Monthly Archives: September 2014

A Brief History of US Coins

Something that is quite fascinating that many people don’t actually know is the history of that change that sits in your change jar or in your car. For example, did you know that the dime is actually the third iteration of the dime? Or that there used to be a half dime before there was a nickel? Or that the Lincoln penny is actually the latest in a very long line of pennies? Today, we delve briefly into the history of our pocket change and see the rich history from where our currency comes from.

The Lincoln Penny

1909-S VDB Lincoln cent

For many of us, the Lincoln head penny is the only penny that we know, with Lincoln’s profile on one side and the monument on the other. But, the truth is that the Lincoln cent piece didn’t start in circulation until 1909 and broke the mold where minting was concerned as it was the first US coin to feature a president on it. It had been tradition since Washington’s presidency that no coin feature the depiction of a president past or present. So when this coin was brought up for review, it had met some resistance from traditionalists, but they all fell by the way side in front of Theodore Roosevelt who pushed the coin design through after having just approved four new designs for the gold eagle denominations. The first year it was minted the lincoln cent had the designers initials VDB at the base of the reverse. This led to a public outcry and the initals were quickly removed, which in turn, created the coveted 1909-S VDB cent. Another interesting fact, in 1943, when copper was scarce during World War II, the penny was made out of a steel alloy which led to another collector’s item. Who knew the penny would hold so much sway?

1943 Steel Lincoln Cent Obverse

The Steel Lincoln Penny

The Jefferson Nickel

1945 Jefferson NickelIntroduced in 1938, the Jefferson Nickel is the only coin to still be made of its original composition today. Almost 80 years later, this humble coin is still being minted honoring our third president. Early in 1938 the Treasury Department announced a competition for designs to replace the Buffalo/Indian Head nickel. The rules of the contest was that the obverse would feature an “authentic portrait” of our third president with the reverse featuring his home near Charlottesville. Additionally, the design had to fit the technical requirements of Mint. Out of 390 models, German-American Felix Schlag’s design was selected. Schlag’s initials didn’t appear on the nickel until almost 30 years later.

The Roosevelt Dime

Silver Roosevelt DimeAnother coin with a rich history is the dime. The first ten cent piece was coined in 1793 and was the last of the first issuance of coins when the US mint first opened. The dime’s design has changed over 11 times since its first issuance in 1793, with an average of 12 years per major design. The Roosevelt Dime has been the longest running design in the coin’s lifespan with it coming to it’s 70th birthday in 2016. The Roosevelt Dime was issued under pressure from the US public who, in 1945, wanted some memorial for the fallen leader. This coin broke the 40 year tradition of asking outside artists for designs and was tasked internally by the US mint to their chief engraver. While there are no rare dates for the Roosevelt dime, there is one premium dime that is worth more than its silver bullion value, the 1949-S dime that was minted out of the US mint in San Francisco.

The Washington Quarter

Washington Silver Quarter 1944

Our final coin today is the Quarter. The Washington Quarter’s story is interesting to say the least. After the dark shadow of the Great Depression had fallen across the us in 1931, Americans had little to celebrate. However, the following year, 1932, would mark George Washington’s 200th birthday and to help bolster public spirit the Treasury Department were ready to mark the occasion. Originally, the Treasury Department had proposed a half dollar be struck to honor the birth of the founding father. The contest was started early and while most entrants were denied, one had gained unanimous favor by the Commission of Fine arts. The original design of the coin was done by Laura Gardin Fraser, the designer for the Oregon Trail commemorative coin and wife to the creator of the Buffalo nickel. However, the commission wasn’t the only party that needed to be pleased for the coin to be minted.

Congress then got into the debate, due to the fact that the Treasury Department needed their approval to change the design for the half dollar. Once they were asked, they instead compromised and decided to change the quarter instead. But, it was the final person, Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, who still had something to say.

Mr. Mellon, had his own views on art, and felt that the design by John Flanagan was superior to the Fraser design. Flanagan’s design was simple, more like a portrait with Washington’s profile on the obverse and a heraldic eagle adorning the reverse. With it’s simple design the mint was able to issue the coin easily and quickly. Since it began production of the coin in 1932, the mint has issued over 21 billion coins, an amazing quantity by any standard.

