Gold coins have an aura of prestige about them that is recognized around the world. Many people value gold coins for their artistic qualities—some issues are noted for their beautiful designs. Other people enjoy owning high-quality rare collectibles. Still more are investors who just want to turn a profit on a widely sought-after commodity.
What all this means is that the business of buying and selling gold coins is quite active and healthy in the 2020s. If you have some gold coins lying around, now is a good time to capitalize on their market value. But if you’ve never sold these kinds of items before, it’s likely that you have a few questions about the process. With that in mind, we’ve put together a brief guide to gold coin collecting, including how you can go about selling your collection for competitive prices.
A Brief History of Gold Coin Collecting
In America, gold coins were in circulation back in the Colonial era, although many of them were from overseas countries such as England, Spain, and France. It wasn’t until the Coinage Act of 1857 that the U.S. barred the use of these coins as legal tender within the country.
However, the U.S. did produce its own gold coins, which followed the rules set down by the earlier Coinage Act of 1792. The Act called for the creation of three types of gold coins: the $10 “Eagle,” the $5 “Half Eagle,” and the $2.50 “Quarter Eagle.” Of these coins, the $5 Half Eagle became the most commonly minted.
In the early years, it was common to melt down gold coins because their value as raw gold actually surpassed their face value. For that reason, President Jefferson ordered a stop to the production of the ten-dollar Eagle in 1804. Production of these coins would not resume until 1838.
The $1 gold coin arrived in 1849, while the U.S.’s first $3 gold coin came out in 1854. Both coins would be produced until 1889.
In 1892, the U.S. began producing Not Intended for Circulation (NIFC) commemorative coins. Some of these, such as the 1904-05 Lewis and Clark Centennial dollar, were gold coins.
In the first decade of the 20th century, President Theodore Roosevelt became preoccupied with the idea of designing and minting gold coins that would surpass all those that came before in elegance and prestige. These efforts, aided by noted sculptors Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Bela Lyon Pratt, resulted in some of the most stunning gold coins in the world, such as the Indian Head eagle.
The gold coin market encountered a serious setback in 1933, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6102, which banned private citizens from owning gold (with certain exceptions). As a result, many gold coins, vintage and modern, were melted down by the U.S. Treasury. The Order remained in effect until 1974.
The price of gold has soared over the last few decades. Today, gold coin collecting is a thriving industry that attracts dedicated numismatists as well as investors who deal in valuable metals. Gold coins will likely remain valued collectibles for many years to come.
Popular Gold Coins
As with so many collectibles, gold coins vary considerably in their market value and their relative desirability among buyers. What follows is an overview of the more popular gold coins on the market today.
United States Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle
Produced from 1907 to 1933, the $20 Saint-Gaudens double eagle is many collectors’ pick as the most beautiful gold coin ever made. The obverse of the coin shows Lady Liberty holding a torch in her right hand and an olive branch in her left. The reverse shows an eagle flying over a radiant sun; most of these coins also have the words “In God We Trust” along the curvature of the sun. The coin gets its name from its designer, Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907).
During the Depression, the U.S. Treasury melted down millions of gold coins, which explains the scarcity of these coins and contributes to their perennially high demand on the collector’s market.
United States American Gold Eagle
The American Gold Eagle coin arrived on the scene in 1986 and quickly became one of the most prized collectibles on the market. These American Eagle coins exist in four denominations: 1/10 oz ($5), 1/4 oz ($10), 1/2 oz ($25), and 1 oz ($50). The obverse of the coin is based on and closely resembles the Saint-Gaudens double eagle design, with its rendition of Lady Liberty. The reverse shows either an eagle flying over a nest (1986-2020) or an eagle’s head in profile (2021-present).
United States Indian Head Eagle
The Indian Head eagle is another dazzling coin that sports the distinctive designs of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Produced from 1907 to 1933 (but only on an intermittent basis after 1916) with a $10 face value, it features a profile view of the goddess Liberty wearing a Native American headdress (obverse) and an eagle standing on an olive branch (reverse). As with Saint-Gaudens double eagle, these coins were melted down in great quantities in the late ’30s, which contributes to the relative scarcity of certain years today.
