Those who have been part of the US Commemoratives area of CCF for a few years may recall that I enjoy adding items to my collection that are related to the commemorative coins I collect - I refer to them as cousins
. Most often, the pieces I add are medals, brochures and/or coin holders issued by the same organization as the coin itself. While recently poking around the internet, however, I came across a coin that was previously unknown to me but, visually, seemed instantly familiar. After a second or two, I recognized its similarity to the 1936 San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge half dollar. A definite cousin, but a distant
one for sure! Though issued roughly 30 years apart and by two different countries, it turns our that the two coins do have links to each other.
The coin in question is from Portugal. It is a silver 20 escudos piece that was issued in 1966 to commemorate the opening of the Salazar Bridge; construction on the bridge began in 1962. The bridge is a suspension bridge that crosses the Tagus River and links Lisbon (the capital of Portugal) on the river's north bank with Almada on its south.
One look at the coin caused me to immediately think of the Bay Bridge commemorative half dollar of 1936. The length-wise perspective used to present the bridge depicted on the Portuguese coin, while from the opposite side, is reminiscent of the Bay Bridge coin as is the design of the bridge's support towers. The towers on each bridge each have three "X" braces above the roadway and two below it.
I've read on multiple online sites how the Portuguese bridge is similar to the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge. I guess the link has been made because both are painted an orange-red, but the physical attributes of the support towers of each are very different. Maybe because I saw the bridge depicted in silver on a coin vs. orange-red in a photograph, the Golden Gate Bridge never entered my thinking. I thought instantly that the Salazar Bridge resembled the suspension portion of the original SF-Oakland Bay Bridge as seen on the 1936 Bay Bridge half dollar.
The similar bridge design isn't much of a surprise considering that the American Bridge Company built the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge as well as the Salazar bridge; the company did not build the Golden Gate Bridge.
At the time of its opening in 1966, the Portuguese bridge was named in honor of António de Oliveira Salazar, the Portuguese Prime Minister from 1932 to 1968; he left office in 1968 due to his failing health and died in 1970 at the age of 81. Salazar was the primary architect of Portugal's Estado Novo
("New State"), which came to power in 1933. It was an authoritarian, facist government which was overseen by Salazar (the Portuguese president at the time was largely a figurehead position); Salazar ran Portugal as a dictator.
(Salazar's history and story is an interesting one, but I'll leave it to those with interest in a detailed history to search the internet for more information about him.)
The name of the Salazar Bridge was changed to the Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge
in recognition of the successful Carnation Revolution which began with a military coup on April 25, 1974 and an overthrow of the Estado Nuevo
regime that remained in power after Salazar's retirement and subsequent death.
The Portuguese coin is 30 millimeters in diameter, has a weight of 10 grams and was struck on a silver planchet of 0.650 fineness. In comparison, a US classic commemorative half dollar has a diameter of 30.6 mm, a weight of 12.5 grams and was struck on a silver planchet that was 0.900 fine. So, the Portuguese coin is a bit smaller and lighter than the US comparison coin. The coin was designed by Jaime Martins Barata; it was modeled/sculpted by Marcelino Norte de Almeida.
There are many ways to find links to the classic US commemorative coin series that will inspire expanded collecting. a shared appearance, a shared construction company and a shared design aesthetic were enough for me to add an inexpensive Portuguese bridge commemorative coin to my collection! (And write about it for CCF!)
Following are images of the Portuguese coin and the Bay Bridge half dollar that are in my collection. Do you see the similarities that I see?