Gold has always been a symbol of wealth and the ideal choice as a medium of exchange. The metal’s relative scarcity, corrosion resistance, and malleability make it an attractive investment option. Whether you want to diversify your portfolio or hedge against inflation, buying gold bullion is a viable wealth-building strategy.
Gold bullion coins, bars, and rounds offer all the investment characteristics of gold as a metal. However, gold bullion coins have historical, cultural, and sentimental value, unlike bars and rounds. As a result, gold bullion coins are highly collectible.
In this guide, the team at Learn About Gold discusses the ten most popular bullion coins for gold investing and collecting.
The Most Popular Gold Coins
1. 1986 American Eagle Gold Bullion Coin
Face value: $50 USD
Rarity: Very common (Mintage: 1,362,650)
Size: 1 troy ounce
Mint Year: 1986
The American Eagle coins are official United States Mint-issued gold coins. This popular bullion coin is available in several sizes: 1/10 troy ounce ($5), ¼ troy ounce ($10), ½ troy ounce ($25), and one troy ounce ($50).
The U.S. Mint first released this coin in 1986, and the one-troy-ounce bullion coins from this first minting year are among the most common in the series. The U.S. Mint also issued around 446,300 proof coins during this initial year.
The one-ounce American Gold Eagle coin has a 1.287-inch diameter and a composition of 91.67% gold, 3% silver, and 5.33% copper.
The obverse design is Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ full-length rendition of Lady Liberty with an inscription reading “LIBERTY.” The reverse design features a family of eagles and inscriptions that read “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” and “IN GOD WE TRUST.” In 2021, the reverse of the American Eagle gold coin changed to Renata Gordon’s design, which is a bald eagle’s side profile.
The 1986 American gold coins have value as numismatic items and gold bullion, and they are worth at least their weight in gold. A 1986 American Eagle coin without a mint mark has a value of approximately $2,200, provided that it is in uncirculated condition.
2. 1979 Canadian Gold Maple Leaf
Face value: $50 CAD
Rarity: Common (Mintage: 1,000,000)
Size: 1 troy ounce
Mint year: 1979
The Royal Canadian Mint released the Canadian Maple Leaf gold coin in 1979. The coins from this initial year are among the most popular in the series.
From 1979 to 1982, this original bullion coin was only available in a size of one troy ounce with a face value of $50. From 1986, ½-ounce, ¼-ounce, and 1/10-ounce coins came into circulation.
The first gold coins have a purity of .999 with a diameter of 1.1811 inches. In 1982, the Royal Canadian Mint started issuing one-ounce gold coins with a purity of .9999.
Since 2005, the obverse design of the Canada Gold Maple Leaf coin features a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II in maturing grace without a crown. The obverse of the first 1979 Canadian Gold Maple Leaf coin is of the 37-year-old queen wearing the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara. The reverse depicts Walter Ott’s Canadian maple leaf design with the inscriptions “CANADA” and “FINE GOLD 1 OZ OR PUR”.
The Canadian Maple Leaf coin’s weight in gold is the primary factor determining its value, which has fluctuated from $1,726 to $2,141 in 2022.
3. 1970 South African Krugerrand
Face value: No face value
Rarity: Common (Mintage: 211,018)
Sizes: 1 troy ounce
Mint year: 1970
The Krugerrand is a South African gold coin that the country’s president, Paul Kruger, started issuing in 1967 as collector’s pieces. The goal of the release of South African Krugerrands was to facilitate the private ownership of gold, stimulating the demand for the country’s overwhelming gold output.
During the late 1960s, the South African Krugerrand was among the purest official bullion coins in the world, and it became popular among international gold investors, especially in the United States. With the gold price soaring during the 1970s, the South African Mint increased production of these coins. By 1980, South African Krugerrands accounted for 90% of international gold coin sales.
The Krugerrand gets its name from Paul Kruger’s surname and the South African Rand, the country’s currency unit.
The design features Kruger’s bust with the inscription “SUID-AFRIKA – SOUTH AFRICA.” The reverse design depicts a springbok, South Africa’s national animal, with the inscriptions “KRUGERRAND” and “FYNGOUD 1OZ FINE GOLD”.
The 1970 South African Krugerrand is popular among gold buyers due to its significance in the large-scale production of the coin. These gold bullion coins have a “premium over spot” value. In other words, the coin’s value is the spot price of gold plus a premium ranging from 3% to 5%.
4. 1908 U.S. Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle With Motto
Face value: $20 USD
Rarity: Scarce (Mintage: 22,000)
Sizes: 0.9675 troy ounce
Mint year: 1908
The Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle is another popular American gold coin series. The United States Mint produced this series from 1907 to 1933 and named it after its designer, Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
The obverse of the coin features the famous Saint-Gaudens design of Lady Liberty with the torch in her right hand. The United States Mint reused this design for the obverse of the American Gold Eagle in 1986. The reverse depicts a soaring eagle.
Before releasing the first gold bullion coin in this series, Theodore Roosevelt asked Saint-Gaudens not to put the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the $20 coin. Roosevelt believed that the motto was a debasement of God’s name if criminals were to use the coins for illegal activities. For this reason, the 1907 coin and some of the 1908 coins don’t feature this motto.
Due to public outcry, Congress decided to return the motto to the coin’s design in 1908. As a result, there are 1908 coins with the motto and 1908 coins without the motto. Those without the motto are very common, as are the coins with the motto from the Philadelphia and Denver mint branches.
The 1908 S Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle gold coin that the San Francisco Mint produced with the motto is popular among precious metals investors. This minting branch only struck 22,000 of these coins, and they are relatively scarce. The value of this coin ranges from $3,500 to $27,319, depending on its condition.
