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Record Year for Million-Dollar Coins

Weitzman Double Eagle Tops List of Prices Realized
This U.S. 1933 double eagle gold coin sold for a record $18.9 million in 2021. (Image courtesy Sotheby's.)

This U.S. 1933 double eagle gold coin sold for a record $18.9 million in 2021. (Image courtesy Sotheby's.)

The market for high-grade, rare United States coins soared in 2021. A record 22 U.S. coins sold at auction for $1 million or more, and hundreds of other historic coins and bank notes priced from $1,000 and up set new records, according to the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG). The PNG is a non-profit organization composed of many of the country’s top rare coin and paper money dealers.

Based on responses to a year-end PNG questionnaire, the aggregate prices realized for all U.S. rare coins sold at major public auctions in 2021, totaled more than $551 million, compared to nearly $369 million in 2020. Public auctions of U.S. bank notes in 2021 totaled more than $50.5 compared to $50.6 million in 2020, bringing the combined aggregate auction sales of rare U.S. coins and paper money in 2021 to nearly $602 million.

“Spectacular prices were realized for superb quality, historic, rare coins and bank notes as the numismatic market soared online and as collectors and dealers began to return to in-person shows and conventions across the country,” said Richard Weaver, PNG president.

The most valuable rare coin sold in 2021 was a 1933 double eagle gold $20 owned by shoe designer Stuart Weitzman. It brought $18.9 million at a Sotheby’s auction, setting a record price for any rare coin.

Heritage Auctions reported the largest dollar total of U.S. coins and bank notes sold at auction, $295.9 million, followed by GreatCollections Coin Auctions with $141 million and Stack’s Bowers Galleries with $92.3 million in auctions of U.S. coins and bank notes.

“In addition to the 22 U.S. coins that sold for $1 million each or more at auction, about a dozen others reportedly changed hands in private transactions,” said Weaver. “The previous record year for million-dollar U.S. coin sales was 17 in 2015. Also, at least 10 rare coins from other countries were sold for $1 million or more by U.S.-based auction houses in 2021.”

Participating auction firms were Alex Cooper Auctioneers, Bonhams, Early Cents Auctions, Ira & Larry Goldberg Auctioneers, GreatCollections Coin Auctions, Heritage Auctions, David Lawrence Rare Coins, Legend Rare Coin Auctions, Scotsman Coin & Jewelry, Sotheby’s, and Stack’s Bowers Galleries.

Professional Numismatists Guild members must adhere to a strict code of ethics in the buying and selling of numismatic merchandise. For a list of member-dealers, visit www.PNGdealers.org.