Nations from around the world have been producing silver commemorative coins (as well as those struck in gold and other alloys) for literally thousands of years. However, few can claim such a distinguished line-up based on the history and the people of the country as can the United States and its commemorative program.
Information on several of the more recent U.S. Mint issued commemoratives, as well as those scheduled to be released in the future are described below (additional details for each may be found by following the provided links):
2011 Medal of Honor Silver Commemorative Coins
Released to the public on February 25, 2011, the 2011 Medal of Honor Silver Dollar celebrates the creation of the Medal of Honor 150 years earlier in 1861. The medals are the nations highest award for valor for action against an enemy force that a member of the U.S. Military can receive.
Shown on the obverse of each of these strikes will be an image of the current Army, Navy, and Air Force Medals of Honor. The reverse depicts a modern infantry soldier carrying a fellow soldier to safety under fire. Surcharges raised by the sale of each of these coins will be forwarded to the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.
2011 Army Silver Commemorative Coin
The Army Silver Dollar was first issued by the US Mint on January 31, 2011. These coins commemorate the nation’s oldest military branch, the United States Army, which was founded by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775.
The coins were struck in both proof and uncirculated condition with proceeds from their sales forwarded to the Army Historical Foundation to help establish the National Museum of the United States Army.
2010 Disabled American Veterans Silver Commemorative Coins
The 2010 Disabled American Veterans Silver Dollar was released on January 31, 2011to honor those individuals who received disabling wounds as a result of their service in the American Armed Forces. These coins were released on February 25, 2010, in both proof and uncirculated conditions.
Surcharges from the sale of these coins were directed to the Disabled Veterans’ LIFE Memorial Foundation to help in the construction of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington, D.C. The obverse shows the legs and boots of three wounded soldiers with a pair of crutches clearly visible.
2010 Boy Scouts Silver Commemorative Coins
Released by the US Mint on March 23, 2010, the 2010 Boy Scouts Silver Dollars celebrate the centennial of the founding of the Boy Scouts organization. These pieces proved popular with collectors who purchased up the entire mintage of both proof and uncirculated coins in a little less than three months.
The obverse of each coin shows three Scout members – a Cub Scout, a Boy Scout and a female Venturer. The reverse contains the universal emblem of the Boy Scouts of America. Surcharges placed on the sale of each coin were to be forwarded to the Boy Scout Foundation to continue its work.
2009 Abraham Lincoln Silver Commemorative Coins
Perhaps one of the most popular commemorative releases in recent US Mint history, the 2009 Lincoln Silver Dollars were released on February 12, 2009 to celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of the 16th President of the United States. In just over six weeks, the entire mintage for individuals coins (450,000) were sold out.
Funds raised by the surcharges from the coins were forwarded to the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission to help with the bicentennial celebration as well as the study of Lincoln’s life. A portrait of Lincoln was shown on the obverse with the last 43 words of his famous Gettysburg Address featured on the reverse.
2009 Louis Braille Silver Commemorative Coins
Also issued in 2009 as a bicentennial commemorative was the 2009 Braille Silver Dollars. These coins honor the birth of Louis Braille, developer of the Braille reading system which has allowed millions of visually impaired individuals the ability to read text with their fingers.
The system uses no more than six dots in two columns to represent each letter as well as punctuation. Each coin shows a portrait of Louis Braille on its obverse with an image of a young boy reading Braille on its reverse. The word Braille is shown in actual Braille code above the child.
Modern Commemorative Coin Era
A lack of any United States commemorative coins can easily be spotted between the years of 1954 and 1982. Then, in that latter year, the US Mint’s Modern Commemorative Coin Era is said to have begun.
While similar in concept to the Early Commemorative Era, coins struck under the newer program were and are sold directly by the Mint to the public. Surcharges are added to the sale of each of these coins with the raised funds being forwarded by the government to the entity chosen by the authorizing legislation.
As an example, the first coin created in the new era was the 1982 George Washington 250th Anniversary of Birth Half Dollar which also marked the first 90% silver coin produced by the US Mint since 1964. Over 7 million of the coins were minted in both uncirculated and proof versions with the surcharge used for the sole purpose of reducing the national debt.
Since then, many more commemorative coins have been issued by the Mint in gold, silver and clad varieties. A few of the silver coins follow. More information my be gleaned for each by clicking on their links:
Early Commemorative Coin Era
While there is some debate as to when the U.S. first started striking commemorative pieces, most trace the U.S. Mint’s Commemorative Coin Program back to the 1892-1893 World’s Columbian Exposition Half Dollar. These coins were minted to commemorate the 400 years since Christopher Columbus first arrived in the new world and were sold at the World’s Columbian Exposition (also known as the Chicago World’s Fair) in 1893.
From that coin on, the United States Mint honored literally dozens of different events, locations and people with commemorative coins over the next sixty years, many of which were designed and released to raise funds for a specific location or event. Some of the coins celebrated special anniversaries for certain states with a few even struck to honor more specific locations such as the 1925 Stone Mountain Memorial Coin or the 1936 San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge Opening Coin.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing strikes of the Early Commemorative Coin Era to honor a specific location would be the 1936 Bridgeport Connecticut Centennial Coin. What makes this piece interesting is the fact that Bridgeport’s most famous citizen, P.T. Barnum, was immortalized on the coin years after his death with a portrait on its obverse. Barnum was a pre-eminent showman, businessman and entertainer of the late 1800′s who founded the circus that eventually became the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.