SALT LAKE CITY — Some very rare coins are up for auction, and you may be surprised at how much people will pay for them. One of the rare Mormon gold coins could fetch as much as $1 million.
When the pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, U.S. coins and currency were scarce. To be able to buy and sell things, early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints started making their own coins.
“They were made to basically ship back East to buy goods to ship back to the valley; that’s where the vast majority of them went,” said Tyson Emery, a coin expert from All About Coins in Sugar House.
All About Coins has a good collection of Mormon currency, and has actually bought and sold several of the gold coins in the past. While rare, collectors and auction companies do sell them from time to time.
“Obviously, the Mormon gold pieces, since there are so few of them around, don’t come up on a monthly or weekly basis; but we sell a couple dozen of them,” Emery said.
The coins themselves came in several denominations: $2½, $5, $10 and $20 pieces, made from gold brought back from the California Gold Rush.
The LDS Church History Museum has a replica display featuring the coins, dies and other equipment used to make them. The designs were simple and rugged, showing clasped hands; the lettering and numbers uneven.
Right now, a collector has several of the coins in the various denominations up for bid at Heritage Auctions, one of the country's major coin auctioneers. A rare collection of these "territorial coins" doesn't come along very often, and a $10 gold coin is the biggest prize — only 46 were made, and only a handful are left.
“But in private hands; there’s got to be less than 10 known, maybe even less than five known, in private hands that can actually be bought,” Emery said.
At last check, the $10 gold coin had an online bid of $375,000, but that number is expected to go much higher before the auction ends Thursday night.
“It’ll probably bring $500,000 to over a $1 million range,” Emery said.
All About Coins sold a $10 coin 15 to 20 years ago for $100,000 — time and rarity certainly have increased the value.
So, the next time you're in an antique store and see a bunch of coins, check them out. You never know what you might find.