Top Five Most Valuable US Gold Coins
Gold coins are almost always sold at a price above spot. Collectable coins have some of the highest premiums over spot in the entire bullion industry. As we’ve advised our readers before, pure bullion products – such as gold bars – are usually the best investment for people who want to get the most bang from their buck. But not all gold bullion purchasers are purely in it to get as much pure gold as possible. You might be someone who is more interested in the history behind a gold coin than the bullion it contains.
If this is you, you might be in for a few expensive purchases. Today, we’re counting down the top five most valuable coins in history. Every coin on today’s list sells for over $3,000,000. You read that right; these coins are worth over three million dollars each. Don’t expect to get your hands on any of these collectable coins anytime soon; some of these pieces boast less than ten verified copies throughout the world.
Several factors contribute to the value of a collectable coin. For most of the coins on this list, historical events made it almost impossible for the vast majority of pieces to survive. On average, mint errors turn a great coin into an absolute treasure. But even the most rare mint errors pale in comparison to the value of these elusive coins. Take the 1933 Double Eagle, for example. This coin sold at auction for an astonishing $8.6 million. In 1933, the U.S. Mint melted down all of the coins except for twenty-two. Two were stashed at the Smithsonian, and twenty were stolen and made it into circulation.
Like we said, you shouldn’t expect to ever get your hands on a coveted Double Eagle. The extreme rarity of this coin means that its price continues to rise, and it’s likely that only the most rich and powerful people will ever even have a shot at purchasing this extremely rare gold coin.
Interested yet? Strap in; we’re going to walk you through the impressive history (and unprecedented value) of five of the most expensive coins in the world.
1933 Double Eagle
There’s no comparison. The 1933 Saint Gaudens Gold Eagle is the most expensive gold coin in the history of the world. The coin bears an obverse depiction of Walking Liberty. Lady Liberty strides forward while holding an olive branch in her left hand and a torch in her right. In the background, you can see the U.S. Capitol building standing proudly. The sun shines, its rays encircling Liberty while she walks. This classic design has long been a favorite among Americans.
Flip the coin over to reveal another classic American symbol: the Bald Eagle. On this coin, the majestic bird is in flight as the sun rays climb up to meet it in the air. You might recall that the American Double Eagle is still in production today. The piece has undergone a couple of major changes. The classic Walking Liberty Design has been carried into the production of the American Gold Eagle, which is still being minted each year by the United States Mint.
The rarity of the 1933 American Double Eagle is deeply linked to its history. In 1933, an executive order from Franklin D. Roosevelt made it illegal for private citizens to own anything but collectable coins. Mass gold confiscation followed. The U.S. Mint had actually struck 445,500 of the American Gold Double Eagle Coins in 1933. But when Roosevelt’s Executive Order was passed, these coins no longer had a purpose, as they ceased to be legal tender in the country.
Because of this, the Mint melted down all but twenty-two of these coins. Two Double Eagles were given to the Smithsonian as a gift. Only twenty coins survived and made it into civilian hands; some were eventually reclaimed by the federal government. While we don’t have an exact count, it is estimated that around 13 1933 Gold Double Eagles are still in circulation.
This unique history means that the 1933 Gold Double Eagle is probably the most coveted in the history of bullion. At the last auction featuring a 1933 Double Eagle, it sold for a jaw-dropping $8,644,632.
1822 Capped Bust Half Eagle
If you thought that the 1933 Gold Double Eagle has no equal, you’re almost correct. There is only one other coin that manages to fetch an auction price of over $8,000,000. This coin is the 1822 Capped Bust Half Eagle. As the date suggests, this coin is over a hundred years older than the coin we discussed above. The older a coin is, the harder it will generally be to find surviving copies of it. And like the 1933 Gold Double Eagle, the 1822 Capped Bust Half Eagle won its value from a unique set of historical circumstances.
In 1834, the U.S. struggled with a deficit of gold content. Whenever this happens, it generally means that the Mint will melt down some of its existing coins in order to bolster the national stock of gold. As you might remember from history class, the U.S. formerly used the ‘Gold Standard,’ which meant that all cash printed needed to be backed up by physical gold.
Almost every single 1822 Capped Bust Half Eagle was melted by the U.S. Mint. Two survived and are now stored in the Smithsonian’s National Numismatic Collection. Only three other coins managed to make it past the great melting. This makes them extremely valuable collector’s items.
The design of the Capped Bust Half Eagle is also unique. As an extremely old U.S. coin, its design predates some of the art classically associated with American coinage. It features an obverse profile of Lady Liberty. Here, she wears her traditional cap donning the word “Liberty.” Her hair is curly and falls down to her shoulders. On the reverse, an American Eagle carries a bundle of arrows and leaves. He wears the U.S. shield on his chest.
This incredible piece is worth around $8,158,632.
