The history of coins is vast. Do you know the oldest minted coin was struck sometime between 700 BC to 550 BC in ancient Anatolia? Since then, countless memorable coins have been minted, each with distinct stories. But only a few are considered rare and are of great importance. Below is the list of 12 most valuable coins known today.
12. Gold 10000 and 2000 Yuan
A 10000 Gold Yuan
Price: $1.5 and $1.2 million, respectively
In 1991, to acknowledge the 10th anniversary of the first Panda gold coin, the Chinese government issued ten 10,000 Yuan Panda gold coins. Each coin weighs around 5 kg. While one side of the coin features the Temple of Heaven, a collage of all previous Panda coin designs is on the other. One of these coins was sold for $1.5 million in 2011.
Like gold 10000 Yuan coins, ten pieces of 2000 Yuan were minted to commemorate various Chinese achievements in 1992. One of these garnered almost $1.3 million at an auction in 2011.
11. 1894-S Barber dime
An 1894-S Barber dime | Image Courtesy: PCGS
Price: $1.9 million
One of the world’s most valuable coins, the 1894-S Barber dime is a rarity. The Barber dime never entered circulation, in fact, only 24 pieces were produced. Out of those 24, only nine coins are known to survive today.
Since the late 1990s, the surviving 1894-S Barber dimes have been auctioned on multiple occasions. In 2005, one of the dimes was sold for $1 million. Another piece was auctioned off for about $1.3 million in the same year.
However, the highest amount of money paid for this coin is close to $2 million in a 2016 coin auction.
10. Polish 1621 100 Ducats
Price: $2.1 million
The Polish 1621 100 Ducats is perhaps the most valuable coin in Poland and quite possibly in Europe. The coin, though not explicitly stated, was minted to commemorate the Polish-Lithuanian victory over the Turks in the Battle of Khotyn in 1621.
The Bust of king Sigismund III, in ornamented armor with the commander’s sash, can be seen on the coin’s obverse. On the reverse is the coat of arms of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth under the House of Vasa.
In January 2018, the Classical Numismatic Group sold a piece for $2,160,000. Another copy of the coin was previously auctioned for more than 1 million in 2008.
9. 1792 Birch Cent
A 1792 Birch Cent | Image Courtesy: Stacks Bowers Galleries
Price: $2.5 million
In January 2015, numismatic collector and auctioneer Heritage Auctions sold an American cent for a massive $2.5 million. It wasn’t an ordinary cent either. Minted in 1792, the Birch Cent is one of the nation’s original coins. The pieces (only a few produced) were commissioned by Thomas Jefferson.
The coin’s obverse features side portrait of Lady Liberty and the motto “Liberty Parent of Science and Industry.” Four varieties of Birch Cent were created. One of the varieties, Judd-3 was sold by Heritage Auctions in January 2015.
8. Single 9 Pond
Price: $4 million
Often referred to as the “King of South African Coins,” the Single 9 Pond is a unique piece produced during the South African War of independence, fought between 1899 and 1902.
After the outbreak of war, the President of South African Republic Paul Kruger ordered minting of new gold coins to support the economy. However, due to the lack of new (coin) die, the authorities make use of existing 1898 die. A ‘9’ on coin’s obverse was additionally engraved to indicate 1899 production.
Unluckily, after the first coin was punched, it was realized that ‘9’ was out-sized, somehow spoiling the president’s bust. No further coins were produced. In 2010, the coin was sold for 20 million Rand ($4,000,000).
7. Bust Dollar – Class I
Bust Dollar-Class I obverse | Image Courtesy: National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History
Price: $4.1 million
The Bust Dollar, also known as Bowed Liberty Dollar, is an extremely rare one-dollar coin issued by the United States Mint in the 1830s. About fifteen such coins are known to exist.
Initially, only eight (possibly) Bust Dollar coins were minted for diplomatic purposes. However, they were never used. The coins were soon in high demand, as news of their existence reached numismatists and private collectors.
To fulfill the demands, Mint employees secretively produced more Bust Dollar coins. But unlike the original ones, the new (second) set of coins lacked proper lettering. This mistake was, however, rectified in the third and final set.
In 1999, a Class I (original) Bust Dollar was sold by Bowers & Merena for $4,140,000. It was the highest money paid for a coin at that time.