Well, I hope you liked our brief look into the history of our nation’s coinage, if you’re interested in our selection of collectable coins, you can browse through them here.

Gary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. Connect with him on Google+.


Foreign Banknotes: Are they Collectibles?

While the US has a wide selection of collectible banknotes. However, there are other historical banknotes from countries around the world that are just as collectible, some by value, some by history behind the note’s country of origin. Here are just a few examples of a very wide expanse of collectible world banknotes.

The Djibouti Franc

Djibouti 100 Franc Banknote

Djibouti 100 Franc Banknote






Our first example comes from the Horn of Africa. The Djiboutian Franc has been around since the late 19th century. When the French Somaliland protectorate was established the French franc had begun being circulated in Djibouti along with other coin currencies. The first banknotes weren’t introduced until almost 30 years later. They were issued in denominations of 5, 20 and 100 franc notes. Since then little has changed in the currency outside of the introduction of higher denominations.

The Indonesian Rupiah

Republic of Indonesia Rupiah 1945

Indonesian Rupiah from 1945

50000 Indonesian Rupiah 2013

The Indonesian Rupiah today






Our next example comes from indochina. The indonesian rupiah has had a roller-coaster ride throughout history. The first rupiah was issued by the Republic of Java in 1946 after World War II as an act of defiance against the Dutch who had originally had the “Dutch East Indies” as a colony before the war. After some diplomatic follies by the Dutch, the Dutch currency had been outlawed by the republican interior of Indonesia. Instead, Java had begun printing their own currency known as the Rupiah. The Rupiah has had a very tumultuous history since its inception, which included serious inflation during the Asian finincial crisis in 1997-98 where it saw its value drop by 80%. Today, the modern Rupiah is a collectible for currency collectors and ETF prospectors. You can see our collection of Indonesian Rupiah here.

The Vietnamese Dong

Vietnamese Dong in 1951

Vietnamese Dong in 1951

100000 Vietnames Dong in 2013

The Vietnamese Dong Today






The Vietnamese Dong is another foreign currency that has seen its own roller-coaster ride for the currency. When Vietnam was split into two countries, both the North and South Vietnam had their own form of the Dong. In North Vietnam, the Viet Minh government issued the Dong as a replacement of the French Indochinese colonial currency. The south followed suit in 1953 by issuing currency with the same name. In 1978, when the country was reunified, the currency was as well. Today, the original cotton notes used by the Vietnamese have been replaced with a plastic polymer banknote. We have a variety of these collector’s notes available here.

Gary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. Connect with him on .


The Top 5 Rarest US Coins

While there are many rare coins throughout the world and history, and many would debate where they would rank in rarity. Most believe in rarity based on number minted and how many are known to exist. Monetary value also has a big part to play. With that said, here is our list of the top 5 rarest US coins.

1863 Liberty Head Gold CoinNo. 5 – 1861 Liberty Head Gold Coin

This gold coin coming in at number five on our list was actually minted on accident. Late revisions for the coin were issued to the US mint but they didn’t receive word of them until after some of the coins had already been produced and put into circulation. Only two are know and in 2010 went for a cool 5.6 million dollars.

1804 Crosset Liberty Gold EagleNo. 4 – 1804 Ten Dollar Gold Piece

Less than 10 of these rare coins were ever produced, and only three are known to still currently exist today. Additionally, these coins were produced three decades after their minted year. The most recent sighting of this coin was seen in 2005 where it was sold 8.5 million dollars. These like their more rare silver dollar counterparts were mainly produced for diplomatic purposes.

1913 Liberty Head NickelNo. 3 – 1913 Liberty Nickel

Another US Mint mistake is the 1913 Liberty nickel. Produced in 1913, the liberty head nickels were produced without the US Mint knowing. Since the buffalo nickel was supposed to be produced that year, no liberty head nickels were to be minted but somehow a handful were made. Samuel Brown, an employee of the US Mint is credited for secretly minting these coins and then sneaking them out of the office. Only five are known to exist, two are exhibits in museums and the other three are part of private collections. The last time one of these nickels was at public auction was in 2010 where it fetched 3.7 million dollars.

