Dollar (United States coin)

Dollar (United States coin)

Infobox Coin
Country = United States
Denomination = Dollar
Value = 1
Unit = U.S. dollar
Mass_troy_oz = 0.260
Mass = 8.100
Diameter_inch = 1.043
Diameter = 26.5
Thickness_inch = 0.079
Thickness = 2.00
Edge = Plain w/ incused inscriptions
Composition = 88.5% Cu
6% Zn
3.5% Mn
2% Ni
Years of Minting = 2007–Present
Catalog Number = -
Obverse = Andrew Jackson Presidential $1 Coin obverse.jpg
Obverse Design = Portraits of presidents, with a new coin released every three months
Obverse Designer = many
Obverse Design Date = 2008
Reverse = LineartPresRev.png Reverse Design = Statue of Liberty
Reverse Designer = Don Everhart
Reverse Design Date = 2007

Dollar coins have been minted in the United States in gold, silver, and base metal versions. Silver dollars, the first dollar coin issue, were minted beginning in 1794.

The term "silver dollar" is often used for any large white metal coin issued by the United States with a face value of one dollar; although purists insist that a dollar is not "silver" unless it contains some of that metal. Gold and gold-colored dollars have also been produced by the United States. The Sacagawea and Presidential dollars are usually referred to as golden, despite not containing any gold, as they are a golden color.

Dollar coins have found little popular acceptance in circulation in the United States since the early 20th century, despite several attempts since 1971 to phase in a coin in place of the one dollar bill. This contrasts with currencies of many other developed countries, where denominations of similar value exist only in coin, such as the Canadian loonie and toonie, British 50 pence coin (as well as the 1 pound and 2 pound British coins, though the Royal Bank of Scotland still maintains a £1 note), the 1 and 2 Australian Dollar coins, the 50 New Taiwan dollar coin, 100 and 500 Japanese yen coin, Swiss 1, 2 and 5 francs coin, 1 euro coin and 2 euro coin. These coins have largely succeeded because of a removal (or lack) of their corresponding paper issues, whereas a small but active lobbying group within the US is resistant to the removal of the dollar bill from production and circulation.

Early dollar coins (through 1803)

Before the Revolutionary War, coins from many European nations circulated freely in the American colonies, as well as decimal coinage issued by the various colonies. Chief among these was the Spanish silver "dollar" coins (also called pieces of eight or eight reales) minted in Mexico and other colonies with silver mined from Central and South American mines. These coins, along with others of similar size and value, were in use throughout the colonies and later the United States and were legal tender until 1857.

In 1776, the Continental Congress authorized plans to produce a silver coin to prop up the rapidly failing Continental—the first attempt by the fledgling US at paper currency. Several examples were struck in brass, pewter, and silver, but a circulating coin was not produced, due in large part to the financial difficulties of running the Revolutionary War. The Continental Dollar bears a date of 1776, and while its true denomination is not known, it is generally the size of later dollars, and the name has stuck. The failure of the Continental exacerbated a distrust of paper money amongst both politicians and the populace at large. The letters of Thomas Jefferson indicate that he wished the United States to eschew paper money and instead mint coins of similar perceived value and worth to those foreign coins circulating at the time. [Murray Rothbard, "A History of Banking in the United States"]

The Coinage Act of 1792 authorized the production of dollar coins from silver. The U.S. Mint produced silver dollar coins from 1794 to 1803, then ceased regular production of silver dollars until 1836. The first silver dollars, precisely 1,758 of them, were coined on October 15, 1794 and were immediately delivered to Mint Director David Rittenhouse for distribution to dignitaries as souvenirs. [ [ Exhibition: Legendary Coins & Currency] ] Thereafter, until 1804, they were struck in varying quantities. There are two obverse designs: Flowing Hair (1794-1795) and Draped Bust (1795-1804). There are also two reverse designs used for the Draped Bust variety: small eagle (1795-1798) and heraldic eagle (1798-1804). Original silver dollars from this period are highly prized by coin collectors and are exceptionally valuable, and range from fairly common to incredibly rare. Due to the early practice of hand engraving each die, there are dozens of varieties known for all dates between 1795-1803. As the earliest examples of the largest circulating coins ever struck by the United States Mint, they bear a certain mystique that has enthralled collectors for two centuries.

