Is there any better dream for a coin enthusiast than happening upon an ultra-rare or valuable coin? Whether you’re a seasoned collector or a beginner who just bought your first coin, educating yourself on the world’s most valuable coins is paramount.
Collecting coins is more than just a hobby; it’s an investment. Therefore, being able to identify the rarest coins and those that are worth a lot of money is essential.
At Learn About Gold, we strive to give everyone the information they need to become knowledgeable about gold and precious metals, including gold IRAs, coin collecting, and the basics of investing. In this post, we’ll begin by discussing the world’s most valuable coins and what makes them worth so much to collectors. Then, we’ll finish with quick tips on purchasing rare and expensive coins.
Six of the Most Valuable Coins in the World
The world is full of unique and rare coins worth a staggering amount of money. But which coin has the clout to earn a top spot on the “World’s Most Valuable Coins” list?
1. 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar
The 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar, the first silver dollar the United States Mint ever struck, earns one of the top spots for the most expensive coins in the world. The coin consists of 89% silver and 11% copper, and its face shows a noble image of Lady Liberty, complete with her hair flowing in the wind. The Flowing Hair Silver Dollar also features an iconic American Eagle as its reverse image.
Coin value is relative, so what makes the Flowing Hair Dollar one of the most expensive coins in the world? Experts estimate that only 120 to 130 remaining coins exist. A 2013 sale shattered the record for the world’s most expensive coin as it cost one buyer over 10 million dollars to acquire one of these beauties.
In October 1794, the Philadelphia Mint struck 1,758 of these incredible coins in just one day. However, the United States didn’t have ready access to precious metals at the time because it was still recovering from the war with Great Britain.
The U.S. distributed these coins to VIPs, including diplomats, visiting dignitaries, Congress members, etc., in a PR move designed to show that America could create and mint its own money. Undoubtedly, the Flowing Hair dollar is one of the most valuable pieces in the coin world.
2. 1928 China Silver Dollar, Year 17
In April 2021, Stack’s Bowers sold the most expensive Chinese coin ever sold at a public auction, a Year 17 Chinese Silver Dollar, with the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) giving it an SP64.
Although experts had initially estimated the coin to be worth much less, it surpassed two million dollars when it was sold. This particular specimen was especially valuable due to its superior condition, which drove the price up drastically. While there are more expensive coins for sale or in museums, this one earns the top spot for Chinese coins at a public auction.
A bit of interesting history: the coin face features a bust of Chinese military leader Governor Chang Tso-lin. Tso-lin led Northeastern China but was assassinated in June 1928 by the Japanese Kwantung Army.
3. 1933 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle
The 1933 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle is a gold coin that definitively makes our list as one of the most valuable coins in the world. In 2002, a private collector purchased it for almost eight million dollars. However, another person surpassed that record in 2021, with a specimen selling for 19 million dollars.
Although there were over 400,000 of these expensive coins, most people melted them down after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s gold recall legislation. Fortunately, a few survived, and one even ended up with King Farouk in Egypt.
Sadly, that particular St. Gaudens Double Eagle went missing in 1952 when the King had to sell his coins. However, in 1996, it reappeared. Interestingly enough, these coins are now illegal to own, with only that single coin from the 2002 auction sold to a private collector.
4. 1913 Liberty Head Nickel
One of the rarest and most valuable nickels from the U.S. is the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel. Mint officials struck these coins from 1883 to 1913, with only five minted in the last year of production. Fortunately, you can see the Liberty Head Nickel in museums worldwide, including the Smithsonian.
The front of the coin features Lady Liberty, and the rear features the Roman numeral five (V). It weighs only five grams and consists of 75% copper and 25% nickel.
For the last two decades, a few different auctions have featured these valuable coins, which sell for millions of dollars. In 2018, a Stack’s Bowers auction sold a specimen for over four million dollars!
5. 2007 Canadian Gold Maple Leaf
The 220-pound and one-inch thick Canadian Gold Maple Leaf is not just the world’s largest gold coin; it’s also one of the most valuable, with a face value of one million dollars. Only six of these expensive coins were ever minted, and their initial purpose was to promote the one-ounce Canadian Gold Maple Leaf coins.
