Led Zeppelin's well-known song Stairway to Heaven states "all that glitters is gold." You will need the bank account of a famous rock star if you want to win any of these gold coins at auction. These coins possess a rich history along with extreme beauty to make them some of the most valuable United States gold coins in the world.
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#15 1833 Proof Capped Bust $5 Gold Half Eagle - Large Date
D. Brent Pogue assembled one of the highest quality coin collections of all time. He had an eye for beauty and a coin collecting budget that had no bounds. This 1833 Proof Capped Bust five dollar gold half eagle is as close to perfection as one will ever see on a coin that is approaching 200 years old. The fields on the coin have a deep reflective surface, and the devices have a light cameo frosted finish. The only other known specimen is in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. Therefore, this unique coin commands a high price.
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#14 1829 Proof Capped Bust $5 Gold Half Eagle - Large Date
Records kept by the United States Mint indicate that 57,422 Capped Bust five dollar gold half eagles were minted for general circulation. However, the mint created between four and eight Proof coins for collectors in 1829. During that year, the mint began using a collar in the striking process to make sure all coins had a uniform diameter. Approximately half of the coins were produced without the collar and had a "large date" style. The other half of the coins were struck with a collar and the die used was of the "small date" variety. These extremely well-struck specimens are highly unusual given the technology of the time used to produce these coins consisted of a screw press operated by two strong men.
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#13 1856-O Liberty Head $20 Gold Double Eagle
Grade: PCGS SP-63
Sold: May 2009; Heritage Auctions, Signature U.S. Coin Auction, Long Beach, CA
The United States Mint created only 2,250 gold double eagles in 1856 at the New Orleans mint. Any twenty dollar gold double eagle with this low of a mintage number would make it expensive. But this coin is special. Most twenty dollar gold coins minted at the New Orleans Mint have soft and mushy details. The low-quality of these coins were a result of a low striking pressure. However, this coin has beautiful details and a reflective surface in the fields. Originally, numismatists consider this a Proof coin. Researchers concluded that no, Proof coins were produced during this time at the New Orleans mint. It is obvious that mint workers used extra care and special processes to produce this coin to give it these extraordinary details. This unique coin is now classified as a "Specimen Strike" and has the SP designation in the grade.
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#12 1921 Roman Proof Saint-Gaudens $20 Gold Double Eagle
Grade: PCGS MS-63
Sold: August 2006; Bowers & Merena, ANA World's Fair of Money, Denver, CO
Numismatists across the United States were surprised in the summer of 2000 when Sotheby's auction house offered an example of a 1921 Saint-Gaudens twenty dollars double eagle gold coin with a special Proof Roman-finish. In 2006, the second example of this ultra-rarity surfaced. The coin grade on this newfound example indicates that it is in a higher level of preservation than the first one. Originally, expert numismatists improperly graded it as MS-63 instead of PR-63. Allegedly, mint workers struck the coin for Raymond T. Baker, director of the U.S. Mint to commemorate the birth of his nephew. Since mint records do not reveal how many 1921 Roman-finish Proof coins were made, it is possible, however improbable, that another example or two may exist.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
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#11 1839/8 Proof Liberty Head $10 Gold Eagle - Large Letters
Grade: NGC PR67 Ultra Cameo
Sold: January 2007; Heritage Auctions, FUN Signature Coin Auction, Orlando, FL
This 1839 Proof Liberty Head ten dollar gold eagle has an extremely low mintage of just four coins. Three coins are known to survive. This coin is the finest quality of all known survivors. It is obvious from the first two digits that the date was recut on the die before production began. Researchers have discovered that a die from 1838 was used to create the 1839 Proof die. This difference is obvious by the size of the letters on the coin. Any advanced collector looking to assemble a complete set of Proof Liberty Head ten dollar gold eagle coins will need this one to complete their collection.
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#10 1861 Liberty Head $20 Gold Double Eagle - Paquet Reverse
Grade: PCGS MS-61
Sold: August 2014; Heritage Auctions, ANA US Coins Signature Auction - Chicago, IL
The United States Mint produced twenty dollar gold double eagle coins since 1850. James Barton Longacre designed the coin with help from Peter F. Cross. In late 1860, Anthony C. Paquet attempted to improve the design by producing a modified reverse with taller, narrower letters. The mint director approved the design and die sinkers in Philadelphia produced several sets of coin dies. The Philadelphia mint shipped several coin dies to the San Francisco mint to be used in production.
