Chronology : 600 BCE to CE 1780-1789 1790-1799 1820-1829 1830-1839 1860-1869 1933
List of most expensive coins in Wikipedia.
Link to PCGS database.
350-300 BCE Pantikapaion Gold Stater
2023 SOLD for CHF 5.4M by NAC
Around 350-300 BCE this city-state was powerful. An independent dynasty coming from Thrace ruled it for nearly a century, and its gold coins are among the masterpieces of ancient coinage.
The stater with satyr has a very sharp high relief carving. On one side this mythical character is shaggy, bearded, with the nose of a drunkard and the ears of a horse. It is a beautiful and powerful ancient three quarter facing left portrait influenced from Kimon which is unique in the Pantikapaion staters. The satyr is possibly referring to a king Satyros of the local dynasty.
On the other side, a winged griffin is standing to left but turns his head toward us, holding a spear in its mouth. This mythical beast may be a guardian of the local gold reserves. A Greek letter is certainly the initial of the city.
An extremely fine specimen of this coin was sold for CHF 3.25M before fees on January 4, 2012 by Baldwin's, lot 213 illustrated in the post sale report shared by CoinWeek. It was sold for CHF 5.4M by Numismatica Ars Classica on May 18, 2023, lot 155 here linked to the Sixbid bidding platform. Please watch the video shared by Sixbid. It had belonged until 1934 to the collection of the Hermitage Museum. It weighs 9.12 g and its nearly circular cutout is well centered on a large flan.
Pantikapaion began to decline at the time of Alexander the Great, and its last great historical event, much later, was the suicide of Mithridates.
1787 Brasher Doubloon
2021 SOLD for $ 9.4M by Heritage
Meanwhile, business transactions use large foreign gold coins, dominated by those from the Spanish colonies in South America. Banks and grand merchants are the only users of such coins. To deal against counterfeiting, they have their gold checked by specialists, the assayers, who put their own punch on the controlled pieces.
Ephraim Brasher is a goldsmith operating in New York City where he is a neighbor and supplier of George Washington, the President, known as a great lover of silverware. Brasher appreciates that he can play a role in the fight against the monetary anarchy, but his offer in early 1787 to carry out a copper coinage for the state of New York is rejected.
Brasher is an assayer. He knows well the doblon of Lima, a large gold coin worth 8 escudos and weighing 26 grams, whose name is anglicized to doubloon. Circa 1786, he produces in his workshop some Lima-type doubloons which are not fakes because their gold content is correct.
Brasher changes his theme in 1787 for producing doubloons and half doubloons to the use of New York.
The independence of the United States had created the need for a national emblem which will be affixed from an official seal. The project was accepted by Congress after six years, in 1782. It was double-sided, so that it could be printed at the end of a ribbon, but in practice only the face with the heraldic eagle would be used. The popular iconography seized on this patriotic symbol in 1786, with the engravings prepared by James Trenchard for the first two issues of Columbian Magazine.
The eagle with its outstretched wings, the thirteen stripes on the breast shield, the olive branch and the arrows also appeared in 1787 on the reverse side of the Cent and Half Cent from Massachusetts.
Brasher was a metallurgist and definitely not an artist, which had been amply demonstrated by his Lima-style doubloon prepared in 1786. In the meantime he partnered with the designer John Bailey. His new doubloon is superbly engraved on both sides. The centering is very good, with full readability all around.
Both sides are inspired by national emblems. The eagle has all of its attributes, including the constellation of thirteen stars around its head. On the other side, the Eye of Providence shines its radiant light from above a pyramidal mountain. The inscription conforms to the federal motto E Pluribus Unum but the production is located in Nova Eboraca (New York).
The pieces are stamped with his initials, EB, with two possible positions on the wing and on the breast of the eagle. Although their centering and cutting are rather awkward, they are beautiful coins whose design is sharp enough to discourage counterfeiting.
Brasher's Lima-type and New York-type doubloons were not documented in period, which confirms how limited their use was. The gold alloy had undoubtedly been recovered by the melting of some jewelry. Brasher assayer's punch EB gave these coins an authorization for circulation and they are considered regular by numismatists.
The finest of the seven known examples, graded MS65 by NGC, was sold for $ 9.4M by Heritage on January 21, 2021, lot 3934.
