Numismatic FAQs

Below you will find links to subject areas containing answers to many commonly asked numismatic questions that we receive on a regular basis. 

If you have a question that does not appear in one of the subject areas below or for more information about the American Numismatic Association, please contact us at or call (800) 367-9723. Our museum and library staff will be happy to assist you as you discover and explore the world of money.

Depending upon the extent of the research necessary to answer individual questions, a research fee may be required. If a fee is required, our staff will provide you with a cost estimate before conducting research on your behalf.

Most Popular FAQs

  • How much is a 1943 steel penny worth?

    In 1943, for one year only, the Mint made cents from steel with a zinc coating. The purpose for this change from previously minted copper cents was to save the copper for use in artillery shells during World War II. Because 1943 cents have a different color, many people believe they were made in error or are very rare. In fact, over 1 billion 1943 cents were minted. Values for this coin, as with all coins, depends on condition. Circulated 1943 cents have a very modest value.

  • What is the value of my coin, note, token or medal?

    As a non-profit, educational institution, the ANA is not part of the market. That is, we do not buy, sell, or arrange the sale of numismatic items. Therefore, we are unable to determine the actual “value” of your item. Collector or numismatic value is largely based on rarity and condition, as well as market factors of supply and demand. Rarity is established by the production numbers/mintage of an item. The market is determined by the number of collectors wanting to own an item versus the number that exist. Condition refers to the physical state of the item. Due to the large numbers of coins and paper money produced globally since the 20th century, most circulating legal tender produced during that era will hold only a nominal collector’s value over the face value amount.

    An exact value can only be established by a careful physical examination of the item by an experienced numismatist. We suggest you take your items to an ANA member coin dealer in your local area for an evaluation. You will find a listing of dealers listed by state or country on the ANA website under “Find A Dealer.” Please note, ANA-member dealers are bound by our “Code of Ethics.”

  • How do I find the value of my coin, notes, tokens or medals?

    An approximate retail value of your item can be determined by consulting one of many published sources. The latest editions of “A Guide Book of United States Coins” by R. S. Yeoman, “Paper Money of the United States” by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg, as well as the “Standard Catalog of World Coins” and the “Standard Catalog of World Paper Money” (both published by Krause Publications) are available at many libraries and bookstores.

  • Do coins from other countries hold collector value?

    Just because an item seems rare in the United States, this does not mean that it holds numismatic value above the legal-tender amount in the issuing country. Just like U.S. coinage and currency issues, foreign money holds numismatic value based on rarity and condition. You can ascertain a retail value range from “Standard Catalog of World Coins” and the  “Standard Catalog of World Paper Money,” both published by Krause Publications. These sources are often found in libraries and bookstores or you can order them directly from the You may also want to consult a local ANA-member dealer for evaluation.

  • Should I clean my coins?

    The short answer is “NO!” Cleaning a coin often presents an enigma. A coin that has circulated and shows signs of wear has an altered appearance if it has been cleaned. In essence, what you would have is a coin that is bright but worn. Generally, a coin will lose some of its value after being cleaned. Most experienced numismatists are able to spot a cleaned coin fairly easily. If a coin is so corroded that it is unrecognizable, you may try a solution of mild dish soap and distilled water. Rinse the coin thoroughly with distilled water and allow the coin to air dry or gently pat dry, otherwise you should leave coin cleaning to professional services such as NCS.

  • What do the designs on the reverse of the $1 note mean?

    After many revisions, the Great Seal became the national emblem in 1782. The back of the current U.S. $1 Federal Reserve Note displays images found on both sides of the seal.

    The obverse of the seal is found on the right side of the note and was designed by Charles Thomson. A bald eagle holds an olive branch with 13 leaves in one talon and arrows (the traditional American Indian symbol of war) in the other. The eagle is facing the olive branch to signify that peace is preferable to war. Written on the ribbon above the eagle’s head is the national motto in Latin “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” meaning “one from many” or one country composed of 13 states. The 13 stars, leaves, letters and stripes denote the 13 original states or the Continental Congress.

    The reverse of the seal, located on the left, was submitted by William Barton and displays a pyramid, a symbol of strength and permanence, however the structure was left incomplete, just as the United States continues to grow and build. The eye in the triangle overlooking the pyramid suggests the “all-seeing Deity” emphasizing spiritual welfare, while also recognizing education and freedom of knowledge. The Latin phrase “ANNUIT COEPTIS” translates “He (God) has smiled on our undertakings.” The mottos have 13 letters, and there are 13 steps on the pyramid. “NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM” means “A new order of the ages.” The date at the base, 1776, refers to signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

  • Are $2 bills valuable? I never see them in circulation, so they must be rare, right?

    No. In fact, the B.E.P. (Bureau of Engraving and Printing) still produces the $2 bill and it can still be found in circulation today. Banks often have some on hand and they are available for even exchange at face value.

  • Can you explain Silver Certificates? Do these notes hold collector value?

    Silver Certificates were legal-tender issue notes authorized by the Acts of February 28, 1878, and August 4, 1886, and have been issued in all denominations up to $5,000. Many of the early “Large Size” issues featured beautiful, ornate engravings. The later “Small Size” notes resemble Federal Reserve Notes but bear blue seals, and feature the wording “Silver Certificate” on the face. Silver Certificates were last issued in 1957.

    While these notes were legal tender for debts, public and private, they were once exchangeable for silver. In 1967, in an attempt to pull the notes out of circulation and replace them with Federal Reserve Notes, the U.S. Treasury offered the public an exchange rate of $1 to .77 oz. of silver. The redemption period ended June 24, 1968. In all, $150 million in notes were exchanged, leaving approximately $240 million in notes still outstanding and in circulation.

    Silver Certificates are still valid forms of legal tender, however some may carry numismatic value as well. Early “Large Size” notes are particularly sought after, and depending on condition, can command high numismatic values. Later “Small Size” issues in crisp, uncirculated condition may also hold a premium over face value. However, notes that have been in circulation and are folded and/or torn will probably carry only legal-tender value.

  • E Pluribus Unum – What does this U.S. motto mean?

