20 Rare and Most Valuable US Coins Ever Sold

If you have any coin collectors in your circle of friends, you probably have a pretty good idea of what a rare coin is. But what are the rarest coins in United States history?

Rare coin collecting is a popular hobby that dates back to the 700s AD. Many collectors choose to collect U.S. coins, and there are many different factors that influence which ones are the most sought-after and valuable.

What makes the most valuable coins in the world is their limited mintage, which in this case does not mean absolute scarcity but how many were made relative to the size of the entire population. Also, their value is determined by several factors including rarity, date and mintmark, condition and demand from coin collectors.

In this article, we look at 20 rare and most valuable US coins ever sold.

20 Rare and Most Valuable US Coins: List

No
United States Coin
Grade
Price Sold
1
1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar
SP66
$10,016,875
2
1822 Capped Head Left Half Eagle
AU50
$8,400,000
3
1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar Class I
PR68
$7,680,000
4
1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle
Not graded
$7,590,020
5
1913 Liberty Head Nickel
PR66
 $4,560,000
6
1854-S Liberty Head Half Eagle
AU58+
$1,920,000
7
1808 Capped Bust Left Quarter Eagle
MS65
$2,350,000
8
1873-CC Liberty Seated Dime: No Arrows
MS65
$1,880,000
9
1894-S Barber Dime
PR64
$1,552,500
10
1797 O-101a Rarity-5 15 Stars
MS66
$1,380,000
11
1833 Capped Head Left Half Eagle
PR67
$1,351,250
12
1792 Birch Cent
AU58
$1,175,000
13
1907 Indian Eagle
MS67
$1,140,000
14
1795 Capped Bust Right Eagle: 9 Leaves
MS63+
$1,057,500
15
1793 Chain Cent Breen Die State II
MS65
$998,750
16
1829 Capped Head Left Half Eagle: Reduced Diameter
MS65+
$881,250
17
1794 Liberty Cap Cent
MS64
$881,250
18
1886-O Morgan Silver Dollar
MS67
$780,000
19
1884-S Morgan Silver Dollar
MS68
$750,000
20
1831 Capped Head Left Half Eagle
MS67
$646,250

1. 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar

Price: $10,016,875

Grade: SP66

1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar

This is the earliest die state that has been discovered, and it is an exact match to the copper pattern 1794 Dollar (Judd-19) that is currently on display at the Smithsonian. It is thought that this coin was struck initially to test the coining press and dies. The third curl up from the bottom of Liberty’s hair, which is longer and more pronounced here than on any subsequent specimen documented, is one of the distinguishing features of Die State I.

This particular specimen is the oldest known example of a 1794 silver dollar and may possibly be the first silver dollar ever struck by the United States, as all but one of the approximately 135 known examples show signs of clashing or die lapping categorized as Die State II or higher.

2. 1822 Capped Head Left Half Eagle

Price: $8,400,000

Grade: AU50

1822 Capped Head Left Half Eagle

The D. Brent Pogue specimen of the 1822 half eagle, the only example in private hands, is a landmark rarity in American numismatics, and Stack’s Bowers Galleries is happy to once again offer it at auction. Before D. Brent Pogue’s unexpected death in August 2019, this coin was a family heirloom when it was offered for sale in May 2016.

The reverse of the coin features the image of Liberty, the year, each star, the eagle, and auxiliary legends in the form of dazzling, reflective coronas of luster that surround all other design components.

For many years, American numismatists have considered half eagles to be one of the most popular series. From the start of American precious metal coinage in 1795 to 1916, no other gold denomination was so consistently minted. There is no other denomination that comes close to the half eagle, with the exception of cents, which have been produced with every date from 1793 to the present but 1815.

3. 1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar Class I

Price: $7,680,000

Grade: PR68

1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar Class I

The 1804 silver dollar has reputation, tradition, and splendor that are unmatched by any coin in the federal series, despite the existence of rarer ones. It still holds the numismatic throne B. Max Mehl referred to it as “The King of American Coins” in 1941.

Despite Mint records indicating a silver dollar mintage of 19,570 pieces for 1804, these were all most likely dated 1803. At the early United States Mint, it was standard procedure to record annual mintages, but it was also customary practice to continue using leftover, previously dated dies into the following year, usually until the die steel broke down.

The instability of the 19,570-piece 1804 mintage number is demonstrated by the fact that only 15 Draped Bust 1804 dollars have ever been discovered since the first mention of them appeared in literature in 1842, with some others first turning up in collections after 1858.

See also  15 Rare and Most Valuable 1965 Quarters Ever Sold

4. 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

Price: $7,590,020

1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

A shimmer of gold emerged from the Depression’s gloom. A heart of avarice beats within the sturdy walls of the United States Mint in Philadelphia. When the chance presented itself, a crime was done; it went unnoticed for almost ten years and went unheard. Unwitting wealthy men, including kings and chiefs of business, profited from feeding their collecting compulsion.

