According to the National Mining Association, gold was first excavated in what is now Eastern Europe around 4000 BC, and it became an international form of currency in Egypt in about 1500 BC. Gold coins appeared around the same time, when the shekel, which originally contained 11.3 grams of gold, circulated widely throughout the Middle East. Within another 500 years, square gold coins were introduced in China, while ancient Greek gold coins appeared in 4th and 3rd centuries BC as staters, tetradrachms, octodrachms, and pentadrachms. Ancient Roman gold coins of the 2nd and 1st centuries BC included the stater, aureus, and binio.

More recently, countries around the world have minted gold coins as currency, usually for larger transactions, although numerous small-denomination coins with trace amounts of gold in them have also been struck. One of the most famous gold coins was the Spanish reale, which was so ubiquitous in early 19th-century America that it was considered legal tender. In the 1850s, the U.S. Mint began producing its own gold coins, some made from ore and nuggets mined during the California Gold Rush of 1949. The largest U.S. gold coins, the $20 double eagles, contained just under a troy ounce of gold by weight. Even heavier were the 5-pound Egyptian coins minted between 1861 and 1957 and the 5-pound British coins struck from 1838 to 1968, both of which had more than an ounce of gold in them.

In the United States, bullion coins have been popular since 1986, when the first American Eagle coins minted under the terms of the Bullion Coin Act of 1985 were released. These coins were minted at the 22-karat standard (.9167 gold) and produced entirely from gold mined in the United States. While American Eagles have a face value, their actual cost depends on their weight (1/10-ounce coins have a face value of $5; 1/4-ounce coins are marked as being worth $10;1/2-ounce coins have a $25 face value; and 1-ounce coins are ostensibly worth $50).

In 2006, the U.S. Mint released its first 24-karat (.9999 gold) gold bullion coin, the American Buffalo, a 1-ounce gold coin created to compete with other 24-karat coins such as the Canadian Maple Leaf. Fractional versions of the American Buffalo were minted in 2008, in the same denominations and weights as American Eagles.

Gold bullion bars are designed for those who want to collect gold in even smaller weights (some as light as 1 gram) than bullion coins. Some of the most popular types of gold bars are Credit Suisse and PAMP, both produced in Switzerland. For heavier bars weighing between 350 and 430 fine troy ounces, everything from their shape (wider on their top surface than their base) to the information stamped into them is carefully regulated. For example, unlike bullion coins, whose weight is guaranteed by the government that issues them, the weight of a heavy gold bar is generally not stamped into the top surface of the bar since it is weighed again before being sold.

Of course you can also collect (or even stockpile) gold in its pure, natural state as gold nuggets, which are usually weathered and pitted due to the erosion of the materials the gold had been in contact with when the nuggets formed. While most gold nuggets on the market are no bigger than your fingernail, some notable nuggets found in Australia have weighed as much as 150 pounds.

As with gold coins, whose numismatic value is often negligible compared to the market value of the metal, gold jewelry and gold wristwatches are often bought and sold just because they are made of gold. This is especially true of off-brand wristwatches and pieces of jewelry whose design dictates a lot of gold, such as a heavy, multichain necklaces or a set of thick, solid-gold bangles.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Legendary Coins and Currency

Legendary Coins and Currency

This online exhibition from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is a great way to get an overview… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

