Memorial Day: Celebrating the coins that celebrate the American Revolution and the birth of the United States

Coin World is leading up to Memorial Day with a series of features on coins of major U.S. wars
By , Coin World
Published : 05/16/14
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In honor of the upcoming Memorial Day holiday on May 26, Coin World is publishing a series of posts taking readers through coins related to major U.S. wars. 

Our Memorial Day series begins with the war that turned 13 colonies into the United States of America. The American Revolutionary War began in 1775 and lasted until 1783, when the United States won their independence from the British Empire. 

Many coins bear a connection to the Revolutionary War. Among them are:

Continental Dollars: The Continental dollar coin was the first coin to serve as purely American currency in 1776, the same year the 13 colonies declared independence.

"In recognition of the solidarity of the Colonies and their assumption of the right as a sovereign entity to coin their own monies, plans were made to issue a Silver Dollar,” Ron Guth of PCGS CoinFacts writes.

The coins were struck in pewter, brass and silver with designs that were provided by Benjamin Franklin, according to Guth.

An MS-66 pewter version is valued at $450,000. 

The silver Continental dollars are the most rare and most valuable. PCGS has records of only two specimens of silver coins struck with the inscriptions EG FECIT and FUGIO. One of these two coins, graded Mint State 63 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., sold on May 16, 2014, for $1,410,000. The coin was a highlight of the fourth auction from the collection of 102-year-old numismatist Eric P. Newman.

See PCGS CoinFacts listings for Continental dollar coins here. 

1976 Revolutionary War Bicentennial: Nearly 2.5 billion coins were struck in 1975 and 1976 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with the quarter dollars, half dollars and dollars bearing special reverse designs and a dual 1776-1976 date. 

The quarter reverse featured a portrait of a Colonial drummer that resembled a character from the the famous Spirit of ’76 painting. Independence Hall fills the reverse of the Bicentennial half dollar, while the dollar reverse is emblazoned with the Liberty Bell superimposed over the moon. 

"Collectors and non-collectors alike delighted in the novelty of circulating commemoratives in 1976,” Gerald Tebben wrote  in a Coin World story published on Dec. 11, 2000. "In a year in which any kind of national celebration failed to get off the ground, the coins served as a binder for a nation still reeling from the 1975 fall of Saigon and the Nixon presidency."

1998 Black Revolutionary War Patriots silver dollar: The silver dollar was available during the year that marked the 275th birthday of Crispus Attucks, the first casualty of the American Revolution. 

Attucks, whose portrait is featured on coin’s obverse, was among the colonists shot to death during the Boston Massacre of 1770 after a late-night skirmish with British troops. The African-American man is honored by the coin along with the all-black 1st Rhode Island Regiment, and James Armistead, “who stood by General Lafayette’s side when Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown” after serving as a double-agent working against Cornwallis, the U.S. Mint website reads

The coin’s obverse was designed by John Mercanti and its reverse, which features the proposed but never built Black Patriots Memorial, was designed by Ed Dwight.

Other American-Revolution-related numismatic items include:

1982 250th anniversary of George Washington’s birth half-dollar: A coin that celebrates the American general who embodies the Revolutionary War. 

1900 Lafayette silver dollar: A coin that celebrates the French general who helped turn the tide of the Revolutionary War but perhaps is under-recognized. 

1926 American Independence Sesquicentennial silver half dollar and gold $2.50 quarter eagle: Two coins honoring a major Revolution anniversary before the Bicentennial made it cool. 

1781 Daniel Morgan at Cowpens medal: Gen. Morgan led the American forces to a crucial victory in South Carolina after the British captured Charleston and had Revolutionary troops in the South on the ropes. 

This list, of course, is far from comprehensive. Which American Revolution-related coins are we forgetting? Tell us in the comment section below!

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