Coins have always held a special place in the American psyche. Early on, Thomas Jefferson suggested that citizens could do without paper money entirely, relying instead on coins in a broad range of denominations. Cooler heads prevailed, but in 1792, Congress established the Coinage Act, which created the U.S. Mint and standardized coin denominations—from half-cent copper pieces to $10 Eagles made of solid gold. U.S. gold coins are both symbolic and collectible, embodying the growth of U.S. economic power and influence in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Because they're made of a precious metal, even those with little numismatic value have been treated as investments, which can reward or punish a collector depending on the rise or fall in the price of gold. U.S. gold coins were issued in several denominations over the years (starting in 1795), including one-dollar gold pieces, two-and-a-half-dollar quarter eagles, three-dollar pieces, five-dollar half eagles, ten-dollar eagles, and twenty-dollar double eagles. Many of the higher denomination gold-eagle coins did not circulate widely among the public—some were hoarded, others were melted down, and a great many were used for trade or interbank transfers.
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