Coins & Money

Why Gold-Plated Commemorative Coins Are Awful Investments!

Whether collectibles are a hobby, a passion or an investment is up to each person individually. Just understand that there really is such a thing as a bad purchase. Just like the fact that there really are bad questions even if people don’t want to say that. There are true coin collectors who praise the hobby and collection in numismatics. And then there are commemorative gold-plated coin buyers.

Commemorative gold-plated coin buyers keep late night TV infomercials alive and well. This has nothing to do with 1-ounce gold coin buyers, and not even 1-ounce silver coin buyers. Commemorative coins that are gold-plated may sound official and may appeal to your emotions. Just understand that they have almost zero value in real life.

Collectors Dashboard evaluates high-end collectibles as an alternative asset class. Some coins are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more). Coins that actually contain an ounce of gold or an ounce of silver are still investments. There are no assurances that gold or silver (or anything else) will rise in value. That said… COMMEMORATIVE GOLD-PLATED COINS ARE A BAD INVESTMENT EVEN IF GOLD PRICES DOUBLED OVERNIGHT!

There are many stories from coin shop owners and patrons about how much they hate commemorative coins. It’s not even because the business is going to someone else. It is because people who want to sell their commemorative coins get mad at coin shop owners upon finding out that their “investment” is basically worthless. It turns out that the $19.99 or $29.99 “investment” they heard about on that television infomercial at 2 AM has basically no value at all to any knowledgeable buyer. If you don’t like hearing the term scam, just consider what “microns of gold plating” means.

And on a personal note, I just witnessed this in a gold and silver shop last week! The “seller” was convinced that since he bought these coins 20 years ago that they had to be worth over $100 each! “At least $80!” They are not. They are almost worthless. The seller was angry at the people working there and stormed out. The reality is that he could have put those coins in a time capsule to open in 100 years — and the value may still be close to zero!

Many coin sellers who are pushing commemorative gold-plated plated coins will try to use names that sound quite official. The United States Mint ( is the official government mint and they do not sell plated commemorative coins. Buyers often get suckered into thinking they are buying from the U.S. Mint when they are just buying from some company that produced commemorative gold-plated coins. The official Mint website spells it out quite clearly —

Does the United States Mint produce or sell colorized coins?

The United States Mint has never produced or sold colorized coins or coins that feature a holographic or superimposed image.

Does the United States Mint produce or sell gold- or silver-plated coins?

No. The United States Mint has never produced or sold gold- or silver-plated coins.

The one colorized coin exception that they stated was part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Program issued in 2020. The U.S. Mint also discusses colorized and plated coins as an investment, as follows:

The United States Mint does not comment on coin-grading issues or on a colorized coin’s or plated coin’s current or future value as a collectible item. If you like a colorized coin or plated coin because of the way it looks, then you may want to add it to your collection. If you are primarily concerned about the long-term investment value of a colorized coin or plated coin, then you should contact a reputable coin dealer or coin grading service before you purchase the coin.

What they are saying is that you are probably wasting your money. Collectors and investors alike, or grandparents who want to buy commemorative gold-plated coins as gifts, need to understand that not all collectibles are good investments just because they are offered as such. Some are atrocious! Crummy! Crappy! Pick your own snide term for an “investment.”

People who buy actual gold and actual silver coins are expecting that they will either make money on it or that they are at least investing into a store of value. Maybe they fear inflation will eat up the purchasing power of their money. Maybe they want it for barter and trade in the event of a financial or systemic collapse. But for the countless number of people who get suckered into the trap of buying commemorative gold-plated coins — it’s really a bad investment!

Again, actual gold coins are valuable. If they have historical significance they may be nearly priceless (image ten pennies worth over $1 million!). If a commercial or advertisement for “gold coins” contains the word “microns” or “plated” you need to leave them alone.

Unfortunately, this will not call out by name any of the companies that sell commemorative gold-plated coins. It’s more fun buying real things and investing in real things than being sued for naming people and companies in a negative way.

You will keep hearing here that gold-plated commemorative coins are a bad investment. They may be nice looking. They may be shiny. They may commemorate someone or something special to you. They may make you think you are now an owner of gold. But they are bad investments.

This is also NOT pertaining to coin sets that were made by the U.S. Mint. Those 50-state quarter sets and annual coin sets your grandparents gave you for your tenth birthday are in fact still worth at least the face value of each coin. Anything produced by the U.S. Mint has some value to it. The rest of the commemorative gold-plated coin issuers may have little to no real value even if they are “limited to a set production number.” It is easy to manufacture scarcity, but if the value of the item was zero to begin with it may still be zero even if only 5,000 examples were produced.

Gold plating is simply the bonding of a metallurgically small sample of gold to a lesser metal. Here is why those commemorative plated coins are worthless — the amount of gold used may be just .09mm and 24KT as a small sample sheathed over any available metal to make something that resembles a coin.

This is where things get dicey, similar to above. When commemorative coin buyers take their “investments” to sell, after paying $19.99 or $29.99 (or much more), the coin shop proprietor is suddenly thought of as the bad guy. People seem to never want to admit that they overpaid or that they made a bad investment. This is also true for many people who buy commemorative coins.

Think about this for a minute. Without the backing of the United States Mint for production or without a respected source for gold coins, gold-plated commemorative coins are effectively just made by someone in a warehouse making shiny yellow circular tokens. Some pitches on TV commercials may make it sound like a seller’s life depends on it, but this should come with the understanding that you are being legally enticed to buy something that looks impressive but has no value.

If you need a comparison to jewelry — fake diamonds and beads may look pretty but their real value may be close to zero. That is true even if the price of real diamonds were to rise tenfold overnight.

Gold-plated coins are more than frowned upon by knowledgeable coin collectors. Coin shop owners and pawn brokers often face irate people after they find out that no true coin buyer will buy those plated commemorative coins. A shop owner has overhead and has to make a living. Right? So why on earth would they pay some sucker $50.00 for something that cost $19.99 when it is really worth only a few cents? Most reputable coin dealers will not even sell commemorative gold-plated coins. Isn’t that enough of a likely indicator of future value?

The harsh reality in life is that it would potentially take thousands of gold-plated coins to even get an ounce of gold after melting the gold off the coins. So, let’s do some math of one ounce of gold being used to plate even 1,000 coins. Divide $1,750 by 1,000 items. Is that or is that not $1.75 worth of gold? If you bought the coin for $19.99 without any tax nor shipping and handling assumptions, didn’t your $19.99 just buy something worth only $1.75? Should business owners really have to bail people out at their expense because someone else mad a bad decision?

The tragedy of September 11, 2001 and other key historical events have been used by people who make gold-plated commemorative coins to tug on your heart and emotions. These are not the type of gold coins that true gold bugs and investors want to own. Not all collectibles are worthy of investment. They may sound cheap or enticing, but they aren’t.

So, do you still want to waste your money on gold-plated commemorative coins?