Description and Analysis

Modern Commemoratives

Description & Analysis

One of several United States commemorative coins offered for sale during 1994, the silver dollar honoring the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial at the Capitol Mall in Washington, DC thus had to compete for collectors’ money. Sales suffered as a result, but this has only made the coins scarcer and more desirable in the secondary market.

The memorial was built in 1982 to honor those who fought and died in a war most Americans at that time still wanted to forget. The simple and elegant concept of a wall set into the earth and bearing the names of the fallen was the work of artist Maya Ying Lin. For those of more conventional taste in memorials, a sculptural group of three soldiers was added shortly thereafter. This piece was created by Frederick Hart and includes men of three races to represent the diverse make-up of the Americans who fought in Vietnam. Their faces are directed toward the wall in tribute to their lost comrades.

The obverse of this coin was created by U. S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver John Mercanti, and it captures a common and moving scene repeated daily at “the wall.” A hand reaches up to touch the name of a lost loved one, while the George Washington Monument is seen in the distance. Set within an exergue at the bottom is the inscription “VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL,” with the date above the hand, accompanied by the statutory mottoes. Mercanti’s initials are near the border at four o’clock.

The reverse has a very plain design that is more typical of a medal than a coin. In fact, it displays three service medals associated with the Vietnam War and their accompanying ribbons. To the right of these is the coin’s mintmark, and to the left are the initials of Thomas D. Rogers, Sr. of the U. S. Mint’s engraving staff. Above the grouping of medals is a triangular chevron, with the balance of this side taken by purely statutory legends.

Uncirculated pieces were coined at the West Point Mint (‘W’ mintmark), with Philadelphia supplying the proof edition. As is customary with United States commemorative coins of the modern era, the proof issue outsold the uncirculated pieces by a ratio of almost four-to-one.