Struck since the beginning of coinage in ancient Greek and Roman times, commemorative coins have long been a source of the news of the day, recording major events in precious metals.
The first commemorative coin authorized by the U.S. Congress was the Columbian Exposition Silver Half-Dollar. From 1892 through 1954, the U.S. Mint would produce commemorative coins for 53 different events, occasions or individuals – a total of 157 silver and gold coins.
Modern United States Silver Commemoratives continue this tradition, honoring important Americans and historic events – starting with the 1982 issue of a silver Half-Dollar honoring the 250th anniversary of George Washington's birth, the first 90% pure silver coin minted by the United States Mint since 1964 (when the last 90% silver circulating Dimes, Quarters, and Half Dollars were minted), and the first silver U.S. commemorative issue since 1954.
Unlike other U.S. Mint releases, these silver commemorative coins helped raise money for important causes, as well as marking important moments in American history. Since the modern commemorative coin program began in 1982, the U.S. Mint has raised more than $500 million to help build new museums, maintain national monuments like the Vietnam War Memorial, preserve historical sites like George Washington's home, support various Olympic programs, and much more.
Although these coins are legal tender, they are not minted for general circulation. Each commemorative silver coin is produced by the U.S. Mint in limited quantities and is only available for a short period of time. Many modern silver commemoratives have been issued in both proof and mint state, each crafted to be rich in American history – and a valuable addition to any coin collection.