An Easter Egg Hunt for Children of All Ages
Some residents of Bellingham, Washington had an especially happy Easter this year when they found eggs that enriched their pockets as well as their souls. That’s because Bellingham Coin Shop & Iron Gate Estates hid hundreds of plastic eggs filled with precious metals around the city. Bellingham is home to fewer than 90,000 people, so the residents who decided to hunt the eggs had a good chance of finding at least one.
Bellingham Coin Shop manager Katie Buss said that the value of the coins ranged from $3-$270. Some of the pieces included in the series include 90% silver dimes, 90% silver quarters, Morgan dollars, 1/10 ounce gold coins, Wheat pennies, and even a ten-ounce silver bar. Talk about a welcome holiday surprise!
The most recognizable coins in the bunch were Morgan silver dollars. Morgan dollars dominated the late 1800s, running from 1878-1904, plus a single issue in 1921. These silver dollars are highly acclaimed and collected even by those who otherwise are not coin collectors. Many have been passed down as heirlooms for several generations. The coins are 90% silver and have .7734 Troy oz of silver, which makes them heftier than modern circulated coinage. One of the reasons that the coins are so popular is that they feature an American-style Liberty, who was modeled off Anna Willess Williams. Designer George T. Morgan’s decision to use a model with American rather than Greek looks departed from longstanding American numismatic tradition and resulted in the most famous and one of the most popular coins in American history.
The 90% silver quarters in the eggs could be any of four types, the earliest of which is the Seated Liberty, which was issued from 1838-1891. The Seated Liberty quarter was one of the most dynamic issues in American history. Designed by Christian Gobrecht, the obverse features Liberty seated on a rock with thirteen stars along the rim arching over her. The reverse features an eagle clutching arrows and an olive branch as it guards a union shield. The 1838 coin also transitioned from 25 C ($0.25) to “QUAR DOL.” In 1853, the “Arrows and Rays Seated Liberty quarter” debuted, with rays emanating from the eagle on the reverse and arrowheads on either side of the date on the obverse. That was to be the only edition with the rays, but arrowheads would be used from 1853-1855 and again on some issues in 1873. In 1865, just before the end of the Civil War, Congress mandated that the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” be included on all American coinage. The following year, it debuted on this quarter on a ribbon above the eagle’s head.
Another 90% quarter in some of the eggs was the famous Standing Liberty quarter, which debuted in 1916. A product of its time, the obverse design was created with World War I in mind. A design contest was held for the new coin, and Hermon MacNeil won it. MacNeil’s Liberty was similar to ancient Greek sculptural designs. She looks to the right, heraldic East, indicating an interest in the war in Europe. She holds her shield, which bears a union shield, in the same direction as she steps out through a gate. The national motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST,” is inscribed on that gate. In her right hand, Liberty holds an olive branch, which indicates that she is stepping out in defense of peace. The United States entered the First World War the year after this quarter’s debut. Barber quarters and Washington quarters through 1964 were likely also included.
Two of the dimes included in the unique promotion were the Seated Liberty and Barber dimes. 1916 marked a change in American coinage in that coins of different denominations would have different designs. That marked the start of one of the most famous pieces in American history, the Mercury dime. Although the term “Mercury dime” is most commonly used to describe the coin, this is actually a misnomer. Adolph Weinman’s obverse design depicts Liberty wearing a winged cap, which symbolizes freedom of thought. The resemblance to the Roman god Mercury was so strong, though, that the name stuck. Like the obverse, the reverse also harks back to ancient times, with a fasces standing in the center. The fasces is an ancient symbol of authority. A battle-ax sits atop the fasces, representing military readiness, while an olive branch wrapped around it represented a desire for peace.
In 1946, John Sinnock’s Roosevelt dime replaced the Mercury dime in honor of the beloved president. Sinnock’s portrait of President Roosevelt serves as the obverse design, while a torch stands between an olive branch and an oak branch on the reverse. The torch served as a symbol of freedom and the olive branch, again, as a symbol of peace. The oak branch symbolized victory, as the United States and its allies had successfully ended the Second World War a year earlier.
In terms of numismatic significance, perhaps no coin in the set is more important than the Wheat cent. Since the foundation of the republic and under the direction of President Washington, no recognizable figures had appeared on circulated American coinage. President Theodore Roosevelt successfully sought to depart from that tradition with a coin that honored President Abraham Lincoln. His bust by Victor D. Brenner debuted on the Wheat cent in 1909 and began a new tradition of honoring presidents and other important historical figures on circulated currency. Although the coin bore Lincoln’s portrait, it is referred to as the “Wheat cent” because of the sheaves of wheat that flank the face value on the reverse.
Although coin collectors would surely have been happy to come across any of the eggs, the bigger prizes in the set included 1/10 oz gold pieces and a 10 oz silver bar. As of writing, a ten-ounce bar of silver bullion would be worth $167.67 (spot), while a gold coin would be worth upwards of $150, potentially well upwards depending on the coin itself.
For those who celebrate it, Easter is a time of peace and joy. This past weekend, there was some extra joy for Easter egg hunters of all ages who decided to partake in one of the most profitable Easter egg hunts in history.
||Sean McConeghy is a freelance writer and network marketer living in Roatan, Honduras. He originally hails from New York and specializes in writing about numismatics, real estate, and politics.|