National Numismatic Collection - Introduction
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.
- Theodore Roosevelt met sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens in the 1890s, when T.R. was an aspiring young politician, and Saint-Gaudens was establishing a reputation as a brilliant artist. When Roosevelt was elected President in 1904 and needed an inaugural medal, he gave the commission to Saint-Gaudens after rejecting the standard, unmemorable medal typically produced for this occasion by the United States Mint.
- Saint-Gaudens's results shattered precedent. The piece was modern in all senses of the word. There was no attempt to beautify or romanticize the President's head on the obverse, yet the image clearly conveyed vision and power. The reverse was, if anything, even more groundbreaking. The magnificent, left-facing eagle epitomized authority and presence, while displaying a classical ancient style. (The same eagle is used on the Saint-Gaudens $10 in 1907). This bird unquestionably ruled all it surveyed.
- Saint-Gaudens's success with this medal convinced Roosevelt that the artist was the partner he needed to collaborate on a pet project: the redesign of America's money. Saint-Gaudens signed on, and the plotting began. But the potential for trouble hovered on the horizon: this medal had been struck, not by the United States Mint in Philadelphia, but by Tiffany & Company in New York. If the Mint hadn't produced Saint-Gaudens's medal, would it agree to produce any of his coins?
- Currently not on view
- Date made
- associated date
- associated person
- Roosevelt, Theodore
- Saint-Gaudens, Augustus
- Weinman, Adolph A.
- Tiffany & Company
- Saint-Gaudens, Augustus
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center