U.S. Commemorative Coins
Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries maintains an impressive collection of U.S. commemorative coins. We specialize in pieces of the highest technical merit and eye appeal for the grade and price. View our commemorative coin inventory now. >
The History of Commemorative Coins
Commemorative coins have been issued since ancient times. In the U.S., the first commemorative coins were struck in 1892 to celebrate the World’s Fair in Chicago, also known as the Columbian Exposition, which celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America. Classic U.S. commemorative coins were struck at various times from 1892 to 1954. Silver half dollars were the most commonly minted denomination, but other denominations and even some gold coins were also issued. In fact, two 1915-S gold commemoratives were struck to mark the opening of the Panama Canal. These Panama-Pacific $50 gold pieces are among the rarest of all U.S. coins. One was round, and the other was octagonal. Each had a net mintage of well less than 1,000 pieces! These are the only regularly minted $50 coins ever issued in the U.S.
Typically, all commemorative coins were struck to promote and mark local and regional events throughout the country. After a commemorative coin was approved by Congress, local and regional competitions invited artists to submit designs for these coins. The coins, once minted, would then be promoted and sold at a premium, with all proceeds used to cover the expenses of the associated celebration events.
These coins were quite popular with collectors from the 1920s to the early 1950s. In fact, many designs were issued for multiple years (Oregon, Texas, Daniel Boone, Washington Carver, etc.). In some cases, however, more coins were minted than could be sold, so the coins were either melted or placed into general circulation.
By today’s standards, classic commemoratives have relatively low mintages and many are rather difficult to find, especially in the higher grades (MS-65 and higher). Through the years, these coins have remained popular with collectors.
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