Guide to Gold Coins

Gold Sovereigns (UK)

Gold Sovereigns (UK)

Gold has been used to make coins since coins first started to be used as currency mainly because of the intrinsic value of gold. Modern gold coins are mainly either  sold to collectors or are used as bullion coins (coins that have a value based on the weight of pure gold that they contain).  Bullion coins are used as a way to hold gold as an investment.  Many people start off with gold as an investment but are also attracted to the rarity of coins, making some coins far more valuable than their bullion weight. Gold is also denser than most other metals, this makes it more difficult to make counterfeits as a fake can often be identified by its weight.   Most countries stopped producing gold coins to be used as currency by 1933 although most still make gold coins for collectors and to be used as bullion .  Some countries still make gold coins which are legal tender but these are mainly for collectors and investment and are not actually intended for circulation.

Gold Eagles (USA)

Gold Eagles (USA)


The value of a gold coin is based on the weight of gold it contains, the number minted, whether it is rare, its age and condition.  In 2002, a very rare 1933 double eagle gold coin sold for seven and a half million dollars (4.75 million pounds) at Sotheby’s which was a record, only a few of these coins exist.

Bullion coins

Precious metals are referred to as bullion.  Bullion is usually cast into ingots or made into coins.  Bullion coins are valued by the weight of precious metal that they contain and not by their face value.  Bullion coins are kept as a store of value or as a hedge against inflation., a gold coin today will still buy you a suit of clothes as it would hundreds of years ago, this can not be said for banknotes.  Bullion coins generally have a purity of 90% (.900) or more.

Bullion coins are mainly produced as one troy ounce but are also made in fractions of an ounce ie. half ounce, quarter ounce, one-tenth ounce and one twentieth ounce. Bullion coins can have a face value as legal tender however the real value is based on the current value of the weight of gold or other precious metal that they contain, plus a small premium. The face value is always less than the bullion value of the coin. Gold bullion coins usually come in 1 oz, 1/2 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/10 and 1/20 oz. sizes depending on type.

Purity of gold coins

Pure gold which is called fine gold is .999% pure however many gold coins are alloyed with other metals such as silver, in most cases gold coins are over 90% real gold, and do not include coins made of other alloys.  

The purity of gold is graded in carats, 24 carat being pure 100% gold (often .999) 1 carat is 1/24th.

  • 24 carats = 1000 fine  
  • 22 carats = 916.6 fine
  • 18 carats = 750.0 fine
  • 14 carats = 583.3 fine

Fineness is sometimes converted to a percent. If a gold coin has a fineness of .900 that is 90.0% pure gold.

Modern British gold coins such as the sovereign are 22carat or 916.6 fine (91.66%).

Grading coins

A coin’s “grade” is a visual evaluation of the amount of wear on a coin. Coins with little wear are graded higher and therefore assigned higher prices than those with a lot of wear. However, low-grade, extremely rare coins can easily be more valuable than more widely available, higher grade coins of common dates.

The Sheldon’s scale, was devised specifically for United States coins and goes from 0 to 70.  0 is a coin in the worst condition possible while 70 is perfect. 60 is uncirculated with no wear at all.

  • Basal (Mint State 1) can just about be identified as a coin.
  • Fair (Mint state 2) Type of coin can be identified, date may not be visible.
  • Almost Good (AG) (Mint State 3) Date can be read, parts of the coin lettering and date are worn smooth.
  • Good (G) (Mint state 4 and 6) Lettering, design and dates are visible but very worn.
  • Very Good (VG) (Mint State 8 and 10) Design and dates are clear but lacking details. The “full rim” (the line around the edge of the coin where it was raised up) must be visible.
  • Fine (F) (Mint state 12 and 15) All major details will be visible with major details almost complete.
  • Very Fine (VF) (Mint state 20, 25, 30, and 35). More details are visible with major details virtually complete.
  • Extremely Fine (XF or EF) (Mint state 40 and 45) Light wear on the high points with some mint lustre present.
  • Almost Uncirculated (AU) (Mint state 50, 53, 55, and 58) Small trace of wear visible on the highest points with at least half of the mint lustre still present.
  • Uncirculated (UNC) (Mint state 60 to 70) No trace of wear, some small nicks or marks may exist.
  • Proof (PF) Coins specifically made for collectors. Usually mirror-like surface with raised matt sandblasted raised areas of design.