The front of these enormous gold coins shows the regal profile of Queen Elizabeth II, and the back of the coin shows the Canadian maple leaf. One of these coins went to a private collector in 2010 for over four million dollars, making it one of the most valuable coins in the world.
6. 1343 Edward III Florin
The 1343 Edward III Florin (a.k.a. the Double Leopard) is one of the rarest coins, with only three known to exist. In 2006, somebody using a metal detector found one of these coins, something we all know is a numismatist’s lifelong dream.
An English auction sold the coin for about $850,000, which was extremely high at that time. The other two are located in London at the British Museum.
The coin’s front is intricately detailed, showing the visage of King Edward III and his two leopards flanking him. The coin’s reverse features a quatrefoil with the Royal Cross inside. Experts believe that this rare coin is worth upwards of six million dollars.
What Coins Are Coveted the Most by Collectors?
In addition to the six valuable coins we just listed, there are plenty more that just missed the list. Here are three more coins that collectors the world over would love to obtain:
- 1787 Brasher Doubloon: George Washington’s neighbor, Ephraim Brasher created the Brasher Doubloon, the United States’ first gold coin. There are seven of these valuable coins, but only one has Ephraim Brasher’s initials on the eagle, making it highly coveted by collectors worldwide.
- 1797 Draped Bust Half-Dollar: When Americans expressed their distaste at the “Flowing Hair” design, Congress commissioned the Draped Bust. The U.S. mint only produced a very small number of these silver coins, increasing the cost. In 2015, experts valued a 1797 Draped Bust coin at over a million dollars.
- 1817/4 Capped Bust Half-Dollar: This coin is the single rarest coin the Philadelphia Mint ever minted. Instead of purchasing new coin dies every year, operators would punch over the old dies to make a new date instead, hence the 1817/4.
What Factors Make a Coin Valuable?
What are the qualities that make a coin so valuable? Of course, rarity is one of the most significant factors, but there’s much more to it. Let’s take a look now at why the most valuable coins in the world are, in fact, worth so much money.
To determine where a coin came from, look at its surface for a mint mark. The most common marks in the U.S. include Philadelphia (P), San Francisco (S), and Denver (D). The rarest is West Point (W), usually for bullion or commemorative coins.
The physical condition of a coin is naturally a huge factor contributing to its worth. The most expensive coins have never been in circulation and are in pristine condition. Of course, any cosmetic or physical damage will drive the price down.
The meltdown value of a coin is the number of precious metals that would remain after melting. As you might guess, any coin with precious metals is worth more than one with copper, for instance.
A coin’s mintage signifies the number of copies that the mint issued. The most expensive coins have only a few copies in existence.
Mint Error Coins
Some of the most valuable coins are error coins, which have flaws or mistakes during mintings, such as an extra leaf or the wrong date.
Tips on Buying Valuable Coins
Whether you’re buying the most expensive coin you’ve ever wanted for your collection or something a little less valuable, consider these tips on how to make your purchase successfully:
- Know your history regarding rare and valuable coins, i.e., background, minting varieties, etc.
- Remember that rarity is subjective
- Stay current on market values
- Set a budget and stick to it
- Don’t be afraid to window shop
- Attend coin shows and expos
- Consider patronizing reputable auction houses for greater security or local coin shops
- Use professional appraisers to ensure you get an accurate and fair value
A Final Word on the World’s Most Valuable Coins
Although you might think that all of the world’s most valuable coins are already in a private collection or a museum, that’s not the case. Plenty of rare and expensive coins are still in circulation or for sale. Coin collecting can be a profitable investment as well as a rewarding hobby that lets you own a tangible piece of history.
However, investing in gold coins can be tricky, and there’s no denying the inherent risk of spending money on precious metals, which fluctuate in value considerably. At Learn About Gold, we strive to educate the public about gold IRAs and precious metal investments, from our company comparisons and reviews to our blog and news. Contact us via our online form for more information regarding precious metals, gold IRAs, and the world’s most valuable coins.