Tag Archives: Commemorative

1952 Booker T Washington Carver Half Dollar US

This coin is in uncirculated shape, and I’d tentatively grade it between MS61 and MS63. I bought it at a “We Buy Gold” bullion dealer in San Diego along with a handful of other commemorative half dollars.

US 50 Cent 1952 Booker T Washington George W Carver

US 50 Cent 1952 Booker T Washington George W Carver

The obverse shows two faces in profile, looking to the right. More than half of the area is filled with text, arranged in two rings around the inside of the rim. From 9:00 to 3:00, the outer ring reads clockwise “* United States of America*” From 9:00 to 3:00, the outer ring reads counterclockwise “In God We Trust * E Pluribus Unum”. The inner ring reads clockwise from 7:00 to 5:00 “George W Carver Liberty Booker T. Washington” and counterclockwise from 7:00 to 5:00 “Half Dollar”. The date (1952) is horizontal, between the W and the C in Carver.

On the reverse, there’s a map of the lower 48 states with “U. S. A.” across the state dividing lines. The legend clockwise from 8:00 to 4:00 reads “FREEDOM AND OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL” and counterclockwise from 8:00 to 4:00 “**AMERICANISM**”.

US 50 Cent 1952 Booker T Washington George W Carver Reverse

US 50 Cent 1952 Booker T Washington George W Carver Reverse

Identification code: KM-200

Date: 1952

Mint Mark: n/a (Philadelphia)

Mintage: 2,006,000

Country of origin: US

Composition: 90% Silver, 10% copper

Size: 30.6mm

Weight: 12.5g (0.3617 oz ASW)

Other details: 3 coin sets of the commemorative Washington-Carver coins with mintages of roughly 8k to 12k each were produced every year from 1951 through 1954, with large quantities struck of the 1951(P), 1952(P), 1953-S and 1954-S coins for sale individually. When the program expired in 1954, not a lot of people were upset. Long series runs of commemoratives had exhausted collectors, and many felt that such multiple-year runs were a money grab by the mint. In this case, it ended up being unsuccessful and losing money – and this was compounded by financial improprieties in the society working on building memorials.

As a result, there was a long gap until commemoratives were again struck by the mint (resuming again with the 1982 George Washington Half Dollar). The Booker T. Washington and Washington-Carver Halves were among the least desired, with many thousands returned to the Mint for melting. Thousands more were sold to speculators at just slightly above face value. The banks that had bought them from the mint for distribution liquidated most of their holdings by 1965.

Estimated Value: $20 in MS61 with silver at ~$19/oz.

Australian 5 Dollar Silver 2000 Olympic Map

This coin is encapsulated in a plastic case & is in clean proof condition. There’s some residue on the case, but the coin’s surface is pristine. The fields are mirrorlike & the details are frosty.

Australian 5 Dollar Silver Coin Map 2000 Obverse

Australian 5 Dollar Silver Coin Map 2000 Obverse

The obverse shows the bust of Queen Elizabeth II facing to the right, wearing her full regalia (a stylized variation on the Imperial State Crown, teardrop earrings, pearl necklace). The legend reads “Elizabeth II Australia 2000” clockwise from 7:00 to 4:00. The denomination is clockwise from 7:00 to 5:00.

Australian 5 Dollar Silver Coin Map 2000 Reverse

Australian 5 Dollar Silver Coin Map 2000 Reverse

On the reverse, there’s a map of Australia, surrounded by 19 tall sailing ships (mostly they appear to be 3 or 4 masted schooners) representing the settlement era ships each with it’s masts pointing toward the center of the coin. On the continent, there are 2 stickfigures that seem to be dancing in opposite directions next to 4 footprints (a mix of outlined & full). Wavy lines surround the shore, representing the Great Barrier Reef. At 6:00 is a 6 sided trapezoidal diamond that may represent the Olympic Torch, with 5 colorized rings.

Identification code: Australia KM-371

Date: 2000

Mint Mark: C (Canberra)

Mintage: 100,000 (sold in sets of 16)

Country of origin: Australia

Composition: 99.99% Silver

Size: 40.5 mm

Weight: 31.635 g (without the case)

Other details: The interlocking rings are the symbol of the Olympic Games. There are five interlocking rings, colored blue, yellow, black, green, and red on a white field. Originally designed in 1912 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin; the ring colours supposedly included all of those found on the national flags of the countries that competed in the Olympic games at that time. Coubertin wrote in the 1912 Olympique:

“…the six colours [including the flag’s white background] thus combined reproduce the colours of all the nations, with no exception. The blue and yellow of Sweden, the blue and white of Greece, the tri- colours of France, England and America, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Hungary, the yellow and red of Spain next to the novelties of Brazil or Australia, with old Japan and new China. Here is truly an international symbol.”

