Mint Condition: Rare Coins Worth Investing In

Mint Condition: Rare Coins Worth Investing In

Looking to expand your piggy bank? Got some spare change? Here are the best rare coins to look for.

Mint Condition: Rare Coins Worth Investing In
Moriah Costa

Updated Oct 24, 2022

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Passive Income

Passive Income

Memorabilia

Memorabilia

Collectibles

Collectibles

Benjamin Franklin may never have said “a penny saved is a penny earned,” but he certainly would have appreciated the sentiment. And today, some pennies from long ago may be worth quite more than face value.

Coin collecting is considered one of the oldest hobbies in the world.

As investors look to diversify their portfolios, collectibles like coins have become an increasingly valuable asset class. Coin collectors aren’t just grandpas who give their grandkids state quarters on their birthday every year. For some, it’s as much an investment as it is a hobby.

Get your piggy bank and hammer out as we give our two cents on collecting the rarest and most valuable coins.

Are rare coins a good investment?

Coin collecting is closely related to investing in commodities like gold and silver, and investors commonly make the switch from investing in hard metals to coins. After all, coins are money, and gold coins have been used as currency since around 550 BC.

One thing that attracts people to coin collecting is that you don’t need to be rich to get started. A well-known numismatist (one who studies coins), John Jay Pittman, amassed a vast collection of some of the most valuable coins that sold for $30 million in 1997 and 1998.

While his collection sold for a fortune, he wasn’t rich and took out a second mortgage on his house to purchase King Farouk’s coins in Egypt in 1954. His winning strategy was focusing on undervalued rare coins, such as American Proof coins, and keeping his collection for decades before selling them. In other words, he was a long-haul coin investor.

While some coins can go for millions, it’s more an exception than a rule, and most collectors hold onto rare coins for years, just like Pittman. According to the PCGS3000 Index tracking the value of rare coins, the worth of the most valuable coins has skyrocketed in the last year.

The index is currently worth $71,173.31 as of October 10, 2022, compared to $65,156.30 in October 2021. However, it was still far from an all-time high of $181,088.48 in May 1989. This shows that, like the stock market, coin collecting can be volatile.

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PCGS 3000 Index tracking the price of rare coins from September 2019 to July 2022. 

Source: pcgs.com

Things to keep in mind when coin collecting

Like cigar investing, rare coin collecting can be both a hobby and an investment. In fact, coin collecting is considered one of the oldest hobbies in the world. Similar to fine art collecting, the most valuable coins are themselves often thought of as works of art and were even used in jewelry and decorative arts in ancient times. Roman emperor Augustus was even said to have been fond of old coins and gave them out as gifts.

If you want to invest in the most valuable coins, the best way to start is to educate yourself on a particular coin. Start by specializing in a particular coin series or type of collection, like the Lincoln wheat penny, Lincoln head copper penny, or Morgan silver dollars.

There can be a lot of scams and counterfeit coins on the market, so make sure you know what you're investing in and only buy valuable coins from reputable dealers and auction houses. If you can, examine valuable coins in person and know which mint marks to look for.

Try finding coins that are certified by professional coin grading services like the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) or the Numismatic Guarantee Corporation (NGC).

You’ll also want to keep storage in mind. While coins are smaller and easier to store than, say, a comic book, it’s important to keep your rare coin in special coin holders free of acid and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which can damage its surface.

Coin Flip

Coin Flip

Rare coins or gold bars?

Some of the most valuable coins to look out for

If you’re looking to become a numismatist, it’s worth having an idea of the most valuable coins, especially those that are still in circulation. Here are some rare coins that are worth money that you should look out for, as well as some of the most expensive coins ever sold at auction.

Some are 'S' or 'D' coins, meaning they're U.S. coins from the San Francisco Mint or Denver Mint. Others are error coins, meaning they were manufactured incorrectly by the United States mint. For instance, the Three-legged Buffalo Nickels are error coins because mistakes made in the minting process caused the buffalo to have only three legs instead of four—making them sought after by collectors.

