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Lesser Known History of the US Mint in Saudi Gold and Other Tales

Roger W. Burdette, Saudi Gold and Other Tales From the Mint.
Roger W. Burdette, Saudi Gold and Other Tales From the Mint (2023).

Seneca Mill Press LLC proudly announces release of the latest numismatic book by Roger W. Burdette, Saudi Gold and Other Tales from the Mint.

America’s national numismatic journey began with tentative issues of Fugio cents in 1787 and half dismes in 1792. Over time, external events generated unexpected changes to accustomed financial and coinage systems. Some changes were of wide impact, while others were limited to our national mints. Some remain largely unknown to the present.

Saudi Gold and Other Tales from the Mint explains the use of gold as a single monetary standard, commonly accepted by most nations. But the United States, with its diverse and questioning population, attempted to have gold and silver as “semi-exchangeable” if not practical dual standards.

After decades of mannered stability, a once-ubiquitous gold exchange standard crumbled under international economic pressures resulting from World War I. American dollars that had long been expressed as “gold dollar” or “silver dollar” or “greenback dollar” all became simply “a dollar.” Coin collectors used their newly equal dollars to enhance collections, fill coin boards, and examine pocket change for rare and valuable coins. The business of coins became part of the collecting of coins and drew within it a new diversity of hobbyists and businesses.

During the interwar Great Depression period, the U.S. Treasury began a large construction and modernization plan for the mints. This included separate bullion depositories for gold and silver, the enlargement of existing mints, and a proposed new mint in Indiana. Director Nellie Tayloe Ross reinvigorated the Mint Service with better training, heightened security, improved facilities, and crucial direct oversight.

With World War II came new, often secret roles for the Treasury and Mint Bureau. Saudi Gold and Other Tales from the Mint describes how they became lenders of war materials, international coin producers, and unexpected sources of foreign aid designed to improve America’s war efforts. The Department of State seemed, at times, to use the Mint Bureau as its own adjunct; bypassing a Congress reluctant to take a long view of international relations.

World War II produced the greatest single disruption of human activity ever experienced. The rise of large-scale totalitarianism, weapons of unimaginable destructive capability, and economic distortion forced Great Britain, the United States, and their allies to take extraordinary measures to make the word safe for democracy.

Central to this was securing the cooperation of allies and non-aligned states for raw materials, overflight permission, and advance base logistics planning. Our title, Saudi Gold and Other Tales from the Mint, focuses on one of many events involving the manufacture of coinage, lend-lease arrangements and, especially on relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States. This was one of personal kindness, connection and respect between President Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud. America’s diplomatic goal was not oil – we were self-sufficient – but access to a transportation base for troops required for the expected invasion of Japan. The gold discs that coin collectors associate with Saudi Arabia were only incidental, but after decades of confusion we present what actually happened.

We close with the examination of two of our most iconic coins. The first honors the wartime President who led with courage and commitment. The second recognized a man who held no great political office, but became a revered American national philosopher.

Saudi Gold and Other Tales from the Mint is available from Wizard Coin Supply. Cover price for the 8½ x 11-inch hard cover book containing 258 full color pages is $39.99 USD. Purchasers may also download a complete digital index edition at no cost. This will facilitate subject searches and provides a convenient copy for use on phones, tablets, and similar portable devices.

Roger W. Burdette
Roger W. Burdette
Responsible for much original numismatic research in recent years, Roger Burdette was named the ANA Numismatist of the Year in 2023. Besides CoinWeek, he has written for Coin World and The Numismatist, among others. He is the author of Renaissance of American Coinage 1916-1921 (2005); Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1908 (2006); Renaissance of American Coinage 1909-1915 (2007); A Guide Book of Peace Dollars (Whitman, 2009); and Fads, Fakes & Foibles (2021). He also co-wrote the NLG award-winning Truth Seeker: The Life of Eric P. Newman (2015) with Len Augsburger and Joel Orosz. Burdette served as a member of the Citizen’s Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) from 2008 to 2012.

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