Top 15 Most Valuable U.S. Coins 1990-2023

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Once in a while United States coin collecting generates worldwide headlines when a fabulous ultra-rarity makes its way onto the auction block.  Whenever big money trades hands to acquire a coin, baseball card, or Renaissance painting, the general public is naturally curious and tunes in.  It’s amazing how often a phrase like “Top 15 Most Valuable Coins” (or some variation thereof) is Googled.

Although every one of the Top 15 coins is worth more than $4 million dollars, together they play a role in maintaining the popularity of coin collecting that hobbyists at all levels should appreciate.

Let’s explore why this is true…

Testaments to Vibrancy of U.S. Numismatics

One of the most famous attention-grabber coins of all time is the 1913 Liberty Head nickel.  In 1944, this esteemed collectible (specifically, the Olsen specimen) sold for $3750, and then went on to become the first coin ever to break the $100,000 barrier in 1972.  By 1985, its selling price had risen to $385,000, but that was nothing compared to the $3.74 million the exact same coin brought in 2010. The next time it was sold was 2014, when a buyer got it for the bargain price of $3.29 million.  Today, it could easily fetch $4 million, if put on the open market.

Coins of this nature are so rare and valuable they are bought and sold on occasions separated by periods of years, if not decades.  You will not find any of these collecting giants recommended in Key Date Coin List.  That’s because very few of us have the option of spending millions for a coin, so no point in listing them there.  

What’s this?  You can’t afford a 1913 Liberty nickel?  Don’t despair!  All of the Rare Coins 101 Key Date Recommendations are far more affordable and hold the same, if not more, potential to increase in percentage value.  (This is not to say the coins on the recommendation list are easy “chip shots”.  For example, an 1808 quarter eagle will still set you back at least $50,000 – admittedly a high bar for most average collectors – but still achievable with disciplined financial planning).

Nevertheless, the newsmaker coins are testaments to the vibrancy of U.S. numismatics and deserve our respect and admiration.  Their celebrity status and staggering selling prices serves as a continual revitalizing force, attracting curious new devotees to the hobby while stoking interest within the coin collecting community.  Plus, they are fascinating to study and elicit tons of daydreaming! 

There are a couple of points to spotlight:

  • The majority of famous rarities are sold through auction companies that circulate “Prices Realized” fact sheets.  Sometimes, a multi-million-dollar coin goes to a new owner through a private transaction, and these sales are not always publicized.  If the amount paid in a private sale is confirmed and merits a spot on the “Top 15” list, it will be included.
  • I do my best to keep the “Top 15” current, but if someone has an update or cares to comment otherwise, a communication form is available for that purpose at bottom of this page.

These Guys Off Limits -- for Now

Some of the rarest coins in existence and of the greatest value reside in places where they likely will remain for many years to come.  They are off limits for now, but if any one of these coins were to hit the market it would be of enormous consequence to the numismatic world, and effortlessly find a place in the Top 15 Most Valuable Coins.  Probably even in the Top Five!

