Coin collecting, or numismatics, is a cool hobby that is gaining in popularity throughout the world. Many people gain serious joy from digging out an old coin collection, pouring over the symbols and images, and trying to work out where the coins came from.

When we say “foreign coins” what we mean is non-US coins. Exotic and exciting pennies from elsewhere in the world. Besides being intriguing to look at, foreign coins can actually be extremely valuable.

Perhaps you inherited a coin collection, or came across some interesting pennies in a yard sale? You may even have dug something mysterious up in your garden. Let’s take a trip around the world, visiting the ancient Greek, Arabic, and Roman empires, China, Russia, Poland, Lithuania, and the United Kingdom.

Today, we’ve gathered the top 10 most valuable foreign coins in the world. We’ll take a look at silver foreign coins, old foreign coins, rare foreign coins, and coins worth millions of dollars! We’ve also assembled a useful valuation guide to help you put a price on your foreign coin collection, as well as a buying and selling guide.

10 Most Valuable Foreign Coins: Round-Up List

The most valuable coins that have sold for the highest prices at auction have all been from the US. However, there have been some incredible coins from ancient empires and key moments in history from other regions of the globe that have sold for exceptional amounts…

All prices are accurate as of September 2022.

1. Umayyad Gold Dinar (2019 & 2011)

Umayyad Gold Dinar (2019 & 2011)
Source

Region of origin:

Umayyad Caliphate (Mecca, Arabia)

Year:

723 CE

Auction record:

$4.29 million USD (in other words, over 4 million dollars!)

The incredible Umayyad Gold Dinar is an incredibly rare coin originating from the Umayyad Caliphate, also known as the Umayyad Dynasty or alternatively spelt Omayyad. Gold dinars are medieval, Islamic coins crafted from gold. They were first used as currency around the year 696 CE and were issued by Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan.

The record-breaking gold dinar was sold for almost $4.3 million USD in 2019! Another astounding gold dinar also produced in 723 CE was sold for just less, around $4.2 million back in 2011. These coins were notable for the fact that they are the oldest coins with the location of its origin engraved on it – Hejaz in the ancient Kingdom of Arabia. The date that is inscribed on the coin also added to its value, as it is believed that gold dinars were forged for special occasions associated with the Caliph, such as holy pilgrimages.

The mine – Ma`din Bani Sulaim, close to the Holy City of Mecca – where the metal used to forge this gold dinar still produces gold today!

2. Q. Servilius Caepio (M. Junius) Brutus AV Aureus (2020)

Q. Servilius Caepio (M. Junius) Brutus AV Aureus (2020)
Source

Region of origin:

Ancient Rome

Year:

42 CE

Auction record:

$3.5 million USD!

This ancient Roman coin with a complex name comes in at second on our list today, having reached a stunning $3.5 million USD at auction in 2020! Described as “excessively rare”, the Q. Servilius Caepio (M. Junius) Brutus AV Aureus coin from 42 CE is only the third known coin of its kind ever to have been found.

On the front it features the head of Brutus, and on the back are two downward pointing daggers and a pileus cap, along with inscriptions in Roman text. This coin was particularly notable for its near-mint state and lustrous gleam – incredibly unusual for such a old coin!

These coins were issued by Brutus in celebration of the over-turning and assassination of Julius Caesar. While most coins were minted in silver, a few special editions such as this one, were minted in gold.

3. $1 Million Canadian Gold Maple Leaf (2010)

$1 Million Canadian Gold Maple Leaf (2010)
Source

Region of origin:

Canada

Year:

2007 CE

Auction record:

$3.2 million USD!

This coin was once known as the world’s largest gold coin until it was upstaged by the Australian 1 tonne gold coin in 2011!

The Canadian Gold Maple Leaf produced in 2007 was originally worth $1 million Canadian dollars (around $760,000 USD). It weighed a shocking 100 kg and boasted the largest portrait of Queen Elizabeth II ever carved into gold!

The opposite side of the coin show-cased three Canadian maple leaves. After production in 2007, it was displayed in the largest coin collection in the world in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien. The coin was then passed to the Dorotheum auction house where is was sold for $3.2 million USD in 2010!

Canadian Gold Maple Leaf coins are produced every year by the Canadian Royal Mint, commissioned by the Government of Canada. Regular coins are worth $50 Canadian dollars and can be used as legal tender.

4. Long Whisker Dragon Dollar (2022)

Long Whisker Dragon Dollar (2022)
Source

Region of origin:

China

Year:

1911

Auction record:

$3 million USD!

Just this year a Long Whisker Dragon Dollar was sold by Stackers Bowers for a massive sum – $3 million USD in 2022! This intricate and beautiful dollar is an amazing example of a silver foreign coin and is extremely rare and coveted by collectors.

One of the reasons for this high price fetched by this Long Whisker Dragon Dollar was the fact that the design engraved onto it was never adopted into wider circulation. It features a stunning dragon and cloud designs on the heads side, and script and detailed flowers on the reverse side.

