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For more than two millennia, gold coins have been the base of trade and commerce among thriving societies, from Greece and Rome to America. Nowadays, the gold standard has been replaced for fiat currencies due to inflation and the fact that a gold coin’s intrinsic value (its precious metal content) is volatile and will never meet its face value.
Nevertheless, gold coins are still bought and sold as investment-grade gold bullion and/or as a collector’s item. Numismatists all around the world research, trade, and collect coins not only for their gold content, but for their history, cultural significance, condition, and rarity among other factors.
Below, we list the most expensive gold coins from the world that have been sold at an auction. Note that copper, nickel, or silver coins are not included on this list.
7 - $1 Million Canadian Gold Maple Leaf
In 2007, in order to promote their new line of one troy ounce .99999 fine gold Maple Leaf Coins, the Royal Canadian Mint produced the first gold coin in the world with a million-dollar face value. The coin has 50 cm (20 inches) in diameter and 3 cm in thickness. It weighs precisely 100 kilograms or 3,215 troy ounces.
Only six of these coins were produced. The last one to be publicly auctioned was sold for 3.27 million euros (USD 4.02 million) in 2010. At today's gold spot price, the piece’s precious metal content alone would be worth roughly $5,500,000.
6 - Q. Servilius Caepio (M. Junius) Brutus AV Aureus
The story of how Julius Caesar was assassinated in the Senate Chambers during the Ides of March by Brutus along with 60 other conspirators is well known and even the object of a Shakespearean play.
The “tyrannicide” occurred in 44 BC. Two years later, Brutus ordered the minting of gold and silver coins to celebrate the success of the act. The obverse portrayed a bust of himself (in the same style of previous Caesar coins) and the reverse was engraved with a cap between two daggers inscribed EID MAR (Eidibus Martiis – on the Ides of March) underneath.
Only three copies of this gold coin have been found. One of them belongs to the Deutsche Bank, another is among the collection of the British Museum, and the third one was sold at an auction for a whopping $4,174,950 in October of 2020.
5 - 1804 $10 Proof Gold Eagle PR-65+ DCAM
The Gold Eagle was the $10 piece during the gold standard in U.S. history. It was first struck by the United States Mint in 1795. This sample from 1804 was sold at an auction in January of 2021 for $5,280,000.
The design at the time was known as the Draped Bust (or Turban Head). The obverse shows the Goddess Liberty wearing a Phrygian Cap surrounded by 13 six-pointed stars, the inscription LIBERTY above it, and the mint year below. The reverse is a rendition of the Heraldic Eagle under a clouded sky and again the 13 six-pointed stars, representing the original colonies. Around the eagle are the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”
This coin’s value comes mostly from its incredible condition considering over 200 years of history and the fact that it survived wars, depressions, and the Gold Confiscation Act of 1933, which demanded every American citizen to turn in their gold assets to the Federal Gold Reserve in exchange for paper money.
4 - Umayyad Gold Dinar
The Gold Dinar was a gold coin first issue in medieval Islam by the Umayyad Caliphate around 696-697 AD (AH 77 in the Islamic calendar).
The coin weighs 1 mithqal, the unit of mass used at the time and region. It is equivalent to 4.25 grams and was mostly used for measuring precious metals.
The Arabic inscriptions on the obverse of this sample say "In the name of God, this dinar was minted in the year hundred and six (Hejira)" and on the reverse "God is one, God is Strength, He does not beget and He was not begotten". The year 106 in the Islamic calendar corresponds to 723 AD.
The biggest amount a unit of the gold dinar has sold was at an auction in April of 2011. The winning bid was $6,029,400.
3 - Brasher Doubloon - EB on Breast - AU-50
Before the establishment of the United States Mint in 1792, each colony was responsible for their own coinage and they would usually resort to private refiners.
Ephraim Brasher was a gold and silversmith and jeweler born in 1744. In 1787, he proposed a contract to the New York Assembly to issue copper coins for the state.
To promote his work in order to convince the Assembly to give him the contract, Basher released his famous Gold Doubloons that same year. The coin weighs 39.4 grams and was worth $15 at the time.
The obverse of the coin is designed with a rising sun over a mountain and a river. Below the scene is the name Brasher and all around it is the inscription NOVA EBORACA COLUMBIA EXCELSIOR in Latin, which means “New York and America Ever Upward”.
The reverse depicts an early rendition of the Heraldic Eagle of the United States with an olive branch on its right talon and a bunch of arrows on the left. Above the eagle’s head are thirteen stars representing the colonies and around is the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM”.
The New York Assembly never approved Brasher’s proposal but some of his coins lived on to make history.
This specific specimen has the counter stamp on the eagle’s breast shield and was sold in 2011 for $7,395,000.
2 - 1933 Double Eagle
The Double Eagle was the $20 piece of the United States. The story of the 1933 Double Eagle is a fascinating one and it all starts with the depression of 1929.
Due to the high inflation, the US Government, led by the recently elected 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, passed an Executive Order banning the mintage of gold coins and ending the gold standard in US currency for that matter.
However, before the passing of the aforementioned Executive Order, the US Mint had already struck 445,500 units of the 1933 Double Eagle, but not yet released it to the public. Most of them were melted back down and turned into gold bullion bars but, somehow, a few of these gold coins were stolen from the Mint’s vaults before being melted.
This specific unit is supposed to have been exported by King Farouk of Egypt in 1944. The United States Treasury Department issued the export license mere days before the theft at the Mint was discovered. Apparently, the illegality of a 1933 Double Eagle went unnoticed at the time.
After King Farouk was removed from his post in a coup, the United States Government diplomatically requested Egypt to return the coin to America and the request was granted. However, the coin disappeared before leaving Egypt.
Decades later, in 1996, Stephen Fenton, a British coin dealer, was arrested in possession of the 1933 Gold Eagle. He testified in court that the coin had come to him from Farouk’s collection and, given the fact that it was legally exported away from the country, his ownership of the coin was, therefore, legal as well.
After 5 years of legal dispute, a settlement was reached. The coin was to be sold at an auction and the proceedings would be split among the Treasury Department and Fenton. In order to do so, the Department had to emit a document “issuing and monetizing” the coin, making this specimen the only legal tender 1933 Double Eagle.
The coin sold for $7,590,020 at an auction held in New York in 2002. The buyer remained anonymous for 19 years, until March 10 of this year (2021) when an article came out in the New York Times identifying Stuart Weitzman as the private owner of the 1933 Double Eagle.
Weitzman, an investor, and collector, owner of a luxury shoe brand, had decided to auction a few of his items, including the famous gold coin. The auction is to be held later this year (2021), in June.
1 - Brasher Doubloon - EB on Wing - MS-65
The most expensive gold coin ever publicly sold is yet another Brasher Doubloon, but this one has the EB mark on the eagle’s right wing.
The Brasher Doubloons are considered to be the first gold coins minted in the United States and many of the most regarded numismatists in the world believe them to be the most important coin in the world. Only 7 of these are known to still exist (one of them being the number 3 on this list).
In January of 2021, this specimen was sold at an auction for $9,360,000.
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