The Fourth of July is coming—and that means backyard barbecues, fireworks, and parades. It’s also a great chance to reflect on this nation’s history. Gold has played an integral role in the development of the United States, particularly in the form of coins that facilitated commerce. Of course, gold is just one material that can be used for coins. Far cheaper and far more expensive metals can all be used, but gold seems to have a special hold on the American imagination.
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Here are some things you may not know about gold in the history of American coinage.
- Gold coins have been minted in Philadelphia since the beginning of the nation. The Coinage Act of 1792 was the first law to authorize production of U.S. coins. It established standards of weight and purity for three new coins and denominations: the $10 eagle, the $5 half-eagle, and the $2.50 quarter eagle. These denominations remained in effect for over 130 years.
- The smallest coin ever minted in the U.S. was the $1 coin, which was authorized in 1849. It first bore a Liberty Head design which was later capped off with an Indian Princess head. The latter design lasted until the coin was retired in 1889.
- The U.S. mint had a few flops along the way. Shortly after approving the $1 coin, they began issuing a $3 coin and a $4 Stella coin. (“Stella” is Latin for star, and the coin bore a 5-pointed star on one side.) Neither of these coins lasted long.
- NIFC coins have been issued since 1892. This stands for “Not Intended for Circulation,” meaning that the coins are strictly commemorative. A number of these NIFC coins were made of gold, including the Louisiana Purchase Expo gold dollar, a McKinley Memorial gold dollar (minted after the president was killed), and a Grand Memorial dollar. Later, NIFC coins bore the gold eagle and commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. A 1983 coin was minted in honor of the Los Angeles Olympics.
- Gold coin production ceased from 1933-1974 when private ownership of gold was illegal in the U.S.
Even though the government no longer produces gold coins for currency, they continue to release commemorative coins for collectors. This trend should continue for now given two factors. First, gold is a popular investment because it tends to hold its value and, thus, provides peace of mind. In addition, as we emerge from the recent recession, Americans have more money to invest in gold.
You can do your own 14k, 18k, and 24k gold plating with gold plating kits from Gold Plating Services.