Category Archives: US Coins

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1969 Golden Spike US Mint Bullion Silver Railroad Medal

This gallery contains 2 photos.

This 5.15 oz medal is 64.5 mm in diameter and composed of 99.9% pure silver. It was minted in Philadelphia to commemorate the Centennial of the… Continue reading

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).

1903 US Philippine 20 Centavo Coin

This coin is in great shape, with very little wear on the high points. I would grade it EF40-EF45.

The reverse design features an eagle perched on a shield with symbols from the American flag. At the upper rim are the words “United States of America” and at the bottom is the year of issue. To the left of the year is the mint mark (“S” for San Francisco). Coin with no mint marks were minted at the Philadelphia Mint.

1903 US Philippines - 20 Centavo Coin Reverse

1903 US Philippines - 20 Centavo Coin Reverse

On the obverse, Liberty is shown pounding on the forge of freedom. This image was designed by Melecio Figueroa and there is some speculation that the young Filipina woman shown on the coin was based on his daughter. She is wearing a flowing dress, similar to the garb of Liberty on other period coinage. The obverse of the coin shows Liberty in the act of striking an anvil with a hammer while her other hand holds an olive branch. In the background is Mt. Mayon, an active volcano with smoke billowing from the crater. On the upper edge of the coin is the denomination “Twenty Centavos” and on the lower perimeter is the word “Filipinas”.

1903 US Philippines - 20 Centavo Coin Obverse, with liberty's hammer striking a forge

1903 US Philippines - 20 Centavo Coin Obverse

Identification code: Philippines KM-166 (minted 1903 to 1906)

Date: 1903

Mint Mark: n/a (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Mintage: 5,353,000

Country of origin: United States of America

Composition: 90% silver, 10% copper

Size: 22 mm

Weight: 5.3849g (0.1558 oz ASW)

Other details: This coin has a tiny prick on the reverse that my be a die crack. It stands out under magnification, but not at a casual glance.

Estimated Value: $6-20 (with silver at $31 / ounce)

1923 Peace Dollar Silver Coin in ANACS MS-64

This coin is slabbed in a PCGS holder, and graded MS-64. I think the grade may be slightly high, as there are a few more marks in the field than I’m used to seeing in a Mint State coin.

This is one of my favorite designs for the US Dollar. It shows a youthful face of Liberty in profile to the left, wearing a spiked crown that wisps of her hair are escaping around. The legend “Liberty” is at the top from 10:00 to 2:00. “In God We * Trvst” is written across Liberty’s neck, and the date is at 6:00.

1923 Peace Dollar in MS-64 Obverse

1923 Peace Dollar in MS-64 Obverse

On the reverse, an eagle is shown perched on a rock, with sunbeams coming from the horizon (at 4:00). The legend reads “United States of America / E Pluribus Unum” and is written around the rim from 10:00 to 2:00 in two registers. The eagle is holding olive branches in its talons, and the rock it perches on is labeled “Peace”.

1923 Peace Dollar in MS-64 Reverse

1923 Peace Dollar in MS-64 Reverse

Date: 1923

Mint Mark: n/a (Philadelphia mint, without a mint mark)

Mintage: 30,800,000

Country of origin: United States

Composition: 90% silver, 10% copper

Size: 38.1 mm

Weight: 26.73 grams (0.7736 ounces Actual Silver Weight)

Other details: These coins were minted after the end of the First World War (aka, the Great War & the War to End All Wars). I think they strike a delightful note of cautious optimism about the future, and that the patterns are very beautifully balanced. These capture the spirit of the Roaring Twenties quite nicely.

On this piece, the reverse is a bit weakly struck, which is common with the 1923 Peace Dollars due to overuse of the dies.

It is in a ANACS holder, and I really like the features of this holder. The top side angles back and has a second label, which would be useful if I had this stored in a slab box. You can see it at the top of this picture.

