Officially, the most expensive coin is the CAD 1,000,000 coin, issued by the Bank of Canada in 2011. It is struck from pure gold and weighs almost 100 kg, hence its price is astounding — almost EUR 50 million. However, there are coins that are valuable not because of the metal they are struck from or their size, but because of their historical value. Of course, in the black market coins may cost much more, which is why we present only the coins that have been officially sold at auctions.
So, the world’s five historically most valuable coins are:
– the 1794 US silver dollar, called ‘the Flowing Hair dollar’. It is the first USD 1 coin issued in the USA. It is struck from silver, based on the already-produced 1 cent coin featuring a profile of Miss Liberty on the obverse and eagle on the reverse. USD 1 coins differed from 1 cent coins in that on the USD coins the Phrygian cap (which was featured on 1 cent coins) disappeared, hence the name ‘the Flowing Hair dollar’ caught on for the dollar. These coins were always extremely valuable and rare. In 1880, one such coin was worth an estimated USD 50, while in the 1990s only 120–130 of them had survived. In 2013, the best-preserved coin was sold at an auction for USD 10 million (EUR 8.7 million), becoming the most expensively sold coin in human history. Another ‘Flowing Hair dollar’ coin was sold in 2015 for also big money — USD 4.9 million (about EUR 4.3 million).
– the 1933 gold 20 dollar coin, also referred to as the ‘Double Eagle’. It was designed in 1907 by the famous US sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Its obverse depicts Lady Liberty with an olive branch, the reverse — a double-winged eagle and the rising sun. About half a million such coins were struck in 1933, but they never appeared in circulation, as an act was passed in that same year that, due to the crisis, the US was limiting the use of gold and gold coins were declared invalid. Hence these coins were melted down; officially only two were left that were not melted down, thus becoming the rarest coins ever issued in the USA. However, about a few dozen coins were stolen and appeared in the hands of collectors, 19 of them were recovered by special services (part of them were returned), 9 were destructed by the services, while 10 are now safely kept in a bank vault. It is, however, believed that part of the coins can still be found in private collections. An official coin appeared in the collection of King Farouk of Egypt. The King was deposed in 1966 and the coin was returned to the Egyptian government; it only appeared publicly in the 1990s and was officially sold at auction in 2002 to an unknown buyer for USD 7.5 million (EUR 6.5 million).
– the 1787 Brasher Doubloon. In 1787, Ephraim Brasher, a famous US goldsmith and coiner, applied to the New York Mint proposing to mint copper coins. The Mint refused, as it did not plan to mint any copper coins. The goldsmith had sent a few copper and gold coin samples to the Mint — the obverse of the gold coins featured an eagle and the reverse — the sun rising over mountains. Four such coins were later sold at auctions: in 2011, an unknown Wall Street buyer acquired such a coin for USD 7.4 million (EUR 6.5 million) — it was the third historic coin sold for the highest price. A few more such coins were also sold for enormous sums: USD 2.5 million in 2005 and USD 4.5 million in 2014.
– the 723 Umayyad (presently — Saudi Arabia) gold dinar. It is one of the rarest and most appreciated coins from the Islamic world. It was struck under a special order from the caliph, when he was on a pilgrimage to Mecca. It is struck from gold mined not far from Mecca; scientists have still been arguing over the exact place where it was minted (most likely, Damascus). This is the earliest coin inscribed with the word ‘Hejaz’, meaning the present Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In 2011, an unknown buyer purchased this coin for USD 6 million (EUR 5.2 million).
– the 1804 US silver dollar (Class I), also referred to as the Draped Bust Dollar, as it features the bust of Lady Liberty. These coins bear the date 1804, although most of them were actually struck much later. The coins were struck in 1804, but have the date 1803, while later the minting of these coins was terminated. The coin with the date 1804 was only minted in 1834! These coins were minted for diplomatic purposes, as gifts to Asian countries. Later, they were reminted circa 1857. Three classes of them are singled out: Class I — 1834 with a notched edge; Class II — struck after 1857, without a notched edge; Class III — struck after 1857, with a notched edge. Overall, these coins were counterfeited on a mass scale; hence their originals have gained a very high value. Of course, the coins of Class I are the most valuable. Only 8 have survived (officially, there are only 15 of the 1804 dollars). In 1999, one such coin was sold for USD 4.1 million and at the time was the most expensive coin in human history. In 2008, another Class I coin was sold for USD 3.7 million, while in 2009, a Class III coin — for USD 2.3 million.