US Coins

numismatic lineage from one family

Annual United States Mint Proof sets have a long tradition as gifts for a birth in one’s immediate family, extended family, or that of a close friend.

In 2012, the Mint introduced a special Birth set that permits the recipient to insert a photo and lock of the baby’s hair in a capsule within the packaging for the set’s five Proof coins, cent through half dollar, struck at the San Francisco Mint with the S Mint mark.

Beyond such a prepared set, collectors could assemble a type collection of coins relative to a birth in a number of ways.

Birth year type sets

Birth year type set options are what you make of them.

You may decide to put together a set of coins based on your own birth year, and limit it to examples just struck for special sets, such as Proof or Uncirculated Mint sets, or you could include just those issues struck for circulation.

In contrast, you could broaden the collection’s scope by including examples of coins struck at multiple Mints. Currently, the United States Mint strikes coins at Mint facilities at Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco and West Point.

You may even be able to include a commemorative coin if one was struck and issued in the year of your birth (but no one born from 1955 to 1981 will find a U.S. commemorative coin to include from those years).

A type set should have a focus, but does not have to be restricted to U.S. coins, especially if one was born outside the United States. The country of birth could provide a focus for the collector, who might choose issues solely from that nation for a type set. An adventurous collector could aim to collect one of every coin issued worldwide within their birth year.

One intriguing birth-year related type set to consider would include a coin representing each person on a family tree. Such a set could be truncated or more fully branched out, depending on how far one could trace the family’s ancestry. 

Websites such as increase the possibilities for discovering an extended family tree with many branches. A collector could limit a growing set’s overall cost by seeking and acquiring representative coins in affordable circulated conditions.

More than 20 years ago, when my young children (now 35 and 33) accompanied me to the Michigan State Numismatic Society Fall Convention, one of the Young Numismatist activities, to be completed before the show, was assembling a family tree of coins.

The reward for doing so and bringing the results to the convention was an American Eagle 1-ounce silver bullion coin.

Family trees

There was a maternal great grandmother born in 1887; paternal great grandparents born in 1888; another set of paternal great grandparents, both born in 1897; paternal grandparents, one born in 1918, the other 1921; maternal grandparents, both born in 1916; my birth year of 1954; 1955, the birth year of my children’s mother; and my children’s birth years, 1979 and 1981.

For the 1887 year, one selection was a circulated 1887 Indian Head cent and the other a circulated 1887 Canadian large cent, since the great grandmother was born in Canada. Both coins were acquired for a few dollars each.

For 1888, I remember spending a few dollars for a circulated 1888 Seated Liberty dime. I ruled out the 1888 Liberty Head 5-cent coin as cost-prohibitive for this task.

I did, however, opt to include an 1897 Liberty Head 5-cent coin for a few dollars to represent one of the other great grandparents.

For 1916, I acquired an Indian Head 5-cent coin and one 1916 Lincoln cent. For 1918, there was the Lincoln cent. 

The year 1921 presented a challenge. The final choices were one 1921 Lincoln cent and one 1921-D Morgan dollar, since a 1921 Peace dollar would have broken the bank (me).

For 1954, there was a circulated 1954 Franklin silver half dollar for one type set and circulated Washington quarter dollar for the other.

For 1955, a 1955 Roosevelt dime filled the bill for one family tree set of coins and a 1955 Jefferson 5-cent coin filled the other, (No 1955 Lincoln, Doubled Die cents here.) 

Representing my son and daughter, respectively, were Proof examples of 1979 and 1981 Washington quarter dollars.

Assembling such a family tree of coins for your family can offer not only a bonding experience with current family, but also an illustrative history of the types and denominations of coins issued and used during the lives of long-departed ancestors. 

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