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.
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Since 1795, the 10-dollar Gold coins in circulation in the United States have been referred to as “Eagles”. These coins were legal tender until their withdrawal in 1933. However, there is one Eagle in particular that has become a numismatic legend.
A presidential intervention
You see, the obverse of the Eagle had long bore the goddess of freedom (Liberty), however in 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt complained to the Secretary of Treasury that US coinage lacked artistic merit.
As a result, Roosevelt personally commissioned New York City sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to re-design this Gold coin; however, it was certainly not without incident!
Firstly, as the coin was designed by a sculptor, rather than a professional engraver, there were a number of issues in production, particularly due to the high relief. As a result, several versions of the coin had to be minted before achieving a sample appropriate for full production and release into circulation.
Secondly, Roosevelt felt strongly that a Native American war bonnet should be included in the design as a “picturesque” and “distinctly American” symbol. So, under President Roosevelt’s instruction, Gaudens retained the Liberty profile on the obverse, simply placing a feather headdress on her head. Later, the coin would receive criticism for this absurd addition, with one art historian declaring that it missed out on being “a great coin” due to the President’s interference.
Finally, further issues arose when the motto “In God we Trust” was replaced by “E PLURIBUS UNUM”, which translates to mean “Out of Many, One”. In fact, such was the public outrage, Congress passed a bill mandating its inclusion on any further coins. Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber added the words and made minor modifications to the 1908 design.
A numismatic legend!
However, as is often the case, the flaws in the original 1907 Indian Head Eagle have made it one of the most desirable coins in the world.
In January 2011, what is probably the best-known example of an Indian Head Eagle, one of only 50 originally minted coins in the rare proof finish, was sent to auction – It sold for an incredible $2,185,000!
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