World Coins

How FDR made history on Filipino coins in 1930s

Editor's note: this is the third part of a story by Jeff Starck about Americans on world coins. The story first appeared in the November monthly issue of Coin World.

A strong crossover appeal exists among American collectors for coins of the Philippines issued under U.S. administration — buoyed no doubt by their inclusion in the compact tome that has become the bible for collectors of American coins, A Guide Book of United States Coins (known as the “Red Book,” authored by R.S. Yeoman and published by Whitman Publishing). 

In 1935, the U.S. Congress designated the Philippines as a commonwealth. 

The birth of the Philippine Commonwealth was commemorated by three silver coins designed by Professor Ambrosio Morales of the National University, one of which shows the bust of Franklin Roosevelt behind the bust of Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon y Molina (both busts face left).

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Roosevelt’s tenure as president was historic, in part because he was the only president elected to four terms. The coin is also notable relative to other coins. The 1936 peso marks only the second appearance of an incumbent U.S. president on a U.S. coin.

The first instance occurred in 1926, when, as sitting president, Calvin Coolidge joined George Washington on a commemorative half dollar noting the Sesquicentennial of Independence. Coolidge’s honor seems to be widely known, but Roosevelt’s appearance is oft-overlooked.

Possibly no American president is honored on more world coins than Abraham Lincoln. 

Besides being elected twice as America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln received an honorific that is little known today. 

That is, until San Marino chose in 2015 to issue a Proof .925 fine silver €10 coin celebrating the event. 

In a letter of thanks dated May 7, 1861, President Lincoln acknowledged that San Marino had bestowed upon him honorary citizenship. The first four words of that letter, “Great and good friends,” appear on the reverse of the San Marino coin. 

In Lincoln’s letter to the regent captains of the Republic of San Marino, he continues: “Although your Dominion is small, your State is nevertheless one of the most honored in all history. It has by its experience demonstrated the truth, so full of encouragement to the friends of Humanity, that Government founded on Republican principles is capable of being so administered as to be secure and enduring.” 

The coin marks the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s death at the hands of assassin John Wilkes Booth. 

Two other presidents vie with Lincoln for the unofficial title of most honored American president on world coins, with one “contestant,” John F. Kennedy, also making an appearance on a recent coin of San Marino. 

In 2013, San Marino planned to honor Kennedy with a circulating commemorative €2 but, because of European Union pushback, had to settle for issuing a noncirculating Proof .925 fine silver €5 coin. 

The coin shows on the reverse the smiling president with an American flag in the background, the year dates 1963 and 2013, and the German phrase Kennedy voiced in 1963 in support of West Germany, along with its English translation, I AM A BERLINER. 

On its 10th anniversary of independence, Chad issued in 1970 a 300-franc coin depicting Kennedy with a space shuttle and part of the Earth on the reverse, a nod to his efforts to launch an American to the moon before the end of the 1960s.

Another seminal president of the 20th century, Ronald Reagan, may just be the most celebrated on modern coins. (But that is covered in another segment.)

Read more of our series about Americans on world coins:

Tecumseh Canada coinAmericans abroad: Honoring Tecumseh beyond the border: In rare instances, world coins depicting Americans makes total sense. There could be no more suitably “American” subject for a Canadian coin than the Shawnee war chief.

General MacArthur Phillippines coinsAn American general in the Philippines, and on its coinage, too: A pair of popular world coins are the 1947-S coins from the Philippines honoring Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Liberian Ronald Reagan coinsPopular President Ronald Reagan oft-honored on non-U.S. coins: Though he is not without critics, President Reagan remains one of the most popular presidents of the 20th century.

Elvis Presley Jack Nicklaus Cook Island coinWorld coins showing America’s ‘The Greatest’ and ‘The King’ abound:The only American honorees on world coins more popular than presidents are entertainers.

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