Category: Coins

The Most Valuable U.S. Coins

1913 Liberty Head nickel
1913 Liberty Head nickel

What are the most valuable U.S. coins?  That’s a common question, usually asked by people who don’t own any of them and likely never will.

Obviously, the most valuable U.S. coins are also going to be among the rarest, as there is a fairly direct correlation between value and rarity.  Not everything that is rare is valuable, but pretty much any coin that is valuable is rare.

U.S. coins are among the most heavily collected coins in the world, and even collectors outside the U.S. are interested in owning some of the more well-known collectible coins.  That’s particularly true of gold coins, which are relatively rare.

Such lists are subjective, and always likely to change, as coins change hands all the time. Still, the coins listed below are among the most sought after and expensive U.S. coins ever made.

1933 Double Eagle ($20 gold piece) – While nearly a half a million of these $20 gold pieces were minted in early 1933, exactly 0 were released to circulation, as Franklin Roosevelt signed an order shortly after taking office in January of that year that eliminated U.S. gold currency.  All of the coins minted were ordered to be melted down, but a few are known to have survived.

These coins are not legal to own, but the U.S. Government made an exception in 2002 for a single specimen, which sold at auction for $7.59 million.  The price would likely have been higher, but rumors suggest that other examples exist, all in private hands of collectors who know how to keep a secret.

1804 Silver Dollar
1804 Silver Dollar

1913 Liberty Head nickel – This was the year that the Liberty Head nickel was replaced with the Buffalo Nickel, but 5 examples were minted by a mint employee.  The last sale of one of these brought more than $3 million.

1804 Silver dollar – There were reportedly some 18,000 silver dollars minted in 1804, but it appears that those might have used old dies bearing the 1803 date.  In the 1834, the U.S. government wanted to prepare a complete set of currently circulating U.S. coins for the king of Siam, and at that time, no silver dollars had been minted since 1804, but were still listed as “current” coinage.

Someone at the mint produced a handful of silver dollars in 1834 bearing the 1804 date for inclusion in the set.  In the 1850s, a few more were struck by a Mint employee and perhaps 35 or so examples were made in total.

All are very rare today, and the last known sale took place in 1999, with a sale price in excess of $4 million.

1794 Silver dollar – The first silver dollar produced in the U.S., and one of the rarest, with only some 2000 made.  You’ll likely have to pay something on the order of $1 million if you’d like to own one in presentable condition.

There are other very rare coins, and prices increase all the time due to collector demand.  These are simply a few examples of some of the more highly sought out examples.  There are plenty of others, including the 1907 Double Eagle and a few experimental pieces.

If you’re going to put together a world class coin collection today, you need millions to do it.


Coins and Watches Meet Up at Corum

corum gold piece watchCoins and watches seem like an odd pairing, and for the most part, people who collect one do not collect the other.  Collecting either can be both a time consuming and an expensive hobby, so it would make sense that not everyone is going to be interested in collecting both.

There is a place where the two hobbies intersect, however, and that comes from a watchmaker named Corum.  Corum is unique in offering a watch that features a genuine coin on the watch face, and the technology that allows them to make a watch that features a relatively thick coin as the focus of the watch while keeping the watch from becoming overly bulky is rather advanced.

Corum introduced the coin watch in the early 1960s, and early models made use of the U.S. gold $20 piece, which had not been available to the general public since 1932.  There were some concerns at the time about whether using a coin in a way constituted “defacing” it, which would have been illegal under U.S. law.

Somehow, these issues have been avoided, and the company continues to make coin watches to this day.  Newer versions make use of commemorative coins and newer, limited-edition gold issues that are intentionally made to resemble the gold coins of the 1920s.

These are remarkable watches, whether you’re buying one with a gold $20 piece as its focus or a .925 silver commemorative coin.

corum coin watchCase sizes range from 36mm to 43mm, and the watches tend to be made with the reverse side as the coin face and the obverse side facing your wrist.  That’s OK, as the case is covered with sapphire crystal on both sides, which allows you to see both sides of the coin.

The process of slicing the coin in two horizontally is a complicated one, and one that is proprietary to Corum.  They’re not talking about how they do it, but they’ve been doing it for some 50 years now, so they’ve gotten pretty good at it.

The movement offered in the current versions of the watch is a 30 jewel automatic movement with a power reserve of 72 hours.  Cases are mostly yellow gold with a diamond mounted on the crown.

While many of the watches Corum has made over the years have used $20 gold pieces, they’ve also made slightly smaller watches that featured $5 and $10 gold pieces.  The $5 pieces are generally used in watches for women, due to their smaller size.

While one can usually get a bargain buying a watch second hand, that’s not always the case with the Corum coin watch, as the coins themselves have intrinsic value that tends to keep the prices, even for used and non-working models rather high.  Of course, non-working models can generally be repaired, either by a competent watch repair shop or by Corum itself.

Prices range from a low of $1000 for a non-working $5 coin model to $20,000 or more for $20 gold piece models with some provenance.  Many famous people have worn Corum coin watches over the years, and occasionally, models owned by someone with a famous name will pop up for sale.  New models run in the $10,000-$20,000 range.

If you like coins and you like watches, the Corum coin watch is a nice fit, albeit an expensive one.


Coins Better Than Stocks? collect things for all manner of reasons; there is no explaining why people collect any particular item.  With coins (or watches, for that matter) people choose to collect them because they find them interesting, but no two collectors may agree on exactly what interests them.

The scarcity?  The beauty of the piece itself?  The investment potential?

Most collectors probably don’t collect for investment reasons, but the markets for any collectible will have investors in them.  That’s just the nature of anything valuable – art, automobiles, wine, watches, coins, stamps – you name it.  Over time, rarities in all of these fields have gone up in value, and when this happens, people notice.

When people notice, investors get involved.  Collectors tend not to like that, as the presence of investors in any hobby will necessarily drive the prices up.

One may expect that to get even worse in the coin field, as the Economist recently published an article pointing out that over the past en years, investments in coins were up nearly 200% (195%, to be exact.)  This compares to smaller, but still substantial, returns for art (139%,) stamps (133%,) and the S&P 500 stock market (a mere 58%.)

If you’ve invested in furniture, you likely lost money, as furniture was down 31% during the past decade.

The problem with investing in collectible items is that they’re not entirely liquid.  Bulk gold or silver coins, purchased for their bullion value, rather than their date, condition, or mint mark, may be relatively liquid, but rare coins purchased for date, mint or condition are not overly easy to part with in a pinch.

You’ll have to sell them to a dealer at a discount, sell them on sites such as eBay (and give them 10%), or sell them at auction.  There, the buyer will pay the premium, but these things all take time, making even coins, which represent actual money, surprisingly illiquid.

They’re more liquid than paintings or furniture, to be sure, but getting rid of a collection of rare coins is going to be more time consuming and more costly than selling stocks, even if you did make more than three times as much money on them.

$10 gold pieceWhat collectors don’t like about investors in their hobby is that the investors don’t particularly have any interest in what they’re buying.  They’re buying a widget, and they expect that widget to become more valuable with time.  They don’t care what the widget happens to be, where it came from, what it looks like or what kind of condition it may be in.  All they want is to be able to sell it for more money tomorrow than they paid for it today.

Collectors, on the other hand, tend to cherish the items in their collection.  They know the difference between one item and the next and they know why their different and why Item A might be more desirable than Item B.

They also know that Item A will likely cost them more to acquire now that investors are buying in.

This has been an issue for a long time, but if coins are returning a lot more money over time than other investments, you can rest assured that more people will be buying into rare coins in the future.

This trend isn’t entirely new, however, as this video from three years ago indicates: