Top 7 Ugliest Coins in U.S. History

The U.S. Mint has made some really gorgeous coins over the last few decades… and some incredibly ugly coins. Let’s look at the ugliest coins ever made by the U.S. Mint.

Some of these are my opinion, and others were decided by popular opinion. If you feel like a coin deserves a spot on this list, post a comment or reach out on my Contact Page.

7.) JFK Presidential Dollar (2015)

John F. Kennedy Dollar Coin

We know the U.S. Mint can make a better JFK coin, because they did it on the Kennedy half dollar. All the presidential dollar coins are boring, but this one is on the verge of unattractive.

Not the ugliest coin on this list, but my biggest issue is how sad this coin looks. JFK looking down does not give him a presidential look, but more of a forlorn, forgotten look. Coins are all about symbolism, and I wish this coin had a more hopeful aspect to it.

6.) Cincinnati Half Dollar (1936)

cincinnati half dollar commemorative
Cincinnati Half Dollar

BORING!

This must have been done by one of the laziest engravers at the U.S. Mint. There are no details on lady liberty. She looks very blobby.

Besides the lack of detail, the ugliest part of this coin is Lady Liberty’s neck. Are you okay Miss Liberty? Necks are not supposed to bend like that.

5.) Flowing Hair Half Dollar and Dime (1794-1795)

1795 flowing hair half dollar
Flowing Hair Half Dollar

I can’t judge this coin too harshly, as it is one of the first coins made by the U.S. Mint, I’m sure they were still working out the kinks in the design process.

This coin has a some intricate detailing, but several design choices that are unappealing. First, Lady Liberty’s hairline looks strange to me. Perhaps she is suffering from early balding?

My biggest issue with this design is with the Eagle. This eagle looks more like a starving plucked chicken or a vulture than a powerful eagle. The head is way too small.

4.) Three Cent Silver (1851-1873)

Three Cent Silver Coin

Gosh, this coin is weird. It doesn’t resemble any other U.S. coinage, so I give the Mint points for bravery here.

The obverse reminds me of a sheriffs badge, and the reverse reminds me of a witches spell book. Most of the imagery makes sense, except for the large “C” on the reverse which I have yet to see an explanation for.

This coin was not popular in its time, nor is it popular for coin collectors today.

3.) Effigy Mounds Quarter (2017)

2017 d effigy mounds national monument quarter
Effigy Mounds Quarter

The Effigy Mounds Quarter is here due to public opinion, more than my own. Many coin collectors don’t like this quarter because the effigy mounds look like amorphous blobs in person.

In the picture above we can clearly see the blobs resemble animals, however in person the quarters are not as attractive once they’ve worn even slightly.

Personally, I like the effigy mounds quarter, I think the use of blank space is interesting and eye-catching, but I am in the minority with that opinion.

2.) Chain Cent (1793)

Chain Cent

The Chain Cent coin gives me the heebie-jeebies. Something is very scary about the depiction of Lady Liberty in the Chain Cent. She looks more like a body-less ghost floating around a haunted mansion than a symbol of strength.

The reverse is equally unappealing. I assume the chains are meant to signify unity, but it reads are more restricting and dystopian.

The shortening of “AMERICA” to “AMERI.” is also a strange choice, there is so much blank space on the reverse, there was easily room for the whole word.

I did not give this coin the number one spot on the list simply because it is a very early U.S. coinage.

1.) Susan B. Anthony Dollar Coin (1979-1999)

1979 Susan B Anthony Dollar
Susan B. Anthony Dollar Coin

So much went wrong in designing the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin. There was interference from lobbyists, outdated laws, and public interest groups all working together to make this one of the ugliest U.S. coins.

On its own, this coin has some really attractive elements. The eagle landing on the moon is one of my favorite coin reverses. But what does the moon landing have to do with Susan B. Anthony? Nothing.

The U.S. Mint wanted to design a coin that was not a perfect square, but vending machine lobbyists interfered because it would be more difficult to use in a vending machine. Instead of scrapping that idea, the mint left in the hexagonal edges.

I know several people don’t like this coin because they think Susan B. Anthony looks too ugly, and that is a silly argument. We don’t put people on coins because they are attractive, we put them on our coinage because they were influential and inspiring. Abraham Lincoln is on the penny, but he was widely regarded as being unattractive for his time.

I like this coin for the lore around why it has so many different elements, but ultimately it is the ugliest coin due to the lack of a coherent theme.


What did you think about this list? Anything you would have changed? Share a comment below!

Penny, Dime, Half Dime Sizes Small Coins

Sizes of U.S. Coins Past and Present

Why is a penny larger than a dime? Why is a nickel larger than both the dime and the penny? Why are half dollar coins so big?

The sizes of these coins may seem confusing. To understand the sizes of modern day coins, we have to look at the history of how these coins came to be.

Below is a chart of the sizes of modern U.S. Coins.

Modern Coins By Size Chart Millimeters
U.S. coins organized by diameter in millimeters.

Why is a penny larger than a dime?

Coins used to be valued based on their metal composition. A penny was larger than a dime, because pennies were made of copper, and dimes were made of silver. Since silver is more valuable than copper, the dime had to be made smaller than the penny.

Why is a nickel larger than a dime?

Before the nickel was invented in 1866, the U.S. used another coin called a half dime. The half dime weighed about half as much as a silver dime.

Due to rising silver prices, the U.S. Mint decided to halt production of the half dime and begin making a new coin out of nickel. Since their inception, nickels have been made of 75% copper and 25% nickel.

The size of the 5 cent piece, known as the nickel, has increased from 20.5mm in the first nickel to 21.5mm in modern nickels.

What was the smallest U.S. coin ever produced?

The smallest U.S. coin currently in circulation is the Roosevelt dime, but the smallest U.S. coin ever minted was the gold dollar in 1849 at 13mm in diameter.

Here is a chart of some of the smallest coins minted in the U.S.:

Smallest Coins in US History by Size Chart

Why are half dollar coins bigger than dollar coins?

Half dollar coins have not always been larger than dollar coins. Before 1979, dollar coins were 38.1 mm in diameter.

When coins were valued by the metal composition, a silver dollar needed to weigh about twice as much as a half dollar.

What is the largest coin ever made in the US?

The largest coin ever produced in the US was the Draped Bust Dollar at a tremendous 40mm. Since the coin was 90% silver, it weighed almost 27 grams.

Carrying just 17 of the Draped Bust dollar coins in your pocket would have weighed over 1 pound! Comparing that to modern dollar coins, you would need to have 56 presidential dollar coins to equal a pound.

Largest Coins Minted in the US Measured in Millimeters America Coin Sizes
Largest Coins Minted in the US Measured in Millimeters.

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