Coins and Currency Exhibition Opens at the Smithsonian

Posted on 6/11/2009

The recently renovated National Museum of American History has opened a new coin and currency exhibition, "Stories on Money," the only Smithsonian display dedicated to numismatics. Read on for more details.

A new exhibition of coins and currency, "Stories on Money," has opened at the recently renovated National Museum of American History. The first floor gallery is currently the only display dedicated fully to numismatics at the Smithsonian. "Stories on Money" illustrates the changing themes and designs of circulating money during critical moments in American history.

The exhibition case that’s likely to draw the most attention from US coin enthusiasts is titled, "America’s Legendary Coins." Included among the 18 coins it highlights are all three types of the 1804 dollar, a 1933 $20 gold piece, both extant gold 1877 Half Unions ($50), and two versions of the 1907 Ultra High Relief $20. At the center of the display is the unique gold 1849 $20, described in the exhibit simply as follows: "Many consider this the most historically significant U.S. coin because it is the very first twenty-dollar gold coin…ever made." It is widely considered to be the single most valuable coin in existence.

During the welcome presentation, Mark Salzberg, Chairman of NGC and NCS, described his first visit to the Smithsonian 27 years ago: "The display I saw from the National collection was inspiring enough to color my thinking about coins and collections throughout my entire career as a numismatist. It was unforgettable." Building form that initial exposure, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) and Numismatic Conservation Services (NCS) are now presenting sponsors of "Stories on Money." This is the third exhibition that NGC and NCS have sponsored in addition to providing conservation and storage consultancy aimed at improving the long-term preservation of the collection.

"‘Stories on Money’ is the return of coins to the museum," commented Brent Glass, Director of the National Museum of American History, during his welcome address at the opening reception in which he predicted strong viewership for the exhibition. Already, over 2.5 million visitors have come to the Museum since it re-opened in November 2008, Glass noted.


Mark Salzberg and Adam Crum cut a red ribbon to officially open "Stories on Money." From left to right, Brent Glass, Adam Crum, Richard Kurin, Mark Salzberg, Edmund Moy, Jeff Garrett, and Elizabeth Little.

The exhibition draws from the Museum’s National Numismatic Collection, which consists of more than 1.5 million objects, including coins, medals and paper currency and preserves the role of money in economic history. The exhibition also uses objects and interactive media to immerse visitors in these stories on money. Enlarged image of every item on display in "Stories on Money" can be examined using a touch-screen monitor placed along-side each exhibit case.

The National Museum of American History is located on the National Mall, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. To learn more about the museum or to plan you visit, go to americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).

Related articles: Money Talks at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History