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Modern Commemorative Gold Coins

Most nations stopped minting gold coins for circulation by 1933, when they abandoned the gold standard in response to a worldwide economic crisis – the Great Depression. Modern gold coins are issued mainly as collector coins (commemorative) and bullion gold coins. In 1982, the United States Mint began issuing commemorative gold coins on an almost yearly basis.

Commemorative Gold Coin

All commemorative gold coins, whether modern or not, differ from bullion gold coins in one essential way: they are bought and traded primarily for their numismatic value while bullion gold is purchased for its precious metal content. “Numismatic value” means the collectors’ value: how much a gold coin is worth in terms of age, rarity, condition, and the number of like coins minted. To a collector, the amount of precious metal content is far down the list in terms of importance, while to an investor, who values gold coins as bullion, that issue is paramount.

While commemorative coins are legal tender, their real value far exceeds their face value (the dollar amount stamped on the coin). A gold coin with a face value of $5 could easily be worth a thousand or more dollars in real value, a value that will grow over time. The purpose of assigning the rather meaningless face value is to facilitate the crossing of gold coins at international borders. Buy gold bars online.

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US Commemorative Gold Coins

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Since commemorative gold coins are not intended for general circulation, a limited number are minted. These are generally sold at a pre-issue price for the first month of sales then at a standard price for the remainder of the sale period. Typically, commemorative gold coins are only available for a stipulated calendar year.

The United States Mint has issued modern commemorative half-ounce gold coins with a face value of $10, and quarter-ounce gold coins with a face value of $5. The number minted depends on the demand (although there is always a maximum authorized mintage). Demand is mostly determined by the popularity of the subject the modern gold coin is commemorating.

In 2007, the U.S. Mint introduced a new line of half-ounce gold coins commemorating the wives of United States presidents. It was the first time women were ever featured on gold coinage. One side of the coin portrays the face of the first lady, while the reverse side depicts a scene from her life and work. Each year, four “first spouse” coins have been released, and the series is expected to continue for some time into the future.

In 1984, the U.S. Mint commemorated the Lost Angeles Summer Olympics by releasing two million Olympic Runner/American Eagle coins. In 1986, to honor the centennial of the Statue of Liberty, half a million Statue of Liberty/American Eagle coins were released.

A year later, to celebrate the U.S. Constitution Signing Bicentennial, one million Bicentennial/American Eagle gold coins were minted, made into the likeness of antique gold coins. One side shows an American Eagle holding a quill pen (representing the signing of the U.S. Constitution). The reverse features the words “We the People” (the first three words of the U.S. Constitution).  

In 1989, the Bicentennial of the U.S. Congress was depicted (mintage: one million). In 1991, Mount Rushmore was celebrated with half a million mintage. Christopher Columbus was commemorated in 1992 with a mintage of that same number.

Two modern commemorative gold coins were produced in 1993: The Bill of Rights Commemorative and The World War II 50th Anniversary Commemorative. Each had a mintage of 300,000.
1995 saw the issue of 300,000 Civil War Battlefield gold coins, and in 1996, there were 100,000 Smithsonian 150th Anniversary gold coins issued.

Again in 1997, two different commemorative gold coins were created. One honored Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the other, Jackie Robinson. Both coins had a mintage of 100,000.

In 1999, an issue of 100,000 gold coins celebrated George Washington and in 2001, the same number were minted to laud the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center.

Orville and Wilbur Wright were featured in a 2003 commemorative gold coin. On one side, the American Eagle and the Wright brothers’ plane are pictured soaring together. The mintage was 100,000.

In 2006, the U.S. Mint actually celebrated itself with the minting of 100,000 gold coins and the same year featured the American buffalo on another gold commemorative. In 2007, the settlement of Jamestown honored (mintage 100,000). That same year the “first spouse” series began, with an issue of four unique coins (depicting four different first ladies) annually.

As can be seen from this chronological listing of modern U.S. gold coins, not only are commemoratives interesting from the numismatic perspective, they also record important episodes in American history. This makes them an absorbing hobby for history buffs and coin buffs alike.


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