CheerioCoins's Blog

20 Aug 2022

Coins That Broke the Law

| CheerioCoins

While I continue to look for 1936 commems for my exhibit, I find out a lot about different coins. One coin in particular that interested me: the 1936 Robinson-Arkansas Half Dollar. The thing that interested me was that at the time the commemorative coin was being minted, Senator Joseph Robinson was living. Why did this surprise me? It is the law that no living person can be put on a U.S. coin. In 1866, Congress issued an act stating that no living person can be portrayed on American currency. Our Founding Fathers believed it was unpatriotic for living people's likenesses to be placed on money in circulation. Although he did die the year that they were minted, 1937. They are dated 1936 but were minted in 1937 (some coins are just weird like that).

I decided to look further into that and found out there have been multiple coins that have broken this law. The first to do so was with Calvin Coolidge. The Philadelphia mint decided to make a commemorative half dollar for America’s sesquicentennial celebration in 1926. They decided to add George Washinton and Calvin Coolidge but Calvin Coolidge was still alive at the time and didn’t die until 1933.

Another U.S. coin that has broken this law is the 1995 Special Olympics commemorative half dollar. The obverse features Eunice Kennedy Shriver who was John F. Kennedy’s sister. She founded the Special Olympics and was featured on this commemorative half dollar. She didn’t die until 2009, making her the third person on this list.

Finally, there is one other coin that I think should make the cut, that’s the 2016 Nancy Reagan First Spouse $5 gold piece. It was approved and minted in early 2016 before she died, which would add her to the list. But she died a few months before the coin was ever minted.

I’m sure that there are one or two coins that I may have missed so tell me if you know of another. This was a kind of fun blog to write and research. The photos I made were fun to make.

Thanks for reading my blog and have a great day!



AC coin$

Level 6

Very interesting blog and facts about coinage and their (as you called them "which broke the law") pre-dated or non-standard mint dates. Did not know until now the list was quite populated. It serves me as a stun considering the fact that all US coinage and paper-money is tied to a legal certification and cited at the moment of public issue. Thanks much, great blog.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

Actually, the first U. S. Coin to feature a living person was the 1921 Alabama commemorative half dollar. It featured both the deceased first governor William Bibb and the then present governor Thomas Kilby.


Level 2

Great post. Very interesting and comprehensive. I'd like to know if there are any additional coins to add to your list but it sounds like this is a pretty comprehensive list. It would be interesting to know if any of these coins were associated with legislation allowing them to be minted, or if the fact these were commemoratives would exempt them from the 1866 law so Long Beard indicated.


Level 6

Nice blog. Our elected leaders can make the laws as they go.


Level 5

Interesting. I'm inclined to give Nancy Reagan a pass because she had died before the coin was released, and Barbara Bush was held up until she died. Furthermore, Rosalynn Carter will not be released until she dies. Don't forget the 1921 Alabama Commemorative half-dollar and then governor Thomas Kilby. In fact, Thomas Kilby is the first living person to be depicted on a US coin.

It's Mokie

Level 6

And let's not forget that President Washington did not want his image on a coin (presumably forever). But we went against his expressed wishes and did it anyway on numerous coins. Shame on you govt.


Level 6

Great blog Cheerio! Very fun...cool subject. You did a great job! Really clever photos! ; )


Level 7

I have read the blog and it's very interesting. I could not find a specific law. I did find that the mint would break tradition on weather it was a commenertive coin or a business strike. The law I would like to read. In every case the wording was breaking tradition! Its a blog that gets you thinking. Now the question is There is a law? Or its just tradition. On a commen or business strike. Thanks for a good blog I will be looking for this law. I know there are standards that the Treasury has. Keep up the great work. I enjoy these blogs!


Level 6

Fun blog to read. Good job on your research as well. I really like your photos. Very clever 2C. Thanks

Long Beard

Level 5

Interesting. Technically, those listed are commemoratives as opposed to coinage meant for actual distribution and circulation through commerce. Even though, monetized, they are acceptable as such. Second, all of these were issued and sold with a premium above face value, the proceeds of which went to the respective sponsor. Yet people still spend them at face to this day. Go figure. Enjoyed the read and your research. Keep plugging away at those early commems!


Level 4

Quite the interesting differentiation between many current currencies in the world and the United States. Many countries, like the UK, place high importance on the current living monarch/head of state being on their currency. The U.S. is quite the rebel, as we always have, that only deceased persons, and not even necessarily former Presidents are allowed on coin and currency. These stand-outs are definitely the exception. Thanks for sharing the information.

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