Commemorative coins have been popular since the days of the Greeks and Romans. These early pieces were struck to record and honor important historical events.
The popular, early United States Commemoratives with a few exceptions all have real historical significance. These records of fact presented on our gold and silver issues appeal to the collector favoring the historical side of numismatics. These special issues are usually struck to commemorate events or to help pay for monuments or celebrations commemorating historical persons, places or things. Most originally sold for a premium price over the coin's face value. Each issue has the standard weight and fineness of the traditional gold and silver coin and are legal tender.
The early silver commemorative coins are collected by major types (50 piece silver set) or in sets with each mint mark varity. The more sophisticated collector acquires one each (144 pieces) for all years and mint mark varieties issued. This complete set consists one quarter, Isabella Quarter, one dollar, Lafayette Dollar, and 142 historical half dollars. A limited number of proof strikings or presentation pieces were struck for some of these issues.
The most widely collected early gold commemoratives are the 9 one dollar gold issues and the 2 two and one half dollar issues. In addition to these 11 pieces, there is the $50 gold round and octagonal issues often referred to as "slugs". These coins have low mintages, 483 and 645 respectively, and sell for prices in the 5 to 6 figure range for high quality examples.
The government is continuing the tradition of issuing commemoratives in clad, silver and gold. The denominations include the half dollar, silver dollar and $5 gold piece. All honor people, places and special events as done with the earlier issues.