There are three main factors that contribute to a coin’s value: demand, scarcity, and condition. While any one of the factors can affect a coin’s worth, if you’re able to find a one that combines all three attributes it’s value can skyrocket. Take for example the Alexander the Great Tetradrachm coins which were minted between 325 and 323 BC. These are thousands of years old and
regularly sell for around $400 each. That’s nothing to laugh at but lets look at the 1913 liberty head nickel. It’s only a hundred years old but one sold a few years ago for $3.7 million!
What’s the difference between these two? Well for starters there are hundreds and maybe thousands of known Alexander the Great Tetradrachm’s while only a few Liberty Head Nickels exist. Second, look at the condition of these two coins. The Alexander the Great coin looks like it’s been sitting at the bottom of the ocean for last thousand years while the nickel looks like it could have been minted yesterday. These two factors combine to drive demand which ultimately drives value.
Table of Contents
- 1 World’s Top 10 Most Valuable Coins
- 1.1 10. Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle
- 1.2 9. Brasher Doubloon EB on Breast – $2.99 Million
- 1.3 8. 1913 Liberty Head Nickel – $3.7 Million
- 1.4 7. 1804 Class I Silver Dollar from Queller’s Collection – $3.7 Million
- 1.5 6. Queen Elizabeth II – $4 Million
- 1.6 5. 1804 Silver Dollar – 4.14 Million
- 1.7 4. Islamic Umayyad Dinar – $6 Million
- 1.8 3. Rare Edward III – $6.8 Million
- 1.9 2. Farouk 1933 Double Eagle – $7.59 Million
- 1.10 1. Flowing Hair Silver Dollar – $10 Million
- 1.11 Honorable Mention: The Trillion Dollar Coin
World’s Top 10 Most Valuable Coins
It’s impossible to know how much a coin is really worth until it sells so it’s quite possible there are more valuable ones out there but this is the most up to date list available.
10. Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle
The Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle is easily the most beautiful coin ever minted by the United States, and some might argue the world. It has a face value of $20 and was produced from 1907 to 1933 but was never widely circulated. In 1904 President Theodore Roosevelt sought to improve the look of US currency and hired well known sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to design the $20 coin which was intended to be used primarily for international trade. This particular unit was minted in 1907 and sold for $2.99 million in 2004. It’s known as Ultra High Relief (UHR) which refers to the elevated portions of the face which were particularly difficult to mint. Only 20 or so UHR Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles are thought to exist today.
9. Brasher Doubloon EB on Breast – $2.99 Million
This coin was minted in 1787 by Ephraim Brasher who was a well known goldsmith in New
York. Note the EB initials on the eagle’s breast. As the story goes, Brasher applied for a permit to mint coins for the state of New York in the mid 1780’s. The permit was denied but that didn’t stop him from minting a few anyway. This is one of just a few of Brasher’s still around today. This particular coin sold at auction as part of a group of three, for 2.99 million dollars to the company Rare Coin Wholesalers.
8. 1913 Liberty Head Nickel – $3.7 Million
What makes the Liberty Head Nickel so unique is the fact that it was produced by the US Mint illegally. The coin was never authorized for production but somehow 5 were minted anyway. It’s widely speculated that mint employee Samuel Brown was responsible for minting the coins because he later became the only known person to have owned all 5 at once. In fact, they were completely unknown until 1920 when he showed them off at a collectors convention. The last known sale of a Liberty Head Nickel occurred in 2005 for $3.7 million at auction to an unknown collector.
7. 1804 Class I Silver Dollar from Queller’s Collection – $3.7 Million
This silver dollar is unique because it was actually minted in 1834 but the date on the coin reads 1804. In 1803 a new design was created for the silver dollar and approximately 17,500 were produced with the 1803 date. The date was updated in 1804 but for whatever reason none were minted and the die sat unused. Fast forward to 1834 and the US government, looking to gain trade advantages from Asian governments, ordered a number of the silver dollars minted to provide as gifts. The mint, looking to save money, used the die from 1804 without updating the date. It’s unknown how many were minted with the 1804 date but 8 are believed to exist today. This particular coin sold for $3.7 million in 2008 to a collector who never even saw it in person and bought it over the internet.
