Rare USA Coin Specimens and the History Behind Them


Coin collecting has been a popular hobby in the United States for around two hundred years. What makes a coin valuable is an interesting combination of rarity and notoriety. In short, it has to have a good story behind it. Whether one of a kind or simply sought after, there are plenty of US coins that have a fascinating history behind them. Here are just a few.

Gold Coin

This is a notoriously rare coin that almost never existed at all. It was to be released during the Great Depression, at a time when President Roosevelt tried to end the gold standard to help alleviate the bank crisis.

The government destroyed most of these coins except for two spared intentionally and twenty more which were smuggled out to escape destruction. Most of those twenty was reclaimed by the government and some destroyed, leaving only thirteen. Of those thirteen, only one is privately-owned.

Silver Dollar

The 1804 silver dollar has a long and complicated history, and it wasn’t even struck in 1804! They were actually struck in 1834 at the request of President Andrew Jackson as gifts for foreign dignitaries. This was due to a mistake by the US Mint.

However, a counterfeit version, known officially as the “Class II,” was created by a rogue Mint employee out to make himself a fortune. These counterfeits were hunted down and destroyed, save one, which is now in the Smithsonian collection. It is understandable why an illegal replica of a mistake might be so valuable to collectors.

Liberty Head Nickel

This is a coin that was never approved by the US Mint with only five ever released to the public. It should come as no surprise that this is one of the rarest and most sought-after coins by collectors.

Three of the five are owned by private collectors, while the remaining two are in museums. One of them, known as the Olsen nickel, is famous for its rich history and fetched a price of $3.7 million in 2010.

Kennedy Half Dollars

The Kennedy silver half dollars began production just months after President Kennedy was assassinated. These coins are more easily obtainable for collectors and can be bought from a number of sources such as Rocky Mountain Coin.

They are largely valued for their silver content, which was 90% in the earliest prints (1964) before steadily declining. They also represent the memory of a great American president whose life was tragically cut short.

The rarest, most valuable and interesting coins all have good stories behind them. There is usually some quirk or strange event that befell them and adds to their value. The value of these coins undeniably goes far beyond the materials they were struck from.

The article was written by Emma Sturgis. Emma is a freelance writer currently living in Boston, MA. She writes most often on education and business. To see more from Emma, say hi on Twitter.