World War I Commemorative Coins Proposed for Centennial

by Darrin Lee Unser on June 21, 2013 · 23 comments

Uncle Sam - I Want You, WWI

United States involvement in World War I has never been memorialized on a coin from the U.S. Mint. New legislation recently introduced seeks to address that by requiring the Secretary of the Treasury to strike silver dollars in commemoration of the centennial of World War I.

The bill, H.R. 2366, is entitled the World War I American Veterans Centennial Commemorative Coin Act. It was introduced in the House of Representatives on June 13, 2013 by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) cosponsoring.

Under the terms of the legislation, up to 350,000 silver dollars in proof and uncirculated qualities would be struck with designs emblematic of the centennial of America’s involvement in World War I. The commemoratives coins would be issued in 2018 to honor the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice with Germany which ended World War I.

Previous commemorative coins produced by the U.S. Mint have acknowledged the United States’ involvement in other military conflicts, including the American Civil War, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. However, no commemorative has ever been issued to honor the veterans of the First World War.

World War I was fought predominantly on the European continent. Hostilities tied to the conflict started in 1914 but the United States did not officially enter the war until 1917. The armistice ending it was signed on November 11, 1918.

It is estimated that more than four million men and women from the United States served in uniform during World War I. Of those, two million soldiers served overseas. Worldwide, over nine million soldiers lost their lives in the war.

The World War I American Veterans Centennial Commemorative Coin Act calls for a design competition to decide both the obverse and reverse imagery for the commemorative coins. An award for the winning design of no less than $5,000 would be offered. That winning design would get selected by an expert jury chaired by the Secretary of the Treasury along with 3 members from the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and 3 members from the Commission of Fine Arts.

Surcharges of $10 for the sale of each silver dollar are outlined in the legislation. These surcharges would be forwarded to the World War I Centennial Commission.

A similar bill was introduced last year in the House of Representatives but it died in committee. The newest version has been referred to House Committee on Financial Services. For the World War I American Veterans Centennial Commemorative Coin Act to become law, it must pass both chambers of Congress and get signed by the President of the United States.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Victor June 21, 2013 at 8:41 am

Great! A year after the very last WW-I Veteran, in the whole world, dies, some clown decides it’s a good idea to honor their service. Dumb! Dumb! Dumb! So, given that it went from July, 1914 to November, 1918, it will be another four years before anything gets done! Kennedy gets whacked, and a coin comes out, a year after his death. Almost a hundred years after the first world war, we have this to remind U.S. about what? I’m just saying.

jim June 21, 2013 at 9:43 am

A perfectly suitable subject and time to honor it. The 100th anniversary of the end (not the beginning) of a war. Admittedly lately we’ve had a spate of military oriented commemorative coins and a couple were probably over due, but this one fits.

Victor June 21, 2013 at 10:32 am

Suitable, 10-20 years ago, when those whom fought the war could see they were not forgotten. Now, after no one is left, this turns out to be a “feel good” gesture to salve over, guilty consciences. Ask anyone under the age of 35, when the first world war was fought, how did it start and which belligerents were on each side. Blank stare, open drooling mouths and dumfounded looks are all you will get.

thePhelps June 21, 2013 at 12:25 pm

I am kind of mixed on this one. It is the 100th anniversary of the end of that War and worth noting. I agree it would have been a nice token for the remaining soldiers to have been here for it – but that is asking a lot.

There have been a rash of War related commemoratives of late though.

