If you are a coin collector looking for conversation starters, your best bet may be to begin collecting historical United States coins of odd denominations. Antiquated by constant inflation and streamlining, coins that once represented a half cent, three cents and even twenty cents were all once commonly circulated. Nowadays, the oldest varieties can be centuries old and exceedingly rare, while others are still plentiful among coin dealers. Tracking down these oddballs can be both rewarding and challenging, and they are always sure to provoke curiosity and questions from your guests.
In the earliest days of American society, many common goods were still not worth a penny, making a half cent necessary to conduct business efficiently. Half cents were printed from 1793 to 1857, and their small size and age makes them particularly difficult to find well preserved. Most half cents featured the face of Lady Liberty, though others were printed with eagles instead. Their relative scarcity makes them some of the most expensive coins you can add to your collection, but if you can find a good deal, they are well worth the trouble.
The two-cent piece ran from 1864 to 1873, partially in response to a shortage of federal coins as a result of the Civil War. Made of a cheaper and more abundant bronze than the coins before them, two-cent pieces were briefly quite popular, before the nickel and three-cent piece became more useful. Many two-cent pieces were collected by the government after their circulation was cancelled and then melted down into pennies, making them a rare find for collectors today.
Three-cent pieces ran from 1851 to 1889, with earlier coins being made of silver and post-war ones of nickel. Like the two-cent piece, they made transactions more convenient for the inflation of their day, and they saw the re-introduction of nickel into the US currency. Their success would be short-lived, however, with the advent of the much more decimal-friendly nickel. Three-cent pieces are still fairly commonly found today, and standard-issue coins are relatively inexpensive.
The twenty-cent piece is an amusing look at a historically bad idea, running only from 1875 to 1878. These coins were intended to alleviate the continuing coin shortage in the years after the Civil War, but it was nearly identical to the quarter in both design and size. After a few short years of confusion, the twenty-cent piece was pulled just as quickly as it had arrived. Two years of its run were dedicated solely to collectors, which means this piece is still somewhat easy to find for dedicated hobbyists. If you are looking for something fresh and interesting to add to your collection, it's hard to go wrong with one of these eccentric historical artifacts.
For more information, talk to a company like American Precious Metals Inc.