On March 14 the U.S. Mint will launch its second and final commemorative coin program of 2019, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Legion and the remarkable work of this organization that has impacted not just U.S. service members, but the entire country.
The History of the American Legion
The organization was founded on March 15, 1918 in Paris, France by the American Expeditionary Forces that occupied Europe after the fighting of World War I had ended. This group was concerned about the welfare of their comrades after they returned to the United States, as well as of the communities where those veterans would live upon their return. At the time there was no such national organization that could help wartime veterans transition back to civilian life.
The American Legion, which was chartered by the U.S. Congress on September 16, 1919, is founded on four pillars that have guided its programs and services. These include: Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation, National Security, Americanism, and Children and Youth.
The American Legion is the nation’s largest service organization dedicated to the welfare of our wartime veterans with almost two million members. It seeks to strengthen the American nation one community at a time by promoting patriotism and honor, a strong national security and education of young people about sportsmanship, citizenship and fitness. It also advocates on behalf of fellow servicemembers’ welfare such as by assisting wounded warriors with their hospitals stays, awarding millions of dollars in college scholarships and Child Welfare Foundation grants, as well as in countless other ways.
Speaking on August 29, 1918 at an event in Minneapolis, where the first American Legion convention was held in 1918, with thousands of American Legion members present for the unveiling of the designs of the 2019 coins, U.S. Mint Director David Ryder, the son of two veterans, said: “Every day across the Nation, the Mint connects America through coins. And next year, it will be our great privilege to connect America to the legacy of the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization.”
Ryder also noted that if the program, which includes a clad half dollar, silver dollar and $5 gold coin – sold individually in proof and uncirculated finishes – is a complete sellout, it would generate $9.5 million for the American Legion’s programs and services. He also pointed out that over a third of the Mint’s staff consists of military veterans.
The U.S. Mint will also offer a three-coin set, which is does not do for many three-coin programs, and which includes the proof version of each coin. No mintage or household limits for the set have yet been announced for the set.
Surcharges from the sale of the coins, which by law cannot be paid out until enough coins are first sold to cover all costs associated with the production and distribution of the coins is first recouped, will go directly towards the Legion’s services and programs. Those programs support veterans and servicemembers (those who have served and those still serving) and their families, as well as programs that maintain patriotic values, strong families, and help for at-risk children.
American Legion Influence
Over the past 100 years, the American Legion has been integral not only to promoting the welfare of those who serve in our military and their communities, but has also played an important role in promoting economic and social change in the U.S. and promoting American patriotism and wholesome values. For example, the 1923 and 1924 American Legion conferences crafted the first regulations for the proper use, display, and respect for the American flag, which became known as the U.S. Flag code.
The group has also been directly involved in supporting many important legislative efforts to assist veterans and servicemembers. During World War II the group presented its case to the U.S. Congress to provide support programs for medically discharged and disabled veterans. The Legion also played a key role in the enactment of the G.I. Bill in June 1944, which has had a profound impact on American society by democratizing access to education, promoting home ownership and better VA hospitals and in many other ways. Every $1 of public money spent on the GI Bill resulted in $7 added to the U.S. economy, a very impressive return on that investment. Moreover, thanks to the GI Bill and the American Legion, the veterans of World War II were treated much better than those of World War I.
The Coin Series
The American Legion numismatic program was created through Public law 115-65, which passed the U.S. Congress on October 6, 2017, authorizing the minting of a maximum of 50,000 gold coins, 400,000 silver dollars and 750,000 clad half dollars. The gold coins will both be produced at the West Point Mint, which serves as a repository for the gold used to strike U.S. coins; the silver dollars will both be issued at the Philadelphia Mint; and the uncirculated half will be issued at the Denver Mint, while the proof version will be produced at the San Francisco Mint.
These coins are fitting patriotic tributes to the Legion, its many accomplishments and the amazing sacrifices of the millions of American men and women who have served in the military. The designs also reflect the artistic talents and diversity of the artists of the U.S. Mint’s Artistic Infusion program who created them. They are likely to stand the test of time because of their use of the timeless imagery and symbols of American patriotism and of the Legion’s history and core values such as respect for the flag and make the 2019 American Legion commemoratives an important part of modern numismatic history.
The obverse of the $5 gold coin was designed by Chris Costello, a member of the Artistic Infusion Program, and was sculpted by Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill. The obverse features the emblem of the American Legion, the Eifel Tower, which represents the founding of the organization in Paris, France after the end of World War 1, and a superimposed “V” over the iconic tower, which represents victory. The face of the coin features the inscriptions “Liberty,” “In God We Trust,” the “W” Mint mark, as well as “1919” and “2019.”
Designed by Paul C. Balan and sculpted by Joseph Menna, recently named Chief Sculptor-Engraver of the United States, the reverse of the Gold Coin portrays an eagle in elegant flight, accompanied by the American Legion emblem overhead.
Struck from .900 fine gold at the West Point Mint, no more than 50,000 of these coins will be minted across all gold varieties which include both a proof and uncirculated finish.
Silver $1 Dollar
The obverse of the Silver Dollar coin was designed by Paul C. Balan and sculpted by Renata Gordon. Its design features the logo of the American Legion, encircled by a lily and elegant oak leaves, representing the establishment of this distinctily patriotic organization in Paris, France, at the end of the First World War in 1919.
The reverse, sculpted by Michael Gaudioso and designed by Patricia Lucas-Morris, portrays the American Flag entertwined with the American Legion Flag, showing the organization's deep ties to the Nation it serves. A stunningly rendered fleur di lis resides above the flags.
Struck from .999 fine silver at the Philidelphia Mint and will bear the "P" Mint Mark. Only 400,000 of these coins will be released across both proof and uncirculated options. Inscriptions on this side include "100 years of Service" as well as "1919" and "2019."
Clad Half Dollar
The obverse of the Clad Half Dollar was designed by Richard Masters and sculpted by Phebe Hemphill. It showcases two young patriotic Americans pledging allegiance to the flag. The smaller one has an American Legion hat on her head. The first words of the pledge of allegiance appears on this face, “I pledge allegiance to the flag.”
The reverse, designed by Richard Masters and Sculpted by Joseph Menna, shows an American flag, proudly blowing in the wind. The perspective on the waving flag is truly unique. The pledge is continued n this side of the coin with the inscription “of the United States of America.”
Struck from cupro-nickel, no more than 750,000 of these half dollars will minted across both options. The proof clad half dollar will be struck at the iconic San Francisco Mint and will thus bear its “S” Mint mark, while the uncirculated clad half dollar will be struck at the Denver Mint and bear its “D” Mint mark.
Public Law 115-65 from www.congress.gov
Brandon Hall,” Timeless designs emerging from a new generation: the American Legion commemorative silver dollar,” www.coinupdate.com, Nov. 20, 2018