Incredible Museum Coins
Description Grade Museum Estimated Value
in 2023
1849 Coronet $20 Double Eagle PF-64 Smithsonian $22,500,000 (A)
1933 St. Gaudens $20 Double Eagle MS-65 Smithsonian $22,500,000 (A)
1933 St. Gaudens $20 Double Eagle MS-65 Smithsonian $22,500,000 (A)
1854-S Coronet $20 Double Eagle SP Smithsonian $20,000,000 (B)
1797 Capped Bust $5 Half Eagle
Lg Eagle, 16 Star Obv
AU-58 Smithsonian $10,000,000 (B)
1804 Draped Bust Dollar Class II PR-63 Smithsonian $10,000,000 (A)
1797 Capped Bust $5 Half Eagle
Lg Eagle, 15 Star Obv
EF-45 Smithsonian $7,500,000 (A)
1822 Capped Head $5 Half Eagle EF-40 Smithsonian $7,500,000 (B)
1822 Capped Head $5 Half Eagle VF-35 Smithsonian $6,000,000 (B)
1927-D St. Gaudens $20 Double Eagle MS-66 Museum of
Connecticut History
$5,500,000 (A)
1927-D St. Gaudens $20 Double Eagle MS-66 Smithsonian $5,500,000 (A)
1821 Capped Head $5 Half Eagle PF-65
Smithsonian $5,000,000 (B)
1833 Capped Head
Large Date $5 Half Eagle
PR-63 Smithsonian $5,000,000 (B)
1825/5/4/1 Capped Head $5 Half Eagle PR-66 Smithsonian $4,000,000 (B)
1829 Capped Head
Small Date $5 Half Eagle
Smithsonian $4,000,000 (B)
1838 Coronet $10 Eagle PF-63
Smithsonian $4,000,000 (B)
1804 Draped Bust Dollar Class I PR-64 Durham Museum
Omaha, NE
$3,500,000 (A)
1927-D St. Gaudens $20 Double Eagle MS-65 Smithsonian $3,500,000 (A)
1804 Draped Bust Dollar Class III PR-63 Smithsonian $3,250,000 (A)
1907 St. Gaudens $20 Double Eagle
Ultra Hi Rel, Unk Edge Lett
PR-67 Smithsonian $3,000,000 (A)
1913 Liberty Head Nickel PR-62 Smithsonian $3,000,000 (A)
1907 St. Gaudens $20 Double Eagle
Ultra Hi Rel, Normal Edge Lett
PR-66 Smithsonian $2,500,000 (B)
1866 Seated Liberty Dollar, No Motto PR-65 Smithsonian $2,250,000 (A)
1854-S Coronet $5 Half Eagle EF-40 Smithsonian $2,000,000 (B)
1907 St. Gaudens $20 Double Eagle
Ultra Hi Rel, Normal Edge Lett
PR-65 Smithsonian $2,000,000 (B)
1866 Seated Liberty Quarter, No Motto PR-63 Smithsonian $1,400,000 (C)
1866 Seated Liberty Half Dollar, No Motto PR-63 Smithsonian $1,250,000 (C)
1913 Liberty Head Nickel PR-55 American Numismatic
$1,000,000 (B)
1880 "Stella" $4 Coiled Hair PR-64 Smithsonian $1,000,000 (A)
1793 Flowing Hair
Wreath Cent Strawberry
AG-3 American Numismatic
$365,000 (A)
1804 Draped Bust Dollar Class I Impaired Smithsonian Unknown

Estimates derived from: (A) PCGS, (B) Rare Coins 101, (C) USA Coin Book

Many of the sequestered museum coins are housed in the National Numismatic Collection of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.  Some were placed there as freshly minted coins, where they have remained ever since.

The 1849 Coronet $20 double eagle is one of the most valuable coins in the world, valued at over $20 million.  The only known example of this fabulous coin resides at the Smithsonian Institute.
The 1849 Coronet $20 double eagle is without doubt one of the most valuable coins in the world, easily worth in excess of $20 million. The twenty dollar denomination was authorized following the discovery of vast gold reserves in California during the 49er Gold Rush. Reportedly, two 1849 double eagles were struck. The example pictured above resides in the Smithsonian. No one knows what happened to the other.(1) Images by the Smithsonian.

Search Grandma’s Old Coin Shoebox!

There always exists the possibility that someday a heretofore unknown example of a highly prized rarity will surface, no doubt raising more than a few eyebrows.  It’s not a stretch to imagine somewhere sits an unsearched hoard in a shoebox where hidden away is a million-dollar coin (incredible discoveries like this have happened before).  No one bothers to investigate the contents of the box because believe it or not, some people have absolutely zero interest or curiosity about coins.  They’re just a bunch of old coins passed down as family keepsakes from grandma.

Impossible, you say?  Not so fast.  In 1873, the San Francisco Mint reportedly struck 700 silver dollars.  Today, not a single specimen is known anywhere.  What happened to them all?  Although extensively researched, no one has ever been able to determine their fate.  If one were to show up, it certainly would bring a seven-figure sum, if offered for sale.

Another example is the 1894-S dime.  Of the 24 minted, today we know of the whereabouts of only nine examples, including two displaying circulation wear, one of which was first spent on an ice cream cone by the daughter of the San Francisco Mint superintendent.  The finest numismatic scholars have studied the matter and cannot say with certainty what happened to the other 15.  Possibly one of them bought a ride on a trolley car and is now part of a neglected stash in a Victorian-era attic somewhere.  Who knows?

Perhaps now is the time to check out more carefully grandma’s shoebox of coins!

Please use the communication form below to comment or nominate a coin to be listed somewhere on Rare Coins 101 "Top 15 Most Valuable U.S. Coins" page.  Include a reference source for verification purposes.

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.


1. Smithsonian National Museum of American History. 20 Dollars, Pattern, United States, 1849.