Discover just how much rare old coins are worth to the right collector.
Nowadays, the materials used to make our money—the paper and ink for dollar bills and the metals for coins—are worth only a fraction of the value of what’s printed or stamped on their faces. But sometimes, thanks to rarity (meaning there are very few of them), a special historical event, or minting or printing errors, a coin or dollar bill can be worth more than its face value.
1804 Silver Dollar — $3.8 million
The 1804 silver dollar is often called “The King of American Coins” because it’s one of the rarest and most popular of collectable American coins. One of these coins, still in mint condition (practically brand-new with no imperfections), sold for just over $3.8 million in August 2013.
Why it’s special: It’s very rare—there are only eight known 1804-stamped silver dollars. Interestingly, this coin wasn’t actually minted in 1804. In 1834, U.S. Mint officials wanted to collect sets of silver dollar coins to give to Asian rulers as diplomatic gifts on behalf of President Andrew Jackson. However, they couldn’t find any silver dollars with that date, so they had a few stamped with the 1804 date, even though they were made in 1834.
Eliasberg 1913 Liberty Head Nickel — $4.5 million
The Eliasberg 1913 Liberty Head Nickel is one of only five ever produced, making it very rare indeed. When it was purchased at auction in August 2018, its purchase price of $4.5 million made it one of the five most valuable coins sold at auction and earned it the title of “most valuable non-precious metal coin.”
Of the other four 1913 Liberty Head nickels, two others are privately owned and the remaining two are owned by museums, including the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.!
Why it’s special: This particular nickel was pressed without the approval of the U.S. Mint, the part of the federal government that approves the design of and manufactures all official U.S. currency. The Mint had switched the nickel’s design from the profile of Lady Liberty to the profile of a Native American, but several nickels were created with the old design. Only five made their way into the hands of the public.
723AD Umayyad Dinar — $6 million
A dinar is a monetary unit (part of a currency) used in some countries of the Middle East and North Africa. It has been used for over a thousand years! A Umayyad dinar from the year 723ADis the rarest of all Islamic gold coins. It sold for a little over $6 million in April 2011.
Why it’s special: The age of this coin is part of what makes it so valuable—it’s over 1,290 years old! It’s also made from gold, which is a precious metal. In fact, the gold that made the coin came from a mine owned by the caliph, the Islamic ruler. Historians believe the coin may have been made to mark a special occasion.
1343 Edward III Florin — $6.8 million
The 1343 Edward III florin is a medieval British gold coin over 670 years old. It’s also known as the “double leopard,” with one side of the coin showing the king with two leopards’ heads at his sides. When it was first produced, the florin was worth six shillings, but the coin did not contain the value of precious metals it claimed (called being “underweight), and so merchants refused to accept the coin as money to pay for goods. The coin was only in circulation for a few months before they were collected and melted down to create new coins.
Why it’s so special: There are only three of these coins known to have survived. Two coins were found in the River Tyne in 1857, and one coin was found by someone using a metal detector in the south of England in 2006. That last coin is valued at $6.8 million.
1794 Flowing Hair Silver/Copper Dollar — $10 million
The 1794 Flowing Hair Silver/Copper Dollar was the first piece of currency issued by the U.S. Federal Government after the U.S.A. became an independent nation. Its size and weight were based on the Spanish dollar, which was already a popular coin used in trade throughout the U.S. Engraver Robert Scot’s design includes on one side a bust of Lady Liberty and fifteen stars around the periphery, representing the fifteen states that had ratified the Constitution to that point, and on the other side an eagle surrounded by a wreath.
In 2013, the best example of one of these coins was sold for $10,016,875, making it the highest selling price of any coin in history.
Why it’s so special: Leading coin experts believe this particular dollar was the very first one struck by the Mint on October 15, 1794. It contains 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper.