The history of the United States is rich in movements of revolution and government re-establishment, and it is a history that can almost be told alone by its coinage. You may be familiar with today’s minted currency, but what about the coinage of just a few decades past? Here are some unusual US coins that you might still find in your change at the grocery store. Keep an eye out for them, as you might still be able to garner some extra money with these rare valuable coins.
You might be used to seeing various obverses on the penny thanks to the 2009 commemorative Lincoln bicentennial pennies and the 2010 Union “shield cents.” But before these distinctive pennies came into circulation, and before the iconic Lincoln Memorial pennies were minted, the United States saw the use of the “wheat penny.” This penny, minted from 1909 to 1958, features two ears of durum wheat on the reverse, along text that reads “e pluribus unum,” “one cent,” and “the United States of America.”
Wartime silver nickel
As what happened with many US coins during World War II, the composition of Jefferson nickels was changed to save nickel for the war effort. Nickels from 1942 to 1945 were struck with a unique combination of 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese, making these nickels worth 20 to 30 times their face value today.
Roosevelt silver dime
The Roosevelt silver dime rarely turns up in circulation or in bank rolls, but that doesn’t mean you won’t come into contact with one if you’re lucky. From 1946 to 1964, during the first 18 years of Roosevelt dime production, the Roosevelt dime was made with a 90% silver content. Since 1965, dimes have been made instead with a copper-nickel composition.
Like the nickel and dime, the quarter also saw a time when its composition saw increased quantities of silver. The Washington quarter of 1932 to 1964 actually had a 90% silver composition.
In 1975 and 1976, the US Mint struck commemorative quarters, half dollars, and dollar coins in celebration of the 200-year mark of the American Revolution. Most commonly still seen in circulation are bicentennial quarters, which feature the date 1776–1976 on the obverse (even for those coins minted in 1975) and a colonial drummer and victory torch on the reverse.