London Coin Galleries


A History of U.S. Coins — And Ones to Keep an Eye Out for

Coins have been around for more than 2,700 years as a means of trade. That makes U.S. coins relatively new in the grand scheme of minted currencies. However, a quick background of U.S. coins can shed some light on your coin collecting prowess and provide a basis for understanding how coin collecting works. If you’re new to coin collecting, here is a brief history of U.S. coins, as well as ones that you should add to your portfolio.

The Beginning of U.S. Coins

Prior to 1792, the U.S. had plenty of shortages of coins. That’s because many colonists used whatever coins they could find for the purpose of buying and selling products and services. While the U.S. had their own version of the British pound, the value was essentially determined by the seller of a product. As a result, some people turned to other foreign currencies. Moreover, many of these currencies were of Spanish and Portuguese origin.

The Coinage Act of 1792

To meet the demand for currency, Congress enacted the Coinage Act of 1792. This act established a U.S. mint in Philadelphia, which was responsible for creating various denominations of currency. Originally, you could find coins in denominations ranging from half a cent up to $10.

Funny enough, the first minted coin was a copper 1-cent piece that caused a public outcry because of its bulky size. But that was just the first step in a long line of upgrades and changes the U.S. mint would make.

The Ever-Changing Design of U.S. Coins

According to the Coinage Act of 1792, every U.S. coin had to contain the words “Liberty” and the “United States of America.” But the act made no mention of the images on the front and obverse sides of the coin. Thus, the mint was free to change the images, provided they had Congressional approval.

Early coins of the 18th and 19th centuries often contained symbolism based on Greek and Roman coin designs, including:

  • Wreaths
  • Shields
  • Olive branches
  • Torches
  • Arrows
  • Oak branches
  • Stars

Even today, coins still pay homage to the roots of democracy with the Latin phrase “E pluribus unum,” which means “out of many, one.”

Later on, the U.S. also put the bald eagle on many coins, adding the symbolic national animal to many of the nation’s coins. Today, the mint produces limited edition versions of coins, such as state quarters, as well as a number of traditional, long-running designs. The U.S. government also opened additional mints in West Point, Denver, and San Francisco, which helps keep up with demand.

Coins to Add to Your Collection

Now that you have a basic history of coins, keep an eye out for some of these options that can add a bit of value to your collection, as well as their approximate worth:

  • 1913 Liberty Head V Nickel – $4.4 million
  • 1870 S Liberty Seated Dollar – $1.95 million
  • 1927 D St. Gaudens Double Eagle – $1.2 million
  • 1794 Flow Hair Dollar – $825,000
  • 1838 O Capped Bust Half Dollar – $745,000

How to Get the Most Value for Your Coins

Whether you’re a big-time or part-time collector, you should always get the most value for your coins when you’re ready to sell. So don’t go to a pawn shop or some random collector. Make sure to give us a call at London Coin Galleries of Newport Beach.  For multiple decades we’ve helped clients appraise, buy, sell and trade their coins at the highest value possible.  Your wallet will thank you.  Contact us to book an appointment.