    “E Pluribus Unum” is a Latin term that means “Out of Many, One.” The motto first appeared on some post-colonial New Jersey coinage issues in 1786, but didn’t show up on federal coinage until 1795, on the half-eagle gold coin. An Act of February 12, 1873 made the motto a requirement of law for coins minted in the U.S. thereafter.

  • How can I tell if my numismatic item is authentic or a copy?

    There are many “tribute” copies of rare coins on the market. These coins were not created to deceive but rather to allow people to own a facsimile of an original that is very difficult to own. Most of these coins have the words “Copy” or “Replica” engraved on them in an inconspicuous spot. Coins or notes that were created to deceive can be very hard to detect. It is best to take your item to an ANA affiliated dealer for authentication. Please consult our Dealer Directory to locate a dealer near you.

  • Is it legal to own gold coins in the United States?

    Yes, from 1933 to 1974 there was a restriction on private citizens owning gold bullion without a special license. The restriction against gold was lifted effective January 1, 1975.  You are now able to own all of the gold that you can afford. The country of origin of a gold coin(s) does not matter.

  • How much gold is in the Golden Dollar coins made since 2000?

    Although it has been advertised extensively as the “Golden Dollar,” the new U.S. Sacagawea dollar coin, first issued in 2000, is struck from the same basic composition as the Susan B. Anthony dollar. To lend the same electromagnetic profile for use in vending machines, outer layers of copper and nickel are bonded to a core of pure copper. However, manganese was added to the outside mix to lend the golden hue. Mint officials recognized right away that the coins would tarnish quite quickly, however since the toning would only darken and further emphasize the color difference between the dollar and the quarter, this was not considered a detriment since the Susan B. Anthony dollar did not succeed due to its similarity to the quarter.

    You will find further information on the Sacagawea dollar on the U.S. Mint website.

  • Can I still spend older, obsolete U.S. coins today?

    All coins issued by the U.S. Mint are considered legal tender despite their age, and should still be honored at their face value in commercial channels. However, many former issues of U.S. coins are considered collectible, and some are worth even more due to their precious metal content. As such, it would be considered unwise to use some older coins in commerce today. (You could use a $10 gold coin to buy your value meal if you chose to do so, but don’t be surprised at the looks you’ll get from the people in the drive-thru window!)

  • Why do some coins have edges with letters and/or designs on them?

    This is employed as a security measure, done to thwart counterfeiting. Its use is solely at the discretion of each country and many different features have been utilized over time. For hundreds of years, it was known that dishonest people might chip or chisel bits of gold and silver from the edges of coins before spending them, in order to keep some of the precious metal for themselves. Eventually, some of these “chiselers” were caught, so governments started adding designs with artwork that covered the entire surface of a coin, reaching all the way to the edges (i.e., English “Long Cross” pennies.) As time went on, many coins were manufactured with designs actually placed on the edges—a practice that continues to this day, all around the world.

  • How long have human beings used money?

    We have been using many different items to exchange goods and services for at least the last 8,000 years. The seafaring Phoenicians first spread this concept of trade greatly throughout the Mediterranean region over 3,000 years ago. The Lydian people of Asia Minor are generally credited with creating the first standardized monetary system, using lumps of electrum (a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver) as early as the 7th Century B.C. “Money” as we know it was primarily invented from our need to simplify commerce over time as our civilizations and societies became more complex.

  • What does the ANA do anyway – What does membership in the ANA mean to me?

    The ANA was established in 1891. It is the hobby’s oldest and largest money collector organization in the world, and continually serves the needs of its members every day. We sincerely believe that membership in the ANA is one of the best investments any money collector can make, based on several factors.

    Benefits include:

    The Numismatist. The hobby’s premier journal is included with your membership. Each monthly issue includes three or four feature articles, association news and columns by some of the hobbies foremost authorities. Advertising is accepted only from member dealers who support the ANA’s code of ethics.

    Library. ANA Members can “borrow the book before they buy the coin” from the Dwight N. Manley Numismatic Library. Over 50,000 books, auction catalogs, videos and slide sets in the world’s largest numismatic lending library are available to members, just for the price of postage. Individualized in-depth research services are also available.

    Money Museum. The Edward C. Rochette Money Museum is open five days a week. Members are allowed to visit the museum free of charge. We have three galleries: Permanent gallery downstairs about the history of money, as well as our mini-mint and Kids Zone sections. Every third Saturday of the month is FREE for non-members. Third Saturdays also include mini-mint presentations, where visitors can receive a free token struck from actual, working die presses. Kids can participate in monthly activities on these Saturdays as well; courses that teach youngsters ages 4-12 about several different aspects of numismatics.

    Educational Opportunities. From our famous Summer Seminar to our traveling grading seminars, to our home-study courses, and Money Talks presentations at ANA conventions, the ANA provides the knowledge you need to collect with confidence.

    Consumer Alert Resources (C.A.R.E.). Arming members with consumer protection resources, fraud alerts and mediation services, ANA’s C.A.R.E. program is truly a benefit. Our loss alert/reward program will pay up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of persons committing crimes against ANA members. Through our mediation services we assist members in resolving disputes arising from unsatisfactory coin transactions. ANA members and dealers must abide by the ANA Code of Ethics.

    Collection and Health Insurance. Members can insure their entire collection at low group rates. Other group insurance plans include: Catastrophic Major Medical, Term Life, Long Term Care, Major Medical, Short Term Major Medical, Accidental Death & Dismemberment, and Hospital Indemnity & Cancer.

    Direct Submissions to Numismatic Conservation Services (NCS) – NCS is the conservation service of choice of the ANA. Active ANA members may submit coins for conservation directly to NCS.

    Direct Submissions to Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) – NGC is the Official Grading Service of the ANA. Active ANA members may submit coins for grading directly to NGC.

    ANA Club listings  can put you in touch with local, regional and specialty clubs that provide the personal support and camaraderie that makes collecting such a rewarding hobby.

    ANA Dealer Directory provides member dealers with free listings for their numismatic businesses.

    Young Numismatist Programs developed especially for the beginning collector. The Ancient Coin Project allows YNs to earn ancient coins. The Early American Copper Coin Project provides YN’s opportunities to learn about and earn early United States half and large cents. The Coins For A’s program rewards youngsters for high marks earned on report cards (home-schoolers may also participate in this program! Please contact the Education Department for details.) The YN auction allows young collectors to buy coins using “money” earned by participating in the hobby. Scholarships to the Summer Seminar conference are just one the many awards YNs can receive by being involved in numismatics.

