Time to Eat Crow



In light of a document I recently discovered, I must amend a journal I wrote nearly three years ago.

On November 27, 2011 I wrote the Journal entry entitled "Obverse or Reverse?" (http://coins.www.collectors-society.com/JournalDetail.aspx?JournalEntryID=9876) in which I came to the conclusion that contrary to conventional wisdom, the shield/date side of the coins in the US/Philippine series should be designated as the obverse and the figure/denomination side should be the reverse. This was a reasonable conclusion given the Allen catalog and other documents and resources available to me at the time. Unfortunately, it was not the correct conclusion.

While doing research for a completely different (and as yet unwritten) journal entry, I came across a document that was not available to me in November 2011. Google has digitized an amazing number of obscure documents, and sometime after I wrote my previous journal entry they digitized the one that contains the definitive information I wish I had had in 2011.

Document No. 144 of the 58th Congress, 2nd Session of the House of Representatives entitled "Stability of International Exchange" was published on December 17, 1903 and is a massive tome of 523 pages. It is essentially a 36 page report authored by Hugh H. Hanna, Charles A. Conant, and Jeremiah W. Jenks on establishing a fixed relationship between the moneys of the gold-standard countries, and the silver based countries of the day. The remainder is just supporting documentation divided into 14 separate appendices. Buried deep in Appendix J, on page 414 is a section entitled "The Execution of the Philippine Coinage Act." which is itself an excerpt from a report prepared by Col. Clarence R. Edwards, Chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs.

From my previous journal, The Philippine Coinage act of 1902, states in "Sec. 82. That the subsidiary and minor coinage hereinbefore authorized shall bear devices and inscriptions to be prescribed by the government of the Philippine Islands and such devices and inscriptions shall express the sovereignty of the United States, that it is a coin of the Islands, the denomination of the coin, and the year of the coinage."

The remainder of this journal contains the words of Col. Edwards concerning the execution of Sec. 82 with respect to the design elements of the US/Philippine coinage:

VI.--The Execution Of The Philippine Coinage Act.

In anticipation of legislation providing for a special coinage system for the Philippine Islands, the Philippine Commission, in December, 1901, adopted a resolution appointing Commissioners T. H. Pardo de Tavera and Benito Legarda a special committee to confer with competent persons and obtain suggestions and designs from native artists, if possible, for the Philippine coins. The report of this committee, including photographic designs, was forwarded to this Bureau by the civil governor of the Philippine Islands soon after the appointment of said committee, and was retained here pending Congressional action. Among the same were designs by Mr. Melecio Figueroa, of Manila, who had taken a prize at a competitive examination in Madrid and who had studied art in Rome, which were preferred by the Secretary of War and officials of this Bureau, and which may be described as follows:

There were two Figueroa designs for the obverse, to express "that it is a coin of the Philippine Islands," one for the silver and the other for the nickel and copper coins, and one design only for the reverse, to "express the sovereignty of the United States," the latter a shield surmounted with an eagle with outstretched wings, unmistakably American, and at the same time so different from the devices on the United States silver dollar, fifty-cent piece, and quarter as not to be easily confounded. This device is surrounded by the legend "United States of America. 1903."

The first of the obverse designs is the entire figure of a Filipino woman lightly clothed in loose costume, with tresses floating in the wind. She holds in her right hand a hammer which rests on an anvil. In the background is seen the Mayon volcano, a perfect cone, therefore typical in that none other of such symmetry exists. The legend for the peso, surrounding the figure, being, "One peso Filipinas."

The other obverse design substitutes for the female figure as described the figure of a man seated by an anvil, with one elbow resting thereon, and grasping a hammer in the right hand, while the left rests on the left knee. Both figures are well proportioned, the pose natural and graceful, and the figures well modeled. The design conveys the thought that it is by earnest labor that the Filipinos must work out their destiny, under the guidance of the United States.


On December 18, 1902, the Philippine Commission prescribed the Figueroa obverse design of the native woman for all the silver pieces and the other obverse design of the sitting Filipino for the copper pieces, the reverse being common to all.

The final act of Congress--Philippine coinage system--was passed March 2, 1903. On March 7 the Secretary of the Treasury submitted for inspection and approval a specimen of the new peso coin for the Philippine Islands.


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