The last few days have been incredibly busy for me. This week, I have finals in school for the end of semester one and then there’s winter break, which means lots of time for coin stuff! Anyways, today, my family and I went to the Weihnachtsmarkt (German Christmas Market) in Chicago and we passed by Harlan J. Berk. Unfortunately, the store wasn’t open, but I did see some awesome stuff in the window that I may go back and look at during the holidays. The window displayed several Mint State Morgans, as well as a very nice complete uncirculated set of Franklin Halves. I’ve always thought sets like that are very cool, but the fun of putting the set together is absent when you choose that route. Personally, that’s what I find to be the most exciting part…the hunt for the perfect coin. Even if you don’t have much to spend, no matter the coin, it can still be a hunt to find the one you want at the price you want. There were also a few commemorative coins that I really liked in the window. There were quite a few window shoppers, likely because it was nearby the market and was a common route to get there. Now for the main part of the blog about Bicentennial Coins:
In the 1970s, the United States Mint decided to create the first “commemorative” coin since 1954. The Mint Director, Mary Brooks, chose to have three new coins designed to commemorate the bicentennial anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1976. The three coins were a bicentennial quarter, half dollar, and dollar coin. These coins are not a traditional commemorative coin, though, and rather a one-year change, similar to the Lincoln Cents in 2009 and the Jefferson Nickels in both 2004 and 2005. Designs for the coins were submitted by several sculptors and were judged by judges to decide on which designs to use for the new coins. The obverse of the three coins would remain the same as previous years in the series, save for the addition of an extra date on the coin, 1776-1976. Each reverse is different and were designed by different people. The reverse for the bicentennial Washington Quarter was designed by Jack Ahr, the bicentennial Kennedy half dollar by Seth Huntington and the bicentennial Eisenhower dollar designed by Dennis Williams. Most of the time, the Mint waits for the year to change to begin minting coins for the next year, but these coins were minted in both 1975 and 1976.
Because this was such a special coin, having a different reverse design and being the first commemorative coin for many years, hoarding and collecting of these coins was commonplace. The Mint knew that this would happen, however, and minted an extraordinary amount of these coins. There were over 850 million of the bicentennial Washington Quarters minted at the Denver mint, while only around 350 million were minted at the Denver Mint for the year prior. This is a similar story for the other mints and denominations. Due to the specialty of the coins, the US Mint created special collector coins, such as proof and silver versions. Unfortunately, due to the high mintage and the large hoarding of these one-time designs, these coins are mostly worth face value, unless you have an uncirculated business strike or special collector coin, like the proof or silver versions. The business strike coins are still often found in circulation. Half dollar and dollar coins are a lot less popular in general circulation, but bicentennial Washington Quarters are found easily in coin rolls, still being one of the most common years, despite hoarding.