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New Coins of the American Legion – $5 Gold

March 4, 2019 0 Comments

Back last year we gave some brief coverage to the designs for the American Legion Commemorative coins that the US Mint was preparing to release, to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Legion. Now they are being released, it seems like a good moment to take a more detailed look at each one. There are three coins, with variations, being released – $5, $1, and clad half-dollar, so let’s start at the top with the $5 coin.

The maximum minting of the $5 gold coin is 50,000. Starting with 63 designs from an initial selection, the Mint and the American Legion selected the final design, which features on the obverse the letter ‘V’, for Victory. The choice is a little odd, because this sign only entered the popular imagination during WWII, when it was popularized by the BBC, the state-owned broadcasting service of Britain, and by the war-time Prime Minister of Britain, Winston Churchill. Legend has it that the hand gesture goes back to the Battle if Agincourt, in 1415, but it was certainly not in any significant use during WWI. Behind the letter is an image of the Eiffel tower, to symbolize the origin of the Legion.

The American Legion in its present form began at a dinner in Paris on February 16, 1919, where 20 officers of the American forces were present. When America entered the war, many soldiers were sent to Europe to fight, but by the time they had received basic training, the war was over, so many never saw active service. They were, however, left in France for an extended time, with little to do, homesick, and morale was low. There were even concerns, since the Russian Revolution was only two years old, that disaffected troops had the potential to form or join revolutionary groups. A month later the first organized gathering of the new body took place in Paris, with the primary goal of providing activities and recreation for the stagnating troops.

Around the Tower and ‘V’ is a crenelated rim, taken from the badge of the Legion. The word, LIBERTY is emblazoned across the center of the coin, with IN GOD WE TRUST AT THE TOP, and 1919 – 2019 flanking the tower. Chris Costello, a graphic-designer and typographer, designed the image and the die original was sculpted by Phebe Hemphill, a sculptor-engraver with the Mint.

The reverse of the $5 coin shows an American Eagle in flight on the right side, with the official emblem of the American Legion on the left. The words, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, $5, and E PLURIBUS UNUM are engraved on this side. The design is by Paul C. Balan, an artist born in the Philippines and a naturalized American citizen. and part of the Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program. Joseph Menna, another sculptor-engraver with the Mint, created the master die. The artist’s and sculptor’s initials appear on each side of the coin.

The $5 gold coin is available in both proof and uncirculated form, as well as being part of a three-coin proof set.

Filed in: Informative

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