Below are some of the most valuable coins in the world, but they’re not all limited to museums and wealthy private collectors. A couple of these might just turn up in your couch cushions.
The 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar may sit atop the rankings of the most expensive coin ever sold, at least for now. Some experts believe that it was the first silver dollar struck by the U.S. Mint. The front features a profile of Lady Liberty with flowing hair, while the reverse shows an American eagle. Fewer than 1,800 of these coins were ever produced, and one expert puts the number of remaining coins at between 120 and 130, so it’s quite rare.
The coin sold at auction for just over $10 million in 2013.
The Brasher Doubloon was made by Ephraim Basher, a New York City goldsmith and silversmith, in the late 18th Century. The front of the coin shows a state seal with a rising sun, while the reverse shows the American eagle with a shield. The coin is already rare, but certain versions of it have fetched various prices, depending on their specific characteristics.
A 2011 sale saw a version of the doubloon with Basher’s signature EB on the breast go for nearly $7.4 million. A 2018 private sale of another doubloon with the signature EB on the bird’s wing went for more than $5 million, according to Coin World.
The Fugio cent hasn’t set the kind of astronomical records as the first two coins on this list, but it can still be a pricey collectible, and it has an interesting history to it. The Fugio cent, also known as the Franklin cent, after founding father Benjamin Franklin, may have been the first coin circulated in the newly formed United States.
In line with Franklin’s humor, the coin shows a sun and sundial with the Latin motto “fugio,” suggesting the sun and time are flying. At the bottom, the coin says “mind your business,” an invocation for the bearer to literally pay attention to their business affairs. The reverse of the coin has the motto “We are one” with 13 links in a chain to symbolize America’s first 13 states.
Zivi suggests you could buy a Fugio cent for a few hundred dollars, making it relatively accessible for a coin with such an interesting history. Coins in better condition may go for a few thousand dollars and perhaps as high as $10,000, while extremely rare variants may sell for tens of thousands.
The 723 Umayyad gold dinar is one of the most prized Islamic coins, and it was struck from gold mined at a location owned by the caliph. The coin bears the marking “mine of the commander of the faithful” and it’s the first Islamic coin to mention a location in Saudi Arabia. About a dozen examples of the coin are in existence, according to experts.
In 2011, the coin fetched 3.7 million pounds (about $6 million) at auction, the second-most expensive ever sold at auction. In 2019, another version of the coin was sold for the same amount in pounds, but the dollar value came to about $4.8 million.
Another one of the world’s most expensive coins is an oldie and goldie. The 1343 Edward III Florin is just one of three such gold coins known to exist. Two examples are housed in the British Museum in London, both of which were found in the River Tyne in 1857. The third coin was found by a prospector with a metal detector in 2006.
The front of the coin shows King Edward III on his throne with two leopards’ heads on either side, while the reverse shows the Royal Cross inside a quatrefoil. Because of its design, the coin is also known as the Double Leopard.
The coin found in 2006 was sold at auction for 480,000 pounds, or about $850,000 — a record at the time for a British coin. It’s now estimated that the coin is valued around $6.8 million.
Here’s another coin that you just might find tucked inside a dresser sometime, and it’s the conditions surrounding its production that make the 1943 Lincoln Head Copper Penny interesting and valuable.
While pennies were normally made of copper and nickel, the U.S. needed the metals for war efforts, so the mint started using steel to produce the coin. But it mistakenly still struck a batch of pennies with copper, potentially because blanks remained in the press when the mint began making new steel pennies. Experts estimate that about 40 pennies of these exist, though some say fewer than 20 examples remain.
The U.S. Mint says these coins are frequently counterfeited because of the relative ease of coating steel pennies with copper and altering the date on coins struck in 1945, 1948 and 1949. But to see if the coin is actually steel, you can see if it sticks to a magnet.
While a regular steel 1943 Lincoln penny might fetch you 30 or 40 cents – again about 30 or 40 times more than its face value – the special copper versions fetched $204,000 at a 2019 auction. This specimen of the coin had been held by a man for some 70 years since boyhood after he found it at his school cafeteria.
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