18ct/18k Gold 80 Point Diamond & 6.5ct Sapphire Art Deco Large Cluster Ring, 7507.00ct Diamond 18k Gold Classic Single Strand Tennis Necklace 18.9 Grams NrUnique Patek Philippe & Co Geneva Solid 14k Gold Chronograph - 1887 !!!18ct/ 18k Gold 1/2ct Old Mined Rose Cut Diamond Solitaire Art Deco Ring, 750Antique Diamond 21.20ct Opal 18k Yellow Gold Cocktail Ring 10.7 Grams NrGaravelli Diamond 6.20ct Pink Sapphire 18k Gold Swirl Earrings 25.9 Grams NrEstate Blue 20.15 Aquamarine Diamond 18k Gold Cocktail Ring 14.2 Grams NrAntique 18k Gold Fancy Elegant Railroad Pocket Watch.85 Ct G Vs2 Round Old European Diamond Stud Earrings Solid 14k Gold $6,750.00Antique 18k Gold Platinum Solid Opal & Old Cut Natural Diamond Trilogy RingItalian Diamond 68.00ct Amethyst 18k Yellow Gold Pendant Necklace 209.5 Grams NrMassive 18k Gold Le Phare Chronograph Minute Repeater Mens Antique Pocket WatchPiaget Sapphire 18k Yellow Gold Winding Ladies Watch 19.8 Grams Nr18k Gold Arthur King School Fine Translucent Jade Diamond Signed Freeform RingPocket Watch Gold Repetition Minuten 18k Solido 102 G, End Xix Century,workingFine Victorian Emerald Diamond Marquise 18ct Gold Ring 18k 750Antique Victorian 18k Solid Gold Almandine Garnet Diamond BraceletRichly Engraved American Waltham 14k Solid Gold Hunter Case Pocket Watch 1891Fine Large Art Deco Design Sapphire Diamond 18ct Gold Ring 18k 750Tiffany & Co. Art Deco Natural 1.75ctw Semi Black Opal & Diamond 18k Gold RingFine Heavy 17th Century Style 18ct Gold Diamond Ring 18k 750Old Hand Poured 1oz 24kt Gold Bar P.p.m. Ltd.Rare Museum Quality 18k Gold Minute Repeater Chrono Amazing Pocket Watch 54mmArt Deco Design Heavy 18ct Gold 2.60cts Sapphire And 2ct Diamond Earrings 18kPatek Philippe & Co Geneva Solid 14k Gold 21 Jewels Chronometer - 1902Italian 18k Yellow Gold Rope Chain Necklace 25.7 Grams 34" NrVictorian 18k Yellow Gold And European Cut Diamond Ring - Size 6 3/4Antique Old Stock Persian Blue Turquoise Necklace 18k Gold Clasp. Jade AmberVf Condition Ancient Greek Gold Stater Philip Ii Of Macedon - 359-336 Bc (856-)1903 Hampden William Mc Kinley Railroad Grade In 14k Gold Filled Hunter Case RunOmega Constellation 18k (solid) Gold Automatic1894 Waltham Pocket Watch Mint Dial In 14k Gold Filled Hunter Case - 16s - Runs$5000 Women's Modern Estate 14k Solid Yellow Gold 1.50ctw Baguette Diamond RingDesigner Gucci 18k Yellow Gold Lariat Pendant Chain Necklace 5.2 Grams NrLogines Diamond 18k Yellow Gold Ladies Quartz Watch 44.1 Grams NrEstate Diamond Ruby 18k -22k Yellow Gold Large Skull Ring 84.5 Grams Nr1887 Queen Victoria Great Britain Gold Proof Half Sovereign Pcgs Pr62Italian 18k Yellow Gold Large Hoop Earrings 29.2 Grams NrAmerican Watch Co. Riverside 14k Solid Gold Hunter Cased Pocket Watch 18741889 Illinois Pocket Watch Mint Dial In 14k Gold Filled Hunter Case - 6s - Runs1907 Saint Gaudens $20 Gold High Relief Uncirculated+ Extra Rare! 12,367 Minted!Charriol 18k Gold Two Tone Cable Link 16.5" Necklace 26.0 Grams NrEstate Diamond Lapis Lazuli 18k Yellow Gold Cocktail Ring 11.6 Grams NrVintage Pearl 18k Yellow Gold 5 Strand Bracelet 51.3 Grams NrA Rare Italian Antique Micro Mosaic Brooch In Onyx & 18k Solid Gold Frame.Ladies Nice 14k Solid Gold Hamilton 30 Diamonds 22j Usa Watch + Original Box A+Antique 14k Gold Waltham Fancy Painted Dial Diamond Hunters Case Pocket Watch1982 Chinese Panda 1 Troy Oz .999 Gold Coin Original Seal First Year Low MintageEngelhard 2 Ounce 999.9 Fine Gold Bar ~ L@@k Rare Vintage Poured Bar!Uncirculated Epq Ppq Original Paper Embossed 1000 Dollar Bill Frn 100 500 GoldMassive 14k Gold Montandon 1/4 Repeater Chronograph Antique Mens Pocket WatchAntique 18k Yellow Gold Wide Criss Cross Links Bracelet 29.3 Grams NrAntique 18k Yellow Gold Triangular Mesh Links Necklace 25.0 Grams Nr18t/ 18k Gold Diamond & Ruby Art Deco Design Love Heart Ring, 7501890-cc $20 Ngc Ms 61 Gold Double Eagle CoinFine Victorian Sapphire And Diamond 18ct Gold Cluster Ring 18k 7502009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Ms-70 Pl Pcgs (gold Foil)1924 Gold $20 St Gaudens Double Eagle CoinAntique Vintage Victorian 18k Gold & Silver Colombian Emerald Diamond Necklace!Cartier Pave Diamond Necklace 18k Yellow Gold 16" Chain W/box And Certificate