A rare Gold Rush-era coin owned by a descendant of Chinese immigrants who worked in the California gold fields sold for $253,000 at a Beverly Hills auction.

The coin has been confirmed by numismatists as one of only 12 "Quarter Eagles" (search) known to exist from the 246 that were made at the San Francisco Mint (search) in 1854.

The Quarter Eagle is about the size of a dime and was made from Gold Rush ore at the San Francisco Mint just months after it opened. It contains one-eighth ounce of California gold.

The anonymous seller's great-grandfather acquired the coin between 1856 and 1858 while working the gold fields, according to the American Numismatic Rarities (search) of Wolfeboro, N.H., which auctioned the coin Sunday.

"They took exceptional care of this important piece of American history for nearly 150 years," said John Pack of American Numismatic Rarities. "In fact, it is the second finest known surviving example."

The coin, which was expected to sell for at least $150,000, opened at $140,000 and quickly jumped in $5,000 and $10,000 increments before going to an anonymous collector for the final price.