Coins That Are Illegal to Own

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Written By Natasha Jones
I'm Natasha Jones, an avid collector of coins, stamps, and paper money. My passion drives me to seek unique finds, from antique shops to international exchanges. I enjoy connecting with fellow collectors through forums and meet-ups, sharing discoveries and insights. Collecting, for me, is about preserving history and building a community around this shared interest.

Some coins are illegal to own and use.

There are many reasons why this might be the case, but most often, it boils down to one simple fact: governments don’t want their people owning something that can’t easily be taxed or tracked by officials.

So let’s talk about these illegal coins and why they’re so important for collectors!

Why are Some Coins Illegal to Own?

Why would the government make owning certain types of coins illegal?

Indeed, there are fewer essential things than this! You would be right.

But unfortunately, these coins have become a problem in recent years because they’re often counterfeit or stolen from museums and other institutions.

These coins can be expensive and valuable and have been known to sell for millions of dollars on eBay or at auctions.

For example: In 2009, someone purchased a rare 1943 Jefferson nickel coin to melt it down (this is illegal) and make counterfeits with the metal inside (also illegal).

The original owner sold it for $3 million, but the buyer went ahead with his plan anyway and got caught!

Coins That Are Illegal to Own:

1866 No Motto Seated Liberty Quarter


Seated Liberty Quarter aficionados search for a few infrequent dates for years or even decades.

Any of the early proofs are under this category, as do the scarce 1873-CC No Arrows, of which there are only five known examples, each of which is worth six figures.

The 1866 No Motto Seated Liberty Quarter is another unusual coin.

Before ending up in possession of Willis du Pont, who paid the excessive amount of $24,500 for the coin in 1961, it was housed in the cabinet of Egypt’s King Farouk.

Until one horrible night in 1967, when his Miami home was broken into, Mr. du Pont, a wealthy Delaware family descendant whose name is synonymous with American industry, kept the coin in his collection.

At gunpoint, the burglars robbed du Pont and his family, making off with more than 7,000 coins, a sizable haul of diamonds, and jewelry.

The criminals also confiscated the family’s red Cadillac as a getaway vehicle.

Many of the stolen coins from the collection, once worth $1.5 million, have gradually made their way back onto the market.

For example, a coin of uncertain origin that was never listed in the United States Mint Director’s Report is the 1866 No Motto Seated Liberty Quarter.

More than 30 years after the rare coin vanished from the du Pont mansion more than 3,000 miles away, it reappeared in a Los Angeles coin shop in 1999.

The 1866 No Motto Quarter was eventually donated to the American Numismatic Association for display after being quickly restored to the family.

The coin was given to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Numismatic Collection in 2015. The coin will undoubtedly remain there indefinitely.

1866 No Motto Seated Liberty Half Dollar


It is no accident that the second coin featured in this article has a history that is highly similar to the first.

This is because the 1866 No Motto Seated Liberty Half Dollar, another special coin of undetermined origin, was formerly possessed by Willis du Pont and stolen from him in the armed 1967 theft that resulted in the loss of hundreds of his rare coins.

The 1866 No Motto Half Dollar, like its 1866 No Motto Quarter companion, was discovered in 1999, some 32 years after the coin vanished from the du Pont estate in a coin shop in Los Angeles.

Like its quarter-dollar sibling, the 1866 No Motto Half Dollar is one of those coins with a mysterious past that has long piqued the interest of the numismatic world.

According to some theories, the 1866 half dollar may have been covertly produced in 1868 on Henry Linderman’s orders to give it to 19th-century pattern collector Robert Coulton Davis.

Unfortunately, it has not been established whether the 1866 No Motto Half Dollar, the 1866 No Motto Quarter, or the two known 1866 No Motto Liberty Seated Dollars (one of which was also owned by du Pont) were struck under these shady circumstances. However, these coins’ mystique and great rarity cannot be disputed.

After its reemergence in 1999, the 1866 No Motto Seated Liberty Half Dollar was displayed at the American Numismatic Association for several years.

But finally, the du Pont family gave the coin—along with its 1866 No Motto Quarter and 1866 No Motto Seated Liberty Dollar—to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Numismatic Collection.

No 1866 No Motto Half Dollars remain in private hands as a result.

However, if one of the two 1866 No Motto Dollars ever makes it to the market, collectors might still compete for it.

1804 Class II Draped Bust Dollar


The Class II Draped Bust Dollar from 1804?

There are three different sorts of 1804 dollars rather than “the” 1804.

Eight of the total 15 known 1804 dollars are original strikings, or Class I dollars, that was struck between 1834 and 1835.

Then, in 1858, seven restrikes were produced; the Class II piece is one of these pieces, while the other six restrikes with lettered edges are known as Class III specimens.

The Class II dollar raises many issues, as many ultra-rare items exist.

For example, the edge text of Class III dollars was added after the coins were produced because the reverses of Class II and Class III dollars are virtually similar.

In other words, if the edge lettering hadn’t been later stamped onto the edges of some of those initially plain-edge dollars, there might have been more Class II dollars present today.

Interestingly, the only known Class II dollar was minted over a commemorative Swiss shooting thaler struck in 1857 for a long-standing shooting festival held in the Canton of Bern.

The National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution is where you can find the 1804 Class II Draped Bust Dollar.

Unfortunately, private collectors are therefore prohibited from owning the coin. Nevertheless, the value of such a unique coin is valuable.

Still, the other 1804 dollars have routinely been trading for millions of dollars in recent years, assuring the elusive Class II dollar would also draw a seven-figure price, if not even more than that.

1870-S $3 Princess


The $3 Princess from 1870-S is one of those pieces that modern coin collectors cannot own, yet a handful did in the past.

The San Francisco Mint produced this coin, and like any tremendous rare coin, there is some mystery surrounding it.

Numismatic specialists can identify just one 1870-S Princess, but many people think a second one was struck and is housed inside the San Francisco Mint’s cornerstone.

The tower, commonly known as “The Granite Lady,” was built in 1869 and served as a mint until 1937.

It was one of the few structures to withstand the disastrous 1906 earthquake that shook San Francisco.

Even if there are two 1870-S Princesses, a private collector cannot acquire either.

As an example, one is presumably hidden inside the thick walls of the Old San Francisco Mint in a metal box, and the other, which is completely present and apparent to the naked eye, is kept at the American Numismatic Association Money Museum in Colorado Springs.

Before earning a place in the Money Museum, the last item was swapped among some of the most prestigious collectors in the hobby.

The coin was formerly a part of William H. Woodin’s collection, the US Treasury Secretary at the time.

A note explaining that the 1870-S $3 Princess was a part of his collection was included with the object when it was sold from his collection in 1911.

Before you go…

So, now you know the coins that are illegal to own. It’s important to keep up with the latest news and information on this topic because these coins have changed from time to time. In addition, there are some countries where owning certain currencies can get you thrown in jail!

Check out my next article: “Is It Illegal To Hoard Coins?

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