The world’s most expensive coin, the Flowing Hair Dollar, went up for auction yesterday. In 2010 it sold for just under $8 million, three years later it set a world record when it sold for over $10 million. It was bought by a collector to add to a unique collection of Early Silver Dollars – including the 1804 Draped Bust Dollar which made headlines when it sold for over $3 million in 2017.

NNC US 1795 1 Flowing hair - Collectors Guide: What makes a coin so collectable?

What makes a coin collectable?

It’s incredible to think that a 1 dollar coin could be worth millions today, but there’s several things that determine the numismatic value and collectability of a coin. So we’ve put together a collector’s guide to help you know what to look out for when adding coins to your collection.

Several things determine the numismatic value and collectability of a coin – usually it’s based on the type of coin, the year it was minted, the place it was minted and even its condition or finish. But the biggest factor is probably the mintage of a coin and its rarity.

Mintage and Rarity

It’s the old rule of supply and demand – the less that are made, the more difficult a coin is to source and the more collectable it becomes. There are thought to be less than 150 of the Flowing hair dollars in existence today which contributes to the value of them.

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Or take for example the US 2015 Silver Eagle. This had a mintage of just 79,640, making it three times rarer than the second rarest silver Eagle (this year’s COVID Eagle). As these were snapped up by collectors, they have become more and more scarce, and in higher demand than ever, with collectors willing to pay a premium just to add one to their collections.

Year of issue

This doesn’t always mean age of the coin, but the year can play an important factor in determining the value of a coin. Generally you can expect to pay a premium for historic issues but this isn’t always the case. In fact some Roman coins can be picked up for less than £50, but coins from much more recent times, such as Victorian Crowns can sell for hundreds of pounds! Victorian crowns struck in important years, such as the 1887 Jubilee Head crowns are more desirable because of their links to significant events.

Finish

The finish of a coin, or the strike, is also an important factor to consider. Proof finished coins are struck several times with specially prepared blanks, which gives the design a particularly sharp edge and shows every detail. Proof finishes are highly desired among collectors, as are coins issued in BU – or brilliant uncirculated finish. This means the coin hasn’t been in circulation so is free from all the scratches you’d find on coins in your change.

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Minting location

Sometimes the mintmark or location of the mint in which a coin was struck can affect the collectability of the coin. The mintmark on a coin tells us where a coin was struck, and from that collectors use historical records to work out just how rare each coin is. For example, the Morgan Dollar was struck in 5 different mints, but the Carson City issues are the most sought after – they were struck for only 13 of the 43 years in which the Morgan Dollar was minted.

Morgan dollar minmarks - Collectors Guide: What makes a coin so collectable?

Many collectors specialise in some of these areas and build their collections around rare coins, themes and years of issue, or even mintmarks. But demand can and often will change over time and sometimes that means the value someone is willing to pay for a coin will increase over time – just as we’ve seen with the Flowing Hair Dollar.


If you’re interested…

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US coin collecting is one of the most competitive markets globally, which is no surprise given that the coins have some of the most interesting and iconic stories in the coin collecting world. US coins are in extremely high demand, especially in the UK where they rarely make it onto our shores.

As Americans celebrate their independence this week, I have picked out 5 of my favourite US coins to share with you.

The Flowing Hair Dollar

8 of the top 10 most expensive coins ever sold are American, with the Flowing Hair Dollar (1794-5) taking the top spot after it sold for an impressive $10,016,875. It’s thought that only 140 of these remarkable coins exist, so it is near on impossible to find one.

NNC US 1795 1 Flowing hair - Celebrate Fourth of July with America’s most iconic coins
The flowing hair dollar was the first ever dollar minted by the United States government

This coin was the first dollar coin ever issued by the United States Federal Government and featured an eagle and the bust of Liberty with flowing hair. It was minted in silver and its size and weight were based on the Spanish dollar, which was traded with regularly in the Americas.

