8 Most Valuable Commemorative Coins in History

Commemorative coins celebrate special events, people, institutions or accomplishments. Unlike circulating coins meant for commercial transactions, commemoratives serve as collectibles and educational pieces highlighting important aspects of culture and history. Their designs beautifully encapsulate the iconic moments or figures being honored.

While modern commemorative issues are produced mainly as novelties for the general public, some older or especially rare commemorative coins have become highly coveted by collectors and historians alike. A unique combination of age, mintage size, condition, artistic beauty and cultural resonance can make certain commemoratives extremely valuable.

8 Most Valuable Commemorative Coins

This article explores eight of the highest-priced commemorative coins ever sold at auction. Beyond their impressive price tags, each coin has a compelling backstory connecting us to pivotal junctures in human civilization across centuries.

1. 1933 Double Eagle – $18.87 Million

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  • Rare: Only 14 exist, 2 in museums, 11 with US Mint, 1 privately owned.
  • Value: $18.87 million at auction (2021), exceeding estimates.
  • History: Minted pre-Great Depression, never circulated due to policy shift.
  • Design: Lady Liberty & majestic eagle, 1oz gold.
  • Story: Embodies economic transformation, captivating historical relic.

The 1933 Double Eagle is a $20 gold coin struck by the United States Mint. With a face value of $20, it is the highest denomination coin ever minted by the U.S. As a gold coin, its actual precious metal value always exceeded its monetary value.

Originally meant for regular circulation, the 1933 Double Eagle never saw public release. The U.S. abandoned the gold standard that year, effectively making gold coins like this illegal to own for U.S. citizens. Nearly all the 1933 Double Eagles were melted down into gold bars, with perhaps a few dozen escaping the smelting pots. Due to this extraordinarily low supply, the 1933 Double Eagle became legendary among coin collectors as the `Holy Grail’ of rare U.S. coinage.

After decades shrouded in mystery, some 1933 Double Eagle specimens began to surface in collector circles. In 2002, a 1933 Double Eagle was sold at auction for $7.59 million – the highest price ever paid for any coin at the time. Then, in 2021 the world record was shattered again when an example graded MS65 sold in a Sotheby’s auction for an astronomical $18.87 million!

2. 1794 Flowing Hair Silver/Copper Dollar – $10 Million

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  • Rare: Early US coin (150-200 minted), few remain.
  • Value: $10 million auction record (2013).
  • History: First authorized US silver dollar, symbolizing nation’s financial birth.
  • Design: Flowing Hair Liberty on obverse, heraldic eagle on reverse.
  • Story: Represents national identity, highly sought-after by collectors.

In 1794, the young United States of America opened the first Federal mint. This meant America could now strike its own domestic coins officially, including the very first silver dollar coin displaying Lady Liberty. These inaugural silver dollars are hugely important in American numismatic history.

The 1794 Flowing Hair dollars were prone to irregularities though, since coining techniques were primitive. The silver blanks were also somewhat undersized. As a clever remedy, mint workers decided to fuse small amounts of copper into the silver planchets before striking. This resulted in the very first bi-metallic coins issued by the U.S, combining 90% silver with 10% copper on the same planchet.

Of the approx. 2,000 examples struck, only about 125-130 survive today in collectors’ hands. Most are fairly low grade, showing heavy wear and tear. But in 2013, an extraordinarily pristine 1794 Flowing Hair dollar graded SP-66 sold at auction for a staggering $10 million! It is the single finest known example of America’s first silver dollar coin.

3. Brasher Doubloon EB Counterstamp – $7.4 Million

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  • Rare: Early US private gold piece (70-80 minted), very few left.
  • Value: $7.4 million auction record (2014).
  • History: Unique coin counterstamped by NYC metalsmith Ephraim Brasher.
  • Design: Eagle on obverse, Brasher’s “EB” on eagle’s chest, heraldic design on reverse.
  • Story: One-of-a-kind piece, embodies early American coinage & craftsmanship.

Privately minted in the late 18th century, the Brasher doubloon gold coin holds immense historical importance in early U.S. coinage experiments. The coins were the personal project of Ephraim Brasher, a talented New York gold- and silversmith. Well regarded amongst America’s merchant class and the U.S. Mint’s first director, Brasher struck a small batch of these coins as prototypes showcasing his talents.

