was approached one Sunday by a woman who had been by attending the service for less than a year. She wanted to offer one of her most cherished possessions, an 1866 proof gold $20 piece.
The gold piece (graded Proof-65 Cameo by NGC) had belonged to her husband, a man who after becoming quadriplegic developed an appetite for investment knowledge and spent his final days collecting coins. It was the first coin he ever purchased.
The woman held onto the coin for many years after, even fighting off four would-be robbers who wished to deprive her of the memento.
Lamb, floored, graciously accepted the piece. The woman asked for nothing in return.
On the generosity of the donation, Lamb said “We’re still just in shock. It’s an unbelievable story. It’s crazy.”
Soon after, GracePoint church consigned the coin to Chicago’s Heritage Auctions.
“Today we can track only 10 known specimens, and three of them are part of the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution, the American Numismatic Society (ANS) and the Bass Foundation,” said Sarah Miller, director of numismatics for Heritage Auctions’ New York Office. This makes the coin exceedingly rare.
Heritage Auctions will sell the coin on April 27, but bids have already exceeded $140,000.
“We are elated and we can’t wait to help the church this way,” said Miller.
GracePoint was awarded an advance payment of $150,000. Their new home will become a reality.
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