The Modern Coin era began in America in 1965, the first year the U.S. Mint produced copper-nickel "clad" coins as a replacement for silver coins, ending an unbroken, 173-year tradition. For many collectors, this was the death knell for collecting, as the coins would no longer have any intrinsic value and mintages would be huge. Collectors perceived the modern coinage as a vast desert of ultra-common, mundane, unattractive and boring coins.
A perfect melding of perception and reality occurred with the 50 States Quarters program, in which mass quantities of newly designed quarters flooded the market at the rate of five new designs a year. They are, and will be forever, common.
However, among modern coins there are a great number of unexpected treasures, many of which are extremely valuable, each brought about by a variety of circumstances: some were made in error, some are patterns (prototype issues), others are simply low-mintage items, and others are rare varieties.
Instead of being a wasteland, the field of modern coins is just as exciting and challenging as pre-1965 coins. Certainly, there are many common coins, but there are also plenty of rare items. The following list is a presentation of the Top 100 Modern U.S. Coins as chosen by the PCGS modern coin research team in consultation with noted numismatic experts. The coins are ranked in order of importance, though this order was/is subject to great debate, especially among the Top 10. Ownership has a lot to do with it; availability and/or collectibility has even more. We didn't always agree, but we had a lot of fun selecting our Top 100 Modern Coins, and particularly the Top 10.
Perhaps the biggest argument was over the #1 coin, the 1964-D Peace Dollar. "How can the #1 Modern U.S. coin be one that is illegal to own?" several experts asked. "It was made before 1965," others remarked. However, the general consensus was that the 1964-D Peace Dollar was too important to exclude and if one ever came onto the market (and the government permitted its sale), it would become one of the most valuable of all U.S. coins.
Arguments aside, collectors will find numerous surprises and lots to get excited about in this compilation. Most of the coins are highly collectible and within the reach of many collectors. Value collectors will appreciate the low cost of the numerous low-mintage coins in this listing. If these were "classic" pre-1965 coins, their value would be considerably higher, often by magnitudes, because of their scarcity.
Most of all, this is an enjoyable assortment of coins, offering diversity in design, challenge in hunting them down, and a lifetime of collecting fun. Even better, the Modern Coin era continues, and who knows what exciting coins tomorrow will bring!