The Triumphant Return of Commemorative Coins with George Washington in 1982
While most Americans know the U.S. Mint for the circulating coinage that occupies their wallets, another important function of the Mint is striking commemorative coins. While technically legal tender, commemorative coins are produced primarily to celebrate individuals, events, places, and institutions important to the United States. In addition to their celebratory nature, commemorative coins also help raise money to support historical preservation efforts. Since the modern commemorative coin program began in 1982, over $500 million dollars have been raised to help build museums, maintain national monuments, and support various programs.
However, there was a period of nearly thirty years when commemorative coins were not struck by the U.S. Mint. since the 1930s. While today, commemorative coins are produced for just one year, they used to be produced for multiple years in a row. For example, one of the most popular Commemoratives, the Oregon Trail Memorial Half Dollar was struck for eight different years over a fourteen-year span. While collectors adored the Oregon Trail Memorial Half Dollar, there were some issues that were thought of as excessive. For instance, in 1936, there were a grand total of nineteen different Commemorative Half Dollars struck. Although these coins are highly collectible now, they were seen as unnecessary back in the day. Between a bloated market and dwindling interest among collectors, President Eisenhower vetoed three commemorative half dollars proposed in 1954, leaving only the Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver Commemorative Half Dollar to be struck.
For twenty-eight years, the U.S. Mint did not strike a single commemorative coin. Until the commemorative coin program was reinstated by Eleventh Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint, Elizabeth Jones. On December 23rd, 1982, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of George Washington’s birthday, the U.S. Mint struck a Commemorative Half Dollar depicting our nation’s first president. Given the incredible influence Washington had on our country’s development from leading the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War to setting the precedents that other presidents would later follow, it was only natural that his birth would be commemorated.
The George Washington 250th Anniversary Half Dollar depicts the president during his time as general, leading the Continental Army on the obverse, while the reverse depicts his home, Mount Vernon. Taking into account the low demand for commemorative coins prior to their hiatus, the Mint only struck this coin for a single year, ensuring demand would be high among collectors.
Other commemorative coins have followed this example, making them enticing treasures for numismatists to seek. One of the most notable sets of commemorative coins was struck in 2020 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. This included incredibly rare American Gold Eagles and American Silver Eagles, which were the first of their kind to display a privy mark. In addition, there was a $25 Half-Ounce Gold coin as well as a silver medal.
Today, commemorative coins in both gold and silver are remarkable collectible items, whether you are seeking a rare numismatic treasure or looking for a specific coin that celebrates something near and dear to you. At Rare Collectibles TV, we offer a wide range of stunning commemorative coins in the finest grades possible.