Weird History
439.5k readers

Shatter Your Old Piggy Bank Because These Rare Coins Now Cost a Pretty Penny

Updated September 23, 2021 439.5k views15 items

A piggy bank in the days of bitcoin and online banking might seem quaint or even archaic. But even as digital currency overtakes our bank accounts, collectors are still in search of valuable and historic coins. Odds are your piggy bank is filled with humdrum American pennies and dimes, but your stash might include collectible coins that have accrued in value.

Just like collectible plush toys or Pokémon cards, coins can be worth a lot more money than their original value would suggest. And strangely enough, coins from the United States Mint that aren't in mint condition due to an error or defect of some kind are often worth the most. 

The coins on this list are rare, but the whereabouts of some of them are unknown, so shatter your old piggy bank and see if you can cash in uncommon currency. Only a few of these coins are worth millions, but even a quarter that's worth a mere $25 offers a return on its initial value that any investor would envy.

Photo:
  • 1885 Trade Dollar

    Video: YouTube

    What It's Worth: Up to $2 million

    Why It's Worth So Much: In the 19th century, the US government developed the trade coin to make trade with China more efficient. The Chinese government preferred the peso to the US dollar because of the amount of silver in each peso; therefore, the US minted trade dollars which contained 90% silver and weighed more than the peso. 

    Eventually, however, the cost of silver plummeted, and therefore the value of the trade dollar as well. Treasury Secretary John Sherman ended production of the trade dollar in 1979, but issued proofs for collectors in the following years.

    In 1908, collectors learned that "10 proofs dated 1884, and five proofs dated 1885 were minted," making any US trade dollar marked 1884 or 1885 the rearrest trade dollars on the market. 

  • Photo: National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

    What It's Worth: Up to $7,590,000

    Why It's Worth So Much: The $20 Saint-Gaudens double eagle coin, named after its designer, sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, is considered one of the most beautiful coins ever created in the US. The coin was issued from 1907 to 1933; however, the vast majority of 1933 coins were melted down into bars after President Franklin D. Roosevelt abolished the gold standard

    They were banned from circulation, and many of the coins illegally ended up in private hands. In 2002, one owned by King Farouk of Egypt sold for nearly $7.6 million to an anonymous buyer at a Sotheby’s auction. The proceeds were split between the US government and the coin dealer who sold it.  

  • Photo: National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    1913 Liberty Head Nickel 

    What It's Worth: Up to $4.5 million

    Why It's Worth So Much: Only five 1913 Liberty Head nickels were produced. Their rarity is attributed to the US Mint's decision to replace the "Lady Liberty" head design with that of a buffalo. Apparently, a US Mint worker surreptitiously made the five coins in 1913 using equipment created in case the buffalo coin dies wouldn't be ready in time for production.

    An anonymous buyer purchased a Liberty Head nickel for $4.5 million in 2018. 

  • 1894-S Barber Dime

    What It's Worth: Up to $1.9 million

    Why It's Worth So Much: The 1894-S Barber dime, designed by Charles E. Barber, chief engraver of the US Mint, is one of the rarest American coins. Only 24 were ever made, and nine are believed to exist today. The reason for their limited production remains a mystery. One coin expert said workers at the US Mint in San Francisco needed a dollar amount ending in 40 cents to even up an account, so they created 24 dimes. Another theory suggests the Mint's director had the coins made as gifts for a group of acquaintances he wanted to impress.

    A version of the coin that was the subject of a 2016 Pawn Stars episode turned out to be fake. In 2017 an anonymous collector purchased an 1894-S Barber dime for just under $2 million.