    The ANA welcomes numismatists of all ages, beginner and expert alike. Join the members who are already taking advantage of the ANA programs and services to become more knowledgeable and confident collectors!

  • I want to become a certified Numismatist, and ultimately work for a coin grading company. Everything I’ve read online is confusing. I see seminars, workshops, and annual meetings, but no specific certification programs that are clearly defined with curriculum and required classes listed. Can you help me please?

    Interestingly enough, there is no such thing as a “certified” numismatist. Many people think certain credentials are required to work in the numismatic hobby/industry, especially when it comes to working for a third party coin grading and authentication service (aka, a TPG). The main requirement to get a job in this field is primarily knowing the right person/people, as it is with most any other career. It would be advisable to show your skills and experience to others, and in time, word of mouth will likely circulate amongst prominent collectors and dealers–this can definitely work for you, but it could definitely work against you if your skills aren’t as sharp as you think they are. Many dealers and/or people who work for a TPG have been involved in the hobby in some ways for decades. In fact, many YNs (Young Numismatists) get their start by interning for a TPG or in a coin shop (your skills and years of experience would definitely be key factors regarding your chances of getting a job at a TPG).

    The closest anyone could become to being a “certified” numismatist is by enrolling and successfully completing the Numismatic Diploma Program through the ANA’s correspondence courses and/or attending Summer Seminar (we highly recommended taking any coin or paper money grading classes in person, rather than through correspondence whenever possible). Upon completion of the required coursework, you will be awarded a Numismatic Scholar diploma. We offer these courses to enhance your collecting experience, and though you will likely learn many skills crucial to being a successful numismatist, it still does not equate to any type of accredited certification, and does not certify you as a “Numismatist” in any way. You can learn more about our educational offerings by clicking on the following link:

U.S. Coin Questions

  • What women have been portrayed on United States coinage?

    Women have appeared on U.S. coinage as an allegory of “Liberty” since the early days of the U.S. Mint. Susan B. Anthony, Helen Keller (Alabama Quarter) and Sacagawea are the “actual” women who have appeared on U.S. circulating coinage. However, Queen Isabella of Spain, Eleanor and Virginia Dare, Dolley Madison and Eunice Kennedy Shriver are immortalized on U.S. commemorative coins. Additionally, the Mint is producing $10 gold coins as part of the “First Spouse” series, begun in 2007.

    2022 has kicked off the start of the U.S. Mint’s American Women Quarters Program, which is running for the next four years. For more information, visit the U.S. Mint’s website at

  • When was the motto “In God We Trust” placed on U.S. coinage?

    The motto “In God We Trust” was first placed on U.S. coinage in 1864.  An era of high religious sentiment surfaced during the Civil War.  Many citizens desired that their religious beliefs be reflected on the nation’s currency.  The two-cent piece was the first coin to bear the motto.

  • What does MCMLXXXVI mean on my gold coin?

    MCMLXXXVI are Roman numerals for the date 1986.  When the United States Mint began creating gold eagle bullion coins, they used Roman numerals to signify the date from 1986 to 1991.

  • Why are only dead Presidents featured on U.S. coins?

    Not all U.S. circulating coins feature Presidents. Examples of people who have appeared on U.S. circulating coins but were never President are Ben Franklin, Sacagawea and Susan B. Anthony. The tradition that living leaders should not appear on coinage dates back to the times of Republican Rome. Today, the law states that for the Presidential $1 Program, no coin can bear the image of a living former or current President, or of any deceased former President during the 2 -year period following the date of death of that President. It is interesting to note that on the Sesquicentennial commemorative half dollar, the image of President Calvin Coolidge (who was very much alive at the time of issuance) appears.

  • Is my 1804 dollar authentic?

    The U.S. 1804 dollar is one of the most sought-after numismatic items and has been labeled “The King of Coins.”  Collectors are aware of fifteen total specimens.  At this point, all are accounted for in known collections.  While it is unlikely, a previously unknown specimen could surface.  If you have an 1804 dollar, take it to an ANA affiliated dealer for authentication.  Beware of the numerous replicas and copies.

  • Why is the 1913 Liberty Head nickel so valuable?

    The U.S. Mint produced the “Liberty Head Type” nickel, designed by Charles E. Barber, from 1883 to 1912. In 1913 the nickel design was changed to James E. Fraser’s Indian Head obverse with a Buffalo reverse. However, some time near the end of the production run in 1912, five coins bearing the Liberty Head design, but with a date of 1913, were produced. Over the next four decades, the nickels were purchased and sold several times over, either individually or as a set. Currently, specimens change hands for a minimum price of $3-5 million, and a distinct buzz is felt within the numismatic community any time one of these ultra-rarities crosses the auction block. Counterfeits and altered nickels bearing the date 1913 are abundant. Professional authentication is highly recommended for any Liberty Head nickel dated 1913.

  • I have a Liberty Head nickel that is older than the 1913 Liberty Head nickel. Is it worth more?

    There are several variables that determine a coin’s value. Two of the most important variables are mintage number and condition. 1913 Liberty Head nickels are so valuable because only 5 specimens are known to exist. Other Liberty Head nickels, though older, were standard circulating issues, with well over 1 million examples struck for every date in the series. They may hold a numismatic value based on the condition of the coin. Please see a Local ANA Member Coin Dealer for an evaluation.

  • Why is there a letter “P” over the dome of Monticello on my nickel?

    U.S. military needs during WWII mandated several changes in U.S. coinage. From 1942 through 1945, the composition of the Jefferson nickel was changed to what is known as the “wartime alloy” of 56% copper, 35% silver and 9% manganese to allow the government to use nickel as a strategic material. Previously, the mintmark on the five cent issue was located on the reverse to the right of the building. In 1942, the large mintmarks were placed over the dome of Monticello to denote the change in composition. The letter P (Philadelphia Mint) was also used for the first time as a mintmark. D (Denver) and S (San Francisco) mintmarks were also still utilized. The pre-war mintmark location and composition were resumed in 1946.

