This is a dream we can all relate to.
Amidst lazy mid-summer daydreams, every teenager envisions finding extremely valuable hidden treasure, being set for life financially, and living a life that is even more lavish than their wildest dreams.
While we do grow up from this fantasy quite quickly—most of us at least—this doesn’t mean there aren’t any ways to happen mistakenly upon a small fortune. Finding a rare coin worth a significant amount today is one such way that is quite practical.
The next time you rummage through the old boxes your grandparents left you or sift through your spare change, there is a chance (albeit a tiny one) that you could find a rare coin worth money.
However, while there is a small category of ultra-rare coins that are worth millions of dollars, you won’t be finding any of those in your change jar or on eBay anytime soon.
Some examples of these ultra-rare, most expensive United States coins ever include:
- 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle: This unique coin is a 20 U.S. Dollar gold coin produced in 1993. However, the coin was never circulated. Of the 445,500 Double Eagles minted, all except 13 were eventually destroyed, making this coin one of the rarest in existence today. Of the 13 remaining pieces, only one is privately owned, with ten of these being held in the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox and the other two being part of the United States National Numismatic Collection. The single privately owned 1933 Double Eagle last sold at auction in June 2021 for $18.8 million.
- 1794 Flowing Hair Dollar: This coin is the first ever dollar coin issued by the United States federal government, and it stayed in production from 1794 until 1795. It is also one of the rarest coins today, with numismatics estimating that the surviving number of this coin type to be significantly less than 100. In 1880, a good specimen of the 1794 dollar was already worth around $50 ($1,495 in today’s dollars.) The most pristine specimen of this coin found yet sold for $10,016,875 in 2013, and there is no chance today of getting this coin for less than a few million bucks.
- 1913 Liberty Head Nickel: This weird coin is one that shouldn’t even exist. The United States Mint last produced the Liberty head nickel in 1912, after which it was replaced by the Indian Head nickel the following year. However, five 1913 Liberty Head Nickels appeared out of thin air in 1920 in the possession of Samuel Brown, a numismatist (and former employee of the U.S. Mint), despite the Mint having no official records of these coins. These five samples are the only ones known to exist. One of these specimens that most recently went to auction (in 2013) sold for $3.7 million.
Numismatic researchers speculate that Samuel Brown could have minted those five unique 1913 Liberty Head Nickels himself (as clandestine strikes) during his time working in the U.S. Mint, as Brown was stationed there in 1913.
However, others suggest that there could be other legitimate actions that led to the production of those coins, including their creation as trial pieces to test dies in late 1912 or internal productions by Mint departments like the Medal Department, who were working solely.
There is no chance you will be finding any of this anytime soon.
However, there is an abundance of other significant rarities that exist in the wild and can be found by regular people either amongst circulation coins or on sale from other coin collectors.
These coins often include unique minting errors that were only discovered post-release, coins with a considerably low mintage during its production year, or never circulated coins with a significant total supply.
Consequently, while most ultra-rare coins are uncirculated specimens (of rare varieties) immaculately preserved from production, there are also a few rare coin types you could find in their circulated state that will still easily retail for several hundred multiples of their face value.
Are you now sifting through your loose change for any hidden treasures or looking to buy some rare coins online? Here are the top rare coins worth money that collectors want.
Rare Coins Worth Money List 2022
Whether you are seeking to find rare coins in circulation or looking to buy and add some rare coins worth money to your coin collection, here are the top rare coins that aren’t worth a million dollars but do command a significant premium in the open market:
1. 1955 Doubled Die Lincoln Penny
A large variety of the rare coins that you can find in circulation are products of error during the minting process. No coin exemplifies this better than the 1955 doubled die Lincoln penny.
The 1955 doubled-die Lincoln penny is arguably the most popular mass-produced U.S. error coin. With around 20,000-40,000 of these error coins released into circulation, this specimen is also one of the few ones you have a significant chance of finding in the wild today.
