Collectible coins can pack a lot of value in a small package. Thousand-dollar dimes are common, and million-dollar pennies are out there. And 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 now 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 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 numbers 10-6 in ascending order. Prices are in US dollars.

 

10 (tie). 1913 Liberty Head Nickel - $3.737,500, Heritage Auctions, January 2010

What makes this coin so valuable is that it never existed, officially, at least. After a 30-year run, the Liberty Head nickel was due for replacement by the Indian Head, or Buffalo, nickel in 1913. But somebody, possibly Mint employee and coin collector Samuel W. Brown, made a few coins from a die that was supposed to be scrapped. Five are known to exist—two in museums and three in private hands. One was even featured in an episode of “Hawaii Five-O.”

10 (tie). 1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar - $3.737,500, Heritage Auctions, April 2008

This is another coin that never officially existed. Silver dollar production was halted in 1803, partly due to a shortage of the metal and rising prices that caused the Treasury to lose money on their manufacture. But when the US sent an emissary to several Middle Eastern countries in 1834, it was decided to present proof sets of current US coins as gifts. The silver dollar was scheduled to resume production in 1836, but none were available for the gift sets, so the Mint authorized production of a limited number of the older Draped Bust dollars for inclusion. The last silver dollars were released in 1804, but carried 1803 dates, a fact overlooked when the gift sets were made, so the new proof coins were dated 1804 in error. The 1834 coins are known as Class I, because a few restrikes were made sometime after 1857 with a different edge design. Besides the gift sets, several unauthorized coins were also struck for Mint employees, many of which were recovered by the Mint director, but a few remained in private hands. Eight examples are known to exist. They are among the rarest and most popular US coins, as evidenced by the two sales below.

9. 1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar - $3,877,500, Heritage Auctions, August 2013

8. 1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar - $4,140,000, Stack’s Bowers Auction, August 1999

7. 1787 Brasher “EB on Wing” Doubloon - $4,582,500, Heritage Auctions, January 2014

Before the US began minting its own official coins in 1792, several states, banks, and private companies coined their own money. Most were tokens or paper currency that proved worthless once official US money was in circulation, but one New York gold and silversmith by the name of Ephraim Brasher made gold coins of his own design that were comparable to the Spanish coins that were in common use at the time. Meticulously designed and made of .94 ounces of 22-carat gold, these coins are extremely rare and considered one of the most important coins in the world by many coin experts. The ones with Brasher’s EB hallmark are the most sought. The coin has even appeared in the plots of books and movies.

6. 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar - $4,993,750, Stack’s Bowers, September 2015

The first silver dollar struck by the US Mint, only 1,758 Flowing Hair dollars were released with this inaugural date, and only six are known to survive in mint state. This MS-66+ coin is one of two silver dollars collected by Englishman William Strickland during a tour of the US in 1794-95 and remained in private hands for 170 years until the collection was first auctioned at Christie’s in 1964. It’s considered the second-best of the six known survivors.



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Great American Coin Company