A U.S. Mint die used to strike the obverse of a medal commemorating
the opening of the Manila Mint, the U.S. Mint’s branch in the
Philippines, in 1920 has been brought to light.
The die, featuring a left-facing profile image of President
Woodrow Wilson and the legend PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, was
examined by Fred Weinberg and John Dannreuther at the Florida United
Numismatists’ convention in Orlando, Fla., Jan. 5. Both Dannreuther
and Weinberg, who have extensive experience in researching and
examining U.S. Mint dies, stated that the die appears to be authentic.
The current owner of the Wilson die, Shawn Spriggle, said his
grandfather, Lloyd V. Spriggle, a warrant officer in the U.S. Army who
served in the Pacific Theater during World War II, brought the piece
to the United States.
An online archival search confirmed that the elder Spriggle
enlisted in the U.S. Army March 19, 1942, in Eau Claire, Wis. He died
Nov. 24, 1993, in Bay City, Wis.
A soldier’s account
The elder Spriggle provided to his family a typewritten account of
his service during World War II. Among the information contained in
the account, a copy of which was provided to Coin World by
his grandson, is that after enlisting, he was assigned to the Army
engineers and took his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.
After that, the account says, he was assigned to Fort Belvoir,
Va., where he served as an instructor for “a couple of years.” He
later gained a commission as a warrant officer, and was assigned to
the Transportation Corps with training at Camp Gordon Johnston, an
amphibious training base in Carrabelle, Fla.
In December 1944, Spriggle was transported to the Pacific Theater,
first landing in Hollandia, New Guinea (now Jayapura City, Indonesia).
From there, he shipped out to Tacloban, Leyte, the Philippines.
Spriggle writes in his account that his outfit was the “54th
Harbor Graft [Sic] T.C.” Likely that means that he served in the 64th
Transportation Corps Harbor Craft Company, which served in that
theater of operations according to the U.S. Army Center of Military
History website at www.history.army.mil/html/forcestruc/lineages/branches/trans/0325trco.htm.
In Manila, Philippines, on an unrecorded date, Spriggle found the die.
American, Filipino and Japanese forces fought for control of the
city from Feb. 3 to March 3, 1945, with the Japanese occupiers finally
driven from Manila. The city was devastated during the battle, and the
Mint facility was among the many buildings destroyed.
According to Spriggle’s typewritten account:
“The [Manila] mint next to the fort was a shambles and wide open.
While there was no gold in it, there were several piles of silver coin
stock in bars about 18 inches long 12 inches wide and three eights
inches thick. Some of the boys picked up a few for souvenirs, but I
figured they belonged to the Filippino’s [Sic] and picked up a die
that was used to stamp a Wilson medal instead. The mint was left for
several weeks before a guard was put on it and the Filippinos
themselves raided it quite often. They were great on filigree work and
used it as a base for that.”
According to Shawn Spriggle, the die was used as a paperweight for
many years, as the family was unaware of its numismatic and historic
value. Neither the grandfather nor father was a dedicated coin collector.
The die was passed to Shawn Spriggle’s father upon Lloyd V.
Spriggle’s death, and was subsequently inherited by the younger
Spriggle upon his own father’s death in 2008.
The Manila Mint
The United States government claimed sovereignty over the
Philippines following the conclusion of the Spanish-American War of
1898, having defeated the Spanish there and in Cuba. Direct American
governance of the islands lasted until 1935, when the nation gained
commonwealth status. The Philippines gained complete independence from
the United States in 1946 following the end of World War II.
The U.S. Mint branch in the Philippines, the Manila Mint, was the
first, and only, U.S. Mint facility to operate beyond American shores.
The Manila Mint was established to strike coinage for the
Philippines, to replace the Spanish Colonial money that was then circulating.
According to The Mint of the Philippine Islands, an American
Numismatic Society monograph penned by Gilbert S. Perez in 1921, the
machinery for the Manila Mint was “designed and built at Philadelphia
under the supervision of Clifford Hewitt, then chief engraver of the
United States mint.
“In June, 1919, it was assembled, tested and found satisfactory;
it was then shipped to the Philippine Islands via the Panama Canal,
arriving at Manila in perfect condition. Mr. Hewitt reached Manila at
the end of the month and undertook the installation of the machinery.”
Prior to the opening of the Manila Mint, from 1903 to 1920,
American coinage for the islands had been struck at the Philadelphia
and San Francisco Mints, and then shipped to the islands.