The coin features an easily observable error on its obverse, showing a dramatic doubling of several parts on the coin face, including the mottos “In God We Trust” and “Liberty” and on the coin’s date. The doubling is so profound that you could easily spot it without using a magnifying glass. Plus, a common tell is the fact that the coin’s reverse does not show any doubling.
This rare error stemmed from a mistake in producing the dies used in the minting of the coins from 1955. One of the die makers for the Philadelphia Mint manufactured a faulty die that slightly misaligned with the coin hub during the impression, creating a doubling in the lettering and date.
Strangely, the Philadelphia Mint completed production using the faulty die amongst others before discovering the error, even though over 20,000 error coins were produced.
The U.S. Mint facilities can produce coins at rates of up to 200 per minute. While standard quality control procedures are carried out to remove defective equipment before minting begins, if some faulty dies are not caught in these checks, production can go on for quite some time before they are found out.
In many cases, coin presses can run over extended periods without any direct human supervision.
Thorough human supervision only comes in again with the post-production quality control checks that occur before the coins get moved to the shipping department for release.
However, when they did discover the massive error during quality checks, the error coins were already mixed in with the around 10 million other pennies produced at the Philadelphia Mint that year.
Unsurprisingly, the Mint opted to release the coin batch anyway rather than sift through 10 million coins to find 20,000+ error coins or melt the whole batch and start the minting process all over.
Of the estimated 20,000-40,000 1955 doubled Lincoln pennies released into the wild, numismatic experts estimate that around 10,000-15,000 pieces are currently surviving.
While 15,000 may seem like a huge number compared to the supply of many other rare coins, the 1955 doubled die Lincoln penny’s popularity amongst coin collectors more than makes up for it.
Today, you can expect a 1955 doubled die Lincoln penny in good condition to retail for around $1000. In their uncirculated state, these coins can easily retail for above $2000 and closer to $3000, while an uncirculated coin with a higher grade can sell for several multiples of that.
A 1955 doubled die Lincoln penny rated MS65 sold for $114,000 in March 2018.
2. 2008-W Silver Eagle, Reverse of 2007 Die Variety
The American Silver Eagle, the official silver bullion coin of the United States, is a coin type known for producing little to no variety.
The Mint has maintained the same Walking Liberty design for the American Silver Eagle every year since it was first produced in 1986. With this unrivaled level of consistency, the Mint has perfected this coin producing almost perfect specimens every single year.
This unique situation means that American Silver Eagle error coins are almost non-existent, with the few specimens with error having negligible minor issues—and these issues are never widespread.
Consequently, with the American Silver Eagle, the only true varieties typically available to collectors are proof versions released officially by the mint. The Reverse of the 2007 Die Variety of the 2008 Silver Eagle was the first to break this mold.
This variant only occurred in coins minted at the West Point Mint, hence the use of the “W” mint mark in “2008-W Silver Eagle, Reverse of 2007 Die Variety”
In 2008, the United States Mint modified the reverse design of the Silver Eagle slightly. However, while creating the coins for that year, some reverse dies from the previous years were mistakenly used, creating a significant number of 2008 coins with the same reverse design from 2007.
You can find out this unique variant by carefully examining the reverse of the 2008 American Silver Eagles. The Reverse of 2007 Die Variety has a bowl-shaped “U” in “United States of America” like the 2007 American Silver Eagle. The variant also has a curved wave-shaped dash connecting the words “Silver” and “One” at the bottom of the coin’s reverse.
In contrast, the regular 2008 version of the coin has a “U” with a tail on the right side, and the dash has sharp angles instead of a waveform.
The U.S. Mint, which only discovered the variant after the coin was released, estimates that around 47,000 of this Reverse of the 2007 Die Variant were produced.
This variant is highly sought after by collectors and can easily retail for north of $2000. Many of these coins still remain in their uncirculated release state.
3. Sacagawea Cheerios Dollar
The unique coin variant packs one of the most interesting stories yet.
Back in 2000, the U.S. Mint released a new coin design for the one-dollar coin. This new Sacagawea dollar (named after the portrait on its obverse of Sacagawea, the Shoshone guide of the Lewis and Clark Expedition) featured a copper core and a manganese brass exterior that gave the coin a distinctive golden hue.
