Of all contributors to a coin’s value, rarity is one of the most important if not the primary factor. One common threat that unites the most expensive United States coins is that all are extremely rare. With that being said, there are still quite a few extremely scarce yet surprisingly affordable values in American numismatics. These coins are every bit as scarce as coins that sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars—yet can be bought for under $10,000. In this article we’ll cover some coins that are wildly rare but don’t carry a huge price tag.
SEATED LIBERTY COINAGE: The Seated Liberty design appeared on most of America’s silver coinage from the 1830s through the 1890s. Since the motif remained in place for so many years, some extremely scarce issues get lost in the series. An example is the 1864-S Seated Liberty Quarter; it’s estimated that fewer than 100 pieces have survived in all grades. Yet, pieces have traded hands for under $1000 recently.
CALIFORNIA FRACTIONAL GOLD COINS: These small privately issued pieces were struck during and shortly after the California Gold Rush. At the time silver coins were hard to find in San Francisco, so small gold coins struck by private mints filled in the gap. Some varieties are wildly rare with under 50 pieces known in all grades, yet sell for $1000 or less. Even Uncirculated specimens can still be had in this price range.
PATTERN COINS: In addition to being beautiful items with fascinating backstories, pattern coins are also extremely scarce. Many issues have total populations in the 5-20 range but sell for under $10,000 per coin. By comparison, almost every regular issue coin with a sub-20 population is bound to sell for hundreds of thousands, if not seven figures. This is not to say that every rare pattern will sell for less than $10k (quite a few in that rarity category sell for dramatically more) but many bargains remain in the American pattern series.
DIE VARIETIES: Not all die varieties are inexpensive—some sell for tremendous amounts. Large cent varieties, for example, have a strong collector following and often fetch enormous prices. Other series like half dimes, Morgan dollars and early gold coins contain many scarce varieties that sell for modest premiums. Granted some of these varieties are very difficult to notice without the aid of a loupe, but technically speaking, they are still extremely rare.