If you missed the news, a few days ago President Barak Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act (Pub. L. 114-152) that names the “North American Bison” the national mammal. The bison does not replace the Bald Eagle as the national animal or the national emblem.
The bison is an iconic animal unique to North America. Discovered by the European settlers as the country expanded west, the bison was significant to the economic and spiritual lives of the native tribes throughout the Great Plains areas.
Photo from the 1870s of a pile of American bison skulls waiting to be ground for fertilizer.
Bison is important to the ecology of the landscapes where they are located. Bison eat a certain type of grasses that are said to be difficult to control. The bison act as a natural “ predator” and not only consumes these grasses but also helps maintain control over the vegetation through consumption and feeding what is left through their waste.
Although conservation efforts began in the late 19th century, a bison population that used to number in the millions the 2012 Department of Agriculture census said that there were 162,110 heads. Up until the last 50 years, we have done a bad job of taking care of this national resource, now national treasure.
When numismatist thinks of the American Bison, the thought turns to the Indian Head “ Buffalo” Nickel designed by James Earle Fraser. Fraser, a student of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, continued the path of Theodore Roosevelt’s “pet crime” to design a coin that screams America.
The reverse of the coin is an American Bison that we erroneous call a buffalo. According to legend, Black Diamond was Fraser’s model for the reverse of the Buffalo nickel. Black Diamond was a North American bison that was living in the Central Park Zoo. He was donated to the zoo by Barnum and Bailey and lived his life there until he was auctioned in 1915 to a game and poultry dealer who was later sold as steaks for $2 a pound.
2013-W American Buffalo gold reverse proof obverse
1913 Buffalo Nickel Type 1 Reverse
When asked about the model for the coin, Fraser said it was Black Diamond and found him in the Bronx Zoo. At one time Fraser was not sure of the name of the animal but insisted his influence was at the Bronx Zoo. Black Diamond was never at the Bronx Zoo. But like the story of who was the model for the Indian on the obverse, why should facts spoil a good story!
With the signing of the National Bison Legacy Act there are groups that wants to bring back the Buffalo nickel. Someone started a petition at the online petition website Change.org to convince the U.S. Mint to return to bring back the buffalo nickel.
Even though the U.S. Mint is the wrong agency to address this petition to since it would require an act of congress, the Fraser Buffalo design is still used on the 24-karat gold bullion coin. In fact, not counting varieties, mintmarks and strike types, the bison has appeared on eight different coins and one Legal Tender Note. If you want to put together a nice type set, it would require 22 different coins and the 1901 $10 Legal Tender Note (see “Collecting a Herd of Buffaloes” for this discussion).
I do not know if returning the Buffalo nickel is a good idea. While it was an iconic design, it was one that saw considerable wearing while in circulation. If someone wants to bring the buffalo back to United States coins, maybe we could consider the 2005 Westward Journey nickel with the American Bison reverse. It also has a better portrait of Thomas Jefferson than is currently used.
If you would like to virtually sign the partition, visit Change.org and register your vote.
The Washington Post produced an interesting video with facts about the bison. If you want to see the video without visiting the Post’s website, you can watch it here:
Bison images and the Type 1 Buffalo nickel reverse courtesy of Wikipedia.
I am convinced that if there is something to celebrate there is a coin, medal, or token to collect in its honor.
Today, my challenge is to determine if there is something numismatically available to collect for Leap Day, that once every four years celebration of the 29th of February.
For today’s collecting adventure we venture into the world of geocaching. For those not familiar with geocaching, it is an adventure activity in which the participants use the global positioning system (GPS) to navigate to find small containers with treasures. The small containers are called a “geocache” or “cache.” These geocaches contains a logbook that is signed with by the finder with a code name and placed back where it was found.
Almost anything can be included in the geocache for a prize. One such prize is a geocoin. Similar to a challenge coin, a geocoin is a specially designed medal that is the prize for finding the geocache. There is a worldwide community of geocache enthusiasts that you can find at geocaching.com.
For one of the meeting at my coin club, two of our young numismatists taught some of us old folks about geocaching and showed off some of the geocoins they have found or collected from various sources. Some of the designs were phenomenal. There was one geocoin made for a gathering of Maryland enthusiasts that was so well done that I have been looking to buy one since.
Without the constraint of rules, laws, and congress, some have created quite a number of interesting geocoins to celebrate the leap year. To celebrate Leap Day and the geocaching community for the inspiration, here are some of the interesting geocoins I have found on my online search.
