skip navigation
Left Navigation Links


Teacher Feature

Teacher Feature

Commemorative Coins

Here's a creative idea to use in your class:

Commemorative coins from the United States Mint are special.  They're created solely for the purpose of honoring people, places, events and institutions that have shaped our country.

With your class, discuss commemorative coins and how their "value" might differ from that of the coins we use everyday to make purchases.  [For more information on commemorative coins, read a little bit about the background of these interesting numismatic objects (see Background)].

After discussing commemorative coins with your class, have students choose someone, or something, from their life they'd like to honor.  If they could do it, who or what in their life is special enough, has played a part in shaping their life and who they are, to be commemorated on a coin?

Have students decide who or what they would commemorate and then write a paragraph or two to explain why.  They can even design their coin, deciding what images will most effectively illustrate the importance of their chosen subject.  Students will enjoy sharing their choices and "commemorative coin" with the class.  It's also a great way for kids to share a little bit about themselves-especially at the beginning of the school year when "ice breakers" are warmly welcomed!

Teachers, view the Commemorative Coin Poetry lesson plan, or see "And the Nominee Is...", another Language Arts lesson plan based around commemorative coins.

To visit another area of our site that has information on commemorative coins, click here.  Or, use our Search Feature at the top right of the page to find all references to commemoratives coins we currently have.


The United States Mint first started creating commemorative coins back in the late 1800s.  In 1954, the United States Mint stopped producing the Commemoratives for a period of time, and then production resumed in 1982 of coins referred to as Modern Commemorative Coins.

The first coin of the Modern Commemoratives issued was a George Washington silver half-dollar, and the demand was incredible: over 7 million coins were sold.  Congress decided that the Mint should create the George Washington coin.  That's how most commemorative coins come into being—sponsoring organizations request that Congress pass legislation ordering the creation of a commemorative coin.  That legislation includes, but is not limited to, things like the commemorative coin's specifications, the number of coins minted... and how proceeds from the sales of the coin are to be distributed.

Over the last 120 years, the United States Mint has issued hundreds of commemorative coins.  1996 legislation put a limit on the number of Commemoratives that Congress may require the Mint to issue in a given year.  The law stipulates that the Mint may produce up to two different commemorative coins per year, and in limited quantities only.

Commemorative coins are produced at various United States Mints, and they are often struck using gold or silver coin blanks.  Because of the manufacturing method used, each coin has an amazing level of detail, and becomes a treasured keepsake for serious or casual collectors.  And even though you probably wouldn't want to, you could spend them.  Commemorative coins are considered legal tender by the United States Government.

One of the really nice things about commemorative coins is they can help support a wide range of very worthy causes.  That's because a portion of the proceeds from the sale of commemorative coins is intended to go right back to the sponsoring organization to be used for the designated purpose as specified by Congress.

Since 1982, commemorative coin sales by the Mint have generated hundreds of millions of dollars for a wide variety of causes.  Past commemorative coins have benefited Yellowstone National Park and the National Park Foundation...Funding of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C....the Mt. Vernon Ladies Association, and their efforts to preserve George Washington's home...various Olympic programs...and the Library of Congress Trust Fund Board's educational outreach programs and activities at the Library of Congress.

Back to Related Content  |  Teacher Feature Stockroom
More About Teacher Features