U.S. Commemorative Coins – a celebration of American History
While U.S. circulating coins are issued at face value for use in daily commerce, U.S. commemorative coins are issued at a premium above face value to honor anniversaries, special occasions, historical figures, important events and more. Official U.S. commemoratives bear and display legal tender value. However, they have rarely been used in circulation because they were issued at a premium and they possess numismatic value significantly and often far greater than their face value.
Congressional approval is required
Proposed commemorative coin programs are considered by two U.S. congressional committees – the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs – and the House Financial Services Committee. For a commemorative program to proceed to design and production, it must be approved by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president.
The classic era of U.S. commemoratives
The "classic era" of U.S. commemoratives began in 1892-93 when limited-issue 90% silver half dollars and quarters were struck with special designs for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The Exposition honored 400 years of progress since the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492. A wide variety of U.S. commemorative coins followed until 1954 – honoring other major expositions, centennials of states and cities, anniversaries of the Revolutionary War and Civil War, and other significant dates and events. Due to lackluster interest in commemoratives, the Treasury halted their production in 1954 for a period of more than 25 years.
The modern era of U.S. commemoratives
As the years went by, the collecting community missed the special designs of commemorative coinage. Special reverse designs on circulating quarters, half dollars and dollars for the nation's Bicentennial proved popular, and numerous appeals were made to congressmen to resume commemorative production. Finally in 1982, the U.S. Mint kicked off the "modern era" of U.S. commemorative coins with limited-issue 90% silver half dollars honoring the 250th anniversary of George Washington's birth. Many U.S. commemoratives have followed – honoring a wide variety of anniversaries, occasions, individuals, groups and events.
Ways to collect U.S. commemoratives
Commemorative U.S. coins have been issued in clad, silver and gold compositions, as well as in both Uncirculated and Proof versions. Some collectors concentrate on either the classic or modern era. Some limit their collections to silver issues. Some opt for favorite designs (the popularity of commemorative designs has greatly varied). Others choose particular design themes, or issues honoring a particular period in history. With a vast array of designs and subjects, U.S. commemoratives offer coin enthusiasts many collecting options. For more about these popular special issues, see Littleton's Collectors Guide to Modern Commemoratives and read A Good Time for Commemorative Silver Dollars in Littleton's Learn Center.Read More... Read Less...