The US mint has produced some odd denominations that are no longer in circulation. These coins are the $1 gold coin, 20 cent coin, half-dime, three-cent nickel, three-cent silver, two-cent coin and the half-cent coin.
There are other coins that are no longer in circulation that may seem a bit odd, like the $20 gold coin, the $10 gold coin, the $5 gold coin and the $2.50 gold coin, but most people have come across them in old movies or their parents/grandparents have shown them. Therefore, I will be not be focusing on those coins.
The half-cent coin actually had a long life, it was minted from 1793-1857, much longer than most of the other coins I want to talk about today. It’s a little smaller than a quarter and was smaller than the large cents (a penny) we had during that period, but larger than the pennies we have today. The argument for producing the half-cent was to allow the poorer Americans in the late 1700’s to have more options when buying and selling. In 1793 a penny would have the 2016 purchasing power between $3-$5.
The two-cent coin was minted from 1864-1873 and were all struck at the Philadelphia Mint. They are about the size of a quarter and made out of 95% copper. At this time in history, the mint had switched from making Large Cents (about the size of a half dollar) to the smaller Flying Eagle Cents (the precursor to the famous Indian Head Cent). It proved difficult for the mint to produce a small copper coin. With that difficulty and the coin shortage during and after the Civil War (people were hoarding coins out of fear), the solution was to mint a larger copper coin at a denomination larger than one cent. This coin initially was popular, but soon the Mint was making fewer and fewer of the two-cent coin every year. This coin ended up unpopular because most everyone preferred spending nickels instead of two-cent coins. This coin was quickly discontinued, but not before the mint became more proficient at striking the smaller Indian Head Cents.
The three-cent nickel coin was minted from 1865-1889 and they were all struck at the Philadelphia Mint. This coin was initially very popular as it replaced the three-cent paper notes that were in circulation at the time, further, it pre-dates the nickel (which was first minted in 1866). What ended up killing the three-cent nickel was the introduction of the five-cent nickel coin.
The three-cent silver coin was similar to the three-cent nickel coin, but actually predates the three-cent nickel. The three-cent silver coins was minted from 1851-1873 and were minted as a response to the postage decrease from five cents to three cents, therefore giving people a single coin to purchase a stamp. This coin was discontinued as it had a similar diameter to the dime and mechanical vending machines would confuse the two.
The half-dime is considered by some historians as the first coin produced by the United States Mint. They were made from 1792-1873 and were made out of silver. This coin has the longest life out of the coins highlighted in this blog, and they were phased out once the government started making the five-cent coins out of nickel. Interestingly, the early examples did not have a value stamped on them, no where on those coins did it mention “Five Cents” or “Half Dime”. That all changed in 1829 when they started stamping the coins “Half Dime”
The twenty-cent coin was minted from 1875-1878 and is just a touch smaller than a quarter in both size and denomination. It was minted to help with the coin shortage out West and was quickly discontinued after too many people confused it for a quarter. It’s a very popular coin among coin collectors, but so few people outside the coin community know of it’s existence.
The one-dollar gold coin is a coin that many visitors to our shop are surprised to see. A lot of people don’t know these exist. The one-dollar gold coins were minted from 1849-1889 and are about the size of a dime. They were not very popular at the time as people preferred to spend the large size green back dollars after the Civil War. In addition to not being as popular as the large size dollar bills, they were so small they were easily lost. With the increase in silver dollar production, these were soon retired from the U.S. Mint.
As always, we are looking to purchase coin collections, take a look through your coins to see if you have any of the coins mentioned in this blog, they should stick out like a sore thumb.
Thanks for listening.