Description and Analysis

Modern Commemoratives

Description & Analysis

1993 marked the 250th Anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson, drafter of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States. This occasion prompted the coining of a commemorative silver dollar bearing that date, though Congressional approval came too late for the dollar to be produced during 1993. It was actually minted and marketed during 1994. The Jefferson Silver Dollar is certainly among the more attractive of modern United States commemorative coins. It is the work of U. S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver T. James Ferrell, whose initials appear along the obverse border at four o'clock. This side features a handsome bust of Jefferson in young adulthood, above which is inscribed "THOMAS JEFFERSON • ARCHITECT OF DEMOCRACY." The dual dates 1743 and 1993 flank this portrait, and statutory mottoes complete the obverse. For the reverse Ferrell prepared an appealing perspective view of Jefferson's self-designed home, Monticello, that nicely complements the simpler elevation view seen on the circulating five-cent piece. This stately house's name is placed above, and the coin's mintmark is seen below its baseline at the right. Statutory legends complete this side. Uncirculated coins were struck at the Philadelphia Mint, a fitting tribute to Jefferson, who, as Secretary of State, was overseer of the Mint's operations in its earliest years. The San Francisco Mint produced the proof edition of this coin. Sales of both finishes were satisfying as compared to several competing programs in 1994. It is notable that this commemorative program was limited to just uncirculated and proof editions of a single denomination. Growing collector unrest at the large number of commemorative coins approved by Congress during the early 1990s led to a reform movement that ultimately provided for just two programs per calendar year. Tacitly understood by all was that collectors were likewise annoyed at having to buy the three-denomination, six-coin sets that had been approved so readily in recent years. Even though the Jefferson program was ostensibly limited to just two coins, the Mint managed to add to this mix a special collector's package that included a two-dollar note featuring Jefferson's portrait and a matte finish edition of the regular Jefferson Nickel dated 1994-P. This latter coin was intended to establish the actual date of coining for the dollar, but it had the effect of creating a limited edition rarity that was immediately more valuable than the commemorative dollar itself!