History for a half-dollar

2016 Native American Dollar celebrates the contributions of the Native American Code Talkers in World War I and World War II

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 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.

Coin images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

Happy 2016!

Happy New Year!
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 Mark Twain $5 Gold Commemorative

2016 National Park Service Centennial Commemorative with images of John Miur and Theodore Roosevelt

2016 National Park Service Centennial Commemorative with images of John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt

Images courtesy of the U.S. Mint

It’s Boxing Day!

No, not this kind of boxing!

No, not this kind of boxing!

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)

Total Voters: 13

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Image courtesy of the Sports Memorabilia Museum.

A wish for you

Whether you celebrated Chanukah
1974 Israel 10 Lirot Silver Chanukah coin

1974 Israel 10 Lirot Silver Chanukah coin

Observed Festivus, for the rest of us
FDR dime struck on a nail (stand in for Festivus Pole)

FDR dime struck on a nail (stand in for Festivus Pole)

Having a Merry Christmas
2015 Canada 3D Toy Box 50-cents

2015 Canada 3D Toy Box 50-cents

Or will begin celebrating Kwanzaa
1999 Angola 1 kwanza as a stand-in to help celebrate Kwanzaa

1999 Angola 1 kwanza as a stand-in to help celebrate Kwanzaa

I hope you are having a joyous holiday season!

Happy Thanksgiving 2015

2009 Native American Dollar — Spread of Three Sisters

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)

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.

Be thankful for your life.
Be thankful for your family.
Be thankful for our hobby.
Be thankful for us all.
Happy Thanksgiving!
Coin images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

On the 11th day of the 11th month…

Veterans Day 2015

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.
Presidential Proclamation – Veterans Day, 2015
signed by President Barack Obama, Nov. 5, 2015
2015 American Fighter Aces Bronze Medal

2015 American Fighter Aces Bronze Medal

2015 Monuments Men Bronze Medal

2015 Monuments Men Bronze Medal

Veterans Day banner courtesy of the Department of Veterans Affairs
Medal images courtesy of the U.S. Mint

Celebrating Independence

In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

Thirteen sterling silver "Official Bicentennial Medals of the Thirteen Original States."

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.

US Declaration Independence Signatures

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.

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.

Memorial Day 2015

Decoration DayThe 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

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.

Members of The Old Guard place American flags at headstones at Arlington National Cemetery during Flags-In on May 21, 2015.

Medal images courtesy of the U.S. Mint
Decoration Day poster courtesy of usmemorialday.org
Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery courtesy of Stars and Stripes

2015

Happy New Year!
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 2015 and hope that you find the key coin of your dreams!
2015 U.S. Marshals Service 225th Anniversary $5 Gold Commemorative

2015 U.S. Marshals Service 225th Anniversary $5 Gold Commemorative

Reverse of the 2015 March of Dimes Commemorative Silver Dollar

Reverse of the 2015 March of Dimes Commemorative Silver Dollar

Images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

Happy Thanksgiving 2014

1920 Pilgrim Tercentenary Half Dollar Commemorative
This coin commemorates the 300th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower. The image is of a pilgrim carrying a Bible.

This coin commemorates the 300th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower. The image is of a pilgrim carrying a Bible.

The image is of the Mayflower, the ship that brought the pilgrims to Massachusetts.

The image is of the Mayflower, the ship that brought the pilgrims to Massachusetts.

Thanksgiving in the United States is usually traced back to the Pilgrims celebration of their first successful harvest in 1621. 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.

Although there is no record of the menu, it is likely that the meal consisted of food from the harvest, venison, and Indian corn. The local natives killed five deer as gifts for the celebration. Given the abundance of seafood nearby, it is likely some made it to the celebration as well.

Thanksgiving was celebrated during many different times within the colonies, mainly to give thanks for something that was honorable to the colony or the locality that observed the celebration. The first national recognition of a Thanksgiving celebration came when General George Washington declared December 1777 as Thanksgiving honoring the defeat of the British at Saratoga. As President, George Washington declared the first national Thanksgiving celebration on November 26, 1789. 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.

After reading a diary from the time of the Pilgrims, writer and editor Sarah Josepha Hale wrote editorials campaigning 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.

Hale’s message made it to the White House where it was embraced by President Abraham Lincoln. As part of his attempt to maintain the union, President Lincoln issued a proclamation that made Thanksgiving Day a national annual event on the last Thursday in November beginning in 1863.

You might not have heard of Hale but you might know one of her most famous poems. In 1830, Hale published Poems for our Children that included one originally titled “Mary’s Lamb.” Today, it is more commonly known as “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Thanksgiving remained the last Thursday of November until 1939 when he declared Thanksgiving to be on the fourth Thursday of the month to give merchants more time to sell good during the Christmas shopping season. Congress passed a joint resolution in 1942 fixing Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November.

In 1947, the National Turkey Federation has provided the President of the United State with one live turkey and two dressed turkeys. President Harry Truman is credited with pardoning the first turkey in 1947 but it did not become a tradition until President Ronald Reagan started in 1987 and continued by President George H.W. Bush in 1989. Since 1989, the pardoned turkeys have lived the rest of their lives at Frying Pan Park in Herndon, Virginia.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Coin images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

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