In 2011, the United States Mint has been authorized by Public Law 111-91 to issue commemorative silver and gold coins to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Medal of Honor.
The Medal of Honor for individual valor was proposed by Iowa Senator James W. Grimes in 1861 and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on December 21, 1861.
The law authorized that the medal is "to be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen, and Marines as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry and other seamanlike qualities during the present war."
President Lincoln signed a similar version into law on July 12, 1862 to award "such noncommissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities, during the present insurrection."
The Air Force Medal of Honor was established in 1965. Prior, Air Force members received the Army version of the medal.
The first Medal of Honor was awarded to Private Jacob Parrott, a member of the 33rd Ohio Infantry on March 25, 1863. In April 1862, PVT Parrott and 21 others infiltrated Confederate lines to hijack a freight train between Chattanooga and Atlanta in order to destroy bridges and disrupt supply lines. They were captured. Parrott lead 14 of the men to escape their capture but only 6 managed to reach friendly lines. Parrott continued to serve in the Union Army until the end of the war. He retired as a 1st Lieutenant.
2011 Medal of Honor Commemorative Coins Designs
On September 29, 2010, the U.S. Mint unveiled the design for the 2011 Medal of Honor Commemorative coins. This program will feature two coins: a half-ounce gold coin with a face value of five dollars and a one-ounce silver coin with a face value of one dollar.
Medal of Honor Commemorative Gold Coin Designs
The obverse of the gold coin depicts the original Medal of Honor designed in 1861 by the U.S. Mint.
It was designed and will be engraved by U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Joseph Menna.
The reverse design of the gold coin features Minerva, the Roman goddess wisdom and war, who is featured on the medals.
Minerva is standing with a shield representing the Army and Navy in her right hand and the Union flag in her left hand. She is flanked by a field artillery cannon and wheel of the Civil War era. It was designed by Artistic Infusion Program Master Designer Joel Iskowitz and will be engraved by U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Michael Gaudioso.
Medal of Honor Commemorative Silver Coin Designs
The obverse of the silver commemorative coin will feature the three current Army, Navy, and Air Force medals with their ribbon and the connecting pad featuring 13 stars.
Since the Medal of Honor is the only medal not pinned to the uniform, it was important to depict the ribbon that is used to wear the medal around the recipient’s neck. It was designed and will be engraved by U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Jim Licaretz.
The reverse design depicts an Army infantry soldier carrying a wounded soldier to safety under enemy fire. This image conveys the courage, selfless sacrifice and patriotism of Medal of Honor recipients.
It was designed by Artistic Infusion Program Master Designer Richard Masters and will be engraved by U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill.
Mintage is limited to 100,000 gold and 500,000 silver coins. The sales price will include a $35 surcharge for each gold coin and a $10 surcharge for each silver coin sold. Proceeds for the sale ($8.5 million if sold out) will be distributed to the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation to support their educational, scholarship and outreach programs.
At the time of this writing, the most recent Medal of Honor award was made to Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller, posthumously for his heroic actions in Afghanistan on January 25, 2008 that saved the lives of seven members of this team and 15 Afghan National Army soldiers. SSGT Miller was mortally wounded during the incident. President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor to his parents Phil and Maureen Miller on October 6, 2010 during a ceremony in the East Room of the White on behalf of a grateful nation.
Video: Awarding Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller the Medal of Honor
Scott Barman is a collector and author of the Coin Collector’s Blog (coinsblog.blogspot.com). When Scott is not playing with his coins, he works as an information security analyst in the Washington, DC area. In between all of that, he can be found with his wife and two puggles while they check out his pocket change.