Josephine Coins Ltd

What Makes a Coin Rare?

From 1917 George V Sovereign London mint to 1933 George V penny, there are many British coins (both pre-decimal and decimal) that have increased in value by up to several thousand per cent over the years. This is mostly due to their rareness. And now the important question is, what makes a coin rare?


We’ll talk about coin rarity and more in today’s post. Keep reading.

Factors That Make a Coin Valuable

Different factors make a coin an attractive product for both collectors and financial investors. The demand from an increasing number of collectors and numismatists in the UK is said to be the leading cause of the ever-increasing prices for old coins. But generally, it comes down to how rare a coin is.


For a coin to be considered rare, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it has been taken out of circulation. In fact, rare coins in the UK are at a high value because few of them were initially minted. Here are the different factors that add to a coin’s worth.


Original Mintage Numbers

Did you know that the total number of a particular coin produced by a mint can have a significant impact on a coin’s value? Take for example the 937 Edward VIII Sovereigns. It’s the perfect example of low mintage.


Only 80,000 Gold Proof Sovereigns (featuring the controversial monarch no less) had been minted by the time Edward VIII abdicated. This explains why one of these Gold Proof Sovereigns sold at auction for a record £516,000. That’s by far the highest sum paid for a British coin.


Variation of Error Coins

Another factor that always adds to the rarity of a coin is errors in minting. For example, the Victoria Double Florin was issued with an inverted 1 instead of an ‘I’ in Victoria in 1889. Even common circulation coins can have a high value when there’s an error in minting.


Commemorative coins, like some 2005 50p coins commemorating the 4000th anniversary of the Gunpowder plot, had a typo that reads “Pemember, pemember the Fifth of November” instead of the famous quote “Remember, remember the Fifth of November.” Because they were issued with an error, they’re considered rare and now sell for ten times their actual value.


The Decline in Quantity Due to Ageing and Circulation Withdrawal

Gold (the noblest metal on Earth) and silver (merely tarnishing are both precious metals and are non-reactive. However, they can become damaged over time. In fact, gold and silver are often recycled.


For this reason, the Royal Mint has occasionally recalled gold and silver coins to be reissued. Coins from centuries ago may be scarce simply because of their age. After 670 years, it is believed that there are only three surviving Edward III 1343 Florins, giving this coin a staggering £5.6million price tag.


Market Demand

Market demand is another factor contributing to a coin’s rarity. Some British coins are simply more prized and collected than others because of their special place in history or beauty.


Grade and Quality

Like with other products, coins with a better condition or quality are less common. They’re also more highly-priced. Collectors and financial investors use several scales to grade rare coins, such as the Sheldon System that gives a comprehensive coin grading scale from 0 to 70.


Examples of Obsolete and Rare Denominations

The market for obsolete and rare denominations can be quite high. These are rare coins that are extremely unfamiliar and may cost thousands (or even millions).


Gold Crowns and Half Crowns

Crown coins have a long and complex history in the UK. They originally circulated as currency coins with a face value of five Shillings or a quarter of a pound. After they had ceased to be circulating currency, they were issued as collectible numismatic or commemorative coins.


Examples include the 1818 LIX George III Silver Crown with rare ‘Tutamen’ error (the A is unbarred and appears as Λ), 1847 Queen Victoria Gothic Crown, and 1927 George V Proof Crown.



Farthings were introduced in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and popular during the reign of Queen Victoria. They’re a quarter of an old pre-decimalisation penny. Before 1937, farthings showed Britannia and carried the image of a wren after 1937. In 1960, they ceased to be legal tender.



These coins were minted from 1619 to 1625. They became the replacement of 20 Shilling coins when Sovereigns and Unite coins were revalued from 20 Shillings to 22 Shillings. Laurels were never a successful denomination, making them especially rare.


Looking for rare coins?

Here at Josephine Coins Ltd, we have a collection of coins from all across the world. Historic and modern coins, American coins, world coins—we have the coins that you might be looking for. Explore our website or get in touch with our dedicated coin dealers and specialists.