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The Enduring Value of Gold Coins
Gold coins have been used as a form of currency, and as stores of wealth, for thousands of years. They have played an important role in the economies of many cultures.
The Ancient Egyptians used gold as early as 2600 BCE. Gold and other materials were used to make standardized weights called “deben”. While not actually coins or currency the debens were used in their barter trading to weigh out goods.
Widely regarded as the world’s first coin and standardized currency are the Lydian gold coins starting around 600 BCE. The kingdom of Lydia was located in modern-day Turkey. The invention of the coins is often attributed to King Croesus who put in place a system of standard purity and weights. These gold coins were made of Electrum, which is a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver.
The Roman Empire also extensively used gold coins, known as the “Aureus.” They were minted as early as the 1st century BCE and were used as a form of currency throughout the empire. They were made of pure gold and to a standardized weight, however the standard did change many times under different emperors.
Gold “doubloons’ of the 16th to 18th centuries are widely associated, in books and movies, with the golden age of piracy and of maritime exploration. They were minted in Spain and some Spanish colonies and were widely used in trade throughout the period. The doubloon was worth two ‘escudo’, another gold coin which was the standard Spanish gold coin. These coins were minted out of 22k gold.
These are just a few examples of the many ways gold coins have been used throughout history. The use of gold coin as a currency and a store of value has been a constant throughout history, and even today, gold coins are still widely used as a form of investment.
Pure Gold Coins
Many modern made gold coins are minted using 99.99% pure gold and come in standard weights: 1 ounce, 1/2 ounce, 1/4 ounce, 1/10 ounce and even 1/20 ounce. It is very easy to understand the value of these coins: multiply their size by the ounce price.
Some examples are: RCM Gold Maple Leafs, Austrian Mint Gold Philharmonics, Royal Mint Britannias, and many different coins from the Perth Mint in Australia.
There can be some differences in prices paid for these coins, or proportionally by their size, based on supply and demand e.g. if a particular coin is in demand it might be bought at a premium to the base ounce price.
22k Gold Coins
Prior to the 1979 introduction of the RCM Gold Maple Leaf coin, gold coins were not made out of pure gold. They were made out of alloys of gold, typically 22k gold. Using 22k or lower purities of gold made these coins more durable as pure gold is a relatively soft metal. Copper is often used in these coins which gives them their characteristic reddish-orange hue of gold.
The two most well known coins are the South African Krugerrand and the US Mint Gold Eagle. Both of these coins come in 1 ounce, 1/2 ounce, 1/4 ounce, and 1/10 ounce sizes. What’s important to know about them is that the coins are ‘overweight’ meaning that even though they are made out of 91.67% pure gold they contain the equivalent of one ounce of 99.99% pure gold.
Other Gold Coins
There are many gold coins made around the world, and over time, that vary in their gold composition and their size/weight. This can make it difficult, particularly for someone who has inherited a collection, to understand the value of the gold in them. Our gold coin price table below shows some of the more common types of coins and how much we pay for each one. Please call us if you have any questions about any gold coins that you have.
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