MS 70 is a perfect coin.  Very few issue coins are considered MS-70 although it is not uncommon for new, modern bullion coins to be given a grade of MS-70.

Grading standards vary in different countries.


This is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to all gold coins as there are many thousands of gold coins of various sizes and denominations worldwide.


Gold Sovereins (UK)The gold sovereign is a bullion coin and is also produced in proof form.  It is 22carat (22/24 pure gold alloyed with 2/24 copper).

Production began in 1817. They contain 7.322 g of fine gold equivalent to (0.2354oz), have a total weight of 7.9881g, are 1.52mm thick, 22.05 Dia and are 22carat gold.   

Coins have been minted in the United Kingdom, Australia (Melbourne, Sydney, Perth) India(Bombay) Canada (Ottawa), and South Africa (Pretoria). London: 1817–1917, 1925, 1957 onwards

  • Melbourne: 1872–1931  Coins have an M mintmark
  • Sydney: 1855–1926 Coins have an S mintmark
  • Perth: 1899–1931 Coins have an P mintmark
  • Bombay: 1918 only Coins have an I mintmark
  • Ottawa: 1908–1919 Coins have an C mintmark

The Royal Mint also make half sovereigns, two-pound double sovereigns, and five-pound quintuple sovereigns coins.

In 2009, The Royal Mint released a new quarter-sovereign.

Older sovereigns have  the shield and crown on the reverse, this became Saint George and the dragon, designed by Benedetto Pistrucci. This design is still in use but other  designs have also been used during William IV, Victoria, George IV, and Elizabeth II reigns.


The Krugerrand was first made in 1967

In 1980 South Africa introduced a half ounce, quarter ounce, and tenth ounce Krugerrand coin.

Gold KrugerrandKrugerrands show President Paul Kruger on the obverse , and the reverse shows a springbok antelope with the mint date. The design is by Coert Steynberg, The words South Africa and the gold content are written in Afrikaans and English.

The 1oz Krugerrand is 32.6mm diameter and 2.74mm thick. The Krugerrand’s actual weight is 1.0909 troy ounces (33.93 g). It is made from gold alloy and is 91.67% pure (22 carats), so the coin actually contains one troy ounce (31.1035 g) of pure gold. The remaining 8.33% of the coin’s weight (2.826 g) is copper.  Krugerrands are also produced as proof coins.

  • The 1/10oz coin is 16.55mm Dia, 1.35mm thick and weighs 3.393g
  • The ¼ oz coin is 22.06mm Dia, 1.888mm thick and weighs 8.482g
  • The 1/2oz coin is 27.07mm Dia, 2.215mm thick and weighs 16.965g
  • The 1oz coin is 32.77mm Dia, 2.84mm thick and weighs 33.930g


Gold Eagles (USA)

These coins come in  1/10 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/2 oz, and 1 oz denominations.  The coins are 22 carat (0.9167 pure gold) alloyed with silver and copper to provide better resistance to wear.

The obverse of the coin shows Augustus Saint-Gaudens Lady Liberty  The reverse design is by sculptor Miley Busiek and features an eagle.

The four sizes of coin contain 91.67% gold , 3% silver, and 5.33% copper.

All coins are identical in design except for the weight and face value of the coin on the reverse.

  • 1/10oz coin Dia is 16.5mm, 1.19mm thick and weighs 3.393g
  • 1/4 oz coin Dia is 22mm, 1.83mm thick and weighs 8.483g
  • ½ oz coin Dia is 27mm, 2.24mm thick and weighs16.965g
  • 1oz coin (featured) Dia 32.7mm, 2.87mm thick and weighs33.930g


Canadian Gold Maple CoinsThe Canadian Gold Maple Leaf coin is the bullion gold coin of Canada, produced by the Royal Canadian Mint. It is 0.9999 fine gold which is almost pure 24 carat gold.]

