Jump to: What makes coins valuable? | Austrian Silver Philharmonic | Chinese Silver Panda | 2023 Britannia Coins Type 1 | 2023 Britannia Coins Type 2 | 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar | 1921 Morgan Silver Dollar | 1921 Peace Silver Dollar | 1986 American Silver Eagle | 1943 Lincoln Steel Cent | 1932 Washington Quarter | American Gold Buffalo | 1979 Susan B. Anthony Dollar | Lunar Series | 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent | Uncommon Face Values | Ancient Coins | FAQs
Coin collecting is undoubtedly one of the most beloved hobbies in the United States. According to CivicScience, at least 38% of U.S. adults have experienced coin collecting, whether now or in the past.
Some people give up trying it because of a false impression that coins worth collecting may be too expensive or difficult to find. Indeed, the rarest an item is, the more valuable it tends to be.
However, several of the options available in the market are more affordable, making the coin-collecting journey an amusing experience.
In this article, we elicit some points which usually add value to coins making them incredible collectibles. We also share a list of the top 16 best coins to collect.
- A coin collection does not require enormous amounts of money to get started;
- Specific factors add value to coins and consequently increase their prices;
- The market is full of more affordable options;
- These 16 specific coins or series can be of great substance to your collection, from newbies to intermediate coin collectors, and even to more advanced collectors as well;
- You can follow simple steps to correctly assess that the coins you own bestow particular rarity and value;
There are several factors to consider when determining if a coin is worth money:
- Rarity: The rarity of a coin is one of the most important factors determining its value. If it is a rare piece, meaning that there are few of them in existence, it will typically be more valuable.
- Condition: Coins that are in excellent condition and have been well-preserved will typically be worth more than those that are heavily worn or damaged.
- Age: In general, older coins tend to be more valuable than newer ones.
- Historical significance: Coins that have historical significance, such as those that were minted during a significant event or feature the likeness of an important figure, can be particularly valuable.
- Minting errors: Coins that have mistakes or errors during the minting process can also be valuable to collectors.
To determine if a coin is worth money, you may want to consult with a professional appraiser (e.g. PCGS or NGC) or use resources such as catalogs or online databases to research the coin's value. It's also important to be wary of counterfeit coins, as these can be difficult to identify and may not have any real value.
16 Best Coins to Collect
Austrian Silver Philharmonic coins exhibit one of the most beautiful designs in the market. As the moniker explains, this beautiful coin has the Philharmonic Orchestra of Vienna as the motif. The whole design was a creation of Thomas Pesendorfer.
The series debuted in 1989 with the gold coin. The Austrian Mint introduced the silver counterpart in 2008 with the same original design, which soon became a top-seller among other silver coins. The platinum version came in 2016, maintaining the debuting structure and widening the options for collectors.
Every year the Chinese Mint launches a new design for the Panda bullion coins program. This yearly variation is what makes Chinese Panda coins so interesting to collect.
The Chinese Mint released the Panda Series for the first time in 1982 with gold coins. The coins were first produced in troy ounces, but the Chinese Mint adopted the international system of units in 2016. Now all coins are weighed in grams.
The British Royal Mint first released the Britannia Series in 1987 with the gold coin. The silver version was introduced to the collection in 1997, and the platinum in 2018.
Since its release, Britannia has been the motif of these coins’ reverse side.
Britannia is the moniker given to the feminine personification of the United Kingdom. This figure has been used in coins since the Roman Emperor Hadrian’s rule and remains a meaningful national symbol until today.
The obverse design showcases the former Queen Elizabeth II, the longest feminine monarch of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Community.
However, with the Queen’s passing in 2022, the obverse design had to be updated to receive the current King’s portrait. But no dies or even a design of the King's bust was ready when production started at the Royal Mint. So they had to release a Type 1 version of the 2023 Britannias with the Queen's bust while adapting the production line for the new obverse motif.
The rise of a new monarch brought a new face to Britannia Coins. The 2023 Type 2 Britannia coins depict King Charles III for the first time.
As premiere coins are landmarks, these coins may also be a good investment for a coin collector who also enjoys the benefit of precious metal investing.
Britannia, which is the motif of the reverse side, remains the same.
The new obverse with the King’s first depiction is Martin Jenning’s creation. The image is the King’s left-profile bust. It is encircled with His Majesty’s name, face value, and the initials for “By the grace of God, King” in Latin.
The Kennedy half-dollar was one of the most popular coins in the US. It was a joint effort of the US Congress and the US Mint to honor the fall of the nation’s commander-in-chief in 1963.
The United States Congress authorized the coin’s production just over a month after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. And in early 1964, it was struck with over 400 million samples only that year.
The Kennedy Half-Dollar replaced Benjamin Franklin’s depiction, which, in turn, replaced the Walking Liberty Half-Dollar. And as soon as introduced in the market, it became one of the most collected silver pieces. People would hoard these coins to keep a souvenir of the 35th US President.
The first Kennedy half-dollar is also the last circulating fifty-cent coin to have a 90% silver composition. From 1965 to 1970, the following coins were clad of silver (40%) and other metals - copper mainly.