1870-S Indian Princess Head Gold Coin
Where design is concerned, this gold coin is the first on our list to not feature either Lady Liberty or the American Bald Eagle. This coin instead pays homage to the indigenous history of peoples within the United States. On the obverse side, the coin features a Native American princess wearing traditional headwear. We should make note that the design of the Native princess closely mirrors the appearance of Lady Liberty on the 1822 Capped Bust Half Eagle. The borders of the coin include interior ridges, giving it a unique look.
On the reverse, the coin references America’s agricultural history by depicting a wreath consisting of tobacco, wheat, cotton, and corn. Such a depiction has not made it onto a notable U.S. coin since then. The Indian Princess Head Gold Coin is often called the “three-dollar piece.”
This coin is somehow even rarer than the two coins that opened this list. Only a single coin was ever produced. The San Francisco Mint had just been constructed in 1870, and one coin – the 1870-S Indian Princess Head Gold Coin – was to be placed in its cornerstone. We don’t know exactly what happened to this coin, but an auction in 1911 featured one of these mythic coins. Is this coin the same one that was meant to be installed in the cornerstone of the San Francisco Mint? We may never know.
What we do know is that this coin has an incredible history; it only continues to climb in value. Louis Eliasberg is the current owner of the coin. He bought it at a steal for only $11,500 in 1946. The coin is now valued at around $6.6 million dollars.
1854-S Coronet Head Gold Half Eagle
The 1854-S Coronet Head Gold Half Eagle is a mystery as much as a rarity. The coin was minted in extremely low numbers. There were only 268 ever produced. Of these coins, it’s estimated that three made it into private collections. We actually don’t know why this coin is so exceedingly rare. Several prominent theories exist, but the most common one is that San Francisco’s Mint had trouble procuring the acid they needed to properly refine gold to make the coins.
Because only three of 268 of these coins have survived until now, the 1854-S Coronet Head Gold Half Eagle is one of the only pieces on our list that you could potentially find in the wild. Still, it’s unlikely that any of us will ever get to see one of these coins. This coin is an impressive status symbol. Egypt’s King Farouk famously got his hands on one of the few surviving copies of this elusive coin.
As the coin’s name suggests, its obverse depiction shows off the familiar Lady Liberty wearing an unfamiliar coronet. Her coronet bears the word “Liberty,” and she wears pearls in the bun of her hair. Thirteen stars surround her, an homage to the thirteen original colonies of the United States. On the reverse, we’re once again given a look at the American eagle. This eagle is the same design used on the reverse side of the 1822 Capped Bust Half Eagle Coin.
This coin is worth slightly less than the above coins, but it’s still financially out-of-reach for the vast majority of us. The coin’s estimated worth is $4.45 million dollars.
1804 Turban Head Gold Eagle “Plain 4”
This list ends with the oldest coin we’ve covered so far. The Turban Head Gold Eagle was first minted in 1804, and two different versions exist. If you’re on the hunt for exceedingly rare coins, be careful. The original 1804 Turban Head Gold Eagle is still rare, but it’s only worth around $166,000 in BU (brilliant uncirculated) condition. But there was another version of the coin, known as the “Plain 4,” of which only four have ever been spotted.
The difference between these two coin variations is in the details. On the original 1804 Turban Head Gold Eagle, the 4 is given a “crosslet” design. But the truly valuable version of this coin includes a “plain 4,” which provides it with its popular nickname. Instead of a vertical line at the end of the 4, the plain 4 includes a straight horizontal line. This small difference means big things for collectors. While the “crosslet 4” is only worth around $166,000, the “Plain 4” version fetches almost $4.5 million at auction.
Lady Liberty’s bust once again appears on the obverse of this piece. She wears a turban on her head and her hair flows down her shoulders. Thirteen stars decorate either side of her profile, representing the familiar thirteen original colonies. On the reverse, the thirteen stars make another appearance, this time right above the head of the Bald Eagle. The beast carries an olive branch in one talon and a bundle of arrows in the other.
It’s unlikely that you’ll ever get to hold an 1804 Turban Head “Plain 4” in your hands. But if you do, hold on tight; you’ve got an expensive American treasure.
Final Thoughts: Rarest Gold Coins
Most gold coins are expensive. You can expect to spend up to a couple thousand dollars on some gold collectable coins. But the coins we discussed on our list today are exceptionally valuable. Can you imagine holding a gold coin worth $8,000,000 in your hands? These coins are more than just their gold content; a unique history surrounds each one of them, making them both beautiful and exceptionally scarce. We may never know how many (or few) of these elusive coins are hiding out in attics, garage sales, or safety deposit boxes.
But even if you can’t get your hands on a rare 1933 Gold Double Eagle, you can take solace in a collection of beautiful and uniquely American bullion coins sold by Hero Bullion.
About The Author
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