The coins were first minted in 1979.  Coins come in denominations of 1/20oz, 1/10oz 1/4oz, 1/2oz and 1oz  (in 1994 a 1/15oz coin was produced). The coins are legal tender in Canada for their face values only although their real value is based on their bullion weight in gold.  The coins are identical in design, except for markings indicating the weight and face value.


Chinese Gold Panda Coinss are bullion coins produced by the People’s Republic of China. Introduced in 1982 the design changes every year .  They are mainly available as1/20 troy oz. up to 1 troy oz coins however some larger ones have also been produced as proof coins of 5 and 12 ounces.  All the coins are 0.999 fine gold.

The obverse: Shows the Temple of Heaven in the centre with Chinese characters on top which mean People’s Republic of China and at the bottom is the year issued. The reverse shows the panda who’s design changes every year with the exception of 2001 and 2002.

Gold pandas are legal tender in China, and are issued in denominations which correspond with with 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/10 and 1/20 Troy ounces of gold.

  • The 25 Yuan coin is 1/20oz, Dia 13.92mm, 0.83mm thick and weighs 1.5552g
  • The 50 Yuan coin is 1/10oz, Dia 17.95mm, 1.05mm thick and weighs 3.1103g
  • The 100 Yuan coin is 1/4oz, Dia 21.95mm, 1.53mm thick and weighs 7.7758g
  • The 200 Yuan coin is 1/2oz, Dia 27.00mm, 1.85mm thick and weighs 15.5515g


Australian Gold Nugget CoinsThe Australian Gold Nugget is a bullion coin.  The coins are minted in Perth in denominations of 1/20 oz, 1/10 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/2 oz, 1 oz, 2 oz, 10 oz, and 1 kg of 24 carat gold (0.9999 pure gold).  The coins are legal tender.

The Gold Nugget was first made in 1986.  The original coins featured different gold nuggets, in 1989 the coin design was changed to show different kangaroos.

In 1991, 2 oz, 10 oz, and 1 kilogram coins were produced

  •   1/20oz  Dia 14.1mm, 1.4 thick, weight 1.5552g
  •   1/10oz, Dia 16.1mm, 1.3mm thick, weight 3.11g
  •   ¼ oz, Dia 20.1mm, 1.8mm thick, weight 7.78g
  •   1/2 oz, Dia 25.1mm, 2.2mm thick, weight 15.55g
  •   1 oz, Dia 32.1mm, 2.65mm thick, weight 31.1g
  •   2 oz, Dia 40.4mm, 3.35mm thick, weight 62.21g
  •   10 oz, Dia 59.7mm, 7.65mm thick, weight 311.0g
  •   1 kilo, Dia 74.5mm, 15.8mm thick, weight 1000g

There are also Australian Lunar gold coins which are also minted in Perth  These coins show animals from the Chinese calendar such as Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig., they are also 0.9999 pure gold.  They are available as 1/20oz, 1/10oz, 1/4oz, 1/2oz and 1oz coins.


20 Franc Gold Rooster CoinsEuropean gold coins are collectable and there are many different designs, denominations and types,  Ancient Roman gold coins and Celtic coins are particularly sought after.  Modern coins are equally as collectable and there are many examples to look out for.

Featured is a 1907 20 Franc gold coin from France.  It is 21mm Dia and weighs 6.45g.  0.900 pure gold. (this coin is possibly a restrike of the original).


Pahvlavi Gold CoinsThere are literally thousands of different gold coins that are, or have been, produced worldwide over hundreds of years.  All are sought after whether proof coins, bullion  rare or ancient and are prized for their value and collectability.

Two examples of interesting other world coins are the 1 Pahlavi gold coin (featured) from Iran showing the Shah on the obverse.

This actual coin is graded EF. It is 8.136g and is 0.900 pure.  The date on it is Persian numerals which say 1330 (1951 on a western calendar).

European Gold CoinsThe Austrian gold coin is a Joseph 1st 1915 Ducat (restrike) 3.4909g   0.9860 gold, 0.1106oz AGW, 20mm Dia (featured).





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