Named after its designer, George T. Morgan, this silver coin was first struck in 1878 and produced until 1904.
The series then entered a 16-year hiatus. However, in order to help Britain in World War I, the U.S. Congress passed the Pittman Act, authorizing the melting of up to 350,000,000 Morgan Silver Dollars. Most of the silver bullion produced was sold to the United Kingdom.
The act also authorized the minting of another set of silver dollars, so the U.S. Mint produced the Morgan Dollar for the last time in 1921, before replacing it for the Peace Dollar that same year to celebrate the ending of WW I.
The U.S. Mint would only release the design again in 2021 to commemorate the centenary of the transition from the Morgan to the Peace Dollar.
Following the history of the Morgan Dollar, the Peace Dollar is another centenary piece highly coveted by coin collectors.
After the First Great War, the US had a high demand for silver coins for widespread circulation. Though the Morgan Dollar had been a popular silver coin, the U.S. Mint wanted a new design to commemorate the ending of the war.
The U.S. Mint then held a contest to choose the new design for the silver dollar. A group of artists and numismatists participated, but the winner was Anthony de Francisci. At the end of 1921, the Peace Dollar was already in circulation.
The program was discontinued in 1928, but made a comeback in 1934 and 1935. The last strike was the 2021 Commemorative edition for the program’s centenary.
An interesting fact about Peace Dollars that makes them great collectibles is their variations. As the US Mint produced Peace Dollars in its three branches over the years, the samples produced in each facility display some differences besides the mintmark.
American Eagles may be the most successful program in the world and currently the best-selling one.
The first official bullion coin of the US, the program debuted in 1986 with gold and silver bullion coins, along with proof versions.
The obverse of the Silver Eagles rescued Adolph Weinman's 1916 “Walking Liberty,” while the gold counterpart carries Augustus Saint-Gaudens' version of Liberty from the 1906 Double Eagle coin.
The 1986 edition is an iconic coin because it is the series' debut piece. Uncirculated examples can make for a good portfolio diversifier as they are very liquid, while proof coins are great collectibles for their frosty design and mirror-like luster.
With a simple design, this penny showcases President Lincoln on the obverse and the inscription of the one-cent denomination on the reverse.
The 1943 Lincoln Steel Cent drives us back to the Second World War context. In preparation for combat in Europe and the Pacific, Congress granted permission to the US Mint to make pennies from steel, with a thin coating of zinc, instead of using copper: an essential metal in manufacturing ammunition.
The US Mint produced over 1 billion pennies throughout US Mint branches: Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Denver Mint, and during that year only.
The oddness of the metal composition made people believe they were rare and high-priced. But the history behind a fairly common coin makes it an incredible addition to a collection.
Circulated, worn Lincoln pennies tend to be more affordable. But still, better-condition coins can be found and certified for third-party services, like the PCGS or the NGC.
Arguably, the most successful numismatic program in the U.S. is the Statehood Quarters, a commemorative coin series honoring all 50 States of the Union. It was then followed by the America the Beautiful series, another astounding success among coin collectors.
In fact, there are many valuable quarters in American coinage history. Nevertheless, Washington Quarters should never be taken for granted.
The United States Mint introduced them in 1932 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of George Washington's birth.
Many people who started to collect coins with the State quarters would definitely enjoy this piece to expand their Quarters collection.
Gold Buffalo Coins may be a more sophisticated item for a coin collection. It is a 24-k gold bullion coin and the first of this caratage produced by the US Mint. Gold Buffalos may be the most popular gold coins of this purity in the US, as the American Gold Eagles are 22k, not 24k.
The moniker comes from the full-length depiction of the American Bison on the reverse side, which resembles a Buffalo.
The obverse was a reviewed version of the Indian Head coin by James E. Fraser in 1913. The idea embedded in the image is to honor the nation's first inhabitants through a symbolic portrait. The Native American’s depiction reflects traces of three native tribes: the Big Tree, the Iron Tail, and the Two Moons.
Being the first 24k gold coin made by the United States Mint makes the American Gold Buffalo a landmark in the history of American coinage.
This coin was struck only from 1979 to 1981, and in 1999 for a short time to fill an urgent demand before the United States Mint introduced the Sacagawea Dollar.
The 1979 Susan B Dollar stands out among others because of the “firsts” behind its coinage:
- The first coin to depict a real woman in their design instead of a feminine personification. Susan B. Anthony was the leader of the women’s suffrage movement, and the coin aimed to honor her courage and importance to democracy;
- The first small-size dollar coin. Unlike the previous Eisenhower Dollar of 35,1mm diameter, the Susan B had a diameter of 26,5mm;
- The first to carry an eleven-sided rim, in an adaptation of the Apollo 11 insignia.
Perth Mint's Lunar Series is an easy option for a coin collection. The series has the Chinese Calendar as a motif and uses the animals in its astrological signs to stamp their coins.
The Chinese Zodiac comprises 12 animals, each year corresponding to one of them. Each year the Perth Mint releases a new design honoring the regent animal of that year.
