During colonial times, the people of the eventual United States used a combination of English coins and an assortment of foreign currency. One of the main ways that the new nation distinguished itself from its mother country was through the authorization and use of decimal coins, which was very different from the currency system used in England.
History of Decimal Coins in the U.S.
Under the Articles of Confederation, the forerunner to the United States Constitution, each state had the right to mint its own coinage. Ratified in 1787, the U.S. Constitution gave the new federal government the exclusive right to mint its own United States coins.
One of the biggest changes in United States currency came when Thomas Jefferson proposed a decimal system of U.S. currency coins in 1784. Based on the Spanish dollar, his proposal would aim to have coins for 10 dollars, 1 dollar, 1/10 dollar as well as 1/100 dollar. A particular argument he used to promote his proposal was that the new 1/100 dollar coin would have a similar value to the then-prevalent copper coins.
Jefferson may have proposed the decimal currency system, but it was Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, who put Jefferson’s theories into practice. Hamilton proposed the Coinage Act of 1792, which established the U.S. Mint and regulated the coins it would produce. For example, the Coinage Act established the denominations of U.S. coins, including pennies and half-pennies that would give the poor more purchasing power.
It was also Hamilton who suggested that the new coins feature presidential portraits and patriotic emblems to encourage a sense of unity among a nation of people who, until recently, had lived in separate colonies.
U.S. Decimal Coins and Sets Today
Nowadays, collectors and dealers around the world create significant demand for U.S. decimal coins, as well as entire collections and proof sets. Among these sought-after pieces, some of the most collectable sets and specimens include:
National Park sets
Presidential Dollar sets
The 2022 United States Proof Set
USA Half Dollar & Dollar coins and sets
Keep reading to learn more about each of these sets of USA coins in more detail.
History of Decimal Coins in the U.S.
National Parks quarters are the result of the America the Beautiful Quarters Program from the U.S. Mint. The Mint planned a series of 56 coins, one representing each of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories, releasing five per year until 2021, which saw the release of the one remaining coin design.
Working with the chief executive of each state or territory, the Mint chose a design based on a national park or site of national historic significance within that jurisdiction. The order in which the sites were established as national parks or historic sites determines the order in which the coins were released. For example, here are the five America the Beautiful Quarters released in 2017:
Iowa’s Effigy Mounds National Monument (1949):
Preserves a large concentration of large, animal-shaped earthworks by ancient Indigenous people; modern-day tribes consider it a sacred site.
District of Columbia’s Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (1962):
Honours Frederick Douglass, an African-American author and statesman who advocated for the abolition of slavery and for civil rights.
Missouri’s Ozark National Scenic Riverways (1964):
Preserves 400 caves, the country’s largest natural springs, and other unique geologic features within its 80,785 acres.
New Jersey’s Ellis Island (1965):
Processed approximately 12 million immigrants to the United States between 1892 and 1954.
Indiana’s George Rogers Clark National Historical Park (1966): Honours a hero of the American Revolution.
Presidential Dollar Series
Presidential $1 Coin Program set out to honour the rare individuals who have taken on the privilege and responsibility of becoming President of the United States. From 2007 to 2016, the U.S. Mint released four coins per year, each featuring the portrait of a former president. It is against U.S. law for living people to appear on coins, so former presidents who are still alive are not eligible.
Coins were released in the order that the subject served as president. The first coin, released in 2007, featured George Washington, a fitting tribute to Washington’s many remarkable accomplishments, including signing the 1792 Coinage Act that established the U.S. Mint.
These coins remember some of the most influential and famous individuals in American and world history. Whether you are into history, politics, patriotism, or just unique coins, these will be an iconic keepsake for years to come. Additionally in our coin supplies section, you can also get your hands on Presidential Coin Albums to store your collection in.
Innovation Dollar Series 2018-2032
Scientists and inventors in the United States have made many innovations that have improved the lives of people around the world. The
American Innovation $1 Coin Program pays tribute to these innovations and the people behind them. Starting in 2018 and set to run through 2032, the U.S. Mint will release five coins in this series per year, each representing a technological innovation from a particular state. Coins are released in the order in which the states were admitted to the Union. Coins released so far include the telephone (Massachusetts), the lightbulb (New Jersey), and the polio vaccine (Pennsylvania).
The 2022 United States Proof Set
The year 2022 marks the beginning of a new program called the American Women Quarters. From 2022 to 2025, the Mint will issue five quarters per year featuring reverse designs that honour women who have made significant contributions in various fields. The 2022 honourees, which are included in the
2022 proof set, are:
Actress Anna May Wong
Poet Maya Angelou
Suffragist Nina Otero-Warren
Astronaut Sally Ride
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller
The proof set also includes a Lincoln penny, a Roosevelt dime, a Kennedy half-dollar, a Jefferson nickel, and a Sacagawea Dollar in keeping with the theme of American Women.
USA Half-Dollar Decimal Coins
Benjamin Franklin was a prolific inventor and one of the Founders of the United States. He was ambassador to France, attended the First Continental Congress, and helped write the Declaration of Independence. From 1948 to 1963, Franklin’s portrait graced the front of the
U.S. half-dollar coin. The reverse featured the Liberty Bell, a significant monument in Franklin’s hometown of Philadelphia.
Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, his portrait replaced Franklin’s on the half-dollar and has remained there ever since. The reverse features the official Presidential Seal. Artists at the mint have continued to update Kennedy’s portrait and subtly improve it over the decades. However, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy half-dollar in 2014, the Mint released a special commemorative coin featuring the original 1964 portrait considered to be closer to what Kennedy actually looked like.
For more information and detailed descriptions of each of these decimal coins and sets, contact us. We at Colonial Acres Coins are home to these and countless other decimal coins for sale. Do not hesitate to contact us regarding all things numismatics-related.