What is the Rarest Coin in the World?

Posted - September 7, 2023
what is the rarest coin in the world

Rare coins have always been a fascinating topic of discussion for bullion collectors. Even if you’re just stacking to secure as many pure precious metal products as possible, it’s likely that you’ve wondered about some of the world’s most notoriously hard-to-find coins. Certainly, some numismatically valuable and rare gold coins can be worth far more than even very large gold bars. We’ll cover a couple of coins in this guide which, in excellent condition, go for astronomically high sums at auction. Many collectors ask us: what is the rarest coin in the world? 

So what is the rarest coin in the world? We’re hesitant to name one coin as the very rarest of all time. In reality, several coins from early American history sell for hundreds of thousands on the open market, especially if these coins are found in exceptionally fine condition. In this guide, we’ll walk you through some of the rarest coins on the planet. A few of the coins on our list were minted in extremely low numbers or distributed at exciting, important moments in American history. 

Most Valuable Rare Coins 

What is the rarest coin in the world? We have not one, but five different answers. The 1933 Double Eagle, 1794 Flowing Hair Dollar, 1804 Draped Bust Dollar, 1907 Saint-Gaudens Double  Eagle, and 1913 Liberty Head Nickel are some of the rarest coins to ever come out of the world’s sovereign mints. 

1933 Double Eagle

The 1933 Gold Double Eagle is an enigma. While nearly 450,000 Double Eagles were minted in 1933, almost all of them were melted down following a change in U.S. law. Officially, none of the coins were ever entered into circulation. But around twenty of these storied coins were taken out of the mint, rescued from the fate of being melted down. In simpler terms, fewer than 20 1933 Double Eagles have actually ever been discovered. Talk about low release numbers! 

1933 Double eagle (2) - coin, public domain photograph - PICRYL - Public  Domain Media Search Engine Public Domain Search
1933 Double Eagle Coin

Like all of the other Double Eagles, this 1933 coin features an obverse depiction of Lady Liberty. She walks away from the Capitol, which is surrounded by a rising sun. In her arms, you’ll find two familiar American symbols: the olive branch and Liberty’s torch. On the reverse, the American bald eagle flies above the same rising sun. 

At auction, this coin frequently sets records. In 2021, the 1933 Double eagle sold for an incredible $18.8 million USD, the highest going rate for any coin in history. What is the rarest coin in the world? It’s pretty clear that the 1933 Double Eagle, of which only 20 specimens escaped certain destruction, is a contender. 

1794 Flowing Hair Dollar

While the 1933 Double Eagle is valuable because of its place as the last coin in the series, the 1794 Flowing Hair Dollar was actually the first in its own collection. Minted toward the beginning of the American government, only 1,758 were ever distributed. Finding these coins in excellent condition is nearly impossible, given both the coin’s age and their extremely limited mintage numbers. Even in average condition, the 1794 Flowing Hair Dollar can be worth $122,000 or more. In uncirculated condition, 1794 Flowing Hair Dollars have broken records, selling for as much as $5.8 million at auction. 

Copper Pattern Dollar, 1794 | SI Neg. 2005-27336. Date: 9/1/… | Flickr
1794 Silver Dollar

As you might guess from its age, the coin offers a distinctly early American feel and appearance. The obverse of the piece features the bust of Lady Liberty as imagined by mint artist Robert Scott. Her hair, as the name suggests, flows on the obverse, and she’s surrounded by thirteen stars. On the reverse, we note an early depiction of the American bald eagle; it is surrounded by a wreath. When we’re asked, “what is the rarest coin in the world,” the 1794 Flowing Hair Dollar definitely jumps to mind. 

1804 Draped Bust Dollar

What is the rarest coin in the world? Another coin from very early American history, the 1804 Silver Dollar provides both rarity and an incredibly intricate design. In fact, the heraldic eagle reverse of this coin reminds us of the modern reverse used on the American quarter-dollar. On its front side, you’ll see the bust of Lady Liberty. She faces toward the right and is surrounded, unsurprisingly, but thirteen stars meant to commemorate the original U.S. colonies. 

1804 dollar obverse - coin, public domain photograph - PICRYL - Public  Domain Media Search Engine Public Domain Image
1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar

On the reverse, an off-center depiction of the original heraldic eagle makes its appearance. Above it, you’ll note the same familiar thirteen stars. The eagle wears the shield of the United States while carrying both a bundle of arrows and an olive branch. The coin is extremely rare; experts believe that fewer than fifteen of the coins are currently in circulation and changing hands. One coin sold for $4.14 million USD in 1999, which broke the record at the time for the most expensive coin ever sold. While other coins may be the most expensive in the world, the 1804 Draped Bust Dollar is one solid answer to: what is the rarest coin in the world? 

1907 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles remain some of the most recognizable coins in the world. The “Walking Liberty” design on the obverse is a precursor to many modern coin designs from the United States Mint. She carries an olive branch and a torch and wears her traditional flowing gown as she walks away from a rising sun and the United States Capitol. On the reverse, the piece depicts a bald eagle in flight in front of the same rising sun. 

The 1907 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle is primarily valued because of its low circulation. The second rarest variant of the coin is the 1907 “high relief,” of which 12,367 were only made. It’s also important to note that 1907 is the first year in which Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles were minted, making it an exceptionally historically significant piece of coinage. What is the rarest coin in the world from the Saint-Gaudens series? This title belongs to the Ultra High Relief 1907 edition, of which fewer than 24 proof coins were ever made. 