The coin is a genuine, unmodified creation of the Philadelphia branch of the US Mint. The reference coins in the Smithsonian collection, which were also seen at the same time, were created using the identical reverse die when this piece was struck.

5. 1913 Liberty Head Nickel

Price: $4,560,000

Grade: PR66

1913 Liberty Head Nickel

Of just five strikes, of which two are in museums, this one is by far the best. the specimen from the Dr. William Morton-Smith/Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. collection. The coin is a unique specimen with this quality, and its surface sparkles like a mirror. At the rim is a little lamination of a planchet.

More people have seen and examined this 1913 Liberty Head nickel than any other, and it has appeared in more shows than any other.

There are five known examples, one of which (the Eliasberg coin currently being sold) has very reflective Proof surfaces. The others have a more satiny sheen, making this one stand out among the five both for condition and possibly for manufacturing technicalities.  

The 1913 nickels were issued, according to a variety of tales, but there has never been concrete evidence of how or why they left the Mint.

6. 1854-S Liberty Head Half Eagle

Price: $1,920,000

Grade: AU58+

1854-S Liberty Head Half Eagle

It is remarkable that a coin with a legend this enormous has the same aesthetic appeal. The 1854 San Francisco half eagle is more revered than other numismatic giants.

The best-known 1854-S half eagle is this one. None of the other examples that have been verified to exist come close. Its surfaces are shiny and bright, with protected portions of the obverse and reverse showing virgin metal that cannot be duplicated or misidentified. There is some reflection on both sides.

The strike is strong and well-spaced, completely delineating the finer reliefs and recesses of the devices, as well as each denticle on both sides. Around the reverse, a wire rim or fin rises, reaching its height at the base of that side.

In the basined fields of the central reverse, a die collision reveals the shape of the central obverse device. The reverse is largely hairline-free, however, the obverse does exhibit some hairlines that are more to blame for the grade given than any actual wear.

7. 1808 Capped Bust Left Quarter Eagle

Price: $2,350,000 

Grade: MS65

1808 Capped Bust Left Quarter Eagle

The very best specimen of this issue, a stunning gem specimen of the most uncommon coin of this type. While grades are significant, ordinal numbers can convey a coin’s value even more effectively. The appropriate ordinal in the context of this work is “first.” In terms of numbers, this is by far the best example, the best preserved, and the most stunning.

Both sides are surrounded by a halo of dark coppery toning, which is richest on the obverse and has undertones of dark violet. Dark yellow dominates the tonality and is brilliant with a satiny gloss. The entire cartwheel is visible on both sides and is just as amazing when viewed up close as it is behind glass.

The low relief borders are frequently evident, and the detail is thorough and unambiguous. The coin has a stunning visual appeal. An instance like this is so far from being conceivable. The die state is standard, with all of the stars on the right side of the obverse joined by a crack that covers the cap.

8. 1873-CC Liberty Seated Dime: No Arrows

Price: $1,880,000

Grade: MS65

1873-CC Liberty Seated Dime

Delicate reddish-gold and powder-blue highlights are added to fully glossy, satin to lightly frosted surfaces in isolated periphery locations. In general, the strike is clean and razor-sharp, supporting the reliability of the Gem Mint State grade.

One of the greatest unrecognized rarities in American numismatics is this. The following sentence captures it well. The only comprehensive collection of American coinage ever gathered was put together by Louis Eliasberg. He most recently added the 1873-CC no arrows dime to his collection.

The 1873-CC No Arrows dime is a special piece with a colorful past. Starting with H.O. Granberg, it then passed through the hands of Waldo Newcomer, Charles M. Williams, and Louis Eliasberg, Sr., before ending up in the hands of one of the most prominent coin collectors of the twentieth century.

9. 1894-S Barber Dime

Price: $1,552,500

Grade: PR64

1894-S Barber Dime

This exceptionally uncommon coin’s toning is rather lovely, with the customary silver base delicately embellished by rose-gold and russet dispersed over the surfaces. Just below her jawline on Liberty’s neck, a single, thin hairline descends to the left. In the fields, there are finer hairlines.

For the obverse identification, there is a shadowy area to the left of the I in UNITED, a minute flake below the E of STATES, another minute flake in the middle of the field beneath the ER of AMERICA and Liberty’s upper lip, and a faint spot to the right of the 1 in the date.

The 1894-S dime is one of the most well-known and sought-after American coin rarities by any measure. The fact that it is the sole great rarity in the whole Barber silver coin series, which spans the years 1892 to 1916 and includes the dime, quarter, and half dollar denominations, adds to its aura.

