Guide to United States Coinage

Hold one of these coins in your hand and travel back in time. A silver 3¢ piece recalls the Civil War, while the Peace dollar echoes the glitz and glamour of the Roaring Twenties. Genuine U.S. coins not only blaze a path through America's history – they tell the country's story in a way that few other artifacts can. Why? Since our nation's beginnings, George Washington, Thomas Edison, our grandparents, parents, and even you today, have used coins!

The following is a guide to United States coinage that outlines the major design types of U.S. coins by denomination and date of issue.

Half Cent 1793-1857

Liberty Cap Left Half Cent

Liberty Cap Left 1793

Liberty Cap Right Half Cent

Liberty Cap Right 1794-1797

Draped Bust Half Cent

Draped Bust 1800-1808

Classic Head Half Cent

Classic Head 1809-1836

Braided Hair Half Cent

Braided Hair 1840-1857

The smallest denomination U.S. coin, yet nearly the size of a modern quarter. Made of pure copper, the half cent was useful for making change during its early years of issue. But as time passed and things grew more expensive, the half cent lost its usefulness, and was abandoned shortly before the Civil War. Today, all half cents are scarce. All types carry a bust of Liberty on the obverse and a wreath on the reverse.

Large Cent 1793-1857

Flowing Hair (Chain reverse) Large Cent

Flowing Hair
(Chain reverse) 1793

Flowing Hair (Wreath reverse) Large Cent

Flowing Hair
(Wreath reverse) 1793

Liberty Cap Large Cent

Liberty Cap 1793-1796

Draped Bust Large Cent

Draped Bust 1796-1807

Classic Head Large Cent

Classic Head 1808-1814

Coronet Large Cent

Coronet 1816-1857

Along with the half cent, one of the first two coins struck by the United States, all the large cents were coined at the Philadelphia Mint. With twice the copper of the half cent, they were large and heavy – greater in size than today’s quarter – so a pocketful was quite bulky. As the price of copper rose during the 1800s, the large cent became too expensive to produce and was replaced in 1857 by the small cent.

Small Cent 1856-Date

Flying Eagle Cent

Flying Eagle 1856-1858

Indian Head Cent

Indian Head 1859-1909

Lincoln Cent

Lincoln 1909-Date

Lincoln Cent, Wheat Ears Reverse

Wheat Ears Reverse1909-1958

Lincoln Cent, Memorial Reverse

Memorial Reverse 1959-2008

Lincoln Cent, Birthplace Reverse

Birthplace2009

Lincoln Cent, Formative Years Reverse

Formative Years 2009

Lincoln Cent, Professional Life Reverse

Professional Life 2009

Lincoln Cent, Presidency Reverse

Presidency 2009

Lincoln Cent, Shield Reverse

Shield Reverse 2010-Date

America’s first small cent, the Flying Eagle, was introduced in 1856. It was nicknamed the “white cent” because of its 88% copper and 12% nickel composition. Designed by James Longacre, the Flying Eagle cent was minted for just 3 years before being replaced with the Indian Head cent.

In 1909, the Lincoln cent became America's first circulating coin to portray a president. It originally featured the "Wheat Ears" reverse design, which was changed to the Lincoln Memorial in 1959. Then, for the series' 100th anniversary and the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth in 2009, four different reverse designs were released. A new, ongoing reverse design featuring the Union Shield debuted in 2010.

Two-Cent Piece 1864-1873

Two-Cent Piece

Two-Cent Piece1864-1873

The 1864 Coin Act also called for a 2¢ copper coin. This Civil War-era coin was America’s first and only 2¢ piece. It was the first coin to carry IN GOD WE TRUST.

Silver Three-Cent Piece 1851-1873

Silver Three-Cent Piece

Silver Three-Cent Piece 1851-1873

The 3¢ piece is the smallest of all U.S. silver coins. Because it was struck in silver, the public hoarded it along with other coins when the Civil War broke out. Since the 3¢ piece was needed to help ease the coin shortage caused by war, the U.S. Mint decided to strike it in copper-nickel.

Nickel Three-Cent Piece 1865-1889

Nickel Three-Cent Piece

Nickel Three-Cent Piece 1865-1889

The 3¢ nickel, so called because of its copper-nickel composition, was well received by the public. This coin helped the nation retire the unpopular 3¢ paper notes issued during the Civil War. Once the majority of notes had been exchanged for 3¢ coins, and production of 5¢ nickels and cents increased, the banks needed fewer 3¢ pieces.

