Face Value: Modern Issues Struck in Precious Metal

Posted on 9/12/2023

If you come across these, know they are worth more than their face value — sometimes a lot more!

"Face value" (the name of this column) refers to the denomination that is incorporated into the design of a coin. Many coin collectors get their start by filling blue Whitman folders with coins plucked from circulation. Then, they complete the collection by purchasing hard-to-find coins that are worth far above their face value.

US coins for circulation are struck entirely in base metal since silver was phased out in the 1960s. Interestingly, even the base metal in a Nickel is worth slightly more than the Nickel itself.

In addition to coins meant for circulation (for everyday transactions), the US Mint strikes commemorative coins, bullion coins and special issues. Many of these coins are struck in precious metal, such as silver and gold. These coins are issued with a face value, though one that is far lower than the cost of the metal in the coin itself.

Anyone who comes across one of these coins can use NGC's Coin Melt Values tool to check out the intrinsic value (the value of the metal). In additional, NGC Coin Explorer is integrated with the NGC US Coin Price Guide, which gives an estimate of the numismatic value based on the condition of the coin and other factors.

Because the face value of these coins is so "out of whack" relative to both their intrinsic value and numismatic value, we thought it would be an interesting exercise to see how many multiples of their face values some of these coins are worth.

Silver 5 Ounce American the Beautiful Series

The successors to the State Quarters, the America the Beautiful Quarters were issued from 2010 to 2021, with each coin honoring a national park or site in every state. Five-ounce silver versions were also issued for this series, so their size is an unmissable indication that these are special coins are worth far above their face value.

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Since the price of silver has been mostly in the $20 to $25 range for the past several years, their intrinsic value alone makes them worth at least 400 times their face value of 25 cents. For coins at the top of the NGC Grading Scale, the NGC Price Guide suggests their numismatic value is generally at least twice that.

American Silver Eagles

NGC has graded more than 14 million Silver Eagles. The flagship bullion coin of the United States, these 1-ounce coins with a face value of one dollar are struck in .999 silver. Their intrinsic value means they are worth at least 20 times their face value.

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The series began in 1986 and includes issues that are of particular interest to the collecting community. These include Proofs, which have been struck almost every year and, recently, at different mints within the same year. The key to the Proof Silver Eagle series is the 1995-W Anniversary Set Silver Eagle, which had a mintage of a mere 30,125 and was only available in a set that included four gold coins.

According to the NGC Price Guide, even low-grade examples have an estimate over $2,000, while examples in NGC PF 69 Ultra Cameo have an estimate of $4,250 and examples in NGC PF 70 Ultra Cameo have an estimate at $20,000. Heritage Auctions sold an example graded NGC PF 70 Ultra Cameo for $23,400 in January 2023 — which is 23,400 times its face value!

American Gold Eagles

The US Mint issues Gold Eagles in weights of tenth-, quarter-, half- and one ounce, with corresponding denominations of $5, $10, $25 and $50. Gold has spent much of the past few years near $1,900 an ounce, meaning the intrinsic value of a Gold Eagle (which is struck in .9167 fine gold) is roughly 35 times its face value. Meanwhile, the $50 Gold Buffaloes are struck in .9999 fine gold, meaning those one-ounce coins are worth about 38 times their face value.

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1964-2014-W Gold High Relief Proof Half Dollar

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Half Dollar, the US Mint issued the 1964-2014-W Gold High Relief Proof Half Dollar. The 3/4-ounce coin is struck in .9999 fine gold, meaning its intrinsic value is over 2,800 times its face value. The NGC Price Guide says examples in NGC PF 70 Ultra Cameo are estimated at $2,550, or more than 5,000 times their face value!

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Platinum Eagles

Today, the US Mint issues Platinum Eagles, which are one-ounce coins with .9995 fine platinum with a face value of $100. Platinum has traded around $1,000 an ounce for much of the past several years, meaning the intrinsic value of these coins is around 10 times their face value.

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Palladium Eagles

We end with the precious metal that was most recently added to the US Mint's line-up of coins: palladium. One-ounce coins struck in .9995 fine palladium are issued annually by the US Mint. Palladium is currently trading near a multi-year low of $1,200 an ounce. Palladium Eagles have a face value of $25, meaning their intrinsic value is currently around 50 times their face value.

Click images to enlarge.

All values are based on the NGC Price Guide as of September 2023.

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