Collectible coins can pack a lot of value in a small package. Thousand-dollar dimes are common, and million-dollar pennies are out there. But with hundreds of auctions every month and countless private sales, nailing down an exact worth of a coin is trying to hit a fast-moving target.
To compile this list of the most valuable US coins, we’ve relied on credible sources of recent sales, but the market changes constantly, so what’s true today can be wrong tomorrow. We presume if you’re going to drop a million or two on a coin, you’ll dig a little deeper before you write the check.
Prices here are from multiple sources and for known auction or private sales in the past several years. Rare coins held in museums or private collections that are not likely to be sold are not included. Here are the Top Five in ascending order. Prices are in US dollars.
5 (tie). 1913 Liberty Head Nickel - $5,000,000, Private Sale, April 2007
This is one of three coins to make multiple appearances on our Top Ten List (the others are the Draped Bust Silver Dollar and the Flowing Hair Silver Dollar), due to its rarity. As noted in our earlier list of coins 6-10, the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel was produced from discontinued dies that were supposed to be scrapped with the introduction of the Indian Head, or Buffalo, nickel. Of the five coins known to exist, two are in museums and three are in private collections.
5 (tie). 1804 $10 Gold Eagle Proof - $5,000,000, Albanese Rare Coins (Private Sale), October 2007
The Treasury stopped minting $10 Gold Eagles and silver dollars in 1804, so when President Andrew Jackson wanted to give proof sets with every US coin in circulation to Asian leaders during an 1834 diplomatic mission, the Philadelphia Mint had to dust off the 1804 dies. According to PCGS Coin Facts, six coins were struck. This coin is one of four known surviving examples, all in private hands, but one has been loaned to the American Numismatic Association in Colorado Springs for display in their Money Museum. Its companion silver dollars have fetched as much as $4.1 million, ranking Nos. 8-10 on our list.
3. 1787 Brasher Doubloon “EB on Breast” - $7,395,000, Blanchard and Co., December 2011
The US Mint didn’t become operational until 1792, so the colonies contracted private parties to mint coins for them. One of the most prominent was New York gold and silversmith Ephraim Brasher, who designed a small number of gold coins based on the Spanish Lima doubloon, a commonly used coin of the time. This coin is distinct from the #7 coin on our list in that is the only one known to have the maker’s mark on the breast of the heraldic eagle on the coin’s reverse—a nearly $3 million difference.
2. 1933 St. Gaudens $20 Gold Double Eagle - $7,590,020, Sotheby’s/Stack’s Bowers, July 2002
This is another coin that wasn’t supposed to be issued. As part of his New Deal legislation to address a bank crisis, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered all citizens to turn in their gold coins and bullion for redemption in other forms of currency. But the order wasn’t issued until nearly 500,000 gold coins had been made and ready to issue. The Mint was ordered to melt all the coins except for two, which were to be displayed at the National Museum of American History. But a few dozen surreptitiously found their way out of the Mint and into private hands. Those coins are illegal to own and subject to seizure by the US government. Except for one. It was originally owned by King Farouk of Egypt until his deposition in 1952 and, after a lengthy legal battle, was bought in 2002 by a private collector, who, besides the sale price, had to pay the government $20 to remonetize the coin and make it legal.
1. 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar - $10,016,875, Stack’s Bowers Auction, January 2013
Sold in the January 2013 New York Americana Sale, this coin set the world record for a single coin. Thought to be the first silver dollar made by the US Mint, it has remained in almost-perfect mint condition for 225 years and is the only known example to maintain its proof-like state. As is so often said, condition is everything in rare coin collecting, and this is nowhere more evident than in this coin, which sold for $5 million more than its nearest competitor, which is on our list at Number 6.