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FILE PHOTO: The image of the first U.S. President George Washington on a dollar bill is seen in a photo illustration in Toronto October 15, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An 18th century gold coin featuring the likeness of first U.S. President George Washington sold for $1.7 million at auction on Thursday, with the net proceeds going to charity, the auction house said.

The 1792 Washington President gold eagle coin was never circulated as money but is instead thought to have been presented to Washington when post-Revolutionary War plans were being drawn up for the first U.S. Mint, according to Heritage Auctions.

“Numismatic researchers widely agree it is one of the most important coins in American history,” Heritage co-founder Jim Halperin said in statement announcing the sale.

Currency researchers believe that the Washington President coin, which has his profile on the front and an eagle on the back, was given to him as part of a sales promotion in a bid to obtain a contract to strike U.S coinage, and that Washington carried it as a personal memento.

The U.S. Mint was authorized in 1792 and the first coins for public use were issued a year later in copper and silver, with images of lady Liberty on the front and a bald eagle on the back.

The Washington President coin comes from the collection of the late Eric. P. Newman, who acquired it privately in 1942. Newman died in 2017 at the age of 106 having amassed one of the most significant coin collections in the United States.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Paul Tait)

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