Civilizations have been minting gold coinage since the 5th Century BC, and they (along with silver) formed the foundation of every modern financial system. Graduating out of the barter system, gold (and silver) coinage became the predominant medium of exchange that finally allowed commerce to expand internationally.
Since the end of the gold standard, gold bullion coins have replaced the circulated coins of the past as a modern store of value. Many nations worldwide manufacture their version of Brilliant Uncirculated (BU) gold coins, each sovereign mint offering a unique take.
Gold coins come in all shapes and sizes, but for the sake of comparison, we’ll focus on the standard 1 oz Brilliant Uncirculated, gold bullion coin variety.
Today we’ll look at a list of the most popular minted gold coins on the planet. And just for fun, score them based on overall collectability.
Let’s get started!
South African Gold Krugerrand
South Africa was once the unquestioned leader of gold mining output, but in recent decades the rest of the world caught up. To package their enormous gold reserves for the burgeoning retail market, in 1967, the South African Mint started producing the popular Gold Krugerrand.
Minted from a 22-karat alloy of 91.67% gold and copper filling out the balance, each 1 oz Gold Krugerrand has a distinct orange hue. The obverse depicts a profile bust of the gold coin’s namesake, the 3rd President of the South African Republic, and key figurehead Paul Kruger. The Reverse displays the stunning profile of a Springbok Antelope in stride.
With zero competition at the outset, early mintage figures for the Gold Krugerrand pushed well into the millions, and it’s estimated that since 1967, over 50 million ounces of gold coins have been released to the public! There’s a reason the Gold Krugerrand is considered the granddaddy of modern gold bullion coins
2010* Mintage – 528,128
Collectability – 4/10
Austrian Gold Philharmonic
The Austrian Mint produces the Gold Philharmonic, and it's the preferred favorite of bullion investors across the European mainland. The Gold Phil, as it's commonly referred to, is minted from 99.99% pure gold. A distinguishing security feature of the Gold Philharmonic is the uneven reed pattern on the coin's edge. These reed gaps would prove more difficult to counterfeit and adds a layer of protection for retail investors.
The Gold Philharmonic was designed by chief engraver Thomas Pesendorfer in 1989. Taking design cues from the famous Vienna Philharmonic orchestra, the Gold Philharmonic coin's obverse features the Great Organ. The reverse features an orchestral arrangement of four violins, a cello, bassoon, Vienna horn, and a harp.
The Gold Philharmonic is a trusted and recognized gold bullion coin that traditionally carries lower retail premiums than the US Mint and Royal Canadian Mint offerings, making it a fantastic option for investors stacking bulk weight.
2020* Mintage – 706,626
Collectability – 5/10
Australian Gold Kangaroo
Originally released as the Gold Nugget coin in 1986, the Gold Kangaroo bullion coin was a nod to Australia's longstanding mining tradition. The country's mining successes continue to this day, and since 1990 the Perth Mint has produced millions of Gold Kangaroos!
The reverse of the Gold Kangaroo features the namesake marsupial, the largest mammal native to Australia. The obverse displays a contemporary side profile of the sitting monarch of the British Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II, adorned in jewelry.
The contrasting matte and proof-like surfaces on the Gold Kangaroo make for an attractive coin at a phenomenal price.
2021 Mintage – Open mintage, official figures aren’t disclosed.
Collectability – 6.5/10
With the bullion competition heating up through the 1970s and 80s, The Royal Mint decided to enter the fray. As the second oldest mint in the world, officially opened in 886 AD, it made a splash with the 1987 release of the Gold Britannia.
Gold Britannia’s are revered for their beautiful, proof-like surfaces, an uncommon trait on standard gold bullion. Gold Britannia collectors feel they’re getting incredible eye-appeal for a relative bargain.
Gold Britannia’s are also on the cutting edge of bullion coin technology. These advances include latent images that shift when viewed from different angles, imprinted micro text, and amazingly sharp details that are difficult to imitate for would be counterfeiters.
Produced initially with a 22-karat gold alloy until 2012, Gold Britannia’s are now minted from 99.99% pure gold. The coin’s reverse displays Britannia, the female embodiment of the British nation, standing proudly with her trident and Union Jack–adorned shield, gazing back at the island she protects. The obverse features a side portrait of the sitting monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
2021 Mintage – Open mintage, official figures aren’t disclosed.
Collectability – 7/10
Canadian Gold Maple Leaf
The Gold Maple Leaf from the Royal Canadian Mint was the first challenger to the Krugerrand and the first pure gold coin in the modern era. Initially released in 1979, today, the Gold Maple Leaf is minted from 99.99% pure gold and includes many security features to deter would-be counterfeiters.
The Royal Canadian Mint employs its proprietary BULLION DNATM on every Gold Maple Leaf it produces.
This technology uses a laser mark micro-engraving to etch unique privy marks on each coin. These privy markings correlate to an official database that instantly verifies authenticity. In addition, the Royal Canadian Mint uses precision-machined dies to strike sharp radial lines on both the obverse and reverse of each gold bullion coin.