Nickel 1866-Date

Shield Nickel

Shield 1866-1883

Liberty Head Nickel

Liberty Head (“V”) 1883-1913

Buffalo Nickel

Buffalo 1913-1938

Classic Jefferson Nickel

Jefferson Obverse1938-2004

Jefferson Nickel

Jefferson Obverse2005

Peace Medal Nickel

Peace Medal2004

Keelboat Nickel

Keelboat 2004

Buffalo Nickel

Bison2005

Ocean in View Nickel

Ocean in View 2005

Return to Monticello Nickel

Return to Monticello 2006-Date

In 1866, the nation’s first 5¢ coin of non-precious metal was created: the Shield nickel. The prior (and first) U.S. 5¢ coin, the half dime, was silver. In 1883 came the Liberty Head or “V” nickel, followed by the extremely popular Buffalo nickel of the early 20th century, and then the long-running Jefferson nickel. In 2004, new Westward Journey Jefferson nickels were released. Commemorating the Bicentennial of the Lewis & Clark expedition, two new reverse designs were issued annually. In 2006, the popular series ended with the “Return to Monticello” coin.

Half Dime 1794-1873

Flowing Hair Half Dime

Flowing Hair 1794-1795

Draped Bust Half Dime

Draped Bust 1796-1805

Capped Bust Half Dime

Capped Bust 1829-1837

Liberty Seated Half Dime

Liberty Seated 1837-1873

Minted in fine silver, the famous half dime was the nation’s first 5¢ coin. It was smaller and weighed less than a nickel. Several design types were issued long before the U.S. nickel denomination began. From 1866-1873, both the half dime and nickel were struck. The half dime played an integral role in the early life of America, and is of great historic and numismatic importance.

Dime 1796-Date

Draped Bust Dime

Draped Bust 1796-1807

Capped Bust Dime

Capped Bust 1809-1837

Liberty Seated Dime

Liberty Seated 1837-1891

Barber Dime

Barber 1892-1916

Mercury Dime

Mercury 1916-1945

Roosevelt Dime

Roosevelt 1946-Date

The 10¢ coin, or dime, follows closely the designs of the half dime through the Liberty Seated type. And until 1964, when production of circulating silver coinage was ceased, all circulating dimes were minted in fine silver. Dimes in higher grades are scarce and expensive, since this denomination was used extensively compared to quarters and halves. But many early dimes are still available in circulated condition at a more reasonable cost.

Twenty-Cent Piece 1875-1878

Twenty-Cent Piece (obverse) Twenty-Cent Piece (reverse)

Twenty-Cent Piece 1875-1878

The shortest-lived coin denomination in U.S. history! The twenty-cent piece, minted in 90% fine silver, was struck for circulation only in 1875 and 1876. A few hundred Proofs were coined in 1877-1878. Soon after the coin’s appearance, people complained that it was too close in design and size to the quarter – causing problems in making change. Fewer than 1.4 million were minted, so the twenty-cent piece is a scarce and treasured item today.

Quarter 1796-Date

Draped Bust Quarter

Draped Bust 1796-1807

Capped Bust Quarter

Capped Bust 1815-1838

Liberty Seated Quarter

Liberty Seated 1838-1891

Barber Quarter

Barber 1892-1916

Standing Liberty Quarter

Standing Liberty 1916-1930

Washington Quarter

Washington 1932-1998

Because of the practice of cutting up the Mexican 8 Reales coin into eight parts (thus the “Piece of Eight” name), the U.S. quarter, as ¼ of a dollar, became known as “two bits.” As a silver coin of substantial size until 1964, the quarter has always been popular – both in circulation and among collectors. Several designs have been used since 1796, and many collectors try to assemble at least one coin of each type.

Deleware Statehood Quarter

Delaware 1999

Hawaii Statehood Quarter

Hawaii 2008

District of Columbia Quarter

District of Columbia 2009

Statehood, D.C. & U.S. Territories Quarters

A new era of coin collecting began with the start of America’s 50 State Quarters Program in 1999. From 1999-2008, every state in the Union was honored in the order they joined, or, in the case of the 13 original colonies, the order they ratified the Constitution. In 2009, an additional six quarters were issued, honoring the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories.

Hot Springs National Park Quarter

Hot Springs 2010

Gettysburg National Military Park Quarter

Gettysburg 2011

El Yunque National Forest Quarter

El Yunque 2012

America's National Park Quarters

In 2010 another series, modeled after the Statehood quarters, began – this time honoring America’s national parks and historic sites. Designs are scheduled to be released until 2021 for each of the 50 states, D.C., and the five U.S. territories in the order their locations first became national sites.