The Morgan Dollar 1878-1921

The Silver Morgan Dollar has forever been associated with cowboys and outlaws. These coins could have been used for gambling by train robbers like Butch Cassidy or Jesse James. It’s even rumoured that cowboys would place them in their canteens to preserve water on long journeys.

US Morgan Dollar Philadelphia - Celebrate Fourth of July with America’s most iconic coins
1886 Morgan Dollar

The dollar drew its name from its designer “George T Morgan”, who created an effigy of Lady Liberty as a Goddess, and a reverse which included an eagle with outstretched wings. It’s said that less than 1 in 5 of these coins remain today, making them incredibly collectable and difficult to source.

‘No Cents’ Liberty Head Nickel 1883

Infamous Notorious and Scandalous U.S. Coin Set product page 1883 Liberty Head nickel - Celebrate Fourth of July with America’s most iconic coins
1883 Liberty Head Nickel

The first design for the No Cents Nickel failed to include the denomination and instead it included the Roman Numeral ‘V’. As the coins were the same size as a $5 coin, swindlers seized the opportunity to gold plate these coins and pass them off as $5 coins. Within the year the US Mint added the denomination to the coin.

The Roosevelt Dime 1946-64

Infamous Notorious and Scandalous U.S. Coin Set product page 1946 Roosevelt Dime - Celebrate Fourth of July with America’s most iconic coins
1946 Roosevelt Dime

After the death of Franklin Roosevelt in 1945, the nation’s only four term president, his portrait was subsequently used on Dimes as a memorial.

During his presidency, Roosevelt founded ‘March of the Dimes’, a charity founded in response to polio epidemics. Roosevelt’s image was chosen for the Dime in honour of his work with the charity, and his own battle with polio. This coin was symbolic for a nation in mourning, and many people collected the coin from their change.

The Franklin Half Dollar 1948-1964

Infamous Notorious and Scandalous U.S. Coin Set product page 1948 Franklin half dollar - Celebrate Fourth of July with America’s most iconic coins
1948 Franklin Half Dollar

This was the first half dollar to feature the portrait of a non-president on American Coinage. The words ‘Liberty, in God we trust’ surround a portrait of Benjamin Franklin, with the Liberty Bell on the reverse. This was initially a controversial coin, and there were public concerns about the initials of the designer ‘JRS’ being a reference to Stalin and communism, as well as the small eagle placed next to the bell. 

American coins give us some of the most interesting stories in history, and provide us with some of the most fascinating and collectable coins in the world. It’s no wonder that US coin collecting is becoming increasingly popular.


Infamous Notorious and Scandalous U.S. Coin Set product page box 300x208 - Celebrate Fourth of July with America’s most iconic coins

If you’re interested…

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At this year’s American Numismatic Association World Money Fair in Chicago there is one coin everyone is talking about – the world’s first maple leaf-shaped coin.

leaf display - The talk of the 2015 World’s Fair of Money…

The Cut-Out Silver Maple Leaf coin is already 92% sold worldwide

Struck by The Royal Canadian Mint for Modern Numismatics International, this impressive Fine Silver $20 Coin is shaped like Canada’s iconic maple leaf and has such intricate engraving you can even see the veins in the leaf itself.

The Canadian Mint are known for their innovation and this is new release is no exception.

But it doesn’t stop there. They have even created a bespoke red maple leaf-shaped box complete with viewing window to add to the coins appeal.

Perhaps unsurprisingly this coin is set to be one of the fastest selling issues of 2015, with the Mint selling out of their allocation in 2 days.

The show ends on Saturday but this is certainly a coin that will be sought-after by collectors for many months to come.


It’s not too late…
canadian leaf coin and box - The talk of the 2015 World’s Fair of Money…

The Westminster Collection has secured a limited stock of these stunning coins and you can add one to your collection today.

But you’ll have to be quick, it’s unlikely this opportunity will come up again.

Click here to find out more