By Paul Fraser Collectibles ......
If you ever have only one penny to your name, make sure it is one of these fantastic coins...
How many coins do you need to have to be wealthy? The answer is, not as many as you'd think. Rare, unique and valuable coins are more collectible now than ever, and the market for them is lively.
Just look at recent sales which have taken place and it is clear to see that the most valuable ones are still reaching extraordinary prices.
In fact last year, 2010, saw some of the most spectacular types being sold for record amounts, as numismatists fought tooth and nail to get their hands on these prize assets.
Clearly the price of gold and other precious metals has had a large part to play in these increased values, but more often than not it is the history, rarity and condition of certain coins which really make them sought after.
Collecting them is easy to get into because of the large market, and with many types becoming rarer as time passes, there may never be a better time to get involved and invest in these fantastic objects.
So, to get you in the mood, we have listed what we consider to be the top five coin sales at auction…
5 1851 Augustus Humbert $50 gold 'slug'
Despite the name this certainly is not a sluggish start, as when it went up for auction this exceptionally rare coin, depicting the American eagle, soared to a price of $316,250.
It harks back to an important period of United States history when the California Gold Rush was in full swing during the 1850s.
Despite a relatively large number being produced when it was first issued, the vast majority of them were later melted down, and so it became uncommon.
There are just two known examples which exist in the world today. Given the fact that it is also still in great condition, it is no surprise that it sold so well at Bowers and Merena in late 2010.
4 1897 Chinese Silver Pattern Dollar
When items like coins or stamps are produced but remain uncirculated, it is pretty much guaranteed that they are going to become future classics because of the automatic rarity attached to them.
This was the case when a unique Chinese coin, so rare that it avoided Eduard Kann's extensive 1954 study, went up for auction.
It was sold by Baldwin's in August 2010 for a staggering $320,000, doubling its estimate. The Chekiang Province silver pattern dollar found its way to Austro-Hungarian Admiral Alois von Accurti during the late 1800s, despite him not even being a coin collector. Little did he know he was in possession of what would become one the world's most valuable coins.
3 1725 12 zecchini gold Maltese coin
This spectacular gold coin is the largest ever to be struck in Malta, and was created to mark a period when the small country radically altered its currency under the rule of Antonio Manuel de Vilhena.
The result was the production of a number of brilliantly detailed portrait coins in gold and silver, each made with immense intricacy. Considering that not many coins look finer than this one, and the fact it had never been auctioned before, it is no wonder that it sold for $340,000 in Numismatica Ars Classica's sale in April 2011.
2 1936 Canadian Dot Cent
Without doubt one of the most famous and valuable coins ever produced, it signifies one of the main controversial events in recent British Royal history. After George V's death in 1936, his son Edward VIII took the throne.
However, his infamous relationship with American divorcee Wallis Simpson forced him to abdicate in December 1936, after less than a year as king. Coins made during that period only started depicting Edward after his decision to stand-down, making them invalid.
As a result Canadian authorities were forced to keep on producing George V coins, and to distinguish them each one was marked with a dot. These Dot Cents ended up becoming very rare because of their limited run, with only three examples surviving.
Clearly this makes them three of the most sought after coins for numismatists, as their incredible history makes them unlike anything else. This accounts for why one was sold for $402,500 by Heritage Auctions in January 2011.
1 2008 Chinese Olympic 10kg coin
This amazing item, which is a quite a bit larger than your average coin, is one of only 29 produced and the only one allocated to the American market.
The Chinese 10kg 1,000,000 Yuan was produced to mark the successful Olympic games held in the country in 2008, and was sold for an incredible $575,000 by Heritage in January.
You could almost say the enormous coin represents China's vastly growing influence, not only as a world superpower, but also as a producer and collector of much of the world's fine art.