  • I have a silver dollar with a misspelling. TRUST was spelled TRVST. How valuable is it?

    The Peace dollar series was issued from 1921 through 1935. Designer Anthony de Francisci chose to use a lettering style that was part of the Greek-Roman Revival period which was popular in the arts at that time. There is no misspelling in the design and therefore there is no added value.

  • When did the Mint first strike coins and what were the first coins struck?

    While the Mint struck coins in 1792, the first official Mint circulating issues were large-sized cents struck in 1793.

  • Why did the United States make three-cent coins?

    In 1851, the postage rate decreased from 5 cents to three cents. To make it easier for people to purchase stamps, the government passed legislation to create the silver three-cent piece, or trime, as it was sometimes called.

  • I have a nickel with a buffalo on the back that has no date. Is this an error coin?

    More than likely, your Buffalo nickel had a date but the date has worn away through circulation. The date on a Buffalo nickel is located on the front (obverse) of the coin on the shoulder of the Indian. Because the date is on a high point of the design, it easily wears away. A “dateless” nickel still retains its face value and there are even some companies who will purchase them for a very modest premium. If you have nickels without a date, you may consider giving them to children. Many youngsters have started collecting coins after receiving a Buffalo nickel. Some people even use them as pocket change today, yet again proving why it is a great idea to inspect your change before spending it!

  • What is the highest denomination U.S. coin?

    Twenty-dollar gold pieces were the highest denomination circulating coins. Also known as double eagles, twenty-dollar coins were minted from 1850 until 1933. Fifty-dollar gold pieces to commemorate the Panama-Pacific exposition were minted in 1915. Currently, the U.S. Mint offers one-ounce platinum bullion coins with a face value of $100.

  • Why did the U.S. Mint make half cents?

    Over 150 years ago, a half cent could actually buy real objects. But as time went on, prices for goods and services grew higher, so the half cent couldn’t buy as much as it used to (a.k.a. inflation). Even the British utilized Farthings until the mid-20th century—and farthings were worth only ¼ of an English penny! As a nation’s economy changes, so too will their monetary denominations.

  • Why did the U.S.A. have two-cent, three-cent, and twenty-cent pieces?

    Two-cent and three-cent pieces were utilized to make it easier to make some purchases because one-cent pieces were much larger and heavier in the early/mid 1800s than they are now. It was also thought that having a two-cent piece would discourage hoarding of large one-cent coins. In 1851, the postage rate decreased from 5 cents to three cents. To make it easier for people to purchase stamps, the government passed legislation to create the silver three-cent piece, or “trime” as it was sometimes called. Twenty-cent pieces didn’t last too long in circulation. They were not very popular, as people would often confuse them with twenty-five cent pieces, or quarter-dollar coins.

  • Why doesn’t the U.S. Mint make the Susan B. Anthony Dollar coin anymore?

    This coin was not too popular when it was first issued because of its similar size to the quarter-dollar. It was only produced for a few years, from 1979 to 1981, and once more in 1999. Some people were upset about making 75-cent mistakes when they didn’t look closely enough at their change. This was an overriding factor that led to a composition change in 2000, with the introduction of the “Golden Dollar” coins. The size of the golden dollar is the same as the Anthony dollar, but with a much more noticeable color difference to alleviate confusion.

    Furthermore, the S.B.A. dollar could have been made in the same size as the standard dollar coins of the past, including the more recent Eisenhower Dollar, minted from 1971-1978. However, larger sized U.S. coins had fallen out of public favor by this time, and Mint officials felt a smaller sized dollar coin would have been met with better public opinion. Apparently, even the golden dollars aren’t too popular as circulating legal tender either—for the time being.

  • I’ve seen coins from around the world in various shapes or with holes in them. Why are U.S. coins round—do they have to be?

    Not really—The Coinage Act of 1792 states that U.S. coins had to “conform to several standards and weights, with designs emblematic of Liberty, with an eagle on the reverse of ALL gold and silver coins.” No mention is made of “shapes” in the Act. Some $50 gold pieces issued to commemorate the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco are the only U.S. issue produced with a non-round (octagonal) shape.

  • Has the Mint ever made coins with holes in them? What about bi-metallic coins?

    The U.S. Mint has never intentionally issued a holed, circulating coin. There have been several pattern coins suggested for use in the 19th century, but to date, no U.S. holey coins have ever realized a full production run. In 1792, the Mint created their first bi-metallic coin—a copper cent with a silver center, but only 14 of these ultra-rarities are known today. The only other U.S. bi-metallic coin issued was the Library of Congress Bicentennial Commemorative ten dollar coin in 2000. It consists of a gold ring surrounding a platinum center.

  • I have an old Continental Currency coin. It must be real because I found it in my grandmother’s jewelry box. How much is it worth?

    Many people believe counterfeit coins to be only a recent phenomenon. Actually, counterfeit coins have been around almost as long as coins themselves. Many copies of Continental Currency have been made. Most copies were not produced to deceive, but were created as a souvenir to remind people of our colonial history. Many souvenir coins have the word “copy” engraved on the coin in an inconspicuous place. If you believe your coin to be authentic, take the coin to your local ANA affiliated dealer. They should be able to authenticate the coin for you.

  • I just purchased a colorized U.S. coin for my grandchildren. Can you tell me if it will be valuable in the future?

    While it is impossible to look in to the future and determine the value of coins, a colorized U.S. coin is considered altered and therefore has little numismatic interest. The coin may prove valuable as a keepsake but will most likely have little collectible interest above its face value.

  • What about coins layered in platinum or 24-karat gold? How much value will they have in the future?

    As with colorized coins, the same can also be said with regard to value for coins that have been plated with other metals like gold or platinum. These plated coins contain only a minimal amount of precious metal; a few micrograms at best, and cannot be extracted without damaging the coin further. Plating is also considered an alteration and actually detracts from the overall collectability and value of a coin treated in this manner.

  • I have a quarter that looks like an accordion. What happened to it?