Weighing around 26 grams of 22-carat gold, the coins seem similar to the Spanish doubloons used in early American commerce. However, Brasher’s coins were stamped with a distinctive EB hallmark counterstamped onto the eagle motif, signifying Brasher’s initials.

Only 7-15 Brasher doubloons are believed to still exist. Of these, the one carrying a unique EB hallmark punched through the eagle’s wing is considered the single finest specimen. Graded EF-45, it was sold in 2014 by Heritage Auctions for an astonishing $7.4 million – easily a record for any early American gold coin!

4. 1907 Saint Gaudens Ultra High Relief Double Eagle – $7.6 million

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  • Ultra rare: Only 12,367 minted, few in high grades.
  • Record price: $7.6 million (2019).
  • Artistic masterpiece: High-relief design by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
  • Unique feature: American eagle in flight on reverse.
  • Collectible prize: Artistic merit, rarity, and historical significance.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens was one of America’s most renowned sculptors around the turn of the 20th century. In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned him to redesign the nation’s four gold denominations: the $2.50, $5, $10 & $20 Double Eagle coins. Saint-Gaudens created extremely detailed high-relief models for Roosevelt’s vision of making American coinage as grandiose as ancient Greek staters.

However, the United States Mint faced difficulties faithfully translating Saint-Gaudens’s relief models onto usable circulation coins with any depth of detail. The only year where they somewhat overcame the production challenges was 1907, when just 12,367 of these Ultra High Relief Double Eagles were minted. Their date was then changed to 1908 for continued lower-relief attempts.

Of the rare 1907 Ultra High Reliefs, most show unfortunate signs of mishandling from abrasions to weak strikes. But one pristine PR-68 example stunned collectors when it sold for $7.6 million in 2022 – setting the world record for any Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle. Its finely sculpted high-relief details are a sight to behold!

5. King Edward III Florin – $6.8 Million

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  • Rare: Early English gold coin (estimated few hundred minted), very few remain.
  • Value: $6.8 million auction record (2019).
  • History: Marks Edward III’s reign and introduction of gold coinage in England.
  • Design: King’s portrait on obverse, ship representing trade on reverse.
  • Significance: Connects to medieval history, economic development, and artistic style.

The Edward III florin holds the distinction of being among the very earliest known gold coins struck in medieval England. Minted from 1343-1344 under King Edward III’s reign, it was likely a pattern or trial piece for a never-adopted denomination.

Featuring the armored king astride his warhorse, the coin’s imagery commemorates Edward III’s military leadership and early victories in the Hundred Years War with France. Weighing about 3.5 grams of 23.5 karat gold, only a minuscule 3 specimens exist across museums and elite private collections.

In 2006, an EF-40 grade Edward III florin was discovered in the famous Colchester hoard of English medieval coins. It was acquired and sold in 2017 via private treaty for roughly $6.8 million – an enormous sum for a 700-year-old gold coin! While the florin has a small hole punctured through it, its age and unmatched rarity make it irresistibly valuable for die-hard English coin collectors.

6. 2007 Canadian $1 Million Coin – $4 Million

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  • Value: $4 million auction record (2010).
  • Commemorative: Celebrates 400th anniversary of Quebec City’s founding.
  • Material: Pure platinum, world’s largest at the time of minting.
  • Design: Queen Elizabeth II on obverse, Canadian landmarks on reverse.
  • Uniqueness: A conversation starter, blending historical significance and high value.

To celebrate the Confederation of Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017, the Royal Canadian Mint crafted a unique numismatic showpiece – a $1 million gold coin weighing 100kg! Claimed to be the world’s purest and largest gold coin ever minted, it boasts a .99995 gold purity rating. The coin’s reverse depicts iconic Canadian symbols like the maple leaf and canoe, rendered in radiant 99.999% gold detail.

While carrying an official $1 million legal tender face value, this mega-coin understandably never circulated. Instead, it served as a symbolic flagship collectible for RCM’s sesquicentennial festivities and was later sold via private auction. In 2010, it traded hands for $4.02 million CAD – over 4 times its precious metal melt value…and double its $2 million issue price!

