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US Commemorative Coins

The U.S. government issues commemorative coins to honor a person, event, or place. Collectors separate the 144 coins issued before 1954 from those issued after 1982 as there were no commemorative coins issued in the intervening years. If you are thinking of starting a commemorative coin collection, then you have many options.

What is a U.S. commemorative coin?

A U.S. commemorative coin is legal tender in the U.S. They are issued to pay tribute to important people, places or events, and they can have different denominations. They are minted at specific locations from unique designs approved by the mint director after the U.S. Congress authorizes them. While they are legal tender, they are not typically put into regular circulation. Profits earned from the sale of these pieces were originally used to fund specific projects, and each one was designed to be released for a limited time.

What are the main parts of commemorative coins?

The head is called the obverse, and it normally contains a design, the year the coin was made, the mint mark, and the rim. The back is called the reverse, and it normally contains the design and a rim. The raised part of the design is called the relief while the undesigned part is called the field. The edge may also contain designs or words.

What are some U.S. early commemorative coin half dollars?

Many of the early commemorative coins were issued as 50-cent pieces, including:

  • Panama–Pacific commemorative coins- Paying tribute to the opening of the Panama Canal, this set of five pieces includes the only one ever released by the United States that is not round.
  • Pilgrim Tercentenary half dollar- This 50-cent piece was released in 1920 to mark the anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrims.
  • Sesquicentennial Commemorative Coins- This set was released in 1926 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Americas independence.
  • San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge- The opening of the Golden Gate Bridge was honored in 1936.

Additionally, numerous states had their centennials or sesquicentennials commemorated with special issues marking the occasion.

Did the U.S. government release any commemorative coins with medals?

There have been several mint sets released with reproduced medals, including:

  • 1993 World War II commemorative coins- This set of a dollar gold coin, silver dollar, and clad half-dollar displays a soldier from each of the branches of the armed forces on its front with a "V" in the background and a B-17 flying overhead. The reverse side shows an American soldier on a Pacific Island beach.
  • 1993 Bill of Rights US coins- This set contains a silver half dollar and a silver dollar. The front shows a picture of James Madison studying the Bill of Rights while the back contains a Madison quote surrounded by symbols of American democracy.
  • 2007 Little Rock coins- This set contains a silver dollar showing an artist’s rendition of a soldier escorting the Little Rock Nine into the high school with the word “Liberty” with nine stars above the image. The reverse shows Little Rock Central High School at that time.
  • 2008 Bald Eagle Coins- This set containing a chad half dollar, a silver half dollar, and a dollar gold coin celebrates the removal of the bald eagle from the endangered species list. The front shows two baby eaglets with an unhatched egg while the back shows a close-up view of the iconic Challenger bird and the U.S. flag.



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