It is also one of only two denominations (the other being the cent) minted in every year from its inception during the first decade of mint operation. However, the order was given by President Thomas Jefferson to halt silver dollar production due to the continued exportation of US dollars. The Spanish 8 Reale, which was slightly heavier than the US dollar, nonetheless traded at a 1-to-1 ratio. So US dollars went to the Caribbean, were traded for heavier 8 Reales, and those were then brought back to the US, where they would be recoined for free into more US dollars, and the difference in silver was kept by the exporter. This ensured that no dollars would circulate in the US, but would instead be exported for their heavier counterparts overseas, leaving little but old, foreign money to circulate in the United States in a process known as Gresham's Law.

This highlights a dilemma that would continue to haunt the United States mint well into the 20th century: if a coin was too heavy in precious metal, it would simply be melted and sold for more as bullion. If it was too light, it would be exported for heavier weight coins from foreign governments. Maintaining this precarious balance is eventually what led to the abandonment of gold as specie worldwide in the 1930s and 40's, and silver rapidly following suit by the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The 1804 Dollar

The 1804 silver dollar [$1busthe.asp ] is one of the rarest and most famous coins in the world. Its creation was the result of a simple bookkeeping error, but its status as the king of coins has been established for nearly a century and a half. The silver dollars reported by the mint as being struck in 1804 were actually dated 1803 (die steel being very expensive in the early 1800s, dies were used until they were no longer in working condition. This is why many early US coins exhibit all kinds of die cracks, occlusions, cuds, clash marks, and other late state die wear. Dies were used until they literally fell apart. Nearly every coin the US struck from 1793 to 1825 has an example that was struck in a year other than that which it bears.) No dollars bearing the date 1804 were ever struck in 1804, though this was unknown to mint officials at the time the 1804 dollar came to be.

The 1804 silver dollar was actually produced in 1834, when the U.S. Department of State decided to produce a set of U.S. coins to be used as gifts to rulers in Asia in exchange for trade advantages. Since 1804 was the last recorded year of mintage for both the dollar and $10 Eagle, it was decided that the set would contain examples of those coins dated 1804, as well as the other denominations currently being produced. Mint officials, not realizing that the 19,000+ dollars recorded as being produced in 1804 were all dated 1803, proceeded to make new dies dated 1804. Little did they know the stunning rarity they were creating. Only 15 silver dollars with the date of 1804 are known to exist; in 1999, one of them sold at auction for more than $4 million. There are 8 Class I dollars, struck in 1834 for the aforementioned sets, 1 Class II dollar, struck over an 1857 Swiss Shooting Thaler (and now residing in the US Coin Collection at the Smithsonian Institution), and 6 Class III dollars, struck surreptitiously sometime between 1858 and 1860 to meet collector demand for the coin.

Seated Liberty dollar (1836–1873)

Gold dollar coins (1849–1889)

Trade Dollar (1873–1885)

Morgan dollar (1878–1904; 1921)

"Morgan" [$1morgan.asp] silver dollars were minted between 1878 and 1921, with a notable break between 1905 and 1920. The 1921-dated coins are the most common, and there exists a substantial collector market for pristine, uncirculated specimens of the rarer dates and mint marks. Morgan dollars are second only to Lincoln Cents in collector popularity. The large size, design and inexpensive nature of most dates of the Morgan dollar makes them highly popular. The coin is named after George T. Morgan, its designer. Some people collect Morgan dollars by "VAM" designation (named for Leroy C. Van Allen and A. George Mallis, who did extensive research on the die characteristics of this series.) The top 100 VAM varieties are highly collectible. As well, this is the most popular United States series collected by "grade", with "finest known" being a very attractive selling point.

The mint mark is found on the reverse below the wreath, above the 'O' in 'DOLLAR'.