See our complete Quarter Release Schedule

Half Dollar 1794-Date

Flowing Hair Half Dollar

Flowing Hair 1794-1795

Draped Bust Half Dollar

Draped Bust 1796-1807

Capped Bust Half Dollar

Capped Bust 1807-1839

Liberty Seated Half Dollar

Liberty Seated 1839-1891

Barber Half Dollar

Barber 1892-1915

Liberty Walking Half Dollar

Liberty Walking 1916-1947

Franklin Half Dollar

Franklin 1948-1963

Kennedy Half Dollar

Kennedy 1964-Date

Though the half dollar is almost forgotten today, it was once the major silver coin of circulation. At one time, a half dollar was often more than a person made in a day’s labor. To have one, or perhaps two, was a significant stash of money. Because the half dollar is seldom seen today, it continues to grow in popularity.

Dollar 1794-Date

Flowing Hair Dollar

Flowing Hair 1794-1795

Draped Bust Dollar

Draped Bust 1795-1804

Liberty Seated Dollar

Liberty Seated 1840-1873

Early silver dollars represent the remarkable era in America’s history when the colonies united to form what would become one of the greatest nations on Earth. Since precious silver ore was scarce in that era, the dollars of that period have very low mintages. Silver dollars were not minted between 1804 and 1836, so those that still circulated were scarce and hoarded. In addition to the early dollars pictured, a number of so-called “Gobrecht” dollars were issued between 1836-1839, and served as patterns for the Liberty Seated dollar.

Trade Dollar

Trade 1873-1885

Morgan Dollar

Morgan 1878-1921

Peace Dollar

Peace 1921-1935

Eisenhower Dollar

Eisenhower 1971-1978

Susan B. Anthony Dollar

Susan B. Anthony 1979-1981, 1999

American Eagle Silver Dollar

American Eagle 1986-Date

Sacagawea Dollar

Sacagawea 2000-2008

Presidential Dollar

Presidential 2007-Date

Native American Dollar

Native American2009-Date

Native American Dollar, Agriculture Reverse

Agriculture 2009

Native American Dollar, Government Reverse

Government 2010

Native American Dollar, Diplomacy Reverse

Diplomacy2011

Native American Dollar, Trade Routes Reverse

Trade Routes2012

The U.S. dollar coins of the late 19th century to the present are among the most sought-after collector issues. These include Trade, Morgan, and Peace dollars struck in 90% silver, as well as the Eisenhower dollars, which were the last large-size $1 coins struck for circulation. The Susan B. Anthony coins began a new era of small-size U.S. dollars, and were followed by the Sacagawea dollars of 2000 to 2008, and the new Presidential dollar series introduced in 2007. Though originally issued for circulation, beginning in 2012 the Presidential dollars were issued in limited quantities for collectors only.

In 2009, new Native American dollars debuted, with the familiar Sacagawea obverse (with date and mint mark moved to the edge) and annually changing reverse designs. The $1 American Eagle silver bullion issues, struck in 99.93% silver, were introduced in 1986 and are the largest of all U.S. coins.

U.S. Gold Coins

Liberty Head $1 Gold

Liberty Head $1 Gold 1849-1854

Indian Head $2.50 Gold (Quarter Eagle)

Indian Head $2.50 Gold 1908-1929

Coronet $5 Gold (Half Eagle)

Liberty Head $5 Gold 1839-1908

Indian Head $10 Gold (Eagle)

Indian Head $10 Gold 1907-1933

Saint-Gaudens $20 Gold (Double Eagle)

Saint‑Gaudens $20 Gold 1907-1933

Between 1795 and 1933, the U.S. Mint produced various gold coins in the denominations of $1, $2.50, $3, $5, $10 and $20 (plus a few extremely rare $4 pattern pieces). These beautiful coins were minted in one of the world’s most precious metals, and designed by some of the finest artists of the day. Mintages were quite small, and many have been melted down over the years, so U.S. gold coins are of particular scarcity and interest today. Since 1986, American Eagle gold bullion coins have been issued just for collectors. For many, gold coins with their unmatched beauty and worldwide popularity represent the apex of enjoyment in numismatics.

U.S. Commemoratives

1892 Columbian Commemorative Half Dollar

1892 Columbian Half Dollar – the first U.S. Commemorative

1982 George Washington Commemorative Half Dollar

1982 George Washington Half Dollar

Official U.S. commemorative coins are authorized by Act of Congress to honor important persons, locations, and events in U.S. history. Commemoratives have been struck in both silver and gold, and more recently, clad. They are minted only in very small numbers compared to regular coinage. After 1954, no U.S. commemoratives were produced until 1982, when the George Washington half dollar was issued to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Washington’s birth. Official U.S. issues should not be confused with so-called “commemoratives” produced by private organizations, which are medals, not coins.