Given its magnificent size and craftsmanship though, the million dollar coin was certainly worth the premium for its proud anonymous owner. It stands as Canada’s crowning numismatic achievement.

7. 1913 Liberty Head Nickel – $4.56 Million

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  • Value: Record-breaking $4.56 million auction price (2018).
  • Rarity: Only five known to exist, minting error.
  • History: Should not have been made in 1913, intended to be replaced.
  • Design: Lady Liberty on obverse, Roman numeral V on reverse (meant to be I).
  • Unique feature: Doubled die error creates a ghostly effect on design.
  • Story: Highly sought-after due to rarity, error, and historical intrigue.

In the early 20th century, the Liberty Head design gave way to Charles Barber’s new Liberty “V” nickels followed by Buffalo nickels. But over a century ago in 1913, a few anomalous Liberty Head nickels were struck mistakenly. This mistake happened probably due to some old Liberty dies being stockpiled when they should have been destroyed.

Only 5 specimens exist of these 1913 Liberty Head nickels. Numismatists have painstakingly traced their separate journeys through the decades. All are certified and graded proofs, now preserved in major coin museums and elite private collections.

In April 2013, one such 1913 Liberty Head nickel graded PR-63 came up on auction and shattered all records for any U.S. coin sale, hammering down at $3.17 million! The anonymous winner – Las Vegas casino tycoon Bruce Morelan – then put the coin up for sale again in 2018. This time, it traded owners once more for an even higher $4.56 million!

8. 1804 Bust Dollar Class I Original – $3.8 Million

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  • Value: $3.8 million auction record (2019).
  • Rarity: Only eight “Originals” exist, most held by institutions.
  • History: Minted in 1834 (not 1804) for diplomatic gifts, never circulated.
  • Design: Draped Bust Liberty on obverse, heraldic eagle on reverse.
  • Uniqueness: Not truly minted in 1804, a historical “what-if.”
  • Story: Valuable for rarity, fascinating backstory, and connection to U.S. diplomacy.

The 1804 bust dollar is an enigmatic U.S. coin steeped in history and intrigue. Despite carrying an 1804 date, no silver dollars were actually struck that year due to coin die shortages. Several years later in the 1830s-1850s, restrikes of 1804 dollars were created illegally using the original early 1800s dies as mementos for friends of Mint employees. Today eight 1804 dollar specimens are known.

Today eight 1804 dollar specimens are known, categorized into three classes depending on origin. The sole finest specimen is the Dexter-Pogue example graded PR-68 – part of Class I consisting of the only 3 coins considered true original strikes from the 1800s.

First surfacing in the mid 19th century, the Dexter-Pogue 1804 dollar has an impeccable provenance. It was once owned by Lorin G. Parmelee, considered the father of American numismatics, before passing through other landmark collections. In 2021, Las Vegas casino owner Bruce Morelan added it to his unrivaled “Moore Collection” of rarities for $3.25 million. Then, just a year later in 2022 the 1804 dollar switched hands again via private sale – this time for $3.8 million!

What makes the 1804 dollar so special among U.S. coins? As one of the nation’s most legendary rarities, its prestige extends beyond numismatics into wider popular culture. It has been referenced in films, songs and video games over the years. The coin’smystique also builds upon the origins of the 1804 date itself. Why carry this specific year, and who exactly struck these clandestine pieces? We may never have all the answers, but the enigma and exclusivity of 1804 silver dollars endures.


As we have seen, the market value of these commemorative coins reaches incredible heights at auction or private sale. Record-setting price tags arise from their prodigious rarity, impeccable condition, and resonance with wealthy collectors.

Coins tell stories about human history. They show important events in different countries over hundreds of years. Coins come from many places, like America, England, and Europe during the Renaissance. They saw big moments happening in those times and places.

People who study old coins can learn a lot. They spend years uncovering where each coin has been. The people who owned them also matter. Famous and influential people collected and cared about these coins long ago.

Collecting these special coins connects investing, history and art. Coins are more than just metal – they carry history within their designs. Coins honor kings, animals, plants, ideas and more. They show the human spirit and our interest in the past.

Record sales make news. But remember, coins are messengers through time too. They help later generations learn about and appreciate the past. Coins let you hold history in your hand!

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