One of the keys to the series is the proof-only 1895 (struck at the Philadelphia mint), which can sell for up to $100,000 in top condition. Since the rarity of the coin was not initially realized (there were 12,000 business strikes recorded, but these were later melted), and since the coins were available at the Mint for a modest premium above face value, circulated, or "impaired" specimens are known. Because no business strike exists for this date and mint, many collectors are forced to buy the proof, or settle for what is regarded as an incomplete date/mint collection. The rarest (by mintage) business strike Morgan is the 1893-S with a paltry 100,000 examples struck, and certainly not all examples survive. A top condition example (MS67 is currently the highest known) can bring nearly $1 Million at auction. Morgan dollars from the Carson City mint ("CC" mintmark) are worth a premium. 1889-CC, while not the rarest Carson City dollar by mintage, is the rarest by surviving examples today, and is the most valuable Carson City dollar. Other rare dates include 1892-S, 1893, 1893-O, 1894, 1894-S, 1895-O, 1895-S, 1902-S, 1903-S, 1903-O, and 1904-S all worth $100 or more even in circulated (Fine-About Uncirculated) conditions. Several coins in the series, while quite common in circulated condition, are very rare in uncirculated conditions, and can command hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece. 1901 is such a coin, as is 1884-S. There is currently only a single known MS68 1884-S dollar and if sold at auction, that coin could easily bring $750,000-$1,000,000...for a "common" date coin.

Many of the spectacular rarities of the series, both by grade and absolutely, can be attributed to the order to melt down 270 million silver dollars still on hand by the Pittman Act of 1918. Because of this, and subsequent melting, it is estimated that only 17% of all Morgan dollars minted still survive. However, that's still many millions of examples.

Many examples exceed $100 in uncirculated condition, but the majority do not. A common date in uncirculated can normally be found for around $20, and often as little as $12 circulated and $16 uncirculated. High-grade Morgan dollars are generally considered "investor" coins. This is because the prices are very volatile, and the values for certified ("slabbed") pieces are set on well-established exchanges.

Peace dollar (1921–1935)

Introduced in December of 1921, the Peace dollar [$1peace.asp] , designed by medalist Anthony de Francisci, was promulgated to commemorate the signing of formal peace treaties between the Allied forces and Germany and Austria. These treaties officially ended the Allies' World War I hostilities with these two countries. In 1922 the Mint made silver dollar production its top priority, causing other denominations to be produced sparingly if at all that year. Production ceased temporarily after 1928; original plans apparently called for only a one year suspension, but this was extended by the Great Depression. Mintage resumed in 1934, but for only two years.

In May of 1965, 316,000+ Peace Dollars were minted, all at the Denver Mint and dated 1964-D; however, plans for completing this coinage were abandoned, and most of those already minted were melted, with two known trial strike specimens being preserved (for assay purposes) until 1970, when they too were melted, and none released either for circulation or collection purposes. It is rumored that one or more pieces still exist, most notably any examples obtained by key members of Congress, the President, or mint officials. However, this coin, much like the 1933 $20 gold Double Eagle (aside from the "exception", sold in 2002 for over $7 million), is illegal to own and would be subject to confiscation.

Release of dollars by the US Treasury; the GSA sale

Because of the size and weight of the dollar coins, they circulated minimally throughout their history, except in the West (especially at casinos in the early to mid 20th century, where they were commonly used both at the tables and at slot machines.) As a result, the coins were generally shipped to Washington and stored in the vaults of the US Treasury; at times these stores numbered into the hundreds of millions.

They were very popular as Christmas gifts, however, and from the 1930s to the early 1960s, many bags were annually released to banks nationwide to be distributed as presents. In November 1962, during this annual distribution, it was discovered that there were some rare and valuable dates, still sealed in their original mint bags, all in uncirculated condition, among the millions of dollar coins still in the Treasury vaults. Collectors/investors/dealers lined up to purchase them in $1,000 bags, trading silver certificates for the coins. Before this event, the great rarity of the Morgan series was 1903-O, which was by far the most expensive of the entire set. It was discovered that there were millions of this specific date and mint in the Treasury vaults; an estimated 84% of the entire mintage sat in these bags, untouched for 60 years, all in uncirculated condition. While still relatively expensive in circulated grades, uncirculated examples can be had for a modest amount over common dates.