The only known Brasher doubloon with the mark on the breast was sold for $ 7.395M in a private sale in December 2011, although its condition is only graded AU50 by PCGS.
On January 9, 2014, Heritage sold for $ 4.6M the other one from only two units in mint condition from an overall surviving total of six wing marked doubloons, lot 5100. It is graded MS63 by PCGS. This example had been in the nineteenth century the first Brasher doubloon to be described. It was at that time in the estate of an important dealer importer named Gilmor also known as an early collector of coins.
This mercantile provenance strengthens the argument that the Brasher doubloon, earliest gold coin made for circulation in the United States, was designed to supersede the foreign currencies in large commercial operations. Other assumptions are however not rejected such as a promotional operation or a demonstration of know how.
A half doubloon is kept at the Smithsonian. It was made with the same dies and a thinner planchet. Unlike the doubloons of the same year but in accordance with the two known Lima style doubloons, some trimming was required to adjust the weight. This half doubloon was perhaps an intermediate version for testing the dies.
Heritage Auctions will offer the Donald G. Partrick Collection in a series of auctions over the next year, making available one of the most historic collections of American colonial coins ever assembled.https://t.co/lZtpZzLOKC#Coins #DonaldPartrick pic.twitter.com/0a798TEqkh— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) August 11, 2020
Join us tomorrow for a little F-U-N!— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) January 20, 2021
It is a coin any collector would love to own, but only one will be able to possess. We could only be talking about the 1787 New York-Style Brasher Doubloon!
Jan. 20-24 FUN US Coins Auction #HeritageAuctions #coins https://t.co/Jq3TVG58jP pic.twitter.com/wysPjhL8uk
2013 SOLD for $ 10M by Stack's Bowers
A further pair of dies is created to insert the fifteen stars in the circumference around the head of Liberty. A copper trial piece is kept at the Smithsonian.
Regarding silver, a unique coin has the characteristics of a specimen as defined by PCGS : superior minting quality and shiny appearance. It has been compared with the Smithsonian prototype : the state of the dies is exactly the same, with no added wear, and the sharpness of the line is perfect.
This coin is certainly the first federal silver dollar. It was struck in October 1794 at the Philadelphia Mint before the very last limited rework of the dies and the launch of the first production batch.
Graded SP66 by PCGS, it was sold for $ 7.85M in private sale in May 2010 and then for $ 10M at auction by Stack's Bowers on January 24, 2013, lot 13094. It passed on October 8, 2020 at Legend Rare Coin Auctions, lot 11.
1,758 units were supplied to the cashier on October 15, 1794. Technically, this lot was premature. The available press was not suitable for the required diameter, larger than the previous silver dime. The alignment of the dies did not resist, weakening the strike and limiting the output.
In the opposite the preparation of the specimen had been extremely careful. The silver planchet had been fitted with a plug and the weight of the specimen is almost perfect, only 0.24 grains (15 mg) above the 416 grains prescribed by the Coinage Act. Its splendid reflectivity has no equivalent among the 135 surviving units. It may be the sample presented to President Washington by Secretary of State Edmund Randolph. It surfaced in 1942 in the deceased estate of Colonel Green with an earlier provenance from the Virgil Brand collection.
The world’s most valuable US coin, that last sold for $10,000,000, is set to appear in an auction again later this year. @LegendAuctions has announced the sale of the Bruce Morelan Collection, an assemblage of #coins valued in total at over $20,000,000. https://t.co/418pbp9URE— PCGS (@PCGScoin) June 17, 2020
ex Strickland and Lord St. Oswald
2021 SOLD for $ 6.6M by Heritage
Ingots are bought to cover $ 2,000 in the new coinage. The production is done in one day, 15 October 1794. 1,758 pieces are released.
This yield below the target is due to a drift of the strike during the operation, in part because that coin was too large to enable a repetitive adjustment of the weight. Manufacturing is suspended. There will be no further 1794 $ 1 coin.
On September 30, 2015, Stack's Bowers in association with Sotheby's sold for $ 5M from a lower estimate of $ 3M the best silver dollar of the 1794 production batch, lot 2041. graded MS66+ by PCGS. It was sold for $ 6.6M by Heritage on August 18, 2021, lot 3021.
