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2 rare Hawaiian coins sold at Illinois auction

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An auction for two rare Hawaiian coins closed with a bid of $43,125 for an 1883 Hawaiian eighth-dollar coin and a bid of $25,300 for an 1881 Hawaiian nickel.

The buyers prefer to remain anonymous, said a representative for Texas-based Heritage Auction Gallaries, which conducted the auction.

A live auction was conducted at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosement, Ill. Thursday, following a week-long online bidding process.The Hawaiian eighth-dollar coin, or hapawalu, is one of only 20 minted in 1883 and was valued at $40,000. The online auction for the hapawalu closed with a bid of $32,500 on Wednesday.

A New Caledona nickel miner contacted King David Kalakaua in 1881 before the king left the islands on a trip and offered to have five-cent pieces to be struck at a Paris mint, the auction house reported. Two hundred of these nickels were minted and presented to Kalakaua after he returned from his trip around the world. They were never used as coinage and were most likely passed out to members of Kalakaua’s court and were carried as pocket pieces or ended up as jewelry, the auction house said.

Online bidding for the nickel closed at $16,000 Wednesday and the coin sold for $25,300 Thursday.

In a December 2008 article in Coin World, the hapawalu was described as the first silver issue of the Hawaiian kingdom. It was part of the 1883 Hawaiian Kalakaua coinage set: the hapa­walu (or 12.5-cent piece), hapaha (quarter-dollar), hapa­lua (half-dollar) and sola (dollar). The hapa­walu was never used as currency.

 Heritage describes itself as the largest collectibles auctioneer and third-largest auction house in the world. The coins were part of the Michael Tongg collection. The final price includes a 15 percent service charge.

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