Did you know that we missed out on years of cool commemorative coins because of selfish folks in Congress?
I really enjoy collecting coins that not every one knows about. Commemorative coins are kinda in a weird as they are produced by the U.S. Mint and they are legal tender (you can spend them like regular money) but they really aren't intended to be used.
The act that authorized their creation said that they are “produced with the primary intention of creating a special souvenir to be sold (at a premium above face value) to observe or memorialize an anniversary, special occasion, or other event.” They are intended to be a collectable and to help groups make money as they are sold by these groups rather than the mint.
The first commemorative coin (a silver half-dollar) was authorized in 1892 for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The proceeds for the sale of the coin were used “for the purpose of aiding in defraying the cost of completing in a suitable manner the work of preparation for inaugurating the World’s Columbian Exposition.”
From 1892 through 1954, legislation was passed authorizing the Mint to produce commemorative coins for 53 different events, occasions, or individuals. This resulted in the Mint producing over 180 silver and gold commemorative coins.
As early as 1925, many in Congress expressed concern over bills introduced to “…commemorate events of local and not national interest…” After extensive hearings on the “objectionable practices and abuses related to the issuance of special coins”, as published in House Report No. 101, issued February 27, 1939, Congress passed legislation prohibiting “…the issuance and coinage of certain commemorative coins…” (Public Law No. 278-76th Congress – Approved August 5, 1939), which also halted the issue of all commemorative coins already approved. Produced from 1951 through 1954, the Carver-Washington half dollar was the last of the pre-modern commemorative coin programs.