Minting the National Parks

National Park Coins

The United States Mint began issuing a series of 56 quarters featuring the National Parks as part of their America the Beautiful Quarters Program. This year is the seventh year of the program and five new quarters will be issued. I mentioned in the Friday News last November that the U.S. mint had their designs for a series of new National Park coins that are not related to the America the beautiful program. The mint recently held a media day at their San Francisco facility to show off their progress.

San Francisco Mint

The San Francisco mint only produces special commemorative coins these days.  The coins you are more likely to find in your pocket are minted in Denver and Philadelphia.  These commemorative coins are packaged at the mint and some are sold in special sets, in this case a $5 gold coin, $1 silver coin and a half-dollar clad coin.  Federal law established that the mint will produce 100,000 $5 gold coins, 500,000 $1 silver coins, and 750,000 half dollar coins in proof and uncirculated qualities.  Surcharges collected from the sales of each coin, $35, $10 , and $5, respectively, for each coin will be paid to the National Park Foundation for their programs in support of the National Parks.

50 Cent Commemorative CoinThe 20 or so participants watched some of the inner workings of the mint.  The oldest Park Service Ranger, Betty Soskin was a featured guest.  She pushed the button and made a single Park Service centennial half-dollar coin.  She was able to hold it, but not keep it.  The mint doesn’t give away money and they checked all the people, and Ms Soskin in particular, with metal detectors to make sure none of the coins escaped the facility.

The design of the half dollar clad coin is shown to the right.  As you can see the head’s side of the half-dollar has a backpacker exploring a spectacular, but unidentified, wilderness and a small child discovering a frog hiding in ferns.  On the tail’s side is the Park Service logo.  Click the photo for a larger version.

The one dollar silver coin highlights Yosemite National Park and its founding fathers Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir on the head’s side and a Latina Folklórico dancer and the National Park Service logo on the tail’s side.  The idea is to highlight the multi-faceted cultural experience found in the National Parks even though that experience involves a tiny number of Hispanic and African Americans.  Still, the story of Native Americans is woven throughout the National Parks.

Designers Speak

$5 Gold CoinJoseph Menna, designer and engraver of the head’s side of the $1 silver coin has said, “It was fun to do when you get to realize your own design intent, that’s very satisfying.  And then you’ve also designed it with the challenges of … the technical challenges … in mind. So, it’s a lot easier to sculpt your own design.” His design depicts Old Faithful Geyser at Yellowstone National Park along with a bison.


Don Eberhart, who designed and engraved both sides of the $5 coin explained his approach saying, “The National Park Service gold obverse has a portrait of both Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir on it.  And, they are superimposed in front of half dome which is in Yosemite Park. And, actually, the approach I took with both sides of this coin was to integrate both the figures into the landscape .  So, John Muir’s beard actually flows right into the landscape on the obverse.  On the reverse of the National Park Service gold, I followed the same theme of integrating the environment with, in this case, the symbol of the National Park Service which is this arrowhead.  So, the arrow is in front of the landscape and the landscape kind of merges into that. So I have that theme working on both sides and I kind of like that.”

Coin Details

Gold Obverse
Designer:  Don Everhart
Engraver:  Don Everhart
Description:  features John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt with Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome in the background.  Inscriptions are “LIBERTY,” “2016” and “IN GOD WE TRUST.”

Gold Reverse
Designer:  Don Everhart
Engraver:  Don Everhart
Description:  features the National Park Service logo.  Inscriptions are “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “E PLURIBUS UNUM” and “$5.”

$1 Silver CoinSilver Obverse
Designer:  Joseph Menna
Engraver:  Joseph Menna
Description:  features Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful geyser and a bison.  Inscriptions are “LIBERTY,” “NATIONAL PARK SERVICE CENTENNIAL,” “IN GOD WE TRUST,” “1916” and “2016.”

Silver Reverse
Designer:  Chris Costello
Engraver;  Jim Licaretz
Description:  depicts a Latina Folklórico dancer and the National Park Service logo, representing the multi-faceted cultural experience found in America’s national parks.  Inscriptions are “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” “$1” “HERITAGE,” “CULTURE” and “PRIDE.”

Clad Obverse
Designer:  Barbara Fox
Engraver:  Michael Gaudioso
Description:  features a hiker discovering the majesty of the wilderness and a small child discovering a frog hiding in ferns, celebrating the diversity and breadth of the National Park Service.  Inscriptions are “LIBERTY,” “2016,” “IN GOD WE TRUST,” “1916” and “NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.”

Clad Reverse
Designer:  Thomas Hipschen
Engraver:  Charles L. Vickers
Description:  features the National Park Service logo.  Inscriptions are “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” “HALF DOLLAR,” “STEWARDSHIP” and “RECREATION.”

Buy the Coins

The Mint will begin accepting orders for the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service Commemorative Coins Program on March 24, 2016 at noon Eastern Time.  You should be able to find the sets on the U.S. Mint’s website then.

If you would like to learn more about coin collecting, you might enjoy Coin Collecting for Dummies. And, no, you don’t have to be a dummy to read it.

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