5. 1861 Coronet Twenty Dollar Gold Piece
Production of this coin was stopped by the U.S. Mint due to late-breaking design revisions, but authorities did not receive word until after a few of the coins had already been produced and put into circulation. Just two examples are known (although a third example of the 1861 Paquet double eagle has been rumored to exist) and one of them can be yours if you can cough up 5.6 million dollars.
4. 1804 Ten Dollar Gold Piece
For some reason, fewer than 10 of these coins were ever produced, and only three of them are currently known to exist. Adding to the novelty, the coins were minted in 1834–three decades after the date on the coin–to be used in diplomatic presentations, making them part of one of the most famous sets in American coinage. While the 1804 Silver dollar—also struck at this later date—is much better known, the eagle is even more rare and, as such, is seldom offered at auction. The only piece which has ever been offered in recent times was the one contained in the King of Siam set, a complete Proof set in its original case, which sold for $8.5 Million dollars in 2005. Of course, you don’t have to spend that much to get one of the other two proof coins; you can get it for just $6 million dollars.
3. 1913 Liberty Nickel
Though it seems only a fool would pay upwards of six million dollars for a five-cent coin, this particular piece of metal is highly unusual because it was somehow produced without the knowledge of its maker–the U.S. Mint. Not much is known about the actual minting of the 1913 Liberty Head Nickels. Since the mints were to start production of the famous Buffalo Nickels that year, no Liberty Head type nickels were to be minted that year. However, the die for the nickel bearing the year 1913 had already been produced and delivered and it is believed that five specimens were struck at the Philadelphia mint before the die could be destroyed.
One theory says that the coins were struck as advance test pieces while another theory proposes that someone illegally struck the five specimens before the dies were destroyed for fun. In either case, it’s clear that the valuable coins left the Mint in some unauthorized fashion, and didn’t surface until 1920, after the statute of limitations for theft had safely run out. Apparently, U.S. Treasury officials have concluded that they were legally struck, making it possible to own one of the five known examples if you can afford the price tag.
2. 1933 Saint-Gaudens Twenty Dollar Gold Piece
Selling at auction in 2002 for a measly $7.5 million (and thought to be worth at least $10 million today), while it’s not the most valuable coin, the 1933 Double Eagle is perhaps the rarest and most famous. Although 445,500 Double Eagles had been minted with the 1933 date, none were released into circulation because of changes made to currency laws during the Great Depression which took America off the gold standard. Once it became illegal for private citizens to own gold coins, the Mint melted down the entire 1933 run of Gold Double Eagles and converted them to gold bullion bars. However, there is evidence that a mint cashier may have absconded with up to twenty of these expensive coins, which he sold over the years to various collectors. Once the government found out, however, they confiscated them and as such, besides two examples made specifically for the Smithsonian Institute, only one example—a specimen once owned by Egypt’s King Farouk—remains. At least, that was the case until ten more examples were discovered in 2004 by an heir to one of the jewelers who originally sold a number of the earliest specimens, and their fate remains the source of considerable legal wrangling between the heiress and the government over their fate while they languish at Fort Knox. It will be interesting to see, should the 10 coins ever come to market, if the 1933 Double Eagle will retain its place as the world’s highest priced coin when the number of available specimens increases ten-fold. Stay tuned.
1. 1804 Silver Dollar – The Most Valuable Coin in America
The all-time most valuable coin one can own, a specimen in top condition can be worth as much as $47 million. With only 19 copies known to exist, it’s also the envy of numismatists across the country thanks to its rarity, design and beauty. What’s most curious about these most valuable coins is the fact that no silver dollars were minted in 1804. (Actually, over 19,000 dollars were minted that year but they bore the year 1803 and were indistinguishable from those minted the previous year.) In fact, silver dollars dated 1804 did not appear until 1834, when the U.S. State Department decided to create sets of coins to present as gifts to certain rulers in Asia in exchange for trade concessions. The U.S. Government ordered the Mint to produce “two specimens of each kind now in use, whether of gold, silver or copper” and since the silver dollar was still in use but had last been recorded as produced in 1804, Mint employees struck several dollars with an 1804 date. Additionally, an enterprising employee of the mint in Philadelphia illegally struck a few dozen more examples between 1858 and 1860 using the old 1804 die, most of which were confiscated and destroyed, but a few of which remain in private collections today.