Mark

City Minted

D

Denver, CO

S

San Franciso, CA

W

West Point, NY

P

Philadelphia, PA

You'll also notice that the estimated value varies as factors such as the exact year, mint, and condition of a coin determine its value. The amount of metal contained in the coin can also determine the price. Copper pennies before 1982, for example, contain 95% copper, while those made later are 97.5% zinc with a thin copper plating.

Years

Type of Coin

Estimated Value

1943

Lincoln Cents Copper

$20,000-$95,000

1878-1921

Morgan Dollars

$15-$50

1913-1938

Buffalo Nickels

$0.30-$25

1800-1808

Half Cents Draped Bust

$15-$2,000

1864-1873

Two Cent Pieces

$5-$125

1875-1878

Twenty Cent Pieces

$30-$1,000

1834-1839

Classic Quarter Eagles

$225-$5,000

1854-1889

Three Dollar Gold Pieces

$500-$6,000

1854-1856

Gold Dollars Small Liberty Head w/ motto on front

$350-$10,000

1840-1873

Seated Dollars

$75-$2,500

Flowing Hair Silver Dollar

The Flowing Hair Silver Dollar was one of the first silver coins minted from 1794 to 1795 and was also the first dollar coin issued by the U.S. federal government. The size and weight are based on the Spanish dollar, which was a popular coin at that time. The coins were produced twice before being replaced by the Draped Bust dollar. In August 2021, a rare flowing hair coin went for $6.6 million at Heritage Auctions.

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A 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar that sold for $6.6 million in August 2021. 

Source: coins.ha.com

Justinian coin from 695 AD 

Another rare coin is the gold Justinian coin. It's one of the earliest depictions of Christ on a coin minted in 695 AD by Byzantine Emperor Justinian II. The coin was controversial at the time because a depiction of Christ on something that wasn't holy violated tradition. These valuable coins are worth a bit, with one coin selling for $19,200 at Heritage Auctions in 2021.

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Chart tracking sale prices of assets similar to Justinian coin from August 2018 to July 2022 (not adjusted for inflation). 

Source: rallyrd.com

Henry III Gold Penny

The Henry III Gold Penny is one of England's first gold coins issued around 1216-1272. Only a handful of coins are known, making this an incredibly rare and valuable coin. The coin depicts English King Henry III. While only a few exist, they are occasionally found in the U.K. One found by an amateur metal detectorist in Devon, England, fetched a record $873,073 in January 2022.

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A Henry III gold penny that sold for $720,000 in 2021 at Heritage Auctions. 

Source: coins.ha.com

"Ship of Gold" coin from 1857 

In 1857, a postal ship carrying $1.6 million in gold (or $54 million today with inflation) sank off the coast of North Carolina and the crew drowned along with its valuables. In 1986, a discovery group located the ship and found its cargo still intact, including gold coins. Today, many of these coins can go for tens of thousands of dollars, like one in excellent condition that sold for $198,000 at Heritage Auctions in August 2022.

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Chart tracking sale prices of assets similar to 1857 Ship of Gold coin from Nov. 2001 to Feb. 2022 (not adjusted for inflation). 

Source: rallyrd.com

Umayyad Gold Dinar

This gold coin from 724 to 743 AD is one of the most valuable foreign coins coveted by collectors. It's among the first medieval Islamic coins made of gold issued by the Umayyad Caliphate. The dinars have no images but instead are lined with Kufic inscriptions. They can go from a few hundred dollars to as much as $25,850.

Where to buy rare coins

Don’t go rummaging through your pocket change just yet. Many avid coin collectors start by attending coin shows. Private dealers and auction houses tend to be where the rarest coins are found.

Unlike stocks, not every valuable coin is the same. While two 1943 Lincoln head copper coins might look similar, there could be subtle differences that cause one to be worth more. This is the inherent difference between investing in gold coins versus other ways to invest in gold

You can also find valuable coins on investment platforms like Rally. Rally lets you invest in various kinds of collectibles besides rare coins, such as Star Wars action figures, rare Pokémon cards, and even luxury watches.

Rally sources collectibles and takes care of storage and maintenance. They then securitize the collectibles—like the world's first coin from 561 to 546 BC—to make it easy for retail investors to buy and sell fractional shares.

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