The 1991 USO silver dollar was issued "in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the United Services Organization." (Public Law 101-404)
The USO came about as a result of a suggestion made by General George Marshall and the support of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The US Congress chartered the organization on February 4, 1941. Roosevelt was later elected as its honorary chairman.
The USO was set up to be a private organization that supported the recreational needs of US uniformed military personnel while they were on leave during active duty; today it also supports the family members of those who serve. The mission of the organization was also to boost the morale of those serving via traveling shows/tours that offered live entertainment - via his many tours, Bob Hope became synonymous with USO shows! Thousands of entertainers have taken part in USO shows over the years. Unfortunately many have died while doing so - war zones are dangerous places!
The USO brought together the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), the Salvation Army, the National Catholic Community Services, the National Travelers Aid Association and the National Jewish Welfare Board under one cooperative umbrella. The USO continues its mission to the present day. (Side Note: A similar organization, the United Seaman's Service (USS) was created in 1942 to focus on the needs of US and Allied mariners who were not enlisted personnel.)
To learn more about today's USO, visit https://www.uso.org/
The coin's obverse design is fairly simplistic. At its center, the design depicts a pennant with "USO" that is flanked by three stars to its left and right; the pennant's design is an adaptation of the USO Flag. Its six stars represent the original six organizations that joined together to form the USO (see above). In calligraphy above the pennant is written "50th Anniversary." Robert Lamb, an independent, professional calligrapher, sculptor and graphic artist, created the design; Sculptor-Engraver William C. Cousins of the Mint developed the models from Lamb's drawing of the design.Flag of the United Service Organizations (USO)
Mint Sculptor-Engraver John Mercanti
created the coin's reverse design. It presents an American Bald Eagle perched on a globe oriented to present North and South America as well as Europe, Africa and a tiny portion of Asia; the eagle holds a ribbon in its beak, the ribbon features "USO" inscribed on it. Eleven stars are presented in an arc below the globe.
Mercanti's "JM" initials are found below the inscription "FIFTY YEARS SERVICE" to the left of the globe and just above the topmost star; the inscription "TO SERVICE PEOPLE" is seen to the right of the globe. Combined together, the two inscriptions quote the USO's anniversary theme, "Fifty years service to service people."
I've never seen a definitive description of the stars in terms of what they represent/symbolize, but I continue to look as 11 seems an odd number on a US coin. One possibility I've thought of is that the 11 stars are symbolic of New York - the 11th state to join the Union and the location of the USO's founding in 1941. Such a description seems very plausible to me!
The coin was available individually in Proof and Uncirculated versions; no special packaging options were offered. The Proof coin had an issue price of $31.00 (Pre-Issue: $28.00); the Uncirculated version was issued at $26.00 (Pre-Issue: $23.00). The coin program had an authorized mintage limit of 1,000,000 coins, but total sales were less than half this amount. The Proof coin sold 321,275 units, the Uncirculated sold 124,958; the two figures combine for an overall total of 446,233.
The USO 50th Anniversary commemorative program was one of three released by the Mint in 1991; the Korean War Memorial and the Mount Rushmore 50th Anniversary programs were the other two. Of the three, sales of the USO dollar were the lowest by far. The Korean Memorial silver dollar sold over 831,000 units and sales of the Mount Rushmore silver dollar totaled more than 871,000. The USO theme was clearly not as popular with collectors and/or the general public.1991 United Service Organizations (USO) 50th Anniversary Silver Dollar
For other of my posts about commemorative coins and medals, see: Commems Collection.