Coin Australia Five Dollars 2000

Coin Australia Five Dollars 2000

Coin Australia Five Dollars 2000 Continental Map

Coin Australia Five Dollars 2000 Continental Map

Coin Australia 5 Dollar Olympic Ring Closeup

Coin Australia 5 Dollar Olympic Ring Closeup

Estimated Value: $75 with silver at ~$28/oz

1958 Canada Silver Death Dollar : British Columbia Centennial Coin

This coin is in VF30 to EF40 condition – it is in great but circulated shape. There are major scratches that pit some areas of the surface.

On the obverse, a young Queen Elizabeth the 2nd is shown in profile, facing to the right. A laurel wreath is on her head, and a ribbon ties her hair up in a coif. At a guess, the queen was between 16 and 25 when she sat for this portrait. The legend reads “Elizabeth II Dei Gratia Regina”.

1958 Canada Silver Dollar Coin Obverse

1958 Canada Silver Dollar Coin Obverse

The reverse shows a totem pole with a raven engraving.  Totem poles are used in many Indigenous Canadian cultures, such as the Tsimshian, Haida, Nuu-Chah-Nulth (Nootka), Nuxalk (Bella Coola), Central Coast, and Coast Salish peoples. For many of these tribes, the raven was a symbol of death. So, this coin is sometimes called the “death dollar”. The totem stands on the word “Dollar”, mountains are shown in the background, and other elements of the coin include the legend “Canada”, “British Columbia”, and “1858 1958”. This silver dollar commemorates the centennial of the Mainland becoming a British Colony in the middle of the 19th century.

1958 Canada Silver Dollar Coin Reverse

1958 Canada Silver Dollar Coin Reverse

Identification code: Canada KM-55

Date: 1958

Mint Mark: n/a

Mintage: 3,039,630

Country of origin: Canada

Composition: 80% silver

Size: 36mm

Weight: 23.3276 grams (0.600 oz ASW)

Other details: A famous Raven totem was recently repatriated to Jasper National Park in Canada. It will be unveiled on June 21st, 2011 to mark Aboriginal Day.

Estimated Value: $25-35 with silver at $35/oz

1946 Booker T Washington Half Dollar Commemorative Coin

This commemorative half dollar features Booker T. Washington, a man who worked tirelessly to promote education and opportunities for freed slaves at the tail end of Reconstruction. These were minted from 1946 to 1951 at the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco mints (for a total of 18 varieties).

On the obverse, Booker T Washington is shown in 3/4 profile, facing to the right. He has a determined look on his face, and close cropped hair that contributes to a military bearing. He is shown wearing a simple and elegant suit (possibly a frock coat or other Victorian garment). From 8:00 to 2:00, the coin bears the legend “United States of America”. From 6:00 to 3:00, it reads “Booker T. Washington”. The date and denomination are at 6:00 – “1946 Half Dollar” and the motto “E Pluribus Unum” is at 3:00.

1946 Booker T Washington 50c Commemorative Coin Obverse

1946 Booker T Washington 50c Commemorative Coin Obverse

The reverse shows the “Booker T. Washington Birthplace Memorial” – a National Monument that is now maintained by the US Park Service. The monument preserves part of the tobacco farm where Washington was born, along with slave cabins and vegetable plots. Back to the coin – it has the central legend “From Slave Cabin to Hall of Fame”, set in the center between two buildings. The upper building appears to be the South Entrance to the US Hall of Fame at the Bronx Community College. The lower building is a simple slave cabin. The motto “In god we trust” is on the left of the slave cabin, and the location “Franklin County, VA.” is on the right of the cabin.  The word “Liberty” is at 6:00.

For coins struck at the Denver or San Francisco Mints, the mintmark appears below the cabin and above “Liberty”.

1946 Booker T Washington 50c Commemorative Coin Reverse

1946 Booker T Washington 50c Commemorative Coin Reverse

Identification code: B. T. Washington 50c

Date: 1946

Mint Mark: n/a (Philadelphia)

Mintage: 700,546 (55.96% of the 1,250,825 minted in 1946 & of the 44.03% of the 1,591,029 total minted of all Booker T. Washington commemoratives).

Country of origin: United States

Composition: 90% silver, 10% copper (0.36169 oz ASW)

Size: 30.6 mm

Weight: 12.5 grams

Other details: When the coin was issued, putting an African American on a US coin was very controversial (segregation was still widely practiced throughout the south). Booker Taliaferro Washington was the first African American honored on a US coin; he was also the first to be honored with his own US postage stamp, the first to have a US ship named after him, the first invited to the White House as a guest, and the first to receive a National Monument in his honor. He was also honored on another commemorative half dollar from 1951 to 1954 (along with George Washington Carver).

Despite the high esteem that history holds Mr. Washington in, this coin was not well received in its time. The large number of mints and multiple years of minting may also have played a part, since these required a major investment for collectors to complete the series. The coins were also minted after a glut of other commemorative half dollars, and collectors were growing tired of them. From 1954 to 1982, there would be a long gap before commemorative half dollars were minted again.