See also  25 Rarest And Most Valuable Coins Worth Money

10. 1797 O-101a Rarity-5 15 Stars

Price: $1,380,000

Grade: MS66

1797 O-101a Rarity-5 15 Stars

An absolutely stunning example of the Robert Scot-designed Draped Bust Small Eagle half dollar from the Philadelphia Mint’s early years. It garnered intense and well-deserved interest from bidders and was a highlight of the renowned Farish Baldenhofer, Norweb, and Haig Koshkarian Collections.

The 1796 and 1797 half dollars are the least common regularly minted silver-type coins in the United States, with only 3,918 reported examples of each date combined. The Overton-Parsley reference suggests that 100 to 300 of the merged dates are still in existence, while researchers dispute this number.

The current Norweb specimen was purchased at Stack’s Farish Baldenhofer Collection sale in November 1955, where it was identified as “1797. a wonderful instance of this extremely uncommon date. The best strike ever witnessed.

11. 1833 Capped Head Left Half Eagle

Price: $1,351,250

Grade: PR67

1833 Capped Head Left Half Eagle

The dozens of iconic examples of this denomination that can be found in this collection would need to take their position behind this one if the half eagles of the Pogue Collection were to be judged solely on their beauty and closeness to perfection.

Only the coppery orange speck near star 3 and the splash of a similar color near D of UNITED cause its surfaces’ beautiful, even shine in the darkest maize yellow hue.

All of the devices are really bold and well-realized. While the precise details on the star centers, eagle talons, feathers, arrowheads, and other design elements are impressive, it is interesting to note that the curl around Liberty’s ear is still not completely rounded even on a coin this well-made and deliberately struck.

12. 1792 Birch Cent

Price: $1,175,000

Grade: AU58

1792 Birch Cent

Simply said, the Birch penny was the beginning of an American cultural phenomena that is well-known worldwide. The coin sold has smooth surfaces with a rich, silky light brown color that nevertheless has some reflectivity. Particularly around the date, the obverse fields exhibit some faint iridescence with flecks of pale olive and gold. The reverse displays a little larger cartwheel and is slightly more reflective than the obverse. The majority of the design parts are surrounded by olive and gold, with the mint color fading last.

The only cents that might have been minted as early as Jefferson’s correspondence with Washington are the Birch cents. The Silver Center and so-called “Fusible Alloy” versions of the other 1792 cents were minted at the Philadelphia Mint in the middle of December of that year.

Based on stylistic comparisons between the bust on the 1792 half dime and the signed Birch cent, they were very undoubtedly struck at the same period and by the same hand, most likely in the late summer of 1792.

13. 1907 Indian Eagle

Price: $1,140,000

Grade: MS67

1907 Indian Eagle

This very exceptional rarity will enthrall even the most knowledgeable and experienced numismatist. The shine is bright and satiny, spinning and sparkling with each tilt. The fields have an attractive matte-like feel thanks to the countless traces of whirling die-polish. The honey-gold patina’s faint powder-blue iridescence, which is most prominent in the left fields on each side, works in harmony with this brilliance.

When it was found that the 1907 Indian eagle’s initial design by Augustus Saint-Gaudens was difficult to produce and stack.

Both numismatists and art collectors are after the 1907 Rounded Rim eagle, one of the rarest and most valuable issues of the twentieth century. Only roughly 40 of the Rounded Rim coins were made, making them nearly ten times as uncommon as the previous Wire Rim variant.

14. 1795 Capped Bust Right Eagle: 9 Leaves

Price: $1,057,500

Grade: MS63+

1795 Capped Bust Right Eagle

The D. Brent Pogue 1795 9 Leaves eagle, possibly the most well-known rarity among the early eagles, is in an exceptional condition of preservation and serves as the centerpiece of the finest collection of early eagles ever sold at auction. The only coin possibly superior to this one that is now on display at the American Numismatic Association Museum is the Harry Bass Core Collection coin.

The obverse of the highly shiny surfaces has a bolder and more icy cartwheel shine than the reverse. Both sides are dominated by light yellow gold, although some design parts have lovely copper tones in the highest relief. While there aren’t any very noticeable flaws or lines on the obverse, there’s also a thin scrape and a light abrasion under the TY of LIBERTY.

The best coin recognized by any grading service is this one, graded MS-63+ (the sole MS-63 on the NGC Census is an old entry for this coin). The highest-rated item to ever sell at a public auction was offered in 2011 and was graded MS-61 (PCGS).

15. 1793 Chain Cent Breen Die State II

Price: $998,750

Grade: MS65

1793 Chain Cent Breen Die State II

This is a spectacular piece, the degree of which almost defies belief in an early copper currency from the U.S. Mint. As the coin rotates under a light, the evenly toned, steely brown surfaces display a uniform smooth to gently frosted texture that produces delicate, though hardly perceptible cartwheel visual effects.

