Commemorative Coins

A celebration of American History

While circulating coins are issued for use in daily commerce, U.S. commemorative coins honor anniversaries, special occasions, historical figures, important events and more. Official U.S. commemoratives have legal tender status, but are rarely used in circulation because commemorative coins are typically issued at a premium with intrinsic and numismatic values significantly greater than their face values.

You'll find a wide selection of commemorative coins for sale at Littleton, from classic issues to the latest modern releases. With their historic subjects and eye-catching designs, they make perfect gifts or additions to any collection!

The classic era of U.S. commemoratives

The "classic era" of U.S. commemoratives began in 1892-1893, when limited-issue 90% silver half dollars and quarters were struck with special designs for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The Exposition honored 400 years of progress since the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492. A wide variety of U.S. commemorative coins followed – honoring other major expositions, centennials of states and cities, anniversaries of the Revolutionary War and Civil War and other significant dates and events. But public interest waned, and in 1954 the Treasury ceased production of commemorative coins. It would be more than 25 years before the next U.S. commemorative coins would be struck.

The modern era of U.S. commemoratives

As the years went by, the collecting community missed the special designs of commemorative coinage. Special reverse designs on circulating quarters, half dollars and dollars for the nation's Bicentennial proved popular, and numerous appeals were made to congressmen to resume commemorative coin production. Finally in 1982, the U.S. Mint kicked off the "modern era" of U.S. commemorative coins with limited-issue 90% silver half dollars honoring the 250th anniversary of George Washington's birth. Many U.S. commemoratives have followed, honoring a wide variety of anniversaries, occasions, individuals, groups and events.

Ways to collect American commemorative coins

U.S. Mint commemorative coins have been issued in clad, silver and gold compositions, as well as in both Uncirculated and Proof versions. And with a vast array of designs and subjects, they offer coin enthusiasts many collecting options. Some collectors concentrate on either classic or modern U.S. commemorative coins, while others limit their collections to gold or silver commemorative coins. Still other collectors opt for their favorite designs (the popularity of commemorative designs has greatly varied), choose particular design themes or collect issues honoring a particular period in history. For more about these popular special issues, see Littleton's Collectors Guide to Modern Commemoratives or visit Littleton's Learn Center.