It had been the winner 35 years ago of a friendly confrontation by direct inspection with the only other example in the same grade.Its provenance explains its exemplary preservation.
The war with the former colonial power has been over since November 1783. English visitors are welcomed. A gentleman farmer named William Strickland later 6th Baron of Boynton arrived on September 20, 1794. This economist who comes to study prices and wages in the American agriculture is introduced in the best circles.
Strickland left back for England in July 1795 with a small collection including 35 federal coins that were most likely obtained by him directly at the US Mint.
Fallen in oblivion inside a Chippendale cabinet since the early 19th century, the Strickland collection remained in its original state without any addition. His two 1794 flowing hair dollars were among the best preserved of that type. The group surfaced in 1964 in an inventory by Christie, Manson and Woods in the property of the 4th Baron St. Oswald, descendant of Strickland's son-in-law. The dates of the coins stored in the box match the time spent by Strickland in the USA.
1822 Half Eagle
2021 SOLD for $ 8.4M by Stack's Bowers
The half eagle in its draped bust design was produced from 1807 to 1834 through two small changes : the improvement of the figure in 1812 and a slight reduction to the diameter in 1829. The design with classic head takes over from 1834 to 1839.
1815 is highly rare due to the shortage of gold, the 1815 half eagle was sold for $ 820K by Stack's Bowers on February 9, 2016. No half eagle was released in 1816 and 1817.
In the 1820s the half eagle is an issue because its value in gold has become greater than its face value. For this reason, a large proportion of the coins was redeemed and melted. Its change from 1834 will aim to limit the consequences.
Another fact may explain the utmost rarity of the half eagle on the date of 1822. On that year, the recorded production was similar to the other years, probably insufficient for the dies to be worn at the end of the year. Most half eagles struck in 1822 have certainly been made with the tooling marked 1821, although no document confirms this hypothesis. The following year marked a return to normal.
The top collectors of US coins want to own an example of all the regular varieties. The earlier ones were not yet concerned with discriminating between the production sites. 1822 was known from a severely worn coin found by an executive of the Philadelphia mint who was already looking to fill in the gaps. The first craze applied to the 1815.
In 1864 the Seavey collection of gold coins was reputed complete. Parmelee acquired it en bloc, including an 1822 half eagle.
In 1890 Parmelee put his collection up for auction at the New York Coin and Stamp Company. His 1822 half eagle was to be the star of the event, symbolizing the sensational quality of his collection. Catastrophe : this highly desirable coin is a counterfeit.
A subterfuge is found. By chance, one of the managers of the auction house owns an 1822 half eagle, which is then somehow the only one in private hands. He substitutes it for the Seavey-Parmelee unit and auctions it to himself for $ 900. It is the most expensive lot of the sale, far ahead of the 1815 half eagle, already less rare at that time, sold for $ 235. The authentic 1822 will enter the Smithsonian collection in 1968.
Only one other 1822 half eagle has surfaced. It appeared in 1899, bought by Virgil Brand from a dealer. Louis E. Eliasberg acquired it in 1945 from a broker. It made the big dream come true : his collection is complete and unrivaled, since this authentic piece is the only one of its variety in private hands. Without it, it is impossible to assemble a complete private collection of US coinage.
Coming now from the D. Brent Pogue collection and graded AU-50 by PCGS passed at Stack's Bowers on May 24, 2016, lot 4026, and was sold by the same auction house for $ 8.4M on March 25, 2021, lot 4149. Please watch the short video shared by Stack's Bowers.
In the same 2016 sale, an 1833 half eagle exceptional in its condition, graded Proof-67 by PCGS, was sold for $ 1.35M, lot 4044.
The Only 1822 Half Eagle Available to Collectors— Stack's Bowers (@StacksBowers) March 23, 2021
1822 Capped Head Left Half Eagle. BD-1. Rarity-8. AU-50 (PCGS).
"I have the only one not in the hands of the government." - Louis Eliasberg, on the 1822 half eagle, 1975
Bid on Lot 4149 at https://t.co/BoJzSFkF9P. pic.twitter.com/7PybjguHcM
1834 - 1804 Dollars and Eagles
Among the diplomatic gifts, the Americans define a box that will contain an example of each of the coin denominations in circulation. The cumulative face value of the ten samples is derisory : $ 19.415. The double eagle did not yet exist.
