Just this week, the U.S. Mint announced it had sold more than 3.4 million Benjamin Harrison $1 coins in its first week – a possibly surprising figure considering he’s sometimes called the most forgettable U.S. president.
While its main function may seem like getting left in the washing machine or taking up space in your cup holders, America’s coinage does a pretty good job of telling the nation’s story. The U.S. Mint often issues special coin collections that honor American history. Collectors who feel a strong connection to the land, politics, and symbols that have shaped U.S. culture will find a wealth of options to keep them busy.
The 50 State Quarters Program
This popular coin series, which issued state quarters from five states each year for a decade, quickly caught on with the American public. Diehard collectors can still remember the year the U.S. Mint released the quarter representing their home state. To complete your collection, you’ll need to bag all 50 state quarters, beginning with the first five in 1999 – Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut – and ending with the final five in 2008 – Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii. In 2009, the Mint issued a six-coin minting of Washington, D.C. and five U.S. territories.
The U.S. Mint began a new coin program in 2010 that honors the nation’s national parks. It’s called the America the Beautiful Quarters Program. This web page by coin collecting supplier, Whitman, boasts an interactive map that you can use to find out which national parks will be commemorated with coins and when.
Native American $1 Coins
Sacagawea, the Native American woman who helped Lewis and Clark complete their legendary expedition with her baby strapped to her back, first appeared on a golden $1 coin in the year 2000. Later, Congress passed the Native American $1 Coin Act, and the U.S. Mint has produced a new coin in this collection each of the last four years, 2009-2012.
The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs contributes to the design-selection process. The 2012 design spotlights the significance that horses played in the settlement of the United States. As an interesting side note, the Mint also commemorated the historic Lewis and Clark journey with a bicentennial silver dollar in 2004.
Presidential $1 Coins
Have you spent many restless nights trying to remember what Martin Van Buren looked like? Well, wonder no more. The eighth president of the United States has his very own coin. It was released in 2008 as part of the Presidential $1 Coins series. Van Buren only served one term in office, from 1837 to 1841. A weak economy crushed his re-election hopes.
Grover Cleveland, the president before and after Harrison, graces two coins in this collection. One represents his first term, 1885 to 1889, and the other his second term, 1893 to 1897.
The U.S. Mint does not overlook the First Ladies, either. The First Spouse Series is producing one-half ounce $10 gold coins with images of the presidents’ wives. So, you can add a Dolley Madison and an Abigail Adams to your collection.
American Eagle and Buffalo Coins
The eagle and the buffalo have long been strong symbols of the American way of life. So, naturally, these two animals are recognized on U.S. currency. The well-known Buffalo Nickel dates back to 1913. More recently, the Mint has released American Buffalo Gold Bullion Coins, which are 24-karat gold and carry a $50 face value. It’s your chance to invest in gold backed by the government.
American Eagle Proof Coins come in platinum, silver, and gold. A variety of weights are available, from one-tenth ounce to a full ounce. While American Eagles are a great display of history, they are also one of the worldwide standards for investment-grade coins. Proof coins, which come with certificates of authenticity, are the collector’s versions of American Eagle bullion coins.