Series notes: Gold Commemoratives

The first United States commemorative coins were issued in 1892, and these were the silver half dollars honoring the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. While the first gold commemorative coins did not come along until 1903 and saw far fewer issues than their half-dollar counterparts, the body of classic gold commemorative coinage is nevertheless respectable in size and scope.

The first gold commemoratives were released in 1903 to honor the centennial of the Louisiana purchase and include two gold dollar issues: one with Thomas Jefferson on the obverse and the other with an obverse portrait of William McKinley. Following up on those pieces came the Lewis and Clark Exposition commemorative gold dollars of 1904 and 1905. The 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco inspired several gold commemoratives, including two rare $50 gold commemoratives, one round the other octagonal. When examples of either come up at auction they tend to stir enthusiastic bidding action. Other gold commemorative coins followed, including the 1916-1917 McKinley Memorial dollar, 1922 Ulysses S. Grant Memorial dollar, and 1926 Sesquicentennial of American Independence $2.50 quarter eagle.

Gold commemorative coins from the classic era are scarce and sought after. While many collectors pursue the gold commemoratives for their individual merits as collectibles, these coins are generally collected along with other gold commemorative coinage or included in entire sets of classic commemorative coins, which were produced during a period spanning from 1892 through 1954.

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