by Louis Golino for CoinWeek
The U.S. Mint has issued many commemorative coins over the year that have military themes on them.
In the past year, for example, we have seen the issuance of coins honoring the Army, Medal of Honor recipients, Infantry soldiers, and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner at the end of the War of 1812. In addition, next year a coin will be minted to honor five-star generals.
In the past coins were issued honoring those who served in the Civil War, Korea, World War II, and the Vietnam War. And numerous figures from the War of Independence have appeared on our coins, including most recently on last year’s Army half dollar, which featured a Revolutionary War soldier on the reverse.
But oddly no coin has ever been issued that honors the veterans of the World War I, who are known as “doughboys.” That term dates back to the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, when American infantrymen “were constantly covered with chalky dust from marching through the dry terrain on northern Mexico, giving the men the appearance of unbaked dough,” according to Wikipedia .
There is also no national memorial for the veterans of World War I, although there is one for the 499 District of Columbia residents who served in that war, the District of Columbia War Memorial, which is on the national mall in Washington, DC. That memorial, which was dedicated in 1931, has fallen into disrepair over the years.
In March 2008 Frank Buckles, the last surviving World War I veteran, visited the DC veterans memorial and saw what poor shape it was in. Following his visit, a group was established to restore the memorial and rededicate it as a memorial for all American veterans of the war. The group is known as the World War I Memorial Foundation.
Mr. Buckles died in February 2011.
According to the American Numismatic Association’s Numismatic Educator, Rod Gillis, “The new memorial will honor all World War I veterans, and make Frank Buckles’ dream a reality.”
Two years ago Mr. Gillis launched an effort to create a commemorative coin honoring the veterans of this war. Mr. Gillis noted that “It was really surprising to me that World War I veterans were never honored with their own coin.”
Mr. Gillis has been working with a Colorado congressman to create a World War I veterans coin.
Representative Doug Lamborn (Republican of Colorado) agreed to sponsor a bill to create such a coin. It is H.R. 4107, the “World War I American Veterans Centennial Commemorative Coin Act.”
The bill currently has nine co-sponsors. At the end of February Rep. Lamborn introduced the bill, and it was referred to the House Financial Services Committee. If it is approved by the members of that committee, it will be sent to the full House of Representatives. And if it passes the House and Senate, the bill will go the President. If he signs it, the bill would become law, and the Mint would be tasked to mint the coin.
The bill calls for the issuance of no more than 350,000 silver dollars in proof and uncirculated finishes. The coin would be issued in 2017 to mark the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into the war.
It also says the design of the coin will be selected by the Treasury secretary after a juried competition is held. The jury will consist of three members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and three members of the Commission on Fine Arts. The person who produces the design that wins the competition will receive compensation of no less than $5,000.
The U.S. entered into World War I on April 6, 1917, three years after the start of the war. Four million American men and women served during the war, and two million of them served overseas. 116,516 Americans died during the war, according to www.militaryfactory.com.
A $10 surcharge would be added to each coin and would go to the World War I Memorial Foundation to help fund the renewal and rededication project.
The ANA has asked its membership to support legislative efforts to give America’s doughboys the recognition they deserve by creating this coin. Members can do this by contacting their Member of Congress and indicating they support the proposed coin. You can contact your congressional representative by going to www.house.gov/representative.
Last year during the Chicago ANA World’s Fair of Money Mr. Gillis gave a numismatic theater presentation on his efforts to help create this coin.
In a column he wrote for Coin World , Mr. Gillis said that the idea for the coin came to him three years ago on Memorial Day weekend when he was watching some old footage from the war and started wondering if any Americans who served during the war were still alive. Mr. Gillis grandfather and great uncles served during the war.
In his capacity as Numismatic Educator, Mr. Gillis creates activities for the ANA’s web site, teaches a course for educators called “Coins in the Classroom,” and works with Young Numismatists to promote greater interest in coins among young people.
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA, PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.