Booker T. Washington had a very interesting life – despite the mechanisms put in place by Reconstruction after the Civil War, Washington had difficulty finding work that would advance his skills. He started out laboring in a salt furnace and a coal mine before finally entering the Hampton Normal and Industrial Institute in Hampton, Virginia in 1872. This trade school taught Mr. Washington skills that targeted a narrow role for freed slaves. He continued his education at the Wayland Seminary in Washington, DC and returned to Hampton in 1879 as an instructor. His first class was seventy-five Native Americans.

Washington’s success as an educator led to a major opportunity in 1881. He received a Federal Grant to develop a technical institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. Tuskegee Institute was built onto an abandoned church and opened its doors to thirty students in 1881. Booker T. Washington quickly expanded the facility, using his students as a construction and repair workforce. Most of the students were poor – their ‘tuition’ was paid in the form of labor during after school hours.

The curriculum focused on trade skills and manual labor, which led to criticism from Booker T Washington’s contemporaries and modern historians. Some feel that he played into stereotypical roles for the “proper place” in society for freed slaves. Others argue that he was a realist about making gradual progress. Regardless, he was able to navigate the cultural minefield and successfully solicited donations from many sources to build an effective and affordable facility.

Washington’s address during the opening ceremonies at Atlanta’s Cotton States Exposition in 1895 drew nationwide attention and brought many donations. Booker T Washington’s  autobiography (Up from Slavery) brought further attention and funding. He published four other books that were also widely read:The Story of My Life and Work (1900), The Story of the Negro: The Rise of the Race from Slavery (1909), My Larger Education (1911), & The Man Farthest Down (1912).

Congress passed a bill authorizing production of the Booker T. Washington Memorial Half Dollar on August 7, 1946. Unlike the act funding the Iowa Commemorative Half Dollars (passed on the same day), the B. T. Washington Act led to an oversupply and over-variety of coins. A total of five million coins were authorized, which was far more than any other commemorative series had been able to sell. In addition, the bill did not limit production to a single date or mint, an oversight which the promoters took serious advantage of. 18 different date and mint combinations were produced between 1946 and 1951.

The coin’s purpose was to raise funds for the purchase and restoration of his birthplace site in Franklin County, Virginia. It was (rather naively/optimistically) expected that many of the nation’s 15 million African-Americans would be eager to buy one or more examples of this significant coin. Instead, the coins were sold almost exclusively to established coin collectors, who soon came to resent their overabundance and repetitive nature.

S. J. Phillips was in charge of the Booker T. Washington Birthplace Memorial Commission, and he chose Sculptor Charles Keck to design the coin. Keck, who had previously created the Panama-Pacific Gold Dollar and the Lynchburg, Virginia Half Dollar, submitted models that were quickly approved by the U. S. Mint.

Without realizing that another artist had been engaged, African-American artist Isaac Scott Hathaway, volunteered his services for free. He used a life mask of Booker T. Washington and submitted his designs to SJ Phillips.

S. J. Phillips submitted both sets of models to the Commission of Fine Arts which, choseHathaway’s design. This caused a major controversy before mintage even began, and the BTW Birthplace Memorial Commission had to pay Keck for his work even though the Mint proceeded using Hathaway’s models.

The 1946-47 series were distributed directly by the BTW Commission, but the expected volume of sales did not materialize and many of the 1946 coins were melted down for their silver content. The coin dealership Bebee’s in Omaha handled sales from 1948 to 1951 and sold the majority of those coins directly to collectors. Huge quantities still went unsold and were passed around between coin dealers at wholesale prices. Small hoards existed for decades afterward and dragged down prices.

The organizer of the committee (S. J. Phillips) became mired in failed promises and charges of malfeasance. The money that was raised through the sale of these coins was insufficient for the original purpose of the program. In fact, the commission owed $140,000! Eventually, Virginia’s state government stepped in to purchase Booker T. Washington’s birthplace and presented it to the federal government. It is now a National Historic Monument.

Estimated Value: $15 to $20 in EF40 condition (with silver at $36/ounce).

Engraving Portraits Can Be A Royal Pain

The coin commemorating the royal wedding coin of Kate Middleton and Prince William is stirring up controversy. Some pundits have suggested that the likeness on the coin is unflattering to the bride-to-be. Despite being approved by the Royal Couple, the critics may have a point.

What do you think? Compare the image on the coin to pictures of Kate Middleton:

Kate appears to have gained weight, while William looks older and larger than life.

The coinage of British monarchs often receives colorful nicknames, such as the Large Head George VI 1/4 rupees (minted for India from 1942-1945). Will this coin go down in history as the “Chipmunk Cheeked Kate” variety or the “Al Gore Headed William”?