Commemorative Coins

Commemorative issue coins are special, limited edition coins designed for collectors. The design typically celebrates significant people, events, places, or symbols. For example, many coins are issued in conjunction with important anniversaries.

History of Commemoratives

The U.S. Commemorative Coin program began with a silver half dollar minted for the 1892 Columbian Exposition. Other commemorative coins were struck intermittently from then until 1954. These early commemorative silver coins are now highly collectible due to their rarity. Fifty different designs were produced from 1892 to 1954; many collectors attempt to complete this set.

In 1982, the U.S. Mint began its modern commemorative coin program. In the United States, commemorative issue silver coins are created by acts of Congress to honor an event, place, or person.

Sales of such coins help fund a variety of projects and organizations; to date, more than $318 million has been raised through the sale of such coins. At least two new commemorative coin designs are produced each year. Each coin is minted only for a limited time. Their limited mintage makes them highly collectible.

World Coins

Other commemorative silver coins are produced by many countries around the globe. The Europa coin programme is a Eurozone program for minting precious metal coins, with a theme that changes each year. The 2011 theme, for example, was European Explorers. Each coin must be at least 90% fine silver, and should be approximately “crown sized.”

Most commemorative coins are not meant for circulation, even though they may have an official legal tender value. The value of the precious metal content far exceeds their face value. Instead, these coins are sold from the mint directly to collectors and dealers. Many come in special presentation cases, and may be accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity or other paperwork.


Most of these commemorative silver coins are minted in the popular 1 ounce size. Other commemorative coins may be larger or smaller. For example, a 2010 issue by the United States Mint was a 5-coin set celebrating the National Park Service. Each silver bullion coin weighed 5 troy ounces.

On the other hand, many commemorative coins are smaller than one ounce. They are designed to be similar in size to the coins in circulation within the country, and are typically not designed to contain an even amount of silver.

In the United States, many commemorative coin issues are not the 99.9% purity used to mint bullion coins like the popular American Silver Eagle. Instead, they are usually 90% pure silver. The Europa program requires at least 90% purity, but does not set an upper limit for silver purity. In other countries, commemorative silver coins may be pure silver, 90% silver, or another composition.

Silver commemorative coins have widespread collector appeal. Their lower mintage when compared with other coins makes them prized among collectors. In particular, coins with popular themes rise in value rapidly once no longer available from the mint. As a result, such coins often make a wise investment, whether for their numismatic potential or precious metal content.