The National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institute

This is the second blog post in a series that we are doing on the ‘top coin collections of all time.’ In the first post we featured the Louis Eliasberg collection, so when you get a chance take the time to go and read it, it’s a fascinating story of a man who was clearly passionate about this hobby. In this post we’ll cover the National Numismatic Collection of the Smithsonian Institute.

The NNC is the largest numismatic collection in North America, and is considered to be one of the largest in the world. It is located in the National Museum of American History and is made up of around 1.6 million objects, including over 450 000 coins, medals and decorations and 1.1 million pieces of paper money. Although prominence is placed on artefacts that exemplify the development of money and medals in the United States, this incredible collection goes so far as to highlight the entire numismatic history of the world

So what can one expect to find in such an ‘extensive’ collection? Well, the Smithsonian Institute holds some of the world’s oldest coins (some dating as far back as 2,700 years), but it also includes beads, exonumia (numismatic items excluding coins and paper money) and other commodities that were used as money in the past.

The American part of the collection has more than 18 000 artefacts, and includes a number of exceptionally valuable rare gold coins such as two of the three known examples of the 1933 Double Eagle $20, a 1787 Brasher half doubloon (a Brasher doubloon recently sold for $7.4 million), two 1877 fifty dollar patterns, a 1913 Liberty Head Nickel and all three types of the 1804 dollar.

Recently, the Smithsonian Institute has received numerous donations of rare coins, such as the exceptional Josiah K. Lilly collection which includes 6 150 gold coins . These include not only US coins, but also many Latin American and European rarities.

It goes without saying that this may be the most valuable coin collection to date in the history of the world and if you ever have the opportunity to visit the Smithsonian Institute, the National Numismatic Collection is definitely worth seeing.
Here are a few of the very rare, very valuable coin specimens currently on display in the NNC:

Did you know

The 1898 Single “9” is the most important African coin. Sold by Rare Coin Investments.

Understanding "No Grade"

Don't get caught out!

A guide to the states of condition that can cause a coin to be rejected for NGC certification.

Subscribe to our Newsletter