The following is excerpted from Clifford Mishler’s Coins: Questions & Answers:
Q: What do you consider to be the most significant issues within the modern commemorative series?
A: I would probably point to five: The 1982 George Washington 250th anniversary half-dollar issue, the 2000 Library of Congress $10 piece, the 2001 American Buffalo offering, the 2002 West Point Bicentennial silver dollar, and the 2006 San Francisco silver dollar and $5 gold piece set. Each of these represents truly significant additions to the series.
The 1982 Washington half dollar is a truly unique coin within the series. Struck of .900 fine silver, in addition to being the first .900 fine coin struck by the U.S. Mint subsequent to 1964, it is the only one of 16 half dollar types struck during the modern era that has a .900 fine silver content, as opposed to the customary cupro-nickel clad composition. Featuring a classic representation of George Washington astride his horse on the obverse, with his Mount Vernon home depicted on the reverse, it was designed and sculpted by Elizabeth Jones during the time she was on the Mint’s engraving staff.
The 2000 Library of Congress $10 piece provides another purely unique ingredient for the series. In addition to being the only the second $10 commemorative coin ever issued, the other being the 1984 Los Angeles Olympiad commemorative, it is the only bimetallic coin ever struck by the U.S. Mint for circulation. It is comprised of a platinum ring set within a gold ring. This coin can claim some kinship to the famous 1792 silver center cent pattern, which was struck with a small silver plug in the center of a copper planchet roughly the size of the half-cent introduced in 1793.
The 2001 American Buffalo silver dollar commemorative is an intriguing offering, one that resurrected, with slight modification, the James E. Fraser Indian or Buffalo nickel design of 1913. Five years later that original design, with fewer modifications, was also subsequently adapted to the $50 American Buffalo .9999 fine gold one ounce bullion piece.
The 2002 West Point Bicentennial silver dollar from a design standpoint is a rather mundane offering. The West Point Bullion Depository, built as a major repository for the Treasury’s silver inventory and operated by the U.S. Mint, under legislation enacted on October 18, 1973, was converted to coinage operations as of July 29, 1974, producing cents and quarters over the next 10 years utilizing dies indistinguishable from those employed at the Philadelphia Mint. All of the U.S. commemorative gold coins of the modern series have been struck at the West Point minting facility, with the exception of some quantities of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympiad issue and the 2006 San Francisco Old Mint offering, and bear the “W” mint mark of the facility, as do eight of the silver dollar varieties and one of the 1993 Bill of Rights half dollar varieties.
My final candidate for the most significant list would be the 2006 San Francisco Old Mint issue, consisting of a silver dollar and a five dollar gold piece. This is a very meaningful numismatic offering, as the obverses of both pieces present rendering of the old Mint which survived and was instrumental in San Francisco’s recovery from the disastrous earthquake and fire of 1906. The reverse of the silver dollar reproduces the Morgan dollar type minted from 1878 to 1921, while the five dollar gold piece reproduces the Liberty Head gold half eagle of the type minted from 1856 to 1908 with the motto “In God We Trust.”