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Worthy of Commemoration

Coin Collecting - US Commemorative Coins

In the days of Ancient Greece and Rome, coins were typically struck to honor the emperor and were minted throughout their reign. But even then, coins were also struck to commemorate important events – battles won, births or deaths of important rulers, and special religious festivals.

Since U.S. coinage was first minted in 1793, many series were struck in great quantities for circulation. Unfortunately, no coins were issued for any other reasons, even though the U.S. had events worthy of commemoration. For instance, the centennial of American Independence in 1876 came and went with only commemorative medals struck by the U.S. Mint.

As the 20th century approached, the United States Mint was under pressure by Congress to consider an actual commemorative coin to honor the 400th anniversary of Columbus landing in the New World. This coin would be sold at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago at twice face value and the profits would be used to absorb the costs of the expo.

And with that, the Columbian Expo Half Dollar became the first in a series of 50 commemorative coins the United States Mint issued between 1892 and 1954. Some of the most important events in American history were memorialized in this series of “Classic Commemoratives.” For example, the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock was displayed on the 1920 and 1921 Pilgrim Commemorative Half Dollar. The Battles of Lexington and Concord, which began our fight for independence from Great Britain, were honored with the extremely popular coin from Massachusetts, the 1925 Lexington-Concord Commemorative Half Dollar, on the 150th anniversary.  The Battle of Gettysburg, which changed the course of the Civil War, was remembered on the 1938 Gettysburg Commemorative Half Dollar.  

Some of the greatest coin designers and sculptors in the world designed these beautiful coins, including Charles Barber, James Earle Fraser, George T. Morgan and Anthony de Francisci. Likewise, the female sculptors of the day also designed many coins – Laura Gardin Fraser, Brenda Putnam, and Gertrude Lathrop just to name a few.

While there are many reasons collectors and investors assemble the entire Classic Commems set, one of the main reasons is there are 50 beautiful designs. Additionally, some were issued for just one year and at only one mint. Some coins, like the Oregon Trail Commemorative Half Dollar, were struck infrequently and at multiple mints. 

Another reason Classic Commemoratives are so popular is the mintages are very low overall. One of the most common Classic Commemoratives was the 1925 Stone Mountain Commemorative Half Dollar with more than 1.3 million coins minted. More typical is the 1939 Oregon Trail Commemorative with only 3,004 coins struck or the 1937-D Boone Bicentennial Commemorative with 2,506 coins originally struck.

Whatever your reasoning for collecting Classic Commemoratives, this set comprising 50 different types and a total of 144 different years and mintmarks is a collection worth assembling. Your nation’s history is told through these beautiful Silver coins commemorating all measure of worthy events.

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