National Numismatic Collection
The National Numismatic Collection (NNC) of the Smithsonian Institution is one of the largest numismatic collections in the world and the largest in North America. With over 1.6 millioin objects, the NNC contains many great rarities in coins and currency, from the earliest coins created 2,700 years ago up to the latest innovations in electronic monetary exchange, as well as fascinating objects such as beads, wampum, dentalia, and other commodities once used as money.
The collection emphasizes the development of money and medals in the United States. The core of the U.S. collection, consisting of more than 18,000 items, including coins of great rarity, came to the Smithsonian in 1923 from the United States Mint. Exceptional rarities include the Brasher half doubloon, the 1849 double eagle (first of the gold 20 dollar pieces), and two 1877 fifty dollar patterns. Other rarities are include the 1913 Liberty head nickel as well as all three types of the 1804 dollar, and two of three known examples of the world's most valuable coin, the 1933 double eagle, the third of which recently sold for 7.6 million dollars. Learn more about the collection.
Below you will find a selection of over 350 objects from the collection. We are working to expand and improve online access to additional objects in the near future, so stay tuned.
"National Numismatic Collection - Introduction" showing 1 items.
- The sheer size of the California gold strike altered the nature of American numismatics. It was not only that mintage figures dramatically increased; the actual range of denominations increased as well.
- Prior to 1849, there had been three gold coins: the quarter eagle, half eagle, and eagle (or $2.50, $5.00, and $10.00 coins). By 1854, three more had been added, a dollar, a three-dollar piece, and a double eagle, or twenty-dollar coin.
- Artist James Barton Longacre designed all three of the new coins. The double eagle was the most popular. For its obverse, Longacre employed a simple head of Liberty, wearing a coronet. Stars surrounded the head of the goddess, and the date appeared below. The reverse depicted a somewhat ornate representation of an eagle, a "glory" of stars and rays above, the national motto to either side.
- In 1854, the United States created a new branch mint in San Francisco to deal with the fruits of the gold rush. It was intended to replace a whole galaxy of private California mints that had created a variety of local coins.
- This double eagle was the first coin the new federal mint struck. Below the eagle, each coin from the new branch Mint bore a distinctive small "S." This distinguished the coin from ones struck in Philadelphia, which had no such mark, and ones struck at New Orleans, which had an "O."
- Currently not on view
- date made
- U.S. Mint, San Francisco
- Longacre, James Barton
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center