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Some U.S. coins double the honor


Heads or tails, obverse or reverse? Collectors take note of the portrait appearing on the obverse and the legend or device used on the reverse. But a few United States coins feature the same person on both sides of the coin.

Take a look at a Lincoln cent with the Memorial on the reverse.Everyone is familiar with the portrait of our 16th President on the obverse. But look closely at the reverse, within the building. A small rendering of Lincoln can be seen, deep within the Memorial.That’s the statue of the Great Emancipator.

Two of the four special Lincoln cents of 2009 feature Lincoln on both obverse and reverse. The 2009 cents have four different reverse designs, commemorating Lincoln’s 200th birthday and the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln cent. The second reverse, the “Formative Years” cent, shows a young Lincoln sitting on a log, reading a book. The third depicts Lincoln in Springfield at the beginning of his political career, the “Professional Life” cent.

George Washington appears on both sides of the New Jersey state quarter. His portrait has been used on the obverse since 1932, but hadn’t appeared on both sides of the quarter until 1999. The reverse of this coin is based on the artwork, “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emmanuel Leutze. That’s Gen. Washington, standing up in the boat.

Modern Commemorative Coins

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Daniel Boone appears on a commemorative half dollar and is featured on both sides of the coin. The Boone half dollar, minted from 1934-1938 was struck to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Boone’s birth. The obverse shows a portrait of Boone, based on an illustration in the book, History of Kentucky. The reverse shows Boone with Blackfish, a Shawnee war chief. A number of these coins have remarkably low mintages. The 1935-D coin has a mintage of only 2003, while the 1935-S had 2004 minted.

Isn’t that Daniel Boone on the Missouri half dollar? The frontiersman pictured on the obverse is not identified, but was modeled after a bust of Boone at the New York University Hall of Fame. Boone appears on both sides of this coin too. The reverse shows the frontiersman standing with a Native American, holding a musket.

The Lafayette silver dollar was the first legal-tender coin to bear a portrait of a President and the only commemorative silver dollar until the 1983 Olympic dollar. This coin commemorates Lafayette, who came to support the American Revolution in 1777. George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette appear on the obverse.

The reverse shows a statue of Lafayette mounted on a horse.This rendering of a statue resembles a monument to Lafayette, erected in Paris as part of the Paris Exposition and a gift to France from the United States. The statue shown on the coin is based on a plaster model; the actual bronze statue shows a few differences. This coin was struck on Dec. 14, 1899, the 100th anniversary of the death of Washington. The first example of the coin was given to the President of France as a gift from President William McKinley.

Only a few United States coins depict the same person on both sides of the coin. A set of these coins would make an interesting display – but both obverse and reverse would have to be shown to maximize the viewer’s pleasure.

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One Response to Some U.S. coins double the honor

  1. kieferonline says:

    In Whitman-style folders, one must literally choose sides. All too often, the obverse too often gets all the glory, especially when displayed in folders. However, I generally find the reverse side of common US coins to be the most interesting. Take the $.25 series–it’s much more interesting to display the reverse design’s evolution, rather than the same old Washington bust year in and year out. Similar for the $.01, where one can see the switch from wheat to the “trolley car” Lincoln Memorial, and beyond.

    In the cases of doubled honor, it is always more interesting to see the person in context rather than the bust floating in space. History’s context is almost always more important than the person’s physical appearance.

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