Wednesday, August 18, 2021


As the U.S. moves toward digital money and away from

metal coins and paper currency, an earlier age of odd

coinage is further forgotten except by numismatists who

collect them.

Today, our coinage includes the penny, nickel, dime,

quarter. half dollar and dollar. One hundred fifty years 

ago., there were many more coin varieties in general 

circulation, some of them with odd denominations

that might seem strange in 2021.

In fact, most Americans have not ever seen a half penny,

two cent, three cent, half dime or twenty cent coins.

The earliest U.S. general circulation coins were minted 

in the 1790s. Prior to that colonial coinage circulated,

and after independence, each state state provided its

own coins. After 1789, a national coinage was needed,

and official coins with “United  States of America” on 

them appeared, including the half penny, penny, half

dime, dime, quarter, half dollar and dollar.

The copper half penny circulated from 1793 to 1836.

The silver half dime was used from 1794 to 1873. The

modern nickel five cent piece was introduced in 1865.

A copper two cent piece was introduced in 1864, but

was discontinued in 1873. A silver three cent piece

circulated from 1851 to 1873, and a larger nickel three 

cent coin was used from 1865 to 1889.

Form 1875 to 1878, a silver twenty cent piece was in


U.S. gold coins were minted from the nation’s 

earliest days in a variety of denominations, 

including a dollar in the precious metal (1849 to 1889),

a half eagle ($5.00), eagle ($10.00) and double eagle

($20.00). Like the lower value coins in copper, nickel

and silver, gold coins also came in odd  

denominations, including $2.50 (1796-1929), $3.00

(1854-89, and briefly ,$4.00 (1879-80). The latter gold

coins, called “Stellas,” were minted in very few

quantities, and are today extremely valuable, often

selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars in the

rare coin market.

Indeed, silver and gold coins,  especially the latter,

now have a metal value that notably exceeds their

stated value, and command premium prices in the

numismatic market. (Rarity and coin condition

determine the exact price.)

These days, vending machines, parking meters and

laundromats are increasingly using plastic for use,

as are most retail stores and restaurants for payment.

Bills are paid via the internet or check. The pay

telephone is virtually extinct. Some places won’t even

accept cash.

 Is the time coming soon when whole generations of 

Americans will have not ever have seen a coin or a

dollar bill, and will regard them as strange as most

Americans do today about the three cent piece?


Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


No comments:

Post a Comment