There are hardly any post-production contact marks on either side. The majority of the minor, shallow abrasions seen in the left fields of the obverse and reverse appear to have been present on the blank planchet and did not strike out during the coining process, and none of these features are in the least bit visually disturbing.

A dramatic case study of the need for collectors to compile data from several sources in order to form a final judgment is the Chain AMERICA cent variety with the Sheldon-2 die.

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16. 1829 Capped Head Left Half Eagle: Reduced Diameter

Price: $881,250

Grade: MS65+

1829 Capped Head Left Half Eagle

The Small Planchet Capped Head half eagle made its debut in 1829, the rarest year for this design type. It represents a refinement of the related Large Planchet design, which was minted from 1813 to 1829. The D. Brent Pogue specimen has a stunning deep yellow patina that, when rolled in the hand, swirls with satiny brilliance and sparkles with reflection in the sun.

This year’s modifications to half eagle dies, such as the addition of a tall retaining rim around the designs, successfully enhanced the eye-catching detail on both sides. The curve at Liberty’s ear and her lowest curve near star 13 exhibit some very slight flatness in their maximum relief, but otherwise all design components are strong and clearly defined.

17. 1794 Liberty Cap Cent

Price: $881,250 

Grade: MS64

1794 Liberty Cap Cent

This significant near-gem boasts an amazing history that dates all the way back to the 1860s and is considered to be the best surviving example of Joseph Wright’s Liberty Cap design. MS-63 Choice (Noyes), MS-61 (Del Bland), and MS-65 are EAC grades (John Adams).

This coin is simply stunning, with a satiny texture that otherwise displays a slight but detectable semi-prooflike characteristic when held at right angles to a decent light source. Although the surface appears to be a blended tan and orange-brown patina, direct light angles once more show some variety in the form of pale rose and powder blue undertones in specific locations.

The only detracting abrasions or other flaws are two small, faint swirls of variegated toning, one at 7 o’clock just inside the obverse border and the other in the letter D of UNITED on the reverse, which serves as helpful pedigree markers.

18. 1886-O Morgan Silver Dollar

Price: $780,000

Grade: MS67

1886-O Morgan Silver Dollar

The outstanding Morgan dollar offering from the Larry H. Miller Collection is shown here. It is without a doubt the best known 1886-O, a tough issue to get in Gem and higher grades. This almost spotless sample has superb, pristine surfaces with a remarkable deep cameo finish.

The beautifully frosted design elements look stunning against the deeply-mirrored, highly reflective fields. When combined with the deep cameo polish stated above, the full strike over even the most detailed elements shows that this coin was created from an extremely early condition of the dies before many, if any, copies had been struck.

The exceptional quality of this coin must have been recognized at the time of striking because it has been meticulously passed down from owner to owner in its original, nearly flawless state.

19. 1884-S Morgan Silver Dollar

Price: $750,000

Grade: MS68

1884-S Morgan Silver Dollar

This renowned condition rarity, the finest certified and unquestionably the greatest known 1884-S Morgan silver dollar, is on the cusp of numismatic perfection. The surfaces have a lovely softly frosted mint appearance and are quite glossy. Both sides of the coin are enhanced by wisps of iridescent gold toning that appear to be drifting in that direction.

Given that the 1884-S is one of the hardest Morgan dollars to locate in excellent Gem MS-65 preservation, the eye appeal is exceptional and the striking detail is razor crisp to full throughout the design.

However, the 3,200,000 silver dollars produced by the San Francisco Mint in 1884 took a course that was very distinct and atypical for the Morgan series. The majority of the coins were circulated throughout the 19th century, however, a tiny portion of the mintage was still under Treasury Department authority. This distribution explains why lower to intermediate circulation grades of the 1884-S are easily accessible.

20. 1831 Capped Head Left Half Eagle

Price: $646,250

Grade: MS67

1831 Capped Head Left Half Eagle

This is the best specimen of this rarity now in existence, one of “little more than a dozen are known,” according to the Dannreuther-Bass book. It is a picture of near perfection in bright deep yellow gold. Both sides are very reflective and have clouds of satiny luster, the latter of which seems to hang over the sparkling mint-fresh surfaces while the former highlights the design components with exquisite contrast.

The level of preservation of this coin is unmatched among other 1831 half-eagles that are in private collections. The Mint Cabinet coin, the finer of the two specimens in the National Numismatic Collection, has been rated by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth as MS-65, prooflike.

Final Words

Throughout history, there are a number of US coins that have commanded the attention of coin collectors, and those coins are known to cost millions in auctions. Many of those valuable US coins were a part of the rare coin sales that took place right here in the United States. We’ve decided to put together a list that highlights some of the most notable rare and valuable US coins sold at auction in recent history.

Most coin collectors aren’t thinking about extremely rare coins worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s unlikely that the average collector will ever own one of these extremely rare and valuable coins, but you can dream.

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