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American Coins   
 
 
The first American coins were private coins issued by the American colonies in
the 1600’s and 1700’s to supplement the English, German, French, and other
foreign coins that circulated at the time.  There was no standard coinage, but in
1792 Congress authorized a unique United States coinage to be struck at the
newly-established United States Mint.  Congress also agreed that the standard
unit of U.S. currency would be the Dollar, which consisted of 100 Cents.  The first
U.S. coins were struck in 1793.
 
 
In addition to the copper Half Cent and Cent and silver coins ranging from the
Half Dime to the Dollar, American gold coins were also authorized.  The
standard gold coin denomination was the Eagle, which was valued at $10
and was the highest denomination gold coin until 1849.  In 1849, the
U.S. Mint introduced the $20 gold Double Eagle containing nearly one once
of gold, in part to take advantage of the vast quantity of gold coming out
of California. 
 
 
A new type of American coin was introduced in 1986 when the U.S. Mint
struck the first bullion coins.  Produced for investors and collectors, the Silver
Eagle bullion coin was struck with one ounce of silver while the Gold Eagle
bullion coins were made with between one-tenth ounce and one ounce of gold. 
The first Platinum Eagle bullion coins were launched in 1997.  In addition,
a series of American Buffalo gold bullion coins minted in .9999 pure gold
– the purest U.S. gold coins – started in 2006, and a series of First Spouse
gold bullion coins, also minted in .9999 pure gold, began in 2007 to complement
the Presidential Dollars series.
 
 
One of the most important developments in the history of American coins was
the advent of certified coins in the 1980’s.  A certified coin is one that is graded
by an independent coin-grading company and then encapsulated in a
tamper-proof plastic holder to protect the coin and certify that it is accurately
graded.  Rare and expensive coins are almost always certified in this manner. 
In addition, coins in high grades such as Proof-70 and MS-70 are almost always
certified to prove that they are both genuine and correctly graded.  Certified
coins can usually be bought and sold sight-unseen due to the trust that both
dealers and collectors place in the certification system.