Seeing the faces of former U.S. presidents on coins (and paper money) is something we're all accustomed to. Your wallet or coin jar probably features at least one Abraham Lincoln penny, Thomas Jefferson nickel, Franklin Roosevelt dime, and George Washington quarter. You may even have a John F. Kennedy half-dollar or two.
The History of Presidents on CoinsPresident Abraham Lincoln became the first president featured on U.S. coins in 1909 when President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned a new one-cent coin design from sculptor Victor David Brenner to honor the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. Brenner, a member of the American Numismatic Association, had previously impressed Roosevelt with a plaque of Lincoln he sculpted in 1907. Forty-four years after Lincoln's assassination, sentiment toward the Civil War president overruled the previously negative view of adding presidential portraits to the country's coins, and the Lincoln cent was born.
In 1932, the tradition of putting presidents on coins continued with the addition of a George Washington portrait to the U.S. quarter-dollar coin. The George Washington Bicentennial Commission and the Department of the Treasury hosted a public contest for illustrations of the first president and hero of the Revolutionary War. They chose a Washington quarter design submitted by sculptor John Flanagan, which you can still find on the obverse side of this circulating coin.
Six years later, in 1938, Thomas Jefferson's portrait graced the obverse side of the first Jefferson nickel. The Treasury Department hosted another design contest to determine the image of Thomas Jefferson to add to the five-cent coin, and Felix Schlag sculpted the winning design.
By the early 1940s, Americans still used Walking Liberty half-dollars and Liberty-themed 10-cent coins (often called Mercury dimes). You can still find a Mercury dime or Walking Liberty half-dollar today, but both designs were replaced with new circulating coinage after World War II.
The Treasury Department added a portrait of then recently passed Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the dime in 1946, and founding father Benjamin Franklin graced the United States' half-dollar coin from 1948 until the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. After the passing of JFK, President Lyndon Johnson demanded the half-dollar portrait replacement via executive order.
Most Popular Presidential CoinsToday, many people collect common and rare presidential coins, especially versions with minting errors that increase their value. Even a Thomas Jefferson nickel or 10-cent coin may prove extremely valuable with a specific mistake and minting year. For example, Denver-minted Lincoln cents made of bronze from 1943 can sell for more than $1 million.
Presidential Dollar CoinsPresident Bush's $1 Coin Program saw the addition of many presidents on coins; the most valuable and popular versions often feature minting errors. Some may refer to a presidential one-dollar coin as a "golden dollar," but these coins consist primarily of copper with zinc, nickel, and manganese.
- 2007-S Washington proof: Coinage proofs often boast more significant popularity with collectors due to their rarity. The current value of a 2007-S Washington proof ranges from around $15 to $350, depending on the coin's minting quality and condition. Coins with sharp strikes and minor wear boast higher values than coins of lower quality.
- 2007 Washington without edge lettering: Errors during minting sometimes result in the lack of edge lettering on presidential coins. A 2007 Washington one-dollar coin with no edge lettering is rare and can sell for about $17,500 with a high grade.
- 2007-S John Adams proof: The San Francisco Mint struck 3,965,989 of these flawless presidential coin proofs. They value a few dollars to $100,000 for a high-grade coin.
- 2007 John Adams without edge lettering: The Philadelphia Mint released more than 112 million John Adams dollar coins, some of which feature the edge lettering mistake. High-quality versions of these coins lacking edge lettering can sell for as high as $140,000.
- 2008-S Monroe proof: Struck by the San Francisco Mint in 2008, about three million such coins exist. Collectors purchase and sell them for anywhere between $4 and $250, depending on the coin's condition.
- 2008-S Van Buren proof: The San Francisco Mint released about three million Van Buren Proofs in 2008. Prices for these presidential dollar coins range from a few dollars to $6,000.
- 2008 J. Q. Adams proof: These proofs feature a highly detailed portrait of John Quincy Adams. Also minted in San Francisco, these dollar coins range in value from $4 to $160.
Presidential Dollar RollsMany collectors seek unopened BU (brilliant uncirculated condition) rolls of presidential dollar coins. These rolls, minted between 2007 and 2016 at the Philadelphia Mint and Denver Mint, contain 25 coins each. Still reasonably common, these coins will increase in rarity and value over time, especially if left unopened and in excellent condition.
Presidential Half-DollarsTwo valuable half-dollar examples you may consider collecting include:
- Silver Franklin half-dollar: Benjamin Franklin, one of the U.S. founding fathers, was the first non-president to grace the obverse of a regular issue circulating coin. The U.S. Mint only struck them between 1948 and 1963, making them relatively rare in the collector's market.
- Silver 1964 Kennedy half-dollar: The year 1964 was the first time the United States added former president JFK to the half-dollar coin. The value of the first Kennedy half-dollars continues to rise as they become increasingly rare, especially for BU versions. One 1964 Kennedy half-dollar may sell for thousands of dollars in pristine condition.