What collecting U.S. coins tells us about our history
Collecting coins is a fantastic hobby for young and old alike. To the uninitiated, it might seem boring or uninteresting – but nothing brings the history of the United States to life more than real US coins.
Steeped in history, and each with their tale to tell, the United States Mint has documented – in metal – the social, financial and spiritual history of our country for over 200 years.
Founded in Philadelphia, in 1792, Congress charged the US Mint to produce and oversee the coinage and currency production throughout America.
Up until this point, each individual state-issued states coins throughout the union, and this led to many disputes and problems. It was thought that by standardizing the currency throughout the country every citizen would know what their money was worth and would be able to trade under a fair exchange system.
During this long history, the mint has had branches in places as far away as Manila in the Philippines.
Part of the joy of collecting coins is finding out whether they made your coin in Manila, New Orleans, Dahlonega, Charlotte, Carson City, San Francisco, Denver, West Point, or Philadelphia itself. These are the locations that the mint has used for its production at various times throughout its existence.
Worth a mint …
Another factor in the romance and legend of coin production in America is discovering your gold or silver bullion coins (these coins are pure silver or gold – not alloys) probably originated in Fort Knox, Kentucky, where the US precious metals depository is located. This infamous facility is one of the most closely guarded government departments in America.
All the administration of the US Mint now comes under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and its headquarters are in Washington DC.
All United States coins, from the cent piece, through the three cents, twenty cents, and the silver dollars, five dollars, and more, have all been exactingly designed and manufactured. Each coin goes through a rigorous selection process which looks at its design, utility, acceptance by the public, and in the case of commemorative coins, political agreement.
Coins like “the Gaudens double eagle,” “the Liberty head,” “the Indian head,” “the Liberty cap,” and, “the draped bust,” (we will look at each of these in greater detail in future blogs) are all collectors pieces in their own right, with their own history, quirks, and stories.
Coins considered ordinary at the time of their release, like the twenty-cent piece, can now command many times their face value because of their rarity and collectability.
East? West?– Home is best
It is tempting when you’re starting out collecting coins to be seduced by the exotic foreign varieties out there. At numismatic sales fairs and conventions, it can be all too easy to be swayed by a Krugerrand or a British sovereign.
Bear in mind that there will always be a ready market for an American Eagle in America – whereas the gold coins of other countries will have less demand – and some may be very difficult to sell on. This applies equally to cent pieces, nickels, quarters and dimes – not just the gold and silver bullion coins.
Coin collecting is very much a commonsense type of hobby where the buyer must beware – and if something is too good to be true, it usually is.
If in doubt, there is always good information on the internet from the various coin collecting societies, clubs, and groups. Coin collectors, as a group, are a knowledgeable bunch – and it is often possible to get second or third opinions from people keen to share their expertise.
For parents and grandparents, creating a lasting interest in a pastime like coin collecting for their children or grandchildren will pay dividends. Not only is this lucrative in the long term, but it hones skills like reading, accounting, observation, concentration, negotiation, organization and, of course, historical fact.
An added side-effect is getting them off of those computers and phones for a while!
As a way of teaching US social, financial and spiritual history, coin collecting is unparalleled.
Indeed, the chase of finding that elusive last part of a small collection is something which has spurred the imagination of many a child.
If you need proof of this, just look at eBay. At last count, it had over 1/4 of a million active buyers of coins in the US alone. The ANA (American Numismatic Association) has over 31,000 members throughout America.
We’ll just leave you with this statistic – in a recent interview by Larry King, Ian Russell, of “Great Collections,” stated there were over 10 million coin collectors in the United States.
That’s no small number – and means that you will be in very good company indeed …
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The Morgan Silver Dollar is an essential part of American History. The first was released in 1878 and became an immediate success. We have sourced 3 different versions of this iconic coin. These will be an investment as well as a family heirloom for generations to come.
Morgan Silver Dollar
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