For instance, 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit. So the motif of the 2023 edition of the Perth Mint Lunar Series is the Rabbit.
Considering that the Lunar Series is on its third cycle (Lunar Series III), there are two previous editions, with 12 coins each.
The 1909 Lincoln Penny may be a key piece to a Lincoln Cent collection and one of the most popular coins in the series.
It replaced the Indian Head One-Cent coin as a commemorative edition to celebrate President Lincoln’s 100th birthday.
The image was a creation of designer Victor David Brenner, who placed all his initials, VDB, on the bottom of the reverse side of the Lincoln Penny. It shocked previous designers and numismatists because designers would only discreetly use the last initial to sign their creations.
After 484,000 pieces were minted, the San Francisco facility, determined by the US Mint, removed the designer’s initials, which caused an immediate scarcity of the 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cents.
Have you ever had or seen a 2-cent or 3-cent coin? Or perhaps a 3-dollar gold coin?
If the answer is no or something closer to a confused look, then these coins are bound to be a perfect candidate for an interesting collection or portfolio.
Throughout American history, a few special pieces with odd or unusual denominations were minted by the US Mint, those of which can be featured in a variety of collector’s holdings out there as engaging, curious exhibits. A good example of these is the 1864 Two Cents piece that was much sought after upon its release and a good option among collectors and numismatics alike.
If you’re looking for an addition to your collection that goes off the beaten path, these usually unknown pieces can be a great choice.
Ancient coins can represent some of the most expensive coins to collect. Still, if you can afford it, you would be the owner of a real piece of history.
Modern bullion coins and the precious metal industry as a whole are not something that came to be overnight. As a matter of fact, we can trace their origins more than two millennia in the past.
Early civilizations such as the Roman Empire and Republic, as well as the ancient Greeks, were notorious for using coins struck from precious metals as their currencies while at the same time honoring their deities, leaders, and values through their magnificent, though primitive designs.
In current days, it’s possible to acquire such ancient foreign coins, being one appealing addition to your collection. One tangible piece of ancient history, symbolizing centuries of humanity’s biggest civilizations.
How to tell if a coin is worth money?
The best way to correctly assess the value of a coin is first to identify the piece in question. By doing so, one owner can have a series of price guides at their disposal to give a rough notion of a coin's value. Third-party services, like the PCGS and the NGC, which evaluate coins according to their condition and authenticity, usually have updated price guides to inform collectors about them.
What do collectors look for in a coin?
Many collectors head their choices according to personal taste and individual meanings. However, certain factors are considered a priority in collectible coins when sought after by a coin dealer. The coin's condition (preferably uncirculated or in mint condition), the scarcity of the piece (how many were minted or remain), as well as its individuality (error coins, for instance) are vital factors. These topics add together some of the market's most valuable coins.
How to know if my coin is rare?
The first thing is identifying which coin it is and its mint mark. Owners can check the basic outlines of their coins on the official websites of the coin’s mint. Weight, composition, purity, and mintage are usually available. Third-party services, which maintain a comprehensive guide of coins they have evaluated, may also offer this information. In case of doubts, seeking the help of a coin expert or consulting a trusted numismatist may be wise to ensure you get a suitable assessment and evaluation of your coin.
What is the best coin to start collecting?
Collecting coins is a hobby, so the choices for coins should meet the collector’s preference and the investor's coin-collecting budget. If the collector is a fan of African history, starting with Krugerrands may be more pleasant than any other coin. The Morgan Dollar, for example, may fit if opting for lower inputs. It is possible to find them in relatively good condition for more affordable prices.
What coins are worth collecting?
Precious metals coins are worth collecting because of their intrinsic value. So, besides numismatism, they are worth their weight in bullion. Considering numismatic value, it is worth keeping a unique, iconic, or rare coin. For example, the Doubled Die Lincoln Cent is singular because they come from a coinage error and become scarce due to subsequent widespread hoarding. 1864 Two Cents are rare and distinct because of their uncommon monetary denomination.
What coin is the most collected?
The most popular coins to collect are also among the most expensive coins because of their rarity. 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar may be one of the most sought-after because experts believe it was the first dollar coin struck by the US Mint. Another desired coin is the Augustus Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle. President Franklin Roosevelt ordered a confiscation and meltdown of those coins when he turned private ownership of gold illegal. According to the American Numismatic Association, the surviving coins became extremely rare and valuable pieces.
What are the most popular US coins to collect?
The Walking Liberty Half Dollars, minted from 1916 to 1947, are among the most popular. These coins have high levels of pure silver in their composition and showcase a meaningful motif, one of the most popular depictions of Lady Liberty. The Standing Liberty Quarter is another option for its historical significance, as many of them were in circulation during WW I.
Is collecting US coins a good investment?
Yes. Pre-1965 United States coins have high concentrations of bullion in their composition. They are legal tender, which means they are money, despite having an intrinsic value that overcomes the number stamped on their face. Besides, they display iconic designs, especially commemorative editions, which also represent crucial historical moments in the nation, providing artistic value to the pieces. With time, these coins tend to increase in value, so they could play the role of a safe heaven against times of high inflation and economic uncertainty.