    In 2003, the U.S. Mint began using machines into which error coins were fed during the quality control process. The machines create a distorted or “waffled” surface on the coins. This was done to prevent numismatists who specialize in error coins from acquiring scarce mistakes, which can sometimes bring spectacular prices if deemed rare enough. Waffled coins are sold as scrap metal to some recycling companies, and even these intentionally damaged pieces often make their way into the numismatic marketplace. While it is legal to own a waffled coin, the intent behind the process was to prevent people from profiting from the Mint’s mistakes.

  • My coin has an error—some of the date or design is missing. What should I do? Is it valuable?

    Although world mint facilities, including the U.S. Mint adhere to strict quality control standards, errors in coin production do occur from time to time. Many non-collectors or novice numismatists may be led to believe many of these odd-looking pieces are worth huge multiples above the value of a normal specimen, yet this is rarely the case. Values are based on the rarity and severity of the error, as well as the denomination.

    It is best to take any questionable coins to an ANA affiliated dealer. The dealer will first determine whether the coin is a true error or a coin that had been altered after entering circulation. If the dealer determines the coin to be a legitimate error, they can often provide guidance as to its value. A list of ANA approved dealers who specialize in this field can be found in our Dealer Directory.

  • What other denominations have been used in the past for U.S. circulating coins?

    1/2c, 2c, 3c, 20c; and for gold, $1, $2.50, $3, $5, $10 and $20. (At one point in the 1800s there were patterns designed for a “Half Union” coin, or $50 gold piece, but this never realized actual production or use in commerce.)

    The five-cent piece in the U.S. was initially referred to as a “Half Dime” and was minted in silver. However, due to monetary issues surrounding the Civil War, the five-cent piece’s composition was changed to copper-nickel starting in 1866. Oddly enough, most Americans today refer to the five-cent piece as a “nickel,” when in fact they only contain 25% of the element nickel (they are 75% copper)! Nickel was first used in U.S. coinage alloys in the 1850s, when the one-cent piece’s size and composition was overhauled. One-cent pieces from 1857-1864 were commonly referred to as “nicks.” In 1864, the one-cent piece was changed to a bronze alloy, allowing for the American five-cent piece to enjoy the moniker, “nickel” all on its own.

General Questions

  • What does the term numismatist mean?

    A numismatist [noo-MIZ-muh-tist] is one who studies money in any of its forms. Numismatists often specialize in certain areas of numismatics such as coins, medals and tokens, or paper currency. There are no prerequisites to becoming a numismatist, other than a yearning for knowledge of anything to do with money in any form.

  • I’ve just inherited a large coin collection. How can I obtain an appraisal?

    Researching the items yourself is a great way to learn more about your collection. Most likely you will not be able to determine an exact value but by using the sources referenced in Question 1, you should be able to establish a retail value range for the collection.

    If you need an exact figure, or the collection is overwhelming, it is best to use the services of a professional numismatist. Once a dealer has been located, you should call the dealer and set an appointment so that the dealer can expect you and have time reserved just for you. Please indicate to the dealer the size of the collection to be appraised. Most dealers will charge for the appraisal so it is best to establish the fee beforehand. Plan to stay while the dealer is performing the appraisal.

    If you believe your collection to be particularly valuable, you may wish to have your collection appraised by more than one dealer. If you have trouble locating a dealer, refer to our Dealer Directory for assistance.

  • I inherited a coin collection. I know nothing about coins but I would like to sell them. How do I find someone I can trust to buy them?
    Trying to sell coins with no background knowledge can be a very frustrating experience. It is always best to try and learn the approximate value of your coins before offering them for sale. There are several venues in which to sell your numismatic items. Those venues include selling to a dealer, selling on the Internet or contracting your coins to be sold at auction.
    Whichever venue you choose, it is your responsibility to be an informed seller because once you agree to the sale, the transaction is final. If you decide to sell your coins to a dealer, be up front as to your intentions and do not expect to get the retail value for your collection. Dealers offer a price based on several variables including condition of the item and current demand. They must make a wholesale offer so that they will be able to sell the item at retail to make a profit. If you are not satisfied with an offer, you have the ability to refuse and offer your coins to another dealer.
  • I would like to collect coins. Where do I begin?
    The most important thing to remember is that coin (or paper money, medal, token) collecting is a hobby. As a hobby, it must be enjoyable or you will lose interest. There are many ways in which to assemble a collection. If you are interested in collecting United States coins, the place to start may be the coins you have in your pocket. It is a good practice to always check your change.
    Once you have decided what you want to collect, you should consider ways to be a more informed collector. Education is the key to getting the most enjoyment from the hobby. Consider joining a local club and becoming a member of the ANA. Find out the ways that an  ANA Membership will help you get the most out of your collection.
    Treasures in Your Pocket highlights the initial “coin hunting” steps for beginners to take, preparing them to recognize the subtle nuances and variations of a collectible coin.
  • How should I store my numismatic collection?

    It is best to store coins individually in containers designed to limit exposure to detrimental elements as much as possible. These supplies for long-term storage, such as acid-free envelopes or PVC-free mylar “flips,” are available for purchase through your local ANA member dealer. Paper money should be stored in PVC-free, mylar sleeves. A dry environment in a fairly constant temperature is important for long-term storage of your numismatic items. If you store your collection in a safe-deposit box, check on your collection every few months to make sure no problems are developing.

  • I have paper money from the Confederacy. How can I tell if it is authentic?

    There are many copies of Confederate and Colonial currency in existence. Notes that are printed on thick brown parchment are not authentic and were created as souvenirs. One way to check the authenticity of your Confederate or Colonial currency is to check the serial numbers. “Bogus or Facsimile” is a website that can help.

  • I am learning to grade coins but am worried that people may not agree with my grading system if I decide to sell part of my collection. What do you suggest?

    Many collectors share your concern. The American Numismatic Association offers classes on grading at our Summer Seminar and national conventions to help collectors improve their grading skills. However, many collectors like the added security of having their coins graded by a recognized professional numismatist. Numismatic Guaranty Corporation is the official grading service of the ANA.They will grade and encapsulate your coins for you. Consider contacting NGC for more information.

  • I have several pieces of paper money I have collected over the years. Coins are graded, what about paper currency?

    Yes, paper money can be graded. The American Numismatic Association often offers a class on grading paper money at its Summer Seminar. Paper Money Guaranty (PMG) will grade and encapsulate paper money of the United States as well as many world banknotes. Please contact them for more information.