6. Queen Elizabeth II – $4 Million
Calling this behemoth a coin might be pushing it but I’m including it here anyway. Minted in 2004, this Canadian coin has maple leaves on one side and the likeness of Queen Elizabeth II on the other. With a face value of $1 million it is way undervalued because it’s made of 220lbs of 99.99% pure gold! Given today’s prices, this unit would be worth over $5.5 million for just the gold alone. It sold for $4 million in 2010 to the precious metal trading company Oro Direct. Not a bad return on investment.
5. 1804 Silver Dollar – 4.14 Million
This is the same type of coin as shown above under bullet number 7. What makes this one slightly more unique is it’s ownership history. This coin was given to the Sultan of Muscat (now Oman) as part of a US diplomatic mission to increase trade with Asia and the Middle East. It’s unclear how, when, or why it left Muscat and it’s been rumored that ownership could be challenged by the government of Oman. Whatever uncertainty might exist didn’t prevent an interested buyer putting down $4.14 million for it in 1999.
4. Islamic Umayyad Dinar – $6 Million
This is the oldest coin on the list having been minted in 724 AD in Saudi Arabia, although the die was thought to have been created in Damascus. The coin is in remarkable condition given it’s age and was probably never circulated but kept as part of a collection. Aside from it’s age, what makes it especially valuable is that it’s the first to reference the “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” which provides historians with clues as to when a cohesive government began to form in the area. It sold at Sotheby’s London auction house in 2011 for $6 million.
3. Rare Edward III – $6.8 Million
This unit was produced in England between 1343 and 1344. The face value was 6 shillings (a little more than a dollar) and shows the King of England, Edward III, seated on his throne on one side and the royal cross on the other. The most interesting fact about this coin is that the inscription includes a jab at the French, which England had just started a war with. The coin identifies Edward as the King of France, a claim the French weren’t too happy about. The British hoped it would be widely distributed throughout Europe and lead people to believe Edward was actually the rightful heir to the French throne. It was discontinued after a year of production because it cost more to mint than it was actually worth. There are only three known Edward III 6 shilling’s still in existence with one selling for $6.8 million at auction in 2006.
2. Farouk 1933 Double Eagle – $7.59 Million
This is the same style of coin as number 10 on this list. In the early 1930’s, at the height of the recession, US President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order to take the US off the gold standard. Part of the order required all gold coins to be returned to the US mint in exchange for other currency. The order created an exception for gold collector coins but effectively ended the mint’s practice of producing gold coins for circulation. The 1933 Double Eagle was minted after the executive order but they were supposed to have all been melted down before any were circulated.
10 escaped collection with one eventually ending up with King Farouk of Egypt in 1944. The other 9 were confiscated and melted down by the US Secret Service which means the Farouk is the last known 1933 Double Eagle in existence. The US has tried and failed to repossess the coin and it sold at auction in 2002 for $7.59 million.
1. Flowing Hair Silver Dollar – $10 Million
This coin was minted in 1794 and was part of the first series of silver dollars ever produced by new United States of America. There are approximately 150 1794 silver dollars in existence today however this particular one is in the best condition. Note the 15 stars on the periphery that represented the 15 states that had ratified the constitution by 1794. It sold at auction for $10 million in early 2013 to the firm Legend of Numismatics.
Honorable Mention: The Trillion Dollar Coin
No valuable coins list would be complete without the Trillion Dollar coin. Unfortunately, this one never came to be but at one point in late 2012 the US government was seriously considering minting a 1 trillion dollar coin to help address the national debt. Check it out here. And check out this Daily Show clip mocking the whole discussion, it’s absolutely hilarious.
So there it, the top ten list of the world’s most valuable coins.
Thanks for reading!