Tonight we shine the spotlight on the only silver dollar among the 50 types of classic US silver commemoratives, the 1900 Lafayette Memorial. The coin is represented by an example in PCGS
There is no doubt that Frenchman Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette was one of the key figures in the American Revolution. A captain in the French army, Lafayette sympathized with the Americans in their fight for independence from Britain and decided to help their cause by offering his services directly to the US Congress. His offer was accepted and, with the assistance of Benjamin Franklin, he was commissioned as a Major General in the Continental Army. He was part of General George Washington's inner circle, providing invaluable military insights for Washington's use while making battle plans, and also directly fought in multiple battles, including Brandywine, Monmouth and Yorktown (the battle that brought about British Lieutenant General Cornwallis' surrender and ultimately the end of the American Revolution). In addition to his military leadership in support of the Americans, he also lobbied for the American cause in France to help ensure much needed financial support. To this day, Lafayette is rightfully accorded "hero status" in the annals of American history.Read More: Commems Collection
The Lafayette dollar was sponsored by the Lafayette Memorial Commission ( LMC
). The primary project of the LMC
was to create a fitting monument to General Lafayette and to then give it to the people of France during the Paris Exposition of 1900. The commemorative coin was used as a fund-raiser to support the costs associated with the monument; school children from around the US also raised funds for the statue, with almost $50,000 coming from their efforts.
Unfortunately for the LMC
, sales of the Lafayette dollar did not meet the hoped for levels, and 14,000 of the 50,000 struck were returned to the Mint for melting. With just 36,000 coins available and large numbers of the coins being sold to non-collectors at the time of issue, high-grade Lafayette dollars are scarce and one of the keys to the classic commemorative series. In fact, MS-65 examples of the coin top the price chart for same-graded coins across all silver types.
The coin features conjoined portraits of General Lafayette (rear) and General George Washington on its obverse, and depicts the Lafayette Statue created by Paul Wayland Bartlett that was erected in Paris by the LMC
. Charles Barber
was the designer/modeler of the coin.Side Note: I've always found it interesting that the first three silver commemorative types issued were of three different denominations -- half-dollar (Columbian) then quarter-dollar (Isabella) then dollar. Fortuitous or planned?
I've chosen to present my MS-63 Lafayette in this post as it holds a very special place in my collection. It is the first coin that I spent over $1,000 to acquire and it continues to be one of my absolute favorite coins to take out and inspect. I think it's a great looking 63, with spectacular cartwheel luster and nice, natural, original surfaces -- it simply has a great look (though my scans may not show it)! As long as I have my collection, this coin will always be part of it -- it just might be my favorite coin even though it's the lowest graded one in my set! (I'll share my higher graded coin in a separate post.)
In addition, I've included images of a 1934 medal sponsored by the American Friends of Lafayette, it marked the centennial of Lafayette's death in 1824. Even 100 years after his passing, Americans felt compelled to remember and honor one of its "adopted sons" and heroes of its fight for independence.
Enjoy!1900 Lafayette Memorial Dollar -- Obverse1900 Lafayette Memorial Dollar -- Reverse1924 Lafayette Death Centennial Medal-- Obverse1924 Lafayette Death Centennial Medal -- Reverse