Description and Analysis

Modern Commemoratives

Description & Analysis

The United States Marine Corps was established by the Continental Congress on November 10, 1775, and it celebrated its 230th anniversary in 2005. To mark this occasion, and to honor the corps in general, a bill was signed into law August 6, 2004 which authorized the coining of up to 500,000 silver dollars dated 2005. Proceeds from the sale of these coins were directed toward the creation of a National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia. This is being overseen by the Marine Corps itself, in conjunction with the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.

Joe Rosenthal’s famous photograph of Marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi is recreated on the obverse of this coin by sculptor-engraver Norman Nemeth of the U. S. Mint. This epic moment in the campaign to capture Iwo Jima from the Japanese Army in 1945 is perhaps the image that best portrays the spirit of the United States Marine Corps. To the left of the figures is the inscription “MARINES 1775 2005.” The date of coining and the artist’s initials are both placed within the rock outcropping that is the summit of Mount Suribachi. Statutory mottoes complete this side.

Charles L. Vickers of the U. S. Mint’s engraving staff prepared the reverse of this coin, which features the Marine Corps emblem. This consists of a globe superimposed over an antique anchor, with an eagle perched atop the globe. The Corps’ motto of Semper Fidelis (ever faithful) is placed below, and beneath this is the coin’s mintmark. Two arcs of stars totaling thirteen in all are arranged around the border at left and right, and the designer’s initials appear below the globe. Legends of a purely statutory nature complete the reverse.

Perhaps the only criticism of this design is that the requirement of including the entire length of the flag staff reduced the human figures greatly within the overall field of the coin. A cropping of the staff just above their heads, with the figures superimposed over an image of the flag, would have been preferable from an artistic standpoint, permitting the figures to occupy most of the coin’s field.

As seems to be the norm for silver dollar commemoratives in recent years, both the proof and uncirculated editions of this issue were produced at the Philadelphia Mint. The sales period lasted from July 20 through December 31 of 2005, and this offering was a complete sellout. Given the tremendous popularity of both the theme and the imagery, this is not too surprising. It appears that this commemorative coin provided a rare instance of significant sales occurring outside of the established coin hobby, with many Marine Corps members and retirees undoubtedly seeking a souvenir of their service.