Denominations minted included half-, 1-, 5-, 10-, 20- and 50-centavo
coins and the 1-peso coin.
The Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver Mints briefly struck
circulating coinage for the Philippines in 1944 and 1945, as the
islands were being liberated from years of Japanese occupation.
Examination at FUN show
Weinberg, an error coin specialist and dealer (found online at www.fredweinberg.com), examined
the die during the FUN show, comparing it to a defaced 1872-CC Coronet
gold $20 double eagle die he had on hand.
“It was very similar,” he said. “It had the same height, same size
base. It had a patina that is consistent with genuine Mint dies. It
did not look like a contemporary counterfeit. It just had the ‘right
“Based on my experience handling Mint dies, I would go on record
saying that I am very confident that [the Manila Mint die] is
genuine,” Weinberg said.
John Dannreuther of John Dannreuther Rare Coins (online at www.jdrarecoins.com) concurred
with Weinberg’s opinion on the die’s authenticity, saying that the die
“looked and felt right” — an observation that he admitted was “hard to verbalize.”
A commemorative medal
According to So-Called Dollars by Harold E. Hibler and
Charles V. Kappen, the 1920 Manila Mint Opening commemorative medal
was designed by Hewitt. U.S. Mint Chief Engraver George T. Morgan of
the Philadelphia Mint sculptured and engraved the dies at the
The obverse features President Wilson and the legend PRESIDENT OF
THE UNITED STATES; the reverse of the medal depicts a figure
symbolizing Justice (some accounts say “Liberty”), kneeling, with
scales upraised by her right hand. Her left hand rests upon the
shoulder of a nude youth who pours planchets from a small cornucopia
into a coin press. Around the rim of the medal is the legend TO
COMMEMORATE THE OPENING OF THE MINT. Below Justice is the legend
MANILA P.I. (Philippine Islands) and the date 1920.
The Manila Mint was officially opened for business in a ceremony
held on the morning of July 15, 1920. The U.S. governor-general of the
Philippines, Francis Burton Harrison, coined the first piece struck at
the Mint — a bronze 1-centavo coin. Sergio Osmeña, speaker of the
Filipino House of Representatives, struck the first medal that same day.
The Manila Mint Opening medal, also known as the Wilson Dollar,
was struck in three compositions: copper, silver and gold. All three
medals are 38 millimeters in diameter. The Mint of the Philippine
Islands recounts that 2,000 of these medals were struck on the first
day of official operation, but does not specify if the first-day
strikes were copper, silver or gold.
Of the three compositions, the silver and copper pieces are the
most common, but still scarce. The issue was limited to 2,200 silver
pieces and 3,700 copper strikes. Existing pieces typically sell for
amounts between $200 and $1,000 at auction, depending upon their condition.
The silver medal is classified in So-Called Medals as
Hibler-Kappen 449 (HK-449). The bronze piece is classified as HK-450.
The gold Manila Mint medals, classified as HK-1031, are extremely
rare, with only three existing examples known of the total of five
struck. The website www.so-calleddollars.com
states that one gold medal was given to President Wilson, one was
presented to the U.S. secretary of war and the other three were
retained in the Philippines.
One gold example, graded Mint State 62 by Numismatic Guaranty
Corp., and termed the “finest of three known,” sold for $74,750 in a
Heritage Auction Galleries sale, July 30, 2008, its last appearance in
a public auction.
An NGC MS-61 example sold earlier in 2008, for $80,500, at a
Stack’s Americana Sale held Jan. 16, 2008. The same piece subsequently
sold at a discount in a Stack’s Americana Sale conducted Sept. 23,
2009, achieving a price realized of $56,350.
A third gold piece, graded by Numismatic Conservation Services as
“Unc Details, Mount Removed,” failed to sell at a Heritage Tokens and
Medals Signature Auction held Feb. 14, 2008.
It has not been determined, and perhaps will never be known, if
the surviving Manila Mint obverse die was used for striking the gold,
silver or copper medal or a combination of any of the three. The “Dies
Manufactured” charts in the Annual Report of the Director of the Mint
provides no illuminating information. Neither the 1920 edition of the
Annual Report (fiscal year ending June 30, 1920) nor the 1921 edition
(fiscal year ending June 30, 1921) mentions specifically the number of
dies manufactured for use in striking the Manila Mint medals, though
both record other dies, manufactured for circulating denominations for
the Philippines. ■