The maple leaf, a widely recognized national symbol of Canada dating back several centuries, is exquisitely detailed. The obverse features a side profile of the sitting monarch of the British Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II. The Gold Maple Leaf's reverse features a Walter Ott designed maple leaf, the same design still in use today.
The Gold Maple Leaf sets an excellent standard for pure gold bullion coins, provided at a relative bargain. This combination makes the Gold Maple Leaf popular with precious metals investors.
2021 Mintage – Open mintage, but hovers around 1,000,000.
Collectability – 7/10
American Gold Eagle
The American Gold Eagle is the US Mint’s flagship product and likely the most recognizable coin on the planet. Minted annually since 1986, over 20 million American Gold Eagles have reached the hands of satisfied investors.
After 35 years of one consistent design, a new American Gold Eagle was released during the second half of 2021. The US Mint refreshed the obverse’s Augustus Saint-Gaudens design, which was initially borrowed from the classic $20 Double Eagle Gold coin. Its portrayal of Lady Liberty in stride is the most iconic coin design in US history.
The new reverse on the American Gold Eagle completely replaced Miley Busiek’s illustration of the Family of Eagles with a unique design by Jennie Norris. This close-cropped and eye-catching profile shot of an American Bald Eagle displays incredible detail. The new Gold Eagle also includes a security element to thwart counterfeiters. There is now an intentionally missing reed on the coin’s edge directly below Lady Liberty if looking at the obverse.
The Gold Eagle is an incredibly desirable option for the American market and is the only IRA-approved 22-karat gold bullion coin. While retail premiums tend to be higher across the entire US Mint product line, any reputable dealer will repurchase Gold Eagles for a percentage above gold spot price. An important distinction to keep in mind.
2021 Mintage – 1,115,500
Collectability – 8/10
The annual release of the Chinese Gold Panda from the Peoples Republic of China has become a tradition in many bullion collector’s circles. First struck in 1982 as a low mintage proof collectible, today, the Gold Panda is a popular 99.9% pure gold offering on the world market. Every year the Gold Panda features fresh artwork of the coin’s namesake, the Giant Panda.
The reverse design of the Gold Panda changes every year but is noted for the fun and delightful depictions of the Giant Panda. The obverse of the Gold Panda consistently features an illustration of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. The Hall is the largest structure in the Temple of Heaven complex, a national landmark, and a World Heritage Site.
While controversial to some gold investors, the Gold Panda remains highly sought after for its unique annual designs and carries a semi-numismatic collector’s premium.
2021 Mintage – 1,000,000
Collectability – 8.5/10
American Gold Buffalo
The US Mint released the American Gold Buffalo in 2006 as their answer to the pure gold question. Realizing that discerning tastes demanded a 24-karat option, the US Mint wisely bid to capture an even bigger piece of the retail gold market.
Coin collectors already familiar with the 1911 Buffalo nickel design will know where the American Gold Buffalo borrowed inspiration. James Earle Fraser's original design features the striking profile of a proud Native American Chieftain on the obverse. The coin's reverse displays the namesake American bison, presumed to depict the famous Central Park Zoo attraction, "Black Diamond."
American Gold Eagles and Buffalos are exceedingly desirable for investors and dealers alike, but here's something to consider. The Gold Buffalo's 99.99% pure gold composition is universally accepted across cultural lines, and the annual mintage of the Gold Buffalo is a fraction of the Gold Eagle. Both coins retail for the same price, creating hidden collector value for the Gold Buffalo.
2021 Mintage – 350,500
Collectability – 9/10
Mexican Gold Libertad
Mexican gold is undoubtedly unrivaled in its beauty and carries a certain mystique. It's not easy to describe, but there's something special about the Mexican Gold Libertad. Upon its release in 1981, the Gold Libertad became an instant classic, and the Mexican Mint flooded the market with 596,000 troy ounces of gorgeous Oro Puro in the first year alone.
But as quickly as the floodgates opened, production ceased for an entire decade. The Gold Libertad was not minted again until 1991, and from that point forward, the annual release has been a far more exclusive experience.
The Gold Libertad obverse features the Coat of Arms of Mexico, surrounded by ten previous versions of the symbol. This symbol shows a Mexican golden eagle devouring a rattlesnake perched atop a prickly pear cactus. The famous coin reverse elegantly displays the Angel of Independence, with the volcanoes Popocatépetl and Iztaccihuatl in the background.
Recent annual mintages haven't passed a few thousand coins, and the Gold Libertad carries the collector's premium to prove it. The Gold Libertad strikes a nice balance between a bullion coin and a collectible and to hold one in your hand is an unforgettable experience.
2021 Mintage – 1,050
Collectability – 10/10
Gold bullion coins in the 1 oz class are incredibly liquid, and you’ll never go wrong buying any of the coins included in this list. They can all have a place in your precious metal’s investment portfolio, but remember not to get too carried away paying high collector’s premiums.
Many dealers, especially pawn shops and local coin dealers, view all gold coins as simple bullion and repurchase them around the prevailing gold spot price—something to keep in mind for your potential exit strategy.
Conversely, PIMBEX offers extremely competitive buyback prices, and if you are ever looking to sell and need an honest quote, please reach us. We’d be happy to help.
*Latest official figure.