Long Whisker Dragon Dollars from 1911 were minted in the Tientsin Mint in the final year of the Qing Dynasty. This particular coin was hailed for its impeccable condition, and impressive toning and die work.

5. Silver Agrigentum Decadrachm (2017)

Silver Agrigentum Decadrachm (2017)
Source

Region of origin:

Agrigentum (region on the southern coast of Sicily, then part of the Ancient Greek empire)

Year:

409-406 CE

Auction record:

$2.9 million USD!

The ancient city of Agrigentum, also known as Akragas or Acragas, was part of the Ancient Greek empire back when this incredible silver decadrachm was forged between 409-406 CE. This coin was crafted during the Classical period – one of the 4 periods of ancient Greek coinage.

The Numismatica Ars Classica believes it to be 1 of only 10 copies in existence! Its extremely fine condition, rarity, and impressive engravings fetched $2.9 million USD at auction in 2017! The engravings are attributed to two famous coin engravers of the time:

  • Myron – responsible for the obverse which displays a quadriga (chariot draw by 4 horses), charioteer, and gliding above is an eagle clutching a snake in its curled talons.
  • Polyainos – responsible for the reverse of the coin which features a dead hare on a rock with 2 eagles perched upon it.

Decadrachms are known to be some of the finest quality coins ever made. These were often funded by the most wealthy peoples of the nation who also funded quadrigas for the esteemed Olympic chariot races.

6. Silver Ruble Pattern (2021)

Silver Ruble Pattern (2021)
Source

Region of origin:

Russia

Year:

1825 CE

Auction record:

$2.64 million USD!

Silver Rubles with a plain edge – such as this record-breaking coin which sold for $2.64 million USD in 2021 – are incredibly rare, with only 3 known examples in existence. This coin is particularly notable in that it was issued to celebrate Constantine becoming the emperor. However, he abdicated the position quickly in fear of assassination, passing the crown to his younger brother Nicholas.

The heads side displays the profile of Constantine, while the reverse side features a complex coat-of-arms on a double-headed eagle with a crown, holding a scepter and orb. A wreath runs around the outside of the imagery.

7. Silver “Mukden Tiger” Pattern Dollar (2021)

Silver “Mukden Tiger” Pattern Dollar (2021)
Source

Region of origin:

China

Year:

1928 CE

Auction record:

$2.28 million USD!

Another Chinese dollar but a more recent example compared to the Long Whisker Dragon Dollar further up our list. The Silver “Mukden Tiger” Pattern Dollar is reputedly an incredible example of needle-sharp strikes. It is notable for featuring the face-on bust of Governor Chang Tso-lin, also known as the “Mukden Tiger”.

On the reverse side of the coin are 2 crossed flags (one of the Republic of China, the other of the Wuchang Uprising). The coin sold for $2.28 million USD in 2021!

Governor Chang Tso-lin rose from an impoverished background to become a high profile warlord during the so-called “Warlord Era of China”. The silver pattern dollars were struck to commemorate his military victories.

8. Edward VIII 5 Pounds (2020)

Edward VIII 5 Pounds (2020)
Source

Region of origin:

United Kingdom

Year:

1937 CE

Auction record:

$2.28 million USD!

Similarly to the Silver Ruble Pattern featuring Constantine, the Edward VIII 5 pound coin features Edward VIII who abdicated the throne very quickly after becoming king. This short time as king (or emperor in Constantine’s case) makes the coins struck during his reign very rare indeed!

Other coins, medals, seals and all kinds of commemorative items were allegedly destroyed following Edward’s decision to abdicate. Less than half a dozen of these coins survived! This coin, which sold for $2.28 million USD in 2020, was in near mint condition.

On one side is the profile of Edward VIII, and on the other is Saint George mounted on a horse, slaying the dragon from the famous legend “St George and the Dragon”.

9. 100 Ducat of Sigismund III Vasa (2018)

100 Ducat of Sigismund III Vasa (2018)
Source

Region of origin:

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

Year:

1621 CE

Auction record:

$2.16 million USD!

The history of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and how it became to be ruled by Sigismund III Vasa, a Swedish king, is long and complicated! But the origin of this 100 ducat featuring Sigismund III Vasa is straightforward – Sigismund ordered it be issued to commemorate his “religious victory”, spreading Christianity through Europe.

On the head side is the bust of Sigismund, featuring elaborate armour and his commanders sash. On the reverse side is the coat of arms representing the united Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

This gold coin was the most expensive ever minted in Poland. The best kept example of this coin sold for $2.16 million USD in 2018!

10. Sestertius of Hadrian (2008)

Sestertius of Hadrian (2008)
Source

Region of origin:

Ancient Rome

Year:

135/6 CE

Auction record:

$1.64 million USD!

Last but not least is the Sestertius of Hadrian, another coin from the Ancient Roman Empire which sold for $1.64 million USD in 2008! This coin is notable for featuring the profile of Hadrian, a popular Roman emperor at the time of minting.

