US Coins

Bill seeks Tomb of the Unknown Soldier coins

Legislation is under congressional consideration for a commemorative silver dollar in 2021 to mark the centennial anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The legislation, S.B. 3290, seeks a maximum mintage in Proof and Uncirculated versions of 100,000 coins, the lowest mintage sought under any U.S. commemorative coin program seeking a silver dollar. Most approved already commemorative coin programs, whether as a single silver dollar or as part of a two-coin or three-coin program have authorized mintages of 350,000, 400,000 or 500,000.


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However, actual sales for many recent programs have been modest, closer to the 100,000-coin mark. For example, as of Aug. 19, combined sales for the 2018 Proof and Uncirculated Breast Cancer Awareness silver dollar totaled 41,015 coins. The legislated maximum is 400,000 coins.

In another example, the World War I American Veterans Centennial silver dollar has a maximum authorization of 350,000 coins. As of Aug. 19, the Mint recorded combined Proof and Uncirculated silver dollar sales of 133,840 coins.

Honoring the ‘U.S. Unknowns’

S.B. 3290 was introduced into the U.S. Senate July 26 by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas. It has been forwarded to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

The legislation proposing the 2021 Tomb of the Unknown Soldier silver dollar seeks a $10 surcharge to be added to the purchase price of each coin. Net surcharges, after the U.S. Mint recoups all of its production and associated costs, would be paid to the National World War I Museum and Memorial “for the purposes of commemorating the centennial of the establishment of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.”

The Tomb of the Unknowns memorial site at Arlington National Cemetery was established on March 4, 1921, when Congress approved the burial of an unidentified soldier of the United States on the site to commemorate the unknown soldiers who died during World War I. 

The tomb was completed in 1931. Since then, the site also includes the remains of unknown soldiers from World War II and the Korean War. These graves are marked with white marble slabs embedded in the plaza below the original sarcophagus. The original white marble sarcophagus of the unknown soldier from World War I features three Greek figures representing peace, victory, and valor. The monument incorporates six wreaths, three sculptured on each long side, which represent the major campaigns of World War I in France — Ardennes, Belleau Wood, Château-Thierry, Meusse-Argonne, Oisiu-Eiseu, and Somme. 

Inscribed on the back of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are the words, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

The original unknown soldier from World War I lay in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol from his arrival in the United States until Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1921. President Warren G. Harding officiated at the interment ceremonies at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.

The World War I “Unknown” is a recipient of the Medal of Honor, the Victoria Cross, and several other foreign nations’ highest service awards. The U.S. Unknowns who were interred are also recipients of the Medal of Honor, presented by U.S. presidents who presided over their funerals.

Between the World War II and Korea Unknowns lies a crypt that once contained an Unknown from Vietnam. His remains were positively identified in 1998 through DNA testing as 1st Lt. Michael Blassie, United States Air Force, and were removed to a military cemetery in Missouri, his home state.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and in any weather by Tomb Guard sentinels. The sentinels, all of whom are volunteers, are considered to be the best of the elite 3rd Infantry Regiment of the Army, commonly known as the “Old Guard,” headquartered at Fort Myer, Virginia.

For the annual Veterans Day National Ceremony, at 11:00 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, a wreath is laid at Arlington National Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

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