Almost every collector knows that the first coin to use the “In God We Trust” national motto was the two-cent piece first struck in 1864.
Probably fewer collectors know the story of President Theodore Roosevelt’s removal of the motto from the $10 and $20 gold piece designs introduced in 1907.
The public outcry was such that Congress had the motto put back on the denominations in 1908, creating two varieties of coins for that year.
We even experienced an echo of Roosevelt’s experience in 2007 when the Presidential dollar made its debut. The national motto was placed on the edge and the objections were so strong that the Mint was ordered to put it on the obverse.
These historical episodes came to mind when coin dealer Patrick A. Heller contacted me with some information to promote an art contest being held in Michigan to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the motto’s placement on U.S. coins.
As he wrote, the details are as follows:
“To commemorate the occasion, the organization Salt & Light Global is sponsoring an art contest open to Michigan high school juniors and seniors.
“Art can be done in any medium but must incorporate the motto. A photograph of the finished artwork needs to be submitted by April 1, 2014, with winners selected by April 15, 2014. Thirteen winners will share $9,500 worth of prizes at the press conference on the steps of the Michigan Capitol in Lansing on April 22, 2014.
“To obtain full contest rules and the legal disclaimer, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
There isn’t much time before the deadline, I know.
It will be interesting to see how high school students view the national motto. Perhaps their interpretations will open the door a bit to the next generation’s discovery of coins as collectibles.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."