The United States Congress awarded American actor John Wayne a Congressional Gold Medal in 1979, but the medal wasn’t completed until after his death. On March 6, 1980, the United States Mint presented the Wayne family with the finished gold medal.
The medal was designed by U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro. The obverse features a portrait of John Wayne adapted from his favorite photograph of himself, which was taken during the filming of Wayne’s 1960 film, The Alamo. The legend JOHN WAYNE AMERICAN arches along the top above the motif. The reverse features Wayne on a horse galloping through Monument Valley, Utah – likely inspired by the actor’s turn in the John Ford film Fort Apache (1948).
The John Wayne Congressional Gold Medal was the most popular medal issued by the United States Mint, with over 1.5 million pieces sold.
The medal was made available for sale to the public in two formats: a 3″ bronze medal with an issue price of $8.30 USD, and a 1 5/16″ copper medallion with an issue price of $1.10. The Mint ordered the medals for sale starting in June 1979.
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