1933 Saint Gaudens Gold Double EagleNo. 2 – 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

One of the rarest coins known, the Saint-Gaudens Double eagle was minted in 1933, but was never released into circulation due to a change in currency laws during the Great Depression. The entire run was supposedly melted down into gold bullion. However, a US Mint cashier is said to have given out some of the coins in exchange for earlier double-eagles. Outside of the two that are in the national currency collection at the Smithsonian there are two other known coins. The only known auction of the coin was handled by Sotheby’s where it fetched 7.5 million dollars.

1804 Silver DollarNo.1  – 1804 Silver Dollar

Coming in at the top of the list is the 1804 Silver Dollar also known as the Bowed Liberty Dollar. This coin is the holy grail of numismatic collectors. Currently, there are only 15 known genuine 1804 silver dollars. These rare coins were actually produced 30 years after their stamp date and used mainly for diplomatic purposes. One example is the famous King of Siam coin which can be seen in the movie, “The King and I” and in the novel, Anna and the King of Siam. This silver dollar is also one of the few coins to possess three separate classes of quality. Class I is considered the original genuine coin. Class II and III were produced illegally by an employee of the Philadelphia branch of the US Mint. All of the Class II were seized and destroyed save one which resides in the Smithsonian. Class III were also produced illegally and while the US Mint tried seizing all of these copies as well some had already been distributed to collectors.

That’s our list of the Top 5 rarest US coins, check out our collection of rare coins on our website. Think that we missed one or labeled one too high? Comment below or on our Facebook page.

Gary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. Connect with him on .


The History of the Continental Dollar and the Fugio Cent

Some of the most fascinating rarities of the numismatic world comes from the early years of American history with the creation of the Fugio cent and its predecessor, the Continental Dollar. These extremely rare coins both have a colorful history behind them and were used at a time when our experiment with democracy was hanging on by rapidly thinning threads.

The Continental Dollar

First minted in 1776, this coin didn’t have a denomination and was made from silver, brass, and pewter. Experts still don’t know how they were used due to the lack of a denomination and because no historical records authorizing the creation of the coins have survived. Only sixty of these coins are

Obverse of the Continental Dollar

Continental Dollar

known to still exist, and are mostly pewter. Out of those, only four of the silver varieties are known to survive and back in May, one sold at auction for $1.4 million. Pretty impressive for a coin who originally had no clear value.

The images on the coin were based on the design by Benjamin Franklin for the paper currency that was in issue at the time. The obverse featured a sun shining down on a sundial with the latin word “Fugio” (I fly) next to it with the legend “Mind Your Business” at the bottom. Historians believe that Franklin put this in due to him being a successful businessman and was supposed to be a saying such as time flies so mind your business. The reverse side featured 13 linked rings each labeled with the name of one of the original 13 colonies surrounding a sun containing the words “AMERICAN CONGRESS” and “WE ARE ONE.”

The Fugio Cent

Fast forward ten years later to 1787, to help unify our currency and help boost our economy Congress passes a resolution for the contract of coining a national copper cent. In what would eventually become the first penny, the Fugio Cent was born. The design was taken from Benjamin Franklin’s design of the Continental Dollar with the obverse featuring a sun and sundial with the legend “Fugio,” the date, and the legend “Mind Your Business” at the bottom. The reverse was also copied minus a few alterations it featured the thirteen linked circles (without the colony names) with the legends, “WE ARE ONE” and “UNITED STATES.”

Obverse Side of the Fugio Cent

Fugio Cent

The Fugio cent, or “congress coppers” as they were later called didn’t see much use as they were largely uncirculated. They remained in the national treasury until they were purchased at one-third face value in 1789 on credit by a New York merchant. A year later, the Bank of New York acquired a full keg of the Fugio cent where they were lost until they were rediscovered in 1856 when the bank was moving location. They were subsequently lost again until being rediscovered in 1926. From then on, they were slowly distributed to officials and favored customers of the bank. Today, the bank still retains 819 pieces of their original keg.

Gary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. Connect with him on .