Classic United States Commemorative Coins
US commemorative coinage can be classified into three major groups:
- Traditional Series
- Modern Series
- Circulating Series
The Traditional Series includes the silver and gold coins issued between 1892 and 1954. All of these coins were sponsored by private organizations and were intended to be fund raisers. They were sold at a premium over their face value by their sponsor and were not intended for circulation. Some issues, however, did eventually see large numbers released into general circulation due to large inventories of unsold coins.
The Modern Series is comprised of the clad, silver, gold and platinum coins issued since 1982. The coins of the Modern Series are considered NCLT — Non-Circulating Legal Tender. This means that while they do have a “face value” and are legal tender, they are not meant for circulation and often have a precious metal content far in excess of their stated denomination. For example, a gold $5.00 commemorative (Half Eagle) contains 0.2419 ounces of gold which, in March 2007, would place its melt value at over $150.00. As with the Traditional Series, coins of the Modern Series are sponsored by organizations and are meant to raise funds for the sponsor. Unlike the previous series, Modern commemoratives are sold and distributed by the US Mint, with only the proceeds from the sales being sent to the sponsors.
It is commonly accepted that the Circulating Series of US commemoratives began in 1975 with the release of the special US Bicentennial coinage. Some argue, however, that the 1909 Lincoln cent which commemorated the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth or the 1932 Washington quarter which was released to celebrate the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth were the first US circulating commemoratives. Today, this series continues with the Statehood Quarter program and the Westward Journey nickel series. Coins from this series are also made available in specially produced versions for collectors — for example, proof versions.
United States Commemorative Coins