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Modern Commemorative Coins

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What Was the First U.S. Commemorative Coin?


The 1892 Columbian Exposition Half Dollar was the First Commemorative Coin. Authorized by Congress, from 1892 through 1954, subsequent legislation was enacted, allowing for the U.S. Mint to produce 53 different commemorative coins that depicted United States’ events, occasions, and individuals, resulting in the production of over 180 silver and gold commemorative coins.


Are Commemorative Coins Made of Gold?


Following the George Washington Carver-Booker T. Washington Half Dollar which was issued from 1951-1954, there was a period when no commemorative coins were struck by the United States Mint. That changed in 1982 with the issuance of the George Washington 250th Anniversary Half Dollar that effectively launched the Modern Commemorative Coin program that continues to this day. 


Modern commemoratives can be made of silver, gold, or sometimes even clad material. Modern commemorative coins are made to honor people, events, places, or even animals such as the bald eagle. Popular figures and events combined with limited mintage figures are why no collector should ever overlook modern commemoratives.


The U.S. Mint traditionally releases two Modern Commemorative coin programs over the course of a single year. The modern era of commemoratives began with the 1982 George Washington commemorative half dollar. While these coins could technically be spent as they are legal tender, they were never intended for circulation.


Types of U.S. Commemorative Coins


Through Congressional Legislation, Congress authorizes the production of each commemorative coin by the United States Mint. Although each coin is considered legal tender, U.S. Commemorative Coins are not minted for general circulation and are limited in quantity and are only produced for a limited time.


Since the Commemorative Coin Program began in 1982, more than $506,301,189 in surcharges from Commemorative programs has been raised by the United States Mint which has helped build new museums, maintain national monuments, and preserve historical sites throughout the country as well as have supported various Olympic programs.


Commemorative Half Dollars

The 1982 George Washington commemorative half dollar may have been the first of the modern era, but since then many Modern Commemorative Half Dollars have been struck. Since 1986, theshalf dollars tend to have a clad composition and in recent years are often issued in both a proof and uncirculated finish, hailing from various branches of the Mint. . When a commemorative coin is issued in both finishes, the featured design remains the same on each, although mint marks vary depending on the mint which struck each.


Commemorative Dollars

In addition to half dollars, there are plenty of Modern Commemorative Dollars as well. These tend to be made of fine silver. Other than the enormous number of commemorative dollar designs that have been produced, the main option of these coins is the finish. Most commemorative dollars are available with either a proof or regular uncirculated finish.


Commemorative $5 Coins

The United States Mint also produces many Modern Commemorative $5 Coins. Commemoratives with a face value of $5 are usually made of .900 fine gold. This often leads to a smaller coin due to the fact that less than 1 Troy oz. of gold is typically used. 


Commemorative $10 Coins

In addition to half dollars, dollars, and $5 coins, there are seldom seen Modern Commemorative $10 Coins. In 2000, The United States Mint released a commemorative bimetallic gold and platinum $10 coin that honored the Bicentennial of the Library of Congress. A $10 gold commemorative coin followed in 2003, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the first flight performed by Orville and Wilbur Wright.


Every modern commemorative coin is different. So many designs have been released since 1982 that you could build an entire collection of nothing but commemoratives. Regardless of your price range, you can be sure that ModernCoinMart has plenty of beautiful modern commemorative coins for you to choose from.


Modern Commemorative Gold Coins


The first U.S. Commemorative Gold Coins were struck back in 1903 to celebrate the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. Through 1926 nine varieties of gold commemorative dollars, two quarter eagles, and two $50 pieces were minted, culminating in the 1926 Sesquicentennial of American Independence quarter dollar.


From 1926-1984 there were no gold commemoratives struck until after the first few years of the Modern Commemorative Coin Program. 


The first Modern Commemorative Gold Commemorative Coin was a $10 coin, which was struck to honor the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. The 1980s had four more Gold Commemorative Coins to help with the issuance of these gold pieces that honor different aspects U.S. history: the 1986 $5 Statue of Liberty Gold, 1987 $5 Constitution Bicentennial Gold, 1988 $5 Seoul Olympic Games Gold, and 1989 $5 Congress Bicentennial Gold.