On March 25, 1964, the Secretary of the Treasury announced that Silver Certificates would no longer be redeemable for silver dollars. [ [ U.S. Treasury - FAQs: Buying, Selling & Redeeming Currency ] ] Subsequently, another act of Congress dated June 24, 1967, provided that Silver Certificates could be exchanged for silver bullion for a period of one year, until June 24,1968. [ [] ]

Following this, the Treasury began to inventory its remaining stock of dollar coins, and found it had about 3,000 bags (3 million coins) still left, many of them Carson City mint dollars, which even then carried a premium. The coins were placed in special hard plastic holders and the General Services Administration (GSA) was given authorization to sell them to the public in a series of mail-bid sales. Five sales were conducted in 1973 and 1974, but sales were poor, and the results unspectacular. There was much complaining among the coin buying public, many stating that the United States Government should not be in the "coin business", especially considering that the government had spent little more than a dollar to mint and store each coin. After these sales, more than a million coins were still left unsold.

These sat again until 1979-1980, where, amidst an extraordinarily volatile precious metals market, the remaining coins were sold under chaotic conditions. The GSA, having published minimum bids in November 1979, announced on January 2, 1980, that those minimum bids were no longer valid, and that prospective bidders would have to "call in" to a toll free number to get current minimum bids. Then, on February 21, 13 days after the bidding process officially began, the maximum number of coins per bidder was changed from 500 to 35. Many bidders, under these confusing conditions, ended up with no coins at all. Complaints again flooded in to Congress, but the damage had already been done, and the last silver dollars held by the United States Treasury were gone. [cite web
url =
title = GSA Carson City Silver Dollars: A History as Tumultuous as That of the Morgan Silver Dollar Itself
first = Bryan
last = Sonnier
year = 1993
publisher = CoinResource
accessdate =
] [ [ ] ] [cite web
url =
title = The 1895 Morgan Dollar - The King of Morgans - The Most Valuable Morgan Dollar
first = Susan
last = Headley
publisher =

Over the years, many of these GSA dollars have been broken out of their special holders for purposes of grading or otherwise, and now original, unbroken GSA dollars carry a small premium. Some third party grading companies have begun to grade coins still in their GSA holders, as a means of preservation, though this is not without controversy. [cite news
title = NGC to Grade Dollars in GSA Holders
url =
publisher = Collectors Society
date = 2003-01-02
accessdate = 2007-11-17

Eisenhower dollar (1971–1978)

From 1971 to 1978, the U.S. Mint issued dollar coins with the obverse depicting Dwight D. Eisenhower [$1eisen.asp] and the reverse the insignia of the Apollo 11 moon landing, both designed by Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro. The 1976 Bicentennial commemorative design, produced in 1975 and 1976, featured the Liberty Bell and the Moon on the reverse (designed by Dennis R. Williams), while retaining the Eisenhower obverse. The Eisenhower dollars minted for general circulation contained no silver or gold, but were instead composed of the same copper-nickel clad composition used for the dime, quarter, and half dollar. This made the circulation coins extremely resistant to wear and, like the smaller denominations, they still retain a good deal of shine even when subject to mass usage. From 1971 through 1976 the Mint also produced dollars composed of 40% silver aimed at the collector market.

The coins were never very popular, primarily due to their large size and weight which made them inconvenient to carry and the fact that very few vending machines were designed to accept them. They saw the greatest use in casinos, and one-dollar tokens in United States casinos still approximate the size and weight of the coins. Prior to the withdrawal of the coins, which remain legal tender (and are often still available at banks, by request), many casinos did not strike their own tokens, but instead used the Eisenhower dollar.

Anthony dollar (1979–1981; 1999)

For the short duration of 1979 to 1981, the Mint produced Anthony Dollars, depicting Susan B. Anthony, the first non-fictitious woman portrayed on circulating U.S. coinage. (Many earlier circulating coins featured images of women, but the women depicted were all non-specific representations of Liberty. Spain's Queen Isabella was portrayed along with Christopher Columbus on the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition commemorative half dollar, but it was not a circulating coin.) The Anthony dollars, like the Eisenhower dollars, were made from a copper-nickel clad. The 1981 coins were issued for collectors only, but occasionally still show up in circulation.

