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Commems Collection: Government Officials - Part I

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 Posted 04/08/2022  12:55 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Here'a another theme for a potential collecting endeavor - Classic US Commemorative Coins Depicting Government Officials. The classic-era series includes a surprising number of coins that feature one or more elected US officials - presidents, governors and senators have all appeared. In this Part I post, I'll cover the US presidents.

Two notes before I begin:

1. I'm going to restrict this discussion to the "standard" not-intended-for-circulation (NIFC) classic-era commemorative issues and leave off such circulating commemorative coins such as the 1909 and 1959 Lincoln Cents and 1932 Washington Quarter, as well as modern commemorative issues such as the 1982 Half Dollar and 1999 gold Half Eagle featuring George Washington.

2. I'm including only government officials from July 4, 1776 forward - no colonial governors (I'm looking at you Governor Bradford and the Pilgrim Tercentenary half dollar!) or similar pre-US Constitution depictions.

Here in Part I, let's have a quick look at the Presidents:

1. George Washington
George Washington, the first president under the US Constitution, appears on two NIFC coins of the classic era. First was the Lafayette Memorial silver dollar on which the conjoined portraits of Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette appear on the obverse. Next, was the 1926 American Independence Sesquicentennial half dollar on which Washington appears with Calvin Coolidge on the obverse. Washington served two consecutive terms as president, from April 30, 1789 to March 4, 1797; he remained popular enough to have served longer, but declined the opportunity.

2. Thomas Jefferson
The second appearance of a US president on a US coin occurred in 1903 when one of the two gold $1 coins issued in support of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition - a fair held to mark the centennial of the nation-changing territory's purchase from France - featured a left-facing portrait of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and the third US president. Jefferson served two consecutive terms from March 4, 1801 to March 4, 1809.

3. William McKinley
Next up is William McKinley. McKinley appears on two US commemorative coins, first on the obverse of one of the two 1903 gold $1 coins for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (Jefferson was on the other, see above), then on the obverse of another gold $1 coin issued in 1916 and 1917 that was struck to support the McKinley Birthplace Memorial in Niles, Ohio. McKinley is one of only two US presidents to appear more than once on a classic-era commemorative coin (George Washington is the other). McKinley, however, has the distinction of being the only US president to be featured on two different gold classic-era commemorative coins. McKinley was the 25th US president, serving from March 4, 1897 through September 14, 1901; he was assassinated early in his second term while attending the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY.

4. Abraham Lincoln
Next is Abraham Lincoln, the 16th US president; Lincoln appears on the 1918 Illinois Statehood Centennial half dollar. Lincoln served in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1824 to 1842; he later went on to be an Illinois representative to the US House of Representatives from 1847 to 1849. The portrait on the 1918 coin is of Lincoln, in Illinois, prior to his move to Washington, DC to serve as the nation's next president.

The coin's obverse design is based on the Andrew O'Connor statue, known as "The Lincoln of the Farewell Address." The statue depicts Lincoln as he stood at the back of a train in Springfield, IL on February 11, 1861 saying goodbye to his friends and supporters who had gathered to see him off as he left for Washington, DC to take office as the 16th president of the United States. Lincoln served as US President from March 4, 1861 until April 15, 1865; he was assassinated early in his second term.

5. Ulysses S. Grant
US Grant is the next president to make the list. He appears on the 1922 silver half dollar and gold $1 coins issued to mark the centenary of his birth. The two coins share a common design, and two varieties were issued for each - namely, with and without an incuse star on the obverse. Grant's portrait is seen on the obverse of the coins, while his birthplace home is depicted on the reverse. Grant was the 18th president, serving two consecutive terms from March 4, 1869 to March 4, 1877.

6. James Monroe
The next coin on the the list is the 1923 Monroe Doctrine Centennial half dollar, which features conjoined portraits of James Monroe and John Quincy Adams on its obverse. Monroe was serving as the fifth US president at the time, in office from March 4, 1817 to March 4, 1825. Adams was the US Secretary of State under Monroe at the time of the Doctrine, and is generally credited with the its framing and authorship. (He succeeded Monroe as the sixth US president, serving March 4, 1825 to March 3, 1829.)

7. Calvin Coolidge
The next US president to appear on a classic-era US commemorative coin was Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the US, serving August 2, 1923 to March 4, 1929. He took over the office after the unexpected death of Warren G. Harding, and won one additional term. His portrait joins that of George Washington on the 1926 American Independence Sesquicentennial half dollar. The coin marked the first time a sitting US president appeared on a US coin; it remains the only such coin to the present day.


In addition to the above, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt also appeared on a legal tender commemorative coin of the time - the 1936 US-Philippine Islands commemorative One Peso piece that marked the PI's transition from a US Territory to a US Commonwealth in November 1935. Two silver One Peso coins were struck as part of a three-coin program (a 50 Centavos coin was also struck). One of the One Peso coins featured a portrait of President Roosevelt conjoined with Manuel Quezon (the first president of the US-PI Commonwealth).

Part II will cover the non-President Government officials that have appeared on US commemorative coins of the 1892-1954 period.

You can find my previous posts on each of the coins listed above here:

- Commems Collection

Collecting history one coin or medal at a time! (c) commems. All rights reserved.
Edited by commems
04/08/2022 12:56 pm
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