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


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!

Silver Round Toned With Eggs

How to Artificially Tone Silver Coins?

Alternative title, “How to Upset Coin Collectors.”

I’m going to get so much hate for this one so I will clarify now.

*I am aware that artificially toning a coin lessens its value. I am aware that lots of artificial toning is done to convince novice buyers to pay more for a coin. This article is a study on the processes of how to create artificial toning on a coin.*

All that being said, if they are your coins and you like pretty colors, go ahead and tone them! A lot of coin collectors are pretentious snobs anyway. (I’m mostly kidding.)

For the purpose of this experiment, I will be using 99.9% silver bullion also called silver rounds. I do not want to damage the value of my silver coins by toning them. Since the “coins” I am using are very generic silver buffalo rounds, toning them should not affect the price as they have almost no premium.

The silver rounds I will be ruining today.

I have never toned coins before, so I will be testing several methods I have seen on various forums.

(If you want to see a similar post where I used Liver of Sulfur Gel, Click Here!)

What I am trying to achieve

Ideally, I want these rounds to come out with a rainbow toning. Mainly, I want to have purple and blue hues on the rounds.

The consensus seems to be that the best way to artificially tone coins is to use heat and sulfur, so most of my experiments will revolve around those elements.

Since I am also very impatient, I will focus on experiments that promise to tone coins within a few hours.

1.) Using a Boiled Egg

Silver Round with an Egg

I boiled an egg for about 8 minutes until it was hard-boiled. I put the egg in a bowl, mashed it with a fork, then threw in my silver round. Easy-peasy.

Silver round IN the hardboiled egg.

I covered the bowl in saran wrap to keep the sulfur in and left the bowl on the windowsill.

After about 30 minutes, I could tell the silver was beginning to tone!

The sulfur in the egg starting to react with the silver.

So far, it was not a very attractive toning. This coin looks more like it was burnt in a house fire rather than touched by a rainbow.

After another hour in the sun…

Slide the arrows to see the toned obverse and reverse!

This one didn’t come out too bad! With some more time and a few more eggs I could have gotten a much more even color. I was hoping for more blue tones instead of the spotted burnt look.

2.) The Baked Potato Method

I had high hopes for this one! After the egg, this was the most highly recommended way to tone a coin easily. Plus, it was supposed to work in less than an hour!

I took a potato and cut a hole for my silver round to fit in.

Who knew potatoes made such great coin holders?

I put the potato in the oven for 350 degrees, expecting to let it cook for about an hour.

No changes after 10 minutes, not surprising as the potato was barely hot.

After 10 minutes in the oven.

After 30 minutes I was getting slightly worried. I saw absolutely no changes!

Finally, after an hour I took the potato out of the oven. I covered the potato in aluminum foil, hoping this would keep whatever catalyst was supposed to tone the round in. Potatoes apparently contain very little sulfur.

The fully cooked potato. I added salt and olive oil since I was going to eat the potato. (It was delicious!)

After an hour sitting in the baked potato here is what the silver round looked like…

Not a spot on it!

Nothing. Not a spot on it.

Either this method is a hoax or I did something wrong. If I was going to repeat this experiment, I would try covering the potato in aluminum foil while baking it.

3.) Baked With Cauliflower

Silver Round in Cauliflower

I almost decided not to try this one. I started it halfway through the potato experiment that seemed to be going nowhere, so my expectations were low.

I put some cauliflower in a Pyrex baking pan with olive oil and salt. (In case I wanted to eat it later.) I covered the Pyrex in aluminum foil. Then, threw it in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Wow! This one was working so much better than the potato, probably due to the higher sulfur content of cauliflower.

I flipped the Buffalo Round over and let it sit as the cauliflower cooled for another hour.

After another hour out of the oven…

Wow! Cauliflower really does tone coins!

This one worked great! The cauliflower gave the silver the blue color I was looking for. This was by far the best toning method I had tried all day.

4.) Onion and Kale (11:45)

Silver Buffalo with Onion and Kale

Since the baked potato method did not work, I decided to try onion and kale. Both foods came up on a list of high-sulfur foods and I happened to have both on hand.

Instead of baking, I sautéed the onion and kale for about 8-10 minutes since that is how I normally eat them. As soon as the kale and onions were cooked, I put them in a tupperware container with the silver and shook it up.

Silver in cooked kale and onion.

My hope was the heat and sulfur trapped in a small container would be the secret to an even toning.

After 30 minutes in the kale and onions…

A lite but even toning.

Hmm… I thought this combination would work much better and faster. After an hour in the sun, there were only some light brown spots. I do have to give this method credit for creating a much more even effect on both sides.

5.) Shampoo and Heat

Silver Ounce with Head and Shoulders 2 in 1 Lavender.

Some shampoos are made with sulfate, a sulfur compound. I used Head and Shoulders for this.

I hoped that by heating the shampoo on the silver I would speed up the chemical process. This didn’t seem to be working so I inhaled lots of burnt shampoo for nothing.

My initial attempt heating it with a lighter.

If you were curious, Head and Shoulders shampoo is not flammable! Who knew? I swapped the lighter for a Butane Torch to speed up the process.

MMM… burning shampoo smell.

Eventually, I gave up on heating the silver round and resigned to leave it in the sun. I will update this post in a few day if I get any results.

Speaking of waiting…

5.) Manilla Envelope

Buffalo Silver Round sitting on a manilla envelope.

This is the one I am least excited for, since it is supposed to take several weeks to process. Thankfully-although it is the middle of Winter- I live in California so I still get a decent amount of sun most days.

The egg, shampoo, and manilla envelope sitting in the sun.

I am still waiting on the results of this one. I may try to speed to process up with a humidifier. But for now, I will wait. 😦


I had lots of fun running around my kitchen looking for new ways to tone my silver rounds. It did feel very wrong to be intentionally damaging them, since until now I have tried to handle my silver as little as possible to prevent spots.

I am hoping that now that I have artificially toned my own coins I will be able to better spot coins that have been artificially toned in order to avoid them.

Yes, although I was excited to see the colors change I do think they look VERY ugly now. Nothing about the toning looks natural; it is too uneven.

Check out my follow-up article where I do the professional method:

Toning a Silver Round with Liver of Sulphur Gel

Share your thoughts in the comments or the poll below.