United States' Commemoratives

Overview of the Series

The United States produced the first commemorative coin for the 1892 World's Columbian Exposition meant to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus "discovering" America. Part of the purpose of commemoratives, besides commemorating something, was to raise money for a related group. For example, the 2011 boy scout commemorative coin is mandated that $10 of each sale goes to the boy scouts ... and I choose not to comment on that further.

Commemorative coins continued to be made through about 1954, by which time it had gotten out of hand. People were making up groups, getting a commemorative coin made, and then selling them at a premium and keeping the profits. The result was a near 30-year moratorium on commemorative coins. In 1982, the program started up again but it was limited to a maximum of only 2 different groups per year. So while in 2007, for example, there were 6 different commemorative coins minted, they were only for celebrating the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown or for the 50th anniversary of desegregation of Little Rock Central High School.

This moratorium generally separates commemorative coins into two groups - the "Classic Commemoratives" and "Modern Commemoratives."

Coins in the Set

There are probably literally hundreds of different commemorative coins if you include both proof and business-strike examples along with all the metals (clad, silver, gold, and the unique bimetallic gold/platinum Library of Congress coin from 2000). They also commemorate a huge range of things, from people to discoveries to parks to monuments.

My Collecting Goal

I collect what I like here. As I said, there are so many different ones, some of which cover things that I really don't want to commemorate (such as the first example above with the Boy Scouts). I also didn't really start to "get into them" until around 2003-2004, so I'm missing many of the earlier examples. I may go back one day and purchase them, but that is not at the top of my collecting goals at the moment.


1987-S Constitution Silver Proof Commemorative Coin

The only commemorative program in 1987 was that celebrating the 200th anniversary of the United States' Constitution. I was 4 years old at the time, so as you might surmise, my brother got this for me as a present several years later. The program featured a silver and gold coin, and the gold is actually a very nice design that I hope to obtain one day. It should be noted that the silver coin was notoriously poorly packaged and most have "hazed over." The photo above has been "cleaned" in photoshop to remove this, and some day soon I will likely have the coin conserved by NCS.


2000-P Library of Congress Silver Proof Commemorative Coin

I was working in high school part-time at a local library as a shelver in 2000, when the first of the two 2000 commemorative programs were released. The Library of Congress had two coins, the silver (shown above) and a first- and only-ever bimetallic gold and platinum coin. Being in high school and making $5.15 an hour, I did not have the money to buy it. Sad. It had an incredibly low mintage of 27,445 in proof and only 7,261 in uncirculated, which makes the uncirculated coin sell for roughly $3500-4000 today, well above all other modern commemoratives.


2003-P Wright Brother's First Flight Clad Proof Commemorative Coin2003-P Wright Brother's First Flight Silver Proof Commemorative Coin

I was an astronomy major when the only commemorative program of 2003 was introduced, that celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the first heavier-than-air flight conducted by Orville and Wilbur Wright. Being an undergraduate student, I did not have enough money on-hand to buy the gold that was issued along with the clad and silver coins featured above. Obverse of the clad is the Wright Brothers' monument while the reverse is their biplane. Silver shows the brothers' busts while the reverse is their plane flying over a swoosh of land.


2004-P Thomas Edison's Light Bulb Silver Proof Commemorative Coin

The Thomas A. Edison commemorative was the first of two silver-only commemorative coins in 2004, the second being the Lewis and Clark bicentennial. It features his most well known invention, the incandescent light bulb, on the reverse.


2006-S San Fransisco Mint Silver Proof Commemorative Coin2006-S San Fransisco Mint Gold Proof Commemorative Coin

The San Francisco mint was one of the few buildings to survive the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, earning it the name "The Granite Lady." It was the second of two programs in 2006, the first being Ben Franklin (I unfortunately stated collecting after the Franklin coin had sold out with its maximum mintage of 400,000 coins). The San Francisco Mint commemoratives were both a silver and gold coin, both featuring renditions of the Mint on the obverse. The reverse of the silver coin is that of the Morgan Dollar (1878-1921), while the reverse of the gold is a re-make of the half eagle (1866-1908).


2008-S Bald Eagle Clad Proof Commemorative Coin2008-P Bald Eagle SilverProof Commemorative Coin2008-W Bald Eagle Gold Proof Commemorative Coin

The bald eagle commemorative program was the only one in 2008, but it did consist of all three metal types (clad, silver, and gold). The program featured bald eagles (gee, that's a shock) on the obverse. The reverse of the clad coin featured a bald eagle named "Challenger" that was a "pet" of the Mint for awhile many years ago. The reverse of the silver coin features the original seal of the United States (which I think looks like a splayed out chicken) while the gold features the current seal.


2009 Abraham Lincoln Silver Uncirculated Commemorative Coin2009 Abraham Lincoln Silver Proof Commemorative Coin2009-P Louis Braille Silver Proof Commemorative Coin

The two coins released this year were Abraham Lincoln and Louis Braille. Some coin collectors were a little annoyed that Braille was honored because he was French, not American. Both were only released in 1 ounce silver, both proof and uncirculated. I have both strikes for Lincoln, proof-only for Braille. I did both for Lincoln as a sort of speculation since I expect the coin to go up in value in the next few years.


2010 American Veterans Disabled for Life Silver Proof Commemorative Coin

The two coins released this year were the Boy Scouts centennial and American Veterans Disabled for Life. I have moral, religious, and ethical issues with the Boy Scouts so refused to purchase that coin and support their cause (a surcharge from EVERY coin sold goes to the organization), but chose the latter. Both were only released in 1 ounce silver, both proof and uncirculated.


2011-P Medal of Honor Silver Proof Commemorative Coin 2011-W Medal of Honor Gold Proof Commemorative Coin

2011-S United States Army Clad Proof Commemorative Coin 2011-P United States Army Silver Proof Commemorative Coin 2011-W United States Army Gold Proof Commemorative Coin

The two commemorative coin programs for 2011 were both military related -- the Medal of Honor and the US Army. The former had both a silver and gold coin released while the latter had a clad, silver, and gold coin released. The last year when both programs had a gold coin released for them was in 1997, and coupled with the plethora of silver offerings in 2011, many think that there will be low sales for the gold coins resulting in significant appreciation later on. Design-wise, I like all of these except the army clad and silver. I think the army clad obverse is too similar to the 1976 quarter reverse design, while the silver obverse is supposed to show America's global readiness but just shows stupidity on the part of the Mint.

Checklist (May Be Created Later ... It's Long!)