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Celebrate Veterans’ Day and the Armistice Centennial with Military-Themed Coins

Celebrate Veterans’ Day and the Armistice Centennial with Military-Themed Coins
Category: Articles
Author Name: Louis Golino
Posted: 11-09-2018

On November 11, 1918 an agreement ending World War I was signed and went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The U.S., Canada, and other countries pay tribute to the men and women who bravely fought in major military conflicts with a diverse range of commemorative coins. 

On November 11, 1918 an agreement ending World War I was signed and went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. This agreement was called the Armistice, which was supposed to end what became known as “the war to end all wars,” a term first used by British writer, H.G. Wells, in 1914. The many countries that lost citizens in that war continued to remember and honor their fallen heroes with celebrations on this day each year, which became known as Armistice Day.

The war, which was the largest global military conflict at that time, was called the war to end all wars because the death and destruction was so extensive that it another war seemed unthinkable at the time. More than 10 million soldiers died in Europe, plus millions more who died from starvation or attacks on their countries and injuries that never got better. 

Unfortunately this conflict clearly did not end war since less than two decades later, World War II was fought, leading to the greatest military mobilization in U.S. history, involving soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen.  In 1954 legislation was enacted to change Armistice Day to Veterans Day.  Each year since then on November 11 the nation has honored its soldiers, including a special ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony’s Tomb of the Unknown Solider.

One of the ways the U.S., Canada, and other countries pay tribute to the men and women who bravely fought in major military conflicts is by issuing diverse ranges of coins that honor their heroism and sacrifices. 

U.S. Mint

The United States' Mint has a long history of issuing coinage that celebrate veterans of all wars. From real pieces of history to commemorative releases, these products are a great way to build a collection as well as honor those who bravely served in the United States Armed Forces and their sacrifices. 

Peace dollars, the first coin ever issued that used the word, “peace,” were issued to commemorate the end of the hostilities of WWI, also known as the Great War. They remain sought after collector's items from an era of peace that was only possibly due to the sacrifices of soldiers. 

During our domestic war of the 19th century, the Civil War, there was a shortage of coins for circulation, so Army tokens were privately issued to help fill that gap. We have a nice selection of these, and each comes with a real Civil War newspaper.

We also have military payment certificates used during the Vietnam War by military personnel to purchase items at the military bases where they were deployed. While issued by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and not the United States Mint, these are real pieces of history that may have passed through the hands of  those who served years ago. 

In 2011 the Mint issued a very nice half dollar honoring the U.S. Army with a Continental soldier on the reverse, and a Redstone Army Rocket surveyor and two soldiers building a flood wall on the obverse of the coin. This is one of the lowest-mintage half dollars ever issued.

In 2018 The U.S Mint issued a commemorative silver dollar honoring the centennial of the end of WWI, also available in a special 2-coin set with a peace dollar. 

The United States' Mint also issued this year the first set of silver military medals for each of the branches of the military, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard.  This will be followed with additional medals coming next year and in the future. 

On October 16 designs for two of the 2019 military medals for the Coast Guard and Air Force were recently reviewed by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, which was followed by a review by the Commission on Fine Arts. The Secretary of the Treasury will make the final design selection.

Many other countries fought during WWI, including New Zealand.  The Cook Islands, which is a South Pacific island nation that is incorporated with New Zealand, issued a beautiful $5 gold, 1/100th oz coin to mark the centenary of the war that features several soldiers ready to go to battle:   


Our neighbor to the north, Canada, played a major role in WWI as a member and supporter of the British Empire, and 620,000 of their citizens perished in the fighting at a time when the country had a population of 8 million. 

In addition to their reputation as shock troops such as the battles of Vimy Ridge (where a national monument was erected) and Dieppe as well as in the bombing campaign.  These events are commemorated in the Royal Canadian Mint’s 2017 Battlefront series.  

In Canada, as in other countries that are part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, Armistice Day has been known as Remembrance Day since 1919.  In Canada this is a day when the country not only honors its fallen military heroes from WWI and WWII but also reflects on the sacrifices made in subsequent wars in which Canada was involved. 

The poppy has symbolized the loss of life in WWI ever since Canadian physician and Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, wrote his famous poem in 1915 called “In Flanders Fields,” which described the red poppies that grew over the graves of dead soldiers.   

Several countries have issued coins featuring poppies to mark the centennial of WWI, including this stunning piece issued in 2017 by the Cook islands.

The RCM has also issued coins marking the country’s role in WWII with its series about Canadian aircraft involved in that war. 

Because WWI was such an important event for Canada, the RCM has issued a number of other coins marking the war, including some for circulation. 

But for coin collectors, the most stunning coin is surely the helmet-shaped silver coin that debuted recently – another innovative world first from the RCM that pushes the envelope of numismatics. 

This coin recreates a steel WWI-era helmet worn by Canadian soldiers, a poignant remembrance to the sacrifices of those men.  This amazing coin depicts the bowl-shaped headgear issued to Canadian troops and all British Empire forces in 1916. The reverse of the coin provides a view of the top of famous steel helmet, whose battle-worn appearance is the result of “cracks” and “markings” added by the mint’s engravers and the antique finish also intended to give the coin a battle-worn appearance.

These diverse coins pay tribute to the men and women from the U.S., Canada, and other countries who died in major military conflicts, especially those from WWI.  They are a great way to honor the fallen and add some interesting coins to your collection or even to start an entirely military themed collection of coins. 

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About The Author

Louis Golino Louis is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst,” and in August 2021 the column received the NLG award for best column on modern U.S. coins. He has also received other awards for his writing. He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, where he writes a bimonthly feature;The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins; and and other publications. He began writing about coins in 2009. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum hosted by ModernCoinMart and has written articles for MCM since 2014. He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.

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