However, the one-dollar coin had a checkered past at the time, with the Susan B. Anthony dollar—the Sacagawea dollar’s predecessor—being quite unpopular with the general public.
Consequently, the U.S. Mint sought to promote this new “golden” dollar to help facilitate its wider acceptance.
One scheme the Mint employed to achieve this aim was to run a blind raffle for all Americans, giving them the chance to win this coin. The promotion involved 10 million boxes of Cheerios, into 5,500 of which the Mint inserted one Sacagawea dollar each, while the other boxes contained a newly-struck Lincoln penny.
Aside from the Cheerios scheme, the U.S. Mint also marketed the new dollar coin heavily through other means like a series of television, radio, and print ads, as well as a partnership with Walmart.
However, the Sacagawea still faltered like its predecessor and could not win over public sentiment. By the following year, the Mint was forced to reduce the mintage of this coin significantly.
However, a unique surprise in those boxes was only discovered five years later, in 2005.
While collectors originally thought the Sacagawea Cheerios dollars were the same as every Sacagawea dollar, as they began to collect coins from that year, it came to light that they were something different.
According to the official statement released by the United States Mint to explain the difference, the 5,500 dollars that were shipped to General Mills as part of the Cheerios promotion were struck first and with high detail on the feather of the American bald eagle on the reverse. However, before the coins were mass produced for circulation, the feather detail was reduced (amongst other minor adjustments) to solve a die manufacturing issue.
Consequently, this meant that the Sacagawea Cheerios dollar was a variant of the main coin, a rare one at that, with a supply of only 5,500.
Unsurprisingly, collectors got to work, creating a massive demand for this coin, especially amongst collectors building a complete Sacagawea coin set.
However, to date, less than 100 of these coins have been discovered. This odd phenomenon is explained in part by the fact that Numismatic researchers studying this unique variant later discovered some of the 5,500 coins placed in the box did not have the high detail feather. So the total supply of this variant may be considerably smaller than the 5,500 suggested by the Mint.
With such a small supply (so far) for the “high detail” Sacagawea Cheerios Dollar variant, it is no surprise that these coins can easily retail for between $5000 and $20,000. Specimens with an even rarer higher grade can sell for a bit more, with the current auction record being held by an MS68 piece that sold for $29,900 in May 2008.
4. 2004 Wisconsin quarter, Extra Leaf Variants
Beginning in 1999, the United States Mint began producing the 50 State Quarter series under a program designed to help foster a new generation of coin collectors.
With the set of commemorative quarters, the U.S. began releasing 5 varieties, one for each state (in the order with which they joined the United States Union,) per year. The coins all featured the same obverse portraying President George Washington but depicted an image on the reverse that represented the state the particular coin was commemorating.
According to the New York Times, the 50 States Quarters Program is the most successful numismatic program of all time, with around half the total U.S. population collecting these coins to varying degrees. This program created new profits of around $3 billion for the Federal Government from collector purchases
In 2004, the Mint produced the coin from this series commemorating Wisconsin, and with it, a couple of unexpected variants that are highly sought after by collectors.
The standard Wisconsin quarter, which was officially released to the public in October, 2004, depicted a wheel of cheese on the right (partially blocking out the ear of corn standing behind it) and a cow on the left-hand side. The coin also had the Wisconsin State Motto “Forward” etched at the bottom of the reverse.
However, by January of the following year, the word had already spread in the numismatic community of two new die varieties of this coin.
The first variety, known as the Extra Leaf High,” has an extra lead on the left side of the ear of corn that sits high up, near the top leaf (only leaf on the left side in the standard Wisconsin quarter.)
A second variant, called the “Extra Leaf Low” variety, also has the same extra leaf on the same side of the ear of corn, but the leaf hangs much lower, so low that its tip touches the wheel of cheese down below.
While debates abound about how these variants came into existence, collectors have already swung into action seeking them out in the bid to create a complete collection of all the state quarters.