1923 Peace Dollar in MS-64 PCGS holder Obverse

1923 Peace Dollar in MS-64 ANACS holder Obverse

I’ve obscured the identification number and barcode because counterfeit holders have started appearing on the market and I don’t want to enable fraud.

1923 Peace Dollar in MS-64 PCGS holder Reverse

1923 Peace Dollar in MS-64 ANACS holder Reverse

Estimated Value: $45-55 in MS-64 (with silver at $31 / ounce)

1917 US Philippines 5 Centavos Coin

This coin is fine. I would grade it approximately F-12.

On the obverse, a bare chested Filipino man is shown sitting next to the forge of freedom. The blacksmith is built like Adonis – with huge muscles flexed in a spreadeagled pose. His elbow is on the forge, a Thor-like hammer is dangling from his right hand, and his left hand is on his left knee. The guy is staring off into the distance at  Mt. Mayon, an active volcano with smoke billowing from the crater. On the upper edge of the coin is the denomination “Five Centavos” and on the lower perimeter is the word “Filipinas”. The engraver was Melecio Figueroa.

1917 US Philippines 5 Centavo Obverse

1917 US Philippines 5 Centavo Obverse

The reverse design features an eagle perched on a shield with a two register shield. The upper register shows 13 5-sided stars in two rows. The lower register shows 13 vertical bars with stripes and solid bars alternating. This is the Seal of the US Philippine Territories (adopted in 1903). At the upper rim are the words “United States of America” and at the bottom is the year of issue. If it had a mint mark (this one does not), the mint mark would be below the dot to the left of the date.

1917 US Philippines 5 Centavo Reverse

1917 US Philippines 5 Centavo Reverse

Identification code: Philippines KM-164 (minted 1903-1928)

Date: 1917

Mintage: 2,300,000 (no proofs were minted)

Country of origin: United States (US Philippines Territory)

Composition: Coin Nickel (25% nickel, 75% copper)

Size: 20.5mm

Weight: 5g

Other details: The reverse of this coin has a smudge at about 11:00. I’m not sure what that is, but haven’t cleaned it to avoid damaging the patina of the coin. I like my coins with character.

Estimated Value: $1.50-2.50 in Fine Grade.

US Philippines 5 Centavo 1903

This coin is fine to very fine condition. I would grade it approximately VF-20.

On the obverse, a bare chested Filipino man is shown sitting next to the forge of freedom. The blacksmith is built like Adonis – with huge muscles  flexed in a spreadeagled pose. His elbow is on the forge, a Thor-like hammer is dangling from his right hand, and his left hand is on his left knee. The guy is staring off into the distance at  Mt. Mayon, an active volcano with smoke billowing from the crater. On the upper edge of the coin is the denomination “Five Centavos” and on the lower perimeter is the word “Filipinas”. The engraver was Melecio Figueroa.

1903 US Philippines 5 Centavo Obverse

1903 US Philippines 5 Centavo Obverse

The reverse design features an eagle perched on a shield with a two register shield. The upper register shows 13 5-sided stars in two rows. The lower register shows 13 vertical bars with stripes and solid bars alternating. This is the Seal of the US Philippine Territories (adopted in 1903). At the upper rim are the words “United States of America” and at the bottom is the year of issue. If it had a mint mark (this one does not), the mint mark would be below the dot to the left of the date.

1903 US Philippines 5 Centavo Reverse

1903 US Philippines 5 Centavo Reverse

Identification code: Philippines KM-164 (minted 1903-1928)

Date: 1903

Mintage: 8,910,000 (2,558 were minted in proof)

Country of origin: United States (US Philippines Territory)

Composition: Coin Nickel (25% nickel, 75% copper)

Size: 20.5mm

Weight: 5g

Other details: This was the first year of mintage for the 5 centavo. The diameter of the coin was later reduced to avoid confusion with the 20 centavo coin.

Estimated Value: $1.50-2.50 in VF-20