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    

Egl Diamond 38.89ct Opal 18k Yellow Gold Large Cocktail Ring 21.4 Grams NrVintage 1.41ct Diamond Enamel 18k Gold European Chain Pendant 51.9 Grams NrAntique Pearl Necklace With Solid Gold & Diamond Cluster Catch 18ct/18k Gold Diamond Modernist Design Necklace, 750Gia Designer Diamond 63.56ct Natural Sapphire 18k Gold Necklace 72.8 Grams Nr18ct/ 18k Gold Diamond Art Deco Bracelet, Boxed, 75018ct/18k Gold Diamond & Large Cultured Pearl Victorian Snake Pendant, 750Antique Victorian Omc Diamond Seed Pearl Enamel Star 18k Gold Ring Size 7.25Estate 15.00ct Turquoise 18k Yellow Gold Cocktail Ring 12.0 Grams Nr18ct/18k Gold 65 Point Diamond Solitaire Heavy Victorian Gypsy Set Ring, 750Antique Retro Synthetic Ruby Onyx 18k Gold Link Drop Necklace 43.0 Grams Nr9720. Russia • Gold • 10 Roubles 1899-АГ • Ngc Ms64Modernist Chunky Sqaure Hoops 18k Yellow Gold Earrings 5.2gAntique 19thc Gold Gilt Brass American Eagle Pocket Watch Holder & ThermometerAntique Retro 18k Yellow Gold Chain Link Necklace 44.4 Grams NrAntique Retro Coral 18k Yellow Gold Chain Link Bracelet 17.2 Grams Nr9718. Russia • Gold • 5 Roubles 1852-АГ • Ngc Au551875-cc Liberty Head $20 Gold Near Gem Uncirculated Very Rare This Nice!1838 $5 Classic Head Gold Piece Half Eagle Au Better Date Philadelphia Mint 14k Solid Gold Awesome Designer 4.56ct. Tw 38 Champagne Diamond Tennis Bracelet1861 Liberty Head Gold $20 Double Eagle Type 1 Pcgs Au 58Estate 18k Yellow Gold Small Huggie Earrings 5.5 Grams NrSuperb Antique Victorian 19c 18k Gold Coral Brooch Pendant Earrings SuiteAntique Georgian Diamond Amethyst Pearl 18k Gold Silver Pin Brooch 19.0 Grams Nr**estate 18k Yellow Gold 6ct Tw Aquamarine Brooch 6.2 Grams 36x21mm 1924 Double Eagle, $20 Gold Liberty Pcgs Ms 65 ** Very Lustrous Pq Gold Coin!1907 Indian Head Gold $10 Eagle No Motto Pcgs Au58Antique Platinum Cross 18k Gold Genuine Pearl Vintage Bracelet W Charm DangleAntique Retro 18k Rose Gold Flower Chain Link Bracelet 27.1 Grams NrTt Fr 1187 1922 $20 Gold Certificate Pcgs 55 Choice About New! Estate Diamond 18k Gold Feather Brooch Pin 11.1 Grams Nr2016-w Gold 24k * Us Mint Walking Liberty Half Dollar 50c Centennial * Box & CoaVtg 18k Yellow Gold Red Ruby Flower Floral Pin 5gEtruscan Revival 14k Solid Gold Pyramid & Wire Hinged Wide Bracelet * 28.5 Grams1839-c Classic Head $2.5 Gold Nearly Uncirculated Very Rare! Only 18,140 MintedSolid 14k Yellow Gold & Lapis Lazuli Hinged Ladies Bangle Bracelet 27.0g Vintage 1906 Waltham 23 Jewel Size 16s Vanguard Grade Gold Filled Pocket Watch1861 Liberty Head Gold $20 Double Eagle Type 1 Pcgs Au 581854 Pcgs Xf45 Cac Low Mintage Liberty Head $5. Gold Piece In A Old Green HolderNatural Black Opal 18k Gold 3.50ct Designer Signed Antique Victorian Stick PinΩ 1850 $20 Gold Liberty Pcgs Xf451872 $3 Gold Piece Scarce Philadelphia Mint Issue Xf1867 $3 Gold Piece Scarce Philadelphia Mint Issue Au In GradeVeldpond 1902 Gold1967 Gold 100 Drachmai Greece, Military Junta, Scarce, UncirculatedLustrous 1885-s (sydney Mint) Victoria Young Head Gold Shield Sovereign1852 Pcgs Xf45 Cac Low Mintage Liberty Head $5. Gold Piece In A Old Green Holder2016 Gold Walking Liberty1864 Indian Princess $3 Gold Near Choice Uncirculated Rare!Ω 1834 Classic Head $5 Gold Pcgs Genuine Cleaned - Au Details, Classic, Plain 41863 Gold 8 Escudos Peru, Very Scarce, 27 Grams1912-s Indian Head $5 Gold Half Eagle Icg Ms61 Scarce!1845 P $10 Liberty Gold Au+in Grade Early Gold Eagle Type Coin Scarce Date1908 Indian Head $10 Gold Eagle Gem+ Uncirculated Rare This Nice!Rare $100 Series 1928 Gold Certificate In Nice Circulated Condition - No Reserve2014-w Us Gold $5 Baseball Commemorative "bu-pcgs Ms-70"hall Of Fame Label" 1911-d Indian Head $2.5 Gold Eagle Icg Au58 Key To The Series!1846/5 O $10 Liberty Gold Au+in Grade Early Gold Eagle Type Coin Scarce DateUncirculated 1912 $10 Gold Coin Free S/h!Hugh Vintage Mixed Jewelry Lot. Mostly Gold Filled & 10k 14k 18k Gold Pieces.