Examples of Some Recent Gold Commemoratives and Their Final Reported Mintages

Coin Mintage
$5 1986 Statue of Liberty Gold 499,261 (Includes Proof and Uncirculated Coins)
$5 1987 Constitution Bicentennial Gold 865,884 (Includes Proof and Uncirculated Coins)
$5 1988 Seoul Olympic Games Gold 344,378(Includes Proof and Uncirculated Coins)
$5 1989 Congress Bicentennial Gold 211,589(Includes Proof and Uncirculated Coins)

Modern Commemorative Silver Coins


Starting with the 1982 issue of a silver Half-Dollar, this Silver Commemorative Coin honors the 250th anniversary of George Washington's birth—the first 90% pure silver coin minted by the United States Mint since 1964 and the first silver U.S. commemorative issue since 1954.


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. Since the beginning of the Modern Commemorative Coin Program in 1982, the U.S. Mint has raised over $500 million dollars in surcharges to help American causes, institutions, and organizations.


Examples of Some Recent Silver Commemoratives and Their Final Reported Mintages

Coin Mintage
1996 National Community Service Silver Dollar 125,043 (Includes Proof and Uncirculated Coins)
1997 Botanic Garden Silver Dollar 248,176 (Includes Proof and Uncirculated Coins)
1997 National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Silver Dollar 139,003 (Includes Proof and Uncirculated Coins)
1999 Yellowstone National Park Silver Dollar 270,158 (Includes Proof and Uncirculated Coins)
2002 West Point Bicentennial or 2002 U.S. Military Academy Bicentennial Silver Dollar 391,494 (Includes Proof and Uncirculated Coins)

Modern Commemorative Clad Coins


A clad coin is a coin with multiple layers of metal. Most U.S. coins consist of an inner core of pure copper, with outer layers of a nickel-copper alloy to make the coin look like silver. Popular examples of U.S. clad coins are the quarter and half dollar coins.


Although these kinds of commemorative coins do not have precious metals like gold or silver, they are often produced in higher quantities and some find them to be an economical way of adding to collections. These coins still hold U.S. history on their design and each coin minted still contributes to the donations and funding provided by the Commemorative Coin Program. 


Examples of Some Recent Clad Coins and Their Final Reported Mintages

Coin Mintage
1986 U.S. Statue of Liberty 7,853,635 (Includes Proof and Uncirculated Coins)
1991 Mount Rushmore Anniversary 926,011(Includes Proof and Uncirculated Coins)
1995 Civil War Battlefield 449,619(Includes Proof and Uncirculated Coins)
2003 First Flight Centennial 166,832(Includes Proof and Uncirculated Coins)
2018 Breast Cancer Awareness 33,692(Includes Proof and Uncirculated Coins)

Collecting U.S. Commemoratives with ModernCoinMart


ModernCoinMart (MCM) is a trusted online dealer of modern coins and precious metals. With nearly a dozen seasoned numismatists, our experts have a combined total of more than 250 years in the coin collecting business.


With an incredibly large selection of U.S. Commemorative Coins, ModernCoinMart has been in business since June of 2004. Although our business and website have been updated numerous times throughout the years, our dedication to providing the best and most expedient customer experience with the latest and newest products available from all over the world remains the same!


Other US Coins


Many of the most popular collectible coins today are considered Classic Coins. While you won’t find any Silver Eagles here, you can choose from a variety of Morgan Silver Dollars, Peace Silver Dollars, pre-1933 U.S. gold, half dollars, quarters, dimes, nickels, and cents. There are plenty of high value coins here to add to your collection.


United States currency


In addition to US Coins, ModernCoinMart also offers the Collectable U.S. Currency you want. Don't let our name fool you, U.S. currency is just as collectable as U.S. coins. Whatever it is that you may want from the U.S. Mint, you can be sure that the ModernCoinMart staff has done their best to make it available for you. The variety of US Coins, US Currency and US Coin Sets that are in stock on any given day is impressive to say the least. What are you waiting for? Take a look to see which U.S. coins you want!

Modern Commemorative Gold


Modern Gold Commemoratives began with the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. They honor historic anniversaries and significant current events.

Modern Commemorative Half Dollars


Since the modern commemorative program was started by the U.S. Mint in 1982, a wide variety of Modern Commemorative Half Dollars have been struck. Typically these coins are offered with either a proof or regular finish. Commemorative half dollars may be silver or clad.