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US Mint Celebrates Boys Town Centennial

March 20, 2017 0 Comments

The US Mint has a long tradition of issuing special coins for special events – especially ones in the wider community. This year marks the Centennial of Boys Town, which first opened its doors on December 12, 1917. A Catholic priest, Father Edward Flanagan, working in Omaha, Nebraska started Boys Town as an orphanage, calling it the “City of Little Men”. It became a model for boys’ homes around the world, with its emphasis on self-help, mutual support and preparation for an independent life in the wider society.

Its logo, with a boy carrying a younger boy on his back, had the caption, “He ain’t heavy, Father, he’s my brother”, and first appeared in 1943. If that line sounds familiar to you, it is probably because of the hit song with the same title, by The Hollies. Spencer Tracy portrayed Father Flanagan in the 1936 movie about the orphanage. In its hundred years of existence, Boys Town has spread across all the country, and still helps boys, girls and their families deal with the obstacles life throws up.

It is fitting that the US Mint should mark this event, and celebrate the great work of this charity, by issuing a series of coins. There are three coins being minted, a gold $5, a silver $1, and a clad half-dollar. They are available in Proof and Uncirculated editions, and there is also a Boxed Proof Set, containing all three coins. The release date was March 9, 2017.


A portrait of Father Flanagan is on the obverse of the gold $5. On the reverse is an open hand, carrying a freshly-sprouted oak tree coming from an acorn, symbolizing the potential for great things in the smallness and vulnerability of a child. The words, “The Work Will Continue” is written above the hand. The coin is 90% Gold, 6% Silver, and 4% Copper, weighing 8.359 grams and 0.85 of an inch across. The AIP designer Donna Weaver created both sides of the coin.

The obverse of the silver $1 shows a young girl sitting under an oak bough, looking upwards wistfully. Beneath her are the words, “When you help a child today. . .” The reverse is a giant, mature oak, sheltering a family dancing together holding hands. The sentence continues on this side, with the words, “. . .you write the history of tomorrow.” AIP designer Emily Damstra created the designs for this coin, and it is 90% Silver and 10% Copper, with a weight of 6.73 grams and a diameter of 1.50 inches.

The clad half-dollar has a ‘then and now’ theme, designed by Chris Costello, also with the Artistic Infusion Program (AIP). The obverse shows an older boy leading a younger one, both in old-fashioned clothes, towards a brick pillar with the words “Boys Town” running down it. “Saving Children” is written below them. The reverse is a present-day Boys Town neighborhood with two young men and two young women in graduation gowns. The words, “Healing Families” are printed below the scene. The coin is copper with 8.33% nickel content. The nickel is in the silver-colored cladding made form a nickel/copper alloy. It weighs 11.34 grams and is 1.205 inches across.

The different obverse pictures are unusual for the Mint, and are bound to give the set added value in the future. There will be a maximum issue of 50,000 five-dollar gold coins, 350,000 silver one-dollar, and 300,000 half-dollar clad coins.

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