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The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness located in the state of Idaho serves as the subject of the 50th issue in the 5 oz. Silver America the Beautiful (ATB) series. This wilderness is on of the largest contiguous natural wilderness areas managed by in the United States. Frank Church was a U.S. Senator who served an incredible 24 years from 1957 until 1981. He sponsored the Wilderness Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act which were instrumental in preserving this wilderness area for future generations. In 1984 the area was renamed the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness shortly before his death.
First issued in 2010, the America the Beautiful series features one historic natural area or site from each state. Each example is struck on 5 oz. .999 pure silver planchets. The series features brilliant uncirculated bullion coinage and a rare specimen finish, which is produced by a vapor blast process.
The reverse design of this issue features a drift boat on the turbulent river. The mountainous pine-studded wilderness terrain rises in the background on either side of the river. The image was designed by Emily Damstra of the Artistic Infusion Program and Sculpted by Renata Gordon, U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver.
The obverse image used on the series is based on the iconic profile of First President of the United States, George Washington. John Flanagan designed the portrait for use on the 1932 circulating Quarter dollar coin. Flanagan’s design was based on a marble bust sculpted during Washington’s life by French artist Jean-Antoine Houdin. The original bust is housed at Mt. Vernon. The Flanagan portrait was modified to be low relief for use on the ATB series by Mint Engraver William Cousins.
Provisions authorizing the enduringly popular 5 oz. ATB program were put forth in Title II of the America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008. The ATB Silver Bullion 5 oz. coins contain five ounces of .999 fine silver. They are the largest silver coins struck by the U.S. Mint. The obverse design uses the circulating Washington Quarter portrait. A design that highlights one historic National Park or site in each U.S. state or territory appears on the reverse. Begun in 2010, the series will conclude in 2021 after the 56th entry in the series.
The Philadelphia branch of the U.S. Mint strikes the series on a German coining press purchased specifically for large format coinage. The press was set for production on March 1, 2010 and produces over one million coins per year. The 5 oz. silver planchets are supplied by Sunshine Minting, Inc. of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
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