Top 5: Record coins at auction

Published on February 16th, 2011

Over the years record auction prices for single coins have broken the $100,000 mark, the $1m dollar mark, and are now far exceeding even that. Many of these coins have fascinating histories, having been owned by famous collectors, seized by US governments, and even appeared in a US TV series.

  1. $7.6m – 2002: The 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle
  2. $4.1m – 1999: The 1804 Class 1 Silver Dollar,Sultan of Muscat specimen
  3. $4.0m – 2010: The 2007 Canadian $1m Maple Leaf coin
  4. $3.7m – 2008: The 1804 Class 1 Silver Dollar,Queller specimen
  5. $3.7m – 2010: The 1913 Liberty Head Nickel,Olsen specimen.


Prices paid at the time of auction, including premiums.

1. The 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

The current world record for the highest price paid at auction for a coin is the 1933 US Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, which sold at Sotheby’s in July 2002 for a staggering $7.6m. The $20 1933 Double Eagles were never actually legal tender, having been struck after an executive order from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, declaring that gold coins were no longer legal tender and were to be melted down.

The record breaking 1933 Double Eagle has a colourful past. General consensus by scholars is that it was stolen by a cashier at the US mint, eventually making its way into the private collection of King Farouk of Egypt. While other Double Eagles were seized by the secret service, King Farouk’s Double Eagle remained in his collection until his deposition in 1952 at which point it vanished. The coin finally resurfaced 40 years later under the ownership of British coin dealer, Stephen Fenton. After being seized by the secret service, and lengthy negotiations, the coin was finally sold at auction in 2002 with the proceeds being split between the secret service and the British coin dealer.

2. The 1804 Class 1 Silver Dollar, Sultan of Muscat specimen

The 1804 Silver Dollar is considered to be one of the rarest coins in the world. Eight of the Class 1 coins, minted in 1834 are known to exist today. Selling for an impressive $4.1 million in August 1999, the Watters-Child specimen’s lineage is believed to trace back to the Sultan of Muscat.


3. The 2007 Canadian $1m Maple Leaf coin

This record breaking coin is one of five Canadian $1m maple leaf coins produced by the Canadian Royal Mint. It weighs 100kg, has a diameter of 50cm and contains 99.999 percent pure gold. This coin holds the Guinness world record for the world’s biggest gold coin. It was bought for $4.0m at auction in June 2010 by a Spanish precious metals trading company.


4. The 1804 Class 1 Silver Dollar, Queller specimen

The 1804 class 1 silver dollar features again in our top 5 list, reinforcing its status as the “king of American coins”. This particular example was previously part of the Queller family collection, and sold at auction for $3.7m in 2008.


5. The 1913 Liberty Head Nickel, Olsen specimen

The 1913 Liberty Nickel is considered to be one of the most sought after coins by American numismatists. This particular coin, labelled the Olsen specimen sold at auction in 2010 for $3.7m and is one of five known examples to exist today. It has a star studded history appearing on an episode of Hawaii Five-0 as well as previously being owned by King Farouk of Egypt.



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