  • How do I find a reliable coin dealer? Can I trust who I buy my coins from?

    Becoming a member of your local coin club is a great way to find reputable people and dealers. You can access the American Numismatic Association’s Dealer Directory and Club Directory to view current listings. All of the dealers listed in our directory are members in good standing and are bound by a code of ethics. Local pawn shops, television promoters and flea market dealers are not necessarily dishonest, yet they are not held to as high of a standard as our member dealers. It is advised to exercise caution and due diligence before transacting business with anyone; caveat emptor!

  • What do I need to know before I buy an expensive coin? How can I be sure a coin isn’t counterfeit or misrepresented?

    It is the duty of the buyer to be aware of what he/she is buying. Education is the key to successful purchases. Read numismatic books whose subjects deal with your collecting interests. Participate in classes held by your local club. Attend American Numismatic Association (ANA) grading and counterfeit detection classes. Consider enrolling in the ANA Diploma Program.

  • Old coins were not counterfeited, were they?

    The first counterfeit coin was probably produced about 15 minutes after the first legitimate coin was minted. Counterfeit coins can be produced by an expert whose creation is very difficult to discern from the real item. Fake coins have been made during all time periods.

  • What items have people used as money throughout history?

    It would be an exceptionally long list to include everything humans have ever utilized as a medium of exchange over time! The best items were objects that held some value, either in their utility or potential. The primary criteria for determining what items may best be used to exchange goods and services would be anything in demand that is portable, divisible, useful and durable. Some of these items include animals and their byproducts, salt, foodstuffs, precious stones and metals, and even people. The Charles Opitz book, “An Ethnographic Study of Traditional Money,” is one of the most comprehensive works on the subject of odd & curious items used as money by humans across the globe.

  • What is an uncirculated coin?

    In theory, an uncirculated coin is a coin that has never been used in commerce. A more practical definition of an uncirculated coin is a coin that shows absolutely no trace of wear and is in the same condition as when it left the Mint. Due to the minting and transportation processes, an uncirculated coin may exhibit flaws such as nicks or scratches as it encounters similar coins in a Mint bag.

  • What is a commemorative coin?

    Commemorative coins are issues that are produced to record and honor a person, place or event. Commemorative coins have been issued as circulating currency or sold specifically as collector items in several countries around the world. The United States Presidential Dollar Program is a good example of circulating commemorative coinage.

  • What is a bullion coin?
    Bullion coins are produced from precious metals and are typically sold to investors. Even though bullion coins have a denomination and are legal tender in the country from which they were minted, their value is determined by the spot price of their metal content on the world market, rather than the collector or numismatic value.
    The U.S. Mint currently produces bullion issues in three metals: silver, gold and platinum. Before buying or selling bullion, it is advisable to check the spot price of the metal beforehand. Check the Kitco website for up to the minute spot pricing information.
  • What is a mintmark? Is a mintmark important to a coin’s value?

    Mintmarks are letters that indicate where a coin was made. They have been used for over 2,000 years by various nations and empires as a quality control measure. In ancient times, if a coin did not meet the specifications set by the government, the moneyer who issued the coin could be held accountable.

    Currently there are four active government Mints in the United States. Not all operating mints create regular coins for circulation, often referred to as “business strikes.” Currently, the San Francisco and West Point Mints only manufacture coins for collectors. Philadelphia and Denver manufacture coins designed to be used in commerce, but they also produce annual sets for collectors, commonly referred to as “Mint Sets.”

    Older coins may have mintmarks from Mints no longer in operation. All Mints do not produce the same number of coins. A small production number from a particular Mint can result in a coin of greater value and collectability, but this is not always the case.

    Current U.S. Mints and mintmarks:

    (P) Philadelphia, 1793 to date

    (D) Denver, 1906 to date

    (S) San Francisco, 1854 to date

    (W) West Point, 1984 to date

    (Fort Knox, Kentucky is the United States Bullion Depository, not an active mint; 1936 to date.)

    Former U.S. Mints include:

     (C) Charlotte, North Carolina, 1838-1861 (gold coins only)

    (CC) Carson City, Nevada, 1870 to 1893

    (D) Dahlonega, Georgia, 1838-1861 (gold coins only)

    (O) New Orleans, Louisiana, 1838-1909


  • My coin has an error—some of the date or design is missing. What should I do? Is it valuable?

    Although world mint facilities, including the U.S. Mint, adhere to strict quality control standards, errors in coin production do occur from time to time. Many non-collectors or novice numismatists may be led to believe many of these odd-looking pieces are worth huge multiples above the value of a normal specimen, yet this is rarely the case. Values are based on the rarity and severity of the error, as well as the denomination. It is best to take any questionable coins to an ANA affiliated dealer. The dealer will first determine whether the coin is a true error or a coin that had been altered after entering circulation. If the dealer determines the coin to be a legitimate error, they can often provide guidance as to its value. A list of ANA approved dealers who specialize in this field can be found in our Dealer Directory.

  • I have recently seen coins with two heads or two tails. Are these rare and valuable?

    In most instances, a two-headed coin is a fantasy piece. Two coins have been altered to produce one coin. Usually these coins are sold as novelty items or as magician’s tools. As an altered piece, the coin holds no legal tender or numismatic value. Examples of legitimate error two-headed coins have been discovered, albeit exceptionally rare. Based on the minting process and strict quality control measures, this is a near impossibility with U.S. coinage. If you are unsure as to the authenticity of your coin, consider taking your coin to an ANA affiliated dealer.

  • Does a coin that has been soldered to a chain or has a hole punched in it have a lesser value?

    Yes, since so much of the value of a coin is determined by condition, any coin that has been altered for use as jewelry will have a significantly reduced value. Only the rarest of coins in this condition are still considered collectible.

  • What can we learn about history by studying money?

    Money is a representation of material, political and religious culture. Through the study of the coins and paper money of any particular era, one can determine what was important to the people and government at that time. The independent thought of Revolutionary America is glaringly evident in the legends featured on the Fugio cent and Continental Currency piece. Since the portraits used on coinage often denote a reliable and recognizable picture of the rulers, we know that Cleopatra VII bore no resemblance to Elizabeth Taylor and was in fact quite unattractive.