6. Liberty Head Nickel
Eliasberg Liberty Head Nickel
Price: $5 million
Exceptionally rare, the Liberty Head Nickel is a five-cent coin forged in 1913. Only five such coins were produced. The interesting thing, however, is that no official record of their production exists.
While two of them are in museums, the remaining three specimens are currently in private possession. They have lured large sums of money in various auctions time-to-time.
In 1996, one specimen (named Eliasberg) fetched close to $1.5 million. The same coin was sold for $5 million on a re-sale auction in 2007.
5. $10 Proof Eagle
Price: $5 million
The Gold Eagle was the largest denomination in the U.S coinage system from 1795 to 1933 (until gold coins were banned from circulation). The denominations in use at that time were the mill, the cent (10 mills), the dime (10 cents), the dollar (10 dimes), and the Eagle (10 dollars).
Initially, the coin’s reverse featured an eagle holding a wreath in its mouth, but due to its high unpopularity, the design was changed to a heraldic eagle. In October 2007, Albanese Rare Coins sold 1804 minted $10 proof Eagle for $5 million in a private transaction.
4. Umayyad Gold Dinar
Umayyad Dinar Minted at Damascus
Price: $6 million
Under the rule of Caliph Abd-al-Malik ibn Marwan, the Umayyad Caliphate (second of the four caliphates that formed after the death of Prophet Muhammad), issued the first-ever gold dinars in 696-697 CE. The word ‘dinar’ comes from the Latin word denarius, which was a popular silver currency used in the Roman Empire.
In 2011, one of the remaining Umayyad Gold Dinar was sold in an auction for about $6 million. The coin was minted in 723 A.D. It is believed that the gold used in the coin was mined from Ma’din Bani Sulaim, a gold mine located close to the holy city of Mecca.
A similar coin was recently auctioned off for $4.7 million on October 24, 2019.
3. 1787 Brasher Doubloon-EB
Brasher Doubloon-EB | Image Courtesy: Heritage Auctions
Price: $7.4 million
The 1787 Brasher Doubloon (EB) is one of the rarest and most valuable coins in the history of independent America. The coin was designed by Ephraim Brasher, a goldsmith who became widely popular for his engraving and assay proofing (purity analysis) skills.
In 2011, one of the surviving 1787 Brasher Doubloon was bought by an unnamed Wall Street investment firm for a massive fee of $7.4 million. The coin was in the focus of Raymond Chandler’s mystery novel The High Window.
2. 1933 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle
A 1933 minted Saint Gaudens Double Eagle Coin | Image Courtesy: National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History
Price: $7.6 million
The story of 1933 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle is an interesting one. In 1933 about 445,500 units of twenty-dollar double eagle gold coins were produced. However, instead of being officially circulated, all but two coins were ordered to be melted (due to the 1934 Gold Reserve Act). The two spared double eagle coins are now part of the National Numismatic Collection.
But unknown to the authorities, twenty more coins were rescued (stolen). For about a decade, those coins were secretly traded among private collectors. It was during that time that one of them fell into the possession of King Farouk of Egypt.
After being aware of their existence, the U.S Secret Service searched and successfully destroyed nine of them by 1952. In the same year, after King Farouk was ousted from power, the U.S government tried to bring the missing coin back in the country but failed. The coin unexpectedly resurfaced in 1996 at a public auction and was sold for over $7.6 million in 2002.
1. 1794 Flowing Hair Dollar
1794 minted Flowing hair dollar | Image Courtesy: National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History
Price: 10 million
In 1794, the Flowing Hair Dollar became the first silver dollar coin issued by the United States Mint on behalf of the federal government. The coin was designed by engraver Robert Scot, while its measurements were based on the Spanish dollar. Also known as ‘piece of eight’, the Spanish dollar was a popular currency in the States at that time. The minting of Flowing Hair Dollar ceased in 1795 and replaced by the Draped Bust Dollar.
The number of surviving Flowing Hair Dollar coins could be around 120-130, according to estimation in the 1990s. In 2013, coin auctioneer Stack’s Bowers Galleries sold a 1794 minted Flowing Hair Dollar at $10,016,875. It was the highest price paid for any coin in history.