Susan B. Anthony dollar coins were sometimes referred to as "Carter quarters". This was a snide reference to both the deterioration of the value of the dollar during Jimmy Carter's term and the Anthony dollar's resemblance in size to the quarter, often causing it to be mistakenly spent as such. They were quickly discontinued, but were resurrected in 1999 when Treasury reserves were low (and the Sacagawea dollar was still a year away from production).cite journal
first = Mitch
last = Sanders
title = Modern Dollar Coins
journal = Numismatist
url =
format = pdf
month= March | year= 2006
accessdate = 2007-11-17
quote = In an interesting denouement, the once massive supply of Anthony dollars had dwindled by 1999, requiring a one-year revival of the coin. This was only a stopgap, though, pending the arrival of the Sacagawea dollar in 2000.
archiveurl =
archivedate =
] While reserves of the coins were initially high, the coins were in demand to be used as change in vending machines, most often in transit systems and post offices.

This dollar is commonly referred to in many states as a "Suzy" or "Susie"; another variation is to refer to the coin as a "Susan B" or "Susie/Suzy B".

acagawea dollar (2000–Present)

The Sacagawea dollar was authorized by Congress in 1997 because the supply of Anthony dollars, in inventory since their last mintage in 1981, was soon expected to be depleted. Delays in ramping up Sacagawea dollar production led to a final 1999-dated mintage of Susan B. Anthony dollars. As predicted by Coin Coalition representatives at Congressional hearings on the United States $1 Coin Act of 1997, the government's decision not to eliminate the U.S. one dollar bill prevented the Sacagawea dollar from being widely circulated. While dollar coins are used infrequently in general commerce, they are used in place of tokens in some areas and are given as change in many United States Postal Service stamp vending machines, creating a relatively small but significant demand.

The obverse was designed by artist Glenna Goodacre, using Shoshone Randy'L He-dow Teton as a model for Sacagawea. [cite web
url =
title = The Golden Dollar Coin Featuring Sacagawea
publisher = United States Mint
archiveurl =
archivedate = 2004-12-14

There are approximately 1 billion Sacagawea coins in circulation and about 250 million more in reserve. The United States Mint greatly reduced production of Sacagawea dollars after the 2001 minting, citing sufficient inventory. As of 2006, the dollar is still being minted for collectors, and is available in Uncirculated Rolls, Mint Sets, and Proof Sets, but has not been released for general circulation since 2001.

The Mint took great care to create the coin with the same size, weight, and electromagnetic properties as the Anthony dollar, but with a golden color. Unfortunately, the selected alloy has a tendency to tarnish quite severely in circulation (unlike Canadian dollar coins, which retain their yellowish appearance in circulation), ruining the golden effect. Fact|date=November 2007

As of 2007, dollar coins are not widely encountered in commerce in the United States, except in vending machines for rides on mass transit, some pay and display machines, and U.S. Postal Service stamp vending machines, which give the coins as change; and at some casinos, where they are used in slot machines. Most vending machines have been redesigned, however, to accept dollar coins for purchase over a quarter-dollar. The Sacagawea dollar has achieved popularity in Ecuador, where the US dollar is also the official currency.cite journal
first = Mitch
last = Sanders
title = Modern Dollar Coins
journal = Numismatist
url =
format = pdf
month= March | year= 2006
accessdate = 2007-11-17
archiveurl =
archivedate =

Presidential Dollar Coin (2007–present)

In December 2005, Congress decided to create a new series of $1 coins which will honor the former U.S. presidents. In 2007, Presidential coins of four different designs were produced. Another four designs will be produced each year, honoring the Presidents in order of service. (Grover Cleveland will be on two coins, since he served two non-consecutive terms.) The Presidential $1 Coin Act is intended to create renewed interest in the coin like that seen during the 50 State Quarters program. [ [ Another stab at the dollar coin? - Apr. 28, 2005 ] ] At least one third of all dollar coins produced are still Sacagawea coins, with the remaining coins making up the four presidential coins annually. Under federal law (usc|31|5112), no coins may be issued featuring a living president, or a president who died less than two years earlier. The program will run until at least 2016 with the coin commemorating Ronald Reagan, but may continue longer depending on the longevity of the currently living former presidents, and the longevity of the current president or presidents yet to be elected.