S. Buckles June 21, 2013 at 1:12 pm


Rod Gillis June 21, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Hello Victor,
By way of introduction, my name is Rod Gillis and I am the Numismatic Educator at the American Numismatic Association. It was my idea to commemorate the brave soldiers who gave their full measure during the ‘Great War” so I guess I am the “clown” you are referring to. To put my idea in reference, I started the process of working towards a commemorative coin a year and a half before Frank Buckles, the last American W.W. I veteran passed away. To be honest, the idea for the coin is to perhaps in some small way remind citizens that the war changed the lives of not only the soldiers but their families and had a profound impact on our world today.
You are right in that there are many people who know or care very little concerning what happened during the years 1917-1918. That does not mean the conflict or the sacrifice was any less important. I was a public school teacher for 15 years and I can tell you that we do not do a particularly good job of explaining the war to youngsters. Perhaps it is because the war was fought “over there” and not on American soil.
I want the coin to honor the men who came back and never left their home again because, as my grandfather said, ” I traveled enough in France to last me a lifetime.” I want the coin to honor the men who suffered from inhaling gas or suffered from shellshock. I want the coin to honor the first soldier who was buried at the Tomb of the Unknown whose name is but known only to God.
No Victor, this is not a “feel good gesture.” If you knew what other countries are doing to commemorate the dead, you would be ashamed at the little the United States is doing. This coin will be struck to remind all of us that the sacrifices the Doughboys made were no less significant then the brave veterans of the other conflicts in our history.

sean7k June 21, 2013 at 9:20 pm

I would think that we should ask, “why commemorate war”. There was no good reason for the US to enter WWI, outside of increasing the number of deaths and enhancing the degree of debt from expenditures.
A political solution existed prior to US involvement, Wilson had promised to keep us out of the war. Yet, we went.
It is tragic, that we kill the youth and promise of America, because of the machinations of the Elites.
Rod, I’m certain your heart is in the right place, but if we celebrate the wanton and destructive abuses of war for no good reason, we have failed in our obligation as good citizens.
We are obligated to object to the abuse of power that is requisite for the involvement in wars that have nothing to do with America. It is our children that are being murdered, and for what? The French- Russian manipulation of war against the Kaiser?
Wilson lied to America. Col.House, as a controller, manipulated him. Congress went along. Why would we celebrate an attack on our Constitution and core beliefs?
Why not commemorate the hard work and dedication of American workers, American artists and American entrepreneurs?

A&L Futures June 22, 2013 at 2:19 am

@ Mr. Gillis et al,
Over the last decade, the men and women of today’s Armed Forces have fought gallantry, serving to defend our Nation’s…our world’s interest, whenever and wherever called upon. It’s true, CPL Buckles, F. (1901-2011) (the last surviving American veteran of WW I) has passed. However, that should not diminish the honor and downright gratitude that we, as American owe this great patriot. Furthermore, let us not forget that this was in-fact a World War. Our appreciation must extend equally to all the greats around the world who have, and will continue to follow in a ‘Soldier’s footstep.’

As a U.S. Army veteran of two foreign wars, with 19+ years (1993 – present) of ‘active’ federal service, I challenge each and every one of you to ask yourself, “What can I do to better my people, my Nation, and my world?” Mr. Gillis’ actions are simply an extension of that gratitude. IMO – It’s not simply an honor of WW I veterans as it is an honor of all veterans. Therefore, let me be the first to applaud you Mr. Gillis for your service both as a public school educator and as the current Numismatic Educator at the American Numismatic Association. I look forward to owning one of these gems in the years to come.

@ Victor – I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend your right to say it. Your argument is your own, but I would caution you in your accusation of today’s youth.

@ sean7k – H.R. 2366, is entitled the World War I American Veterans Centennial Commemorative Coin Act. As such, it commemorates (as I interpret it) the American Veterans of World War I, not the war itself. Assuming the program is approved, ‘you’ still reserve the ‘right’ to not purchase one.

thePhelps June 22, 2013 at 6:42 am

sean7k – your rant against war is kind of fruitless when discussing a war that has been over for nearly 100 years. You should find some current posts on the apparent war efforts in Syria and rant away.

Rod thank you for your efforts to bring this coin to the public.

