United States Coins

Official US coins have been issued every year from 1972 to today, although not all coins are still authorised or in circulation.

  • Half-Cent: 1792-1857
  • 1-Cent: 1793-present
  • 2-Cent: 1864-1873
  • 3-Cent: 1851-1873
  • Half-Dime: 1792-1873 (Although it has the same value, the Half Dime was different from the Nickel, below.)
  • Nickel: 1866-present
  • Dime: 1792-present
  • 20-Cent: 1875-1878
  • Quarter: 1796-present
  • Half Dollar: 1794-present
  • Dollar Coin: 1794-present
  • Quarter Eagle: ($2.5 gold coin) 1792-1929
  • Three-Dollar Piece: 1854-1889
  • Half Eagle: ($5 gold coin)
  • Eagle: ($10 gold coin) 1795-1929
  • Double Eagle: ($20 gold coin) 1850-1933

Collector Coins

US coins of interest to currency collectors can be generalised as any not in circulation and are uncommon. Some of the more closely sought coins include:

  • American Eagles: Originally available only from coin brokers, the US Mint began direct sales to individuals in 2006 in uncirculated condition and with a special finish. The coins sold to individuals bear a mint mark of W.
  • American Silver Eagle: $1 silver bullion coin; 1986 to present.
  • American Gold Eagle: $5, $10, $25 and $50 coins; 1986 to present.
  • American Platinum Eagle: $10, $25, $50 and $100 platinum coin; 1997 to present.

Additional major series of collector coins include those in the United States Commemorative Coin issues:

  • Half Union: $50. Specially issued in 1915 to commemorate the Panama-Pacific International Exposition
  • Presidential Proofs: 2007 to present.

The Presidential Dollar Proof Sets include four special $1 coins with the likenesses for four individual presidents.

From 2007 to 2011, the series issued in:

  • 2007 had George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison
  • 2008 noted James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Martin Van Buren
  • 2009 included William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, and Zachary Taylor
  • 2010 depicted Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln
  • 2011 includes Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, and James A. Garfield

Paper Images

Presidential images are relative late-comers to US currency. Images from Greek or Roman mythology were often used. Those of Native Americans were also widely used.

George Washington adamantly refused his face on the currency, comparing it to the European monarchy; he also declined a US crown, opting instead for becoming the first President of the United States.

Only in the 1920s did full or three-quarter facial images of presidents appear on US currency. Previously, only profiles had been used, if at all.

The last coin to be converted to a presidential image was the 10-cent piece or dime in 1946. The last paper currency converted was the $1 bill in 1971 when George Washington was finally commemorated in United States currency, almost two centuries after his refusal.

Mint Marks and Issue

Most United States coins bear a mark denoting the mint that created it. The mint mark on most coins is found on the front of the coin near the issue date. However, early coins generated at a mint had the mint mark on the reverse.

There have been eight mints in US history. Each had a unique mint mark, if their coins carried a mark at all.

The Philadelphia Mint was the first US mint and issues coins stamped with a P or no mark at all. The Denver Mint stamps the letter D. The San Francisco Mint stamped the letter S, though no coins have been issued for general circulation since 1980. The mint does strike proof coins for collector sets. The West Point Mint stamps the letter W. West Point Mint coins are for larger denominations, over $1, and usually not for general circulation. The Carson City Mint used a double-C, CC, from 1870 to 1893. The Carson City Mint was only temporary, and its closure was predetermined. The New Orleans Mint used the letter O. The New Orleans Mint struck coins from 1838 to 1861 but discontinued when Louisiana seceded from the Union in 1861. It resumed operations from 1879 to 1909. The Dahlonega Mint also used the letter D, along with the Denver Mint, but operated only from 1837 to 1861. Also during the limited years of 1837 to 1861, the Charlotte Mint used the letter C. Both the Dahlonega and Charlotte Mints struck only gold coins and did not resume operations after the Civil War.

Coins in Circulation

Though their origins rest long in the past, contemporary coins often look much different from their ancestors. Noted by tender amount, current coins include:

  • $0.01: one-cent piece, nicknamed 'penny.' This coin features an obverse or front surface depicting a right-side profile of Abraham Lincoln. On its reverse or back, the Lincoln Memorial is currently shown, although different images have appeared in the past.
  • $0.05: five-cent piece, nicknamed 'nickel.' Prior to 2004, its obverse shows a left-side profile of Thomas Jefferson. From 2006, Thomas Jefferson's face is depicted as a to-right-turned full face image. Both older and newer reverses show his home, Monticello; however, a separate series, called the Westward Journey Series ran in 2004 and 2005 with unique obverse and reverse images per year.
  • $0.10: ten-cent piece also called a dime. The obverse shows a left-profile image of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the reverse shows a torch, oak leaf, and an olive branch.
  • $0.25: 25-cent piece or quarter. From 1965 through 1974 and from 1977 through 1998, the obverse depicts a left-profile picture of George Washington. During both periods, the reverse portrayed a bald eagle, but during the interim period, the reverse showed a drummer boy in commemoration of the Bicentennial celebration. From 1999 through 2008, the State Quarter Series was struck. Each annual strike featured four coins, each with one state honoured. In 2009, additional territory and area coins were struck, such as one each for Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands. From 2010 to at least 2021, the America the Beautiful series is being struck. Each coin will feature an obverse of a restored portrait of George Washington used for the 1932 quarter. Each year there will be five reverse images with one in 2021; the reverse images shall be of national parks, national institutions or sites, one per state, federal district and territory. The series can potentially be extended until 2033 at the discretion of the Secretary of the Treasury.
  • $0.50: 1971-1974 and 1977 to current. Half Dollar, also called the Kennedy Half Dollar, sports an obverse of a left-profile image of John F. Kennedy, and the reverse shows the Seal of the President of the United States. In 1976, the reverse showed Independence Hall in a Bicentennial strike.
  • $1.00: From 1979 to 1981 and in 1999, the one-dollar piece had an obverse portrait of Susan B. Anthony and and reverse of the Apollo 11 mission insignia. In 2000 through 2008, the obverse featured Sacagawea and a bald eagle in flight. From 2009 to current, the obverse is the same, but the reverse depicts various Native American themes. Crossing time lines, the 2007-to-present $1 Presidential Coin Program depicts different Presidents on the obverse and changing reverse images.

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