Presidential Medals Start This Year; New Military Program to Begin Soon
Medal collectors—you’re in for some treats! As a longtime collector and student of medallic art, I’m excited about two new programs announced in today’s meeting (Tuesday, January 16, 2018) of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC). Ann Bailey, the Mint’s program manager for numismatics and bullion, discussed a new series of silver Presidential medals and an upcoming program of military-service medals.
Historical Presidential Medals in .999 Fine Silver
The silver Presidential medals will be similar to recent issues (reissues, really, because they use historical Mint medal designs) in various “Coin and Chronicles” sets, but
- the program will include all Presidential medals, and
- they’ll be minted in Proof, rather than regular-strike format.
The Mint will strike these medals on standard American Silver Eagle planchets (.999 fine, measuring 40.6 mm, slightly larger than a silver dollar), starting with two medals in 2018 and then issuing four more per year until completion.
They’ll be sold as what used to be called “list” medals (national medals published in the Mint’s annual product list)—on sale in perpetuity, as permanent items in the Mint catalog, with no ordering limits, time windows, or other such restrictions.
Readers of my book American Gold and Silver: U.S. Mint Collector and Investor Coins and Medals, Bicentennial to Date, are familiar with the Mint’s reissue of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential medal in 2013; the Franklin Roosevelt medal in 2014; and the Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson medals in 2015. These were all minted in silver, the 2013 Teddy Roosevelt piece being the first Presidential medal struck in .999 fineness. (Regular-issue Presidential medals are bronze.) The silver medals were packaged in the Mint’s “Coin and Chronicles” sets along with a Presidential dollar and related collectibles (postage stamps, commemorative booklets, etc.) for each of the honored chief executives. Their designs were derived from the originals by U.S. Mint chief engravers Charles E. Barber, John R. Sinnock, and Gilroy Roberts, and sculptor-engraver Frank Gasparro. These sets all sold out—some in a matter of minutes—with mintages ranging from 17,000 to 50,000.
This upcoming new medal program will give collectors an opportunity to acquire outstanding classic American artwork by some of the Mint’s most talented engravers. The fact that they’ll be minted in pure silver, and in Proof format, practically guarantees the program’s success. Watch for the inevitable best-sellers: the Mount Rushmore presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and T. Roosevelt) and Franklin D. Roosevelt, with more recent chief executives such as Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton, Obama, and others undoubtedly appealing to many fans.
U.S. Military Service Medals in .999 Fine Silver
Another new program currently in the works will include .999 fine silver medals for the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard, with the possibility of including the National Guard (Army and/or Air Force). These medals will focus on celebrating the military branches themselves, as opposed to particular wars, battles, or anniversaries. (Good news for the U.S. Air Force, for example, which won’t celebrate its centennial—and therefore probably won’t see an official legal-tender commemorative coin—until the year 2047.)
As with the planned Presidential medals, these will be minted on standard American Silver Eagle planchets, 40.6 mm in diameter and composed of .999 pure silver. They’ll be issued without dates and without mintmarks. Like the silver Presidential medals, they’ll become part of the Mint’s “list”—permanently featured in its catalog, issued in perpetuity, with no ordering limits. Everyone who wants one will be able to get one, directly from the United States Mint, without paying a markup to an aftermarket distributor.
In addition to the hefty silver format, the Mint will issue these military-service medals in its slightly smaller size (38.1 mm, or 1.5-inch, the diameter of a silver dollar), in bronze, at a significantly lower retail price point. This will make their designs (yet to be determined) even more readily available to collectors, including younger numismatists and those who don’t want to spring for a pure-silver version. Currently the Mint’s small-size bronze medals, such as the recently released bronze version of the Congressional Gold Medal for Filipino Veterans of World War II, retail for a modest $6.95, making them affordable for every collector.
The military-service silver medal program is tentatively scheduled to debut in 2020, with the medals rolling out over the course of two or three years. Formats, finishes, designs, standard templates, and common inscriptions (if any), final schedule, and other details are still in the planning stages. The Mint welcomes feedback and recommendations from the CCAC, which is charged by Congress to advise the Secretary of the Treasury on such matters. If you have any ideas or insight you’d like to share, please feel free to contact me at .
World War I Silver Medals, and Beyond
If you’re a medal collector, a commemorative coin collector, or a fan in general of modern U.S. Mint products, you know that the Mint’s World War I silver medals go on sale at 12 noon Eastern Time tomorrow (January 17, 2018). Even though the medals are available not individually but only in two-piece sets (each of the five medals, for the Army, Air Service, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard, is packaged with a commemorative silver dollar), I predict that they’ll sell out within hours—if not minutes. Collectors are “on” to the importance and the historic nature of these medals! The entire issue of coin-and-medal sets is limited to 100,000 units across all five product options. They can only be ordered January 17 through February 20, assuming the limit isn’t reached before the latter date. Production will be capped by the number of orders the Mint receives within that window, and the sets will start shipping in late May 2018.
If you’re a medal collector, I hope you’re as excited and pleased as I am with the United States Mint and its recent innovations in this field of our hobby. The Mint is showing long-term commitment to interesting and popularly themed medal programs, some using classic designs from among our nation’s archives, and others stepping into modern territory with the work of living artists. Kudos to the Mint. We await your work!
Dennis Tucker is the numismatic specialist on the eleven-member Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, a group established in 2003 by Congress under Public Law 108-15 to advise the Secretary of the Treasury on the themes and designs of all U.S. coins and medals. The CCAC serves as an informed, experienced, and impartial resource to the Secretary of the Treasury and represents the interests of American citizens and collectors.