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Commem coins fund bald eagle projects

The United States Mint’s 2008 Bald Eagle Commemorative Coins celebrating the comeback of this great bird and the 35th Anniversary of the ESA have been on sale for nearly eight months now.

 They have already raised over $6 million in surcharge monies that will be dedicated to preserving this precious national treasure.

 But it will still take many more millions of dollars to monitor and secure thousands of eagle nests located mostly on private lands coast to coast.

The not-for-profit American Eagle Foundation , www.eagles.org , has established a national “American Eagle Fund” for this purpose.

All surcharge monies generated from the sales of these collectable eagle coins will be placed in this endowment fund for assisting eagle projects nationally.

However, they will only be available from the Mint for another 3 1/2 months at www.usmint.gov.          

To date, over half of the $5 gold and $1 silver coins have been sold and over a third of the 50-cent clad coins.

If there’s a sell-out over the next few months, an additional $4 million would be raised to care for our majestic national bird – which has so appropriately represented democracy and independence for over 225 years.

The AEF would very much like to achieve this goal on behalf of our country, so that its resident bald eagle population can flourish for many generations to come.

Eagle images and emblems have graced United States money since the founding of our nation. However, “Challenger,” an internationally known bald eagle ambassador with nearly two decades of educational public service, has become the first bird or animal in American history to have both its personal likeness and name featured on a legal tender coin.

It’s a special honor and distinction that many other iconic animals – such as Lassie, Secretariat, Flipper, Gentle Ben, Rin Tin Tin, Ling Ling or Shamu – have not had, according to the American Eagle Foundation.

This rare first in U.S. coinage history gives both serious and novice numismatic enthusiasts a worthy and compelling reason to purchase one of the 750,000 limited edition Challenger coins before they sell out, according to the conservation group.

This beautiful collectable coin makes a wonderful and lasting gift for our children and grandchildren.

The recently minted Challenger eagle commemorative coin went on sale on Jan. 15 and will only be available for purchase from the United States Mint until Dec. 15, 2008, or until it sells out, whichever comes first.

The reverse of the coin features Challenger’s portrait and name, while the obverse has the image of two downy sibling eaglets snuggled against an unhatched egg.

This attractive half-dollar clad metal coin can be purchased for $10.95 (proof) and $8.95 (uncirculated), with $3 from each unit sold benefiting a special American Eagle Fund. The coin is also available in a Young Collectors Set educational package offered at $14.95 (uncirculated). Each coin comes with a limited-edition certificate.

In addition, the U.S. Mint recently offered a three-coin “proof” set that includes the Challenger eagle coin along with two other companion commemorative eagle coins – a $5 Gold coin and a Silver Dollar. That set has already sold out at the U.S. Mint due to favorable response from collectors (25,000 sets, one per household), and is now only available on the secondary market.

Sales have been good for all three coins, but both “proof” and “uncirculated” versions of all three coins can still be purchased individually from the Mint. The coins feature natural and symbolic bald eagle images and emblems.

The reverse side of the silver dollar bears the original United States “Great Seal” of 1782 designed by Secretary of the Continental Congress Charles Thomson (used for about 60 years), which has never before appeared on a legal tender U.S. coin. The reverse side of the $5 Gold piece bears the present-day Great Seal – the first time that it has ever been used on a legal tender U.S. gold coin. It’s also the first time that the current Great Seal has been used as a central stand-alone design on any U.S. coin (the Kennedy Half-Dollar includes the “Presidential Seal”). More than half of these special gold and silver eagle coins have already been sold.

We estimate that over $6 million has already been raised from these commemoratives to aid the future care of bald eagles, but our goal is to generate $10 million for these great birds with a complete sellout of the coins. Only six months into this year-long program, we’re already over half way there.”

Since the early 1990s, the renowned bald eagle Challenger has achieved widespread fame for his patriotic and inspirational educational flight demonstrations at national sporting events and ceremonies usually during the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner.” The non-releasable bird was blown from a wild nest at 5 weeks of age, hand-raised by humans, and could not survive in the wild on his own.

Physically perfect, but highly human socialized, Challenger became the first of his species to perform educational flights at high-profile public events and places such as the White House, U.S. Capitol Building, Pentagon, World Series, Pro-Bowl All-Star Game, Para-Olympic Games, Men’s Final Four, Fiesta Bowl and numerous FOE Seven States Conventions.

At the invitation of the U.S. Department of Interior, Challenger participated in the official bald eagle “delisting” ceremony at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., on June 28, 2007.

The new commemorative coins celebrate the recovery of the bald eagle to America’s lands, waterways and skies, as well as the 35th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. The coins were created by the United States Mint after passage of the American Bald Eagle Recovery & National Emblem Commemorative Coin Act, which was unanimously approved by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Bush in 2004.

We hope that interest in our cause from civic organizations, companies and individual Americans will continue to gain momentum until every coin is sold. These precious metal commemoratives can only increase in value, but will no longer be offered by the U.S. Mint after Dec. 15, 2008.

Al Louis Cecere is founder and president of American Eagle Foundation, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion on numismatic subjects. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Numismatic News.
To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send e-mail to david.harper@fwpubs.com.

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