By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ….
A first strike ceremony for the Proof 2024 Harriet Tubman Bicentennial commemorative silver dollar was held at the United States Mint facility in Philadelphia on Thursday, November 28. Hosted by Mint Director Ventris C. Gibson, representatives of stakeholders in the commemorative coin program and other interested parties attended the event.
These representatives included:
- Karen Hill – President and CEO of the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park (Auburn, New York);
- Woodrow Keown, Jr. – New President and COO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati, Ohio);
- Bishop Dennis Proctor – Presiding Prelate for the North Eastern Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church;
- Damon Jones – Chief Communications Officer, Procter & Gamble (Cincinnati);
- Robert Portman – Former U.S. senator (R-OH); and
- John Katko – Former U.S. representative (R-NY24).
Attendees that struck their own Proof coins were able to buy those coins for the initial retail price that will be in effect at the commemorative’s currently scheduled release on January 4, 2024. According to the Mint’s online 2024 product release schedule at the time of writing, that price has not been determined or made public. The coins would then ship at the same time as all regular orders processed by the Mint, meaning that attendess could not take immediate possession of the coins they struck.
All other Harriet Tubman commemorative Proof dollars struck at the November 28 ceremony will enter the same pool of inventory from which customer orders will be drawn starting next month and continuing until the end of the year.
The 2024 Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Commemorative Coin Program
The 2024 Harriet Tubman Commemorative Coin Program was authorized by the Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Commemorative Coin Act (Public Law 117–163; PDF link), which was signed into law by President Joe Biden on August 3, 2022. The program celebrates the bicentennial of the birth of anti-slavery activist and national hero Harriet Tubman.
Like many other modern U.S. commemorative coin programs, the Harriet Tubman Commemorative Program consists Proof and Unicrculated versions of a $5 gold coin, a silver dollar, and a clad half dollar, for a total of six coins (three different obverse/reverse design pairings in two finishes each). The authorizing legislation has established maximum production limits of 50,000 gold coins, 400,000 silver dollars, and 750,000 half dollars – though the actual respective mintages will depend on total orders for each product.
The designs on each coin represent Tubman’s legacy of abolitionism, and were selected by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati; the Harriet Tubman Home, Inc. in Auburn, New York; and the United States Commission of Fine Arts (CFA). These designs were then reviewed by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC).
As determines by the Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Commemorative Coin Act, surcharges of $35 per gold coin, $10 per silver coin, and $5 per clad half dollar are to be distributed to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and the Harriet Tubman Home.
Current U.S. Code allows the Mint to produce only two commemorative coin programs each year. The other commemorative program of 2024 celebrates the “Greatest Generation” of Americans who fought and won World War II. Those products are currently slated for a February 29 release.
Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Commemorative Coin Designs
The $5 coin honors Tubman’s life after the American Civil War.
The obverse, designed by Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) artist Chris Costello and sculpted by United States Mint Chief Engraver Joseph Menna, features a close-up portrait of Harriet Tubman looking towards the future.
The reverse, designed by AIP artist Benjamin Sowards and sculpted by Mint Medallic Artist Eric David Custer, features one person grasping another person’s hand with both of theirs, symbolizing the care and concern Tubman offered her fellow man.
The $1 coin as seen above commemorates Tubman’s death-defying work with the Underground Railroad, which freed slaves by smuggling them out of the South and into the North and even Canada through a network of safe houses and brave accomplices.
The obverse, designed by AIP artist Beth Zaiken and sculpted by Medallic Artist Phebe Hemphill, features Harriet Tubman offering the viewer her hand and a chance at freedom.
The reverse, also designed by Zaiken and sculpted by Medallic Artist Craig Campbell, features a nighttime scene of a group of people in silhouette crossing over a pair of clasped arms as they follow the Big Dipper and the Northern Star to freedom. Interestingly, the Northern Star replaces the letter “O” in the legend UNITED STATES *F AMERICA. The replacement of the letter with an object and the depiction of nighttime on a coin are unusual if not unique among the whole catalog of U.S. coins.
Clad Half Dollar
The Harriet Tubman Bicentennial clad half dollar honors her work as a scout, spy, and nurse for the Union Army during the Civil War.
The obverse, designed by former Mint sculptor-engraver and now AIP designer Don Everhart and sculpted by Medallic Artist Renata Gordon, features Harriet Tubman in front of a scene depicting the 1863 Combahee River Raid in South Carolina, which Tubman enabled with key intelligence on Confederate positions and ultimately freed over 700 people from slavery.
The reverse, designed by AIP artist Thomas Hipschen and sculpted by Medallic Artist John P. McGraw, is based on a famous contemporary woodcut (1869) of Tubman in wartime garb. The woodcut, however, depicts Tubman holding the barrel end of a rifle, which has been replaced by a spyglass on the coin.
A Busy Decade for Tubman
In some ways, the 2024 Commemorative Coin Program is a consolation prize for Tubman after years of activism to place her on the $20 bill. For more on that story, click here.
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