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An Introduction to Commemoratives Coins

By Kathleen Duncan of Pinnacle-Rarities

Texas Commemorative Half DollarThis is the place to start learning if you’re unfamiliar with US Commemorative Coins.

What are commemorative coins, you ask?

Commemorative coins are coins issued by the US Mints to recognize the achievements of the Nation. The are coins, and not medals or medallions, because they are monetized, they have a face value and can be used as money, for example a half dollar coin. They differ from regular issue US Coin because they are are struck primarily for collectors, rather than to circulate as money although they are legal tender. Most commemorative coins were struck in conjunction with a large exhibition and festival where they were sold for collectors. The legislation allowing for the issuance of these coins normally also assigned an agency to oversee the distribution or sale. These coins were sold to collectors at a premium to their face value, say $1.00 for a half dollar coin. The two main uses of the proceeds of sale were to raise money for a monument to be built or to defray the costs of the celebration.

How to collect commemoratives.

Between 1892 and 1954, there were just 50 different silver commemoratives and nine different gold issues authorized by Congress and produced. Because many of these coins were issued for multiple years, were struck at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints, and were issued with subtle design variations, there are a total of 144 different silver coins and 13 gold commemoratives.

When collectors buy one coin of each design, they are assembling a Type Set. This is the most popular way to collect silver commemorative coins, the 50-coin set. Most collectors of gold commemoratives will purchase the nine gold dollars and two quarter eagles ($2.50 gold coins) and build a set of 11 coins. Excluded are the two scarce Panama-Pacific $50 issues – visit the Panama-Pacific Gold Commemoratives page by using the scroll-list above to learn why. With that said, there is no one way or best way to collect US commemorative coins. Collectors owe it to themselves to take ownership of their own collections. They should buy what they like and what is interesting to them. Many advanced collectors choose to buy only the five issue related to the Civil War, to buy the ten coins with ships on them, etc. There are nine issues that relate to the western United States, and this has always been a particularly interesting yet overlooked subset. (more…)