The target is indeed to demonstrate the quality of proof coins produced in the United States. This prestige finish had been used sparingly since 1801 for silver, 1817 for copper and 1820 for gold. A 1821 quarter eagle graded PR64 Cameo by PCGS was sold for $ 240K by Heritage in January 2007.
For the largest silver and gold coins, $ 1 and $ 10 respectively, President Jefferson suspended production in 1804 to curb speculation, while maintaining their circulation. For these two denominations, the Philadelphia Mint decides to supply coins inscribed 1804 rather than 1834 which would be illegal. These coins will necessarily be a new build, to display the proof finish in mint condition.
Two dollars and two eagles were thus minted at the end of 1834. Both sets were delivered by Roberts in 1835 at their scheduled destination. The monarchs did not handle their gifts, of course. Their dollars are graded by PCGS PR 68 for the Muscat and PR 67 for the Siam which is still in its presentation box.
Meanwhile the Secretary of State had decided that Roberts must extend his mission up to Cochin China and Japan. Two additional sets are assembled in April 1835 just in time before his departure. Of course two new 1804 eagles and two new 1804 dollars are minted. A tiny defect in the eagle die has been repaired in the mean time. It is not known what happened to these two sets after the death of Roberts in Macau in June 1836. It is probable that a member of the crew caught them discreetly.
Another strike of 1804 dollars is made in an unidentified year. They are made with the same pair of dies. Four of these coins survive. There will be no further 1804 eagles, which is supporting a recent hypothesis that the four supernumerary 1804 dollars are patterns unrelated to the Roberts mission and not a mere additional strike for the archives of the Mint.
These eight silver dollars are together designated as the 1804 Class I dollars. They are a flagship of American numismatics by the quality of the execution of the Roberts specimens. The wear of the reference image of Liberty, designed in 1795, is not a numismatic defect.
The reason for the Class II and Class III restrikes of the 1804 dollar in the late 1850s is not clear.
The Muscat Dollar
2021 SOLD for $ 7.7M by Stack's Bowers
The Sultan of Oman is an important Arabian monarch who controls the trade in the Horn of Africa which is a major passage to the Orient. His capital is Muscat.
The silver dollar is the symbol of the American currency and should be the focus of the gift. New dies are created from the punches that began to rust after three decades of storage. The date 1804 is selected because it is the latest that is legal.
The first class I 1804 dollar is struck in November or December 1834 with great care so that this brand new piece of silver shall dazzle the Sultan of Muscat when he opens the box. The government is enthusiastic about the project of Roberts and a similar gift is simultaneously prepared for the King of Siam.
Roberts presented the box to the Sultan on October 1, 1835, the day following the signing of the treaty of friendship between both states. This exceptional coin has been kept in mint condition. It is graded Proof 68 by PCGS. The image below has been downloaded a few years ago from Wikimedia.
The prestige of this piece with coin collectors is further increased by the fact that it is the very first silver dollar on the date of 1804. At the time of the Jefferson's 1804 suspension the dollars produced earlier in that year were still using the dies dated from the previous year.
Please watch the videos shared by Stack's Bowers in 2018 and 2021.
The Muscat Eagle
2021 SOLD for $ 5.3M by Heritage
The 1804 eagles used for the obverse a spare die from the 1800s decade on which the engraving of the last digit of the year still had to be done. This 4 designed in the style of the 1830s makes it possible to distinguish between the Crosslet 4 variety produced in period and the Plain 4 variety produced for the Roberts mission.
The eagles prepared for Muscat and Siam are the two pieces from the first batch. No test eagle having been identified, they are the first two eagles to have been processed as proofs.
The Muscat specimens are the best in both varieties. The dollar is graded PR68 by PCGS. The eagle, graded PR 65+ Deep Cameo by PCGS, was sold for $ 5.3M by Heritage on January 20, 2021, lot 3049.
The second batch of two 1804 presentation eagles of the Plain 4 variety was minted in April 1835, They were intended for the emperors of Japan and Cochin China. The sets were never delivered due to the untimely death of Roberts during the expedition. One of these eagles never surfaced. The other coin, graded PR63 by PCGS, was sold for $ 2.3M by Heritage on September 29, 2022, lot 11066.
