The Various Types of Coinage Available to Collectors
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Regular issue coins are struck by a government authorized mint and
are intended for general circulation and commerce. They are legal tender
and are commonly struck each year in significant quantities due to the
demands of both commerce and the collecting community. Most coins that
are collected fall into this category since they are the most available
and readily collectible at a lower cost.
Examples: 2000 Sacagewea, 1881-S Morgan Dollar, 1999 Lincoln Penny.
Proof coins are struck using a specific technique to produce
highly-mirrored fields and frosted devices. These coins are generally
struck with more force, usually twice, and with polished dies. This
technique produces a beautiful coin that is intended to be used as a
gift, collectible, or display piece. While the coin does have a legal
tender value, it is generally sold at a much higher price due the
special processing required, the higher cost of manufacturing and
quality assurance, and its collectible nature.
Examples: 1922 Matte Proof Peace Dollar (rare), 1999-S Delaware State
Quarter Proof, 1995 Proof Silver Eagle
Commemoratives (or "commems" as they are called for short)
Commemorative coins can be either uncirculated or proof and they are
typically are minted in silver or gold. The most common denominations
are half-dollar and one dollar coins (gold commems tend to have higher
denominations such as $5 or $10). The commemorative coin is typically
struck to commemorate a significant event, person, or organization. In
recent years, part of the proceeds from commemorative sales have gone to
benefit a charity, institution, or organization. For example the sale of
the U.S. Capital Visitor Center coin will help build a new visitor
center under the U.S. Capitolís East Plaza. There is a long history of
commemorative coins in the U.S. A comprehensive listing of modern
and early date coins can
be viewed online at www.coinresource.com.
Examples: 2001 Buffalo Dollar, Community Service Dollar, 2002 Winter
Olympics Silver Dollar
Error coins are coins produced via normal means, but have some sort
of error introduced during the production process. This can be as simple
as a misalignment or doubling of the image.
Below are a few of the types of error coins you can collect: Blank
Planchets, Broadstrikes/partial collars, Capped Dies, Clips,
Double/Triple/Multiple Strikes, Doubled/Tripled dies, Fragments, Major
Die Breaks (Cuds), Off Centers, Split offs/Laminations, Struck Thru's,
Example: Sacagewea Mule Dollar
Bullion coins are minted in regular issue or proof. The uncirculated
coins are generally sold at near "melt value" (proofs carry a
premium). These coins are made for people to invest in rare metals, and
are generally not considered collectible (many collectors would
disagree!). The coins are silver, gold, or platinum.
Example: 2001 Silver Eagle Bullion 1 oz., 1999 Platinum Eagle 1/4 oz.
Patterns are coins produced by a mint as a test or proof of concept.
The coins are generally minted in low volumes and are fairly expensive
and rare. They are typically quite unique and were not released into
circulation. The mint used to sell the pattern coins so many are
available for collecting.
Example: 1783 Nova Constellatio Pattern
U.S. Colonial Coins
Before the U.S. was formed, the individual states issued coinage.
These coins are hard to find in excellent condition, and are therefore
rare and expensive.
Example: 1787 Colonial Massachusetts Cent
"Coin-Like" Medals or Tokens
Tokens or medals are special issues from the mint to commemorate a
person or event; however they are NOT legal tender. They are frequently
produced in bronze or gold.
Example: Bronze "Code Talker" Medal soon to be available at
the U.S. Mint
These are coin-like metal "rounds" produced with images and
commemorations popular among casual collectors. The "rounds"
are NOT legal tender and are not considered coins.
Example: Fake buffalo dollar rounds, Christmas image rounds
Coins from ancient civilizations are fascinating to collect. You can
find: Greek, Roman, Celtic,
Byzantine, and Biblical coins among others.
Example: Widows mites, Silver denarius
Many collectors seek coins
from other countries.
Example: The new 2002 Euros!