The coins issued in 1907 omitted the customary motto “In God We Trust,” a move that proved to be extremely unpopular with the public. From 1908 onward, the coins bore the motto on the reverse.
Canadian Gold Maple Leaf
First minted in 1979, the Canadian Gold Maple Leaf is another coin that is renowned for its beautiful design. It displays a profile of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse and the Canadian Maple Leaf on the reverse (which inspires the coin’s name).
Until November 1982, Gold Maple Leafs were minted with .999% purity. Since then, the Royal Canadian Mint has produced the coin at .9999% purity; the only exceptions are occasional special edition releases that can boast a “five nine” purity (.99999%). Among these special editions is the Big Maple Leaf (BML) that was created in 2007. This very rare coin—only six were produced—has a face value of $1 million.
The early Gold Maple Leafs were issued only in 1 oz denominations, but the range of options has since been expanded to include 1/2 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/10 oz, 1/20 oz, and 1 gram coins as well. All types of Gold Maple Leaf coins remain highly sought-after by collectors around the world.
South African Krugerrand
Here is a coin that is famous well beyond the realm of professional collectors—the Krugerrand has been a byword for wealth and prestige since it was first released in July 1967. For many, it is the most desirable of all gold bullion coins, but its association with South Africa’s apartheid government traditionally made it subject to various sanctions that restricted access to it. For instance, the U.S. banned imports of Krugerrands in 1985. However, the dissolution of apartheid in 1991 led to a boom in Krugerrand collecting.
The Krugerrand, named after South African president Paul Kruger (1825–1904), is produced by the South African Mint, which also issues various limited-edition variants intended for the collector’s market. The Mint also released a special 50th anniversary Krugerrand in 2017 that was available in three versions: platinum, silver, and gold.
The obverse of the Krugerrand shows the bearded Kruger in profile, while the reverse depicts an antelope.
Easily among the most popular of all European bullion coins, the Vienna Philharmonic first came out in 1989 to honor the world-famous orchestra of the same name. It was the world’s best-selling gold coin in 1992, 1995, 1996, and 2000, and it remains in high demand today. The obverse of the coin features the Musikverein Pipe Organ and the reverse shows a collection of other musical instruments associated with the Vienna Philharmonic.
The Vienna Philharmonic is most widely associated with its gold (99.99% pure) version, but it is also available in platinum (99.95%) and silver (99.9%). The silver coin has been issued since 2008; the platinum, since 2016.
The Gold Philharmonic can be found in 1⁄25 ozt, 1⁄10 ozt, 1⁄4 ozt, 1⁄2 ozt, and 1 ozt versions.
Australian Gold Nugget
Produced by the Perth Mint since 1986, the Australian Gold Nugget comes in quite a few denominations: 1⁄20 oz, 1⁄10 oz, 1⁄4 oz, 1⁄2 oz, 1 oz, 2 oz, 10 oz, and 1 kg—the last few named in this sequence are among the largest gold coins in the world.
Unusually, the design of this coin is updated every year. From 1986-1988, the design on the reverse depicted the gold nuggets that inspired the coin’s name. Since then, the coin’s reverse has shown different kangaroo designs, which is why this valued collector’s item is often referred to as the Australian Gold Kangaroo. The obverse of the coin always displays a profile view of Queen Elizabeth II.
In 2011, the Perth Mint created a special version of this coin to honor Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Australia. The 1000kg coin is the largest in the world, weighing ten times more than the Big Maple Leaf, and is valued at over $53 million (AUS).
Notable gold coins such as the aforementioned are popular among investors and private collectors alike. However, it should be kept in mind that gold coins have significant value even if they don’t belong to one of these famous issues. At minimum, gold coins are always worth their melt value.
Reasons to Buy Gold Coins
Why would anyone want to invest in gold coins? There are more answers to that question than you might think. Collecting gold coins offers a number of advantages that alternative types of investments often cannot match. These include:
Liquidity – Gold coins can be easily converted into cash when necessary.
