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Commemorative Coins And Medals

By Charles French

( Orginally published June 1962 )

The last of our series of Commemorative half dollars, namely the Booker T. Washington's and Washington Carver's were so unsuccessful, due to the large quantities coined, and the number of years the series lasted, that the government took a firm step to terminate the series.

This is unfortunate but the abuses could hardly justify any other action. The major objection to Commemoratives by the government is that the series tend to confuse our coinage system with too many varieties of design. (There are those who feel the same about Commemorative stamps).

The manner in which Commemorative coins were distributed makes the government's objection correct. Commemorative coins are interesting, educational, and could be a source of profit to the government. There is no need to allow past abuses to continue, but it is a shame to bar all future Commemorative issues. There are solutions to all objections.

First, a law should be passed allowing only one Commemorative coin per year. A board should be selected to decide what event should be commemorated for that year.

Second, the distribution should not be done by private commission, but by the mint itself, charging a premium for the Commemorative issues, as they do today for proof sets.

Third, the quantity coined should be determined by the orders received during the year, and not be limited issues that create false rarities. Fourth, the denomination of the new Commemorative coins should be silver dollar size. For one reason, the silver dollar is not popular in circulation, so the series would not confuse our coinage system. For another reason, the size allows better artistic designs.

Fifth, all Commemoratives should be struck in PROOF. This would automatically remove them from coins for circulation.

With this setup a wonderfully interesting series of Commemorative coins would be forthcoming. At the time, the announcement was made that the government would be interested in issuing medals to commemorate events, instead of Commemorative coins. This, however, did not meet with the approval of the American coin collectors.

Medals have not been popular for many years. Within the last year or two, however, most likely due to the rapid increase of coin values and the increasing difficulty of securing nice quality coins, collectors have turned to collecting medals.

The outcome is the monthly issue of new medals, from all sources, on all topics, in all metals, and all sizes. Many are very attractive, others not so much so. Some are being issued as a series, all the same size, and designed to keep the collectorsterest active as new medals out.

While some have been similar size to half dollars and coined silver, the majority are over 2 1/2 inches in diameter, and mostly in silver and bronze. The silver Seem to be the most popular and run in price all the way up to $35 each.

Collectors have gone for these a big way and orders are flowing to dealers all over the country them. Some of the earlier which were for very small quantities, have skyrocketed in value.

The half dollar sized silver Cow memoratives for Alaska and H have gone up tenfold. So have some of the earlier large sized silver medals.

Silver medals are always coined is lesser quantities than the bronze. Of consequence they sell, originally, for considerably more money, but their chance of advancement is much better due to their scarcity.