Coins have been objects of fascination for people since ancient times. The first coins were minted in Lydia, a country in Asia Minor, around 600 BC. Coins quickly became popular because they were easier to carry than metal bars and could be divided into smaller units.
The value of a coin is based on the material it is made from as well as its rarity. Enter numismatics. Numismatics is the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, and related objects. While numismatists are often interested in the history behind coins and their countries of origin, they also place a high value on the rarity and condition of the coins.
Coins are among the most popular collection items, with a wide range of prices. A simple search on eBay retrieves over 14 million results for “coin collections.” There are many reasons for this. Coins are small, which makes them easy to store. They are often made from valuable metals like gold and silver. And they have a long history, dating back thousands of years (though in this article, we’re only looking at coins with a few hundred years of history at the most.
So, could the humble one-dollar coin be worth more than its face value? Absolutely! In this article, we will look at some of the most valuable one-dollar coins.
A Brief History of Dollar Coins
One-dollar coins have been produced by the United States Mint since 1794. The first dollar coins were made of silver and were known as “flowing hair” dollars. These were followed by the Draped Bust dollar, which was minted from 1796 to 1803. In 1804, the Mint struck silver dollars with the image of Liberty on one side and an eagle on the other side. These coins are known as the “ Gobrecht dollars.”
The first dollar coin minted for general circulation was the Morgan dollar, produced from 1878 to 1904 and again in 1921. The Peace dollar, minted from 1921 to 1935, followed the Morgan dollar. In 1971 and up to 1978, Eisenhower dollars were minted for circulation. The Susan B. Anthony dollar was produced from 1979 to 1981 and then again in 1999. Native American dollars were first minted in 2009, and the Presidential dollar series began in 2007.
With such a long and rich history, it’s no wonder that collectionist might want to own one of these dollar coins. They look great (especially those in good condition) and represent historical moments in the United States history. For example, the Peace dollar was minted in 1921 to commemorate the end of World War I, and the Susan B. Anthony dollar was created to honor the women’s suffrage movement.
These events shaped world history, and having a physical coin that represents them is very powerful. Of course, the value of a coin also depends on other factors, such as its rarity.
Let’s now see some of the most expensive dollar coins out there and what makes them valuable.
One Dollar Coins that Are Worth Money
There are a few different one-dollar coins that are worth money. The most valuable is the Morgan silver dollar, minted from 1878 to 1904, and again in 1921. These coins can be worth anywhere from $20 to over $1,000, depending on their condition and where they were minted.
For example, the 1879-CC Morgan silver dollar minted at the Carson City Mint is worth around $12,600 in good condition. Meanwhile, a 1883-S Morgan silver dollar minted at the San Francisco Mint is worth around $4,800 if in uncirculated condition.
Of course, these are just a few examples, and there are many other one-dollar coins that are worth money depending on their condition and where they were minted.
If you have a one-dollar coin that you think might be valuable, the best way to find out is to take it to a local coin dealer or have it appraised by a professional.
Generally speaking, the older the coin is, the more valuable it will be. You’ll find that most coins that come from the late 1800s are all worth a few tens of thousands of dollars or more when in uncirculated conditions. The circulated ones are still worth quite a bit as well, but their value will be based on how much wear and tear the coin has, which, as you can imagine, is likely very bad for a coin over 100 years old.
The most famous and expensive coin is the 1933 Saint-Gaudens gold coin, which was minted in very small numbers and is extremely rare. This coin was designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and it features a lady liberty on the front and an eagle on the back.
The coin sold at an auction at Sotheby’s in June 2021 for US$18.8 million, an amount of money that makes it the most expensive coin ever sold! The coin was originally owned by King Farouk of Egypt and was part of his personal collection.
Here’s a table with some prices of recent auctions of old one-dollar coins, so you know what to expect when shopping for one:
Editor’s note: we picked the most iconic ones from each era. When you see only one price, it’s because that’s the only recent recorded auction. This is more common for older coins, as auctions for these are less frequent due to the coins’ higher rarity.
|Coin and PCGS grade
|1878 8TF $1 Regular Strike MS68
|PCGS recommends a price of $110,000, but no recent auctions have taken place.
|1879-CC $1 MS64+
|1883-S $1 MS63+
|1884-S $1 MS62
|1889-CC $1 MS63
|1894-O $1 MS63
|1896S $1 MS63
|1922 $1 MS67
|1934 $1 MS67
|Between $10,000 and $48,000
|1979-S SBA$1 MS68
|Between $3,800 and $5,175
|1999-P $1 MS68
|Between $176 and $1,920
|2000-D SAC$1 Millennium Set
|PCGS recommends a price of $13,000, but no recent auctions have taken place.
Warning: Keep in mind that there are also many fake coins out there, so it’s always important to get a professional opinion before assuming a coin is worth anything. That’s where services like PCGS coin grading come into play.
How can you evaluate whether or not a coin is actually worth anything? There are a few telling signs; let’s see them.
