US Coins

When the Stars and Stripes come under fire

Designs of the Times column from the Jan. 30, 2017, issue of Coin World:

The Stars and Stripes have been getting a little more press lately with the election of our new president. He has stated his preference for a policy making the desecration of the American flag by burning a criminal offense. The Supreme Court in its 1989 decision in Texas v. Johnson made flag burning a legally accepted form of expression protected by the First Amendment.

The Stars and Stripes was formally adopted in June 1777. This important symbol of the United States was proudly carried into battle by our troops since the time of our Independence. It has flown over our forts and embassies proclaiming American sovereignty. It has flown triumphantly over our victories and has been lowered to half-mast to acknowledge the sacrifices of many of our citizens.

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The Civil War was the seminal moment of our nation’s history that had the flag as a prominent symbol. Union troops carried it into battle, where the flag bearer often became a target. When one bearer was brought down by enemy fire another willingly took up the perilous job.

A Civil War token, Fuld 209/414, (Patriotic Civil War Tokens by George and Melvin Fuld) shows clear reverence for the flag. The statement of shooting anyone on the SPOOT that attempts to tear it down demonstrates love of country by an overzealous die cutter! This popular die cutting error fits in collections next to varieties that spell SPOT correctly.

What collector can add an 1812 Capped Bust half dollar to their collection without thinking of The War of 1812 and the birth of our National Anthem glorifying the flag flying over Fort McHenry, in the form of the 1814 poem “Defense of Fort McHenry” by Francis Scott Key?

Who can collect coins from World War II without thinking of the iconic image of Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi, depicted on the Marine Corps commemorative dollar from 2005?

I am reminded of the famous quote “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” The quote is from English writer Beatrice Evelyn Hall, writing under the pseudonym of S.G. Tallentyre about Voltaire. 

We cannot shoot a flag burner on the “spoot,” nor can we prosecute them for their “free speech.” We can, however, remember the sacrifices of our brave citizens over the years to protect our rights.

Dedicated to Steve G. Karoleff (1918–2005), WWII veteran, and all those who have served: Thank You!

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