2016 Native American Dollar celebrates the contributions of the Native American Code Talkers in World War I and World War II
Last year, I wrote that one of the most under appreciated coins currently being produced by the U.S. Mint are the Native American Dollars. Featuring the portrait of Sacagawea with her infant son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, was designed by Glenna Goodacre for the original Sacagawea dollar that began production in 2000. Since 2009, the reverse was changed as part of the Native American $1 Coin Act (Pub.L. 100-82). Under the law, the reverse of the one dollar coin “shall depict images celebrating the important contributions made by Indian tribes and individual Native Americans to the development of the United States and the history of the United States.”
The reverse designs has represented some of the best work by the artists working with the U.S. Mint with the 2016 design continuing the record. Celebrating the Native American Code Talkers who were instrumental in using their native language to communicate troop movements and enemy positions, the reverse of the coin celebrates their work.
As someone who has made a career in technology and information security, the concept of using something as low-tech as a language that nobody else can translate to openly communicate secret information is an elegant solution. It proves that technology is an answer but not the only answer. It makes these people heroes for their service to a country that has not treated their people fairly over the course of history.
Learning and honoring the history of Native Americans was the goal of the Native American $1 Coin Act. It is a simple yet effective way to bring history to the masses. Although the dollar coin does not circulate well, it is still a nice way for the country to teach and honor history.
I don’t think JFK would mind using the reverse to honor U.S. history!
I was thinking about what could be done to honor other aspects of United States history. Why not use another coin to celebrate something that has shaped the country in some way. With over 200 years of history, there is a lot to choose from. I propose that beginning in 2017 the reverse of the Kennedy half-dollar be changed every year to celebrate an anniversary of something significant in U.S. history.
As I consider writing a draft version of the bill to send to my representatives in congress, I know that any good coinage program in the United States should have some guidelines. Far be it for congress to tell the U.S. Mint to do what it thinks is right. In order to satisfy something that congress would adopt and create a meaningful program, how about a Half-Dollar history program as follows:
The obverse will remain unchanged, the edge will continue to be reeded, and the coin will remain a half-dollar
Reverse design changes annually and only one design per year
Half-dollar can be made for circulation and the U.S. Mint can create collector versions including silver collectibles and different finishes
Theme for the reverse must be from 50 years prior to the year of circulation and older with anniversary dates being divisible by 25 (i.e., 50 years ago, 75, 100, 125, 150, etc.)
Theme will be selected by the U.S. Mint in collaboration with the CCAC and the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of American History
The U.S. Mint creates the design for the theme selected by either using in-house artists, AIP members, or may hold an open competition
The CCAC will review the designs
The program will have no end date
Although there was no such thing as having a minor when I went to college, I did use some of my elective credits to take some classes in history and political science. Add my masters in public policy and some people wonder why I don’t run for office (I hate the idea of begging for campaign contributions). With that background, I was able to think of a few historical events that could be honored over the next few years:
2017: The 150th anniversary since the U.S. purchased the Alaska territory from Alexander II of Russia by Secretary of State William H. Seward in 1867. This was so unpopular at the time it was called “Seward’s Folly.”
2018: World War I ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
2019: “What hath God wrought” was the message of the first telegram message. It was sent from the U.S. Capitol to the B&O Railroad depot in Baltimore 175 years ago.
2020: The 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment granting suffrage for women
2021: The 50th anniversary of the passage of the 29th Amendment that lowered the voting age to 18.
2022: Celebrating 75 years of technical innovation. In 1947, Dr. Edwin Land introduced the Polaroid Land Camera, broadcast of the first World Series game, the USS Newport became the first warship that was fully air conditioned, Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrier, and Bell Labs scientists introduces the first semiconductor are just some of the innovations to celebrate.
Purposely missing from this list is the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s becoming the first African-American to appear in a Major League Baseball game in 1947. I fully expect that a commemorative coin will be issued for that event. If it is not, then congress should be ashamed of itself for not doing so.
As we begin a new year, we should look forward to better times for our hobby, our nation, and our world. I wish you and yours a Happy and Healthy 2016 and hope that you find the key coin of your dreams!
2016 Mark Twain $5 Gold Commemorative
2016 National Park Service Centennial Commemorative with images of John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt
Boxing Day is a secular holiday that is particular to the Commonwealth Realm. It appears that it is celebrated in the United Kingdom, all British colonies, and the commonwealth nations. Boxing Day is celebrated in countries that were former British colonies except for the United States. For those not familiar with Boxing Day:
Some historians say the holiday developed because servants were required to work on Christmas Day, but took the following day off. As servants prepared to leave to visit their families, their employers would present them with gift boxes.
Another theory is that the boxes placed in churches where parishioners deposited coins for the poor were opened and the contents distributed on December 26, which is also the Feast of St. Stephen.
