One of my side projects in collecting is a Type Set of the coinage struck by the US for the Philippine Islands (PI) during the period in which the Philippines was either a territory or commonwealth of the US. The Philippines are the only US territory or commonwealth for which a distinctive currency was created.
Notes for the PI were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP), Coins for the PI were struck by the US Mint at its facilities in Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco and Manila. The Philippines were the site of the only US Branch Mint to be located out side of the continental US (in Manila, PI).
To help celebrate the opening of the Manila Mint under US jurisdiction, commemorative medals were struck in bronze, silver and gold. The obverse of the medals have a left-facing portrait of Woodrow Wilson (the US President at the time), while the reverse includes an allegorical female figure - Juno Moneta
, a goddess of Roman mythology who protected the mint in Rome and who's name gave rise to the words "money" and "mint." On the medal, Juno Moneta
is shown kneeling, holding a balance scale in her right hand and resting her left on the shoulder of a young boy who is adding blank planchets to a coining press. The medals are often referred to by the nickname "Wilson Dollars."
The medal is the work of George Morgan. The obverse is adapted from his 1914 Assay Commission medal which features the Wilson portrait on its obverse. The reverse is adapted from the Assay Commission medals he created for use in the 1880s and early 1890s; 1882 was the first year the design was used. The 1920 medal adapts a mirror image of the design for the 1882 Assay Commission medal.
A total of 2,200 silver medals were struck, with 3,700 struck in bronze. Mintage figures aside, locating a nice example of the bronze version is much more difficult compared to finding a nice silver piece - both pieces are scarce, however. Pieces still held in inventory were dumped into Manila Bay during WWII to keep them out of the hands of advancing Japanese troops; when they were salvaged after the war, nearly all showed evidence of corrosion, with the bronze pieces being especially impacted. The warm, humid climate of the Philippines also worked against the long-term preservation of the bronze medals.
It is estimated that between five and a ten of the presentation gold medals were struck. They appear from time to time in the marketplace, often with price tags well in excess of $20,000!
I was happy to add the pair of medals shown here to my collection. I'm still holding out for just the right gold example! 1920 Manila Mint Opening Medal / Wilson Dollar - Bronze 1920 Manila Mint Opening Medal / Wilson Dollar - Silver