Rare Coins Currency

Posted on February 15, 2021

Discovering a rare coin is a delight for investors and collectors. Coins can be rare for several reasons. Some had limited-edition runs. Others have minting errors that were only corrected on subsequent batches. Discover more about what rare coins are and what makes them so special.

Why Rare Coins?

There are many reasons people love rare coins. They are so popular because they:

  • Diversify portfolios. Including tangible assets like rare coins in an investment portfolio alongside stocks and bonds, for example, lowers the risk.
  • Maintain relatively stable value. Rare coins have such a large collector base that their values rarely dip. Their tangible nature also protects them from destabilizing market forces.
  • Are liquid assets. Since rare coins are tangible and independently graded, they're also very liquid. You can sell them whenever you want, unlike investments that are only accessible on maturity.
  • Stay relatively affordable. The affordability of some rare coins can surprise people. Purchasing rare coins can be a great way for new investors or collectors with limited budgets to grow their portfolios.
  • Are a simple investment. New investors are also attracted to the simplicity of rare coins. People can obtain and retain them without worrying about interest rates, monthly statements or economic factors.
  • Trend towards profitability. Many rare coins have sold for much more than their original purchase price. There is also great growth potential for rare coins going forward.
  • Reflect history. Some rare coins commemorate the figures and events of history. Others were simply made at a certain period of time. Either way, owning one is like owning a piece of history.
  • Help people maintain their privacy. You do not have to report the sale or purchase of rare coins.
  • Bear favorable tax conditions. Coins are only taxed when profits are realized. Undistributed profits and like-kind exchanges are not taxed.
  • Are portable. Rare coins are small, so they are easily collected from dealers and transported to secure storage facilities.
  • Are rare. People naturally want what they can't have, so the scarcity of rare coins makes them more desirable.

Do People Use Rare Coins as Currency?

While rare coins are legal tender, people who understand they have rare coins do not use them as currency. They understand their face value is always much lower than their true value. This is the case for several reasons:

  • Scarcity increases value.
  • The demand for rare coins exceeds the supply, increasing value.
  • The age of many rare coins can also make them more valuable [1].
  • Rare coins often have interesting designs that can increase their value.
  • The precious metals used for many rare coins are worth more than the face values.

However, some people do not realize a coin's rarity. This is especially common with rare error coins. People may use these rare coins as currency, unaware of their value [2].

What Are the Leading Rare Coins in the World?

There are several rare coins prized by collectors and investors around the world. According to The Richest, the world's top 8 leading rare coins are [3]:

  • 1849 Double Eagle: Minted by the United States Mint in Philadelphia near the start of California's gold rush, this American Eagle coin has an estimated value of $20 million. That's substantially more than its $20 face value.
  • 1877 Half Union: This U.S. gold pattern coin has a $50 face value. It's now worth an estimated $15 million.
  • 1907 Saint Gaudens: This U.S. coin with a $20 face value has an estimated grade of Proof 69. Its estimated value is $8.5 million.
  • 1794 Silver Dollar: Experts believe the 1794 Silver Dollar is the first silver dollar the United States Mint created. It has an estimated value of $7.85 million.
  • 1933 Double Eagle: There were just 445,500 of these U.S. Double Eagle coins minted in 1933, the last year the coins were ever made. They were never circulated and many got melted down. Those that remain are very rare, leading to their value of roughly $7.59 million.
  • 1804 Silver Dollar: Just 15 of these U.S. silver dollars were ever made, so they're very rare and very expensive. Expect to pay around $7.5 million for this Proof 68 coin.
  • 1822 Half Eagle: There were originally 17,796 of these U.S. gold coins, but it's thought just three survive. Two are in the Smithsonian. If you were to secure the remaining one, it would cost around $6 million.
  • 1913 Liberty Head: Rumor has it the United States Mint never approved this 5-cent coin's creation. Its colorful history and limited-edition status have made it one of the most valuable coins throughout history. In 1972 it became the first coin sold for more than $100,000. In 1996 it broke a new record when it became the first coin sold for more than $1 million. Today it has an estimated value of $4.5 million.

What Are the Traits That the Most Valuable Rare Coins Share?

Valuable rare coins might look different, but they share some of the same characteristics. While there are some exceptions to the rules, the following traits often make a rare coin more valuable:

  • They're made from precious metals. Rare coins made from gold, silver, or platinum often command high prices.
  • They are old. Rare coins showing early dates are typically worth more than more modern coins.
  • They have mint marks. This mark indicates the coin's place of origin.
  • They are in good original condition. Rare coins without scratches, toning or tarnish tend to fetch more than those with blemishes. Cleaning also diminishes the coins' value.
  • They look good. Rare coins with appealing designs are highly prized.

Some rare coins have obvious characteristics that set them apart, while others are more subtle. That's why it's always important to check your change. You never know when a rare and valuable coin may land in your hand. However, if you aren't lucky enough to find a rare coin by chance, you can also purchase rare coins from dealers.


1. CoinTrackers, What Makes a Coin Valuable, http://www.cointrackers.com/blog/38/what-makes-a-coin-valuable/. Accessed October 1, 2020.

2. The Spruce Crafts. Find Rare Error Coins in Circulation, https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/find-rare-error-coins-in-circulation-768762. Accessed October 1, 2020.

3. The Richest. The Top 10 Rarest Coins in the World, https://www.therichest.com/most-expensive/the-top-10-rarest-coins-in-the-world/. Accessed October 1, 2020.