The presidential dollar coin is similar in size and color to the Sacagawea, but bears no inscription on the obverse (or face) side. "In God We Trust", "E Pluribus Unum", the issue year, and the mint mark appear on the edge. [] The fact that these national mottoes appear on the edge has caused some conservative commentators to decry the designs. [ [ WorldNetDaily: New U.S. dollar coins hide 'In God We Trust' ] ] [ [ Urban Legends Reference Pages: New Dollar Coins and 'In God We Trust' ] ] The first dollar, honoring George Washington, was released into circulation on February 15, 2007.However, USBill|110|HR|2764 became law on December 26, 2007 which moved "In God We Trust" from the edge to either the obverse or reverse.

A common [A current estimate is 80,000, from a mintage of 300,000,000 coins. cite web|title=Washington Dollar Update|url=|accessdate=2007-04-07] minting error on this coin is the omission of the edge lettering; instead, the outside edge of the coin is plain. cite news
title = Flaw Is Found in Some Coins of New Dollar
url =
publisher = "The New York Times"
date = 2007-03-08
accessdate = 2007-11-16
quote = An unknown number of new George Washington dollar coins mistakenly struck without their edge inscriptions made it past Mint inspectors ... Ron Guth, president of Professional Coin Grading Service, an authentication company, said at least 50,000 improperly struck coins might have entered circulation.
archiveurl =
archivedate =
] Because the omission includes the words "In God We Trust", some in the popular media have dubbed it the godless coin. A false (although at one time widely reported) error is the report that the edge lettering is upside down. The edge lettering does not occur at the same time as the minting of the coins, allowing for the natural occurrence of the lettering in either orientation.

List of designs

*Silver dollar coins
**Flowing Hair 1794–1795
**Draped Bust 1795–1803
***Draped Bust, Small Eagle 1795–1798
***Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle 1798–1803, 1804 (not a regular issue)
**Gobrecht Dollar 1836–1839
**Seated Liberty 1840–1873
***Seated Liberty, No Motto 1840–1865
***Seated Liberty, With Motto 1866–1873
**Trade Dollar 1873–1878 (Business & Proofs struck), 1879–1885 (Proof Only)
**Morgan Dollar 1878–1904, 1921
**Peace Dollar 1921–1935
***Peace Dollar (High Relief) 1921
***Peace Dollar (Low Relief) 1922–1928, 1934–1935

*Gold dollar coins
**Liberty Head (Small Size) 1849–1854
**Indian Head (Large Size) 1854–1889
***Small Indian Head 1854–1856
***Large Indian Head 1856–1889

*Copper-nickel clad dollar coins
**Eisenhower Dollar 1971–1974, 1977–1978
***Eisenhower Bicentennial 1975–1976 (all dated 1976)
**Susan B. Anthony dollar 1979–1981, 1999

*Manganese-Brass dollar coins
**Sacagawea Dollar 2000–present
**Presidential Dollar Coin 2007–present

ee also

* United States one-dollar bill
* United States Mint coin production
* Save the Greenback Act
* United States $1 Coin Act of 1997


Books and articles

* Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars, ISBN 0-9660168-2-3
* [ Financial Impact of Issuing the New $1 Coin] , GAO/GGD-00-111R, Apr. 7, 2000.
* [ New coin unlikely change?] , Steve Cranford, Charlotte Business Journal, July 21, 2000.

Web-based information

External links

* [ Exhibition: Legendary Coins & Currency (National Museum of American History)]
* [ Pictures of United States dollar coins]
* [ Comprehensive United States coin reference]
* [ United States Small Size Dollar Coins, 1979-Present]
* [ US Dollar Virtual Coin Museum]
* [ United States Mint]

*cite news|url=|title=New coins will depict dead former presidents|date=December 14, 2005|publisher=The Boston Globe
*cite news|url=|title=Dollar coin series will feature presidents|date=December 15, 2005|publisher=USA Today

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