With its long history of monetary usage and incredible coin designs, Great Britain has some of the most valuable coins in the world. From proof coins of the 1930s to worn gold coins dating back to the 1400s, British coin values can be in the thousands or even millions of dollars.
Even though you might not get one of these super valuable British coins in your change when you buy a cup of tea, they do offer some clues about what to look for when it comes to value. There's a reason each of these beauties is so valuable.
Six Highest British Coin Values
Each of these coins is something special, and there's a reason they set auction records and captured the imaginations of coin collectors. This old British coins value chart helps you see these standout beauties at a glance.
|1937 Edward VIII Gold Proof Pattern 5-Pound Coin|| |
|1839 Victorian Gold Proof Pattern 5-Pound Coin||$1,440,000 (£1,146,000)|
|c. 1492 Henry VII Fine Gold Sovereign||$795,000 (£633,000)|
|1662 Charles II Gold Proof Pattern Crown||$780,000 (£621,000)|
|1773 George III Gold Proof Pattern 5 Guineas||$750,000 (£597,000)|
|c. 1257 Henry III Gold Penny||$720,000 (£573,000)|
1937 Edward VIII Gold Proof Pattern 5-Pound Coin
This coin is so valuable because it represents a tumultuous time in British royal history. When Edward VIII ascended the throne in January of 1936, new coins were designed to his specifications. Edward rebelliously chose to have his profile facing the same direction as his father had in the previous coin design, despite the tradition of alternating the direction of the profile for each ruler. The mint cast proofs of these coins, but they were never issued for circulation because Edward VIII abdicated the throne less than a year after taking it so he could marry his divorced lover, Wallis Simpson.
A proof of the 1937 5-pound coin sold at auction for $2,280,000 in 2021. It was in excellent condition and is one of very few such coins that have ever existed.
1839 Victoria Gold Proof Pattern 5-Pound Coin
Another proof 5-pound coin that's worth far more than its weight in gold was the 1839 Victoria proof. Designed to show Victoria as Una from Edmund Spenser's "The Faerie Queene," this beautiful coin was popular with collectors. It shows Victoria with a lion on the reverse and is one of the loveliest coins ever minted.
A near-mint condition example sold at auction in 2021 and set records for its value. It sold for $1,440,000.
c. 1492 Henry VII Fine Gold Sovereign
When it comes to value, British coins that are very old can be worth much more than modern examples (just like most other coins). A great example is the c. 1492 Henry VII fine Gold Sovereign. This super rare coin shows Henry VII seated on a throne. You'll also see a Tudor rose and a royal shield, but what you won't see is a date. 1492 is the best estimate experts can give, since the coin design seems to have been issued sporadically during Henry VII's reign.
One very fine example that has weathered more than five centuries with very little wear broke auction records in 2023. It sold for $795,000.
British coin values tend to be higher for older pieces, so even if you don't have a coin from the time of Christopher Columbus in your pocket, take a moment to check the dates.
1662 Charles II Gold Proof Pattern Crown
Experts estimate that no more than five 1662 Charles II proof coins exist in good condition, so finding one means discovering a treasure. This super rare British coin features Charles II in profile on one side and shields on the other. Charles's portrait is super sharp and detailed, and this coin is very beautiful.
An example in the finest condition known to exist sold in 2021. It realized an auction price of $780,000.
1773 George III Gold Proof Pattern 5 Guineas
George III was King of England during one of the most tumultuous times in the monarchy, the American War for Independence. His 60-year reign was ambitious and marked with significant wins and losses, and there were several proof sets of coins made throughout his time on the throne. The 1773 five-Guinea coin shows the king in profile with a laurel wreath on his head and a peaceful expression on his face.
Although there may be up to 20 specimens of this coin in existence, one in very fine condition easily smashed auction records in 2021. It sold for $750,000.
c. 1257 Henry III Gold Penny
Considered one of the very first gold coins in England, this penny is one of only a handful still in existence from the period of Henry III. Over time, most of these gold coins were melted down, leaving very few to survive. This early penny shows the king seated on a throne on one side and roses on the reverse. It isn't stamped with a date, but experts estimate it dates to about 1257.
This nearly 800-year-old coin came up for auction in 2021. It sold for the amazing sum of $720,000.
How to Spot Valuable British Coins
Clearly, some British coins are only worth their face value, but there are lessons we can learn from these superstars. When it comes to assessing value, British coins are like most other types of old coins. It's all about a few important factors.
Look for Old British Coins
Check the date on your pocket change or any coins you might have inherited. In general, older coins will be worth more, especially if they're in good condition. Super old coins (and we're talking really old when it comes to Great Britain) can be worth a fortune.
Think About the Historical Importance
The coin's place in history matters a lot, especially with British coins. The 1937 Edward VIII Gold Proof Pattern 5-Pound is the most valuable British coin for a very clear reason: it represents a direct link to an important historical event. Coins are something tangible you can hold in your hand that connects you with a real historical event. That's worth a lot to collectors, so if you have a coin that dates to an important war, a change in the monarchy, or anything else significant, you might have a treasure.
Check for Coins in Good Condition
Coins in great condition always fetch more than the same coins with less detail or more damage. Check the edges of the portrait and the letters and numbers on the coin. If they're crisp and clean and there's little corrosion or discoloration on the coin, it may be worth something.
Even though minting errors aren't part of what makes these top six British coins so valuable, they are a big factor in coin values in general. Look for any type of mistake in the minting like doubled letters or numbers or a slight echo for design elements. These can be worth big money.
Spot a Treasure in Your Pocket Change
Few collectibles offer such a clear and tangible connection to the past as antique coins, so it makes sense that British coin values would be so closely linked to historical events. Collecting coins is a way to hold a piece of the past, and studying coin values can help you learn to spot a treasure in your pocket change.