1907 High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagle obverse - PICRYL - Public  Domain Media Search Engine Public Domain Search
1907 High Relief Double Eagle

When sold in proof condition and at high relief, this coin fetched an astonishing $3.7 million USD at auction. Talk about a rare coin! What is the rarest coin in the world? While the 1907 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle isn’t necessarily the rarest coin we’ve ever covered, it remains one of the most coveted by collectors around the world. 

1913 Liberty Head Nickel

What is the rarest coin in the world by sheer numbers? This title likely belongs to the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel. Three of the five coins of this series known to exist stay in museums, while only two are kept in private collections. You read that right – only two of these 1913 Liberty Head Nickels are potentially available for purchase, making them extremely valuable to collectors. Even in 1919, the coin was worth quite a bit of money; one ad in a numismatic magazine offered $500 for a 1913 Liberty Head Nickel – that’s the equivalent of nearly $9,000 in today’s money. 

1913 Eliasberg Liberty Head Nickel - PICRYL - Public Domain Media Search  Engine Public Domain Search
1913 Liberty Head Nickel

The coin features a familiar obverse of Lady Liberty’s head, but the reverse is relatively unique. It features the traditional name of the USA surrounding what appears to be the letter ‘V’ within a wreath. One record for coin sales does belong to the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel. In 1972, it became the first coin in the United States to ever sell for a sum above $100,000 USD. 

Determining Coin Rarity

There are several steps necessary to determine the rarity of a coin. Some investors mistakenly believe that a coin’s numismatic value is a factor of its mintage numbers alone. While mintage figures can be used to determine a baseline for how rare a given coin is, other factors also play an important role in establishing both rarity and value. We’ll cover four main determinants below: historical context, rarity due to errors, limited mintage, and notable auctions. What is the rarest coin in the world? In the next few subsections, we’ll walk you through what it takes to evaluate a coin’s rarity. 

Historical Context

Historical context is part of what helps us answer our core question: what is the rarest coin in the world? The rarest coins to ever come from the United States Mint are valuable not just for their low mintage numbers, but also because they were released at historically significant periods in time. Take the 1933 Double Eagle, for example. This was the very last Double Eagle coin released in the United States, and it was actually minted right before Congress banned the use of precious metals in coins, meaning that most of the 1933 Double Eagles were melted down – resulting in the incredibly low circulation numbers that have made them rare. 

Look for coins that were minted during important U.S. periods, and especially those first released during momentous changes in U.S. coinage law. 

Rarity Due to Errors

Although we focused mainly on non-error coins in this guide, we’re often asked: what is the rarest coin in the world with an error? There are several rare error coins on the market capable of going for hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of dollars. Looking for rare error coins is a good way to build some numismatic value into your collection. As always, numismatic coins can diversify and expand your portfolio. 

Limited Mintage

Mintage numbers functionally determine the baseline numismatic value of a coin. To put things in clearer terms: old coins with low mintage numbers are very rare because few of them exist. This results in more expensive auction results, making them some of the most costly coins in the world. What is the rarest coin in the world? To answer this question, look for coins with limited mintage. 

Notable Auctions 

Auctions are your best friend when it comes to answering questions like, “what is the rarest coin in the world?” We’re a big proponent of using value guides to determine the base cost of a numismatic coin. But these guides can only take you so far. Auction results actually show you how much a coin really sells for, rather than just the opinions of experts. 

Check out some of the most famous coin auction sites on the internet. What is the rarest coin in the world, and how much is it worth? Perusing popular auction sites can help you figure out which coins are both rare and valuable to collectors. 

The Price of Rarity

If you want to invest in rare coins, you should keep a few different things in mind. What is the rarest coin in the world? The rarest coins often cost thousands of dollars, if not more. Adding them to your portfolio can improve its diversity along with its value, but this increased rarity comes at a price. Below, we’ll outline two important considerations for rare coin collectors: estimating value and safeguarding your investment. 

Estimating Value

Estimating the value of your rare coin collection is important for a couple of reasons. First, determining an approximate value for your portfolio can help you know how close you are to your investment objectives. Perhaps more importantly, an accurate value estimate is essential for collectors who want to properly insure their portfolios. We’ll discuss this point in a bit more detail below. Estimating the value of a coin involves evaluating both the spot price of its underlying precious metals and its numismatic value. What is the rarest coin in the world? Determining value for the rarest coins can be difficult, but smart investors accurately evaluate their investments. 

Safeguarding and Display

Securing your portfolio is always an essential part of investing. In addition to carefully storing your coins in a temperature-controlled and secure safe, we recommend investing in additional insurance. Many homeowners insurance plans won’t protect precious metal investments above a certain monetary value, so you might need to pay extra to remain insured. What is the rarest coin in the world? If you’ve got an extremely valuable rare coin in your hands, you should take concerted steps to protect your investment. Buying accessories to help you store your rare coins is also a smart move. 

Final Thoughts: What is the Rarest Coin in the World?

So what is the rarest coin in the world? The coins in our guide are some of the rarest and most valuable in the world. These coins were minted at important periods in United States history, and they often offer exceedingly low mintage numbers. In some cases, rare coins from early United States history only survive in numbers less than thirty, making them exceptionally rare. 

If you’re still wondering, “what is the rarest coin in the world,” take a look at some of the world’s coin auction sites. 

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About The Author

Michael Roets is a writer and journalist for Hero Bullion. His work explores precious metals news, guides, and commentary.