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Even though many coin collectors can’t afford to purchase rare coins, numismatists of every budget still like to know which are the rarest coins.
Of course, like so many things, rarity is a matter of relativity.
In certain cases, many coins that collectors consider rare are, in absolute numbers, rather plentiful.
Even certain coins that have been minted well into the thousands are still considered rare because there simply are nowhere nearly enough coins of certain dates available to satisfy all coin collectors’ demands!
While there are simply too many different kinds of rare coins to consider here, let’s look at 9 of the rarest coins many coin collectors love to chase after.
9 Of The Rarest U.S. Coins
Again, there are many, many different types of coins that collectors, numismatists, and others consider rare. But let’s look at 9 of the most popular rare coins that always are in demand.
1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent
Perhaps the one coin both coin collectors and non-collectors both know about is the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent. While 484,000 were made (and thus there really are very many around), there are simply way too many more people who want this coin than there are remaining specimens.
Values have risen considerably in recent years. It’s now gotten to the point where you have to expect to spend at least $1,000 for even a very worn piece that hasn’t been cleaned or damaged. Uncirculated specimens are worth around $2,000 to $3,000 and up. People will shell out hundreds of dollars even for corroded examples of this famous coin.
1943 Bronze Lincoln Cent
The U.S. was making steel pennies in 1943 to save copper for the war effort. But the U.S. mint apparently still had some copper coin blanks on hand when they accidentally minted about 40 bronze examples of the 1943 cent.
The 1943 bronze cent has shown up in circulation on extremely rare occasions over the decades. All examples are extremely valuable, bringing in around $100,000 or more in recent years.
1913 Liberty Nickel
While not a regular-issue coin, the 1913 Liberty nickel is the stuff of some coin collectors’ dreams. Just 5 of these coins were made, and on the rare occasion that they go to auction, they draw big-time attention and sell for ever-increasing amounts. One recently sold for $3.7 million!
1916-D Mercury Dime
The 1916-D Mercury dime is a rarity along the same lines as the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent. A key issue for collectors of the series, 264,000 1916-D Mercury dimes were made. There simply aren’t enough 1916-D Mercury dimes to go to all the coin collectors who want them!
Buying a 1916-D Mercury dime means paying at least $1,000 (more or less) for an example that’s well worn but not damaged.
1901-S Barber Quarter
The 1901-S Barber quarter has long been a sought-after coin that eludes many collectors due to its high price and relatively low mintage. 72,664 were made. Values range between $5,000 and $20,000 for well to moderately circulated examples.
1916 Standing Liberty Quarter
The 1916 Standing Liberty quarter is popular for many reasons, including its low mintage of just 52,000, the fact that it’s the first year of the Standing Liberty design, and because it includes a design of a bare-breasted Miss Liberty. In 1917, the U.S. Mint provided Miss Liberty a mail that covers her front and also a redesigned reverse that changes the placement of the stars around the flying eagle.
Values for the 1916 Standing Liberty quarter start around $3,000 to $5,000 for low-grade examples that are uncleaned and undamaged.
1804 Bust Silver Dollar
OK, if you want to hear about the what’s considered the most popular of all rare coin perhaps in all the world, than you need to hear more about the 1804 Bust dollar.
Considering both originals and U.S. Mint-made restrikes, 15 examples were made.
It’s believed the 1804 Bust dollar was actually made during the mid-1830s; they were included in special presentation proof sets.
Want an 1804 Bust dollar for your coin collection? Make sure you have some cash on hand, because you’re looking to spend well over a million dollars to get one! In fact one sold at auction in 1999 for $4.1 million.
1893-S Morgan Dollar
Though not worth millions like the 1804 dollar we just discussed, the 1893-S Morgan dollar isn’t any slouch! Only 100,000 were made, and putting one in your collection may mean saving up some funds before getting to buy one.
The 1893-S Morgan dollar costs over $7000 in grades of Very Fine; get ready to spend over $100,000 if you want an example in nice uncirculated examples.
1933 Double Eagle
OK, we’re saving the most-expensive of the 9 coins here for last. The 1933 Double Eagle gold coin is not only a rare coin, but it belongs to a series that’s widely considered among the most beautiful coins in the world.
The Saint-Gaudens double eagle, named for its designer (Augustus Saint-Gaudens), was produced from 1907 through 1933. During the last year, 445,000 were made but virtually all were melted by the U.S. Mint. 13 are known to exist, but just one of these has been sold at auction. It was bought for a cool $7.5 million at auction in 2002.
My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I'm a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I'm also the editor at CDN Publishing (a trusted source for the price of U.S. rare coins), editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I've contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I've also authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins — and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!