Collectors of the classic US commemorative series are no doubt familiar with the Battle of Gettysburg half dollar. The coin was struck to mark the 75th anniversary of the Civil War battle with the highest number of casualties and, with the Union army emerging victorious, the point in the war at which the North began to take firm control of the war's outcome. 50,000 of the 1936-dated coins were struck in 1937 to commemorate the 75th anniversary in 1938. The coin was designed by Frank Vittor. I've posted about the coin here http://goccf.com/t/116536
, here http://goccf.com/t/125711
and here http://goccf.com/t/173175.
The battle was not the only Gettysburg-related event that was considered for a US commemorative half dollar, however. In August 1961, as the US was just beginning its five-year commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Civil War, Representative George Atlee Goodling (R-PA) introduced a bill during the 87th Congress that called for "50-cent pieces in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of the delivery of Lincoln's immortal address at Gettysburg."
The bill called for up to 250,000 silver half dollars of standard specification to be minted. The bill allowed for the coins to be struck and dated prior to 1963, but specified that they could only be issued during the 1963 calendar year; such a provision created the potential for a multi-year set of the coins. The State of Pennsylvania was identified as the sponsor of the coin, with net funds to be "used for the observation of the centennial as directed by the Pennsylvania Civil War Centennial Commission." (Distribution of the coin was to be handled by the Gettysburg Centennial Commission which was appointed by the Pennsylvania State legislature; General Dwight D. Eisenhower was the Honorary Chairman of the Commission.)
The bill was referred to the House Committee on Banking and Currency but was not reported out for consideration by the full House.
Not to be deterred, Representative Goodling re-introduced the bill in January 1963 during the 88th Congress. It was joined in March by a companion bill in the Senate that was introduced by Senators Hugh Doggett Scott, Jr. (R-PA) and Frank Monroe Clark (D-PA).
Hearings were held by the House Committee on Banking and Currency in May 1963 to discuss the proposed coin bills (along with other commemorative coin and medal bills). Eva Adams, Director of the Mint, represented the Treasury Department at the Hearing. She presented the Treasury Department's decades-long position opposing the issuance of commemorative coins, citing their potential to disrupt the integrity of the US coinage
system, their potential to confuse the general public when/if released into circulation, the production burden they place upon the Mint and their potential for exploitation for private gain by their sponsors.
Adams also reiterated the Treasury Department's support for the striking of commemorative medals rather than coins and indicated that if a medal was requested, rather than a coin, it would not be opposed.
Representative Goodling followed Ms. Adams. He presented statements from fellow members of Congress refuting the arguments of the Treasury Department and extolling the worthwhile nature of issuing a coin to commemorate an event of such national significance. He also introduced multiple statements pledging support of the coin bill.
After much discussion and Q&A, the Committee moved on from the Gettysburg coin and took up consideration of the other coin bills before it. In the end, no coin bill was reported out favorably by the Committee.
And so, a coin to mark a milestone moment in US history was passed over due to largely misguided and outdated (IMO) objections by the US Treasury Department. If I could go back and "correct" one commemorative coin denial among the hundreds that were never approved, this one would definitely make my "short list" for consideration.