Gold, the most precious metal on earth, has served as a monetary unit of exchange for thousands of years, and you may be wondering why. Here are just a few reasons:
- Does not tarnish
- Has a high value-to-weight ratio
- Has relatively low spread
- Difficult to counterfeit
- Retains its value over time
Gold is also easy to divide into smaller units such as gold bullion, bars, and coins, making it easy to transport and transact without losing its value. This ability has seen it used in commerce from ancient to modern times.
Gold Coins in Antiquity
Gold coins are as ancient as the precious metal itself. People first used gold to trade in the Bronze Age, but gold coins originated much later in Anatolia during the 6th century BCE.
King Croesus of Lydia is the accepted inventor of the gold coin. When the Persians captured him in 546 BCE, they adopted gold as the primary metal for their coins.
The Ying dynasty yuan is another ancient gold coin minted in China, with the oldest ones dating from approximately the 5th or 6th century BCE. Likewise, Ancient Greek coinage contained several city-state-issued gold coins.
So, are there some gold coins that are more valuable than others? Below we’ll delve into the most valuable gold coins in the world, looking at the top ten picks that have sold for the highest prices.
But first, what makes a gold coin valuable?
What Makes a Gold Coin Valuable? Know Your Coins to Avoid the Fakes
According to the American Numismatic Association, counterfeit coins are now flooding the market and compromising collectors’ investments.
This fraud is possible because scammers now have the advanced manufacturing technology to fool even seasoned coin collectors and dealers. They can take the coin’s image, use a computer graphics program to tweak it, and then send the picture to an engraving machine to cut the die.
So, how can you protect yourself from buying fake gold coins? There are several simple tests you can perform to ensure that you’re buying the genuine article.
Gold does not degrade in the presence of an acid, so if your coin degrades in sulfuric or nitric acid, it is not genuine. Also, counterfeit gold coins contain base metals and hardly any precious metals. So if your coin is attracted to a magnet, it is likely full of base metals and barely any non-magnetic precious metals.
You can also check the weight and dimensions of your coin with an expert to authenticate its purity. Note that the coin’s age does not denote value — some recently minted gold coins are worth more than their ancient cousins.
If buying gold coins online, always buy from an accredited and licensed dealer and not from a private party. Doing so gives you the ability to take legal action against the dealer if you happen to get sold a fake coin.
10 of the Most Valuable Gold Coins in the World
1.1849 $20 Liberty Head Gold Double Eagle – $17m
This gold coin, also known as the Judd-117 and Pollock-132, is one of the most valuable coins in the U.S. The U.S. mint used this pattern coin to test the new double eagle denomination design.
In 1795, the U.S. Mint classified the $10 “Eagle” as the gold coin unit for banking and overseas trade. This classification changed in 1849 when they produced a pattern coin for the $20 gold coin due to the California Gold Rush.
It is now in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institute. At an auction, experts estimate it can fetch $10 – $20 million.
2.1933 Saint Gaudens Gold $20 Double Eagle – $8.64m
The 1933 $20 Saint Gaudens Gold Double Eagle is one of the most famous U.S. coins of all time, with 445,500 coins produced and none going into circulation.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6102, which led to the confiscation of gold to the Federal Reserve. This law outlawed the circulation and private possession of U.S. gold coins (including this coin), except for collectibles.
The U.S. Mint purposely saved only two from being melted down and presented them to the U.S. National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institute, destroying all others.
3. 1822 Capped Bust Gold $5 Half Eagle – $8.15m
Out of seventeen thousand, seven hundred ninety-six gold coins minted initially, only three are known to have survived.
Two of these coins are at the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institute, and one is in the hands of the private Pogue Family Collection.
The Pogue Collection purchased this coin at auction in 1982 for $687,500. Experts estimate it can fetch $5 – $10 million at auction.
4. 1870-S Indian Princess Head Gold $3: Unique – $6.6m
This unique gold coin is one of the world’s rarest, with only one known to be in existence.
It is in excellent condition (EF-40 condition) with some minor damage on the coin’s rim under the liberty head bust. Louis Eliasberg purchased the gold coin from the Stack’s and Celina Coin Company in 1946 for $11,500.
It is now estimated to be worth nearly $7 million.
5. 1787 Brasher Doubloon – $7.4m
This rare coin was forged in the late 18th century by Ephraim Basher, a New York City goldsmith, and silversmith.
The front shows a state seal with a rising sun, and the reverse the American eagle with a shield.
A 2011 sale saw a version with Brasher’s signature on the breast sell for approximately $7.4 million. Later, a 2018 private sale with Brasher’s signature on the bird’s wing sold for over $5 million.
6. 1343 Edward III Florin – $6.8m
The 1343 Edward III Florin is one of three such coins known to be in existence.
The front shows King Edward III seated on his throne with the heads of two leopards on each side, and the reverse depicts the Royal Cross inside a quatrefoil.
Two coins are in the British Museum in London.
The third coin in a private collector’s hands sold at auction for £480,000 and is now estimated to be worth approximately $6.8 million.
7. 723 Umayyad Gold Dinar – $4.8m
This prized Islamic coin, struck from gold mined at a location owned by the caliph, is scarce; there are only twelve known to exist.
It bears the words “Mine of The Commander of The Faithful” and is the first Islamic coin to mention a Saudi Arabian location. In 2011, it fetched £3.7 million at auction. Later in 2019, another version sold for the same amount.
8. 1854-S Coronet Head Gold $5 Half Eagle – $4.4m
This rare U.S. gold coin is one of only 268 initially produced in the San Francisco Mint.
Only three remain, and they are known as the Boyd coin, the Wolfson coin, and the Newcomer coin. Most disappeared.
Eventually, all these gold coins were given to the Smithsonian Institute by the Josiah K. Lilly Collection.
9. $1m Canadian Gold Maple Leaf – $4m
This $1 million Canadian Gold Maple Leaf coin is a novelty coin, tipping the scales at approximately 220 lbs. Only six were ever made, each having a face value of $1 million.
The front shows Queen Elizabeth II, while the reverse shows a Canadian maple leaf.
In 2007, it made the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest gold coin. Later in 2010, the coin sold for just over $4 million.
10. 1804 Turban Head Gold $10 Eagle- $4.4m
This coin has two varieties: one features the date 1804 with a Crosslet “4,” and the other, the Plain “4,” has no crosslet.
Only four still exist. These historically significant coins were meant for diplomatic presentation sets for foreign dignitaries.
At an auction, experts estimate they would fetch approximately $4.4m each.
Investing in collectible gold coins is an excellent way to build a diversified portfolio.
Gold acts as an inflation hedge and a safe investment in times of geopolitical upheaval. For instance, during the 2020 U.S. elections and Brexit, in which the U.K. left the European Union, the price of gold shot up despite unease in the financial markets.
But although collecting gold coins can be a profitable pass time, as collectibles, gold coins could create a tax liability for you. The collectibles tax rate of 28% is highly unfavorable, as it surpasses the rates on other equally valuable financial assets such as stocks and real estate.
Experts can guide you on making the right investment decision when investing in gold, so you do not end up out of pocket.
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You can get all the advice and support you need about investing in gold at Learn About Gold. Our experts are ready to advise you on the various investment options, find the one that suits you, and guide you through your investment decision.
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