Prestige – Gold has been traditionally associated with glamour, independent of its monetary value at any given time.
Easy storage – Gold coins take up very little space, making it a simple matter to find a secure place for them.
Consistent returns – Gold often outperforms stocks and bonds.
Safe investment in a weak economy – Gold has a reputation for doing well when the economy as a whole is not.
Diversification – Because it tends not to follow broader economic trends, gold can add variety to an investment portfolio.
The varied benefits of gold mean that these kinds of coins tend to be perennially popular among investors. If you have gold to sell, it’s not difficult to find a reputable buyer who can offer good rates.
Determining the Value of Gold Coins
There are three basic factors that are considered when determining the value of a coin:
- Date – When was the coin made?
- Mintmark – This small mark indicates the mint where the coin was made.
- Condition – What is the coin’s physical appearance?
One easy way to get a rough estimate of the value of your gold coin is to look up the retail price of the coin that dealers are currently asking for. Keep in mind, however, that the retail price is always higher than what you would get if you sell your coin to a dealer.
The value of your gold coin is also based on its Actual Gold Weight (AGW), as measured in troy ounces. AGW is the weight of the gold multiplied by its purity. You can determine the purity by referring to the coin’s karat number, which refers to the relative amount of gold of the coin. For instance, a 22-karat coin is 22 parts gold and 2 parts non-gold materials. Here are some common karat numbers and their composition of gold:
- 24 karat: 99.9% gold
- 18 karat: 75% gold
- 14 karat: 58.5% gold
- 9 karat: 37.5% gold
Certain gold coins that have historical significance or other uncommon characteristics (e.g., scarcity) are often worth much more than the spot price of their gold content.
If you’re still uncertain how to determine the value of your gold coin, you may wish to consider having it professionally appraised by a reputable dealer.
Tips on Selling Gold Coins
So where can you go to sell your gold coins? The obvious solution is to go to a brick-and-mortar pawn shop or jewelry shop and see what price you can get. But there are several reasons why this may not be your best option.
Brick-and-mortar buyers tend to give lowball offers to people wanting to sell gold coins. It’s simple economics: These buyers have to worry about paying rent and shouldering various other expenses involved with operating a physical storefront. This gets factored into the price they’re willing to pay for gold.
Another problem with these types of buyers is that they’re often inexperienced with gold coins. This is especially true of generic pawn shops that deal with a very wide variety of items. They can easily undervalue your gold coins and offer you much less than you deserve for them.
Finally, if your gold coins are in poor condition, a brick-and-mortar buyer might refuse to make a deal for them altogether.
Fortunately, there is an alternative option that dispenses with all these potential roadblocks. When you work with an online buyer like Cash For Gold USA, you can sell your coins with relatively little effort while also obtaining a good price for them.
The benefits of selling online are many, including:
Higher payouts – Their relative lack of overhead means that online buyers are more likely to give you a reasonable amount of money for your gold coins.
Quick cash – You can get your money speedily when you deal with an online buyer. Often, you’ll get an offer within 24 hours of the receipt of your gold coins.
Up-to-date selling prices – Compared with pawn shops, online buyers are more likely to offer the most current rates for your gold.
Convenience – When you work with online buyers, you never need to travel. The buyer can ship a mailer straight to your address. All you need to do is walk to a mailbox.
More selling options – Online buyers are willing to consider badly damaged coins that jewelry shops and pawn shops may reject.
There are plenty of reasons to sell your gold coins. Maybe you’re in need of some extra cash, or you’ve inherited a small collection that you’d rather not keep, or you’d like to get rid of some long-held coins that you no longer value.
To date, Cash For Gold USA has paid out over $56 million to customers who wished to sell their precious metals. We have served over 250,000 customers and counting. With a price match guarantee and a risk-free process, Cash For Gold USA is your best bet when it comes to selling gold coins for good money. We also handle a wide variety of gold, silver, platinum, and palladium valuables.
See for yourself why we have become one of the biggest online B2C gold buyers on the planet. Contact us today!