A&L thank you for your service! Stay strong!

sean7k June 22, 2013 at 7:04 am

The Sedition Act of 1918 was a huge loss of civil liberty, something that happens every time we enter a war. At present, we are restrained by the “patriot act”, the NDAA and the rise in NSA surveillance.
Phelps, if you fail to recognize the dangers of war and jingoism, then you fail in YOUR responsibility as a citizen- a responsibility that determines the quality of liberty and justice we all desire.
Syria is not our battle, yet we provide arms and materials, both secretly (via Libya) and openly, using rebels as proxies for the benefit of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Is this how you want your tax dollars spent?
Until “The People” say no!, wee will continue to create a world of destruction and debt. Your dismissive argument is an insult to intelligence and responsibility.

Paul June 22, 2013 at 7:07 am

For Victor,

I’m 25, and yet I know WW1 quite well. My question to you do you know who actually started the war? Most people just assume Germany. It wasn’t.

Rod Gillis June 22, 2013 at 9:07 am

I wish to thank all of those who are in favor of the World War I Centennial Commemorative Coin being minted. I think it most important that we do not forget the soldiers and the families of the soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice.
I need your help. Please send an e-mail to your Congressman and tell him/her to co-sponsor the bill. Only with your help will we see this through.
Sean, I don’t think that I can change your mind to support the coin just as you cannot disuade me from giving up my efforts. This is as it should be as a halmark of a great republic. I will say that I disagree with your statement that, “there was no good reasonfor the US to enter World War I.” General Pershing said that we were there, “to repay an old and honorable debt.” Freedom is not free and demands constant vigilance. Coins are primary historical documents and a coin that can bring forth the discussion we are having is well worth the effort.

thePhelps June 22, 2013 at 9:32 am

sean7k – my dismissive comments are in regard to your complete lack common sense. I fail to see how your obnoxious posts are gaining support for your position. This coin is an attempt to honor those men and women who fought in WW1 – not a battle that is currently being fought somewhere in the world today – but one that many gave their lives in. Your dismissal of these people as pawns is an insult to them and their families. They fought and many died to allow you the forum to vent your political views. I suggested you vent in a forum that is currently an active topic for debate – and one that will let you possibly change the outcome – since your not going to change what happened nearly 100 years ago.

sean7k June 22, 2013 at 11:30 am

My obnoxious posts, as you call them, are an attempt to illuminate and educate. We can do nothing for the people that were conned into fighting Europe’s folly. However, by glorifying their sacrifice, we encourage the youth of today to sacrifice their lives- for NOTHING.
If you’re concerned about insulting them, why not have a commemorative of Gen MacArthur and Gen Patton running them to ground during their march on Pennslyvania avenue to address their starvation and homelessness.
Ignorance of history is what allows its’ repetition.

S. Buckles June 22, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I would suggest that the point behind a commemorative regarding WWI, is to honor the men and women who served in that war. It does not necessarily mean that WWI is being celebrated, only that those who served are not forgotten for their sacrifices! Many could claim equal disgust at honoring Civil War veterans, especially those who denigrate the Southern soldiers for their stand.
Frank Buckles, a relative of mine, was concerned that the services of his generation, would be forever forgotten. They served then, as Americans do today, because their country called them to serve. Please respect their patriotism to do so!

Rod Gillis June 22, 2013 at 3:06 pm

S. Buckles,
Your relative was the inspiration for the coin. I followed his story closely and wept when he passed away. He was a true patriot. I would love nothing better then to make sure that you and your family receive the very first coin minted. I am most humbled and honored by your support.

S. Buckles June 22, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Thank you Mr. Gillis for your kind remarks regarding Frank Buckles. He was, indeed, a remarkable man. I have never met his equal. Frank was a stalwart champion in preserving the National WWI Memorial in Washington, D.C., so that the Doughboys would always be remembered for their services. Alas, it was a battle he did not live long enough to win!

Waldena June 30, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Victor – I completely agree. Frank Woodruff Buckles struggled for years until he was 110 years old in an attempt to have WWI recognized, and our politicians let him die without completing any legislation to help him. Shame on them.