NEW RECORD: The finest of just three known examples of the 1804 $10 Plain 4, BD-2, JD-1, Judd-33, High R.7, PR65+ Deep Cameo PCGS. CAC brings $5,280,000 at the FUN US Coins Signature Auction – the most ever paid at auction for a coin! https://t.co/6sLPD6FYbz#AuctionUpdate pic.twitter.com/aD2ohJauuy— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) January 21, 2021
1861 Paquet Double Eagle
2021 SOLD for $ 7.2M by Heritage
The San Francisco Paquet is a well documented regular issue of 19,250 coins. The current survivors have been circulated and no mint state specimen is known. On the opposite the Philadelphia Paquet is one of the rarest numismatic varieties with only two examples known, both in mint state, respectively graded MS67 and MS61 by PCGS.
The story begins in 1859 with a concern about an excessive cracking of reverse dies during striking. In Philadelphia the assistant engraver Anthony Paquet manages to propose some modifications which are accepted for the 1861 strike, although the impact on the original die problem is questionable. Concerned about readability, he improved the letters and reduced the edges, thus increasing the effective area of the engraved figure.
Sets of dies including that reverse are shipped to the subsidiary mints in San Francisco and New Orleans in November and December 1860. They are accompanied by an instruction stating that the new reverse die "is presenting a larger face for the device without changing the diameter of the piece. They will require a slight change in the milling to suit the border".
When it comes to start the new millesime in Philadelphia, it appears that the striking difficulty is bigger than expected. On January 5 the Mint Director stops the use of the Paquet reverse and sends instructions to do the same at the subsidiaries. The mail forwarded to San Francisco by the Pony Express arrived too late, when the first releases had been made. Another issue was that the new coins did not stack properly. No coin had been released from Philadelphia where the production with the Paquet reverse was totally melted with no survivor known.
The two Philadelphia coins have a rearrangement of the reverse design clearly intended to deal with the technical issue. Indeed their strike is perfect, but it was certainly obtained with the higher pressure from a medal press. This operation is not documented at the Mint. It is now believed that they were pattern coins prepared for saving the design for the next year.
The coin graded MS67 was sold for $ 7.2M by Heritage on August 18, 2021, lot 3471. On August 7, 2014, Heritage sold for $ 1.65M the other Paquet coin from Philadelphia, graded MS61 by PCGS with a perfect reverse, lot 5702.
Interestingly the difference between the basic and Paquet designs did not disturb the users. The San Francisco Paquet coins were not differentiated until the 1930s while the two Philadelphia coins were first sold at auction in 1865 and 1875 respectively.
The 1861 Paquet Reverse double eagle is one of the rarest coins in American #numismatics, and this example stands at the absolute pinnacle of rarity and exquisite condition.— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) August 11, 2021
August 18 - 22 ANA WFOM US Coins Signature Event, No. 1333 https://t.co/MmkBNpnJan#HeritageAuctions pic.twitter.com/sQ6M1NKnYH
1870 San Francisco Three Dollar Coin
2023 SOLD for $ 5.5M by Heritage
In 1834 the 1 dollar and 1 eagle coins had not been authorized in production since 1804. The proof strikes of 1804 coins made in Philadelphia for the voyage of Roberts are some of the most famous US federal coins, second to the unique pre production 1794 dollar and to the unique non-illegal 1933 double eagle.
In May 1870 the construction of a new building is begun for the San Francisco Mint. The ceremony includes the sealing of a time capsule casket for hoarding inside the cornerstone. That set must gather "one of each denomination of the several coins of the United States of America, all struck off at the San Francisco Branch Mint in the year 1870."
Four of these denominations had not yet been minted. The special strike of the 3 dollar coins is known by only one surviving specimen. A hurried production is made of the 1 dollar silver coin of which 9 examples are surviving. There is no record of a 1870 half dime at the San Francisco mint, although the dies had been available in due time. The quarter dollar is still elusive.
The strike of the four 1870 denominations that were not yet minted at the time of the decision for the treasure casket is typical of a hurry.
