Volcanoes, by some accounts, killed the dinosaurs, buried Pompeii
and turned sunset skies brilliant colors when Hawaii’s 1883 coins were
minted at the San Francisco Mint.
A series of massive eruptions Aug. 26 to 27, 1883, on the
Indonesian island of Krakatoa killed tens of thousands of people and
launched so much ash into the atmosphere that world temperatures
dropped nearly 2 degrees and sunsets blazed bright copper, green, blue
and magenta worldwide.
The San Francisco Mint struck dimes, quarter dollars, half dollars
and dollars for the Hawaiian kingdom from Nov. 17, 1883, through the
following June under those volcanic skies. These coins, designed by
Charles E. Barber, show King Kalakaua I.
In 2012, the U.S. Mint struck Hawaii coins once again. These
coins, part of the America the Beautiful Quarter program, show Kilauea erupting.
The quarter dollar was released at Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park
Aug. 29, 2012 — 129 years and two days after the Krakatoa explosion.
One of the earliest coins to show an exploding volcano is a peso
issued by Chile in 1817 to celebrate its independence. This coin shows
fire and ash rising from a volcano, a metaphor for the new government.
While the 2012 Hawaii quarter dollar is the first U.S. coin to
feature an exploding volcano, United States Mints have been striking
volcano coins off and on since 1903.
Between 1903 and 1919, the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints
struck millions of bronze, nickel and silver coins for the Philippines
under U.S. sovereignty that show smoke rising from Mount Mayon.
The volcano, on the island of Luzon, is depicted behind a
blacksmith on the 1- and 5-centavo coins and behind a walking woman on
silver 10-, 20-, and 50-centavo pieces and 1-peso coins.
Oregon’s Mount Hood is depicted on the reverse of the 1925 Fort
Vancouver Centennial commemorative half dollar and the 2010 Mount Hood
National Forest America the Beautiful quarter dollar.
The 2005 Oregon State quarter dollar shows Crater Lake, a
1,943-foot-deep lake that fills the crater left behind by the eruption
of Mount Mazama.
Mount Rainier, an active volcano, appears in the background on the
reverse of the 2007 Washington State quarter dollar.
None of the volcano coins are rare. Most of the U.S. coins can
most likely be found in pocket change. The Philippine and Chile coins
may be found in a world coin dealer’s inventory.
They may not be valuable, but they are explosively interesting.
Gerald Tebben is editor of the Central States Numismatic Society’s Centinel.