The First and Only Bimetallic Commemorative Coin Minted by the United States
The Library of Congress, founded on April 24, 1800, is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. Also the world’s largest library, it houses 119 million items– 18 million books; two million recordings; 12 million photographs; four million maps and 53 million manuscripts.
The library’s rare book collection is the largest in North America and includes the oldest surviving book printed in North America: the Bay Psalm Book, printed in 1640; the world’s largest book: John James Audubon’s Birds of America, which is one meter high; and the world’s smallest book: Old King Cole, about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. This book is so small that its pages can be turned only with the use of a needle.
President Thomas Jefferson played a key role both in the United States Mint’s history and in the Library of Congress’ development. Jefferson proposed the decimal coinage system we use today and advocated founding a mint on U.S. soil. A lifelong reader, Jefferson donated his personal collection of 6,487 books to Congress for $23,950 USD after the British burned the new Capitol and Library in 1814. On Christmas Eve 1851, another fire destroyed two-thirds of Jefferson’s collection. Although many of the volumes have been replaced, nearly 900 remain missing and the Library is engaged in a worldwide search to replace them.
Not only does the Library of Congress supply whatever research Congress needs but it also serves all Americans through its 22 reading rooms on Capitol Hill, its website, and as a monument to our nation’s love of learning.
These commemorative coins are called the coins of many firsts. The first commemorative coins of the new century, they are also the first-ever gold and platinum Bimetallic Commemorative Coin in the nation’s history. For the bimetallic version, the outer ring is stamped from a sheet of gold, then a solid core of platinum is placed within the ring. The coins contain about one-half an ounce of precious metal.
The bimetallic commemorative coin design was inspired by the graceful architecture of the library’s Jefferson Building. The outer ring is stamped from a sheet of gold, then a solid core of platinum is placed within the ring. Then, the gold ring and platinum core are simultaneously stamped forming an annular bead where the two precious metals meet. The obverse depicts the hand of Minerva, the goddess of Wisdom, raising the torch of learning aside the dome of the Thomas Jefferson Building. The coin’s reverse is marked with the Library of Congress seal encircled by a laurel wreath, symbolizing its national accomplishment.
- John Mercanti, obverse
- Thomas D. Rogers Sr., reverse