Consequently, these die variants are in extreme demand, especially considering their tiny supply compared to other, regular state quarters. Experts estimate that around 3000 extra leaf high and 2000 extra leaf low variants exist in the wild, some of which can still be found in circulation today.
Currently, while a circulated 2004 Wisconsin quarter still matches its face value and an uncirculated specimen sells for around 75 cents to a dollar, the extra leaf variants can sell for significantly higher.
The Extra leaf high averages around $50 in its circulated state and around $130 for uncirculated specimens. In contrast, the Extra leaf low sells for around $30 circulated and closer to $100 in its uncirculated state.
5. 1972 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Memorial Cent
Doubled die coins are some of the most famous error coins amongst collectors of all levels—due partly to the fact that in coins with considerable doubling, the error is one of the easiest to spot.
Doubled die coins are coins with manufacturing errors that occur when there is a shift in the die during striking, and these lead to the appearance of a dual print, with one placed slightly off-kilter.
A considerable amount of this error coin’s popularity amongst collectors stems from the fact that the main doubled variety has a very obvious and distinct doubling that can be seen easily with the naked eye and without the need for a magnifying glass.
With doubled die coins, typically, the more prominent the error, the more valuable the coin is.
The prominent 1972 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Cent variety shows an intense doubling on the date and the mottos “Liberty” and “in God we trust,” and you can detect this doubling easily with one look at the coin.
There is a broad array of varieties of the 1972 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Cent with others showing less prominent doubling and typically costing less.
Soon after the 1972 Memorial Lincoln cent was released and the doubling error was discovered, collectors quickly removed most of this variety out of circulation. However, even today, there is still a tiny chance that you could find this valuable error coin amidst change.
Circulated pieces of the 1972 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Cent typically retail for $200-$400 on the open market. Uncirculated specimens easily sell for between $450 and $1200, while the highest graded pieces can sell for several multiples higher.
The most expensive 1972 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Cent sold so far is a specimen rated MS67 that sold for $14,400.
6. 1955 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Penny
The other also popular doubled die Lincoln cent is the 1955 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Penny. One look at this error coin, and you can easily understand why.
Similar to the doubled-die Lincoln cent from 1972, the 1955 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Penny has a produced doubling that can be observed easily without the use of any magnification.
Furthermore, the coin exhibits a noticeable doubling in the same places as the 1972 error coin. You can easily find the prominent doubling on the coin’s date and the mottos “Liberty” and “in God we trust.
With only an estimated 20,000-24,000 of this error coin released with the general supply, it is no surprise that collectors will pay a significant ransom on an excellent specimen.
1955 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Pennies, in their circulated state, can easily sell for between $800 and $1200, while uncirculated specimens can reach the $2000 – $2800 range. The current auction record for 1955 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Pennies is currently held by an MS66-rated piece that sold for $24,000.
While most of these pennies have already been removed from circulation by collectors, if you are lucky, you could still find a few in the wild today.
7. 1795 Flowing Hair Dollar
In 1794, the United States Federal Government issued the Flowing hair dollar, its first-ever dollar coin. However, this coin was only struck for two years—1794, and 1795—before its design was replaced by a new Draped Bust design.
Unsurprisingly, numismatic experts everywhere agree that the 1794 edition of this coin, the first United States dollar coin ever struck, is one of the most important U.S. coins ever. This reverence is reflected in its price.
The 1794 flowing hair dollar is one of the rarest and most expensive United States currencies with the most pristine specimen of this coin found yet selling for $10,016,875 in 2013.
However, its brother, the 1795 flowing hair dollar, does not attract the same acclaim.
While the 1795 flowing hair dollar features the same design and material constitution as its predecessor, it is significantly less rare and is more readily available to the average coin collector.
1795 flowing hair dollars typically sell for between $3000 and $8000. However, higher graded and more immaculately preserved specimens can retail for considerably higher, often north of $100,000.
8. Morgan Silver Dollar
The Morgan dollar is arguably the most well-liked silver dollar coin ever produced by the United States mint.