The sestertius is a large brass coin (although it used to be struck in silver during the time of the Roman Republic which ended in 27 BCE) which was issued to commemorate or celebrate rare special occasions. This example was probably commissioned by Emperor Hadrian for his Vicennalia (20th anniversary of his emperorship) and completed by “Alphaeus Master”, a well-known artist and extraordinary die-engraver of the time.

On the reverse side is Pax, the Ancient Roman goddess of peace. She is holding a branch and a cornucopia.

Most Valuable Foreign Coins: Price Guide

A great many foreign coins are valuable today depending on their age, condition, special features, and story or historical moment hidden behind them. As a general rule, the rarer a coin, the more valuable it will be.

Rare coins are highly collectible and should be properly valued before being bought or sold. The most efficient way of checking the value of a coin is to get it appraised by a professional coin appraiser. Ideally, take your coin or collection to show an expert in person. If this is not possible there are plenty of appraisal services online – just make sure you find a reliable one! Bear in mind that appraisal will incur a fee.

You could try taking detailed, close-up photos of the coin, focusing on any unusual features. Post these to a coin collecting website or forum such as the Coin Community or Forum Ancient Coins. Passionate collectors, experts and enthusiasts may be able to help you with identification and an estimate of the value.

You may want to try and value a coin for yourself before seeking professional help. Here are some simple steps you can take:

1. Condition

Check the whole coin for scratches, marks, fading, and any kind of damage that could devalue the coin. Coins in perfect or uncirculated condition will fetch the highest price. Those in worse condition with bad damage can devalue epically. However, very rare coins may still be incredibly valuable.

You can try grading your coin yourself, although it’s pretty hard without some experience. More information on PCGS coin grading here.

Please note, do not try and clean your coin! This is a big mistake that a lot of people make. It’s easy to think that washing it and buffing it up will help raise the value, making it shiny and new. This is not the case. Coin collectors want coins in “original” condition, and washing or buffing up a coin may lead to micro-scratches or fading of key features on the coin. Leave your coins nice and dirty and guarantee a better price!

2. Research Recent Sales

Searching through eBay and other online auction sites will give you a good idea of how much the coin is selling for currently. Try to find the same kind of coin with the same mintmark, potential error marks, and condition.

3. Check The Identification Features

Research your coin thoroughly. Make sure you know what kind of features to look out for, where they should be, how deep or shallow the marks are meant to be. Using a magnifying glass or a high magnification eye lens is a great tip when looking for notable features. Look out for symbols and script that reveal the country or region the coin is from. Try finding coins with the same imagery online.

4. Look Out For Fakes!

It’s scary how many fakes and counterfeit coins are out there! Make sure you know what kind of signs to look out for, and don’t get tricked. Sites such as Amazon are well-known for selling authentic-looking, fake antiques and vintage items.

Old Foreign Coins: Buying And Selling

Whether you want to start a coin collection, or wondering how to sell foreign coins that have come into your possession, we have assembled the best resources for doing so.

Before buying or selling, make sure you research the average market price for the particular coin you are buying or selling. Search thoroughly for the exact type, and try to find examples which have been sold in the same condition as your coin (or in your desired condition).

Check out the Collectible World Coins section of Collector’s Weekly for useful background and live listings across different auction sites. Sellers and international coin enthusiasts also share their stories and rare finds on this site. This can give you some great hints as to the best rare foreign coins to look for. It will also help you gauge the foreign coins wanted by collectors, and the most valuable foreign coins in circulation.

The World Coins section of eBay is a great place to get a gauge for the right price of your coin. Filter the search results by region of the world, certification, year of production, grade, and condition.

When making a purchase, go for listings that include a lot of details and close-up images of key features or areas of damage. If something is not explained, don’t be afraid to ask the seller for more details about the coin.

FAQs

What foreign coins are gold?

Some of the most common foreign coins which are gold colored, or have some gold content are the: British Sovereign, Swiss 20 Franc, French 20 Franc, and Italian 20 Lire.

What common foreign coins are worth the most money?

Other than the extremely rare and valuable coins listed in our article, you might be wondering which coins are the most valuable that can be found more commonly? The answer is old versions of Belgian Francs, Argentine Pesos, Australian Dollars, Spanish Peseta, Hong Kong Dollars, French Francs, and Thai Bhat. More information here.

Who will buy my foreign coins?

Coin buyers such as PGS Gold & Coin are always interested in buying coins. Otherwise coin collectors, especially people making new collections will always be interested in expanding or starting their collection by purchasing foreign coins. The rarer and older your foreign coin, the more you will get for it, and the more people will want it.

What foreign coins are real silver?

Lots of foreign coins are silver colored! But not many are real silver. However, many have a high silver content such as Canadian Silver Maple Leaf Coins, United Kingdom Silver Britannias, Mexican Silver Onzas, and Australian Koalas and Kookaburras. More information here.

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