Evaluating a Dollar Coin
Adams, the last director of the United States Mint before it became a bureau of the Treasury Department, once said: “There are three things that make a coin valuable: age, rarity, and condition. And sometimes two out of three just aren’t enough. “This is certainly true when it comes to rare coins. Just because a coin is old doesn’t mean it’s valuable, and even if it is rare, its value could be diminished if it’s in poor condition. Nevertheless, there are some old coins that are so rare and well-preserved that they’re worth a fortune.
Adams’ words are mostly true. However, Adams couldn’t expect certain coins to become so scarce that their “rarity” would greatly impact their value, overshadowing the other two factors. Today, there are many examples where a coin’s value is almost entirely based on its “rarity” factor.
A good example is the 1933 Saint-Gaudens gold double eagle. Only a handful of these coins exist, and they are some of the most valuable coins in the world, with each one worth.
There are a limited number of old coins because, unlike fiat currency, they can’t be reproduced. When it comes to condition, some collectors prefer old coins that show their age and wear. This is called patina, and many people believe it adds character to the coin.
When dealing with coins as rare as the ones on this list, it’s always best to have them professionally appraised. The value of these coins can change rapidly, and what might have been a record-breaking sale last year could be eclipsed by a new find or discovery.
Also, remember that all of these ultra-rare coins are sold at auctions, which typically have buyer’s fees that can add up to 20% or more of the total sale price.
Speaking of auctions, you can save a few bucks (or…a million or two in the case of the rarest coins) by playing your cards correctly.
Let’s now see the most valuable dollar coins in history.
The 6 Most Valuable Dollar Coins
It’s funny how a coin that is supposed to be worth 1 dollar actually ends up going for millions of dollars at auctions. Makes you wonder about the subjective value of money, doesn’t it?
What you’re about to see is a list of incredibly valuable coins. While for most average ones factors like condition and minting year will affect the value, the ones you’re about to see owe their price to much rarer circumstances.
So, without further ado, here are the most valuable dollar coins:
1794 Flowing Hair Dollar
The flowing hair dollar was the first dollar coin minted by the newly created United States Mint. Before this historical moment, people in the US used foreign coins, such as the Spanish dollar, to trade.
Also known as Copper Pattern Dollar, it was designed by Robert Scot. The front of the coin depicts Liberty with flowing hair, while the back has an image of an eagle.
This coin was minted in 1794 and 1795, and it is incredibly rare. In fact, only about a thousand of these coins are known to exist. The coin is made of 90% silver and 10% copper, which will be the standard for all American silver coins until 1964.
Historically, the flowing hair dollar has always been among the rarest coins. In 1804, when the Mint ceased production of silver dollars, many of the original dies were destroyed. That’s why you can only find uncirculated versions of this coin — the circulated ones all got melted down for their silver content. This made the coins that were minted in those two years even more valuable.
There is also a stark contrast between the price of MS-65 and MS-66 graded coins. An MS-65 flowing hair dollar will go for about $500,000 (although the last sale of a MS-65 flowing hair dollar happened in 1991), while an MS-66 coin can cost over ten million dollars, like in this 2013 auction on Stack Bowers. Even more mouth-watering is a June 2022 sale of a 1794 flowing hair dollar that went for 12 million dollars on GreatCollectors. Another auction saw the coin go for a more sober $6,600,000 price at Heritage Auction in 2021.
Editor’s note: Usacoinbook estimates this coin’s value at $11,769,083 which is in line with the most recent sale.
1804 Draped Bust Dollar
The draped bust dollar started seeing mintage in 1795, and it’s the direct successor to the 1794 flowing hair dollar. The coin, designed by famed engraver Robert Scot, depicts a youthful Liberty on the front side with her hair tied with a ribbon. The reverse has the same eagle motif as its predecessor, though with a revamped design. This new eagle holds a Pluribus Unum banner, meaning “out of many, one” in its beak.
The draped bust dollar was minted until 1803 when production ceased due to a lack of silver. At that time, all the old dies were ordered to be destroyed — as was the case with most other coins. That’s why you can only find uncirculated examples of this coin. The last known mintage is the 1804 dollar, which was struck in 1834.
The 1804 dollar is one of the most valuable coins in the world, with a price tag reaching up to $20 million. The coin was never supposed to exist: In 1804, the Mint had officially stopped producing silver dollars. However, some diplomatic gifts were requested by President Thomas Jefferson for a trip to Asia, so the Mint had to produce them.
The most valuable draped bust dollar is the 1804 Class I silver dollar, also known as the “Beetle Wing” dollar. The other versions of these coins, such as 1804 $1 restrike class II and class III are still valuable, though not as much as the original.
The draped bust dollar is also very rare, with only a handful of examples known to exist. The most expensive coin ever sold is the Class I specimen, graded by PCGS as SP66+. An example of this coin was sold in 2021 at Stack Bowsers for an incredible $7,680,000. Not too shabby, considering pcgs itself recommends a $8,750,000.00 price for the coin.
1885 T$1 Trade Dollar
The Trade dollar was designed by William Barber, the same man who designed the Liberty Head nickel. It was meant to be used in trade with the Orient, as its name suggests, and was minted from 1873 to 1885. The coins were made of 90% silver and 10% copper.
