All Coins Lead to Rome?


Students will compare and contrast modern U.S. coins with those of ancient times by looking at various coins on hand and through research in coin books in the classroom. This lesson is part of the Unit Plan "Ancient and Modern Coins."

Coin Type(s)

  • Cent
  • Nickel
  • Dime
  • Quarter
  • Half Dollar
  • Dollar

Coin Program(s)

  • Circulating Coins


  • Students will compare and contrast modern U.S. coins with those of ancient times, especially Greece and Rome, by looking at various coins on hand and through research in coin books in the classroom.
  • Students will observe a coin's features. They will use these observations to classify and sort coins.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies

Minor/supporting Subject Area Connections

  • Language Arts
  • Science


  • 3rd
  • 4th
  • 5th
  • 6th
  • 7th
  • 8th

Class Time

  • Sessions: One
  • Session Length: 90 minutes
  • Total Length: 46-90 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Small groups
  • Individual work

Terms and Concepts

  • Ancient coins
  • Coins
  • Greece
  • History
  • Rome
  • Symbols
  • U.S. coins


  • Access to the Internet.
  • The United States Mint H.I.P. Pocket Change website at
  • Handouts with images of ancient coins and currently circulating U.S. coins
  • Books that give information on coins and coin making, such as:
    • Cobblestone Magazine, "A Look Inside the U.S. Mint," September, 1985.
    • Roman History From Coins by Michael Grant
    • North American Coins and Prices, 9th edition, edited by David C. Harper
    • Handbook of Ancient Greek and Roman Coins by Klawans, Zander
    • Collecting Coins for Pleasure and Profit by Barry Krause
    • Facts and Fictions about Coins:  An Uncommon Guidebook to the Wonderful World of Numismatics  by Leon Lindheim
    • Official 2001 Blackbook Price Guide to United States Coins published by Random House, Inc.
    • How to Build A Coin Collection by Fred Reinfeld
    • Coins as Living History by Ted Schwarz
    • Art In Coinage by Carol H.V. Sutherland, Carol H.V
    • A Guidebook of United States Coins, 53rd edition, 2001 by R.S. Yeoman


Use the Internet to gather reference materials for your students relating to U.S. coins as well as ancient Roman and Greek coins and symbols.

Lesson Steps

  1. Gather together many different types and denominations of U.S. coins. Also obtain U.S. coin books from the library, the United States Mint, or a coin dealer. Discuss with your students some interesting points about ancient Rome and Greece and about symbols on coins.
  2. Divide the class into groups. Have the groups brainstorm all the ways they can classify the coins. What symbols are on each coin? What phrases are on the coin, and what do they mean for America? Who or what is depicted on the obverse and reverse? What can you find out about the person or place or objects? Which of the symbols may have been associated with ancient Rome or Greece ? Have students look at their worksheets and see what images were actually used on ancient coins.
  3. As a class, decide on the different ways the coins can be categorized. Examples include by mint mark, by date, and by symbols.
  4. Give each student a coin. Have them write all the observations they can make about the coin and classify it using the categories they agreed on as a class.
  5. Have the students get back into their groups and put all of their coins in the middle of the table.
  6. Have students exchange the observations they wrote and see if the rest of the group can pick out their coin based on the description.

Differentiated Learning Options

The quarters of the United States Mint's 50 State Quarters Program have symbols on the reverse that are important to each state. Have students research why a state committee selected those symbols to represent the state. Information on these quarters is available in the Kids section of the United States Mint H.I.P. Pocket Change™ Web site and and free educational materials in the Teachers section.


  • Teachers can use the coin descriptions created by the students to assess whether the students have met the lesson objectives.
  • Other students can also comment on the writing when they exchange descriptions and try to find the coin described.

Common Core Standards

This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.

National Standards

Discipline: Science
Domain: 5-8 Content Standards
Cluster: Science as Inquiry
Grade(s): Grades 5–8

  • Ability necessary to do scientific inquiry
  • Understand scientific inquiry