The Presidential dollar series is about to get interesting.
And no, this is not because of some new special issue struck in ice in Nome, Alaska – at least not that I know of.
Starting in 2013, the new dollar issues begin to honor Presidents who have served in the 20th century and whose reputations can much more immediately be called to mind by average coin collectors.
William McKinley, the President when the United States formally went on the gold standard in 1900, will be first. His is not a household name, but coin collectors are aided by the McKinley gold dollars struck in 1903, 1916 and 1917 and perhaps by the revival of the gold standard as a current political issue.
Theodore Roosevelt will be the second President honored by the 2013 issues and this President who served 1901-1909, was considered great enough by his contemporaries to have been carved on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota along with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson an Abraham Lincoln. Echoes of this esteem will likely push up demand for dollar coins with his image on them. His taste in numismatic design also recommends him highly to today’s collectors.
William Howard Taft will be the third Presidential dollar issue of the year. His term as President, 1909-1913, was sandwiched between two political giants of the age. He lost his bid for re-election but he went on to become Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The fourth President of 2013 will be Woodrow Wilson, a reformer who gave us the Federal Reserve System and led the nation in World War I. The latter event is likely to be most widely remembered by coin collectors, especially if they have, as I do, grandfathers who fought in France. I remember that in the house of one, there was a photograph of him in his doughboy uniform hung on the wall. In the house of the other, I remember a photo of the transport ship that brought him home.
Such memories attach us all more closely to the coins we collect.
However, I will miss the earlier issues because they prompted me to read a little more about Presidents that I knew less about. Most recently I finished a book about James A. Garfield, who was assassinated in 1881. It is Destiny of the Republic, A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard. It was shocking to learn that Garfield most likely died of infection from unsterilized probes of the bullet wound after two month’s of agony.
If the Presidential series’ success will be rated solely on the basis of persuading Americans to use the golden colored coins, it will be considered a failure. However, if success is measured by how much collectors learn about our past and how many coins we purchase, it will most likely be chalked up as a success.
If I ask myself if I am better off than before after having gotten involved with the Presidential series since 2007, I would have to say that when it comes to Presidential biography and history, I certainly am.