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Rare Coins
 

 

The very definition of “rare” – “highly valued owing to uncommonness” – means that
very few coins can ever be classified as rare.  Rarity can be determined by the mintage
of a coin or the number of coins surviving in certain grades.  Rare coins are most often
sold at high-profile auctions or in private transactions between collectors, dealers, or
investors.  In general, rare coins appreciate in value at a greater rate than other coins.

 

The ultimate rare coin is one with just a single example.  Only one 1849 $20 Liberty Head
gold coin was struck as a pattern coin, and this unique coin is now owned by the
 Smithsonian Collection. 
 
It is literally priceless.  The coin was made at the start of the California “gold rush” in 1849,
and production of regular-issue $20 gold coins did not start until the next year. 
 
Another unique coin is the 1933 $20 Saint-Gaudens gold coin.  Although 445,500 coins
were struck in 1933, all were supposed to have been melted and none were released into circulation.  Several coins exist, but only a single coin has been certified by the
U.S. government as legal to own.  That coin sold at auction in July 2002 for
$7,590,000 – a world record price for any coin.

 

The 1913 Liberty Head “V” Nickel is also a famous rare coin.  Only five coins are
known to exist.  One of the finest coins sold at auction in 2001 for $1,840,000, while
another sold for $1,485,000 in 1996 (a record price for a coin at the time).  Only eight
original 1804 Silver Dollar Proof coins were struck for inclusion in official Proof Sets,
and one of these coins sold for $4,140,000 in 1999. 
 
More than 30 U.S. coins have sold for more than $1 million each and more than 250 have
sold for $310,000 or more.
 
While there is no “rare coin” benchmark such as the number of coins existing or the cost
of the coin,  it is safe to assume that the rarity of any coin increases as the price goes
beyond $5,000. 
 
 Since the advent of third-party grading in the 1980’s, a coin’s grade can also add to its
rarity.   If only a few coins are known in, say, MS-67 and none are known in higher
grades, it is safe to assume that those coins will be assigned a high degree of rarity. 
Overall, rarity – like beauty – is often in the eye of the beholder.