In early January 1861, Mint Director James Ross Snowden telegraphed the San Francisco mint with instructions not to use the dies because of a technical flaw. Quality experts contended that the rim of the coin was too narrow to protect the design elements and the coin would wear out quickly. However, the San Francisco mint already struck 19,250 coins for circulation with the S mintmark. Experts believe that the Philadelphia mint only produced three coins and two of them are known to survive. Anybody looking to assemble a complete collection of Liberty Head twenty dollar gold double eagles will need a rather large coin collecting budget to afford this extremely rare coin.
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#9 1920-S Indian $10 Gold Eagle
Grade: PCGS MS-67
Sold: March 2007; Heritage Auctions, ANA National Money Show Auction, Presented by Robert Korver, Charlotte, NC
In 1920, gold coins widely circulated and were regularly used in commerce. Therefore, it is not surprising that the San Francisco mint produced 126,500 ten dollar gold eagle coins that year. Most of the coins on the market today are in Extremely Fine to About Uncirculated condition. Mint State coins are usually weakly struck and lack the finer details of the design. This coin is the finest known example of a 1920-S Indian ten dollars gold eagle. Its eye appeal is outstanding, and its surfaces are virtually free from any imperfections. A connoisseur of Saint-Gaudens ten dollar gold coins will appreciate this specimen's outstanding beauty.
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#8 1796 Draped Bust $2.50 Gold Quarter Eagle - No Stars
Grade: PCGS MS-65
Sold: January 2008; Heritage Auctions, FUN Signature Coin Auction, Orlando, FL
1796 marks the first year that the United States Mint produced gold quarter eagle coins. The first coins produced did not have decorative stars along the border of the obverse. The mint produced a total of 963 coins. Expert numismatists believe that fewer than 100 coins exist today out of the original mintage. This particular coin is graded MS-65. This coin is the finest preserved specimen of the very few that are left. It has minimal surface marks, and its eye appeal is outstanding. Any collector of early American gold coins would desire to have this example in their coin collection.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
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#7 1927-D Saint-Gaudens $20 Gold Double Eagle
Grade: NGC MS-66
Sold: January 2014; Heritage Auctions, FUN U.S. Coin Signature Auction, Orlando, FL
Many coin collectors believe that the Saint-Gaudens twenty dollar gold double eagle is the most beautiful coin ever produced by the United States Mint. This also makes it one of the most in-demand United States gold coins. In 1927, the Denver mint produced 180,000 twenty dollar gold pieces. On April 5, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6102 "forbidding the hoarding of gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates within the continental United States." This order led to the United States government melting millions of gold coins surrendered by the American public. Experts believe that approximately twelve 1927-D twenty dollar gold pieces exist today. There is only one coin graded higher at MS-67, and that coin has not been on the market since 2005.
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#6 1907 Satin Proof Indian $10 Gold Eagle - Rolled Edge
Grade: NGC PR-67
Sold: January 2011; Heritage Auctions, FUN Signature & Platinum Night U.S. Coin Auction, Tampa, FL
Mint Director Frank A. Leach, once owned this satin finish "Proof 1907 With Periods Rolled Edge" ten dollar gold eagle. Mint records indicate that the mint produced fifty of these Proof coins. However, experts believe approximately one dozen of these coins remain today. Of the remaining coins, this coin is the finest known specimen with a lofty grade of PR-67. Another example of this coin in the same grade was offered for private sale in 2015 for the astounding price of $3 million. It cannot be verified that the coin sold for this astronomical price. Therefore, public records put this coin as the finest and most expensive Indian ten dollar gold coin.
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#5 1808 Capped Bust $2.50 Gold Quarter Eagle
In 1808, the United States Mint changed the design of the $2.50 gold quarter eagle coin to feature a bust of Lady Liberty facing left with a Heraldic Eagle spreading its wings about to take flight on the reverse. John Reich, an immigrant from Germany, designed this coin under the auspices of Mint Director Robert Paterson. Unfortunately, the mint did not produce gold quarter eagles again until 1821 where the design changed again. Therefore, the 1808 $2.50 gold coin is a one-year type coin and is desired by both complete gold coin set collectors and type coin collectors. Regardless of your collecting strategy, this finest known example will cost you a "pretty penny" if you want to add it to your collection.
