Next year the U.S. Mint will release a 24 karat, ¼ oz gold coin with a $10-denomination and an accompanying 1 oz silver medal to mark the 400th anniversary, or quadricentennial, of the landing in Plymouth, Massachusetts of a group of pilgrims from England in late 1620.
Next year the U.S. Mint will release a 24 karat, ¼ oz gold coin with a $10-denomination and an accompanying 1 oz silver medal to mark the 400th anniversary, or quadricentennial, of the landing in Plymouth, Massachusetts of a group of pilgrims from England in late 1620. Their eventual establishment of Plymouth Colony -- an area known as Patuxet by the Wampanoag Indians who were there for 10,000 years before the Pilgrims arrived – laid the early foundations for what would later become the 13 American Colonies, which declared their independence from England in 1776.
The coin and medal will be sold both individually and paired in a special set with a Mayflower coin from the Royal Mint of the United Kingdom, which U.S. Mint officials say will help to “more fully tell the story” of the Mayflower. This is one of several partnerships with world mints that has been initiated by the current Mint Director David J. Ryder.
The silver medal’s fineness and planchet size have not been announced yet, nor have the mintages and finishes of either item, or details about the UK coin.
More than 10 million Americans and 35 million people around the world (particularly in England and the Netherlands) are descendants of the 102 passengers and 30 crew members of the Mayflower, who left England to practice their religion and live in freedom. Many events are planned for next year to mark this major milestone.
Michael “Miles” Standish, NGC Vice President and best-selling numismatic author, said that he looks forward to seeing the coins, especially since he is one of those descendants. His 9th great-great grandfather made that difficult journey from England to Plymouth.
The two most notable achievements of these early settlers were probably the Mayflower compact, an agreement for how the colony would govern itself that helped inspire the U.S. Constitution, and the celebration in late 1621 with the Wampanoag Indians who helped them establish their colony of that year’s bountiful harvest, which was the very first Thanksgiving. Many historians dispute the notion that the Indians were invited to eat with the Pilgrims, and over time relations between the two groups deteriorated sharply.
On April 16 the members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC), which reviews and makes recommendations for the designs that appear on all U.S. coins and medals, reviewed a large portfolio of designs for the proposed U.S. gold coin and silver medal, which can be viewed here.
Mint officials said during the meeting that the designs were developed with input from subject matter experts such as historians as well as the National Museum of the American Indian, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution, the General Society of the Mayflower Descendants and the Wampanoag 400 Committee. Representatives of the latter two groups participated via telephone in the meeting to review the designs prepared by U.S. Mint artists.
During the meeting one CCAC member referenced the coins issued by the U.S. Mint in 1920 (that were re-struck in 1921) to mark the event’s 300th anniversary. He noted that unlike the designs proposed for the 2020 program, which include many depictions of Wampanoag Indians by themselves or paired with Pilgrims, the Pilgrim Tercentenary silver half dollars completely left out the Native Americans.
The obverse of the 1920-21 coins depicted Governor William Bradford, the leader of Plymouth Colony, while the reverse showed the Mayflower ship. These coins are among the most popular classic U.S. silver commemoratives and are available today in circulated grades for under $100 and for several hundred and more in uncirculated grades.
During the CCAC review of the proposed designs, several members indicated that while they liked many of the designs, they are also too busy and detailed for the small palette of a ¼ oz gold coin. There was some discussion about the possibility of making a ½ oz coin instead, but the Mint’s April Stafford said a decision was made to make it a 1/4 oz piece. One CCAC member pointed out that in that case it made more sense for the gold coin to have a $5-denomination.
The Mint’s spokesman Michael White told Coin World on April 9 that it is not a commemorative coin program because it is not based on congressional legislation like other such programs. Over the past several years there were several congressional efforts to create a three-coin Mayflower program, but they failed to garner enough support to move forward.
The Mint is issuing the coins using a legal provision that grants the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury broad authority to strike gold coins, which is part of 31 U.S. Code section 5112. This same provision was used to create many numismatic gold coins issued since 2009 such as that year’s Ultra High Relief double eagle, the 2016 Liberty centennial coins, and others. The authority for the silver medal is also part of that section.
The fact that the coin and medal will not be congressionally-authorized commemoratives means that there will be no surcharges added to the price of each item.
Before discussing the actual designs, the committee and outside representatives had an extended discussion about the historical events they depict, which remain controversial for many people, especially the Wampanoag Indians.
Although several CAC members said they were impressed with most of the designs submitted, others had qualms with the historical accuracy of many of them, or the fact that they did not make clear that the Native Americans were a matriarchical society.
There was support among many members for several of the designs, but the group was ultimately unable to reach consensus and voted to have the Mint’s staff select the designs they think will work best paired with the British coin. The designs will also be reviewed by a second committee, the Commission on Fine Arts.
Whichever designs are ultimately selected, they will help tell the complex story of the challenges of a small group of English separatists who decided to embark on a difficult journey across the Atlantic, as well as of the Wampanoag Indians who played a key role in their historic efforts.
April 16 meeting of Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee in Washington, Dc
Paul Giles, “U.S. Mint to issue 2020 $10 coin,” Coin World, April 29, 209
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||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.” 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 American Hard Assets. 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 was previously a congressional relations specialist and policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international politics and national security for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.|