It is believed that the first coins in the world showed up around 600 B.C. Produced in Lydia, a kingdom occupying modern-day Turkey and connected to ancient Greece, these coins were made of an alloy of gold and silver known as electrum.
The notion of money had been around long before that, of course. For example, the ancient Chinese were using shells as currency as long as 5,000 years ago. However, this was the first known time that actual coins arrived on the scene.
Throughout the course of history, countless fascinating and beautiful coins have been produced around the world. However, certain old coins maintain a tremendous amount of value, which is often based on their historical significance, rarity, and a number of other factors.
Are you wondering what the most valuable foreign coins are? Let’s take a look at the coins around the globe that have fetched more than a pretty penny.
What Makes Coins Valuable?
Before we get into the specifics, let’s take a look at what makes one coin valuable and not another. While gold and silver coins have the actual monetary value of the weight of their respective metals, there is often more to it than that. Some of the factors that go into how to determine the value of coins include:
- Population estimates
- Bullion content
In order to figure out whether any of your coins are valuable, you have to first analyze and identify what they are. You might be able to do this through research online or you can also contact a numismatic expert.
If you’re interested in collecting challenge coins, you can learn the difference between a soft enamel vs hard enamel coin here.
Edward III Florin (England)
In 1344, the English king Edward III attempted to deliver a gold coin that could be used in both England and Europe. This coin was known as the double florin or double leopard. At a value of six shillings, these coins were 108 grains of nominal pure gold.
Unfortunately, his attempt was unsuccessful as the coins were underweight for their value. This means that merchants found them unacceptable and, after a few months in circulation, the coins were withdrawn. Then they were melted down in order to form the gold noble.
There are only three examples of this coin that are known to still exist. Two of them were found in 1857 in the River Tyne which can currently be seen at the British Museum. The third was discovered in January of 2006 and fetched £460,000 at auction.
Ummayad Dinar (Middle East)
While not all Umayyad dinars demand an enormous price, one particular gold dinar was auctioned off for £3,720,000. This coin is thought to be only one of about a dozen that are known to exist. The reason that it is so valuable is that it bears a short line of text that translates to “mine of the commander of the faithful in the Hijaz.”
This text points to the fact that the mine was owned by the Caliph and the land itself was acquired directly from the Prophet Muhammad. This makes it highly significant within the Islamic faith.
Servilius Caepio Brutus AV Aureus (Ancient Roman)
Two years after the infamous assassination of Julius Caesar, Marcus Junius Brutus (of “et tu, Brutus?” fame) had a coin minted to commemorate his participation in the murder. They were minted in both gold and silver, and while there are more than 80 of the silver coins in existence, there are only three known gold copies.
One of these gold coins is at the British Museum, while another is a part of the Deutsche Bank collection. The third known coin was sold at an auction in London for £2.7 million to an anonymous bidder.
Single 9 Pond (South Africa)
The rarest gold coin in South Africa is the “Single 9” Pond, which is often referred to as the “King of South African Coins.” Though it isn’t well known on the global stage, it is one of the five most expensive coins in the entire world. In 2010, it sold for around $4 million.
In 1899, President Paul Kruger of the South African Republic ordered the minting of new cold coins amidst their long conflict with the British Empire to continue independence. However, the dies they needed to make new coins never made it to South Africa because they were seized by the British.
What they did in response was to decide to punch the number 9 on 1898 coins to mark the new year. However, when the first coin was struck, they realized that the number 9 was too big for the coin. Therefore, they didn’t use that punch for any more coins except the one and instead stamped two smaller 9s on the rest of the coins in the batch.
100 Ducats of Sigismund III Vasa (Poland)
There was a long war between the Ottoman army and the Polish army between the 16th and 17th centuries. Although there wasn’t a clear-cut victor in the war, the Polish did effectively stop the spread of Islam into Christian lands and lost fewer soldiers. In order to commemorate this perceived victory, king Sigismund III decided to mint 100 ducats gold coins.
One of these rare coins was sold in 2018 for $2.16 million.
Do You Dream of Owning One of These Valuable Foreign Coins?
While most of us probably don’t have several million dollars to shell out for one gold coin, we can always dream. Plus, there are so many more affordable ancient and fascinating coins that there’s no reason to break the bank for just one.
Coins carry an immense amount of history in their small, round mass. They tell the stories of empires that have risen and fallen, of victories of war, and of printing mistakes. There is something so incredible about finding or seeing a coin from the past and imagining it jingling around the pocket of an ancient merchant many years ago.
Did you find this article on valuable foreign coins interesting? If so, be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more fascinating and informative content!