The U.S. Mint returned to minting commemorative coins in 1982 with the release of a half dollar celebrating the 250th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. Modern commemoratives typically recognize special occasions, unique structures, and famous personalities of national or global importance.
Although commemorative coins are legal tender, they are not minted for general circulation. Instead, they are offered to collectors, and most of these special-issue coins are available only during the year in which they first appear. The popularity of these commemorative coins varies with the design; some issues sell out completely, while others attract little interest.
Two of the most popular recent commemorative coins have been the American Buffalo in 2001 and the Benjamin Franklin commemorative coin in 2006. Both runs of these coins have sold out.