Early U.S. Coin Values & Trends

1794-Flowing-Hair-Half-Dime-Obverse.jpg Early U.S. coins, generally those produced from 1793 to about 1839, have been highly demanded among old coin "type" collectors for generations.

Among the first U.S. legal tender produced for this country, early US coins bear obverse designs with busts, or head portraits, of Miss Liberty.

The reverses tend to show wreaths and images of eagles. Some of these old coins have lettering stamped on the edges.

What’s the value of old coins?

Collecting Scarce Old Coins

Early U.S. coins seem to be getting scarcer and scarcer as the years go on, and the demand for these old coins is strong in many circles.

The key to buying a really solid early U.S. coin is finding one that is uncleaned, has no damage, and has a really good strike.

That means that there are no prominent weak areas in the design due solely to the way the old coin was produced, but wear is allowed.

Consider all the denominations, dates, and varieties of old coins produced from the 1790s through the 1830s. See how they have performed over the years.

There are hundreds of old coins that investors and coin collectors have to choose from among these early U.S. coins.


Old Coin Values: 1994 vs 2009

Draped-Bust-dollar-obverse.jpgA good number of these early U.S. coins have seen tremendous gains in value over the past 15 years.

Let’s look at some of these old coins and see how they have performed over the years.

We’ll use the "type" price — the lowest price for an example of a certain design.

For price comparisons, the 1994 and 2009 editions of A Guide Book of United States Coins (by R.S. Yeoman and Kenneth Bressett) will be used in this survey.

  • Liberty Cap Half-Cent, 1794-1797: $200-20,000 in Good to Mint-State 65 (1994 edition)
  • Liberty Cap Half-Cent, 1794-1797: $475-50,000 in Good to Mint-State 65 (2009 edition)
  • Classic Head Large Cent, 1808-1814: $30-21,000 in Good to Mint-State 65 (1994 edition)
  • Classic Head Large Cent, 1808-1814: $50-19,000 in Good to Mint-State 65 (2009 edition)
  • Flowing Hair Half-Dime, 1794-1795: $575-30,000 in Good to Mint-State 65 (1994 edition)
  • Flowing Hair Half-Dime, 1794-1795: $1,200-40,000 in Good to Mint-State 65 (2009 edition)
  • Capped Bust Half-Dime, 1829-1837: $13-4,000 in Good to Mint-State 65 (1994 edition)
  • Capped Bust Half-Dime, 1829-1837: $35-3,200 in Good to Mint-State 65 (2009 edition)
  • Draped Bust Dime (Small Eagle Reverse), 1796-1797: $900-50,000 in Good to Mint-State 65 (1994 edition)
  • Draped Bust Dime (Small Eagle Reverse), 1796-1797: $1,800-70,000 in Good to Mint-State 65 (2009 edition)
  • Draped Bust Quarter, 1796: $3,500-100,000 in Good to Mint-State 65 (1994 edition)
  • Draped Bust Quarter, 1796: $11,500-250,000 in Good to Mint-State 65 (2009 edition)
  • Capped Bust Quarter ("Small" Size), 1831-1838: $35-18,000 in Good to Mint-State 65 (1994 edition)
  • Capped Bust Quarter ("Small Size"), 1831-1838: $75-19,000 in Good to Mint-State 65
  • (2009 edition)
  • Flowing Hair Half-Dollar, 1794-1795: $350-125,000 in Good to Mint-State 65 (1994 edition)
  • Flowing Hair Half-Dollar, 1794-1795: $900-175,000 in Good to Mint-State 65 (2009 edition)
  • Capped Bust Half-Dollar (Lettered-Edge), 1807-1836: $25-9,000 in Good to Mint-State 65 (1994 edition)
  • Capped Bust Half-Dollar (Lettered Edge), 1807-1836: $60-9,750 in Good to Mint-State 65 (2009 edition)
  • Draped Bust Dollar (Heraldic Eagle): $300-125,000 in Good to Mint-State 65 (1994 edition)
  • Draped Bust Dollar (Heraldic Eagle): $825-180,000 in Good to Mint-State 65 (2009 edition)

These are just a few of the many early type old coins.

 

Early U.S. Coin Trends

As you can see, among these old coins, there has been nothing but price increases for the "Good" grade coins. However, prices have been relatively flat or have even dropped for a few of the mint-state old coins listed here.

Still, prices have been strong for most of the type coins listed here.

That underscores the great demand for some of these old coins. Price increases have not only been among the high-grade, "investment" level coins, but clearly has been strong for lower grades, too.

However, while the prices here indicate upward growth for the past several years, there are no sure bets in coin investing.

In fact, some of the prices for the old coins quoted here from the 1994 edition actually had dropped greatly from much higher levels a few years earlier. That was when there was a very strong coin-investment market.

Therefore, realize the information here should not be used as an investment guide. Invest your money at your own risk, and bear in mind the coin market can be and has been in the past very volatile.

 

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Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez

My love for coins and numismatics began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I've also been studying meteorology and watching weather patterns for years. I enjoy sharing little-known facts and fun stuff about coins, weather, travel, health, and living green with others.

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Fun From Around the Web

  • maria

    what is a herald eagle flowind hair (1806)

  • Betty

    I have a 1794 half dime that is in great condition, except my ancestors put a hole through it during the civil war. Where can I find out if there is any value to this coin?

    • Anonymous

      Hello, Betty –

      There is definitely value to your 1794 dime (assuming is authentic), and its value is likely still in the hundreds assuming the hole isn’t too bad (though, please take that value estimate with a grain of salt – without seeing the coin, I really can’t say for certain).

      I would check out this search engine of reputable coin dealers and then take it to several in your area to see who offers the best price for it, if you’re interested in selling it: http://www.pngdealers.com/dealersearch.php

      Good luck!