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New Coins of the American Legion – Half-dollar

March 18, 2019 0 Comments

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been taking an in-depth look at the three coins now released by the US Mint to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Legion. These are companion coins to those commemorating the larger conflict – World War I – that created the environment for the Legion’s beginnings.

The American Legion plays an important role in bringing together veterans of America’s wars, and lobbying for veteran’s rights. Their facilities provide important meeting places for veterans, who share unique experiences most men never have. There are, of course, no veterans from WWI still alive. The last living veteran from the USA was Frank Woodroff Buckles, a corporal who enlisted at the age of 16, and saw duty as an ambulance and motorcycle driver in Europe. He died at the age of 110, on February 27, 2011. The very last veteran in the world to die was an English woman, Florence Green, who died a year later, at the same age.

Because of this, the memory of Americans who served in WWI now lives on only in items such as this coin set. There are seven items in the release – a gold $5, a silver $1, both in proof or uncirculated finishes, and a half-dollar, which we will look at here. As well, the three coins are available in a proof set. The maximum number of clad half-dollars is 750,000. The designs for both sides of this coin are by Richard Masters, who is a retired professor of art, and part of the Artistic Infusion Program, which brings outside designers into the Mint’s activities, keeping their designs fresh and up-to-date with design trends in the wider art world.

While the $5 and $1 coins focus on the American Legion, the designs for the half-dollar reach out to a broader national audience, and look forward, rather than back, by featuring children. The design of the obverse centers on the Pledge of Allegiance, recited by children every day in American schools. The pledge used today dates back to 1892, and it was written by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister and Christian socialist. An earlier version, created by Captain George T. Balch, a veteran of the Civil War, and an auditor of the New York Board of Education, remained in limited use until 1923.

Bellamy’s Pledge was first published in a children’s magazine called The Youth’s Companion, as part of a celebration of Columbus Day. It was adopted by Congress in the 1940s, and only reached its current form in 1954, when the words, ‘under God’ were added. The hand over the heart gesture is prescribed by Congress, when reciting the Pledge, and this is depicted on the half-dollar, showing a young boy and a young girl reciting the pledge with enthusiasm and commitment. The link with the American Legion is cleverly created by the young girl, who is wearing a battered Legion hat, on which the badge of the legion – a featured part of the $1 silver coin – can be seen. The inscriptions are, LIBERTY, 2019, IN GOD WE TRUST, and I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAG… The obverse is sculpted by Phebe Hemphill, and the reverse by Joseph Menna, both sculptor-engravers with the Mint.

The reverse shows an American flag, seen from below, just as the children on the obverse would see it, when standing beneath it and reciting the Pledge. The American Legion emblem appears above the flag, and the inscriptions, E PLURIBUS UNUM and HALF DOLLAR. 

Filed in: Informative

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