What Are the Most Valuable Coins to Collect?

Many people enjoy coin collecting, specifically collecting valuable minted coins that were legal tender in the past.

A coin’s grade and rarity determine its value. So, coins with historical significance, specific or recognizable minting errors, or limited minting command the highest prices.

The terms collecting and numismatics are often used interchangeably, but the two do not mean the same thing. Numismatics refers to the academic and systematic study of minted coins and paper currency, while coin collecting refers to collecting valuable coins only.

Coin collecting can be incredibly profitable if you know which types of coins to collect and what to look for when determining a coin’s value.

Here, we explore the most valuable coins to enable you to make informed and profitable choices. We also look at how to identify valuable coins to build a collection that others will envy and make a wise investment for the future.

A Brief History of Coin Collecting

Coins first circulated as legal tender around 650 B.C.E. However, people began to collect and keep coins for their artistic value much later.

The earliest historical record of coin collecting dates to Ancient Rome, showing treasury departments and scholars collecting and cataloging coins. In the first century. Emperor Augustus presented coins as keepsakes to courtiers during special functions and festivities.

During the Renaissance, coin collecting became popular among royalty and the upper classes. The Italian scholar Petrarch, Pope Boniface VIII, Louis XIV of France, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, and Elector Joachim II of Brandenburg are notable personalities known for their enthusiasm and expertise in coin collecting during this period.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, coin collectors began to adopt a more systematic and academic approach, which led to the birth of numismatics. During this time, coin collecting also filtered down to the middle classes in Europe.

Coin collecting did not gain prominence in the U.S. until the 1850s. In 1893, collecting coins from Mint facilities became popular. Later, in 1962, the first international convention for coin collectors sponsored by the American Numismatic Association and the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association convened in Detroit, Michigan. An estimated 40,000 people attended.

What Do Coin Collectors Look for In a Valuable Coin?

Coin Condition

A coin’s coin condition remains a critical factor in determining its value—coins in impeccable condition command higher prices than those with some wear and tear.

Coins that command the highest value have never been in circulation, i.e., those released but removed from circulation to preserve their rarity and quality.

Mint Marks

Mint marks refer to the location where the coin was minted.

Most coin collectors know of the S, D, and P mint marks on everyday coins, but the real gem to look out for is the W mint mark, which signifies coins minted in the West Point mint. The other current U.S. Mints lie in Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco.

W Mint marks, often present on commemorative and bullion coins, add to their rarity and value. The gold and silver American Eagles and Buffalos stand as excellent examples of bullion coins and make valuable additions to collections, helping to retain a collection’s overall worth over time.


Mintage refers to the number of copies of a specific coin issued—the fewer the number, the more valuable the coin.

Meltdown Value

A coin’s meltdown value refers to the precious metal content in the coin after it has been melted down.

Coins with high levels of precious metals like gold and silver fetch higher prices. Bullion coins contain a minimum of 97.1% precious metal by weight, making them extremely valuable as they have a guarantee to retain and even increase their value over time.

Mint Error Coins

Error coins remain some of the most valuable coins out there. Few go into circulation, increasing their demand due to their rarity. Coin errors occur due to human error, accidents during the minting process, or the deterioration of minting equipment.

5 Valuable Coins in Circulation

different types of collectible coins stack

1. 1913 Liberty Head V Nickel

  • Face Value: $0.05
  • Numismatic Value: $3.7–$5 million
  • Mint Mark: No mint mark
  • Silver Content: 0%
  • Total Produced: Unknown

The 1913 Liberty Head Nickel is a limited-issue American five-cent coin, unauthorized by the United States Mint. These qualities make it one of the most sought-after coins in American numismatics.

At the moment, only five coins are thought to be in existence.

In 1972, one coin sold for over US$100,000, and in 1996, another sold for $1 million. In 2010, the Olsen coin sold at a public auction for $3.7 million. The current value of this coin stands at $5 million.

2. 1794 Flowing Hair Dollar

  • Face Value: $1
  • Numismatic Value: $75,000–$825,000
  • Mint Mark: No mint mark
  • Silver Content: 90%
  • Silver Melt Value: $21.53
  • Total Produced: Approximately 2,000

The 1794 Flowing Hair Dollar was the first-ever dollar issued by the U.S. government. With only 1,758 ever issued, these rarities represent a valuable part of American history. Before purchasing these coins, ensure their certification. These coins have a value of $75,000 but can command as much as $800,000 at auction.

3.      1933 Indian Head Gold Eagle

  • Face Value: $10
  • Current Numismatic Value: $2,000–$600,000
  • Gold Content: 90%
  • Gold Melt Value: $915.72
  • Mint Mark: No mint mark
  • Total Produced: Approximately 312,000

The $10 Indian Head Gold Eagle was minted between 1907 and 1933. Designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, it has since become incredibly popular among American numismatists. After 1933, these coins ceased being minted. Most were melted down after President Roosevelt banned the private ownership of gold in the U.S.

The current value of these coins at auction stands at $2,200. However, many have been known to fetch up to $600,000 at auction.

4. 1893 Morgan Silver Dollar

  • Face Value: $1
  • Numismatic Value: $3000–$400,000
  • Mint Mark: S
  • Silver Content: 90%
  • Silver Melt Value: $21.53
  • Total Produced: Approximately 100,000

The 1893 Morgan Silver Dollar remains an incredibly scarce coin. It is thought that only 100,000 were ever issued, and many do not exist anymore as they were melted down.

In 2001, one of these coins sold for $414,000. A piece in a certified mint state could cost as much as $4,500.

5. 1927 St Gaudens Double Eagle

  • Face Value: $2
  • Numismatic Value: $1800 – $3000
  • Mint Mark: D
  • Gold Content: 90%
  • Gold Melt Value: $1834.28
  • Total Produced: Approximately 180,000

The 1927 D St Gaudens Double Eagle is one of the U.S. mint’s most valuable gold coins.

The Philadelphia U.S. Mint produced these coins, yet they have no mint mark. They also contain approximately one troy ounce of gold. These coins get their name from their designer, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and can rate between $1800 and $3000.

How Can You Value, Store, and Protect Your Coin Collection?

gold coins in a case

Now that you’ve built up a valuable coin collection, you must handle and store your investment correctly to protect it from any number of threats, including theft, loss, fire, and other natural disasters.

When handling valuable coins, always wash your hands beforehand. Hold each coin by its edge to avoid getting oils, body secretions, and other contaminants onto the coin’s face. Ensure that you handle your coins over a soft pad so that they won’t get damaged if you happen to drop them.

Store your valuable collection in a controlled environment that minimizes exposure to extreme heat and cold, humidity, air pollution, acids, and salt. Bedrooms, libraries, home offices, or dens make excellent storage locations in the home.

If your coins came from the U.S. Mint, for instance, or are encapsulated by a coin grading service, never remove them from their original holders or capsules, as this may decrease their value in the eyes of other collectors. However, some collectors, especially seasoned ones, remove valuable coins from their original coin holders and house them in specially designed cases or albums.

You must also insure your collection to protect it from theft or natural disasters. Several U.S. insurers offer insurance policies that protect against damage, theft, and fluctuating market value.

And finally, try to maintain privacy and anonymity to help protect your coin collection. Coin collecting club meetings offer safe spaces to discuss your collection, but talking to others outside the coin collecting community may leave you wide open to theft.

A Final Word

Understanding what determines a coin’s value can help you decide which gold and silver coins to collect to build a worthy collection. The value of a coin can shift significantly over time, so familiarizing yourself with the most in-demand and stable coins can give you an advantage and help you build a beautiful collection and make a profitable investment.

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