This year marks a major milestone for collectors – it’s the first time since 1985 that the U.S. Mint will not be releasing official commemorative coins. As 2022 wound to its end, there were a few proposed commemorative coin programs that ultimately weren’t moved through the channels in time. Those themes would have honored:
Working Dogs – honoring the animals that work in law enforcement, the military and serving those who are injured and disabled
100th Anniversary of the Lincoln Memorial – I’m a bit surprised that this program didn’t pass – but not surprised at the same time. After all, it wasn’t that long ago (in 2009) that we saw the commemorative coins honoring the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth, which depicted a portrait of Lincoln based on the Memorial’s sculpture.
Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew – this would have been a hefty program. Intended to honor the 20 people who perished during Arizona’s Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013, it would have consisted of 20 different coin designs, each issued in $5 gold, $1 silver and 50 cent coins – each in Uncirculated condition and Proof. That would mean 120 coins in all!
Missing the boat
A big event happening later in 2023 would have made a great opportunity for a commemorative coin. This December marks the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party! On a bright note, though: the Boston Tea Party is the first event honored in our new America 250th coin series. This 25-coin series will run through 2026, celebrating the anniversary of the United States declaring independence from Great Britain.
U.S. Commemorative coins have a long history. For collectors, they’re divided into two groups: “Classic” commemoratives (coins released from 1892-1954) and “Modern” commemoratives (coins issued from 1982-date).
The classic series of commemorative coins wrapped up (though not intentionally at the time) in 1954 with the Carver-Washington half dollars. The next commemorative coins wouldn’t be seen for 28 years when, in 1982, the George Washington half dollars were released. Since that time, commemorative coins have been released in every year except 1985. Even though some Statue of Liberty commemorative coins (half dollars, dollars and $5 coins were a part of this program) were struck in 1985, all were released bearing the 1986 date.
The roaring ‘90s
In some years, just one or two topics have been chosen for honor on coins. However, their popularity began to snowball in the 1990s. The peak came in 1994, when a whopping 6 different commemorative coin programs were released. There were several war-related coins that year, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial coins, the U.S. Prisoner of War Museum releases, and the coins honoring Women in Military Service. Since that time, only 2 to 3 commemorative programs (4 in 1997, if we count the gold-only FDR coins) have been created per year.
Now, it looks like 2023 will join 1985 in the history books as a non-commemorative coin year. What are your thoughts on this development? Are you welcoming a break in the series – or do you think there’s an event that would be worthy of commemoration this year?