United States coinage was first minted by the new republic in 1792. New coins have been produced every year since then and they make up a valuable aspect of the United States currency system. Today circulating coins exist in denominations: $0.01, $0.05, $0.10, $0.25, $0.50, and $1.00. Also minted are bullion and commemorative coins. All of these are produced by the United States Mint. The coins are then sold to Federal Reserve Banks which in turn are responsible for putting coins into circulation and withdrawing them as demanded by the country's economy.
Today four mints operate in the United States producing billions of coins each year. The main mint is the Philadelphia Mint, which produces circulating coinage, mint sets and some commemorative coins. The Denver Mint also produces circulating coinage, mint sets and commemoratives. The San Francisco Mint produces regular and silver proof coinage, and produced circulating coinage until the 1970s. The West Point Mint produces bullion coinage (including proofs). Philadelphia and Denver produce the dies used at all of the mints. The proof and mint sets are manufactured each year and contain examples of all of the year's circulating coins. These and the other non-circulating coins can be purchased directly from the US Mint.
The producing mint of each coin may be easily identified, as most coins bear a mint mark. The identifying letter of the mint can be found on the front side of most coins, and is often placed near the year. Unmarked coins are issued by the Philadelphia mint. Among marked coins, Philadelphia coins bear a letter P, Denver coins bear a letter D, San Francisco coins bear a letter S, New Orleans coins bear a letter O and West Point coins bear a letter W. S and W coins are rarely, if ever, found in general circulation, although S coins bearing dates prior to the mid-1970s are in circulation. The CC mark was used for a short time in the mid-nineteenth century by a temporary mint in Carson City, Nevada, but all such coins are now in the hands of collectors and museums.
The mass and composition of the cent changed to the current copper plated zinc core in 1982. Both types were minted in 1982 with no distinguishing mark. Cents minted in 1943 were struck on planchets punched from zinc coated steel which left the resulting edges uncoated. This caused many of these coins to rust. These "steel pennies" are not likely to be found in circulation today, as they were later intentionally removed from circulation for destruction. The wheat ear cent was mainstream during its time. Some dates are rare, but some can still be found in circulation. Nickels produced from mid-1942 through 1945 were manufactured from 56% copper, 35% silver and 9% manganese. This allowed the saved nickel metal to be shifted to industrial production of military supplies during World War II. Prior to 1965 and passage of the Coinage Act of 1965 the composition was 90% silver and 10% copper. The half-dollar continued to be minted in a 40% silver-clad composition between 1965 and 1970. Dimes and quarters from before 1965 and half-dollars from before 1971 generally don't remain in circulation due to being removed for their silver content. In 1975 and 1976 bicentennial coinage was minted. Regardless of date of coining, each coin bears the dual date "1776-1976". Use of the Kennedy half-dollar, Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea dollars is not as widespread as that of other coins in general circulation; most Americans use quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies only. Coins are minted for general release through banks and other financial institutions, and are also available for collectors in uncirculated rolls, mint sets and proof sets from the United States Mint. The Presidential Dollar series will feature portraits of all deceased U.S. Presidents with four coin designs issued each year in the order of the president's inauguration date. These coins began circulating on February 15, 2007. The Susan B. Anthony dollar coin was minted from 1979-1981 and 1999. The 1999 minting was in response to Treasury supplies of the dollar becoming depleted and the inability to accelerate the minting of the Sacagawea dollars by a year. 1981 Anthony dollars can sometimes be found in circulation from proof sets that were broken open, but these dollars were not minted with the intent that they circulate.
Non-circulating bullion coins have been produced each year since 1986. They can be found in silver, gold and also platinum since 1997. The face value of these coins is symbolic and does not actually reflect the value of the precious metal contained therein.
- Half cent: $0.005, copper
- Large Cent: $0.01, copper
- Two-cent piece: $0.02, copper
- Three-cent piece: $0.03, silver and copper-nickel
- Half dime: $0.05, silver
- Twenty-cent piece: $0.20, silver
- Silver dollar: $1.00, silver (some modern commemoratives are minted in this denomination)
- Gold dollar: $1.00, gold
- Quarter-eagle: $2.50, gold
- Three-dollar piece: $3.00, gold
- Stella: $4.00, gold (not circulated)
- Half-eagle: $5.00, gold (some modern commemoratives are minted in this denomination)
- Eagle: $10.00, gold (some modern commemoratives are minted in this denomination)
- Double eagle: $20.00, gold, discontinued in the 1930s
- Half-union: $50.00 (Commemorative only, California territorial gold, pattern piece)
Note: It is a common misconception that "eagle"-based nomenclature for gold U.S. coinage was merely slang. This is not the case. The "eagle," "half-eagle" and "quarter-eagle" were specifically given these names in the Coinage Act of 1792. Likewise, the double eagle was specifically created as such by name ("An Act to authorize the Coinage of Gold Dollars and Double Eagles", title and section 1, March 3, 1849).
Some modern commemorative coins have been minted in the silver dollar, half-eagle and eagle denominations.
Please visit Category:US Coins for a list of American Coins