    Items used as units of exchange have existed for all time. However, the first items that we would recognize today as coins came from the kingdom of Lydia, approximately 650 B.C. We also know that paper money was used by the Kao-Tsung dynasty, A.D. 650 to 683. If you are interested in a particular subject area, we suggest you visit your local library, where you will find specific information on the cultural associations of your coins, tokens, medals or paper currency.

  • What is a proof coin?

    The term “proof” is often mistakenly used to describe the condition of a coin. The correct use of the term describes a method of manufacture. Proof coins are made from specially prepared planchets and dies that are struck at least twice. The end product is a coin with a highly mirrored field and frosted detail. Proof coins are produced for, and generally sold to collectors. Even though proof coins are legal tender, the Mint sells them at a premium so they are rarely found in circulation.

  • What is PVC?

    PVC stands for Poly-Vinyl Chloride. PVC is added to plastic coin “flips” to make them softer and less likely to scratch a coin. PVC usually emits an odor similar to a brand new shower curtain liner. Unfortunately, when exposed to heat and light over time, the PVC can break down and release hydrochloric acid, which appears as a greenish slime enveloping your coin. This slime can potentially cause irreparable damage to the surfaces of an object. Always use PVC-free, mylar holders for long-term storage, especially if you live in an area with intense heat and humidity.

  • How can I recognize holders that have PVC?

    Most holders come in packages which have labels that indicate if they are PVC free. If in doubt, ask a professional. Plastic “flips” that contain PVC have a blue tint and are softer and more pliable than plastic holders that do not contain PVC. Products like “Saflips” are made of mylar. These non-plasticized, mylar flips will not leach chemicals onto the surfaces of your items. However, they are not as soft as PVC, so care must be used when inserting and removing coins from mylar products to reduce the possibility of scratching a coin’s surfaces.

Ancient Coins

  • Where were the first coins used?

    While mediums of exchange have existed for all time, the first coins, as we know them, were struck under King Ardys, (652-615 B.C.) ruler of Lydia; located in modern-day Turkey. The coins were struck from electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver that was found in quantity in the mountains and streams of the country. The obverse design was incuse, or sunk into the coin, and the reverse was left blank.

    King Croesus of Lydia (561-456 B.C.) produced “standardized” gold coinage bearing an obverse design of the royal symbol of two facing lions and a bull on the reverse. Surprisingly, the coins of Croesus were of 98% pure gold, an amazing feat given the primitive means available to process precious metal at the time.

    Ptolemy I (323-285B.C.) of Egypt was the first ruler to place his own image on the coins issued under his authority, a practice that continues to present day.

  • Do all ancient coins hold collector value?
    The same rules of numismatics govern ancient coins as well. Collector value is based on rarity, condition and market factors; age does not contribute to value. Since mintage figures are unknown, there is a relative amount of uncertainty involved in collecting ancients. A valuable coin previously believed to be rare can have its value usurped by the discovery of a hoard of the same type of coin. 
    Many ancient copper coins from the Roman Empire are found today coincidentally during many regular archaeological projects around Europe and parts of the Middle East. The Romans controlled a vast amount of land and their coins circulated extensively.There are many sources specific to the study of ancients. Some publications can be found in public libraries that can help you identify and evaluate your ancient coins.

U.S. Paper Money

  • Whose portraits are on U.S. paper money? What is the largest denomination note ever produced by the U.S. Treasury?

    Following is a listing of the portraits appearing on 20th century Federal Reserve Notes (FRN). Please note, not all men honored have held the office of U.S. President.

    $1 – George Washington
    $2 – Thomas Jefferson
    $5 – Abraham Lincoln
    $10 – Alexander Hamilton
    $20 – Andrew Jackson
    $50 – Ulysses S. Grant
    $100 – Benjamin Franklin
    $500 – William McKinley
    $1,000 – Grover Cleveland
    $5,000 – James Madison
    $10,000 – Salmon P. Chase
    $100,000 – Woodrow Wilson (This gold certificate was produced for transactions between Federal Reserve districts and did not circulate.)

  • What women have been portrayed on U.S. paper money?

    To date, only four “real” women have been featured on circulating U.S. notes and coins. All others have been fictional representations of “Liberty.” Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea have been honored on coins. A portrait of Martha Washington graced the series 1886 and 1891 $1.00 Silver Certificates. The first, First Lady was also featured, along with her husband George, on the series 1896 $1 Silver Certificate. This bill is part of a group of notes that are often referred to as the “Educational Series.” These early, large size notes display beautiful engravings and are highly sought after by collectors.

    The U.S. Series 1869-1878 $10.00 notes featured an engraving of the painting Introduction of the Old World to the New World, or Pocahontas Presented at Court by T.A. Liebler.

  • When was the motto “In God We Trust” placed on U.S. paper money?

    In 1955, Congress expanded the earlier law that stated that the motto “In God We Trust” could be placed on all U.S. coinage to one that required the motto to be placed on all coins and paper money. However, “In God We Trust” did not actually appear on U.S. paper money until after 1957. Since paper money is not dated yearly, but by series numbers that are based on changes in style and design, Series 1935G and 1935H Silver Certificates bear the motto because they were produced after 1957.

  • Why are there so many different colored seals on U.S. paper money? Does this make them more valuable?

    Historically the U.S. Treasury has issued many different types of notes. These notes bear numbers and seals in a variety of different colors that are distinctive to the type of note. The most common note in circulation today, and the one that we are used to seeing, is the Federal Reserve note bearing a green seal and numbers. Following is a listing of the note types and seal colors:

    Silver Certificates—blue seal
    United States Notes—red seal
    National Bank Notes—brown seal
    Gold Certificates—yellow/orange seal

    Some early notes in crisp, uncirculated condition may hold a numismatic value over the legal-tender amount. You may want to take your notes to a local ANA member dealer for evaluation.

  • What changes have been made on recent U.S. notes?

