Early Commemorative Coins of The United States
During the past 120 years, the United States has released hundreds of commemorative coins. Commemorative coins are always minted for a specific reason such as to honor a person, institution, place or some historic event that has shaped America.
The U.S. first began to mint commemorative coins in the late 1800’s and stopped producing them for awhile back in 1954. It wasn’t until 1982 that the United States began minting commemorative coins again and any coins minted after this date are referred to as Modern Commemorative Coins.
Legislation instated in 1996 limited the number of commemorative coins that Congress could require the mint to produce to only two different coins annually. It also put a limit on the number of commemorative coins that could be minted during a year.
For some coin collectors, the first commemorative coin is considered to be the 2 1/2 dollar that was released in 1848 because it commemorated the famous gold strike in California. But, most standard coin lists note the 1892 Colombian half dollar that was minted to honor the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage to America and to celebrate the Colombian Exposition in Chicago as the first commemorative coin.
Although the coins main purpose was to commemorate the exposition it wasn’t the only coin minted for the occasion. The following year, the first quarter dollar coin was issued to honor Queen Isabella of Spain, who had helped fund Columbus’s travels. The quarter coin was the result of a petition for a souvenir coin for the event made by the lady managers of the exposition.
The standard list ends with the second Booker T. Washington half dollar issue from 1951 to 1954 as the last early commemorative coin minted. The first commemorative coin Washington appeared on was the Booker T. Washington Memorial Half Dollar minted from 1946 until 1951. Washington holds the honor of being the first African American to ever be featured on a U.S. coin.
Many commemorative coins have been released to obtain money for various causes as an alternative to raising taxes to raise money. The sales from the 50 cent coin that was minted in 1924 was used towards having the Confederate monument at Stone Mountain carved. The coin depicted Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee and read “memorial to the valor of the soldier of the south”.
The George Washington commemorative coin produced in 1932 was minted to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth. The circulated coin became the regular issue coin in 1934 since there were no other quarters minted in 1933. The same design was also used to commemorate the bicentennial.
With the release of the new state quarter commemorative issues, the popular hobby has attracted a whole new group of collectors. These coins were minted for circulation as well as collecting. But, many commemorative coins are minted solely for the purpose of ending up in prized collections and are never seen in the every day world of money!
Written by Connie Corder, Copyright 2009 CoinCollectorGuide.com