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#4 1880 Proof $4 Stella Coiled Hair
Grade: NGC PR-66 Cameo
Sold: September 2013; Bonham's, Tacasyl Collection of U.S. Proof Gold
The four dollar gold coin, or Stella, is not widely collected because of its rarity and high cost. It is technically considered a pattern coin because it was an experimental issue and was never intended for regular circulation. The United States Mint produced these coins in 1879 in 1880 in Proof finish with two different designs, Flowing Hair and Coiled Hair. The 1879 Flowing Hair variety is the most common type with over 425 coins minted. However, the 1880 Proof Four Dollar Stella Coiled Hair gold coin has only eight known examples. Therefore, when this coin comes to auction, any collector seeking to assemble a complete set of United States gold coins will need a deep pocket to obtain one of these rarities for their collection.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
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#3 1795 Draped Bust $10 Gold Eagle - 13 Leaves
The Mint Act of 1792 authorized the production of gold coins up to and including ten dollar coins known as "gold eagles." The United States Mint first produced them in 1795 with the total mintage of 5,583 coins. Not only does this coin have historical significance, but it is also the finest and best-preserved example of one of the first gold coins produced in the United States. Experts believe that less than 10% of the original mintage has survived to this day. Since ten dollars was a large sum of money in the late 1700s, these coins did not circulate extensively, and most coins are in About Uncirculated condition. This coin is not your average 1795 ten dollar gold eagle. Since it is the finest and most desirable ten dollar gold eagle that anyone could ever possess, collectors pay handsomely to have this coin in their collection.
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#2 1907 Proof Saint-Gaudens Gold Double Eagle Ultra High Relief Lettered Edge
Grade: PCGS PR-69
Sold: November 2005; Heritage Auctions, The Phillip Morse Collection, Dallas, TX
In 1907 President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned Augustine Saint-Gaudens to redesign the coinage of the United States. Saint-Gaudens wanted to impart a classical Greek/Roman design to the new coinage for the United States. In fact, he designed the date of 1907 on the coin in Roman numerals as MCMVII.
Additionally, he wanted the design elements to rise far above the fields of the coin. To achieve this level of relief, it required three blows of the coining press to get the coins to strike up properly. The three-blow process was not suitable for production. Before the relief of the design was lowered for mass production of coins later in 1907, several ultra high relief Proof twenty dollar gold double eagle coins with lettered edges were produced. These coins truly showcase the artistic brilliance of Saint-Gaudens. Due to its limited production and availability, these coins always sell for more than $2 million when they come to auction.
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#1 1933 Saint-Gaudens $20 Gold Double Eagle
Grade: Gem BU
Sold: July 30, 2002; Sotheby, New York, NY
The 1933 Saint-Gaudens twenty dollar gold eagle began life like any other production coin at the United States Mint in Philadelphia. Before the United States government halted production of circulation strike gold coins, 445,500 1933 dated double eagles were produced. On March 6, 1933, an executive order effectively halted all production of gold coinage and prohibited banks from paying out gold coins to customers. With few exceptions, United States citizens were required to surrender all gold coins in exchange for paper money.
The Treasury Department took the remaining gold coins, and the coins surrendered by citizens and melted them to produce gold bullion bars. Before the government could melt all of the coins, multiple 1933 dated coins made it outside the confines of the United States Mint. Since the Treasury Department never officially released any 1933 twenty dollar gold eagles, they are considered stolen property. Other coin collectors that possessed these coins have had them confiscated by the United States government without compensation.
One coin made it into the coin collection of King Farouk I of Egypt. In 1944, the Royal Legation of Egypt requested, and was granted, an export license for the coin to be taken to Egypt. When the Egyptian government sold Farouk's coin collection in 1954, the United States government asked that the 1933 twenty dollar gold double eagle be removed from the sale and returned to the United States. It was never returned to the United States government and disappeared again until 1996.
Agents from the United States government seized the coin at the Waldorf–Astoria in New York as respected and prominent British coin dealer, Stephen Fenton, tried to sell it. Five years later, Fenton and the Treasury Department agreed to sell the coin and split the proceeds. The key factor in the decision to legalize ownership of the coin was Fenton possessed the original export license issued to the Royal Legation of Egypt. Sotheby's sold the coin on July 30, 2002, for a then-record amount of $7,590,000 plus an additional twenty dollars paid to the Treasury of the United States to monetize the coin.