On August 4, 1790, the U.S. Coast Guard was established by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, who lobbied the First Congress to fund the construction of 10 cutters. This small fleet eventually became the United States Revenue Cutter Service, and until 1798, these cutters were the only naval force in operation during the early formation of the United States. In 1915, the Revenue Cutters merged with the U.S. Life-Saving Service and became what we now know as the modern U.S. Coast Guard. While the U.S. Coast Guard has a complex and interesting history of evolution and development over time, the official birthday is still considered to be August 4, 1790. Therefore, in 1990, the U.S. Coast Guard celebrated its bicentennial, and the United States Mint followed this up with a bronze medal issue that is currently for sale on the Mint’s website.
The U.S. Coast Guard Bicentennial bronze medal is a three-inch medal composed of 90% copper and 10% zinc and was minted at the Philadelphia Mint. This medal is currently priced at $39.95 on the Mint’s website.
The obverse features Anton Otto Fischer’s painting “To the Rescue.” This painting depicts a 19th-century Coast Guard rescue boat aiding a disabled vessel in stormy seas. The painting was made by Lieutenant Commander Fischer while he was on active duty in the Coast Guard Reserve. On a flowing banner toward the top of the design is the inscription GUARDIANS OF THE SEA, while the words 200 YEARS OF SERVICE appear toward the bottom.
The reverse displays the official seal of the United States Coast Guard and the shield of the Coat of Arms of the United States superimposed on two crossed anchors. The motto, SEMPER PARATUS (“always ready”), and inscription UNITED STATES COAST GUARD 1790 are also visible.
For those interested in other bicentennial bronze medals honoring current and former U.S. Military service members, please visit the website of the United States Mint.