The Trade dollar wasn’t very popular during its time and wasn’t widely used. That’s why you can find so many uncirculated examples of the coin today. Nevertheless, its limited production makes it a valuable collectible item for numismatists.
The trade dollar was produced in high relief, which made it difficult to strike. As a result, most of the coins minted were poorly struck and had to be melted down. In 1876, the Mint lowered the silver content from 90% to 77%, which made the coin less attractive to foreign traders. The coin was finally discontinued in 1885.
Despite its short lifespan, the trade dollar is still a valuable coin. A proof specimen was sold in 2019 for $3,960,000. A more recent sale in 2021 saw tthe coin go for $2,100,000, though we must specify that it was of a lower grading than the one sold in 2021 (PR63 vs PR66)
1870-S Seated Liberty Dollar
The seated liberty dollar was designed by Christian Gobrecht and was minted from 1840 to 1873. The coin features a Liberty figure seated on a rock, with her right hand resting on a shield and her left hand holding a staff. The reverse has an eagle perched on a branch.
This coin is part of the series known as Gobrecht dollars, which also includes the half dollar and quarter eagle. The dollar was actually supposed to be made of gold, but that idea was scrapped due to the high price of the precious metal.
The seated liberty dollar was minted for 33 years (from 1840 until 1873), making it one of the longest-running coin series in US history. The coins were made of 90% silver and
The seated liberty dollar was actually supposed to be made of gold, but that idea was scrapped due to the high price of the precious metal. As a result, the coin was made of 90% silver and only weigh 416 grains (26.73 grams).
This coin is extremely valuable even at lower grades. Expect to pay up to $800,000 for a 40-graded one. Stack’s sold one in BU condition for over a million dollars. BU means brilliantly uncirculated, which means it is as good as new.
Editor’s note: usacoinbook values uncirculated 1870-S dollar coins at over 2 million dollars, though none have been sold in over a decade, which makes it hard to verify.
1801 Draped Bust Dollars : Proof Restrike
The 1801 draped bust dollar was designed by Robert Scot and featured a Liberty figure draped in cloth. The coin is a proof restrike, meaning it was made to look like the original 1801 coins. This coin is a ‘Novodel’, which means it was produced without using the original dies.
The coin was created as a pattern coin in 1834 by the request of President Andrew Jackson. It is believed that around 20-25 examples were struck and given to close friends and family of Jackson. In 1858, the U.S Mint began restriking proof coins for collectors, and this process continued until 1861.
The design of the 1801 draped bust dollar is similar to the original coins minted in 1801. It features a Liberty figure draped in cloth, with the word ‘Liberty’ inscribed on the coin. The reverse side of the coin features an eagle with wings spread.
1796 Draped Bust Silver Dollar: Small Date – Small Letters
The 1796 Draped Bust Silver Dollar: Small Date – Small Letters is a rare coin designed by Robert Scot and John Eckstein and minted in the United States. It is made up of 89% silver and 11% copper.
The obverse (front) of the coin features a draped bust of Liberty with a small date and small letters, while the reverse (back) has a bald eagle with outstretched wings. This coin was minted from 1796-1797 and is a popular collector’s item.
The coin was minted in Philadelphia and presented no mint mark, which is normal for this period.
There were two different types of this coin minted, one with a small date and small letters and the other with a large date and large letters. The small date and small letters coins are more rare, and, therefore, more valuable.
Here are 2 images that exemplify what ‘small date’ and ‘small letters’ mean, directly from coinusabook:
On the left image, you can see that the date is small and close to the bust of Liberty. This is what we call a small date. On the right image, you can see that the date is larger and further away from the eagle. This is what we call a large date.
It is estimated that only a few thousand of these coins were ever minted, and that only a handful remains in existence today, which contributes to the coin’s value.
The weirdest part about this coin is the steep jump in price from an MS-60 to an MS-65. An MS-60 coin is graded as being in good condition, while an MS-65 coin is graded as being in almost perfect condition. The site usacoinbook evaluates an MS-60 coin at $71,080, whereas an uncirculated MS-65 one should go for $1,335,867. That’s quite a difference!
Coin collecting is a fun and interesting hobby that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. In fact, many people start collecting coins as children. It’s a great way to learn about history, geography, and economics. And, of course, it’s also a lot of fun to find rare and valuable coins.
If you’re thinking about getting started in coin collecting, there are a few things you need to know. The first is that there are different types of coins collectors can pursue. Some collectors focus on ancient coins, while others specialize in modern currency. There are also collectors who focus on commemorative coins or error coins.
The second thing you need to know is the cost of starting a collection. Collecting coins doesn’t have to be expensive, but as you’ve seen, some rare and valuable coins can fetch high prices at auction. A few one-dollar coins could get you started without spending too much money.
The third thing you need to know is that there are a few ways to acquire coins. You can find coins in circulation, at coin dealers, and online. Each of these sources has its own pros and cons, so it’s important to do your research before buying anything.