The universal public acceptance of this coin design is evidenced by the overwhelming praise it received when it was initially struck in 1878, the fact that it stayed in production for 40 years (until 1921,) and the fact all the coins for each year are now prized collector items.
This fashionable $1 coin was named after engraver and coin designer George T. Morgan, who created the design that features a Liberty head on the obverse and an American bald eagle with wings spread on the reverse. The coin maintained this design for all 40 years.
Since they seized production in 1921, Morgan silver dollars, have been hot on the list of most coin collectors around the country.
Since these coins are now all over 100 years old, the watchword here is quality. Morgan silver dollars in a poor grade will only fetch around their silver melt value. However, specimens with higher grades will typically retail for at least $40, irrespective of the production year.
With fewer and fewer Morgan silver dollars on the market as the years go by, the prices of these coins have also been steadily climbing.
You can expect to get a fine condition circulated morgan silver dollar for between $40 and $100, while uncirculated specimens can sell for anywhere between $60 and $20,000 depending on its grade and production year.
9. 2005 Kansas “In God We Rust” State Quarter
Over the years, errors during coin striking have created several strange-looking coins, but, in terms of cheekiness, none can match this unique error coin from 2005.
Similar to the 2004 Wisconsin quarter, the 2005 Kansas quarter was one of the 50 commemorative quarter variants the United States Mint began producing in 1999 for every U.S. state and their year of joining the union.
However, with the batch of coins produced in the Philadelphia Mint to commemorate Kansas in 2005, we got one of the most amusing coin errors yet.
During the coin minting process, excess lubricating grease got lodged on the striking surface of the Kansas quarter obverse die, blocking out the “T” in “Trust” and creating a cheeky “In god we rust” instead of the “In God we trust” motto.
With such a comical error minted on it, it is no surprise that this error coin became an instant hit with collectors and people in general.
However, while they might look the part, these coins are not worth a fortune.
Generally, error coins formed from grease-caused errors are typically not expensive and are worth near the floor price of regular circulated and uncirculated variants. However, this error coin’s cheekiness does a lot for it, raising its price on the open market to the $5-$50 range, depending on grade.
10. Presidential Dollar Edge Lettering Errors
Similar to the 50 State quarters program, the Presidential dollar coin program was instituted in 2007 with the aim of commemorating all past deceased presidents of the United States. The plan was to issue four variants of the coin each year, one for each president in the order of the date of their presidency.
However, these coins brought a marked aesthetic difference (to most other U.S. coins) which would appear strange to most coin users.
The presidential dollar coins sported the date and a series of mottos inscribed in a circle around the edge of their reverse. This type of coin design language, known as edge-lettering, was brought back to U.S. coins for the first time since 1933.
Edge-lettering was used by the Mint from the late 18th century to the early 20th century as a measure to prevent the shaving of the gold coin edges, a common malicious practice that was used to steal value from people receiving the tampered with gold coins.
Since, edge-lettered coins, the reverse had inscription dotting its edge, it becomes super easy for payees to sport a shaved coin.
However, with this new change came a new barrage of error coins. Edge letters are applied as a separate process after the coins are originally struck, and this extra step opens the doors for a variety of new errors.
Beginning with the first presidential dollar coins, several error varieties began to emerge with issues surrounding the edge-lettering on the coin’s reverse. In some cases, parts of the edge lettering are missing, while in other cases the entire inscriptions are missing or the lettering is struck upside down or doubled.
All of these error coins are valuable, with their pricing dependent on the president, the rarity of the error, and the coin’s condition.
Prices for Presidential Dollar Edge Lettering Error coins range between $40 and $3000.
11. 1879 $4 Gold Stella
Unlike most of the other coins on this list, this one is quite expensive. Plus, since it was never circulated, the 1879 $4 Gold Stella will only be within reach of the richer collectors amongst us.
However, unlike most of the rarest, most expensive coins, you can find several specimens of the Gold Stella listed online.
The Gold Stella is a very unique coin and is especially valued by collectors because of the story behind its production. This coin represents an (ambitious) failed attempt by the U.S. Mint to produce a universally-exchangeable coin that could easily trade places with other currencies from around the world.
