A Special Anniversary Gift: A Rare 1856 Coin is Given to Mars Hill College


November 6, 1932: In honor of the 76th anniversary of Mars Hill College opening its doors, the institution was gifted a rare one-half cent coin dated 1856 by Mr. A.N. Breneman of Battle Wharf, Alabama. Mr. Breneman had no prior connection to the college nor did he give any specific reason for gifting Mars Hill with the rare coin. Administrators at the time of Mr. Breneman’s gift believed that the elderly man decided to send the coin to Mars Hill after reading a newspaper article detailing that years Founders Day celebration after realizing that the coin was minted the same year that Mars Hill College was founded. In a handwritten letter that accompanied the coin, Mr. Breneman wrote that he had been holding on to the one-half cent coin since the American Civil War and that he believed this specific coin had never been circulated. Upon receiving the coin, Mars Hill had it framed and displayed prominently in Montague Library.

A transcription of the letter written by Mr. Breneman to Mars Hill College can be read below:

Battle Wharf, Ala.

October 19, 1932

Officers and Students of Mars Hill College, N.C.


It is my favored opportunity to enclose you a coin of 1856, date of the founding of your institution. It is a remarkably fine specimen of the half-cent coinage.  I am past 80 and recall the times when I was a lad; but even then they were going out of use. I think this one has never been in circulation; it has also been in my possession since the Civil War.

If this year does not correspond to the right one, I think I might be able to rectify the matter for surely you are quite worth it. I sent something similar to Rev. Mr. Lingle, President of Davidson College; maybe you know him.

Cordially yours.


This coin may be similar to the coin that was gifted to Mars Hill College in 1932. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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