The Money Museum: Take a Private Tour

Featured Article, On the Road, Travel Destinations
on March 25, 2013

A wealth of information about the history of money—and uncommon and uncirculated coins worth millions of dollars—are exhibited at the Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Opened in 1969 by the American Numismatic Association, the museum’s 275,000-piece collection includes some of the world’s earliest coins, produced around 650 B.C. in Lydia (now Turkey); the oldest surviving paper money, a Chinese 1 kuan banknote from the 14th century; an 1836 steam-operated coinage press from the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia; and a rare 1913 Liberty Head nickel that was secretly minted.

“It’s the nickel that never was,” says museum spokeswoman RyAnne Scott, 34, about the 5-cent coins that were struck without the Mint’s authorization. Only five of the nickels are known to exist, and the one on display at the museum is insured for $5 million.

Rare coins abound in the museum’s Harry W. Bass Jr. Collection, which includes examples of all U.S. gold coin denominations from 1795 to 1834 and the world’s only complete collection of $3 gold pieces. The $3 coins were issued from 1854 to 1889 to make it convenient to buy first-class 3-cent U.S. postage stamps, which often sold in sheets of 100. Included is one of only two known 1870 $3 coins struck at the U.S. Mint in San Francisco.

Among the Bass collection are dozens of never-released experimental designs, including an 1861 Eagle $10 gilded-copper coin with “God Our Trust” placed over the eagle’s head. Three years later, “In God We Trust” began to appear on U.S. coins.