Despite Congress blocking previous attempts at creating a coin with these properties, the idea came before Congress again in 1879, championed by John Kasson, a former Chairman of the Committee of Coinage, Weights, and Measures, and the United States Minister to Austria. The Congressman proposed a U.S. coin with a value approximating that of the Austrian 8 Florin piece, and by extension that of many other European currencies.
Consequently, two sample designs were produced during this period—with fifteen pieces of the first type and 400 pieces of the second type—as samples for the idea, which was later vetoed by Congress.
While these coins were never approved for mass production or circulation, the 415 struck that year found their way into the hands of collectors and have been resold multiple times.
Of the 400+ coins originally struck, an estimated 200-300 still survive today, and their price point typically matches this extreme rarity.
Most 1879 $4 Gold Stella coins will currently retail for between $50,000-$200,000.
However, coins with a higher grading level can reach much higher prices. The record auction sale for an 1879 Gold Stella is $431,250 for one rated MS64.
Foriegn Coins Worth Money
Rare coin varieties and error coins worth money are not exclusive to the United States. Whether you are on an overseas trip or happen to come across some foreign coins in some old boxes, some valuable coins you should watch out for include:
- 2004 Finland 2 Euro
- 2007 Australian Double Obverse 5 Cent
- 2010 Australian Upset 50 Cent
- 2008 U.K. Undated 20p Coin
- 2006 Canadian Magnetic No Logo/No P Penny
- 2002 Greek 2 Euro with S mintmark
- 2012 U.K. Olympic Swimming 50p “Swimmer underwater” error
- 2000 Australian $1/10 Mule
- 2002 Italian 1 Cent on a 2 Cent Blank
Rare Coin Worth Money Chart
Did you find a rare coin and are now seeking to know its estimated value at a glance? This chart gives you an uncomplicated visual guide on the average price range you should expect for a unique coin specimen.
Remember to use the table as an approximate estimate of the market value of rare coins worth money and as a general guide for making better market decisions.
|RARE COIN⬇\AVERAGE QUALITY➜||Poor Quality||Good||Uncirculated||Uncirculated (MS 64+)|
|1955 Doubled Die Lincoln Penny||Less than $1000||Around $1000||$2000 – $3000||$10,000+|
|2008-W Silver Eagle, Reverse of 2007 Die Variety||Less than $1500||$1500 – $4000||$4000 – $6000||$8000+|
|Sacagawea Cheerios Dollar||Less than $10,000||$5000 – $6000||$8000 – $15,000||$18,000+|
|2004 Wisconsin quarter, Extra Leaf Low||Less than $30||$30||$50 – $100||$400+|
|2004 Wisconsin quarter, Extra Leaf High||Less than $50||$50||$80 – $130||$400+|
|1972 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Memorial Cent||$100 or less||$200 – $400||$450 – $1200||$3000 – $15,000|
|1955 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Penny||Less than $500||$800 – $1200||$2000 – $2800||$5000 – $25,000|
|1795 Flowing Hair Dollar||Face Value – $1300||$3000 – $5000||$5000 – $8000||$20,000 – $100,000|
|Morgan Silver Dollar||Silver Melt Value||$40 – $100||$50 – $1000||$3000 – $20,000|
|2005 Kansas “In God We Rust” State Quarter||Face Value||$5-$10||$15 – $50||$50+|
|Presidential Dollar Edge Lettering Errors||Face Value||$40 – $60||$50 – $3000||$3000+|
|1879 $4 Gold Stella||Below $50,000||$50,000 – $60,000||$80,000 – $150,000||$200,000 – $700,000|
How do you know if you found a rare coin?
The key defining factor of rare coins that you can find in circulation and loose change is the fact that they are aesthetically dissimilar from regular coins.
The first sign that your coin may be rare is if it contains cracks, errors, missing elements, or edge imperfections that immediately catch the eye and strike you as strange. If you suspect your coin isn’t regular, you should consider comparing it with a coin guidebook or consulting with a numismatic expert for more information.