5 Most Expensive Coins in the United States

Numismatics is the study or collection of currency, which includes coins, paper money, tokens, and other related objects such as medals. Although most of us are accustomed to saying “keep the change” when we pay in excess, more than 10 million coin collectors in the United States are holding on to them because they understand the value of certain coins.

Coins from each period provide a glimpse of what different societies and civilizations deemed culturally significant—from what language they spoke in a geographic location to which metals they considered valuable at the time. Furthermore, who and what a coin features on the front and back help determine who and what was impactful back in the day.

If the history of the world fascinates you, or perhaps you are one of the millions of people with a fondness for hunting rarities from a bygone era, then coin collecting is the pastime for you. This rewarding hobby can also be profitable if you know which coins to look for.

The Most Valuable United States Coins

The market value of a coin can change depending on how much a particular mint is purchased at an auction at any given time. However, certain coins command perennial interest and value.

Here are five of the most expensive coins sold in the U.S. and the prices they achieved.

  1. 1794 Flowing Hair Dollar
  • Face value: $1
  • Mintmark: No mint mark
  • Auction house: Stack’s Bowers Galleries
  • Year sold: 2013
  • Price realized: $10 million

Numismatists believe that the 1794 Flowing Hair Dollar was the first silver coin that the U.S. mint struck. Furthermore, it is thought to be the finest coin of its time in existence. This rare and expensive coin is also historical, as it was the first dollar coin ever standardized across the United States of America.

  1. 1913 Liberty Head Nickel
  • Face value: $.05
  • Mintmark: None
  • Auction house: Heritage Auction
  • Year sold: 2013
  • Price realized: $3.1 million

The United States mint produced very few quantities of the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel, meaning it is extremely valuable to collectors today. In fact, only five of these coins are in existence. Two of the 1913 Liberty Head Nickels are in museums, while the other three are in the possession of private collectors.

  1. 1870 S Seated Liberty Dollar
  • Face value: $1
  • Mintmark: S
  • Auction house: Stanford Coins and Bullion
  • Year sold: 2008
  • Price realized: $1.3 million

The 1870 S Seated Liberty Dollar is quite mysterious because the United States mint has no official record of producing them. Only 11 traced specimens remain in existence. Of the 1870s Seated Liberty Dollars, those with the San Francisco mintmark are the most valuable.

  1. 1927-D St Gaudens Double Eagle
  • Face value: $20
  • Mintmark: D
  • Auction house: Rare Coin Wholesalers of Dana Point
  • Year sold: 2005
  • Price realized: $1.65 million

Former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt recalled all gold coins in 1933, which meant that all gold coins in circulation during his presidency were melted down completely or converted into gold bars, including the magnificent 1927-D Saint Gaudens Double Eagle. The United States minted around 180,000 of these coins in 1927. However, due to the recall, only 11 or 15 coins remain today.

  1. 1838 O Capped Bust Half Dollar
  • Face value: $0.50
  • Mintmark: O
  • Auction house: Stack’s Bowers Galleries
  • Year sold: 1838
  • Price realized: $493,500

The origin of the 1838 O Capped Bust Half Dollar concurs with the beginning of the New Orleans Mint, which was the first United States mint to strike silver coins. Numismatists believe that as little as 20 coins were originally struck and only nine of those have survived.

How to Determine the Value of Coins

Several factors can impact the value of a coin. Although some factors such as manufacturing mistakes or erroneous printings can be challenging to predict, certain key components can help assess whether a coin is valuable or worthless in the world of coin collecting.

  • Mintage. Mintage refers to the number of copies issued of a particular coin. The original quantity of coins a mint produced can impact how rare and valuable a coin is.
  • Mintmark. The mintmark determines the location of the mint that struck the coin. It is important to note this small but crucial detail since the same coins from different mints can have varying price points.
  • Surviving population. Some coins are lost over time due to prolonged usage or damage, leading the U.S. to remove them from circulation. Coins with a low surviving population are typically worth more than those that have a high survival rate.
  • Meltdown value. Coins made of valuable precious metals such as gold and silver usually appraise for more compared to coins made of copper. 
  • Overall condition. A dream come true for coin collectors is obtaining a coin in such good condition that it looks like it came straight off the coining press. The most valuable coins are usually the ones that were uncirculated, meaning they were released to the general public but removed from the economy to maintain their quality. The longer a coin is in circulation, the more it deteriorates in appearance.
  • Demand. High demands for a particular coin can significantly raise its market value. The price is subject to change over time due to different factors, including fluctuating prices of metals, changing trends, and collector preferences.

Understanding what makes a coin valuable will help established and new coin collectors alike to build well-rounded collections. However, collectors should keep in mind that the value of coins can rise or drop at any given time due to the factors mentioned above.

There are hundreds of prized coins to collect in the United States, but familiarizing yourself with the most in-demand varieties will help you begin or grow your coin collection in the best way possible.

Do you have any coins to sell?

Did you inherit a relative’s coin collection but have no interest in growing it? If you are looking for a trusted coin buyer in Scottsdale, AZ contact Biltmore Loan and Jewelry today to schedule an appointment with our appraisal specialist.