It was observed during the preparation phase that the dies for the three dollar and one dollar gold coins had their S mint identification omitted by the Philadelphia Mint. New reverse dies were required by San Francisco. The chief coiner decided to strike the 3 dollar cornerstone coin with the incomplete die and punch the S. Nevertheless the delivery from Philadelphia arrived in due time. San Francisco got the authorization to release the unique 3 dollar as is and minted the 1 dollar gold with the new dies.
A 1870-S $ 3 coin surfaced in 1907. The building of the Mint had not been damaged by the 1906 earthquake and it was supposed that the casket was still out of reach in the cornerstone. No record could explain the new coin, supposed to be clandestine.
The additional coin has the numerals 893 scratched on the reverse plus the trace of a jewelry mount on the observe. It was decidedly not the cornerstone coin which was obviously pristine.
An assumption is that the San Francisco chief coiner minted it for pressntation to his wife in a necklace. The scratch assesses that he did not do it for collection or proffit. The meaning of the numeral is not known.The unique available 1870-S dime has a similar assumption with a presentation by the same coiner to greet a newborn.
The unique available $ 3 was avidly chased by the collectors. Louis Eliasberg passed it in 1944 and 1945 for a too high required price. He was so close to achieve a full collection of US regular types, mint marks and variants that he changed his mind and purchased it for an unprecedented $ 11,550 in 1946. The unique 1870-S half dime did not surface in Eliasberg's life time.
In the auction of the Eliasberg collection by Bowers and Ruddy in October 1982, a record price of $ 687,500 was separately achieved by both the 1870-S $ 3 and the 1822 half eagle.
The 1870-S $ 3, graded SP50 by PCGS, was sold for $ 5.5M by Heritage on January 5, 2023, lot 9013.
#HERITAGELIVE The 1870-S three-dollar gold piece is among the rarest and most enigmatic coins in the U.S. federal series. Only a single example of this classic numismatic rarity is known to collectors. And it just hammered for $5,520,000! □https://t.co/IFjq9xGJLh pic.twitter.com/3zRTpN8Fbf— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) January 6, 2023
1933 Double Eagle
2021 SOLD for $ 19M by Sotheby's
The crisis had lasted since 1924 and the production of eagles and double eagles was considerably slowed down. The production of the 312,500 eagles of 1933 was finished before April 5 and this denomination was legal at that time. The production of the double eagles, which was in progress, was not interrupted : this batch was the last US gold coin struck for circulation.
On September 13, 1934, all gold coins in federal stocks were declared obsolete (uncurrent). In the following month two 1933 double eagles were sent to the Smithsonian for the National Collection as non-monetized samples. 445,469 pieces were in the vaults. This stock was melted in 1937.
Ten pieces escaped that melting, certainly stolen by the cashier of the Mint who will be jailed in 1940 for another scam. All of them were recovered and destroyed by the government except one that King Farouk had managed to acquire in 1944. The King had obtained for this piece an export license issued by the Secretary of the Treasury, either simply by mistake or to please that powerful sovereign. This license being federal, the Farouk specimen became the only 1933 double eagle with some legal US status. Any other example is illegal to own.
Removed at the request of the US government from the auction of the Farouk collections in 1954, the double eagle resurfaced in 1996, brought to New York by an English dealer. He was caught in the act by the FBI during his negotiations with his American customer.
The coin of the English dealer was with no doubt the ex Farouk specimen. A judicial compromise was found in 2001. The double eagle was listed for auction on July 20, 2002 by Sotheby's and Stack's. In order to declare for the first time the official release of this specific coin, the buyer was required to pay to the federal government its face value of $ 20 in addition to the auction final price : it was sold for $ 7,590,020. Here is the link to the catalog in the website of Stack's Bowers, successor to Stack's.
This coin was sold for $ 19M from a lower estimate of $ 10M by Sotheby's on June 8, 2021, lot 1. Its highly essential 2002 Certificate of Monetization is joined to the lot. It had been re-inspected in March 2021 by PCGS and graded Gem brilliant uncirculated MS 65.
Take a closer look at three pocket sized treasures from the collection of famed shoe designer & fashion entrepreneur Stuart Weitzman. On offer in a live sale on 8 June, the historic auction features the world's most rare & valuable coin & stamp specimens. https://t.co/M9FTbFdy2X pic.twitter.com/3kMSIUUYdE— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) May 27, 2021