Nelle Fairchild Rote July 1, 2013 at 1:36 pm

In fourth grade, when I said I had an aunt who was in “the” war the boys said, “She doesn’t count, she’s a girl.”
In 70s I finally got satisfaction by publishing my own book of 400 pages and 400 photos including my aunt, Nurse Helen Fairchild’s letters, and showing what it was like where she served in Belgium at casualty clearing station No. 4, near Ypres at Third Passchendaele. If you read that history, you know vividly what WWI was like. Helen was a US Army Reserve nurse with the AEF, a first responder in May 1917 with Pennsylvania Base Hospital No. 10. She died “from her work at the Front” so wrote her chaplain Jeffreys in the History of Philadelphia in the Great War. The good citizens of Vleteren, Belgium, honor her memory by keeping in the summer, a living pot of flowers along the little road by Dozinghem Military Cemetery, a British Cemetery. Luc Inion, who grew up on his grandfather’s farm at Dozinghem is the teacher who is keeping Helen’s memory alive there.
Here at home we got the arched bridge over the North Branch of the Susquehanna River the Nurse Helen Fairchild Memorial Bridge. Who knew?
Who cares?

James July 22, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Victor, do not assume the younger folk do not care nor know about events of the past, such as WWI. There are some of us, still even in highschool, who are dedicated to learning and understanding history. WWI (1914-1918) between the Allied (Britain, France, Russia, USA & others) and Central (Austro-Hungary, Ottoman Empire, Germany & others) powers, caused by militarism, secret alliances, imperialism and nationalist attitudes and sparked by the assasination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was a major internationally reaching conflict and key element of the 20th century that we should work to never forget.

Richard June 18, 2015 at 6:44 am

Very late to leave a post, but as long as it’s open…the Peace dollar stood for the end of the conflict (not that there was peace in Europe) so in a sense we’ve already had such a commemorative. Do we need another one?

jim June 18, 2015 at 10:53 pm

We’re big on 100th anniversaries.

Dennis Sullivan July 12, 2015 at 7:21 pm

I can look at what all here are saying. The problem is that whenever the powers to be in our country want us in a war they start coming up with all sorts of lies. One can look at many reasons for USA involvement in WW1. Germany was actually winning and England got Balfour among others to get rich influential men to push President Woodrow Wilson into this European war. There are many business tycoons including Bernard Baruch who influenced Wilson. Baruch of New York City had a big role. In turn Baruch got the Balfour agreement. There are a number of other reasons that we got involved in a foreign war (we don’t listen to Presidents like George Washington ) but there are a lot of lies in getting a country involved in war. Some of the sleaziest lies started in 2002 in getting the US to invade Iraq and the two big political parties have equal blame.
This willful misrepresentation of reasons is easily sold to the US people, most of whom do no research about why the USA starts or gets involved in wars. This does not detract from the men and women who put their hearts and souls into serving in the military, but no man likes to be swindled as many veterans have found out.
The coin is fine with me if it means Americans (some 300,000,000 plus) will turn away from their bread and circuses TV shows, their romance and mystery novels, etc., and actually make an effort to see whether sending its sons and daughters off somewhere is really for the good of the USA.
And may political correctness not play a part in the design of this coin. You all know the commemorative coins that have failed due to the imposition of the will of some on how a coin is designed, witness a female on the Boy Scout coin as well as others.
Wars hurt families -the hurt usually never goes away. War is among the biggest of evils.I can only recommend this coin if it means Americans might think for a change.
I do not harbor prejudices- I am a bit burnt out- I had some time in military: USMC 68-71; US Army 85-93; US Army Reserves 1986-2011. I have had many deployments. These young men and women who volunteer or who are drafted are too important to their families and our strength as a moral nation to have their lives thrown away for the sick perverse reasons that some special interest groups (including certain countries) have in getting us involved in wars we should never be in.

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