In honor of Boxing Day, I ask:
Did you receive a numismatic-related gift for the holidays?
No, not this year. (54%, 7 Votes)
No, I bought my own gift. (23%, 3 Votes)
Yes, I receive collectible coins. (8%, 1 Votes)
Yes, I received some other numismatic item. (8%, 1 Votes)
Bah Humbug! (8%, 1 Votes)
Yes, I received collectible currency. (0%, 0 Votes)
2009 Native American Dollar — Spread of Three Sisters
2011 Native American Dollar — Supreme Sachem Ousamequin, Massasoit of the Great Wampanoag Nation Creates Alliance with Settlers at Plymouth Bay (1621)
Thanksgiving was first celebrated in 1621 by the Dutch settlers at Plymouth, Massachusetts to celebrate a successful harvest. It was a tradition that the Pilgrims brought with them from Europe. The three-day event was attended by 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans that lasted three days. The tradition of giving thanks for successes was a tradition that the Pilgrims brought with them from England. This three-day celebration in 1621 is considered the first Thanksgiving.
After the birth of the United States, President George Washington issued a proclamation honoring the Thanksgiving harvest during his presidency. The only other president to issue a Thanksgiving proclamation was President James Madison. From then, it was up to the individual states to declare a Thanksgiving holiday.
Writer and editor Sarah Josepha Hale found a diary from the time of the Pilgrims and was moved to write editorials to bring back the Thanksgiving celebration. As part of her efforts, Hale developed recipes for roasted turkey, pumpkin pie, and stuffing that are part of the inspiration for today’s Thanksgiving feast. President Abraham Lincoln was so moved by Hale’s efforts that he decided that it was a good idea to maintain the union he issued a proclamation that made Thanksgiving Day a national holiday in 1863.
After Lincoln’s proclamation, it was traditional to celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November. In a move to increase the holiday shopping period to promote more spending, President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed to have congress pass a law to move Thanksgiving earlier in the month. In December 1941, Roosevelt signed a bill that set Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday in November.
Our veterans left everything they knew and loved and served with exemplary dedication and courage so we could all know a safer America and a more just world. They have been tested in ways the rest of us may never fully understand, and it is our duty to fulfill our sacred obligation to our veterans and their families. On Veterans Day, and every day, let us show them the extraordinary gratitude they so rightly deserve, and let us recommit to pledging our full support for them in all they do.
In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776 The unanimous Declarationof the thirteen unitedStates of America
Thirteen sterling silver “Official Bicentennial Medals of the Thirteen Original States.”
It was a hot day in Philadelphia when the First Continental Congress met on July 4, 1776 to finalize a resolution that would permanently separate the American colonies from the British Crown. According to the leaders of the day, it was the only way to rid themselves of the unfairness of British rule. In order to ensure that everyone was heard, the Congress adjourned and met as a Committee of the Whole to debate and adopt the resolution.
After each state cast one vote in favor of the Declaration before the Committee of the Whole, the committee was adjourned. The measure was brought before the full First Continental Congress with the majority voting in favor of the Declaration. Although independence was declared from England it would not be fully realized until 1783 when the Treaty of Paris was signed.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence hangs in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. It was used as the model for the reverse of the $2 Federal Reserve Note.
The first recorded organized public recognition of the war dead occurred on May 1, 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina. On that day, Freedmen (freed southern slaves) celebrated the service of the 257 Union soldiers buried at the Washington Race Course (now Hampton Park). They labeled the gravesite “Martyrs of the Race Course.” African Americans continued that tradition and named the celebration Decoration Day.
Southern states began their own commemoration to honor their soldiers who died during the war. No specific date was used but occurred in late April through June. By 1880, there was a more organized Confederate Memorial Day. These celebrations honored specific soldiers to commemorate the Confederate “Lost Cause.” By 1913, a sense of nationalism saw a commemoration of all soldiers that have died in battle.
American Fighter Aces Bronze Medal
Memorial Day took on national significance following World War I when the nation began to recognize all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice during all conflicts. By the end of World War II, most of the celebrations were renamed to Memorial Day. Memorial Day did not become an official holiday until 1967 with the passage of the Uniform Holidays Act (Public Law 90-363, 5 U.S.C. § 6103(a)) in 1968. Under the law, Memorial Day was set to the last Monday in May, changing it from the traditional May 30th.
The modern Memorial Day is a holiday celebrating the lives of those sacrificed in defense of the United States and its ideals at home and abroad. Today, we honor the memories of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that I can write this blog and you can read it.
Members of The Old Guard place American flags at headstones at Arlington National Cemetery during Flags-In on May 21, 2015.