    Several changes have been made to U.S. paper money in recent years. The changes have been implemented during the redesign of denominations of U.S. Federal Reserve notes (with the exception of the $1) beginning with the $100. Several features have been added to protect our money from counterfeiting including:

    1. An enlarged portrait placed off-center to accommodate a watermark, visible when the note is held up to a light.
    2. A polymer security thread embedded vertically in the paper. The location of the thread varies depending on the denomination.
    3. Fine line printing patterns behind the back illustration.
    4. Microprinting on different areas of the notes.
    5. Color-shifting ink that appears black when the front is viewed at an angle.
    6. A low-vision feature on the back lower right corner for easier identification of the denomination.
    7. New Federal Reserve indicators including a universal seal and a letter and number below the serial number identifying the issuing Federal Reserve Bank.
    8. A unique combination of eleven numbers and letters that appear twice on the front of all notes.
  • I found a note of my grandfather’s that has HAWAII printed on the reverse. What was the purpose of these notes?

    The U.S. note that you describe is a WWII emergency issue. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. Government issued specially marked notes for circulation only in Hawaii as an economic defense measure in case of an invasion. After August 15, 1942, it was illegal to hold any other currency on the islands without a special license. If the feared invasion did occur, the government could easily declare the specially marked money valueless.

    Some specimens of the “Hawaii” overprint in crisp, uncirculated condition may hold numismatic value over the legal-tender amount. To be certain, take your notes to a local ANA member dealer for evaluation.

  • What is a Barr note?

    At one time, it was speculated that the notes signed by Treasurer Joseph W. Barr would eventually hold a high numismatic value since he was in office for only 23 days in 1968-69. However, during that period, a total of 484 million notes were produced with his signature. The high quantity produced dictates that the notes will never be considered rare in our lifetime.

    Interestingly, in 1995, numismatic author Alan Herbert stated, “A $1 Barr note deposited in an interest-bearing account in 1969 would have been worth over $4.00, figuring 6% interest compounded annually. A circulated Barr note kept in a safe-deposit box for 26 years is worth $1 today.”

  • I found an old note from The Bank of the United States that is dated 1849 with the serial number: 8894. It bears the portraits of six men. Is this note rare?

    The note you describe is a well-circulated replica that holds no legal tender or numismatic value. The original rests in a known, private collection.

  • I found several Colonial and/or Confederate notes with early dates. Are these valuable?

    Many Colonial, Early American and Confederate notes have been reproduced throughout the 20th century and sold as souvenir and novelty items or included as premiums with bubble gum. While the notes may look and feel old and brittle, as if they really were printed years ago, in actuality, paper produced before the early 20th century had a high rag content and lacked acid, the chemical that causes paper to become yellow and brittle. Genuine notes from this period remain quite white and supple.

  • My note has a star next to the serial number. What does this mean?

    The star note, or replacement note, displays a star as a suffix on Federal Reserve notes. A star is used to replace defective notes found during the inspection process at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Since the highest number that can be printed by an eight-digit numbering cylinder is 99,999,999, a star has been used to denote the 100,000,000th note off the press.

    Historically, star notes hold a value slightly higher than the legal-tender value, with the amount dependent on condition and denomination. Replacement notes are usually listed as a variety in published valuation guides.

  • Why is some of the printing missing on my note?

    A misprinted note is known in numismatics as an error note, or simply a mistake that occurs during the printing process at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP). With the stringent quality controls practiced by the BEP, the chances of error notes reaching the public are really quite slim, but it does happen. Oftentimes these notes have numismatic value above the legal tender-value. The amount generally depends on the denomination, the complexity of the error and the condition of the note. The more dramatic the error is, the more valuable the note often is.

    You will find further information on U.S. notes on the websites of the United States Treasury or the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

World Coins & Paper Money

  • Do coins from other countries hold collector value?

    Just because an item seems rare in the United States, this does not mean that it holds numismatic value above the legal-tender amount in the issuing country. Just like U.S. coinage and currency issues, world money holds numismatic value based on rarity and condition.

    You can ascertain a retail value range from the “Standard Catalog of World Coins” and the “Standard Catalog of World Paper Money,” both published by Krause Publications. These sources are often found in libraries and bookstores. You may also want to consult a local ANA member dealer for evaluation.

  • What is a Philippine centavo?

    It does seem a bit odd that a coin from an Asian country would bear a denomination that is usually attributed to Spanish countries, but there is an explanation. The Philippines were held by Spain until the end of the 19th century, when the islands were ceded to the United States after the Spanish-American War. However, the monetary system remained unchanged.

    The islands were invaded by Japan during WWII. Originating from this time period we find occupation currency announcing the Japanese government, written in English, but bearing Spanish denominations. Although the Philippines became a self-governing commonwealth of the United States in 1935, monetary reform did not occur until after 1965.

  • My Grandfather left me several 10,000 mark notes from Germany dated 1922. Am I rich?

    Such notes are inflationary currency from the Weimar Republic in Germany after WWI. Due to war reparations, this period in German history is marked by extreme economic depression and high inflation.

    The high denomination of the notes is evidence of the government’s efforts to combat the rampant inflation. Notes were printed in denominations of millions and even billions. While these notes no longer carry legal-tender value, since the Weimar Republic is no longer a functioning government, some hold collector value. The “Standard Catalog of World Paper Money; 1901 to Present” has an excellent section detailing these issues.

  • What can you tell me about notes from the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp of World War II Germany?

    Theresienstadt (Terezin), a Jewish ghetto created by the Nazis, was located in Czechoslovakia. It was built specifically as a high-profile camp for prominent Jews, WWI veterans and heroes and the wealthy. It also served as a stopover for prisoners on their way to one of the death camps in Poland. Terezin was a “model” ghetto and was designed and maintained to impress the International Red Cross. It was the only concentration camp to allow visitors. The elaborately printed notes, featuring an engraving of Moses, made the money seem quite impressive; in reality, the notes were just for show and only good for library rentals.

    Until the early 1970s, the notes issued from this camp were thought to be quite rare and so held a high collector value. However, in 1973, 941 complete sets were sold at auction. Also, shortly after WWII, when bulldozing the remains of the ghetto, a soldier found enough 20 Kronen notes to fill a suitcase. These notes have been distributed as well.

    Since collector value is heavily based on rarity and condition, these finds caused the market values to drop dramatically. Current published listings show a collector value of approximately $10 for each note in new condition, and no premium for a full set.

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