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 1 Carat Old Mined Rose Cut Diamond Fine 18th Century Ring, 750Heavy Wah 18k Gold Carved Natural Jadeite Jade Chinese Dragon Bangle BraceletFine Antique Victorian Solid 14k Gold Garnet Heart Locket Charm BraceletVintage Heavy 18k Gold Fine Jadeite Jade Genuine Diamond Funky Link Bracelet18ct/18k Gold Victorian Art Nouveau Enamel Diamond & Seed/natural PendantAntique Victorian Faceted Solid 14k Gold dangle EarringsPatek Philippe Pocket Watch Signed Movement And Dial Gold Filled Case 1910Gen 1920s Patek Philippe Extra Tiffany Hidden Hinge Case 18k Gold Pocket Watch18k Gold Diamond & Enamel Guilloche Juillard Freres & Morel Pocket Watch Nr Yqz18ct/18k Gold Victorian Amethyst And Seed Pearl Drop Earrings 75018ct/18k Gold Art Nouveau Jade And Diamond Brooch 75018ct/18k Gold Sapphire And Diamond Art Deco Cluster Ring, 750Emerald & Diamond 18ct/ 18k Gold, 750 Exceptional Cluster Ring18ct/ 18k Gold 1.5 Carat Moonstone Victorian Ring, 750(1361-1369) England Gold Noble Of Edward Iii S-1503 Ngc Ms62 18ct/ 18k Gold Diamond, Peridot & Amethyst Victorian Suffragette Earrings, 75018ct/ 18k Gold 7 Carat Garnet & 1.80 Carat Diamond Heavy Cluster Ring, 75018ct/ 18k Gold 1 Carat Amethyst Victorian Ring, 750Patek Philippe & Co Geneva Solid 14k Gold Chronometer - 1864Omega 18lpb Pocket Watch Size 18 Gold Plate & Silver Case RunningAntique 14k Yellow Gold Tri Color Fancy Carved Case Elgin Pocket Watch 35 Mm 1798 Capped Bust Gold $5 -lg Eagle/13 Stars- Typical Strike Ngc Vf20 Very Rare!1/2 Carat Diamond 18ct/ 18k Gold, 750 Fine Art Deco Five Stone RingAntique Waltham Beautiful 14k Solid Gold Box Hinge Hunter's Case Pocket WatchStunning 1/2 Carat Diamond Solitaire 18k Gold Ring**estate Nice Quality 18k Yellow Gold 2.00 Ct Diamond Earrings G-h Vs2 0.75"10 Rouble 1767/6 Russia Gold Au53 Highest Grade!(1544-47) England Henry Viii Gold Angel S-2299 Ngc Ms61 Only 2 Graded By Ngc!18ct/18k Gold Emerald And Diamond Art Deco Design 750 Heavy BraceletGia Natural Diamond 7.51ct Pink Sapphire 18k Gold Cocktail Ring 7.8 Grams NrTt Fr 1187 1922 $20 Gold Certificate Pcgs 64 Ppq Very Choice New18ct/ 18k Gold Fine Victorian Natural Turquoise Drop Earrings, 750**estate 60pts Sapphire 30pts Diamond Ring Gh Vs2 18k Yellow Gold 2.7 Grams (1464-70) England Edward Iv Gold 1/2 Ryal S-1959 Ngc Ms6218ct/18k Gold Victorian Etruscan Enamel Seed Pearl Tassel Locket Pendant 7501739 G. Britain Gold 2 Guineas S-3667b Ngc Ms 62 Only One Graded This High!Vintage Solid 9k Gold Gate Link Bracelet Bangle 14k Safety Chain 1970's 375Coolest Vintage 18k Gold Treasure Chest Turquoise Gambler Dice Charm18ct/18k Gold Portrait Miniature Tie/stick Pin Boxed1806 Draped Bust Half Eagle Gold $5 Borderline Uncirculated Tough Early DateMercury Dime 2016 Centennial Gold Coin Pcgs Sp70 First StrikeElegant Modern Designer Style 14k Solid Gold 10 Ct Tw Gemstone Necklace 36" Long18ct/18k Gold Emerald Cross Pendant 75018ct/ 18k Gold Diamond Cluster Fine Art Deco Ring, 750(1422-30) England Henry Vi Gold Noble S-1799 Ngc Au55Simon G 2.52ct Diamond 18k Gold Wide Band Ring 9.9 Grams NrRare Iwc Rose 14k Solid Gold Pocket Watch W/ Hunter Case. Runs. 52mm 18ct/ 18k Gold Fine Victorian Drop Earrings, 7501707 Great Britain, Anne Gold Guinea S-3570 Ngc Au55Patek Philippe Chronometro Gondolo 56mm Rose 18k Gold Special Order 22 LigneMoy 2008-w $50 1oz Gold Buffalo Pcgs Pr70dcam18ct/ 18k Gold Rare Victorian Diamond Lucky Horse Shoe Mourning Ring, 750$50 2013-w Gold Buffalo Pcgs Pr70 Reverse Proof Chicago Ana * AvenuecoinMcteigue 4.52ctw Diamond Ultra Fine Platinum 18k Gold Open Heart Love Pin(1351) England Gold 1/2 Noble Ngc Ms-61 Edward Iii S-1491 Extra Rare 18s Hamilton 23j 946 Yellow Gold Filled Open Face Pocket Watch**18k Yellow Gold 2ct Sapphire 1/4ct Diamond Eternity Band Gh Vs2 3.7 Grams Antique Vintage C. 1860 Victorian 18k Yellow Gold Rose Cut Diamond Pendant!Antique C. 1850 Victorian 18k Rose Gold Angelskin Coral Estate Womens Band Ring!Rare Railroad Grade 1915 Hamilton 992 10kt Gold Mechanical Winding Pocket Watch