US coin collecting is one of the most competitive markets globally, which is no surprise given that the coins have some of the most interesting and iconic stories in the coin collecting world. US coins are in extremely high demand, especially in the UK where they rarely make it onto our shores.
As Americans celebrate their independence this week, I have picked out 5 of my favourite US coins to share with you.
The Flowing Hair Dollar
8 of the top 10 most expensive coins ever sold are American, with the Flowing Hair Dollar (1794-5) taking the top spot after it sold for an impressive $10,016,875. It’s thought that only 140 of these remarkable coins exist, so it is near on impossible to find one.
This coin was the first dollar coin ever issued by the United States Federal Government and featured an eagle and the bust of Liberty with flowing hair. It was minted in silver and its size and weight were based on the Spanish dollar, which was traded with regularly in the Americas.
The Morgan Dollar 1878-1921
The Silver Morgan Dollar has forever been associated with cowboys and outlaws. These coins could have been used for gambling by train robbers like Butch Cassidy or Jesse James. It’s even rumoured that cowboys would place them in their canteens to preserve water on long journeys.
The dollar drew its name from its designer “George T Morgan”, who created an effigy of Lady Liberty as a Goddess, and a reverse which included an eagle with outstretched wings. It’s said that less than 1 in 5 of these coins remain today, making them incredibly collectable and difficult to source.
‘No Cents’ Liberty Head Nickel 1883
The first design for the No Cents Nickel failed to include the denomination and instead it included the Roman Numeral ‘V’. As the coins were the same size as a $5 coin, swindlers seized the opportunity to gold plate these coins and pass them off as $5 coins. Within the year the US Mint added the denomination to the coin.
The Roosevelt Dime 1946-64
After the death of Franklin Roosevelt in 1945, the nation’s only four term president, his portrait was subsequently used on Dimes as a memorial.
During his presidency, Roosevelt founded ‘March of the Dimes’, a charity founded in response to polio epidemics. Roosevelt’s image was chosen for the Dime in honour of his work with the charity, and his own battle with polio. This coin was symbolic for a nation in mourning, and many people collected the coin from their change.
The Franklin Half Dollar 1948-1964
This was the first half dollar to feature the portrait of a non-president on American Coinage. The words ‘Liberty, in God we trust’ surround a portrait of Benjamin Franklin, with the Liberty Bell on the reverse. This was initially a controversial coin, and there were public concerns about the initials of the designer ‘JRS’ being a reference to Stalin and communism, as well as the small eagle placed next to the bell.
American coins give us some of the most interesting stories in history, and provide us with some of the most fascinating and collectable coins in the world. It’s no wonder that US coin collecting is becoming increasingly popular.
If you’re interested…
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A 5 cent American coin with a fascinating story dating back one hundred years is due to go down in the history books as one of the highest amounts ever paid for a US coin when it goes up for auction in Chicago on April 25th.
Experts believe bidding for the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel could top $5m due to the fact it’s one of only five known to exist and the remarkable story behind it.
It’s thought the Liberty Head is one of five bogus coins struck in secret at the end of 1912 by Philadelphia Mint employee Samuel Brown who altered the year on the die to say 1913, the year the Buffalo Nickel was introduced.
Pulled from the wreckage
Brown was rewarded handsomely for his efforts. He sold one of his ‘illegal’ Liberty Heads to a collector from North Carolina, George Walton, in the mid 1940s and made a reported $3,750. But events took another unexpected twist when Walton – and his coin – were involved in a car crash in 1962. Walton himself didn’t survive but his nickel did.
Declared a fake
But the story doesn’t end there. Recovered from the wreckage and passed to Walton’s sister Melva Givens, the coin was declared a fake because the date had been tampered with. Rather than throwing it away, Mrs Givens stuck it in an envelope in a bedroom closet where it remained undiscovered until her death thirty years later.
The missing fifth Liberty Nickel
It wasn’t until 2003 that experts at the World Numismatic Fair in Baltimore finally confirmed the ‘Walton’ Nickel was genuine and it was reunited with the other four coins. It is currently on loan to the Colorado Springs Museum.
A 1933 Double Eagle currently holds the US record when it was sold at auction for a cool $8m.
View The Westminster Collection’s full range of American coins.
Two weeks since America went to the polls, the history of its coinage is as rich and as varied as that of its presidents. Discover why I believe these are 12 of the United States most iconic coins of the last 150 years …
1. Indian Head Cent (1859 – 1909) – the first coin of America’s single currency issued surprisingly late in 1859. The cent in circulation today is still the same size and the design has only changed once in over 150 years
2. Two Cent Piece (1864 – 1873) – the first coin to bear the inscription ‘In God We Trust’ which became the US’s official motto in 1956 and now appears on most of America’s coins
3. Morgan Silver Dollar (1878 – 1921) – arguably the most famous American coin ever despite the fact it was designed by an Englishman born in Birmingham – Mr George T. Morgan
4. Columbian Half Dollar (1892 – 1893) – America’s first ever commemorative coin issued to raise money for Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. Design marks 400th
anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the New World in 1492
5. Lincoln Cent (1909 – 1958) – first introduced in 1909 in honour of the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth and became famous as the first US coin to feature a recognisable public figure
6. Buffalo Nickel (1913 – 1938) – underwent a design change in 1913 but during the Great Depression (1929-39) many coins were hoarded making them incredibly sought-after today
7. Standing Liberty Quarter (1916 – 1930) – caused outrage when it was first minted as the designer depicted an exposed breast of the Broadway actress who modelled as Lady Liberty as part of the design. Such was the uproar, the US Mint changed the design in 1917
8. Mercury Dime (1916 – 1945) – so-called because the design was mistaken for Mercury, the messenger of the Greek gods, when it was in fact a young Liberty with a winged helmet. The name has stuck in almost 100 years
9. Walking Liberty Half Dollar (1916 – 1947) – often thought of as America’s most beautiful coin due to Adolph A. Weinman’s exquisite design which was later used on the ‘Eagle’ Silver Bullion coins
10. Lincoln Steel Cent (1943 only) – to preserve Copper reserves during WWII, in 1943 the Lincoln Cent was struck in zinc-plated steel but problems such as rusting saw a return to copper the following year
11. Kennedy Half Dollar (1964 – present) – in circulation by 1964 just months after the President’s assassination but the high silver content led to extensive hoarding and by 1971 was eliminated completely
12. Delaware State Quarter (1999 only) – the first in a remarkable series of coins designed to boost Americans’ interest in numismatics. ‘Delaware’ was the first specially themed ‘State’ quarter and sparked the collecting phenomenon of the decade
Are we missing something?
Is there another American coin that you think should be part of this list?