Three Wise Wilson Dollars
On July 16, 1920 the Manila Mint in the Philippines held a ceremony for its inauguration. Medals were struck for the occasion, under the supervision of Chief Engineer Clifford Hewitt, using dies cut by George T. Morgan of the U.S. Mint, just a matter of five or six years before his death. Today these medals are known as " Wilson Dollars" and are typically sought by collectors of Philippines coinage as nice additions to their numismatic holdings.
The design sports a portrait of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, with legend: PRESIDENT. OF. THE. UNITED. STATES. on the obverse and a depiction of Juno Moneta kneeling with scales, guiding a nude youth on the operation of a coining press on the reverse, with legend: TO. COMMEMORATE. THE. OPENING. OF. THE. MINT. and MANILA P.I. 1920 in the exergue. The youth is feeding planchets into the press.
These medals were struck in three compositions, with 2,200 pieces struck in silver, 3,700 pieces struck in bronze and just five pieces struck in gold. Many of the bronze and silver pieces were tossed into Manila Bay, making high grade, quality examples tough to find today. Even lower grade examples bring reasonably good prices, as survival rates are not the best and sea salvaged pieces are often encountered. Of the five originally struck gold medals, noted Philippines coinage expert Lyman L. Allen noted in his 1997 reference, U.S. Philippine Coins, that only three are know to have survived.
Which makes it amazing that over the spring and summer months of 2008 at least one nice uncirculated example of each of the three metals, including two of the gold examples, of the Wilson Dollar have been offered on the market, making it possible for someone to have very quickly built a choice or brilliant set of these interesting and historical medals.
The first came up in March through the Philippine Mail Bid Sale XI presented by Cookie Jar Collectibles. This was one of the bronze pieces. It was graded choice uncirculated with 95% red surfaces and realized $1103. Stack’s offered an MS-61 graded Wilson Dollar in their January sale, where it realized $80,500. In April, Heritage offered a second example of the rare gold medal at auction during the Central States Numismatic Society Convention. This piece graded MS-62 and sold for a recorded $69,000. This same gold example was again offered through a Heritage Online auction closing Tuesday May 13th, where it realized $77,625. On June 7th,Presidential Coin and Antique Company will offer a brilliant uncirculated silver example in its Auction Seventy-Eight as lot 208, allowing some savvy collector the opportunity of completing the grand uncirculated "Wilson Dollar" triumvirate over a slim three-month period.