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When anyone becomes interested in precious metal investing, they invariably find their way to ancient gold coins. Even while many investors and collectors can’t afford these, they’re still an amazing thing to behold. These coins quite literally carry the history of the world on their shoulders.
Modern gold coins come from every corner of the world. Fortunately, this is also true for their early counterparts. Ancient civilizations in the Americas sometimes used gold dust as currency, but much of the remaining world actually struck coinage from the yellow metal.
The following ancient gold coins are among the most popular ever created. Since they’re typically out of most people’s reach, though, we’ve also included a few modern counterparts. While these newer coins may not be as old, they still have interesting stories to tell.
5 Amazing Ancient Gold Coins
There are countless gold coins from the ancient world out there. If you scroll through eBay, you can typically find them selling for anywhere between a few hundred dollars and $2,000. The ancient coins featured on this list, however, are frequently more expensive.
1. The Gold Stater of Croesus
The earliest ancient coins — at least that we know of — contained an alloy called Electrum. This contained both gold and silver. Unfortunately, the fact that it was naturally occurring meant it was difficult to estimate precious metal content.
King Croesus remedied this issue by having coins minted in pure silver and gold. Upon implementation of this decision, the Gold Stater of Croesus became the first gold coin in history. Minted in 550 BC, it featured a bull and a lion facing off against each other.
Owning this coin could set you back tens of thousands of dollars. If you’re interested in buying silver coins, the white metal version of the Croesus is a bit more affordable. Even in silver, though, it will cost you several thousands of dollars.
2. Gold Octodrachm
If you look back at ancient gold coins, you’ll see that they’re much smaller than their modern counterparts. This is typically true for any coin from the ancient world. This certainly wasn’t the case for the Gold Octodrachm — arguably the largest gold coin struck in ancient times.
Gold coins from the ancient world are typically about 1 centimeter in diameter. This wasn’t possible with the Gold Octodrachm — because the coin contained nearly an ounce of gold. This meant only the wealthy had access to it.
The reverse of the Dynastic Octodrachm features Ptolemy I and his wife, Berenice I. The obverse side features Arsinoe II and Ptolemy II. This paid homage to leaders when the coin was struck over 2,000 years ago.
3. EID MAR Gold Aureus
It’s safe to say that the EID MAR Gold Aureus might be one of the most interesting ancient gold coins out there. It also happens to be one of the rarest. Experts only know of three that exist, and the design celebrates the assassination of Julius Caesar.
Marcus Brutus — of “Et ut, Brute” fame — directed the creation of the coin. This occurred over 2,000 years ago. It features two daggers on the obverse along with the Roman translation for “Ides of March.” The other side of this ancient gold coin features Marcus Brutus himself.
During the coin’s minting period, most saw it as inappropriate to place a living person’s face on coinage. Caesar having his own image on a coin is one of the many issues that incited rebellion against him. Near the end of 2020, this coin sold for over $4 million.
4. Chu Gold Block Money
Ancient China created some of the world’s earliest known coins. Chu gold block money was unlike many other ancient gold coin examples — mostly because it was rectangular shaped and created in a variety of different sizes.
Another aspect that differentiates this Chinese gold coin from other ancient examples is its intended use. Experts believe ancient China citizens used it as funeral money rather than for general circulation. These date back to the 5th or 6th century BC.
5. Gold Stater from Pantikapaion
Featuring a satyr and just over 9 grams of gold, the Gold Stater of Pantikapaion is one of the most valuable ancient gold coins out there. One specimen of the coin sold for $3.25 million back in 2012. Mintage dates range from 350 to 300 BC.
The reverse of the coin features a griffin standing over wheat. The satyr featured is said to be Pan — the Greek god of shepherds, flocks, rustic music and the wild.
5 Amazing Modern Gold Coins
Buying ancient gold coins is an exciting activity. Simply holding something that another person held thousands of years ago is enough to send chills down your spine. Of course, modern gold coinage is pretty great itself. Check out these five exceptional options available on the market.
1. Liberty Half Eagle
The United States minted half eagle liberty gold coins between 1794 and 1929. For 70 of these years — 1839 to 1908 — the Liberty Head Half Eagle was the standard. It holds the distinction of being the only half eagle that seven American mints produced.
Those minted in Dahlonega, Carson City and Charlotte are especially rare. The face value of the coin is $5. And while it may not hold the appeal of many ancient gold coins, it certainly holds a historic place in the founding and growth of the United States.
2. Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle ($20)
The Liberty Half Eagle doesn’t really qualify as “modern,” and the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle doesn’t either. Of course, it’s still more modern than gold coins of the ancient world. And since you can actually own this coinage without spending millions of dollars, it has its advantages.
The coin contains just under 1 ounce of gold, and the opposing sides feature Liberty and an eagle in flight. The Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle was an attempt by President Theodore Roosevelt to bring a sense of beauty to American coinage. He was certainly successful.
The coin became so popular that it lives on even after production ceased in 1933. Since 1986, gold bullion coins in American have featured design elements from this historic piece.
3. Austrian 1000 Schillings Gold Coin
While the 1000 Austrian Schilling isn’t an ancient gold coin, it does carry significance from the ancient world. The Austrian Mint in Vienna produces the coin — a mint founded way back in 1194. While disagreement may exist over whether this constitutes “ancient,” it is certainly old.
Even more important to the history of the Austrian Mint, though, is the fact that the coin represents its 1,000th anniversary. The reverse features the historic seal of Duke Friedrich II, and the obverse has the Imperial Eagle of Austria.
The coin contains about 0.3906 ounces of .900 gold, and though it has a face value, the government never released it for general circulation.
4. South African Krugerrand
In the world of gold bullion, few names stand out as much as the South African Krugerrand. Future generations may one day view it just like the Gold Stater of Croesus — the first ancient gold coin — since it was the first modern gold coin produced solely for bullion purposes.
Krugerrands feature the former leader of the South African Republic — Paul Kruger — along with a Springbok antelope. While the design certainly conveys a sense of history, what really stands out is the Krugerrand once made up 90 percent of all gold coins on the market.
And since they are still in production, this really is a modern example of an amazing bullion coin.
5. Mexican 50 Peso Gold Coin
More commonly known as the Centenario, the Mexican 50 Peso gold coin celebrates Mexico’s 100-year anniversary of independence from Spain. The Angel of Independence stands out proudly on this coin, and the reverse features an eagle with a snake in its beak.
First released in 1921, the Centenario contains just over 1.2 Troy ounces of gold. Since the coin only has a face value of 50 pesos — roughly $2.50 as of July 2021 — the precious metal content is certainly the real value.
The Mexican 50 Peso gold coin typically cost a few thousand dollars. Of course, that’s how much an ounce of the precious metal would cost anyway. Like many ancient gold coins on the market, though, there is additional numismatic value outside of the metal content.
Should I Invest in Ancient Gold Coins?
History is an interesting subject, and this makes holding ancient items an exceptional experience. If you’ve chosen to purchase gold coins from the ancient world, you no doubt have a wonderful investment on your hands. It’s important to realize, though, that you’re not investing in gold.
When you buy an ancient coin, it’s not the specific denomination or even precious metal content that you’re paying for. It’s the numismatic value. The collectibility and rarity of ancient gold coins will typically always exceed the value of the metal itself.
If you’re interested in buying an ancient coin, graded and certified items are the way to go. You can find plenty of these listed with online auction sites. If you want to invest in precious metal value, though, visit our Gold Bullion Products page today to see all the options available to you.