United States coins depicting historical structures highly collectible

'Coin Lore' column from June 15, 2015, issue of Coin World
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 05/29/15
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How cool would it be to have your home on a coin?

Abraham Lincoln (kind of), John Oliver and George W. Palmer can make that claim. Their log cabins (or in Lincoln’s case, a reasonable facsimile thereof) have all appeared on U.S. coins in recent years. Everyone knows Lincoln, but Oliver and Palmer never achieved fame. Their humble homes appear on coins because of their location, not the accomplishments of their owners.

In 2009, the Mint struck four Lincoln cents to celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. The first, marking the 16th president’s birth and early childhood, shows a log cabin that for decades was passed off as Lincoln’s birthplace but is now acknowledged as merely “symbolic.” The building, enshrined in a granite and marble neo-Classical temple near Hodgenville, Ky., since the early 20th century, is the concoction of entrepreneur Alfred Dennett.

Even though Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, called the cabin a “fraud,” Dennett was not deterred. He passed it off as Lincoln’s birthplace at exhibitions around the country. The Lincoln Farm Association bought the building and placed it on display as Lincoln’s birthplace.

The National Park Service took the shrine over in 1933 and gradually backed off the claim of authenticity. In 2004, after a tree-ring analysis dated the building’s logs to 1848, the park described the structure as simply symbolic.

Not symbolic are John Oliver’s cabin on the Great Smoky Mountains quarter dollar or George Palmer’s cabin on the Homestead National Monument of America quarter dollar.

John Oliver (1793 to 1863), settled in Cades Cove, Tenn., in 1818, after serving America in the War of 1812. He built his numismatically noteworthy cabin in 1822 to 1823. The cabin remained in the family until the Great Smoky Mountain National Park was establishment in 1934.

The Mint placed a cabin on the 2014 Great Smoky Mountains quarter dollar that, according to the Mint, “features architectural elements from several historic homes preserved within Great Smoky Mountains National Park.” Except for a difference in chimney detail, the cabin on the coin is remarkably similar to the Oliver cabin, the park’s oldest structure.

George W. Palmer built his cabin on the Nebraska prairie in 1867 and lived there until 1895. The structure, which was used as a home until about 1940, was donated to the Homestead National Monument in 1950.

The building is a centerpiece of the memorial to the nation’s homesteaders.

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