5. 1990 Chinese Gold Panda
Face value: ¥100
Rarity: Scarce (Mintage: 53,898)
Sizes: 1 troy ounce
Mint year: 1990
The Chinese Gold Panda is among the most popular coins in the world due to its uniqueness. The People’s Republic of China has released this coin every year since 1982 in sizes of one ounce, ½ ounce, ¼ ounce, and 1/10 ounce.
Each new release of the Gold Panda coin has the same obverse, which depicts the Temple of Heaven. However, the reverse features portraits of pandas that change yearly, except for 2001 and 2002, which share a design.
The 1990 one-ounce Gold Chinese Panda has a reverse with a beautiful design, which depicts a full-grown bear standing on a rock. In 1990, the International Union for Conservation of Nature officially declared giant pandas endangered, contributing to this coin’s popularity among precious metals investors.
Other Bullion Coins Rising in Popularity
Whether you want to buy coins as a gold investment or grow your precious metals collection, you can choose from many popular gold coins. The selections below discuss some of the other popular options available on the gold coin market.
U.S. Indian Head Gold Coin
Face value: $10
Rarity: Very common
Sizes: 0.48375 troy ounce
Mint year: 1907 – 1933
The Indian Head gold coins share a historical background with the American Gold Eagle and Double Eagle coins. As with the Gold Eagles, Augustus Saint-Gaudens designed the Indian Head Gold.
Similar to the American Gold Eagle coin, the Indian Head coin’s reverse depicts a portrait of an eagle. The obverse of the Indian Head coin features a left-facing bust of Liberty with an Indian headdress.
Austrian Gold Philharmonic
Face value: €4, €10, €25, €50, €100
Rarity: Very common
Sizes: 1, 1/2, ¼, 1/10, 1/25 troy ounce
Mint year: 1989 – present
The Vienna Philharmonic is a modern gold bullion coin available in various denominations. These 99.99% pure gold coins get their name from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, which also inspired the coin design.
The obverse design is a portrait of the Musikverein pipe organ, which stands in the famous Großer Musikvereinssaal. The coin’s reverse features an assortment of musical instruments with the German inscription “WIENER PHILHARMONIKER.”
American Gold Buffalo
Face value: $5, $10, $25, and $50 USD
Rarity: Very common
Sizes: 0.10, 0.25, 0.503 troy ounce
Mint year: 2006 – present
The Gold American Buffalo is a popular 24-karat gold coin with an obverse design similar to the Indian Head nickel. The reverse features a portrait of the American bison, which gives these gold coins their name.
The mint mark “W” appears on the obverse of these gold coins’ proof versions. Of the bullion versions of the American Buffalo, the 2019 coin has the lowest mintage figure of 61,500.
Australian Gold Kangaroo Nugget
The Gold Australian Kangaroo Nugget is a 24-karat gold coin
Face value: $5, $15, $20, $50 AUD
Rarity: Very common
Sizes: ¼ to 10 troy ounces
Mint year: 1986 to present
The Perth Mint has been minting Australian Gold Nuggets since 1986 but started including a kangaroo on the reverse in 1989. These sovereign coins are of the purest gold and are available in various denominations and sizes. A one-ton gold coin with a diameter of 31,4961 inches and a face value of A$ 1,000,000 also forms part of this series.
This fine gold coin’s obverse depicts a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, and the reverse design is of a kangaroo, which varies by year.
British Gold Sovereign
Face value: £1
Sizes: 0.2354 troy ounces
Mint year: 1817 – present
The Royal Mint has been producing Sovereign coins as gold bullion since 1817. Since the release of these gold coins, they have had various designs and compositions. Currently, the British Gold Sovereign is one of the purest gold coins available in Great Britain.
As of 2022, the coin’s obverse features a bust of Elizabeth II, and the reverse is of Saint George slaying a dragon.
Where Can You Buy These Popular Gold Coins?
You can buy gold from any authorized precious metals dealer. These sellers typically offer the best gold prices and peace of mind knowing that the coins you buy are genuine. To find the nearest coin dealer near you, do a quick online search.
When buying from a pawnshop or private individual, make sure they are trustworthy. If you want to buy gold coins online, stick to dealers from the United States Mint database.
How To Avoid Buying a Fake Gold Coin
Before buying gold coins, do extensive research to find out what the hallmark of a specific coin is. Genuine gold coins are also relatively heavy, so a lightweight coin is likely a fake. Also, stick to reputable dealers, as these professionals are not likely to put their reputations on the line to sell fake coins.
Another way to spot a fake is with a magnet test. Real gold is not magnetic. If a coin sticks to a magnet, it is not real.
Precious Metals Investing: Is It Better To Invest in Gold Coins Than Gold Bars?
A gold bar derives its value purely from melt value. This type of bullion has no historical significance and might be suitable for an investor who wants to diversify their portfolio and move on with their life.
However, collecting and investing in coins might be a viable option if you find them exciting and enjoy studying their history. Coins are also more affordable than gold bars, making it easier for beginners to build their precious metals portfolio.
How To Store Gold Coins Safely
You must store coins of the purest gold in a dry area, away from extreme temperatures, sunlight, and moisture. A cardboard holder with mylar lining is the best storage solution for your coins.
Final Thoughts on the Most Popular Gold Bullion Coins
The coins we included in this list are not necessarily the most valuable, but they are highly collectible and readily available. If you are new to gold coin investing or collecting, this guide will hopefully provide a starting point from which you can build a lucrative portfolio.